Happy 4th anniversary to SIP!

On April 6th we celebrated our 4th anniversary of the South LA Shelter Intervention Program (SIP). For four years, three counselors (one full-time and two part-time) have sat at the South LA Shelter every week from Tuesday through Saturday talking to pet owners compassionately.

“Why are you surrendering your dog/cat/rabbit to the South LA shelter?”and “How can we help you keep your pet?” and “What do you need from us in order to care for your pet further?” These type of questions permeate the air at our table, which is set up in front of the receiving desk at the shelter.

The families we helped required a variety of services, but one thing was unanimous among them all: INFORMATION. Helpful information about proper pet care and support services lacks so desperately in their communities, and that’s why we’re so grateful we are there to support them.

Since we started our SIP program in 2013, we have assisted a total of 7,172 pets (that’s 6,564 dogs, 589 cats and 19 rabbits)! Here is a rundown of the services we provided, of where your donations directly go:

  • We assisted with 283 license fees and redemptions, paying full or partial fees to get impounded cats and dogs back home.
  • We paid for 331 humane euthanasias. These were for senior, terminally ill pets who no longer had quality of life and who would have otherwise been euthanized in the shelter without their family present. Instead, we sent them to one of our partner animal hospitals so the family could be with their pet, wishing them well at the end of their life, letting them pass in peace, with dignity and love.
  • We worked on 2786 medical cases, ranging from vaccinations to orthopedic surgery. Most of the time, the pet owner was struggling with an ongoing medical issue, such as infected skin or ears. Some people had paid for services in the past but were completely out of money and unable to pay for more. We often heard, “I took him to vet…we had him on medication…he isn’t getting better and I can’t afford anymore care.” This is were we stepped in to lend a hand.
  • 281 dogs needed help with dog training issues, which we paid for so the owners could attend free of charge and manage their pets better at home.
  • We helped 335 people with landlord issues, such as getting their pet certified as an Emotional Support Animal or dealing with a notice to comply, usually for fence/gate repair as it relates to tethering. This has shown to be such an extreme area of need that we have now partnered with Inner City Law Center moving forward! We’re excited to have a full time attorney who can devote her time to pet related housing cases for very low income pet owners. This includes pet owners who are experiencing homelessness and need reasonable accommodations that will allow them to bring their pet while they look for permanent housing.
  • 398 cats and dogs needed to be rehomed or were placed with a rescue organization. Many of them ended up at our own kennel, and were later adopted into happy homes.
  • Lastly, spay and neuter assistance was extended […]

Data on evictions and how it effects pets

We see first hand through our SIP program and even at the Pet Resource Center how evictions hurt families and their pets. Countless animals are in the shelter now due to eviction, as we see it as one of the biggest reasons for surrendering an animal time and time again.

With a less affordable housing market and higher rents and mortgages across the country, people are finding it harder and harder to keep up with their payments. The numbers are even higher among foreign born citizens, which makes many believe that immigrants are being especially targeted. As this article with plenty of data on evictions states, “The lack of a right to counsel in housing court by tenants facing eviction has led to an imbalance of legal representation in favor of landlords paving the way for abuse of the court system through eviction proceedings.”

This is why we teamed up with Inner City Law Center – in order to try and help prevent families with pets from being forced out of their homes. Since our program started in July, 36 of our cases were referred to ICLC’s attorney Diane Prado. She has then represented pet owners facing eviction in order to defend their rights and their homes as much as possible. Because the amount of stress families endure on a daily basis when they’re home life is threatened – not knowing where they will move to, or if they will become homeless, or how they will ever be able to keep their pet – is a terrifying reality. Basic necessities like food, clothing, and shelter are a necessary foundation, and without one of them it becomes increasingly difficult to be stable, to move up, to get a better job, to go back to school, or even to dream.

Until one is facing an eviction or cannot pay their rent, one will never know how they would respond. We hope you will support us as we support those who are unfortunately dealing with these circumstances and trying desperately to keep their two and four legged family members together. There’s a fairer, juster way to keep people in their homes…we hope to be a part of figuring it out.


The 2016 numbers for our Shelter Intervention Program are in!

Transparency is important to us. We want you to know where your dollars go when you support our work, and we want you to feel good about it! So let us tell you about how our Shelter Intervention Program (SIP) took on more cases in 2016 than ever before. In 2015 we helped 1272 families, but last year we assisted 1467! Comparing statistics year by year, we noticed that there was an increase in the number of people unable to pay for medical care and other services for their pets, including pet food and supplies. Despite news about a rise in employment and the growing economy, the South Los Angeles pet owners we met and dealt with were largely unemployed, under-employed, receiving government assistance, or experiencing homelessness. Many pet owners came to see us at the South LA Animal Shelter or visited us during Pet Resource Center office hours, depending on where they were living that week or month.

Because we were able to spend less on spay and neuter surgeries, we were able to allocate that money to people who had pets with other needs. Thanks to the ASPCA spay and neuter clinic which opened at the South LA Shelter in 2014, we’ve been enabled to use our funds for other medical issues, of which there are no programs for. In 2014 we paid for 1110 spay/neuter surgeries; in 2015 we covered 300 spay/neuter surgeries; and in 2016, we paid for only 248 surgeries. Of those 248 surgeries, many pets required bloodwork for being a senior pet, had seizures to contend with, or needed a tangential medical procedure such as dental work, making it cost effective to perform both the spay/ neuter while attending to the other issue. Of course we still support spay and neuter, but our focus has moved further out into the community through offering three mobile clinics which happen the first Sunday of the month in Compton, the second Sunday of the month in South LA, and the 3rd Sunday of the month at our newest location in Lynwood. That means three out of four weeks of every month are reserved for spay/neuter mobile clinics, and we fill those clinics by mailing out vouchers to cat and dog owners in the areas every day. This draws people out of their homes, into the community, and engaging with us. We’re excited to report that we see firsthand how encouraging proper care and a personal investment in their pets is changing perspectives and lives!

So as you can see, SIP does a lot. And we’ll continue to do more! We’re honing down, responding to greatest needs, and meeting people where they’re at. Our mission for 2017 is to increase the number of cats we help, which has always been a smaller percentage than dogs. We don’t meet as many cat owners, but we’re hoping that will change this year. We’re also increasing the number of home visits we do, sending our handyman to fix fences and gates, as well as build dog runs to keep more dogs safe in their yards. By working with animal control officers to keep more pets in their first home, which we […]

DDR is featured in the Harvard Business Review!

We’ve been featured in the latest Harvard Business Review, and we’re excited to tell you all about it! In an article titled, “Are You Solving the Right Problems?” author Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg reveals that most companies and organizations are good at solving problems, but not necessarily good at figuring out what the real problems actually are. He goes on to explain that reframing problems often brings about unexpected, creative solutions.

Using dog adoption as an example, DDR is highlighted for the way in which we reframe the issue. Instead of focusing on promoting pet adoption or marketing the sad realities, we employ our Shelter Intervention Program (SIP). Of course we want to see more animals get adopted and of course we hurt for those at risk of euthanasia, but we come at it by trying to keep pets with their original families in the first place. If these animals don’t come into the shelter system at all, we can help everybody – the families, the shelter staff, and most of all the animals.
Wedell-Wedellsborg explains how whenever a family comes into the shelter to hand over a pet, one of our staff asks without judgment if the family would prefer to keep the pet. If the answer is yes, we try to help resolve the situation, instead of waiting for the animal to come into the system and then trying to get the dog rescued or adopted. Instead of demonizing the family or casting blame.
We are very grateful to be singled out for our approach, compassion, and hard work. The author goes so far as to say that thanks to our reframing, overcrowded shelters may someday be a thing of the past. Here’s to hoping that dream comes true!

Community outreach – first quarter stats!

We do much of our work in South Los Angeles, and have been doing it for many years now. But there are other areas where we offer intervention assistance, such as Bell, Compton, Lynwood, South Gate, Maywood, Inglewood, Huntington Park, Paramount, Watts-Willowbrook and Florence-Firestone.

Among these communities, in the first quarter of this year alone, low income and homeless pet owners received 566 services, including free spay and neuter surgeries, vaccinations, and medical assistance such as blood tests, X-rays and medication. We also provided humane euthanasia for pets who needed it, dog training classes, fixed fences, built dog runs, gave monthly pet food donations, and delivered dog houses to a total of 276 pets. Of these almost 300 animals, 36% were large dogs (mostly Pit Bull mixes and Siberian Huskies), 57% were medium to small breed dogs (mostly Chihuahuas and Poodles), and 7% were pet cats.

helping in Gilbert

This work was in addition to the 317 cats and dogs who we’ve assisted in the first three months of 2016, preventing them from entering the South Los Angeles Animal Shelter through our Shelter Intervention Program. On top of it all, we vaccinate free of charge an average of 150 dogs and cats living in South LA every month at Gilbert Lindsay Park.

We added it up and are proud to say that in the first quarter of 2016, we’ve assisted 1043 dogs and cats by offering free and subsidized services, helping to keep them with their families! We are so proud of the work we’re lucky enough to do day in, and day out. How do we make this happen? How do we continue to expand our services into the communities that need our help the most? We do it with your support, your donations, and your volunteering. We do it because of you, and we do it with you.


There is an old saying: whatever you focus on grows. We see this truth in animal behavior all the time! So let’s take it a step further. Let’s focus on what we want in our communities, instead of what we don’t want, and offer families with pets an alternative to surrendering them to a shelter when their situations gets dire. Let’s help keep pets in their first home, their forever home. And let’s continue doing it together.

Here’s to working hard to achieve three more successful quarters this year, and onwards.

Happy third birthday to SIP!

Today is a special day for us. It is the third anniversary of our Shelter Intervention Prevention (SIP) program at the South LA Shelter. That’s three years of sitting in our little table inside the lobby of the shelter, five days a week, being available to the community 24/7. To date, we have assisted more than 5,000 families by keeping their pets with them, in their first home, which we believe should be their forever home. We’ve done so by offering a variety of services at low or no cost.

For three years our counselor Amanda has been meeting people where they’re at, without judgement, and helping provide them with resources and options so they can keep their pet. Provisions we have covered in medical care have ranged from treating mange to ear infections, suturing wounds, removing tumors, treating painful teeth, X-rays and bloodwork for sick pets, even saving puppies dying of parvo. We have also offered free dog training, both on the spot and in a weekly class for the community.

Three years of helping pay redemption costs for pets impounded at the shelter so families can stay together. Dog licenses and pet deposits have been covered, and we have even gone so far as to advocate for families struggling with landlord issues. We’ve provided free grooming, which can be quite necessary for dogs with painfully matted hair, as well as given rides to people and pets who couldn’t otherwise get to a veterinarian. On top of it all, monthly pet food is available to those who might be out of work or are homeless and need our help.

There has been so much work to do over these last three years. So much so that we’ve added another counselor, Yesenia, allowing Amanda to spend some of her time out in the community and expanding our range of services. Volunteers handle our hotline, which constantly receives calls, and Mauricio is our go-to handyman who we send out into the community to repair fences, deliver dog houses, and install dog runs  as needed. We often work with animal control officers who field complaints in order to secure proper pet safety. We’re so grateful these officers and LA Animal Services have been our partners in the program.

Since 2013, we have offered 1500 free spay/neuter surgeries. That’s 4,500 pets we’ve altered in the last three years! On the first Sunday of every month, we host free wellness care, including dentistry, ear, and skin treatments, all via a mobile clinic. On average, we do 175 free vaccinations and microchips each month at clinics, largely due to the incredible volunteer veterinarians and vet techs who donate their time regularly.

So what’s next? How will we make the next three even bigger and better? For starters, we’ll be launching a resource center at Inner City Law on Skid Row. There we will have the ability to assist homeless people and very low income pet owners who live on Skid Row. We will work to help them keep their pets healthy and happy as they hopefully transition out of the cycle of homelessness.

Thank you for celebrating with us today, and for supporting us over the past several years. Will you […]

A great article on financial problems and pets

We were so glad to see this article on Dogster.com. Every time our work is put out into the world, in front of new people, we garner more support. And more support inevitably means more animals get saved, more families get served. This is what matters to us.

Financial struggles should not be a reason that people have to leave beloved pets behind at the shelter. In many of the underprivileged communities in which we work, affordable vet care is scarce to absent. For many of the families we help, resources are not available, or if they are, the very people they’re made to assist don’t know about them. But how much money one has in their bank account does not correlate with the type of pet guardian they are, or how much love they have to give.

Therefore, we sit in the lobby of the South LA Shelter, week after week. We want people to know that it is safe to hope, that somebody else does understand and care, and that there are options. Whether it’s paying for spay/neuter or medical care, helping fix a backyard fence to keep a dog contained, contributing to fees to reclaim an impounded cat, offering free dog training classes, and more, our SIP program exists to provide an alternative to shelter relinquishment.

When we raise funds, it’s so that we can turn around to the people who need a hand and say, “Here. Let us help you pay for that.” It’s amazing how more often than not, those we serve do not take our assistance as a handout. They chip in whatever they can, too, and invest in their pet however they’re able. When we work long hours, weekends, and evenings, it’s so we can say, “Yes, we have the time to listen.” It’s incredible how many people simply need somebody to listen. And when we don’t give up and watch another pet leave the shelter doors, tail wagging, heading back home, we know our efforts are not in vain. It never gets old or commonplace to help a pet avoid the shelter, or to help keep a family whole.

Most of the people we work with are neither careless nor inconvenienced by their animals. Coming into the shelter is a last resort, it is the place they enter with tears in their eyes and a heavy heart because they’ve come to say goodbye. Being able to offer another way and to support them has proven to be not only rewarding for our organization, but most importantly, it’s proven to be quite necessary.

We hope our program and more programs like it create a domino effect of change, shift perspectives, and inspire action. We hope many more articles like this one bring the real issues to light, and encourage support where there was once judgement, faith where there was once fear, and life where there was once euthanasia. In our experience, most people are good. So are their pets. It’s our pleasure to help them.

January numbers are in — We’re starting 2016 off right!

In the first month of the new year, our South LA Shelter Intervention Program prevented 91 family pets from entering the shelter. Being there to talk to people, and more importantly to listen to them, made it possible for us to provide services that changed the fate for these 91 animals. Here’s what it took to make this possible:

SLA-teacup64% of our clients needed help with medical expenses. The problems ranged from skin treatments to ear infections, from paying for X-rays to getting blood tests to removing tumors. Many animals required treatment for upper respiratory infections, Parvo, broken bones and so much more. More often that not, the cases were emergencies, with the pet being in extreme pain. In situations like this, the owner usually doesn’t know where else to turn but the shelter. We assisted 15% with spaying/neutering their dogs or cast.

9% of the families needed help getting their cat or dog out of the shelter. It costs money to redeem a lost pet, and in order to send them back home together, we helped pay the fees. The most common reason for being impounded in the first place was that their dog accidentally got out of a gate.

7% of people had a senior or terminally ill pet. We sent them to our local vet for care or humane euthanasia, instead of watching them get surrendered to the shelter. We are grateful for the opportunity to help old animals pass in a calm environment, surrounded by the people who knew and loved them.

We were able to help about 2% of those we served with pet deposits, making it possible for them to keep their dog or cat. Another 2% had no alternative other than rehoming their pet. We supported them through it. Lastly, 1% needed dog training to solve their issues. We offer training classes every Saturday morning, free of charge, not only to people who are facing extreme challenges with their dogs, but to the entire South LA area. Our dog training classes have been going on for years, offering community as well as bonding between pets and owners.

So that’s 91 animals who avoided shelter life, avoided clogging up the system further, and were able to stay in their first homes, their forever homes. We want to thank our major funder Found Animals Foundation, because without their support this program would not function, and we would not be able to do what we’re doing. We also want to thank LA Animal Services staff and volunteers who are terrific partners to work with and who allow us to be in the shelter, helping families with pets. And of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t thank all of YOU again and again. You, who donate to support us and believe in our efforts. Without you, we wouldn’t be able to offer so many options and such a range of resources. You give us the confidence, and the energy. You make us stronger.

Because everybody needs help sometimes. We know it. You know it. Thank you for trusting us to be that help.