Navigating the multitude of animal shelters, rescue groups, humane organizations and adoption shelters can be as bewildering as a lost puppy navigating the streets. There are 21 animal shelters in LA county and a multitude of rescues services and humane organizations. Although each of these entities operate according to their unique mission statement, they unite to find loving homes for homeless animals and provide humane, compassionate care for all animals.
The LA county and LA city shelters, handle the majority of stray, homeless and lost pets. There are 6 LA city shelters and 6 LA county shelters bringing in over 500 animals per day. Last year, over 56,000 cats and dogs entered just LA city shelters with a similar number of animals entering LA county shelters. As residents of LA county, we can appreciate the challenges each shelter faces when caring for a constant stream of animals on a municipal budget. Every animal that enters a LA shelter is given a complete physical exam, vaccinated, micro-chipped and if needed medications for internal parasites as well as fleas. Animals are also given behavioral tests to assess if they are adoptable. Once animals are entered into the shelter’s system- most are available to adopt for four complete business days.
The sheer magnitude of homeless animals has created the need for the plethora of animal shelters, rescues and humane organizations seen in LA city and counties. These organizations can be contracted with municipal shelters to provide shelter and humane care for adoptable animals or those with special needs. As municipal shelters can only hold animals for a brief period of time, rescue and humane organizations are literal lifesavers by providing animals with “more time”. Most organizations operate as 401 nonprofits and rely on private donations and small grants.
The difference between rescue groups and humane organizations is that rescue groups literally rescue animals from euthanasia at shelters or from abusive homes. Whereas humane organizations provide shelter and humane care for animals, hold spay and neuter clinics, relocate or rehabilitate wildlife, investigate reports of suspected cruelty, educate the community about proper pet care and humane treatment of animals and advocate for laws supporting humane treatment of animals. Humane organizations generally do not discrimate between animals and will accept almost any type of animal in need of care. However, rescue groups come in a variety of flavors. Some will rescue any animal, others specialize in pocket pets (hamsters, rats, guinea pigs), cats, specific dog breeds or pediatric animals.
Although L.A. is the second largest city in the nation, it lacks a major animal organization. Unlike other large cities, there is no organized animal welfare organization like the ASPCA or SPCA present in L.A. thus, forcing the municipal shelters to accept sole responsibility for the homeless pets. Over the past years the homeless pet epidemic has been slowly escalating. The diverse cultures that make L.A. unique also have their own ideas about pet ownership, pet health, spaying and neutering. In addition, L.A.’s infrastructure and socioeconomic disparities make it difficult for some owners to take their pet to a veterinarian and have it fixed.
Best Friends Animal Society has accepted responsibility for the unique challenges of L.A.’s homeless pet epidemic. They have partnered with the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services and multiple (48 and counting) local animal welfare organizations to form No More Homeless Pets Los Angeles, an initiative to decrease the euthanasia rate of healthy, adoptable animals to 10%. The initiative centers around increasing the number of adoptions while decreasing the homeless pet population through spaying and neutering. No Kill L.A. is the advertising campaign aimed at increasing community awareness of the homeless pet epidemic in effort to motivate the community to become personally invested in ending the cycle of homeless pets. They are strongly promoting adoption by providing grants to partner animal welfare organizations for every pet they adopt to a new home over the number they adopted in the previous year. NKLA also provides spay and neuter programs to reduce the number of unwanted animals being produced.
In conclusion, L.A.’s homeless pet epidemic is forcing the overworked and overcrowded municipal shelters, rescues, adoption centers and humane organizations to manage a tremendous number of animals. Multiple factors contribute to the pet overpopulation problem, however the number of animals being euthanized every year can be decreased. No More Homeless Pets Los Angeles is an intiative that promotes animal service organizations to promote adoption and spay and neutering programs to reduce the rate of euthanasia. If our community becomes proactive in spaying and neutering our animals as well as promoting pet adoption we can end the needless killing of healthy and adoptable animals in L.A.