Tuesday, November 03, 2009
My position is a difficult one, but an honest one and I think my comments speak for themselves. I don't stand alone in my position, it is shared by the San Francisco SPCA who released the following statement, "Our mission is to save animals’ lives and we understand that, in some instances, [declawing] may be the only way to prevent abandonment, relinquishment, or euthanasia."
The San Francisco SPCA issued the above statement denouncing San Francisco's move to ban declaws even though the group advocates against the procedure. Being against a Ban is NOT being for declawing. I share the SF SPCA's concern that frustrated owners with no option to declaw cats will be forced to decide to abandon or relinquish their pet.
“Keep it legal, keep it rare” is the position of virtually every national animal welfare and veterinary association. It is also the position of most shelters committed to reducing the number of animals killed in their communities. The suggestion that most European countries have already enacted a ban is disingenuous.
Click on this link to read the Los Angeles Chief Legislative Analyst Report to the LA City Council. The CLA busted three myths propagated by Ban Proponents. He found that declawing is "not cruel" (a position I am not prepared to take). He found that declawed cats relinquished to LA shelters are "a rarity". And he called into question the City's authority to oversee the practice of veterinary medicine, and said that even if the City has this authority, it does not have the resources or staff to do so.
To further clarify my "last resort", and I do mean LAST RESORT position, I am sharing my comments from the recent Santa Monica City Council meeting with links to documents that help explain and support my position. Again, I do NOT support declawing, however, I don't support a Ban either because of the unintended consequences that are sure to follow:
"Good evening. My name is Ed Boks and I am here as an animal welfare advocate with nearly 30 years experience in animal care and control and over 12 years experience managing three of the largest animal shelter systems in the United States, including New York City and Los Angeles. As an experienced shelter manager, I can tell you that an uncompromising ban on cat declawing in the City of Santa Monica will result in more cats abandoned on your streets and more cats relinquished and killed in your shelter.
Like Ban Proponents, I abhor the practice of Declawing, but I abhor the abandoning, relinquishing and killing of cats even more, and I’m here to tell you that is what a Ban will lead to.
It is interesting that you are told that Declawing is mutilation by the same people who embrace other forms of mutilation! Some Ban Proponents approve cutting the tip off the ear of otherwise healthy feral cats for the convenience of being able to identify them in a colony.
Other Ban Proponents promote invasive surgery for the convenience of reducing dog and cat populations; another form of mutilation in the minds of some.
And probably everyone in this room, on both sides of this debate will agree that these forms of “mutilation” are acceptable. Why? Because we know they save lives!
In the same way, when a veterinarian performs a declaw surgery as a last resort she is saving a life! You take that life-saving option away from a cat guardian and you will force them to relinquish their pets to a shelter, who, at a cost to the City, will try to re-home them, and if they can’t - these cats will be killed. Why, when we are all trying so hard to end the killing in our shelters, would we want to create another reason to kill?
In Malibu, Mayor Stern voted against a Ban explaining that he would have taken his cat to the Pound if he couldn’t have her declawed because his wife’s health is at serious risk to a cat scratch. Thank God he had this option!
Please don’t limit the life-saving tools available to licensed veterinarians or second guess their professional judgment.
When performed as a last resort, declawing is a life saving remedy that keeps cats and people together, cats who might otherwise be subject to abuse, abandonment, or death.
Please vote NO to a Ban. A No Vote is a life saving vote. Thank you."
For more information on this difficult issue, visit: http://www.advocatesforfacts.org/Cat_Declawing.html
Monday, October 12, 2009
In the entire history of humane work, no one has ever documented or demonstrated any relationship between adopting out either black or white cats, or cats of any other color, and cats being killed or injured. There are no studies of the matter, and no relevant data. According to ANIMAL PEOPLE the belief that adopting out black or white cats to "witches" will result in ill consequences for the cat may be traced to three sources:
"1) Ignorance of the actual beliefs and practices of paganism. Witches do not harm their ‘familiars,’ who are supposed to be their eyes and ears in the spirit world. To harm a familiar would be to blind and deafen oneself, regardless of whether one is a ‘white’ witch, a ‘black’ witch, a purple witch, or any other kind of witch.
2) Misunderstanding predator behavior. Alleged sadists and Satanists were sought for purportedly stealing, killing and dismembering cats and dogs in at least nine states as Halloween 1998 approached. The supposed crimes drew sensational media coverage, lent emphasis to humane society warnings against letting pets run at large, and rewards of up to $10,000 were posted in some cases for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killers.An accurate description of the suspects, however, in all but a handful of the animal deaths and disappearances, would include either four legs and a tail or wings, and none would be either werewolves or griffons.
Similar panics have developed each summer since. They coincide with the emergence of young foxes and coyotes from their mothers' dens and with the first hunting by newly fledged raptors. The panics gain momentum approaching Halloween as public attention to witches, ghouls, goblins, and other things that go bump in the night rises toward a crescendo. The panics virtually stop each year after Halloween distinctly unlike cases involving actual human sadism.
Trained to investigate human-inflicted cruelty, police detectives and humane officers typically have little background in predator behavior. Veterinarians tend to expect --wrongly--that injuries done by coyotes, the most frequent wild predator of pets will resemble those done by domestic dogs. Forensic evidence is thus misread by sincere people, acting in good faith, who incite witch-hunts at possible expense to professional credibility.
Predators, in contrast to human sadists, are astonishingly quick and efficient. Except in instances when predators take disabled but still living prey back to a den or nest to teach young how to kill their own food, predation victims tend to make little sound, if any, rarely even having time to know what hit them.
Predators try to avoid wasting time and energy inflicting unnecessary injuries.Their teeth and claws usually cut more cleanly than any knife. Predators don't leave much blood behind: that's food. If interrupted in mid-attack, they run or take flight with the parts they most want to eat. If able to eat at their leisure, they consume the richest organs, such as the heart, and leave what they don't want.
Coyotes and foxes typically attack small prey such as cats and rabbits from behind and to one side, with a scissors-like jaw snap to the backbone and midsection that frequently cuts the victim in half. If startled, they tend to flee with the larger back half and whatever internal organs come along, leaving the head and forepaws. These are among the cases most often misread by investigators, who mistake the discovery of the head as an indication of ritualistic crime.
Coyotes have an entirely different attack pattern against prey larger than themselves, such as sheep and deer. Against these animals, they go for the throat and belly. They then consume the viscera first.Cats, both wild and domestic, tend to leave inedible organs in a neat pile.
Cats also have the habit of depositing carcasses, or parts thereof, at the doorsteps of other cats or humans they are courting. When cats kill much smaller animals, such as mice, they consume the whole remains, but when they kill animals of almost their own size, such as rabbits, they may leave behind heads, ears, limbs, and even much of the fur.
Tomcats, especially interlopers in another tom's territory, often kill kittens. Instead of eating them, however, kitten-killing toms sometimes play with the carcasses as they would with a mouse, and then abandon the remains in an obvious place, possibly as a sign to both the mother and the dominant tom.
Coyotes, foxes, and both wild and domestic felines often dispatch prey who survives a first strike with a quick skull-crunching bite to the head. ANIMAL PEOPLE actually resolved several panics over alleged sadists supposedly drilling mysterious parallel holes in the skulls of pets by suggesting that the investigators borrow some skulls of wild predators from a museum, to see how the mystery holes align with incisors.
Any common predator, but especially coyotes and raptors, may be involved in alleged ‘skinned alive’ cases. The usual victims are dogs who--perhaps because parts of their bodies were hidden in tall grass--are mistaken for smaller prey. The predator holds on with teeth and/or claws while the wounded victim runs. The result is a set of sharp, typically straight cuts that investigators often describe as "filets." The editor of ANIMAL PEOPLE once witnessed a cat pounce and nearly skin a rabbit in such a case, and unable to intervene in time to prevent the incident, euthanized the victim. The attack occurred and ended within less than 30 seconds.
Raptors tend to be involved in cases where viscera are draped over cars, porches, trees, signs, and mailboxes: they take flight with their prey, or with a road kill they find, and parts fall out. They return to retrieve what they lose only if it seems safe to do so.
Birds, especially crows, account for many cases in which eyes, lips, anuses, and female genitals are removed from fallen livestock. Sometimes the animals have been killed and partially butchered by rustlers. Others are victims of coyotes or eagles. The combined effects of predation and scavenging produce ‘mutilations’ which may be attributed to Satanists or visitors from outer space, but except where rustlers are involved, there is rarely anything more sinister going on than natural predators making a living in their normal way.
3) Fan behavior during some of the first World Series games ever played. Early 20th century New York Giants manager John McGraw was notoriously superstitious, so fans (especially gamblers) would sometimes pitch black cats in front of the Giants' dugout to jinx him. In response to this, some early humane societies suspended adopting out black cats during the World Series, which was and is played just before Halloween.
An informal baseball rule was adopted during this time against continuing a game if an animal is on the field. Major League Baseball, Inc., made this rule official in 1984, after then-Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield threw a ball that killed a seagull during a game in Toronto. The rule has multiple purposes, one of them being to keep expensive ballplayers from getting hurt.”
THE MORE YOU KNOW... HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Keep your pets safe, indoors, and for Heaven’s sake, don’t dress them up or feed them candy.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
What can you do to improve your health while helping to save the environment and wildlife? According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest you can start looking at the ingredients in your food and pass on products containing palm oil. You will be surprised how many products contain palm oil.
According to the Center, Keebler, Oreo, Mrs. Fields, Pepperidge Farm and other companies use palm oil in some of their cookies. Further, they claim it is found increasingly in crackers, pastries, cereals, and microwave popcorn and all Trader Joe’s products...
Not only does palm oil promote heart disease, but the vast plantations that grow oil palm trees contribute to the destruction of the rainforest and wildlife of Southeast Asia. Those side effects are not broadly recognized--and avoided--by governments, food manufacturers, and consumers.
Check out this website for more info: http://www.cspinet.org/palm/
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
There is no cost to join the Pet Health Consortium. You and your organization may become as actively involved as it chooses to be. It is hoped that organizations would agree to inform their members about the benefits of pet health insurance and the initiative to include the benefit in Section 125. There will be opportunities to become engaged in an advocacy campaign. Those desiring to meet with lawmakers and their staffs are optional. At the very least, Consortium members are asked to demonstrate their support by lending their name to the cause. It is up to each organization to decide how actively engaged it chooses to be.
The Pet Health Consortium believes adding pet insurance to cafeteria plans will appeal to the public. Given the opportunity, it is believed pet owners would avail themselves of pet insurance if it were offered as part of a cafeteria plan. Many pets are beloved by their owners and care is of great concern. Their guardians want what’s best for their animals, including access to high quality and affordable veterinary care. Cafeteria plans that include pet insurance will enjoy support among employers who will likely view it as a value-added benefit for their employees.
It is hoped that the membership of the Pet Health Consortium is both diverse and inclusive of a broad range of strategic partners who, like NAPHIA and the AVMA are interested in improving pet health and providing affordable options for pet owners.
If you have questions about the Consortium, please contact Gina Luke at AVMA Governmental Relations Division, 202-289-3204, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, July 13, 2009
The main argument against a ban on horse-drawn carriages has always been job loss. However, a new organization called New Yorkers for Clean, Livable & Safe Streets (NY-CLASS) proposes replacing horse-drawn carriages with eco-friendly replicas of vintage cars. NY-CLASS claims this 21st century version of the" horseless carriage" is a humane and safe alternative to the horse-drawn carriage and will serve as a model of eco-tourism for cities throughout the world. It will also preserve and create "green" jobs.
This "horseless carriage" solution is viewed as an unprecedented opportunity to help horses while promoting a fun, exciting alternative. You can weigh in by asking the New York City Council to support this innovative proposal by going to http://editor.ne16.com/etapestry/rd.asp?desturl=http://www.ny-class.org&name=Link%202&tapMemberId=6010&tapMailingId=54901 and clicking on the “Take Action” link. By doing so you can help support a safe and humane alternative to the horse carriage industry!
Friday, July 03, 2009
That is the question being debated in
To be sure there are some technical issues regarding the law and Beverly Hills' contract with LA Animal Services, but this case begs a fundamental question, “should compassion be outlawed?”
While I am sure no one in
This case presents
Surely this commitment and this case present a unique opportunity for the City of
What Are Our Choices: Communities typically employ one of three methodologies to deal with feral cats: 1) Do nothing, 2) Eradication, or 3) Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR).
While it is easy to understand why doing nothing has little effect on reducing feral cat populations (and, in fact, encourages growth), it may not be as easy to understand why eradication does not work.
Although some communities continue to employ eradication (“do not feed” "catch and kill") as a remedy, decades of eradication efforts in communities across the
Wild animals tend to have strong biological survival mechanisms. Feral cats, which are wild animals, typically live in colonies of six to twenty cats. You often never see all the cats in a colony and it is easy to underestimate the number of feral cats in a neighborhood. When individuals or authorities try to catch cats for extermination this heightens the biological stress on the colony.
This stress triggers two survival mechanisms causing the cats to 1) over breed, and 2) over produce. That is, rather than having one litter of two to three kittens per year, a stressed female could have two or three litters per year of six to nine kittens.
Even if a community was successful in catching and removing all the feral cats from a neighborhood, a phenomenon called "the vacuum effect" would be created.
When some or all the cats in a colony are removed, cats in surrounding neighborhoods gravitate toward the ecological niche vacated. When a colony is removed but the natural conditions (including food sources) remain, the natural deterrents offered by an existing colony of territorial cats evaporate and the neighboring cats quickly enter the newly open territory, bringing with them all the associated annoying behaviors.
As we’ve seen time after time in location after location all over the country, the end result of the "catch and kill" methodology is always the same: The vacated neighborhood quickly finds itself overrun again with feral cats fighting and caterwauling for mates, over breeding, and spraying to mark their new territory. "Catch and kill" never provides a lasting solution and can easily exacerbate the problem.
Albert Einstein defined "insanity" as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. That is why so many communities are abandoning the failed "catch and kill" methodologies in favor of trying the newest and only humane, non-lethal alternative: TNR (Trap/Neuter/Return).
TNR is being practiced in more and more communities across the
While I was in
When TNR is employed effectively, all the feral cats in a neighborhood are trapped, sterilized, and returned to the area where they were trapped. They are returned under the care of a Colony Manager. The Colony Manager is a trained volunteer in the neighborhood willing to feed, water, and care for the colony and watch for any new cats. Once the colony cats are all neutered, new cats tend to be recently abandoned domestics that can be captured and placed for adoption.
Ms. Varjian is a Certified Feral Cat Colony Manager; trained and certified by Dona Cosgrove Baker, President and Founder of the nationally recognized Feral Cat Caretakers' Coalition.
There are many benefits to TNR: 1) TNR prevents the vacuum effect from occurring. 2) TNR dramatically mitigates the troubling behaviors of intact cats: fighting and caterwauling for mates, and spraying for territory. 3) Altered cats provide rat abatement, a service many neighborhoods value, such as the Flower District in
TNR also addresses the concern that feral cats tend to create a public nuisance on campuses and in parks. There is an old adage that claims you can't herd cats. In fact, you can herd neutered cats because they tend to hang around the food bowl. Because neutered cats no longer have the urge to breed and prey, they tend to follow the food bowl wherever the Colony Manager takes it. Feral cats can be trained to congregate in campus or park areas out of the way of the public or other wildlife.
When you review LA’s statistics it is clear that free-roaming cats represent our biggest challenge to achieving No-Kill.
Citizens interested in voicing their opinion on this matter can attend the next Beverly Hills City Council meeting where the question of reinstating a prohibition on feeding feral cats will be reconsidered. The question is much bigger than feeding or not feeding feral cats. The quesion that needs to be answered is, can we as a community come up with a humane, non-lethal solution to our feral cat problems. I believe the answer is a resounding "Yes".
The next Beverly Hills City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 4th at 7 p.m. at the Beverly Hills City Council, Rm. 400 (Council Chambers) located at 455 N. Rexford Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210.
If you cannot attend you can voice your opinion by contacting your
Thursday, July 02, 2009
While I’ll agree that all emergency response plans need to be subject to constant review and improvement, the article suggests LA Animal Services’ role in the Sayres Fire is not clearly understood. LA Animal Services was there. LA Animal Services rescued over 400 horses. However, no mention was made of the fact that LA County Animal Care & Control was a no show until the rescue effort was nearly complete.
The only confusion during this entire episode resulted from whether LA Animal Services should go into the County to rescue horses outside of our jurisdiction or wait until County Animal Care & Control arrived. When it was clear horses would be lost if we didn’t act quickly, we of course went in - and as a result no horses were lost.
I made the recommendation to include a representative from Animal Services in the Emergency Operations Center to Councilman Zine nearly two years ago but to date he has taken no action and seems unaware of LA Animal Services critical role in these matters.
LA Animal Services performed exceptionally well and effectively saved hundreds of horses. They should be recognized for this heroic achievement - not criticized for the shortcomings of another department that couldn’t even get there on time.
The next article was an op-ed piece that appeared a few days earlier. I understand editors apply less scrutiny to want-a-be reporters, but LA Animal Services is such an open book that at any time the Daily News could simply have made a phone call to verify the facts before propagating the malicious myths manufactured by a chronic critic.
I refer to the piece entitled, “Finally, the end of an Ed Boks era.” A Department critic attempts to revive an old rumor claiming that I was fired in NYC. I was not fired from Animal Care & Control of New York City. I left that agency voluntarily and at the request of Mayor Villaraigossa to come to LA.
Then the author suggests LA Animal Services is somehow broken and “spiraling out of control” and the only remedy is to follow his inexperienced advice. So, is LA Animal Services broken? Let’s look at the facts.
Keep in mind this partial list of accomplishments was achieved while the Department experienced its most historic growth and most severe budget cuts and staffing shortages simultaneously; a significant challenge for any manager.
Still, we built the highest volume pet adoption program in the nation; achieved the lowest euthanasia rates in the Department’s history; opened six LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified animal care centers; increased staff size 100%; and recruited a record number of volunteers.
We firmly established the Animal Cruelty Task Force; improved Pet Shop and Circus Animal Regulations raising the standards for humane care; formed a coalition of over 100 animal welfare organizations to enhance our adoption efforts; produced two animal welfare television programs, and established an exceptional veterinary medical program and executive team.
Not only is LA Animal Services not broken, it is better positioned than ever to help establish LA as the most humane city in the nation.
If you would like to be part of a winning team please consider volunteering with LA Animal Services by clicking here and/or by making a donation to one of LA Animal Services life-saving programs by clicking here.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Our Moral Duty to Protect Animals
Religious values call upon us to show kindness and mercy to animals. The HSUS Animals and Religion program works with people and institutions of faith to act on these beliefs and advocate for compassionate treatment of animals.
“Animals are more than ever a test of our character, of mankind’s capacity for empathy and for decent, honorable conduct and faithful stewardship. We are called to treat them with kindness, not because they have rights or power or some claim to equality, but in a sense because they don’t, because they all stand unequal and powerless before us.”
Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy.
You can learn what the largest religious denominations in the U.S. say about animal protection issues at http://www.humanesociety.org/religion/.
HSUS has produced a compelling 26-minute documentary entitled, "Eating Mercifully". This film examines U.S. industrial animal agriculture from several Christian viewpoints. The film is narrated by Robert P. Marin, Executive Director of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production and features commentaries from:
Elaine and Dale West, Founders Rooterville, A Sanctuary, Inc. Florida
Greg Boyd, Ph.D, President Christus Victor Ministries, Minnesota
Rev. Laura Hobgood-Oster, Ph.D., Southwestern University, Texas
Peter McDonald, owner McDonald Farm, New York
Sister Rosemarie Greco, D.W. Connecticut
You can order a free copy of Eating Mercifully on DVD, or view the film and download adult and teen study guides at www.humanesociety.org/religion.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Should you find this report interesting, you can click on "Share" and email it to your friends and family. (Just wave your cursor over video.) Not only do you share an important story with the ones you love, but you also let CBS know that this is an important story because they count the number of “Shares” forwarded to determine public interest in a story.
You can also let reporter Bill Whitaker and the CBS Sunday Morning news team know you appreciate the story at http://tinyurl.com/mjwkub by selecting “CBS News Sunday Morning" from the drop down menu and expressing your appreciation in the space provided.
For more information on exotic bird exploitation go to: http://www.parrotpress.net/. Mira Tweety, featured in the report welcomes comments or queries about the piece, or parrots as pets. She can be reached at Tweti@ParrotPress.net. You can also purchase an autographed copy of her books, Of Parrots and People and Here, There and Everywhere. Proceeds will help fund a parrot welfare feature documentary already in production.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that's been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA.
Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, insecticide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of e coli--the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.
Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma) along with forward thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield Farm's Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms' Joe Salatin, Food, Inc. reveals surprising -- and often shocking truths -- about what we eat, how it's produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.
Here is what others are saying about this film:
“See it. Bring your kids if you have them. Bring Someone else’s kids if you don’t.
- David Edelstein, NY Magazine
“More than a terrific movie – it’s an important movie.”
- Owen Gleibeman, Entertainment Weekly
“Does for the supermarket what ‘Jaws’ did for the beach.”
Food, Inc. opened in these locations June 12:
San Francisco, CA:
Embarcadero Center Cinema 5
West Los Angeles, CA:
New York, NY:
Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You. See it!
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Since announcing my resignation (effective June 30th) as general manager of LA Animal Services, I have received a tremendous response from the community and I thank all of you who took the time to contact me with your comments and support.
Even some of the Department’s (and my) most resolute critics expressed their regards. Many thanked me for my years of service, many expressed regrets over my leaving, and some expressed concern for the future of LA Animal Services and the many lost and homeless animals who find their way into our shelters.
While the past several years have been some of the most progressive in the agency’s one hundred year history, I am convinced that its best years lay ahead.
The reason for my confidence is the foundational work we accomplished over the past three-and-a-half years. During this time we built the highest volume pet adoption program in the nation while achieving the lowest pet euthanasia rates in the Department’s recorded history. We opened and staffed six LEED Certified state-of-the-art animal care centers and increased staff size 100%.
We enhanced our training programs and developed the Department’s first Strategic Plan. We updated and standardized all the Department’s policies and procedures. We recruited and managed a record number of volunteers, including a spirited group of professionals to spearhead our historic and effective Spay/Neuter PR campaign.
We firmly established the Animal Cruelty Task Force, partnering with LAPD and the City and
We implemented many innovative, life saving programs and partnerships. We built and fully staffed an exceptional shelter medical program. We modernized our website, and developed a culture and respected reputation for transparency.
But most important to the Department’s future success, we established a compassionate performance-based executive team comprised of two exceptional Assistant General Managers, an outstanding Chief Veterinarian, an effective, experienced Volunteer Program Manager, a capable Human Resources Director and a remarkable budget team - all of whom have shown their mettle in a difficult multi-year City budget crisis.
This was all accomplished as the Department experienced its largest, fastest, most historic growth while at the same time sustaining severe budget cuts and staffing shortages.
As I said in my letter of resignation, I am proud of the Department I leave behind. I leave the City of
While some choose to focus on a spay/neuter fundraising event proposed by Hooters, a worthwhile Pit Bull Academy effort and our wanting to ensure funding existed for ongoing spay/neuter programs, the most important accomplishments went largely unseen and unrecognized. But these accomplishments will be the longest lasting and most telling. LA Animal Services now has a stable infrastructure, an able management team, and a solid foundation on which to truly build a world-class animal welfare organization.
Concerning my resignation, Mayor Villaraigossa kindly said, “Ed deserves our gratitude for his efforts and our best wishes in the years ahead.” For this I am grateful. He then acknowledged not only what was accomplished but what can yet be accomplished: “We look forward to building on his legacy and continuing to make the Department of Animal Services the gold standard for pet protection.”
There is still much work to be done and I trust the entire LA humane community will pull together to keep making things better for the animals. That hope is why I am convinced the Department’s best years are yet to come.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
No reasonable observer would dispute the importance of accomplishing core functions, but the author of the editorial clearly did not understand the concept of No-Kill as it has been defined in Los Angeles the last few years, and as it is more widely defined in the animal welfare community across the country. No-Kill means ending the use of euthanasia as a means to control pet overpopulation; terminally ill, terminally injured animals and dangerously aggressive dogs are not included in this goal and these animals will, of course, always be humanely euthanized if and when they must be euthanized.
Although the terminally ill, terminally injured and dangerously aggressive animals are not included in achieving the No-Kill goal, these deaths are included in the City’s euthanasia statistics. This skews the discernment of the City’s policymakers and the Department’s constituency of our progress towards achieving this goal.
Can the City of Los Angeles achieve No-Kill? I contend we can, and further, I suggest we are closer than many realize (and that some have been willing to admit). But to be totally successful will take the whole community working together and must include targeted, affordable spay/neuter programs for needy pet owners.
In the drive to achieve No-Kill there are two commonly recognized hurdles to clear. A community’s progress towards No-Kill usually stalls at the first hurdle which is typically found when its pet euthanasia rate is reduced to between 12 and 10 shelter killings per 1,000 human residents annually (13.8 is the current national average).
Once a community achieves this rate, further significant reductions are stalled until the community decides to implement aggressive spay/neuter programs to achieve further euthanasia reduction goals. With effective, targeted spay/neuter programs progress toward the second hurdle can be steady. Clearing the first hurdle becomes apparent after a community has successfully persuaded all the people who are likely to fix their pets to do so.
The challenge then is to persuade the more difficult populations, which include the poor, the elderly on fixed income, individuals with negative attitudes about spay/neuter, people who speak languages other than English, and those who live in relatively remote areas.
The second hurdle in the drive to achieve No-Kill has been characterized as “the wall”. Few communities have been able to break through "the wall". A community hits “the wall” when it reduces its pet euthanasia rate to between 5 and 2.5 shelter killings per 1,000 human residents annually (in 2007, Los Angeles reduced its euthanasia rate to 3.7).
Hitting “the wall” signifies the success of an earlier generation of effectively targeted programs. To break through “the wall” requires a new generation of programs to address the needs of special populations not met by earlier programs, which typically includes bully dog breeds, and feral, domestic and neonate cats.
Breaking through the wall requires comprehensive data collection, assessment, and implementation of programs targeted to meet the special needs of residual populations. Finding more creative and effective ways to reach out to the public and market the adoption of hard-to-place pets becomes an even greater priority, and implementing and maintaining targeted spay/neuter programs remains paramount.
LA has been doing this, and has been doing this successfully for many years, despite the protests of a small group of misinformed, vocal and media savvy critics.
To abandon the No-Kill goal now would be nothing less than criminal. LA is close to becoming the first major metropolitan community to achieve this goal and the eyes of the nation are on us. Once this goal is achieved we will have stripped away from every other community any excuse for continuing to employ killing as a methodology for controlling dog and cat populations. Even in an era of tight budgets and big challenges, LA Animal Services should remain dedicated not only to its so-called core functions, but also to striving toward No-Kill. In fact, this is a city that has made No-Kill a core function. We have no choice but to succeed.
Before deciding to abandon the No-Kill goal please review these reports:
The 2008 LA Animal Services Annual Report:
The 2008 National Comparison Report Issued by ANIMAL PEOPLE:
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa released the following statement regarding the resignation of the Department of Animal Services’ General Manager, Ed Boks:
“I thank Ed Boks for his years of service at the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services.
"Under his leadership, this City has revamped the way we treat and care for our pets and animals. The ‘no kill’ policy has become a central component of our animal services strategy. Pet adoptions are up and shelters have expanded at a rapid rate. And ‘spay and neuter’ has become more than just a call to action; it is the law in
“Ed deserves our gratitude for his efforts and our best wishes in the years ahead. We look forward to building on his legacy and continuing to make the Department of Animal Services the gold standard for pet protection.”
Saturday, April 25, 2009
The Honorable Antonio R. Villaraigosa
Mayor, City of Los Angeles
200 North Spring Street,
Room 303, City Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dear Mayor Villaraigosa:
This letter serves as my formal notice of resignation, effective June 30, 2009.
I am proud of the work that LA Animal Services has been able to accomplish over the past three and a half years including, but not limited to, development of the most successful municipal pet adoption program in the nation (over 26,000 adoptions annually); successfully opening six new state-of-the-art animal care centers; embarking on the Department’s first Strategic Planning process (scheduled for completion before I leave); updating and standardizing policies and procedures to ensure a well-run Department; and building the finest animal care and control medical and executive teams in the nation. Gratefully, all of this has successfully contributed to the lowest three years of pet euthanasia rates in the Department’s recorded history with every reason to expect continued improvement.
This was all accomplished while the Department experienced the largest, fastest, and most historic growth in service demand. LA Animal Services is finding its balance in an environment of severe budget cuts, unprecedented demand for expansion of services, and a severe staffing shortage. I am proud of the Department I am leaving behind. I leave you a Department committed to improving accountability and effectiveness and to continuing to identify and correct long-term organizational empowerment and accountability issues.
I have given a great deal of thought to my experience as general manager. As I depart I would like to leave LA residents with a call to action that unifies rather than divides. The greatest challenge to Los Angeles’ No-Kill goal is effective, affordable, convenient spay/neuter options. As a community we must help prevent unwanted pets from being born while our city shelters are filled to capacity with healthy beautiful animals waiting for loving homes. Pet overpopulation is a community problem that requires constructive community involvement and unity to solve.
As I step down, I ask for your assistance in calling LA’s pet loving residents to the following actions:
1. If you have a pet, spay or neuter your pet. It is now the law.
2. If you can help someone who can't afford to spay and neuter their pet, go to www.LAspay.org and make a donation to help provide spay/neuter surgeries.
3. Ask your friends, colleagues and employers to match your donation.
4. If you have room in your home and your heart for a pet, adopt one from your local shelter.
5. If you love your pet, license your pet. The number one reason pets die in shelters is because we can’t find their owners.
It is time LA pulled together to solve this societal problem. I would like to thank you for all of the support that you have shown me and our shared goal of creating a truly humane LA during my tenure with the City of Los Angeles. I've enjoyed working with you and your team, and value the relationship we have built over the years.
Please feel free to contact me in the future if I can ever be of assistance. Thank you once again for giving me the opportunity to serve the City of Los Angeles. It has been an honor.
Edward A. Boks, General Manager
Department of Animal Services
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
The reverse is also true. If we can dismiss the needs of our animals it becomes easier to dismiss the needs of our infirmed, aged, and needy human populations. Caring about animals serves as the ultimate litmus test for determining a community’s capacity for compassion.
This test is applied to the City of Los Angeles every day, but never more than in the spring and summer months.
Spring is the beginning of kitten season in Los Angeles. In 2008 LA Animal Services took in over 7,300 neonate kittens. Neonate means too young to survive for more than an hour or two without a mother. Sadly, most of the neonate kittens we take in are orphans. People find these babies in their garage, flowerbeds, and many other places where the mother felt safe from predators and intruders while she gave birth. Property owners find these crying babies within hours or days of birth and bring them to our Centers without the mother. Taken away from their mother they have no chance at survival without significant human intervention.
Neonate kittens represent over one-third of all the cats taken in by the Department. They also represent over 35% of all the cats euthanized and over 21% of our euthanasia rate in 2008. One in three cats and one in five animals euthanized in LA is a neonate kitten. On the up side, most of our healthy weaned kittens get adopted. So anything we can do to help our neonates reach full "kittenhood" improves the odds of their eventually finding a loving home.
Kitten season in Los Angeles starts around the end of March and lasts through September when it starts to slowly decline over October and November. That means now is the time for everyone wanting to help end the killing of these innocents to contact LA Animal Services to either volunteer to foster a litter of kittens or to make a donation to help others willing to make this commitment.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “foster” as providing parental care and nurture to children not related through legal or blood ties. If Gandhi viewed animals in general as the first rung on the compassion ladder then these little creatures must be considered the least of the least. They can be so easily overlooked and forgotten. In fact, California State Law defines “adoptable animals” as only those animals eight weeks of age or older; which means these little orphans have no legal standing in the State of California. They don’t even have to be counted in the City’s no-kill goal. Nonetheless, they are because we understand that our moral progress depends on our providing adequate care and nurture to these living souls with whom we have no legal or blood ties.
The problem is that we can’t save them all by ourselves. We need your help. During kitten season LA Animal Services can take in over 80 neonate orphans a day, over 2500 in some months. Depending on their age they may require four to 8 weeks of intense foster care. Though dozens of our dedicated employees volunteer to foster neonate litters above and beyond their daily duties, the majority will not survive without the additional help of members of the public willing to step up to the challenge. They will not survive without your help. If you are able and willing to help save these lives, LA Animal Services will provide the training, support and supplies you need to be a successful foster parent.
This is a big commitment and a true test of our compassion. Even with our best efforts not all foster babies survive. But they can all be loved. These babies need to be bottle fed every two hours around the clock for several weeks; making this the perfect family, club, or faith based organizational project. Fostering helpless neonates is an ideal way to foster compassion and respect for the true value and sanctity of all life in our community.
Have you saved a life today? Make a commitment to volunteer as a Baby Bottle Foster Parent. For more information and an application, please click here. Our kittens are hoping you do!
Friday, March 06, 2009
So how did this happen? From lessons learned!
Over the past two years, LA Animal Services experienced the largest, fastest, most historic growth in service demand in its history. With the opening of our new and expanded Centers we experienced nearly a 250% increase in kennels and workload while Center staffing increased only 100%. The new facilities attracted a greater client base, leading to more animals turned in, redeemed, and adopted. More people are now coming in to adopt and relinquish pets, obtain information, more veterinary care is needed and provided, and more volunteers and trainers want to help. This is exactly the business of LA Animal Services, and it is all being managed with a minimum workforce.
As the Department moved into its new Centers we encountered a learning curve for effectively managing our new facilities and our enlarged shelter populations. As the new Centers began to open in late 2006 we realized in 2007 the lowest euthanasia rate (15,009) in the department’s long recorded history of statistics gathering (since 1960. Over 110,000 dogs and cats were euthanized in 1971).
The low euthanasia rate in 2007 was the result of many reasons, but most notable was our having more space to hold animals coupled with a robust adoption program. In 2008, as we were still moving into our new Centers, we experienced a 20% increase (54,191) in intakes due in large measure to the economic downturn. This increase was complicated by our inexperience managing so many animals in all this new space. Consequently, the shelters quickly filled up (sometimes to the point of overcrowding), animals got sick more often and we sometimes found ourselves forced to resort to euthanasia to bring populations under control again. The nearly 30% increase in adoptions in 2008 did not keep pace with our 20.5% increase (nearly 150 dogs and cats every day) in intakes.
LA Animal Services had to quickly find its balance in an environment of severe budget cuts, unprecedented demand for expansion of services, and a severe staffing shortage. The Department had to re-group, tone-up and empower staff (especially at the mid-management level) to improve accountability and effectiveness.
Having gone through this painful growth experience, our Center Managers are now constantly looking for ways to better promote their adoptable animals more effectively. They are on the lookout for more and better off site adoption partners and events. The Department is exploring partnerships with pet stores interested in abandoning puppy mill sources. Our veterinarians are spaying or neutering some animals in-house. This allows our adopters to take their new pets home on the day of adoption. And our Veterinary team is implementing an enhanced cleaning regimen designed to help maintain a healthier shelter population.
We are aggressively transferring animals to one or another of our six adoption Centers or another municipal or private shelter when appropriate to increase adoption options. We've developed and are strictly adhering to a Population Assessment Management program that maintains our Center populations at least 10% below maximum capacity to allow sufficient space for incoming animals.
Another significant innovation that we are in the process of implementing is a program called, "Heart-to-Heart". This program focuses on animals in our Centers longer than two weeks. Each Center has a Heart-to-Heart team that includes the Center Manager, the Center Veterinarian, the ACT Supervisor, and the New Hope Coordinator or their designees. This team works together to help decide the best options for animals that don't get adopted in their first two weeks in a shelter. The team is charged with considering and exhausting all avenues of release, including but not limited to mobile adoption events, New Hope and other marketing pleas, transfer to another Center or agency, etc, etc.
So, are these strategies responsible for the positive statistics below? Time will tell. The Department will continue to monitor, tweak, manage, and modify as we continually learn from our mistakes, our successes, and the counsel of others.
Intakes/Rescues: February 09 Intakes were up over 7% (from 3,010 to 3,225). This is the highest February Intake since collecting data electronically began in 2001. February 2001 Intake was 3,079. Year to Date (YTD) Intakes are up over 4% (from 6,275 to 6,542). This is the highest January/February Intake since 2001 when 7,034 animals were taken in. This is a disturbing trend continuing from 2008.
Adoptions: February 09 Adoptions are up nearly 18% (1,607) compared to February 08 (1,377). YTD Adoptions are up 17.6% (from 2,848 to 3,351).
New Hope: February New Hope Placements are down nearly 7% (from 329 to 306). YTD New Hope Placements are down just over 10% (from 714 to 638).
Return to Owners (RTO): February RTOs are down 2% (from 376 to 368). YTD RTOs are down 6.5% (from 793 to 741).
Euthanasia: February Euthanasia is down 11% (from 748 to 665). YTD Euthanasia is down 14% (from 1,568 to 1,345). This is nearly 3% lower than the historic 2007 low of 1,384).
Again a sincere Thank You to all our employees, volunteers and partners for all their efforts to help support these life saving strategies.
Monday, March 02, 2009
As mentioned last week, Councilmembers Alarcón and Cárdenas introduced a resolution declaring February 28, "LA Spay Day 2009".
In celebration of this wonderful event, the two Council Offices partnered with LA Animal Services, Social Compassion, Clinico, The Sam Simon Foundation and The Amanda Foundation to host a free spay and neuter event for residents of the Northeast San Fernando Valley. Local residents were encouraged to bring their unaltered dogs and cats to the
The event goal to alter 165 dogs and cats was achieved! Exactly 165 pets were spayed or neutered and dozens more were scheduled for surgery in the coming weeks. Local residents were so very grateful for this free service. The event was made possible through the donations of many who are dedicated to ending euthanasia by providing free spay and neuter as the preferred method for controlling pet overpopulation.
I want to thank all our donors along with the organizations mentioned above and the employees and volunteers of LA Animal Services and the two Council Offices for making this such a successful event.
It is our hope to provide a Big Fix Spay Day every quarter in a different part of the City. If you would like to make that possible please consider making a donation to Social Compassion and indicate that it is to be used for the LA Big Fix program. Thank you!
Friday, February 27, 2009
In celebration of this wonderful event, the two Council Offices are partnering with LA Animal Services, Social Compassion, Clinico, The Sam Simon Foundation and The Amanda Foundation to host a free spay and neuter event for residents of the Northeast San Fernando Valley.
Local residents are encouraged to bring their unaltered dogs and cats to the Mission Hills Animal Care Center (15321 Brand Blvd, Mission Hills, CA 91345).
This is a first come, first serve program with intake beginning at 6:30 AM (spots will fill up quickly). Animals must be picked back up by 3:00 PM.
Pets cannot be fed from midnight the night before. Dogs must be on a leash and cats must be in a carrier.
Councilmembers Alarcón and Cárdenas are true champions for increasing spay and neuter in Los Angeles. On February 12, 2008 the City Council passed one of the most comprehensive spay & neuter ordinances in the nation, requiring pet owners to spay or neuter all cats and dogs over the age of four months, unless the animal falls under one of several exemptions. An oversight and advisory committee was also formed. The Mayor signed this ordinance into law on February 26th, 2008. Since the law became enforceable on October 1st, 2008, LA Animal Services reports city spay and neuter services increased 23%.
Each year, untold numbers of cats and dogs are born in the City of Los Angeles. Left unaltered, these animals reproduce far beyond the capacity of our local shelters and overwhelm animal rescue groups and the community at an extraordinary cost.
Please help us get the word out that February 28th is LA's Spay Day and if you own a pet in the City of Los Angeles over the age of four months it is time to have your pet neutered!
Sunday, February 15, 2009
For example, consider this remarkable story. It all began on Monday, January 26th, when LA Animal Services rescued a little 2 year old, female Whippet/Chihuahua mix from the streets of San Pedro. Her name is Mya and she was found with a severely injured right rear leg, probably resulting from being hit by a car. An extensive section of her skin was completely torn off the underlying tissue, severing the blood supply and exposing her tendons. (This is called degloving by analogy to the process of removing a glove.) She was rushed to our Harbor Animal Care Center where she was stabilized.
On Wednesday, January 28th, our medical team determined Mya’s leg was so seriously injured that amputation was the only viable choice available. Mya was transferred to our West LA Animal Care Center where she underwent this surgery. She responded well and adapted quickly to her new condition learning to walk expertly on 3 legs.
On Thursday, February 12th, Mya was spayed at the West LA Center. During surgery she developed severe respiratory distress and almost succumbed. Our medical team acted quickly. Chest x-rays were taken and a severe diaphragmatic hernia was discovered. This means that when Mya experienced the original trauma (probably hit by car) her diaphragm was ruptured and her abdominal organs were crammed into her chest cavity leaving little room for chest expansion. She bravely masked this condition until she was under anesthesia and her breathing became very labored.
On Saturday, February 14th, (St. Valentine’s Day) our extraordinary medical team (behind the scenes and during one of our most successful Adoptathons ever) successfully repaired Mya’s diaphragmatic hernia during a difficult 2 hour surgical procedure. Mya is breathing much better now and she is expected to make a full recovery. Mya should be available for adoption on Thursday, February 19th at our West LA Animal Care Center. Mya is a very sweet and gentle little dog and after all this trauma she deserves a wonderful home.
The surgeries LA Animal Services performed on Mya probably would have cost over $5,000 at a private veterinary hospital. LA Animal Services was able to perform all Mya’s surgeries for a fraction of that cost using our own resources. If you would like to help ensure all the injured, abused, and neglected animals rescued by LA Animal Services receive the loving care they need, like Mya did, please consider making a life saving donation to our STAR (Special Treatment And Recovery) program.
If you are interested in adopting Mya, she may be available at our West LA Animal Care Center as soon as this Thursday, February 19th at 8 a.m.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
The following message is from Officer Greg Randall, LA Animal Services' Wildlife Specialist
In the days following the LA Times article "Tracking the City Coyote" (January 27), LA Animal Services has received a flurry of calls from upset Angelenos concerned that the City of Los Angeles contracted a wildlife trapper to track down and kill urban coyotes. This belief no doubt stemmed from a photo depicting a coyote in
The City of
LA Animal Services’ policy is to take an educational approach to wildlife encounters. We encourage residents to employ deterrents, property alterations and the reduction of wildlife temptations like food, water and shelter, rather than use a pest control company or other methods of trapping, which ultimately is an ineffective way of dealing with the issue. The vilification and persecution of coyotes over the years has led to many myths about coyotes. If you are interested in learning more about how to co-exist with coyotes and other wildlife, please visit: http://www.laanimalservices.com/aboutani_wildlife.htm.