Monday

L.A.'s Pet Project: By the Numbers


Warning: Do not read this post unless you are seeking statistical information about animal deaths at Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS) shelters. I have tried to write this clearly, but numbers can be confusing and onerous.

In a nutshell: LAAS General Manager Mr. Guerdon Stuckey routinely states that there has been a decrease in animal shelter deaths within the past year; however, the facts seem to point to an increase.

LAAS admits to killing 24,932 animals this year and 29,560 last year. Yet, according to its own records, 9251 animals (that were inputted into the system) are unaccounted for this year, as were 4218 animals last year. It could be assumed that they were euthanized, but not added to the final tally. If this is the case, the number of animals killed this past year would total 34,183, while the number in the previous year would total 33,778, meaning that animal deaths are on the rise, and Los Angeles is moving away from becoming a no-kill city.

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Members of the Animal Community complain that they have been unable to obtain statistical information regarding the number of animals killed at L.A.'s public shelters.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's campaign website states that "at least 44,000 animals a year are killed in our shelters while the department perpetuates a reputation for conflict and confrontation with the animal community." (www.Antonio2005.com)

The protest group Animal Defense League (ADL-LA) estimates the deaths to be around 50,000 per year.

Minutes from L.A. Animal Commission meetings reveal that animals are not always logged into the system, and volunteers tell "off the record" tales about how computers are sometimes manipulated to make the department look favorable.

I have requested the official LAAS statistics many times throughout the past year from the following persons or departments: General Manager (GM) Guerdon Stuckey (three times), former Assistant GM Regina Adams (three times), the Mayor's office (one time), LAAS shelters (two times), and an LAAS associate (one time); but I never received anything until now, in spite of the fact that it is declared "public information." The statistics that I now possess did not come from the city but from a source outside of the city who was obviously more persuasive and resourceful than me.

The official 25-page report has internal inconsistencies. On page 23, the record shows that in the fiscal year ending in June 2005, 24,932 animals were killed; and in the previous fiscal year, 29,560 animals were killed.

However, on page 3 of the same report, it states that 57,930 animals were brought into the shelter during the past fiscal year, and of this number, 18,902 were adopted while 4,845 were redeemed. By adding 18,902 and 4,845, one gets a total of 23,747. If one subtracts 23,747 from the number of animals brought into the shelters, one gets a total of 34,183 animals (killed and/or missing on page 3). This is a different number from the 24,932 animals that the department states they killed (on page 23). It seems that 9251 animals have vanished. Were they killed but not added to the final tally? Although released wildlife might account for some of these animals, wildlife experts who work with the shelters say the number of released wildlife would be trifling. Page 23 of the report substantiates this claim; it states a small number of wildlife end up at LAAS. One can assume that LAAS killed 34,183 animals this past year.

A similar discrepancy can be found in the previous year: 57,437 animals were taken into the shelters, while 18,752 were adopted and 4,907 were redeemed. When one adds 18,752 and 4,907, one gets 23,659. By subtracting this from 57,437, one arrives at 33,778 (killed and/or missing on page 3) rather than 29,560 (on page 23). This points to a discrepancy of 4218 animals. Where are the 4218 missing animals from last year? One can assume that LAAS killed 33,778 animals during the previous fiscal year.

Do the discrepancies in the report point to incompetence or a willful attempt to alter numbers? And why are there a greater number of missing animals during the most recent fiscal year? Does this indicate the department is "getting worse"?

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Other questions about the report...

The ordinance passed in 2000 by the L.A. City Council requires a higher license fee for those who do not wish to spay-neuter their dogs. Yet the official LAAS statistics do not track the success or failure of this ordinance. It would be wise to delete ineffective categories that exist in this report--such as "livery stable" and "horse or mule market" which are followed by zeroes since they have no relevance to Los Angeles--and to replace them with a category that could monitor the success of the spay-neuter ordinance.

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The statistics show that 375 unweaned puppies and 5192 unweaned kittens were killed this past fiscal year. This is surprising since the LAAS shelters have been known to auction puppies for as much as $1000 each. The auction money goes to L.A.'s general fund; it is not used to help the animals. Volunteers/foster parents should prepare these babies for adoption, thus potentially eliminating the need for this category, at least with respect to dogs.

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There is data corresponding to the number of dogs that were killed by LAAS between 7/1/04 and 6/30/05. It is interesting to note the breed categories LAAS utilizes and to confirm -- contrary to what the public may believe -- that small dogs are euthanized. This shows the importance of adopting all breeds from the shelters.

American Staff – 766
Boxer – 78
Chihuahua – 232
Chinese Sharpei – 98
Chow Chow – 739
Cocker Spaniel – 100
Dalmatian – 115
German Shepherd – 584
Jindo – 140
Labrador Retriever – 581
Pit Bull – 281
Rottweiler – 807
Shepherd – 1370
Staffordshire – 2234
Terrier – 184
Others - 944
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According to a periodic review of the website www.petharbor.com -- which tallies the number of animals in the L.A. shelter system -- the total number of animals housed on any particular day (within the six city shelters) seems to fluctuate between 1200 and 1310 animals.

When LAAS is at 1200, it seems reasonable to assume that it is not filling its cages to capacity. Why would it euthanize animals when there is space to house them? This suggests that some shelter managers and workers may adhere to a "killing routine" rather than evaluate the "animal situation" on a daily basis in order to spare as many lives as possible. Undercover shelter video footage corroborates the unnecessary killing: in this secret video, cages are shown storing paper products rather than giving hope to homeless dogs and cats.
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If you have any additional information or comments about the statistics or practices of Los Angeles Animal Services, I hope you will post them on this blog.

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