Animal shelters in Long Beach continue to be inundated with pets that have been dropped off or abandoned by their owners because of economic hardships, such as the loss of a job, a foreclosure or simply not being able take care of an animal anymore.
The good news is, other pet owners have heeded the call and are more willing to open up their homes– and their hearts– to an extra dog, cat or rabbit in the last year, a trend that has occurred across the country.
“Although more animals are being turned in and abandoned, people are responding to this problem, and we are all seeing an increase in adoption rates,” said Madeline Bernstein, president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (SPCALA). “It’s kind of an interesting trend. There’s more coming in but more going out. Overall, the percentage is probably equalized to some extent.”
SPCALA, a nonprofit organization that’s been in existence for more than 135 years, partners with the Long Beach Animal Care Services (ACS) Department and takes in the majority of animals that are brought into the pound, providing shelter and pet-adoption services, in addition to a multitude of other programs, through a public-private partnership.
Next door, ACS provides animal-control, field operations, investigation, kennel-care and various other services for Long Beach and four contract cities: Cerritos, Seal Beach, Signal Hill and Los Alamitos. The P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village & Education Center located at 7700 E. Spring St. in El Dorado Park houses SPCALA’s adoption center in addition to ACS facilities.
Ted Stevens, ACS manager, said last year the city department took in a total of 11,653 live animals. More than 9,500 of those animals were dogs and cats, and about 2,000 were wild animals.
In the last four months, the number of pet adoptions from ACS alone, however, has increased, Stevens said. From January through April there were 152 rescues and adoptions of dogs, while last year during the same time period there were 122, he said. For cats, there were 58 rescues and adoptions during the last four months in 2013, while there were 29 during the same time in 2012, representing an almost 50-percent increase.
In addition, ACS saw a 9-percent increase in cat adoptions last year over 2011, accounting for the highest number of cat adoptions in 24 years, according to the department’s 2012 year-in-review.
A big push for adoptions is expected to be this year’s Pet Adoption Day, which will take place June 8 at the village campus and is being hosted by the Heidi & Frank Show on KLOS 95.5 FM radio. The daylong, annual event will include booths, venders, music and pet-food samples.
Ana Bustilloz, spokesperson for SPCALA, said the event is expected to draw about 200 pet adoptions, adding that it is “kitten season.” She added that SPCALA found homes for about 3,700 animals last year, which was an increase of a few hundred over the prior year.
With help from a pool of more than 500 volunteers and 70 employees, SPCALA provides programs for shelter, law-enforcement, domestic-violence, at-risk-youth, court-appointed juvenile sentencing, disaster response and animal assisted therapy.
The primary goal of SPCALA, however, is to prevent cruelty to animals through intervention, enforcement, education and advocacy, Bernstein said. “Through all of the things that we do, in some way we hope we will prevent animal cruelty either by changing future behavior or by intervening when it’s happening,” she said.
Bernstein added that each city has specific requirements in regards to keeping animals as pets. In both Long Beach and Signal Hill, for instance, city code allows each household to have only four animals.
Deborah Turner, outreach coordinator for the Friends of Long Beach Animals, who provides education to schools in Signal Hill and Long Beach, said it’s important to educate people about neutering or spaying their pets, particularly to manage the influx of stray cats. Currently any cats that are adopted from SPCALA are required to be kept inside. She added that cats are often seen as wild animals instead of pets. “We have a lot of problems to solve,” Turner said. “Education is a very big part of it.”