LOS ANGELES – Animal rights activists are praising Los Angeles County’s decision to adopt “socially conscious” operating practices for its animal shelters, warning that alternative “no-kill” policies often result in unsafe, overcrowded facilities and dangerous dogs on the street.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals representative Lisa Lange said the LA County Department of Animal Care and Control has emphasized spay and neuter policies to help reduce the population of stray and homeless animals, rather than emulating no-kill shelters that turn sick and dangerous animals away to maintain favorable statistics.
“We all want to see an end to the homeless animal crisis, but the way to get there is not by closing our shelter doors and turning animals away for a meaningless save rate,” Lange told the LA County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. “This policy will help animals on a huge level.”
PETA representative Diana Mendoza called the newly adopted practices “a smart, compassionate, level-headed model that has the power to bring the community together.”
“Instead of reducing animals to statistics the way the no-kill movement does, socially conscious sheltering puts the animals’ interests firmly in focus along with what is best for the community,” Mendoza said.
The DACC said many no-kill practices require agencies to refuse admission to animals that aren’t adoptable and also overcrowd shelters, increasing the risk of disease.
Some release dangerous dogs for adoption to meet live release goals, according to the DACC and PETA.
The PETA website details dozens of instances of hoarding animals or sickly or dangerous dogs approved for adoption.
“It’s time for the truth that not all animals, just like not all people, are loving, trainable and safe,” said Phyllis Daugherty of the Animal Issues Movement.
Socially conscious sheltering originated in Colorado. Its goals are to ensure every unwanted or homeless pet has a safe place to go for shelter and care and to make every healthy and safe animal available for adoption.
In line with those practices, the DACC will not offer animals for adoption that are dangerous or “irremediably suffering.” And it will compassionately euthanize animals in severe, unremitting pain or suffering from other serious health challenges.
The DACC transferred 7,763 animals to low-intake animal shelters around the country last year in an effort to maximize adoption rates for healthy, safe pets. Here at home, it assesses potential adopters to make suitable matches and provides post-adoption support to ensure good outcomes.
A PETA shelter in Norfolk, Virginia came under scrutiny in 2015 for the 80% rate of euthanization in its shelter there, leading state lawmakers to pass a bill changing the definition of an animal shelter. But PETA staffers said they end up caring for animals turned away by other shelters. Many owners of elderly or suffering pets also turn to PETA when they cannot afford to pay the veterinarian’s fee for euthanasia, the animal rights organization told the Washington Post.
A blog post from PETA President Ingrid Newkirk states, “It’s easy to point the finger at those who are forced to do the ‘dirty work’ caused by a throwaway society’s casual acquisition and breeding of dogs and cats who end up homeless and unwanted, but at PETA, we will never turn our backs on neglected, unloved and homeless animals — even if the best we can offer them is a painless release from a world that doesn’t have enough heart or homes with room for them.”
The DACC’s live release rate for dogs is 88% and it finds homes for roughly half of the cats that come into its shelters, nearly double the rate for felines five years ago.
“Through collaboration with strategic partners, especially the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), DACC has been able to greatly improve outcomes for animals in its care,” DACC Director Marcia Mayeda said. “We are committed to continuing our efforts through socially conscious animal sheltering to save animals’ lives and protect our communities.”
At the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Supervisor Kathryn Barger asked for an update on the new “socially conscious” operating practices DACC. A report back is expected in 90 days.