Los Angeles County has the largest number of abandoned cats and dogs in the nation, with more than 90,000 strays housed in county shelters in one year. It is an overwhelming task to manage so many animals, with six shelters nearly filled to capacity.
“It is mindboggling,” said Evelina Villa, outreach assistant for the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control. “We do whatever we can and we hold them as long as we have the space but if we don’t have the space we do have to euthanize.”
Sadly, last year more than 42,000 cats and dogs were put to sleep. To avoid this, the department has initiated a variety of innovative approaches to get pets adopted. They partner with several adoption agencies to find placements for pets including cross-country rescue efforts. For example, New York’s North Shore Animal League takes in many of Los Angeles’ smaller breeds like Chihuahua’s and Pomeranians that are more apartment friendly. “The humane thing to do is find these animals a home,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas. “I commend the Department of Animal Care and Control for their outstanding efforts.”
Animal Care officials also hold several off site adoption events at pet stores and parks where animals are brought to the public. They have found that nearly 70 percent of the pets that are brought to these off site locations are taken in. In fact, last year, more dogs were adopted than were euthanized. “In order to manage the numbers, we have to think outside the box,” said Villa. To raise awareness, February has been designated “spay and neuter” month and all pet owners are encouraged to “fix” their pets. Because of the surplus of animals in need of a home, pet owners should think twice about breeding, said Villa. There are several facilities that offer low cost operations and can be found in any zip code through the website www.foundanimals.org. “Breeding is a problem. People do not need to breed their pets,” she said. “Instead of breeding, spay and neuter them. It makes them better pets.”
At one of the county’s weekly adoption events recently, three of the dogs, a St. Bernard mix, a Pomeranian and a terrier were adopted. Judy Whitehurst who is an assistant county counsel, met the St. Bernard mix named Daisy and knew she had to take her home. Her five-year-old golden retriever Odie was in need of a friend and she figured her 11-year-old son would be thrilled. Whitehurst was unsure what her husband would say, but when he saw a picture of the pup, he agreed. “We told our son I was going to bring home a Valentine’s surprise,” she said. “My husband gave him a hint and told him it was bigger than a bread box and smaller than a car. All our son could think of was a go-kart. But when he saw Daisy, he was much happier with her than with a go-kart.”