Monday, December 3, 2012

L.A. Animal Services Numbers Improve

Two updates recently came out regarding the reduction in the number of animals killed in the Los Angeles Animal Services pounds. The first was an email from Brenda Barnette, the general manager of LAAS, stating that during the first four months of this fiscal year, as compared to the same time period last year, dog and cat impounds have decreased by 799, and the live release rate for dogs and cats has increased by 897, or 5.8 per cent.

The second was a post by Francis Battista on the Best Friends blog, stating that Best Friends’ NKLA initiative had a goal for 2012 to reduce the deaths at LAAS by 3,000, and as of the end of October, with two months left in the year, the deaths are already down by 3,500 (although it doesn’t specify, I assumed this meant a reduction over 2011, and when I checked the LAAS statistics, I came up with a reduction of 3,497, close enough to corroborate my assumption).

It’s good to see the numbers moving in the right direction. Any reduction in killing and impounds, and any increase in live release rates is positive. And if the intake rate doesn’t rise appreciably, and the killing rate continues to decline by between 3500 and 5000 each year, then the NKLA projection of No Kill in five years could actually happen.

But before we get too excited, let’s look at some other, more sobering facts.

–Even with the decrease in killing of dogs and cats by close to 3,500, that still leaves 17,126 animals who were killed this year through October. That is 56 animals a day, every single day.

–Even with the increase by a few percentage points, the live release rate is still little more than half of all outcomes for July through October of this year (57.4 per cent by my reckoning).

–The live release rate for unweaned kittens remains dismal, hovering around 12 per cent.

I don’t want to minimize the improvements, and I certainly don’t want to rain on a parade that is headed in the right direction. As the saying goes, the longest journey begins with one step. And these new numbers could be that first step in the city's journey to No Kill. But I do want to sound a reminder that clearly there is still a long way to go to achieve an end to the killing.

As I have said in a previous post, I don’t know of any community that has ended the killing of healthy and treatable animals without assiduously following the No Kill Equation, and it really doesn’t look as if Best Friends is doing that. But if the numbers hold and Best Friends does achieve an end to the killing, I will be among the first to give them all the credit they are due. The question does arise, though: if they actually were fully implementing all the programs of the No Kill Equation, would the journey be a shorter one?

We need to maintain perspective, and we need to keep in mind that we’re talking about a comparison of two years, and looking at the statistics over past years, one sees that the numbers have a tendency to fluctuate, but never steadily improve. Having said that, with the exception of two months, July-October 2012 has the best live release rate (although not by a huge margin) compared to the same time period over the previous five years. Let us hope that the momentum continues and that this is a not simply a fluke, but an indication that we truly are in the process of ending the killing in Los Angeles.

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