Thursday, November 13, 2014

L.A.: Progress Toward No Kill?

Shortly after the statistics for Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS) for the fiscal year ending July 2014 came out, both LAAS and Best Friends started shouting from the rooftops that there had been a "record drop" in the killing (or, as they misuse the term, "euthanasia"). But really just how significant is this reduction? Let’s take a closer look at the statistics in order to get a clear picture of how (or indeed whether) LAAS is progressing toward No Kill.

To begin with, the fact that the killing was down is really no surprise, as killing has been going down every year since at least 2009[1] (the first year for which I have records). Also, note that the "record" drop last year is in fact smaller than the drop the year before[2] (going by live release rate, which is the clearest way to assess progress toward No Kill).

Intakes were also down last year, and that is a good thing, as keeping animals out of the pounds is as important as getting them out once they are there. But notice that the difference in the number of cats and dogs[3] killed from 2013 to 2014 is approximately the same as the difference in intakes in those years, so the reduction in the number of animals killed can be accounted for almost solely by the reduction in intakes. In other words, even if LAAS had done nothing specific to reduce the killing, the number of animals killed would have gone down almost as much as it did.

And what was the reason for the reduction in intakes? Was either LAAS or Best Friends proactive in that regard? Not so you’d notice. The pet retention programs at the South L.A. (run by
Downtown Dog Rescue) and North Central (run by Home Dog L.A.) pounds are doing a wonderful job of helping to keep animals with their families, but that would never have happened without dedicated volunteers and outside groups. Also, these are just two of the six LAAS locations, and neither LAAS nor Best Friends has done anything to institute or support such programs in the others (more on this in a later post).

Consider also the fact that Best Friends is now running the seventh LAAS location as well as its own adoption center in West L.A. In other words, there is now room for many more animals in the system (5,234 animals went to Best Friends from city pounds last year), and Best Friends is also doing massive PR work in addition to its adoption promotions, coalition rescue partners, and spay/neuter clinic. Under those conditions, the number of animals killed would be expected to decrease significantly even with "business as usual" in the rest of the system.

So while it is true that fewer dogs and cats were killed last year in L.A. than in previous years, that fact is misleading and doesn’t prove any fundamental progress toward No Kill in the system as a whole; rather, it points to a notable lack of such progress.

And let’s not forget that these are lives we are talking about. All analysis and arguments aside, the tragic fact remains that while LAAS and Best Friends are patting themselves on the back, 12,681 cats and dogs were killed last year (please just pause for a few seconds and ponder that number), the vast majority of them healthy or treatable animals who wanted and deserved nothing more or less than to find a home and someone to love. So LAAS and Best Friends can crow about their "record" as much as they please, but until they actually start doing all that they can to truly end the killing by wholeheartedly implementing all the programs of the
No Kill Equation, I can’t really see anything to celebrate.


1. Bear in mind that the years I refer to are fiscal years, as that is the way LAAS keeps its records.

2. While it is true that the live release rate increased, the increase was smaller this year (the year everyone is raving about) than the increase that occurred last year. The increase from 2012 to 2013 was 6.96%. The increase from 2013 to 2014 was just 5.56%

3. For the purposes of this post I am looking only at the numbers for dogs and cats because those are the numbers that LAAS and Best Friends are using; but we have to remember that there are other animals whose lives matter just as much, and whom LAAS and Best Friends seem to be ignoring.