I have been looking at various shelter stats cross the country. Not many publish their outcome statistics of impounds, adoptions or kills. The most complete stats are from Los Angeles Animal Services, which this month added new categories of statistics, such as trapped cat and neonate impounds. No other shelter system publishes such detailed numbers. The system with the second best numbers is New York City. If anyone can find any other shelter systems with complete stats, please send me the link.

Interesting observations, Philadelphia and Maricopa County do not publish statistics.

San Francisco Animal Care and Control does not publish its statistics, although SF/SPCA does.

Boks obtained phenomenal success in NYC during the two years he was there. Adoptions increased almost 70% and euthanasia decreased by 27%! Impounds were constant over that period. That is a remarkable improvement, especially as NYC had less than half the budget of LAAS and yet handled 85% of LA’s impound load. NYC has a current kill rate of 45%, a little better than LA’s 46%.

SF/SPCA has an incredible adoption rate for 2005: 91%!

That has to been seen in context though.

The SF/SPCA had only 3,600 impounds during Fiscal 2004-2005 compared to the approximate 47,000 for LAAS, or about 8%. Yet, given this very small impound load, they had a budget of $11,000,000 vs. about $17,000,000 for LAAS that year. In addition, they had 150 employees to handle 3,600 animals compared to 290 to handle 47,000 animals.

This means SF/SPCA had one person for every 24 animals brought in—per year!!! LAAS had approximately 162 animals per person per year, or almost 7 times the workload. No comparison, is there? To be comparable, LAAS would have to have 1,960 employees and a budget of $132,000,000!! NO COMPARISON.

In addition, SF/SPCA is not a municipal shelter. It cherry-picks the animals it wants to take from SF Animal Care and Control. SFACC does not publish its own statistics, but we can gather some info from the SPCA site. There we learn that SFACC adopted out 3,517 animals. We have no idea what their impound load was, their budget or manpower. It could be they took in 100,000 and killed 96,500. We don’t know, they won’t tell us.

In addition, SF/SPCA works in partnership with the Maddies adoption Center.

I agree that until everyone publishes complete stats, budget and manpower, we have no idea how well each system and GM has performed.

Given the numbers I can find, it seems Boks led the NYC shelters to a remarkable turn-around during the two years he was there, his budget and impound load, but until LAAS gets another 1,600 or so new employees and an additional $110,000,000 in budget, we will not see no-kill on the level of SF/SPCA. Even then, since SF/SPCA cherry-picks animals from SFACC, we will still not see a 91% adoption rate-ever.

I think in the short term, Boks is good as it gets. Winograd or someone else might do better or worse—I don’t know. To even speculate on his potential outcome, we’d have to know how well he did in Philadelphia and whether the improvement was sustained after he left.

Please, if anyone can find statistics for any shelter systems that handles more than 20,000 animals a year, please let me know.

Those who do not learn from the past are doomed...

By its inaction, Santa Monica is setting the stage for yet another round of squirrel killing in July. You may remember Lefty Ayers got paid maybe $26,000 for two rounds of squirrel killing in 2006. Well, the City has done nothing to prevent a new, horrendous baby season, so they will need to start killing again in July.

Here is the report sent to Council by Lamont Ewell, City Manager:

Squirrels Update (January 17, 07) - A Los Angeles County Public Health Dept official made a recent visit to Palisades Park and observed the same number of ground squirrels as he did after our last round of controls. This means the population has remained static, which is good news for us. Staff will be following up with the National Wildlife Research Center regarding partnering in Santa Monica next summer.

Mary Cummins, of Animal Advocates said:

“Of course the squirrel population remained static. It's winter. It's impossible to have more babies now. They only breed once a year. The population will triple after baby season, half male, half female. Females will have six each this year because they killed off so many last year, (meaning there is more space and natural food supply) so there will be three times as many squirrels after baby season.”

Effectively Santa Monica has done nothing since September to implement a non-lethal control plan before the Spring breeding season. June will come, Mike will come, the County will cite, Santa Monica will kill, squirrels will die--yet once again, the seventh time in a decade.

So why is Ewell waiting until summer?

Why has there been no RFP for non-lethal control before the baby season rather than after it?

There was the promise that a sterilization program was being worked up even as the killing was ending in September. I think Santa Monica has a very short period of time to act to prevent another expensive tragedy.


A simple question: Can anyone—anyone—tell me why LAAS impounds decreased by double digits between 2001 and 2004 (a total of 24%), then essentially stalled thereafter at 47,200?

Can Mr. Winograd tell me? Can Ed Boks, Alley Cat Allies or Madelyn Bernstein tell me?

Were there more spay neuter vouchers each year during 2001, 2002 and 2003 than during 2004, 2005 or 2006? Were the vouchers for housed animals or feral? Were more feral cat colonies neutered during those years than now, or are the numbers the same but with diminished effect?

Did LAAS have a policy change causing fewer impounds and then reverse that policy? Did increased public awareness of the killing cause people to turn in fewer animals during 2001-2004, but not after ADL raised the issue further in public consciousness?

When it comes to saving the lives of animals, we need to understand both sides of the supply and demand equation for “used animals.”

We really do not understand the supply-side of the solution, how to decrease impounds. We think we do: massive spay/neuter, TNR and education. But were these the cause of the 24% drop in impounds between 2001 and 2004? Have we done less S/N, TNR and education during the past three years, or more with less effectiveness?

Was the decrease during 2001-2004 a mere statistical fluke or are there not-understood causes? Is there some kind of “Butterfly Effect” wherein the causes are so bizarre no one could have suspected?

If we have done more S/N, TNR and education during the past three years with no increased effect, is throwing money into solutions that theoretically should work but in fact have not, an intelligent use of resources?

Do we need better animal “marketers” to solve the killing problem, or do we need an animal-equivalent of John Maynard Keynes who will provide a better understanding of animal demographics and behaviors? Without a better understanding, are we not just shooting blanks?

PS: I just received a dynamite comment regarding another take on saving lives and it is attached below. This is a must-read and makes me think I need to rethink my whole position. It also brings to fore that Stuckey accomplished a lot when he was here, such as getting rid of a lot of useless or worse employees, and cutting euthanasias by 11%.

Boks vs. Winograd--a Proposal

Ed Boks placed a shot across the bow of generic no-kill movement gurus a, b, and c, which in my opinion refers to Nathan Winograd. Boks states these gurus have never proved that they have ever turned any shelter system they consulted with into N0-Kill. Of course, Nathan has been sniping at Boks for a year, so turn-around is fair play..

Yes, until Nathan is as transparent with his statistics since 2002 as has been Boks, we cannot judge the relative success of either. The statistics of his Philadelphia experiment would be crucial to an objective assessment as Philly is a large municipal shelter system.

I believe Boks is wrong in stating Winograd is not a real guru because he has never run a large shelter system and is only a consultant. He further snipes at Winograd because Nathan charges a “hefty consultation fee.” This accusation does not make sense as Boks himself is receiving a hefty salary for running LAAS. Why should Nathan not be allowed to make a living?

Yes Winograd turned down Villaraigosa’s offer of the GM spot. He also never submitted a consultation plan or fee proposal. Therefore, he appeared uninterested in the position and Villaraigosa appointed Boks. I also believe a large part of Winogard’s reluctance to take the job was the red tape and civil service-loaded personnel problems which are short-term, near insurmountable.

Whether Nathan is waiting in the wings or not, I don’t know, but he would be very reluctant to do anything in LA for fear of ADL turning on him as they have on everyone else. He told me he was horrified by the mutual assured destruction tactics of the various pro and anti Boks groups in LA. He said the various factions were worse than Republicans in their tactics.

I am also sure that ADL would attack Winograd at some point unless he were only a short-term consultant training Knaan to take Boks’ place. (Then they would attack Knaan six months later.)

Boks again snipes at Winograd asking why the latter has never publicly offered to help. This rhetorical question is disingenuous as I doubt Boks would accept his help anyway, unless Nathan did not charge for the consult and only reported his findings to Ed.

One commissioner and others have stated LAAS has, or is about to implement all of the programs Winograd has suggested in his seminars and journal. This may or not be true. I asked ADL to submit a list regarding Winograd’s suggested programs so that I could do a free comparison with the current and proposed LAAS programs. They never bothered to respond. I asked for the same info from Boks, he also failed to respond. Why does each side resist a comparison?

Not only is it necessary to list and compare programs, but each has to be evaluated for success or failure. ADL just mocks Boks but cannot prove or disprove the results of the LAAS. Nathan has never revealed—so far as I know—even the success or failure of individual programs in Tompkins County let alone Philadelphia. He reveals goods stats of Tompkins County, but not of which programs prodiced what results. Boks does list stats such as for fosters and New Hope as well as now stats for unweaned animals.

I do not think Winograd should be brought in as a consultant to Boks or LAAS. The collision of egos would be an 8.6 ego-quake that might destroy all of Los Angeles by having it slide into the ocean.

As I stated before, I thought Nathan should be brought in to head an expanded private effort—a separate, well-funded private shelter so that he and Boks can pretend to work together, but which would also add a vast marketing outlet for homeless animals. Everywhere Winograd is accepted by animal activists as a no-kill guru. Therefore, were he to come here, at least for a while, there would be an unprecedented private/public cooperative effort such as that which made San Francisco the no-kill leader in the country.

Instead, I now suggest that Nathan be brought in to be the CEO of Gary Michelson’s Found Animals Friends Foundation, which is dedicated to making Los Angeles No-Kill and would give Nathan approximately the same salary as Boks so that neither can bitch. Maybe Michelson could offer Winograd $1 more than Ed makes.

About the position:

FAF is striving to reduce the number of homeless animals and the number of animals killed in shelters each year. FAF is already considered by the city government to be an important participant in animal welfare issues. The Executive Director will interact with policy makers on various animal related matters including best practices with respect to the following issues: overpopulation of companion animals; low licensing rates; funding of animal related services (both public and private); spay and neuter; the problem of backyard breeding; and the problem of puppy mills and other breeder related issues. The FAF goal is to become a national model of the no-kill and TNR (trap/neuter/return) approaches to the urban animal problems with results that are not only humane but also fiscally wise. The organization is well funded for the near future but expects to become a self-sustaining organization through fee-for-service programs, corporate partnerships, and other opportunities.

The Position: Executive Director. FAF is looking to identify a vibrant and dedicated person to develop and launch the program in Los Angeles and personally build the organization nationwide. This is an ideal position for a self-starter with financial and operations management abilities and a desire to make a difference in the animal welfare community. The application deadline is February 7 and the salary is between $130-180,000 a year.

Contact (Liz Fanning):

What more can Los Angeles ask for? Boks and Winograd, forced to work together; imagine. If they succeed together, both will be heroes; if they fail together, both will be boobs. If Winograd does not apply for this position, which would give him a national and well-funded platform for his N0-Kill Nation movement, I would want to know the reason why. Effectively he would be a national spokesperson for no-kill and would not need head any shelter.

The Future of LAAS--AMENDED

I talked to Ed Boks yesterday. The future looks bright for LAAS, or so he says.

He thinks we may have 120,000 spay/neuters by the end of the year or by the end of 2008 by the latest, and somewhere down the line, 40% of one shelter dedicated to rehabilitating pit bulls. Boks and his AGMs are getting along fine and things are getting done. I have no reason to doubt him; he picked them.

Five to six new vets are to start within a few months. Maybe. I hear there are more than paperwork problems here. He claims we've been doing 40-50,000 S/N during the past year, but 120,000 this year is optimistic, even with 12 vets. I heard LAAS issued 39,000 spy/neuter vouchers during 2005. Triple this figure is very optimistic. This would be 10,000 surgeries a year per vet minus outsourced vet services. I understand there are plans for an RFP for vet outsource services too. Next year 120,000 is more believeable.

I still disagree that Spay/Neuter is the only way to go.

Boks’ definition of no kill? The same criteria for euthanasia as a compassionate owner and vet. Too bad there are no numbers associated with this definition. One could at least talk to a dozen vets to see what the kill rate is in their practices. There should be an objectively definable goal assigned to no-kill and this is not and never will be. Milestone progress and accountability are not possible given such subjective goals.

My definition of no-kill would be that LAAS would provide universal health care for all the animals in the city. (Wish list--that's the socialist in me.)

LAAS has hired about a million people, not one of whom is Dan Guss although he keeps trying.

So, what percentage decrease can we expect in the kill numbers this year? No idea at this time. If the kill rate dropped 6.5% this year, and a lot more space is coming on line and his hand-picked staff is also coming on line, perhaps the flattening curve of decreasing kill rates will again dip into double digits.

As I pointed out in a previous post, the rate of improvement has been falling for the last two years. I cannot see double digit decreases in euths after 2008. By 2010 I see LA still being the lowest kill major shelter system in the country, but nowhere near no-kill. I do think we can be much closer to no kill in ten years, by 2016.

NYC numbers for 2006 are up on the NYCAC website. I had not seen these before. The interesting thing is that that Boks did better in NYC during his first year compared to how he did this year in LA. The first year there resulted in a 14.6% increase in adoptions and a 14.5% decrease in total dog/cat euthanasias. The difference is he could fire people over there but not here. A lot more red tape here too.

I do not look forward to seeing the May euth numbers. I understand there is a lot of overcrowding in some shelters, especially of pit bulls. AND, this is the slow season; usually the shelters are empty in January. Many are not adoptable. They are going to die anyway. I guess the hope is that the rest of the euth stats will fall due to new programs and will cover the increased pit bull kills.

Trap/Neuter/Release may become the law of the land in LA where it may be legalized. I understand there are CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) problems and the issue may never pass Council due to opposition from environmental groups.

Maybe ADL will go after the environmental groups instead of LAAS if TNR is not made law of the land. Maybe ELF and ALF can fight it out. Hope ALF wins.

Even if it were made official city policy, I don’t know what legalization means, or how it will help feeders or colony managers. Let's hope it includes medical care for colony cats. There is one provision that will prevent many, many feeders/managers from participating, which will be the requirement to register or license each colony. Feeders have long been wary of the city’s animal police and I doubt that attitude will change quickly. Once a colony is identified and located, if neighbors complain, the feeders and their colonies would be targets. If I were maintaining a colony, I wouldn’t register it.

I also understand though that shelter personnel may help domesticate the ferals that can be domesticated, and help get them adopted. Don’t hold your breathe for this one.

As for ADL, their influence is dwindling. Only a few of us pay attention to them anymore and those few are the ones ADL et al have paid negative attention to in the past.

ADL seems to have deteriorated into a small group of gossipy females becoming increasingly desperate for attention, attacking just about everyone now. It's what is called a malignant narcissism, where the person's mental health goes down the toilet as everyday reality challenges their self-image of being special.

Read Boks blog. He was surprised I did not. He said everything he told me was on his blog. Well, there are lots of things on lots of blogs, but until I see some numbers, they are just words.

In any event, if you want me to continue covering LAAS and Ed Boks’ successes and failures, please email me at:, otherwise I’ll move onto other things such as the looming threat to cats by County Vector Control because of Avian Flu, or when Vector Control orders Santa Monica to start killing its ground squirrels again.

I wanted to tell you I started this blog to defend Boks and LAAS against the ADL and a lot of non-ADL people who looked on Ed with great skepticism. Over the past year I went overboard in counterattacking the ADL and certain other almost evil people who seem to delight in hurting others. Of course, even more than I Animal Friends has acted as a shield against ADL et al attacks on Boks and LAAS. Had more people contacted me about what was going on in LAAS, maybe I would have not been so optimistic. But no one did. The "information" provided by ADL and friends has no credibility whatsoever.

Now that LAAS seems to be heading in the right direction and needs a lot less help from me, I can go back to my first love which is teaching Buddhism and Vedanta, as well as conducting workshops and meditation groups.

As for my spiritual website,, since I have added many talks by my teacher as well as my own expression of what I have learned, the traffic is unbelievable as are the number of emails from seekers all over the world, including a large number from India, Australia, Germany and the Netherlands. Some days I get 9,000 hits and about 200,000 a month. Villaraigosa’s mayor’s page only averaged 2,488 hits a day during this past December, and the City Attorney only 4,500.

New Thinking in Animal Sheltering

In a recent post I suggested that the time of rapid improvement in save rates at LAAS is past and that new technology was needed to bring save rate increases back into double digit range. I did not mean for a minute that Boks and LAAS were not doing everything possible within the confines of their budget stipulations and years of embedded technology and management style including inherited civil service laws..

Boks is probably the hardest working GM ever and we are lucky to have him. But he fighting an uphill battle by doing more of what has worked before based on the system he inherited, which includes dealing with civil service restrictions that prevent getting rid of department deadwood. This is also Winograd’s criticism of old-guard thinking-doing more of the same. Of course what Nathan offers may be more of the same also, as his innovative thinking is becoming the mainstream..

Yesterday I suggested a requirement to put contraceptives in pet food or offering over-the counter contraceptives. Contraceptives are an accepted modality for stablizing and reducing deer, grond squirrel and bear populations in the wild.

Today I suggest something different.

When I was working on a Master’s in Public Management, we studied old-style private sector management techniques applied to even older styles of top down urban public management.

New style private management techniques developed by the Japanese during the late 1980s and the US military in the 1990s focused on redistributing management decisions to lower, local, administrative level of services provision where it is assumed that optimal services are best determined locally. In the case of LAAS, this would mean giving more management and resource decisions to the shelter area level. This is the thinking behind establishing neighborhood associations by the City and the thinking behind the DAW model--giving local input into the decision process of the usual municipal top-down managers.

By the way, I suggested the neighborhood groups to Riordan in 1996 or so, and it was implemented by Wardlow a few years later. I even wrote a detailed plan for its creation and management structure. Again, as now, the group of us (Urban Management Group, including a full professor of management from Case Institute of technology) who offered the theory was ignored and the plan surfaced a year later as the administration’s own. Again, screw you says the City.

The military calls this management style distributive intelligence. That is, information gathering and asset allocation are determined on the battalion and even platoon level instead of at the division or army level.

The thought was that the local guys best knew what needed to be done in their area because they best knew what was going on in their area.

I have heard that Stuckey did exactly as I proposed and turned operations of the asylum over to the inmates, and laziness and fecklessness ruled. My source said it was like distributive unintelligence. The source stated distributed management will not work at LAAS until good management structues are installed and the department turned around. Apparently because of his abandonment of central control, staff loved Stuckey.

Well so much for my idea. Yet, Stuckey dropped the kill rate 11% during his one year here.

Another argument to support this management modality is how more efficient local, small area groups are at distributing services.

The total LAAS live saves of dogs, cats, rabbits and all others was 31,229 this year. This includes fosters, New Hope and even stolen. The cost per animal saved is a mind-boggling $704 each given a budget of $22,000,000. Incredible, no?

On the other hand, with regard to the save costs of Mary Cummins and her Animal Advocates—the only group that supplied me with saves data and costs, the cost per save is astoundingly less.

In 2005 AA saved 1,385 animals with out-of-pocket expenses of $2,200! That includes food, medication, and vet bills. This does not include her time or overhead. She got formula donated at about $300/yr. She also got some dog/cat food donated worth about $300.

Of course Cummins’ animals averaged a few pounds in weight as opposed to 10 pound cats and 40 pound dogs, but the overall message is the same. Her out-of-pocket expenses for saving 1,385 animals was $1.59 per animal saved! Incredible, no?

Of course we have to factor in AA’s overhead. She did not offer those figures, but assuming a mortgage of $4,000 and utilities of $1,000 per month—I am sure both are overestimates—and allocating 50% to her animal work, the total overhead would be $30,000 per year, for a total cost of $32,200, which is $23, only 3% of the LAAS cost per save!!

Of course we haven’t factored in salaries, but that is one of the benefits of a local private rescue group: volunteers and free hours. Even if we gave Cummins $40,000 a year for a half-time job and assume there were additional free volunteer hours, the total cost per save is still only $52. That is only 7% of the LAAS cost per save!

Cummins goes on to say, “LAAS really needs to do something to reduce the number of animals coming in. When I did that research for a foundation, I found increasing shelter size was not cost or life effective. It was a waste of funds. Of course the bond had been issued years ago but the maintenance cost for the shelters and extra employees has increased. That money would have been much better spent on spay/neuter.”

It may be more cost effective to open storefront adoption sites manned by two full-time employees and lots of volunteers at a cost of $160,000 each with maybe a constant inventory of 50 animals.

Who knows? I am just suggesting new technology in the form of new physical technology and new management styles should be tried rather than just making business as usual more cost effective..

Is Spay Neuter the Key to Ending Shelter Killing?

If we examine the shelter systems that actually publish statistics—and I am aware of only a few who do so on their websites—we can see that the best save-rates for large systems runs only a bit over 52%, such as in LAAS. Philadelphia supposedly had a 90% kill rate two years ago. Who knows what the kill rate is now—there are no statistics.

A friend of mine who ran Sonoma County’s shelter system—about the same size at Tompkins County—said 50% was consider a very good rate of saves nationally. Barry’s bane was feral cats. Fully 35-40% of his kills were ferals. Had feral kills been eliminated, his save rate would have been 70%+. Sonoma is a rural County, LA is not, so it is difficult to draw comparisons.

San Francisco has stopped publishing its statistics as has Tompkins County. I assume that if they were as good as they published four years ago, they would still be posting them. It may well be that their kill rates have trended upwards again towards the national norm since Winograd left. I wish Winograd would publish the stats for all the shelter systems he has consulted with to see if his methods really work and are sustainable.

We think we have the concept that having a large—stand alone—private SPCA-type New Hope shelter supposedly works and was instrumental in massively decreasing SF kill stats. Of course, SF has a much different geographic and demographic configuration more conducive to both lowering impound rates and increasing save rates of those animals impounded, for various reasons.

But does it work? The SFACC/SFSPCA defines saves as adoptable and treatable. We don’t know what percentage of the total impounds that those numbers would constitute, nor whether SF overall stats ignore the non-adoptable and non-treatable.

I suggested Winograd be brought in, not to consult with LAAS, but to head a side-by-side SPCA-like shelter. This tactic purportedly brought success in SF and in Tompkins County. Why does this tactic work there, or does it? It appears that it expands the capacity for holding animals during the kitten season, and also to expand the outlets for adopters to see the “merchandize. Would a Walmart shelter help in LA?

In LA, New Hope partners adopt about ½ what LAAS does by itself. Would a separate massive shelter turn LA’s save rate improvement soaring once again? I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not.

In fact, the new LAAS increased shelter capacity may serve as the required Winograd-style private shelter. I don’t know. Anyone who says they know is only speculating without proof to back their musings.

So, the accepted theory of diminishing killing is to decrease the impound rate by spay neuter, including TNR. It sounds logical, but how to do it, and how much has to be done to really impact the number of animals impounded? NO ONE KNOWS! The thought is, just do as much as we can, and impound rates must drop.

I have not seen any analysis to support this hypothesis with regard to the 2001 to 2006 drop in LAAS impound numbers from 62,000 to 47,000. Did spay neuter do it? I don’t know. If it did, was it due to feral vouchers or housed cat vouchers? Was it due to the Spaymobile? I don’t know.

Was is due to raising public conscience and taking more responsibility for keeping or placing pets after they find out about the atrocious kill rate in the public shelters? That is, raising the guilt level? I don’t know.

Was it due to an expanding circle of compassion?

Will pouring more money into tactics that have sort-of-worked in the past, work better? I.e., are the new shelters going to really cut the kill rate? Time will tell.

Don’t you see, no one really knows. No surveys of owner attitudes have been made. Would people adopt pets is the landlord would allow it? How many feral cats are there in Encino? How many vouchers are slated for that area vs, South Central or do vouchers just flow to areas where there is the most demand for them? Would educational programs really raise the conscience level there? I don’t know.

So, what to do?

It is my intuition that spay neuter is not the Golden Key. There are too many reasons why people do not S/N their animals, one of which is the suffering the animals endure. What is for the good for all the unborn cats and dogs may not be a persuasive argument for some people. And ferals? How many cats have to be caught before there is a downturn? I have heard it is 70-80%. Those numbers would require and amazingly effective TNR program.

What about something else? Why not pass a law that 50% of all cat and dog food sold in California have contraceptive ingredients so that feral feeders, and those with dogs they refuse to neuter, who would not have sterilized their pets/charges anyway due to expense or dis-ease doing same, may have a contraceptive alternative? Using contraceptives in food is an accepted way of stabilizing and reducing deer and ground squirrel populations in the wild.

One might argue this would encourage feral caretakers from getting their cats neutered. Maybe, but perhaps seasonal sterilizations brought about by treated pet food may much outweigh the impact of not spay/neutering a colony.

Is it spay/neuter what has caused the impound numbers to go down 22% over the past few years? I don't know but I have an intuition that there are other major factors perhaps more important; that is why I am raising the question of causation. My gut feeling is that it has more to do with a raising of consciousness and expanding compassion which means people are better minding their guardian role. This is why I appreciate Boks' sermonizing. He is right.

Conscience might stop people from turning in unwanted pets to public shelters if they knew what the death rate was. They would think ahead before letting their pets multiply. They would spay/neuter their animals despite their own felt pain at the thought, because it is best medically for the animals and prevents more unwanted animals in the world. They would take them more often to a vet, etc. In this scenario, spay/neuter, TNR, vouchers, mobile spaymobiles, etc., would be adjuncts to consciousness raising, not the alpha-omega solution.

If this is true, then a major approach to ending shelter killing would be a greater emphasis on raising consciousness through dramatically increased education, establishing the guardian concept as being politically correct and having ministers raise the issue to their congregations. More mainstream media article would help. This would be especially important in certain ethnically “challenged” areas of the city.

Even ADL-type tactics--if well thought out regarding their targets, as opposed to misguided acting out of rage--may be as effective as adding new shelters because they bring the problem to the public’s attention. By this, I mean using Gandhi-like civil disobedience or rather civil "non-compliance" when it comes to people harming animals.

There may be "Compassion-spillover effects" from PETA-type actions against furriers that might indirectly increase adoptions, and decrease the eating of animals. Similar impacts could be had on farm animals if movies of their slaughter were published and broadcast in the mainstream media.

I think it is time to rethink the entire problem of stopping animal killing in LAAS’s shelters. I think the answer lies in increased consciousness and conscience.

LAAS Stats-Rapid Improvement Faltering

The 2006 LAAS statistics are in. I did a brief analysis.

The most significant positive change was increased adoptions, overall 6.6%. This rate of increase is 4 times the average increase for the previous five years. Something is working there.

But New Hope adoptions are down 10%, which wipes away much of the gain from in-house adoptions. Incredibly, one year before under Stuckey, New Hope adoptions were up 30%! Over the previous five years, New Hope adoption increased from 4,400 to 6,600, or about 50%. There were some years with radical deviations from that average, which no one can explain. However, as I have repeatedly stated, we should know why New Hope adoptions decreased during the past year and in 2004, and radically increased during other years, such as 2005.

It seems intuitive that there must be some saturation points for adoptions. That is, 3.2 million people and the few hundred New Hope people can only absorb an X percentage of impounds a year unless radically new ways of marketing animals are found that have not been tried by LAAS or Winograd. I don't remember if any of Nathan's stats broke out outcomes by adoptions, Non-profit placements, illness, DOA, returned to owner, etc.

The worst performance is euthanasia. Dog and cat euthanasia rates were down only 6.5%, versus 11.0% under Stuckey, and 17%, 10% and 17.6% under Greenwalt. The average euth decrease was 13.9% from 2001 through 2005, but less than half that in 2006. Why?

LAAS could argue that most of that increase in euthanasia was due to the large neonate euths during kitten season. However, the 2006 impound of unweaned kittens was actually down 7% compared to 2005, so that explanation does not wash.

Historically, the largest decrease in unweaned kitten killing was15% under Greenwalt, while the largest increased rate of killing, 22%, was also under Greenwalt.

2003 was statistically a very significant year, with a radical increase in impounds, euths and New Hope adoptions which skewed the results for 2002 and 2004. Why? No one knows. No analysis was done, and we will not be prepared for the next 2003.

Of course if I floated an investigative project proposal to the Mayor’s Office, they’d probably give it to a Friend of the Mayor, maybe a Commissioner, or even Dan Guss, since appaently the Mayor is blind to distinctions between animal people.

Of note, although feral cat euth rates (I assume that maybe 90% of trapped cats brought in are feral) have increased 51% this year, we are only talking about 250 new cats killed. Ferals, based on this figure, do not appear to be a major concern for LAAS unless the vast percentage of neonates brought in are from feral mothers. This is a significant number and more detailed statistics might reveal some answers.

Dog and cat impounds decreased only 2%, while euthanasia rates decreased 6.5%, which means there has been a healthy increase in internal efficiency for saving lives. During two of the previous five years, impound rates decreased 11%, which would account for some of the decrease in euthanasia during those years.

All in all this has not been a great year of improvement in numbers for LAAS . Improvement rates are flatlining. Much greater save rate improvements were obtained under Stuckey and Greenwalt and the Interim GM in 2004 than under Boks. In fact, unless euth rates dramatically improve above the 6.5% level, we will still be killing 13,000 animals in 2011 even given the decreasing impound rate.

The argument can be made--and powerfully--that Greenwalt picked the low hanging fruit regarding decreasing euthanasia. But what was the fruit he picked and how did he pick it? Why would Greenwalt be picking the easy solutions for three years and Stuckey for one, and then suddenly the dramatic improvements stop?

There may be what is called a Saturation S-curve for adoption, impound and euthanasia rates, where the straight part of the S of improvement is past and we are heading to the saturation limits imposed by marketing and the limits of current technology. If this is the case, next year's relative improvement numbers will be worse, and it will be due to the limitations of the technology LAAS uses, including marketing, not due to Boks' failure. But, this will be occuring on his watch and he'll catch the heat.

I understand there is quite a bit of overcrowding now to keep the animals alive longer, but this can bode poorly for next May's stats.

Everyone says conditions have improved. The future looks promising as new facilities and vets are added. There will be less crowding and hopefully a better environment to increase adoptions. Personally, I think there would be more bang for the buck if several storefront adoption centers were opened instead with a lot less overhead.

All the variances in the six years of statistics mean that we really do not begin to know the underlying impound and outcome dynamics. We can see trends but not know the reason why.

Ferals may not be the problem we think they are. We can’t tell until we know how many of the neonates are from feral moms, and, if the were, should they not have been listed as trapped cats? That is, are most neonates from housed moms? If so, vouchers and free spay/neuter are more important that TNR.

There were 7,200 unweaned kittens impounded in 2006. If half, 3,200, were ferals, then if all ferals were eliminated instantly, including the 900 trapped cats, euthanasia rates would have dropped 19%, or 4% per year if they disappeared over five years. But a more reasonable drop of 50% feral impounds over five years would mean only an additional 2% decrease in euth rates each year. A better handling of the feral problem may not cause a significant drop in impounds or euth rates. We don't know. It is all speculation without more data.

Why was 2003 such an odd year? What happened?

We need to know and understand the whys and hows of the underlying animal dynamics much better than we do now. I can’t repeat that enough. Otherwise, as Arnold Toynbee stated, we are doomed to repeat the past.

ADL's Anti-religious, Anti Compassion Bias

The ADL has adopted Guss' nonsensical criticism of Boks' expression of his beliefs which they claim are are in violation of the "Constitutional prohibition of fusing church and state."

Apparently they regard themselves as Constitutional law experts.

They say:

Ed Boks is violating the Constitutional prohibition of fusing church and state with his dripping-with-religion post on the city run animal services web site under Boks blog. Boks' religious post mentions "God" 11 times, and includes biblical quotes. Boks use of the word "God" and his biblical quotes violate the Constitution of the United States, which requires separation of church & state. Boks has turned the City's website into Sunday church.

In fact, the First Amendment of the Constitution specifically states regarding religious expression:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Can it be clearer? The Constitution prohibits Congress from passing any law regarding established religions, or establishing same, such as when Henry VIII established the Church of England; it does not prohibit a public official at any level of government from a personal expression, religious or otherwise.

The Constitution prohibits the feds from prohibiting the free exercise of religious beliefs or the freedom of speech. If anything, Guss and ADL are trying to make the City prohibit Boks from freely expressing his opinions, religious or otherwise.

Second, Bok's blog is his blog and is not part of the LAAS website and doesn't cost the City a dime. There may be a link from the LAAS site, but the blog is not part of that site.

They also state that Boks does not meet the educational requirements that Stuckey and the new AGMs had to meet--a baccalaureate.

Well, Stuckey did have a B.A. and was a flop--at least in ADL's eyes. Boks was not hired under the Stuckey criteria nor the criteria he helped set, a baccalaureate. So, what is their point?

ADL constantly talks about the need for compassion for animals and quotes Schweitzer and Gandhi. Any attack on Boks for stating the same beliefs is hypochritical.

I thought competence might be more important than a B.A. Besides, from my own experience, Wayne State University is an institution best fled.

Boks and religious expression

Dan Guss's latest attack on Ed Boks is the mark of a moral barbarian. He states that Boks' sermon-like post on compassion is a violation of the Constitutional doctrine of the separation of church and state.

This is doggie pooh.

First, the separation of church and state applies to primarily to federal agencies and only recently has been extended to state government, although it has long been enforced in the public school system. Application to City departments is rare, and maybe Mr. Guss would like to argue his position before a federal court.

Second, Boks' blog is provided free by Blogger/Google. Anyone can avail themselves of this free service. It is not paid for by the City. It is Boks' expression of his own beliefs and suppression of his expression of those beliefs would be a violation of his First Amendment right of freedom of speech.

Third, concerning the time taken to write his personal position on compassion, I understand Boks already devotes 12 hours a day to LAAS business. What he does in his non-work hours is his business.

Fourth, if separation of church and state were so rigorously interpreted and enforced as Guss would require, we'd require Bush to shut up regarding all of his evangelical religious beliefs.

Fifth, though Boks may draw analogies to religious figures, this does not make it an expression of denominational religion. In John Kennedy's "Ask not" inaugural address he mentions "God" 17 times. The quotes Boks most made are of Schweitzer and Gandhi, not Christ or Buddha. I believe a new president is sworn in by the Chief Justice with a Bible and senators are notorious in their expression of personal religious beliefs. John Kerry was criticized by the religious right for not expressing his religious beliefs.

Religious beliefs are a part of every person's existence, even an atheist. A government employee without such beliefs and the freedom to express them, would be a moral unknown. Compassion--the subject of Boks' post--is not religious in itself. Compassion is a requirment for ending all killing.


ADL is afoot again with its cesspool politics, now claiming Boks is having sexual liaisons with yet another set of rescue women who he will throw away and discard after he seduces them into doing his bidding. ADL must know that dragging everyone down in order to bring Boks down is immoral and just poisons all the pools of good will that rational people have towards all animal helpers.

We are witnessing what should be heartening times for the Los Angeles Animal Community and LAAS. We have a good GM of LAAS, Ed Boks. After four years of Bozos we have a professional dogcatcher dedicated to no-kill. Not many cities on the planet so blessed.

Ed is talented and experienced; he is a professional doing a job he knows well. But, being competent, creative and energetic may not be enough. We have to look at performance at some point. The way things are looking, we may have to consider this first year a throw away regarding stats except for improved adoptions and judge progress on other grounds noticeably less objective. I am still waiting for the year end numbers.

There are various ways of measuring performance. Almost every rescuer I talk to says things are better at LAAS under Boks. There is more optimism and feeling that this is just the beginning of good times. LAAS is opening the long awaited new shelters and hiring a dozen vets. But there is nothing objective here in terms of present numbers, only guarded optimism. In fact presently, to keep as many animals alive as possible until adopters came along, some animals are being held for months. The shelters are full. Unless adoptions are ramped up considerably, and/or it is a soft kitten season, the May 2007 stats may be very ugly. I can see no alternative to this strategy. It is the only way to go, but something more has to be done and we are looking to Ed Boks to do it.

Winograd has a model wherein he consults and mentors someone to be a no-kill GM under his continuous tutelage. Nathan claims it works and has done so in several cities. I’d like to see the complete statistics in the same or similar format to that of LAAS.

It is ironic, but after all is said and done, the only shelter systems posting stats are LAAS and LA County, not Tompkins County, Philadelphia or Rancho Cucamonga. I can't even find current stats on San Francisco.Comprehensive stats from all shelter systems seem to have disappeared about 3 years ago. I assume this is because the technology and techniques for placing animals bumps into some sort of saturation point in large shelter systems; 54% seems the best we can do so far, except for SF, which is a smaller city with no current stats. Much better partial stats are offered by Winograd, but they are for much smaller systems (except Philadelphia), and they are not complete stats allowing evaluation of the entire operation.In other words, I think the technology for live-saves may have reached a cul-de-sac, and that we now need to do basic research into animal demographics and behaviors to intervene before the animals get into the shelters. It does not appear that doing more of what has worked, works above a certain level.

Voucher programs may have diminishing returns after a point. We don't know. None of this has been studied, not by Boks nor Winograd.I think both should be considered Old School, that is, pre-science. Both rely on what works in their experience, not in a proper understanding of the scope of the problem, the dynamics and processes of animal growth, the demographics, proper allocation of resources. They are still flying by the seats of their pants, not by science. Not $1 has been spent in basic research, surveys, feral counts per block, analyzing voucher diminishing return points---stuff that marketing departments and academics have been doing for 60 years.

LAAS and Winograd are pushing product without knowing the target market of adopters and how to expand that market.Petco and Petsmart sure have a lot of that info. Every time you buy pet food they know who has dogs, cats, rabbits, and spending patterns. Does LAAS? Do they use that data?

Even more important, the doggie and cat feral numbers are totally unknown. There has been no survey work done in LA compared to the (so I hear) survey in Pasadena. Why not? Over and over I hear the same excuse: When we get our house in order and get a handle on improved operations, we can look into that. This is nonsense. You will never get your house in order enough to solve the problem without knowing what the problem is.

ADL places a lot of stock in Winograd. I do too. I am not sure though that with ADL, it is not a matter of demonstrating power, or shoving Nathan down the City's throat. It is quite clear though that having these two old timers working together would benefit everyone.We soon will see whether Nathan’s mentoring model will work, wherein a newbie like Knaan, with no shelter experience and no management experience can become a formidable No-Kill champion tutored by the old-timer professional, Ed Boks.

Of course Knaan is quite aware of Nathan's techniques and he has not been shy in going public with them. Knaan can take the best from both. But she may be taking the best from the Old School.We all want someone or some method of bringing the world to No-Kill. If Nathan can do it, fine. If Boks can do it, fine.

Personally, I think it is going to take Ed Boks AND Nathan Winograd AND everyone else in the community to make LA No-Kill, Ed on the LAAS side and Nathan in his own Winograd Shelter, along with the hundreds of existing rescue groups. This is my intuition and something I’d like to see. Of course, it may be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for these two egos to pass together through that same eye together.

Ed and Nathan, put away your long knives. It should not be a me vs. you situation. Ed, you cannot sermonize about compassion—however well put, and talk about Israelis and Palestinians working together to save ferals and not yourself work with Nathan because he may get some or more glory than yourself. Your concern should be the saving the animals.

And Nathan, stop sniping at Boks; call off the ADL. Talk to Ed and vice versa. Be a mensch.We need everyone of good will working for the animals. I guarantee that both of you will fail if you do not embrace each other's help. It would be a fatal flaw to place your own well-being before that of the animals. You are here to serve them, not they, you.

As a matter of fact, I do not know whether either of you are not failing now. The LAAS stats don't look too good and Nathan's are only partial.If anything, the heroes are the non-profits who have performed miracles over the years using their own time and money.

It would be interesting to know how many people do rescues in LA, how many animals they place each year, and how much money do they spend doing it. It might just turn out that non-profits are far more efficient at placing animals than large public shelters; but without the figures, no one knows.By the way, have you non-profits any combined statistics of rescues and placements that you have made of animals never entered into the LAAS accounting system?

Over the past year, how many animals have you rescued, placed or fostered that otherwise would have become impounds? This kind of information is important for understanding the full depth of the homeless animal situation in LA, and also for your fundraising purposes; i.e., "I rescued 60 cats last year at a total cost of $279/cat, vs. LAAS at $959/cat. This means I am three times as efficient as LAAS." How would that be for fundraising? Even a Republican would vote to give you money.