Santa Paws (copy)

Volunteer Cindi Rogan helped pass out toys and treats to shelter animals before Christmas at Long Beach Animal Care Services as part of Operation Santa Paws.

Fewer animals were euthanized in Long Beach’s animal shelter last year, officials announced this week. But advocates said the city could do better.

Long Beach closed out 2019 with an 88% “live release” rate for cats and dogs, meaning those animals were either adopted or transferred to other shelters.

The number of cats and dogs that were euthanized or died in the shelter — 665 — was lower than any year in the prior decade. The 995 animal adoptions, meanwhile, was at its highest.

In 2010, 5,559 cats and dogs died in the shelter, while only 146 were adopted.

“Our Animal Care Services team and our amazing volunteers and rescue groups are doing an incredible job,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement, “using compassion, data and a network of supporters to get more animals into homes and save lives.”

But the city’s management of its shelter has been a hot button issue in recent years, and some advocates say Long Beach still isn’t doing enough to keep animals alive.

“They’re still killing a substantial number of healthy and treatable animals,” Patricia Turner, founder of No Kill Long Beach, said Wednesday, Jan. 8.

Turner, along with other activists throughout the city, has repeatedly called on Long Beach to commit to running its shelter as a “no-kill” operation.

Last year, the City Council approved a different model, dubbed “compassion saves,” that officials said would achieve the goal of minimizing euthanasia.

An example explaining the difference between the two models, shelter manager Staycee Dains said at the time, would be a diabetic cat: Under the “compassion saves” approach, a cat with diabetes that went without adoption for a certain period would be euthanized rather than kept alive because the stressful shelter environment would lead to the feline’s health declining.

In his statement, Garcia credited the new model with Long Beach’s declining euthanasia rate.

“We will continue to work hard to bring down euthanasia rates and increase adoptions with our ‘compassion saves’ approach,” he said, “ensuring (Long Beach Animal Care Services) remains one of the best animal care services anywhere.”

Turner, for her part, said comparing Long Beach’s numbers to other shelters shows how far the city has to go.

She pointed to Sacramento, which has a slightly larger population than Long Beach. The city completed nearly 4,800 adoptions between January and November.

“So, 995 kind of pales in comparison to that,” Turner said.

Although the advocate acknowledged Long Beach has improved, she also said, “this is still poor performance.”

But, the way Garcia sees it, he’s making good on a promise he made years ago.

“I made a commitment when elected mayor that we would increase adoptions and reduce euthanasia every single year,” he said. “We are meeting that goal.”

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