Commercial Breeding Facilities – Part Two in a Series of Protecting Animals 764 429 Animal Care and Control

Commercial Breeding Facilities – Part Two in a Series of Protecting Animals

In last month’s blog I wrote about the general animal caretaking requirements set forth in Los Angeles County Code Section 10.40.010. Those requirements apply to both pet owners as well as operators of commercial animal facilities such as grooming salons, boarding kennels, wild animal facilities, and pet shops. However, there are additional requirements set forth in Section 10.40.200 that apply directly to commercial pet breeding facilities.


These requirements are necessary to ensure the proper care of animals in these facilities. Substandard facilities, known as “puppy mills,” have rightly earned very bad reputations for the animal neglect, poor genetics, and general inhumane conditions of animals at the facilities. I personally witnessed many of these conditions when I lived in Kansas, where the animal shelter I worked at assisted the Kansas Attorney General and the state animal welfare inspectors in rescuing animals from many such places.


Los Angeles County does have commercial dog breeders, mostly located in the rural areas of the Antelope Valley in northern Los Angeles County. Los Angeles County Code Section 10.40.200 sets forth strong measures to ensure the animals in these facilities receive proper care. These include:

  1. Requirements for adequate staffing: Breeding facilities with fewer than 50 sexually intact dogs must have adequate staffing on the premises of the facility at least eight hours in every 24-hour period, and the dogs must not be left unattended for longer than 12 continuous hours. Breeding facilities with 51 or more dogs must have adequate staffing at the facility 18 hours a day. Whenever the dogs are left unattended, the telephone number of the Department of Animal Care and Control, or the name, address, and telephone number of the responsible person, must be posted in a conspicuous place at the front of the property so we can be alerted if there is an emergency.


  1. Breeding facilities with 51 or more intact dogs are re-inspected more than the customary annual inspection, based on the number of animals, up to five additional annual re-inspections. That means our officers visit the larger facilities every other month to check on the animals and ensure they are being properly maintained.


  1. The animal facility must provide a written medical program, approved by a California licensed veterinarian, to prevent and control illness and parasitism. The program must include a regular de-worming schedule and a regular vaccination schedule against commonly transmitted canine diseases and be updated annually.


  1. The animal facility maintains records on site, demonstrating that an annual veterinary examination has been performed on each sexually intact dog over one year of age. The record of each exam must reflect that a physical exam consisting of auscultation and palpation, and a visual evaluation of the dog including eyes, ears, mouth and general body condition was performed. The record of each exam must also include the weight, temperature, heart rate, respiration, any significant medical findings relating to the dog’s condition, and any recommendations for treatment.


  1. The animal facility obtains approval from the Director of an emergency response plan, which is updated annually.


  1. Health of Breeding Dogs: A female unaltered dog must be at least 12 months old before being bred to prevent the breeding of underage female dogs. Records of litters birthed are required to be maintained. Offspring may not be removed from the premises earlier than eight weeks of age except for medical reasons ordered by a California licensed veterinarian to prevent the selling of underage puppies. The order must be in writing, state the medical reason for early separation, and be provided to the Department, if requested, up to two years after its issuance.


  1. Housing Requirements: Each pregnant dog must be housed separately at least three days before giving birth and be monitored at reasonable intervals. A dog who has just given birth must be provided with a contained nesting area and housed with her litter in their own run or enclosure until the newborns are weaned. This prevents the practice in puppy mills where pregnant and nursing female dogs must share enclosures with other adult dogs, placing them and their puppies in danger.


  1. Dog Identification and Recordkeeping: Current records must be maintained and produced upon request to determine licensing compliance or for any other purpose relating to the public health, safety, or welfare. These records must be provided to a purchaser of any dog sold or transferred to another person by the facility. All dogs must be microchipped or tattooed upon reaching the age of four months or prior to sale or transfer, whichever is earlier. Microchip and tattoo records must be kept for all dogs. In addition to the records required by California Health and Safety Code sections 122050 and 122055 relating to dogs, breeding facilities must keep the following records for all dogs: the date and from whom the dog was acquired; the date of each litter birthed by each female animal; veterinary records; and the cause of death and the method of disposal. Knowingly providing false information or records relating to any animal is a misdemeanor.


  1. Reasonable Restrictions on the Breeding of Animals Other Than Dogs: Breeders of animals, other than dogs, that are normally kept as pets for sale or exchange in return for consideration, must comply with all applicable requirements of Section 10.40.010. In addition, the Director may impose reasonable conditions on a breeding license, including a limitation on the number of animals permitted at a facility, and may impose recordkeeping requirements, in the interest of the health and safety of the public and of the animals.



The penalties for violations of any provision of Section 10.40.200 are as follows: A first violation is an infraction punishable by a fine of up to $250. If the owner or custodian fails to correct the underlying cause of the violation within 30 days after being notified of the violation, it is a second violation. A violation within a year of a first violation is a second violation. A second violation is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the County jail for up to six months or by a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Each subsequent violation within one year of the first violation is an additional misdemeanor.


Any act or failure to act in violation of this Section may be the subject of a civil action to ensure compliance. The filing and prosecution of an action does not limit the authority or ability of the County to enforce the requirements of Section 10.40.200 or to impose penalties or take any other action permitted by law.


The full text of this ordinance can be found here:


Unfortunately there isn’t a way to codify the genetic soundness of puppies produced in these facilities. For that reason, people purchasing puppies that originated in commercial breeding facilities and usually sold through pet stores or online should always be mindful of the potential of purchasing a puppy with genetic deficiencies. Some of these can be life-ending or require expensive and time consuming management for the lifetime of the dog. Of course, I always recommend you find your next puppy or dog at your local animal shelter. There are many wonderful animals at the shelters just waiting to be your best friend for life!


Commercial breeding facilities aren’t the only animal facilities where Los Angeles County inspects and monitors the care of animals. In the next blog I will tell you how we ensure the proper care of animals in grooming facilities, where our beloved furry friends go to look their best. Our requirements ensure that your pets are properly cared for behind the scenes, and lets you know what you can expect from your grooming facility.


Marcia Mayeda

Protecting Animals in Los Angeles County – First in a Series 791 1024 Animal Care and Control

Protecting Animals in Los Angeles County – First in a Series

Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” There is no better way to ensure the humane treatment of animals than enacting comprehensive, sensible laws to codify and enforce society’s expectations of how they will be protected.


This premise is what prompted me to move to California in 1993. Protecting animals in the Midwest was difficult due to the paucity of animal welfare laws on the books. In Kansas, I witnessed the horrific conditions in the commercial dog breeding facilities known as “puppy mills”, where dogs were kept in extremely poor conditions with scant nutrition and little to no medical care. Their sole purpose was to produce as many puppies as possible, with no regard to their genetic soundness. Other deficiencies included allowing dogs to live their lives on chains in the backyards, a cruel existence for man’s best friend who wants nothing more to be part of a family. Animal welfare laws were no more than a paragraph or two and rarely enforced. Municipal ordinances were also lacking and outdated.


In California, a much more robust set of laws exists to protect animals in a myriad of settings. In fact, the laws are so extensive that an entire 800+ page book can be purchased from the California Animal Welfare Association, which contains all laws regarding animals in California. Not all are related to animal protection, but also protecting people from dangerous animals, wildlife laws, veterinary medicine laws, and more. It is very rewarding to have a bigger toolkit to protect animals and promote kindness and compassion.


But protecting animals falls on local enforcement – the animal control and humane officers who work every day to make life better for the animals in our communities. In this regard, our local ordinances have focused effect on reflecting our expectations for animal care. In Los Angeles County, the governing ordinance regarding animals is Los Angeles County Code Title 10.


I am very proud of Title 10. In the 21 ½ years I have been with DACC, it has been amended 14 times. Each amendment improved protections for animals and people and has made Title 10 (in my opinion) the strongest local animal ordinance in the country. Many municipalities rarely update their local ordinances, and some can date back decades to their last change. Title 10 has continued to evolve and be amended as we identified areas for improvement, the need to address animal welfare issues, and the desire to protect public safety. This post begins a limited series of Title 10’s robust protections for animals and people in Los Angeles County.
In this post I will discuss the general requirements for animal care. This applies to everyone – individual animal owners as well as operators of animal facilities such as grooming salons, boarding kennels, wild animal facilities, and pet shops. These requirements are found in Los Angeles County Code Section 10.40.010. Failure to comply with any requirement is a misdemeanor. These requirements are:


A. Housing facilities for animals must be structurally sound and maintained in good repair to protect the animals from injury, contain the animals, and restrict the entrance of other animals.
B. All animals must be supplied with sufficient food and water suitable for the age, species, and nutritional requirements of the animal. Animals must have access at all times to potable water, unless otherwise directed by a veterinarian. All animal food must be properly stored to prevent contamination, infestation by vermin, and exposure to the elements.
C. Animals must be groomed and kept in a manner that is not injurious to their health. All animal buildings or enclosures must be maintained in a clean and sanitary condition to control odors and prevent the spread of disease.
D. All animals must be maintained in a manner to eliminate excessive and nighttime noise.
E. No animals may be without attention for more than 12 consecutive hours; whenever an animal is left unattended at a commercial animal facility, the telephone number of the Department, or the name, address, and telephone number of the responsible person, must be posted in a conspicuous place at the front of the property. Animal facilities that breed dogs must comply with the applicable minimum staffing requirements set forth in Section 10.40.200.
F. Animals may not be neglected, teased, abused, mistreated, annoyed, tormented, or in any manner made to suffer.
G. No condition may be maintained or permitted that is or could be injurious to the animals.
H. Tethering of animals is prohibited except as permitted under California Health and Safety Code section 122335.
I. Animal buildings and enclosures must be constructed and maintained to prevent escape of animals. All reasonable precautions must be taken to protect the animals and the public.
J. An animal facility must isolate sick animals so as to not endanger the health of other animals.
K. A building or enclosure for animals must be kept in a sanitary condition and in good repair, and must be constructed of material easily cleaned. The building must be properly ventilated to prevent drafts and to remove odors. Heating and cooling must be provided to meet the physical need of the animals, with sufficient light to allow observation of the animals and proper sanitation. An animal facility must be equipped with working smoke alarms and have means of fire suppression, such as a sprinkler system in each room where animals are kept, or functioning fire extinguishers.
L. An animal must be taken to a veterinarian for examination or treatment if the Director orders the owner or custodian to do so.
M. All animal enclosures, including, but not limited to, rooms, cages, and kennel runs, must be of sufficient size to provide adequate and proper accommodations for the animals housed there. An enclosure with a wire bottom may be used temporarily for dogs, and only if it complies with Health and Safety Code sections 122065 and 122065.5. If enclosures, such as crates and other mobile enclosures, are stacked upon one another, or on a surface other than the floor, the crates/enclosures must be securely fastened and designed and arranged so that: there is no danger of an enclosure falling; the animals do not have direct access to one another; and waste from one enclosure cannot be transmitted to another enclosure. Food and water containers must be secured to prevent spillage. Crates may be stacked no more than two crates high.
N. A violation of an ordinance must be corrected within the time specified by the Director.
O. Proper shelter and protection from the weather must be provided at all times.
P. An animal must not be given any alcoholic beverage, unless prescribed by a veterinarian.
Q. Animals that are natural enemies, temperamentally unsuited or otherwise incompatible, must not be housed together, or so near each other as to cause injury, fear, or torment. Two or more animals can be housed together if they do not harm each other.
R. Any tack, equipment, device, substance, or material that is, or could be, injurious or cause unnecessary cruelty to any animal may not be used.
S. Working animals must be given adequate rest periods. Confined or restrained animals must be given appropriate exercise.
T. An animal that is weak, exhausted, sick, injured, lame, or otherwise unfit may not be worked or used.
U. An animal that the Department has suspended from use may not be worked or used until released by the Department.
V. Animals bearing evidence of malnutrition, ill health, unhealed injury, or having been kept in an unsanitary condition may not be displayed.
W. An animal whose appearance is or may be offensive or contrary to public decency may not be displayed.
X. No animal may be allowed to constitute or cause a hazard, or be a menace to the health, peace, or safety of the community.
Y. A person may not violate any condition imposed by the Director on any license issued by the Department.


Los Angeles County Code Section 10.40.010 provides comprehensive requirements to ensure the humane treatment of animals and proper general management of animal facilities. In addition, further requirements regarding the operation of commercial animal breeding facilities go farther to protect animals housed in these situations. In my next blog I will tell you how Los Angeles County goes above and beyond in protecting these animals. Stay tuned!



Marcia Mayeda

You can subscribe to Marcia’s blog here:

Keeping Pets and Families Together 1024 936 Animal Care and Control

Keeping Pets and Families Together

Buddy’s owner wrote: “I am so very thankful for the Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation for saving my dog’s life. Our dog was attacked by another dog and we had to choose between putting him to sleep or getting him medical care. Luckily the Foundation was able to help us with some medical bills and our dog and our children are now very grateful and happy as can be!!! Thank you!!!!”

Animal sheltering has changed dramatically in the past ten years. What was once a mainly reactive approach to lost and unwanted animals has turned into a proactive model where intervention strategies strive to prevent the separation of pets from their families in the first place. This has had tremendous positive impact on maintaining the human-animal bond and redefining the role of animal shelters in the community.


Traditionally, animal shelters (including DACC) responded to the plight of homeless animals by admitting them into care and making best efforts to reunite lost pets with their owners or place homeless pets with new families. This was a reactive approach where we did our best to address the needs after they were presented. However the overwhelming number of animals presented in this model strained limited resources and created greater hurdles to overcome.


A better approach has been implemented at DACC, and many other animal welfare agencies in the nation. By providing intervention and support services before an animal might be surrendered, DACC helps keep pets and their families together. This has resulted in win-win situations for all: the family retains the pet they want to keep but lacked resources to manage, the pet stays with the family it loves and is bonded with, and DACC can use its limited resources to focus on pets with no other options.


The most common reason pet parents approach DACC to surrender their pets is because they cannot afford a veterinary expense. They love and want to keep their animal, but it needs a medical procedure they cannot afford. The pet parents don’t want to see their pet go without necessary medical care, so they make a heartbreaking decision to surrender the pet so it will receive the care it needs.


However, thanks to the Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation, DACC provides Care vouchers that can be used for up to $500 in veterinary expenses. This resource helps pet owners obtain the medical care they need for their animals and the pets stay with the family they know and love. I regularly review the invoices for these services, and it is striking how hard the families are working to find every solution possible for their animal. Many of the medical expenses exceed $500, and I see on the invoices that the person makes up the difference with cash payments and/or Care Credit to offset the remaining costs.


These are necessary medical procedures – dental treatments, abscess removals, ear infections, fracture repairs, and more. All are painful or threats to the animals’ long term health and well-being. The one-time fix resolves the problem and another family and pet continue their loving relationship. Care vouchers can also be used to assist with pet food, repairing fencing, training, temporary boarding for pet owners experiencing homelessness, or other challenges pet owners have in keeping their pets.


The Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports animals served by DACC. The Care voucher program is supported by private donations and grants. Its largest benefactor for the Cares Vouchers is the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) who recognizes and supports the need to help in this important area. DACC and the Foundation are grateful for their ongoing partnership.


Some people think that others should not have pets if they cannot afford them. Certainly, the long term costs of pet parenting should be taken into consideration before a person obtains a pet. However, the pet owners who approach us for help have been responsibly caring for their animals for years but now have a difficult financial situation. With the rising costs of goods and services, the dollar doesn’t go nearly as far and people are forced to make decisions they never thought they would have to make. Helping them during this time reaps benefits for pet owners, their beloved pets, and DACC.


When I think about providing the Care vouchers, I am reminded of two widely different cases I had early in my career as an animal cruelty investigator. One involved a complaint of a purebred Irish Setter that was kept in a crate most of the day. It was owned by a very wealthy family who lived in a gated community. I had to be buzzed in through the security gate by the housekeeper of the complainant. The owner wasn’t home, so I left a note to call me. He did and berated me for checking to see if his dog was OK and refused to allow me to see the dog. Because there was no indication of abuse or neglect, just a diffident approach to caring for a pet, I couldn’t pursue this any further (this was also in Texas in the mid 1980’s, with different laws we now have in California).


Then I responded to a call for another dog, alleging it was not receiving the care it needed. I arrived in a very low-income neighborhood and approached the house that was in dire need of new paint. A faded and worn couch was on the front porch and the yard was unkempt. I met the pet parent of the senior German Shepherd dog that lived there. Her love for her animal was abundant. She showed me all the medications she had to keep her dog comfortable. It was well-cared for, and her greatest source of love and joy. She was forgoing any home repairs or other niceties so her dog could have everything it needed. I left knowing that dog was in the best place possible for it and needed no help from me.


When I see the Care vouchers help pet owners today, I always think of this wonderful woman and her dog. I know we are helping equally loving pet owners and the pets that are devoted to them.


To contribute to the Care voucher program, please donate at


Marcia Mayeda

You can subscribe to Marcia’s blog here:

Unicorns and Magic Wishes 768 1024 Animal Care and Control

Unicorns and Magic Wishes

In November I received a delightful letter from a seven year old girl named Madeline, requesting our permission for her to keep a unicorn in her backyard if she could find one. I happily agreed to allow her to keep a unicorn, with conditions. These included compliance with Los Angeles County Code regarding the keeping of animals; the unicorn must have regular access to sunlight, moonbeams, and rainbows; it must be fed its favorite treat – watermelon – at least once a week; that its horn must be polished every month with a soft cloth; and any glitter used on the unicorn must be nontoxic and biodegradable.

A few weeks later, on her seventh birthday, Madeline and her family came to our Castaic Animal Care Center. Her mother told her she was coming for a special private tour and to talk to me about her unicorn license application. I reviewed all unicorn-keeping requirements with her, and she solemnly agreed to comply. I then approved her license application and provided her with a pre-approved unicorn license, permanent unicorn license tag, and a unicorn stuffed animal to keep her company until she could find a real one.


Madeline’s letter was so sweet that we shared it and our response on social media, and it went viral around the world. We received hundreds of thousands of kind remarks, words of thanks, and statements that we have restored peoples’ faith in local government. People were so glad we took the time to respond to a child, and thoroughly enjoyed the creativity and fun we had with our response.

Kind people sent Madeline gifts, such as a unicorn fleece blanket, unicorn stickers, and unicorn books. OrangeOnions & Brands, the company that makes the Plushible unicorn, generously sent Madeline a giant one that is about as big as she is. Madeline was overwhelmed and thrilled.

Why did we respond to a child, when there are so many pressing matters before our department? Because I was Madeline, many years ago. We all were, in some form or another. I remember when I was a child and how impactful it was when a grown up took the time to respond to me and listen to my concerns. But her letter and our response went much further than this. It seemed to touch at the very core of what many people want to see in the world – innocence, compassion, and a little bit of humor.


Our response delighted and touched many people. We were told how it made them smile, brought tears to their eyes, and restored their faith in humanity. Clearly, we are all so happy when we see kind, lighthearted stories of compassion to offset the many negative items in the news today. All of us at DACC that participated in this project got so much joy out of it.


We are all so happy that Madeline’s letter and our response had such a positive impact, and on a global scale. In fact, to honor Madeline and help the animals in our care, the Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation started “Madeline’s Magical Unicorn Fund” to “support the adoption and care of unicorns and other less mystical animals” cared for by the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control. Donors to this fund will receive a pre-approved unicorn license and permanent unicorn license tag. Madeline, a devoted animal lover who wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up, is happy that animals will be helped in her name. Get yours here:


I learned many things from Madeline about unicorns. For example, their horns can shoot rainbows or glitter and grant magic wishes. I hope your magic wishes come true, whether they are for unicorns or other things dear to your heart. I can’t wait to meet Madeline’s unicorn; if anyone can find one, she can!



Marcia Mayeda

You can subscribe to Marcia’s blog here:

Leaders in the Pack 846 315 Animal Care and Control

Leaders in the Pack

One of the most defining aspects of working in animal welfare is that you never know what situations may come your way, especially in a county the size of Los Angeles. These surprises and challenges must be responded to and resolved, while also maintaining our ongoing operational effectiveness and planning for the future. This calls for superior leaders who are ready to face whatever comes their way.

DACC operates seven animal care centers that are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our service area covers more than 3,200 square miles across vast unincorporated areas as well as 45 incorporated cities that contract with us for service. Three million residents rely on our 390 staff and 1,500 volunteers for animal welfare and public safety protections. We serve communities as diverse as high desert, beaches, mountains, foothills, urban, suburban, and rural areas. All this means we can expect anything!

Recent events illustrate the varied and critical ways where DACC’s leadership training has created flexible, proactive, and astute leaders to meet our mission. The first involved the service of a search warrant and removal of 195 cats and 40 dogs from a facility with unsanitary conditions. Many animals had serious medical problems. Various staff from throughout the department, including officers, animal handlers, veterinary medical staff, and a forensic veterinarian were on site to rescue the animals who were then distributed among our seven animal care centers for treatment and proper care.

Four days later, DACC staff from our Agoura Animal Care Center responded to a severe vicious dog attack where three Cane Corso (Italian Mastiff) dogs attacked a 16 year-old female member of the household. The victim is expected to survive but sustained extremely serious injuries. The family surrendered a total of six Cane Corsos to the department. Cases like this are traumatizing not only to the victim and their family, but also to DACC staff who witness the injuries caused by such attacks. Responding officers safely and humanely removed the animals, and our public safety division leaders immediately began a proactive response for case management.

Nine days after the dog attack, DACC prepared to respond to mudslides and possible evacuations due to a winter storm that could wreak havoc on areas that had been impacted by wildfires. The lack of ground vegetation can cause flooding, mudslides, and other natural disasters. In these circumstances DACC establishes temporary sheltering sites where evacuated animals (including dogs, cats, livestock, and other domestic animals) can be brought for care until the emergency has passed. Our emergency response leaders worked with the County’s Office of Emergency Management to identify risk areas and note the animals that could be in danger. All animal care centers were on standby to provide assistance if necessary.

DACC was able to meet all these challenges because of the investment we have made in developing leaders in our department. DACC’s commitment to leadership development over the past five years has greatly improved its ability to establish strong teamwork, develop individuals’ extreme ownership for meeting our mission, and identify and grow leaders for advancement within DACC. The results of this training were apparent in DACC’s quick response to the pandemic, where leaders identified opportunities for change and new processes so we could continue to serve the community.

Ongoing leadership training has created a strong team that supports each other no matter what challenges arise. The knowledge and skills learned in this training have enabled individual leaders to make good decisions regardless of their rank so we can most effectively and efficiently accomplish our purpose without getting bogged down in bureaucracy when we need to move quickly.

During the 2018 Woolsey Fire, which burned nearly 97,000 acres and caused at least $6 billion in property damage, one of our field officers had to make a recommendation to our executive staff regarding the evacuation of the threatened Agoura animal care center. The leadership and decision making training she received gave her the knowledge and confidence to recommend evacuation of animals and staff. Everyone was safely evacuated, and it’s a good thing we did. The fire came close enough to singe the kennel roofs, and the smoke would have been unsafe for people and animals.

Leadership development opportunities are consistently offered to staff. These include leadership programs offered through a partnership between the County of Los Angeles and the University of Southern California, a leadership program specifically for animal welfare leaders offered through a partnership between Best Friends Animal Society and Southern Utah University, and a program designed for DACC taught by experts from nationally renowned Eagle Leadership. All staff, from new hires through executive leadership, participate in leadership development opportunities and training.

Further, we have a structured program – the Leadership Pipeline – that provides a framework for employees to understand what is expected of them in their current role as well as promotional opportunities they wish to achieve. This clear document helps staff understand the critical passages leaders must navigate, provides the appropriate development for navigating those passages, and establishes a system for leadership growth and succession planning.

At DACC, we recognize that leadership development is critical in achieving our operational success. Because of this commitment we can face whatever may come our way – together, as a team, and with leaders who are calm, confident, and prepared.


Cats and Consequences 639 789 Animal Care and Control

Cats and Consequences

Like most people who work in animal welfare, there have been animals I have come across in my career who have left lasting impressions on me. I still think about them decades later, sometimes with happiness and sometimes with regret.


One animal I still recall vividly was a beautiful black and white tuxedo male cat who lived with other outdoor cats in the apartment complex where I lived when I was 21 years old. The group of cats, about a dozen, ate out of the complex’s trash dumpster and were generally kind of shabby-looking. Most were feral and unapproachable, but this one was friendly and appeared healthy. I was particularly drawn to him because of his sweet nature and striking appearance. I would talk to him when I parked my car, and one day he followed me home to my apartment.


He meowed insistently on my patio, which infuriated my own cat and really got my Labrador retriever agitated. I agonized over wanting to add him to my pet family but realized I couldn’t. I was just starting out in my career and couldn’t afford another pet, my landlord wouldn’t allow another one, and I didn’t know if he could be successfully integrated into my small apartment with my other animals.


I decided to bring him to the humane society where I worked, have him neutered and vaccinated, and return him to his colony. Unfortunately, when I brought him in he tested positive for a fatal virus that would cause a slow death for him and is contagious to other cats. The recommended response for virus-positive cats was euthanasia to prevent the spread of the disease or caring for the cat indoors until the disease became too advanced to bear. I couldn’t bring him into my home where he would infect my existing cat and returning him to the colony where he would not receive supportive health care would be inhumane. With no other options at the time, he was humanely euthanized. However, I still wish things could have gone differently and am deeply saddened by what happened to him.


I think of him often these days when DACC considers its approach to the admission and management of cats in our communities. Outdoor cats are the subject of strong and diverse opinions of what should be done about them. While packs of stray dogs create serious public safety concerns about bites and maulings, free-roaming cats do not generate the same attention. However, they can cause quality of life issues for residents whose properties are disrupted by their presence, spread zoonotic diseases, fall victim to predation from coyotes and dogs, be killed by cars, and face other challenges.


On the other hand, bringing cats to animal shelters is not the solution most people think it will be. The redemption rate for lost cats is abysmally low nationwide (about 2% – 4%) because most owners do not come looking for them, or don’t do so until long after the stray holding period has expired and the cats are no longer there. Feral (unsocialized) cats brought to animal shelters have very little chance for adoption. People come to adopt pet cats, not wild ones. These cats may also be infected with fatal viruses. They are almost always humanely euthanized. The unweaned offspring of outdoor cats that are brought to animal shelters without their mothers have little chance of survival in an animal shelter. DACC has a vibrant foster program to help them, but if they are already ill or too unthrifty to survive then they must be humanely euthanized.


Dozens of scientific papers have been created that support each diverging opinion. Wildlife advocates’ papers state that outdoor cats wreak havoc on wildlife populations – birds, reptiles, rodents, etc. Some animal welfare organizations, including PETA, oppose outdoor cat management because of the dangers discussed above that outdoor cats face.


Scientific papers supporting the position of outdoor cat advocates promote the importance of outdoor cat population management through spay and neuter and not removal. These papers have demonstrated that simply trapping and removing cats from an area causes a vacuum for other cats to fill, thereby perpetuating the homeless cat problem. However, sterilization and return of existing cats maintains the population without exponential growth through reproduction and prohibits new cats from entering the population because the existing resources (food, water, shelter) are already being used.


Both positions have very valid arguments and there is no clear solution that will satisfy all concerns and unite proponents of diverging opinions. This is also complicated by the different scenarios we see in the existence of outdoor cats.


Some cats are owned but can go outdoors and may roam for some time. They don’t come home every evening, so the owners don’t immediately look for them if they aren’t seen for a day or two. Other cats don’t really have owners but have found resources to support them because kind individuals put out food for them and there is safe shelter and lack of predators. Then there are the “colony” cats where a large number have found resources on their own and may or may not have someone looking out for them. The lucky ones have concerned people who manage the colony by trapping, sterilizing, and vaccinating the cats to make sure they remain healthy and do not reproduce. Other colonies are unmanaged, and the cats often suffer from malnourishment or starvation, illnesses, injuries, overpopulation, and early death.


There is no State law that requires animal shelters to accept cats or that requires cats to be vaccinated against rabies. Los Angeles County ordinances do require them to be vaccinated against rabies, licensed, spayed or neutered, and microchipped. However, unowned cats do not have owners to assume that responsibility.


Because of these factors, the animal welfare profession has reconsidered the best approaches to homeless cats and DACC has adopted nationally recognized best practices regarding the admission of cats. We did this in consultation with veterinarians that specialize in animal shelter medicine at the UC Davis Koret Shelter medicine program as well as leading animal welfare organizations around the country.


At DACC, healthy cats with no signs of illness or injury and without owner identification are encouraged to be kept in place where they were found because they are thriving in their current environment. Many free-roaming cats have a human family or caregiver and vary their time between the home and outdoors. Other times, a home or group of homes is providing food and water to unowned neighborhood cats. These cats have established themselves as part of their neighborhood, are being cared for, and do not need care center assistance.


Bringing these cats to a care center removes them from their home territories, and caregivers generally don’t look for them at care centers for many days or weeks, if ever, contributing to the low redemption rate. Deferring healthy stray cats provides better options for them to remain in their home or group of homes that care for them and where they are thriving. Any cats or kittens that are malnourished, ill, injured, in danger, or require other assistance are welcomed at DACC so they can receive the care and protection they need.


Partnering with the community is key to addressing concerns about outdoor cats and we have increased our resources to help support community members and neighborhood cats. We offer cat deterrents to residents so they may discourage cats from interfering with the residents’ ability to enjoy their homes. Our finder-foster program for underage kittens found without a mother provides free milk replacer and other resources so community volunteers can raise unweaned kittens until they are old enough for adoption.


Spaying and neutering cats is the key to reducing the population of unwanted, ill, and homeless cats. DACC provides the Good Neighbor Cat Spay and Neuter program, where we provide low-cost spay/neuter surgeries for cats at six of our animal care centers. Residents may bring in cats to be sterilized to prevent the birth of unwanted kittens. All these approaches chip away at the problems we see for outdoor cats and can, over time, ameliorate many of the concerns.


Cats occupy a unique niche in our communities. They can be beloved indoor pets, allowed to roam in and out of the home, live exclusively outdoors, or occupy locations that are unsuitable for their safety or the safety of wildlife. There isn’t a one size fits all approach to outdoor cat management. I hope that someday all cats have loving homes where they live inside with protected outdoor areas for enjoyment. Until then, we will continue to make best efforts to provide the most suitable responses and resources based on each situation.


Marcia Mayeda

You can subscribe to Marcia’s blog here:

Animal Sheltering vs. Animal Warehousing 1024 826 Animal Care and Control

Animal Sheltering vs. Animal Warehousing

Recent media reports about overcrowding and lack of exercise for dogs at some other Los Angeles area animal shelters has prompted discussions about animal shelter population management. This is a key operational issue for animal shelters and deserving of the public’s attention.

When I joined the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC) as its Director 21 years ago, I was shocked at the overcrowding and management of the animal population in its (then) six animal care centers. More than 80,000 dogs and cats – and 10,000 other animals – came through our doors every year, more than any other animal care and control agency in the nation. There was no control over the inflow of animals, and it overwhelmed DACC’s capacity to provide adequate care.

Because of this extraordinary volume of incoming animals, three to four large dogs or five to seven small dogs were housed in each dog run. Two to three cats would be housed in the same cage, competing for space with the litter box and food and water bowls. The stress this caused for the animals was very high, which challenged their immune systems and contributed to upper respiratory infections and other illnesses. Animals did not receive any type of behavioral enrichment.

We quickly began reversing this situation through a variety of initiatives. First, we worked towards reducing the number of animals that need DACC services. One of the most important steps in this effort was the passing of mandatory spay/neuter laws in Los Angeles County and many of our contract cities. This reduced the number of unwanted puppies and kittens, or adult pets that roamed in search of mates because they were unsterilized. That meant fewer animals to strain our limited resources.

We also expanded our partnerships with animal rescue groups, known as “adoption partners,” at DACC. By working with our adoption partners, we can quickly move animals into their care for eventual placement with families. This reduces the number of animals that must remain in the DACC care centers. DACC now works with more than 350 adoption partners and has a formalized program that ensures accountability, while providing support through fee reductions and other services to allow the adoption partners to stretch their limited resources. We are grateful for their collaboration.

DACC welcomed the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and some local nonprofit organizations, to provide intervention services at several of our busier care centers for people surrendering their pets. The ASPCA generously provided significant staffing and resources for their program to provide pet owners with the knowledge and ability to keep their pets, preventing their unnecessary surrender to DACC. These resources were so impactful that DACC incorporated them into its admission services as a regular operational practice known as Managed Intake. Keeping families and the pets they love together is an important community service and helps further reduce the number of animals unnecessarily surrendered to DACC care centers.

Los Angeles County’s adoption of the Socially Conscious Animal Sheltering (SCAS) animal management model has been instrumental in avoiding animal overcrowding and lack of behavioral enrichment. SCAS is the gold standard of animal population management, which ensures animals in shelters are provided with appropriate care, and the community’s values and safety are respected.

SCAS was developed in response to the many animal sheltering problems identified with “no-kill” animal sheltering. These include animal shelters overcrowded to the detriment of the health and well-being of the animals, dangerous conditions for staff and volunteers who must care for aggressive dogs that shouldn’t be warehoused in the shelter, and risks to public safety by releasing dangerous dogs for adoption. These have been found to be common problems in “no-kill” sheltering because the “no-kill” model requires animal shelters to achieve an arbitrary 90% live release rate of animals. Chasing a specious and unsupported percentage goal can cause operational decisions to be made to the detriment of both the animals and the public.

We have also partnered with the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program for several years in developing strategies for population management and best care practices. These experts’ Capacity for Care (C4C) model means meeting the needs of every animal admitted to a shelter, regardless of how or when they came in, or their age, health status, and personality. UC Davis further explains this animal shelter population management concept on their website:

“On the surface, this seems like a simple and logical statement. Operating within an organization’s C4C is the foundation on which all other guidelines for care rest. If more animals are admitted at any one time than can be provided with an environment that meet their needs; or if more animals are admitted over time than can be released alive, inevitably animals’ mental or physical welfare will be compromised. This also creates an environment where staff are not able to do their best work, which often results in staff feeling less fulfilled and frustrated in their daily work.

Once a shelter is operating within their C4C, human resources (staff, volunteers, others) are often freed up to do any of a number of other important shelter tasks to further serve the shelter animals and/or community outreach programs. This system feeds positively on itself. Meeting C4C allows animals to remain healthy with good welfare during their stay and move through the system quickly without delays from illness. Since animals arrive at their appropriate outcomes more quickly, resources are freed up to further serve the mission and goals of the facility – often with an ability to serve more animals. The organization can thus be an even better resource for the community to improve welfare of animals within and beyond the shelter walls.”

DACC also has a dedicated Behavior and Enrichment (BET) team, comprised of staff with specialized training in animal behavior. The BET team ensures dogs regularly get out of their runs and participate in dog play groups. These are held in dog play yards funded by the Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation and other nonprofit partners. Dog play groups are excellent ways to discover each dog’s unique personality for successful placement purposes, and gives dogs the much needed opportunity for exercise, socialization, and de-stressing.

Our volunteers also assist with animal care. Walking, playing, comforting, socializing, and grooming are just some of the services they provide to our residents. Volunteers are cherished and allow DACC to provide more robust care for the animals.

Using fear-free animal handling practices, DACC has reduced the stress on both cats and dogs and has seen a significant decrease in stress-induced illnesses. All animal handling staff have completed this training, along with many ongoing animal behavioral training opportunities to continue to maintain a workforce skilled in proper animal handling procedures.

To ensure our animal population is properly monitored, our animal care center managers, BET staff, and medical staff meet weekly to review the status of each dog and develop exit plans to help them get adopted or placed with adoption partners. We promote our longer stay dogs for adoption on social media and at offsite adoption events. Our executive team and I receive weekly reports of dogs who have been here longer than 20, 40, and 60 days to further monitor the animal population.

While many dogs have behavioral issues that can be remediated through behavior modification and training, some dogs come to us with histories of unprovoked aggression or other dangerous behavior. It is unfair to warehouse these dogs that have little hope of placement, and to the public and innocent pets who might be injured or killed if these dogs are placed into the community. In these cases, these dogs are humanely euthanized to protect public safety and so they do not suffer from behavioral stress, physical illness, and deteriorate in our care. These decisions are never made lightly, and each dog’s history is carefully reviewed to ensure there are no other safe options for the dog’s placement. Warehousing them when there is no suitable option for placement in order to achieve a lower euthanasia rate is unfair to them and the adoptable animals who need every resource we can direct to them.

Cats have also received close attention for managing their well-being. Providing alternatives to admission has taken two paths for cats. First, a vibrant foster program exists to provide care for underaged kittens that will fail to thrive in an animal shelter due to their undeveloped immune systems. These kittens are placed directly with foster care volunteers, who raise them until they are weaned. The kittens are then spayed or neutered and placed with new families. The ASPCA is a leading partner in this effort.

Healthy, adult free-roaming cats are generally deferred from admission. These cats are thriving in their territory, obtaining food and shelter often provided by compassionate residents. By allowing these cats to remain where they have already found resources, DACC can focus its limited means on those cats that are ill, injured, in danger, or otherwise have no other safe option and need our assistance.

In our animal care centers we have used cat portals to expand the size of our cat housing units. Portals join two adjacent cat cages into double or triple-sized cat condos via a pass-through portal that can be shut to prevent escapes while cleaning. The use of portals means the cats have more opportunity for exercise and separate areas for their litter box, food, and water. The Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation has also paid for the installation of outdoor “catios” at several animal care centers so cats can safely enjoy the fresh air and sunlight.

In 2016 DACC also added its seventh animal care center in Palmdale to relieve the housing pressure at its Lancaster animal care center, which had served as the sole animal care center for the entire Antelope Valley since 1959. Expanding the number of animal care centers has provided more housing availability. Additionally, DACC regularly transfers dogs from its higher volume care centers to those that have extra space to accommodate them. These transfers allow the dogs more opportunities to be seen and adopted.

DACC has seen a dramatic decrease in animal euthanasia because of all these initiatives, and our continuing efforts to provide positive, industry-proven resources and programs to the animals and communities we serve. In 2001, 70% of dogs and 78% of cats were euthanized. By 2022, those percentages have plummeted to 14.8% for dogs and 31.7% for cats. While there will always be a need for compassionate, humane euthanasia for animals that are irremediably ill, injured, or behaviorally unsound, DACC makes every effort to see this as a last resort. In fiscal year 2021-22, DACC admitted about 27,000 dogs and cats, a 66% decrease since 2001. We are now far better equipped to provide compassionate and impactful care to the animals that need us.

Ten independent agencies provide animal care and control in various areas within Los Angeles County. Each has their own operational policies and practices. DACC continues to be recognized as a national leader in animal welfare and will continue to redefine animal care and sheltering in the future.

Interested in becoming a DACC volunteer? Click here for more information:
Please support the Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation!

Marcia Mayeda

You can subscribe to Marcia’s blog here:

Are You Ready? 371 495 Animal Care and Control

Are You Ready?

In the early 1990’s I was the executive director of a humane society in Kansas. It was a very rewarding job and we helped many animals. A number were dogs that fled in terror during the frequent thunderstorms that rolled across the prairie. Safe in our animal shelter, they still believed the world was coming to an end and could not be consoled until the weather had passed. Sometimes tornados swept down on us, leaving immense destruction in their wakes.

I remember being awoken at about two a.m. one night by the sound of sirens. Groggy and half-asleep, I assumed it was our security system until I peered out my window and saw the rain blowing sideways. It took my brain a moment to register what was going on, then I frantically grabbed my dog and cats and made a beeline for the tornado shelter a few steps outside my home. We made it safely there and waited out the storm with neighbors. When daylight arrived and the storm had passed, we saw that a tornado had struck about a quarter of a mile from our location. We were very lucky.

September is National Preparedness Month, established to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies that could happen at any time. By now we all know about the importance of including our pets, livestock, and other animals in our emergency planning efforts. But have you taken stock of your current state of readiness?

Living in Southern California, we are accustomed to wildfires, mudslides, and earthquakes. But sometimes other events occur that we never would have anticipated, such as train derailments, chemical spills, or airplane crashes. Any of these incidents might mean we must immediately evacuate our homes and be prepared to live somewhere else for several weeks, if not longer. Now is the perfect time to make sure your animals will be safe if such tragedies were to occur. Here are some important things to do:

  • Microchip your animals and MAKE SURE YOUR REGISTRATION IS CURRENT. DACC receives many microchipped animals, but sometimes the owners have failed to update their contact information when they moved. Look up your registration for your pet’s chip registry and make sure everything is accurate. This is the best way to get your lost animal returned to you. Microchips can be implanted in almost any species of animal.
  • Check your pet’s collar and tags to make sure the tags are legible (long term wear causes text to fade) and securely fastened. O-rings and S-hooks that normally attach tags will break over time, and tags can be lost without the owner realizing it.
  • Purchase a pet tracking device to put on your pet’s collar, harness, or halter. These GPS trackers will work with your smart phone to tell you exactly where your animal is. Pets can be separated from their owners in the chaos of evacuations and taken in by Good Samaritans. The pet tracking devices are a great way to quickly locate your pet and be reunited.
  • Assemble necessary documents and place them in a waterproof bag. The documents should include copies of your pet’s vaccinations, licenses, prescriptions (if you don’t have a prescription you won’t be able to refill medications, an important consideration if your regular veterinary hospital is affected by the disaster), copy of the microchip number and registry, and photographs of your pet from different angles. Include any documents important for your pet’s well-being, such as unique medical diagnoses or treatments that another veterinarian may need to know. Include a “pet personality profile” in case someone else must care for your pet. This profile should include what it eats, any fears it has, what it likes, etc. This information can help caregivers provide the best possible care for your animal in your absence. Take this with you whenever you travel with your pet.
  • Identify two emergency contacts to assist with your pet’s care in case you are unable to do so. One should be local, and another outside of the area likely to be affected by an emergency. Put all their names and contact information in your document pouch.
  • Assemble a “Go Bag” that you can grab in an emergency. In this bag you will put your document pouch, a seven day supply of medication, five days’ worth of pet food (put dry kibble in plastic baggies and rotate the food out so it doesn’t get stale), toys, extra leashes and collar, treats, and anything else that will make your pet more comfortable during a stressful evacuation.

For horses and livestock:

  • Make certain your trailer is safe and functional. Perform a complete safety check, including the flooring, frame, welds, axle, brakes, lights, hitch, interior safety and tires. Do this now, before you must move your animals. Do not use your trailer to store things that you will have to unload before you load animals.
  • Ensure your horses or other livestock will quickly and obediently load. There have been unfortunate cases of animals left behind because owners were not able to load them into the trailers for evacuation.
  • Include copies of vaccinations, especially Strangles, Equine Infectious Anemia, and West Nile virus for horses. If you live in an area where evacuations might include crossing state lines, talk with your veterinarian about having annual Coggins tests for your horses to allow them to be brought into another state.
  • DACC encourages the microchipping of horses and livestock, not only to identify them if they become lost or evacuated without identification but also to reduce the threat of livestock theft. Microchip your livestock and keep the microchip records up to date, with copies in your evacuation kit.
  • Lists of all medications, special feed, medical issues, or other needs your animals may have.
  • Have clear photographs of your animals, both full bodied from both sides as well as of any brands, ear tags, ear notches, or other identifying information.
  • If you are evacuating livestock from threat of fire, do not place any shavings, straw, or other bedding in the trailer because sparks can fly into the trailer and ignite the bedding. For the same reason, do not put blankets on your horses when evacuating from fires.
  • Bring fly masks, fly sheets, halters and lead ropes, and other items for your animals’ comfort.
  • Many people will identify their horses by writing their phone numbers on the horses’ hooves or attaching an equine-specific safety neck band with identifying information. This is a good supplement to the microchip.

Los Angeles County’s Emergency Survival Guide is available in many languages and can provide more information to assist you in preparing for emergencies:

If you would like to contribute to DACC’s emergency response program that rescues animals during disasters, please donate to the Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation’s Noah’s Legacy program. This program has purchased emergency evacuation trailers, emergency supplies, and even a medical response unit to provide care for evacuated animals. Learn more at:

We all hope that we will never be faced with emergency evacuations and disasters but failing to be prepared will make these circumstances that much worse. Please share this information with friends and neighbors, so they and their animals may too be prepared for emergency situations.

Marcia Mayeda

You can subscribe to Marcia’s blog here:

How Old is Your Pet, Really? 1024 768 Animal Care and Control

How Old is Your Pet, Really?

Some dogs and cats have lived remarkably long lives. In March, Guinness World Records named Chihuahua “TobyKeith” the oldest living dog at 21 years, 66 days old. The oldest dog ever recorded was an Australian Cattle Dog that passed in 1939 at the age of 29 years, five months. The world’s oldest cat, Crème Puff, lived to be 38 years and three days.

TobyKeith was adopted as a puppy from an animal shelter in Florida. DACC is proud to report that one of its own alumni is right behind him in longevity. Lucky was adopted from DACC by former LA County employee Judy Hammond and her daughter Sara Conklin in 2001 as a puppy, making her 21 years old as well, and about five months younger than the record holder. Lucky is a cocker spaniel/chihuahua/miniature pinscher mix that has brought immense joy to her family, sharing her home lovingly with several cats and rabbits over the years. Perhaps these friendships contributed to her longevity. Certainly, the loving care she has received has made a great impact on her life span. Now, Lucky is experiencing the various impacts of old age on hearing, vision, and other physical issues but she is comfortable and receives special feedings and medicine to keep her going. As Judy remarked, “She is a member of the family and we love her dearly. Even through these hard times, she continues to bring us much joy and happiness. Every day spent with her is a blessing.

So, how old would Lucky be if she were a human? The old rule of thumb was seven dog years for every human year. However, science has shown us that this measure is no longer accurate. We now know more about dog genetics and aging as well as how the size of the dog plays a factor in longevity. For example, giant breed dogs mature more slowly than smaller ones during their first year, then age faster than smaller dogs in subsequent years. The old age guidelines don’t take this into consideration. Additionally, cats age quite rapidly up until two years of age, then their aging process levels off at about four human years for every cat year. Size does not factor into cat aging. But they do get nine lives!

New age charts for dogs and cats have been created to better align their aging status with human years. While they don’t go as high in years as Lucky, Crème Puff, and TobyKeith have achieved, they do show the nuances in dog and cat aging.  You can view the dog chart here, and the cat chart here.

Every day we have with our pets is a gift, and we all want them to live their best and longest life possible. Their genetics and size will always be a factor in their lifespan. However, we can stack the deck in their favor by providing regular veterinary exams and treatments, good nutrition, regular exercise, a safe environment, and making sure they are spayed or neutered. Spaying and neutering prevent many types of cancers and make pets less likely to roam and become injured or prematurely killed. Microchips and pet identification tags help lost pets get home more quickly and safely.

I hope you and your pets have long, full lives of love and companionship!

Marcia Mayeda

You can subscribe to Marcia’s blog here:

Kittens? 1024 1024 Animal Care and Control


My first cat was a beautiful black and white cat named Murphy. Murphy was born at the home of the “cat lady” who lived down the block and fed dozens of cats, with no sterilization plan in place to reduce their population growth. Murphy was first taken in as a kitten by our neighbors, but their established cat would not tolerate another cat in the house. So Murphy came to live with us, and I had him for the rest of his life. My favorite memory of him was how he would sleep in bed with me with his cheek against mine and his arms wrapped around my neck, purring contentedly as we both drifted off to sleep.

Murphy was born into a common situation, where unsterilized free-roaming cats reproduce and create homeless kittens. Murphy had a mother that raised him and his littermates until they were weaned, at which time he found a new home. Being raised by his mother was the best option for him – he had the benefits of obtaining his nutrients and immunity from her milk and was better positioned for transition into his new home.

DACC is regularly contacted by well-meaning people who have found a litter of young kittens that cannot yet eat on their own and wish to bring them to the animal care center for care. However, this is not always the best option for the kittens. There may be a mother caring for them, and it is better for them to remain with her until they are weaned. Bringing unweaned kittens to an animal care center may expose them to viruses carried by asymptomatic adult cats that the kittens’ underdeveloped immune systems cannot fight. Care centers do not have the staff to feed unweaned kittens every few hours, around the clock. Therefore, these kittens may be euthanized if a foster home cannot be found for them. If the kittens appear clean, healthy, and have full bellies then their mother is caring for them and intervention is not necessary until they are weaned, at which time they should be spayed or neutered and placed into new homes.

If the kittens appear to be thin, ill, and unclean then the mother may have become injured or otherwise unable to care for them. In these cases, the kittens need help but there is still a better option than bringing them to an animal shelter. DACC has a foster care program for residents who wish to save a litter of kittens. We provide all the supplies and training necessary, along with advice along the way. Many kind people have taken in litters of kittens for the few weeks necessary until they are old enough for adoption, and even participate in finding homes for the kittens.

A supplemental kitten foster care program has been made possible by the generous support of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The ASPCA began working with us on our Pee Wee kitten program in the autumn of 2016. The ASPCA has an intervention program at our Downey and Baldwin Park animal care centers (ACCs) where they provide registered veterinary technicians (RVTs) to evaluate each litter of kittens and refer them to foster homes that day. The RVTs works out of DACC’s Ani-Safe trailers, which are fully operational animal care mobile trailers that can house staff and animals during emergencies or other off-site needs.

This public-private partnership has saved more than 8,000 kittens since its inception and now supports all seven of our care centers. In addition to this Pee Wee program, the ASPCA has been a strong partner in funding programs to reduce euthanasia, assist people redeeming their stray pets, increase adoptions, transport animals to other jurisdictions that have a need for adoptable animals, provide resources to people assisting community cats, and more.

Murphy’s Law states that whatever can go wrong, will. However, we don’t need to fall victim to Murphy’s Law when we encounter unweaned kittens. Here’s what you should do:

  1. If their mom is with them, leave them alone. Monitor the litter and socialize them, so they will be adoptable when they are weaned.
  2. If the mom is not with them, assess their condition. Are they clean, healthy, warm and have full bellies? Mom is likely taking good care of them. Continue to monitor the family and follow step one.
  3. If the kittens are thin, ill, or dirty, they may need your help. Consider fostering the litter. DACC will provide you with all the resources (milk replacer, etc.) that you will need and be available to provide advice along the way, including how to find them homes when the time is ready. This is a fantastic way to teach kids about caring and responsibility, without a long term commitment.
  4. If you cannot foster the kittens and live in DACC’s service area, contact our communications center to make an appointment to bring them in. If they are healthy enough for fostering, we will access the ASPCA’s network of foster volunteers or our own to get them into a foster home.
  5. Check out DACC’s website for more kitten care information at

By following these steps we can help vulnerable kittens progress through their fragile early weeks with as much support as they need, beginning with their own mother’s care. The recommendations above save lives and engage the community in our animal welfare mission. Please spread the word and consider becoming a foster parent with DACC (check out or with the ASPCA at  More than 8,000 kittens thank you!


Marcia Mayeda

You can subscribe to Marcia’s blog here: