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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Does Your Dog Act Its Breed? 409 358 Animal Care and Control

Does Your Dog Act Its Breed?

In my early twenties I worked on a sheep farm in southern Illinois. The farm had about 1,000 sheep and two Great Pyrenees dogs to protect them. Great Pyrenees dogs are a type of dog known as a livestock guardian dog (LGD); they do not herd the sheep like border collies but are there instead to protect the sheep from predators. They are giant, white (mostly), hairy dogs that blend in well with the flocks.

The Pyrs, as the breed is affectionately known, slept all day in the barn when humans were about and there was no danger present to the sheep. However, all night long they patrolled the farm, regularly barking to let any coyotes or roaming farm dogs know that they were on duty and a force to be reckoned with. Pyrs have a deep, booming bark that denotes authority and the ability to back it up. We never lost a single sheep thanks to these dogs.

However, they often chose to broadcast their presence in the middle of the night right outside my bedroom window. I really don’t recall ever getting a good night’s sleep during my time on the farm. I remember laying awake thinking, “These are super sweet dogs and I really love them, but who would EVER have one as a pet?”

Fast forward many years. We had just lost our beloved Newfoundland, and my husband suggested we get a Great Pyrenees because that breed would be more protective of our home. All I remembered at the time about my experience with the Pyrs was how sweet, loving, and gentle they were and happily agreed. Off we went to Great Pyrenees Association of Southern California, an animal rescue and adoption organization that specializes in Pyrs. We brought home our new Pyr, Sebastian, who immediately began patrolling our back yard and loudly let the neighborhood know he was on duty. I had forgotten about the barking! Nevertheless, we loved him dearly and have become devoted fans of the breed; we have had four more rescued Pyrs after Sebastian. They have all been barkers and devoted protectors of our home, even stopping two attempted burgularies.

However, there are differences between them. Sebastain hated going out in the rain but didn’t mind loud noises. Isabella would stand in the rain for as long as we would let her but was terrified if there was thunder or lightning. Holly is shy around strangers, but the others eagerly make new friends. Dino has a deep suspicion of anything on wheels – skateboards, bicycles, shopping carts – but others ignore them. Freya hides her toys under seat cushions while the rest leave them scattered around the house.

Still, they all share the Pyr behavioral traits of independence, willfullness, and protectiveness. These were behaviors required of an LGD, which was bred to be left alone with the sheep to defend them against wolves, and not rely excessively on human companionship. This independent behavior also means that none of our dogs are going to win any obedience competitions. I have given up on expecting them to respond like our Golden Retriever Rebecca, for whom my wish is her command.

The similarities and differences between our five Pyrs came to mind when I read a recent study published in the journal Science that suggests that a dog’s breed has less influence on individual behavior than people believe. This study collected DNA and owner reports on their dogs’ behavior with the intent to explore how genetics shapes complex behavioral traits. The study suggests that relying on breed as a determinant of a dog’s behavior is not as reliable as many people might believe.

The authors reported that some traits, like biddability (responsiveness to direction and commands) are more linked to certain breeds such as Border Collies, and sociability is heavily linked to Golden Retrievers, but other less heritable traits like agnostic threshold (how easily a dog is provoked by frightening stimuli) are less reliable. The researchers reported, “Behavioral factors show high variability within breeds, suggesting that although breed may affect the likelihood of a particular behavior to occur, breed alone is not, contrary to popular belief, informative enough to predict an individual’s disposition.” The study reported this is even more so for mixed breed dogs.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) responded to the study’s findings by citing a 2019 study published in The Royal Society’s Proceedings B biological research journal. That study evaluated more than 14,000 dogs from 101 specific breeds. This study found that, “Breed differences in behavior covary strongly with relatedness between breeds, and for several traits, genotype accounts for more than 50% of the behavioral variation across breeds—up to 25× higher than heritability estimates from genetic studies within breeds.”

The AKC stated, “The AKC’s position that breed and type of dog does inform about general and instinctual behavior and is the reason owners should consider behavioral tendencies before selecting a breed to make an educated and informed decision that leads to a happy and life-long commitment to the dog.”

This is an important consideration for dog parents or people deciding on what breed (or mix thereof) of dog they might like to add to their family. It is especially important in the field of animal welfare as we see the negative consequences of mismatched dogs and families.  New dog owners may obtain dogs unaware of that breed’s propensities, or experience disappointment if their new dog did not meet their expectations of how it should behave because of its breed. These disappointments can result in rehoming the dog rather than accepting their behaviors and keeping the dog in the family.

DACC uses its knowledge of breed propensities to help guide adopters in selecting a suitable dog to add to their family. An adopter looking for a couch potato to hang out with that is captivated by a Siberian Husky’s blue eyes and striking appearance may be gently redirected to a more suitable dog. Huskies were bred for racing miles in the snow and require a great deal of exercise, a trait not appropriate for this home. However, a person looking for a jogging buddy would be the ideal adopter.

Sure, there are Siberian Huskies that enjoy loafing on the couch. However, let’s stack the deck to make sure we can make the most successful matches between dog and family. People can use breed characteristics as a general guide on what to expect, but it should not be the defining rule for an individual dog’s behavior. Accepting a dog that comes with or without the breed’s behavioral traits should be a key commitment to pet ownership.

Just think if the tables were turned. Would a dog give us away because we don’t meet their expectations? Our dogs accept us with all our faults, quirks, bad habits, and when we don’t behave the way they expected. We owe them the same consideration.

Here’s a link to the Science article:

Here’s a link to the AKC’s response:

Here’s a link to the Proceedings B report:

Check out Great Pyrenees Association of Southern California!! They are always looking for adoptors, foster parents, and would appreciate a donation in any amount!


Marcia Mayeda

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Dear Hollywood 704 527 Animal Care and Control

Dear Hollywood

Animals are a beloved and popular topic for film and television because they provide heartwarming stories and highlight the intrinsic reward of the human-animal bond. Many wonderful TV shows and films have helped elevate the public’s awareness of kindness towards animals, how to care for them, and the importance of protecting them in our society. Keeping animals in the forefront of peoples’ minds is a good thing.

However, my toes curl and my blood pressure rises when I see the incredibly offensive and inaccurate depictions of animal control officers in these forms of entertainment. I did a quick internet search of “dogcatcher movie” and was stunned by the number of films that include the dogcatcher as the evil villain, going back to the early 1900’s!

Even the term “dogcatcher” is a derogatory and outdated label; the proper term is animal control officer (ACO), humane officer, or similar professional title. In film and television ACOs are universally depicted as mean, animal-hating, incompetent buffoons. These caricatures in no way accurately depict the hard working, compassionate, and dedicated women and men that have chosen this career because they believe deeply in helping animals and the people who care about them.

ACOs work at all hours of the day, in all sorts of weather, to protect and save animals in need. It is a physically challenging and emotionally taxing profession that garners modest pay and few accolades from the public, especially thanks to the portrayal of ACOs in entertainment. The reality of ACO work is a far cry from its false depiction.

ACOs investigate animal cruelty and neglect, removing animals from inhumane and abusive situations. They capture dangerous dogs that pose a danger to people and other animals, preventing severe attacks and deaths. ACOs investigate dangerous and vicious dog cases and brings these cases for administrative or judicial review to place restrictions over keeping such animals.

ACOs are mandated reporters of child, elder, and dependent-adult abuse. Many times DACC ACOs have responded to calls of animal neglect only to find humans at great risk as well. Our officers have, on countless occasions, obtained help for vulnerable humans from law enforcement or social services agencies.

ACOs respond during wildfires or other emergencies, working in dangerous conditions to rescue the pets and livestock left behind by evacuated residents. These animals are transported to safe temporary sheltering while DACC provides care for them until they can be reunited with their owners.

ACOs enforce animal licensing and rabies laws. Rabies is almost 100% fatal, an excruciatingly painful death that is almost eradicated in the United States thanks to pet rabies vaccination and licensing programs. Ensuring compliance with these laws has made our nation safer and healthier.

ACOs enforce other important laws as well. These include mandatory spay/neuter laws to reduce pet overpopulation and euthanasia; microchip laws to ensure pets have permanent identification in case they are separated from their families; and the safety of animals in animal-related business such as pet stores, grooming facilities, boarding kennels, and more. ACOs regularly assist law enforcement officers in serving search warrants or securing animals so police and sheriff are not harmed by animals on the property.

Hollywood, I understand that a story needs a good villain. Can’t you do better? I’m sure your creative writers can come up with better bad guys than the tired old trope of the dogcatcher. How about dogfighters (dog fighting is a felony and a brutal, vicious activity in which animals suffer horribly). How about cockfighters? That, too, is a crime and is prevalent in many parts of the country. Dognappers are good villains – we have all heard the heartbreaking and frightening media stories of people being shot or assaulted while their beloved pets were stolen from them.

In all these cases the ACO is a hero – the officer breaking up an illegal animal fight; the officer who finds the kidnapped dog, scans it for its microchip and returns it to its family; the officer rescuing horses from a burning barn; or the officer who sees that an abused elder and her pet receive the services and care they need.

In fact, the State of California recognizes the importance and value of ACOs through the State-designated Certified Animal Control Officer (CACO) program. ACOs must complete rigorous training and experience to obtain CACO certification and maintain their status through regular trainings. There are more than 300 CACOs in California, and about 50 of those work for DACC.

This week is National Animal Control Officer Appreciation Week. Please join me in thanking our ACOs for their dedication, compassion, and bravery. Hollywood, please continue this tribute by depicting ACOs as the true professionals they are.

Do Dogs Grieve? 1024 768 Animal Care and Control

Do Dogs Grieve?

The other night my husband and I were talking about one of our past dogs, a Great Pyrenees named Isabella, who passed away several years ago at 14 years of age. When we mentioned her name, our Golden Retriever, Rebecca, raised her head and looked around the room. She clearly recognized Isabella’s name and remembered her.

Now eleven years old, Rebecca came to us as a rambunctious five-month-old puppy after she had been surrendered by her owners at our Lancaster Animal Care Center. She and Isabella lived together for many years. Isabella taught Rebecca doggie manners, provided calm leadership, and allowed Rebecca to take naps with her. Rebecca recognized Isabella as her leader and took her cues from her. This relationship had an impact on Rebecca, and she remembered Isabella even after she had been gone for many years.

Was she grieving? I don’t think so, at least not at this point. However, in the weeks after Isabella’s passing Rebecca did seem a little lost.  Always an affectionate dog, she reached out even more for attention (and perhaps consolation). Her world had changed, and she was adapting to Isabella’s absence.

I was reminded of this when I read the results of a recent study regarding dog grief as a result of the loss of another dog in the home. This 2022 study was the result of a survey of 426 Italian dog owners who had owned at least two dogs, one of whom died while the other was still alive. The study sought to determine if dogs grieve and reported some interesting findings. They found:

“Several negative behavioral changes were commonly reported in the surviving dog after the death of the other dog: attention seeking increased (67%), playing less (57%), level of activity reduced (46%), sleeping more (35%), fearfulness increased (35%), eating less (32%) and vocalization increased (30%). . . . When any behavioral alteration was observed, 24.9% of the owners observed it for more than 6 months, 32.2% between 2 and 6 months, 29.4% for less than 2 months. No behavioral changes were observed by 13.4% of the owners.”

The dogs’ gender, spay/neuter status, age at the time of the other dog’s death, breed, or whether they were able to view the body of their deceased dog friend did not affect the duration of behavior changes.

Other takeaways from this study include:

  • The duration of the relationship between the two dogs positively correlated with “playing less”, “level of activity reduced”, and “sleeping more” but no correlation was found with variables such as “fearfulness increased”, “vocalization increased”, “attention seeking increased” and “duration of the behavioral alteration”.
  • A friendly and parental relationship between the two dogs was associated with stronger behavioral changes, while no association was found between behavioral variables and an agonistic/mutual tolerance relationship.
  • The sharing of items or activities was positively correlated with behavioral changes, with a reduction in the level of activity, while no sharing was negatively correlated with all the observed behavioral changes.
  • The single significant predictor for playing less was the friendly relationship between the two dogs.
  • The level of fear in the surviving dog was positively correlated with its owner’s level of suffering, anger, and psychological trauma.

What can we take away from this information? Be especially mindful of your surviving dog’s emotional status. Provide reassurances and keep a routine to provide a sense of stability. Understand that your grief can also impact the surviving dog, causing anxiety and stress for it. And when you and your remaining dog are ready, consider adding another to your home so your dog can have a new friend. What better place to find that dog than at a Los Angeles County animal care center?

You can read the full study here:

Marcia Mayeda

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The Crisis in Veterinary Medicine 1024 1024 Animal Care and Control

The Crisis in Veterinary Medicine

The Crisis in Veterinary Medicine

People often ask me why I didn’t pursue a career in veterinary medicine because I love animals so much. I had indeed considered it and was an avid reader of James Herriot’s books about being a veterinarian in 1930’s and 40’s Yorkshire, England. I also worked for a veterinarian when I was in high school and enjoyed my job tremendously.

However, I also recognized that I would face some challenges as a veterinarian that I would not be able to reconcile. The first was that pet owners were sometimes unable to pay for service. I knew I could never turn away an animal in need, so I would either go bankrupt giving away my services and medicine or be fired by the practice owner. The other challenge was that I had little interest in science and knew the rigorous education program would be very unappealing! Fortunately, I found my calling in animal welfare and do a job I love.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that I chose not to pursue veterinary medicine because the past several years has seen a shift in this field, making access to care more difficult and frustrating both veterinarians and pet owners. Many people have reached out to me about how to find veterinary care, describe how long it takes to get an appointment, and comment on the long lines they see outside of veterinary hospitals. I have heard stories of pets in medical crisis being driven from hospital to hospital by their frantic owners, desperate to get medical care for their animal, only to be turned away because staffing or resources weren’t available to help them. So, what is going on?

The veterinary medical profession has been experiencing several unique challenges for the past several years. First, there is a shortage of veterinarians available to provide medical care. There are only 32 accredited colleges of veterinary medicine in the U.S., compared to 155 accredited MD-granting institutions, and 37 accredited DO-granting institutions. There just aren’t enough schools to graduate enough veterinarians to practice. Veterinary hospitals are having difficulty finding veterinarians to place on staff, which means they don’t have the personnel to provide services to your pet.

More veterinarians and registered veterinary technicians are also leaving the field faster than new ones can replace them. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the turnover rate of veterinarians is 23%, twice that of physicians, and the turnover of veterinary technicians is 26% compared to 19% of registered nurses. The added stress of providing services during the pandemic placed even more demands on an already difficult and often emotionally draining profession. This leads to a growing net loss of trained professionals to provide veterinary medical care.

The COVID-19 pandemic had impacts on how veterinarians can provide care. Physical distancing and COVID-19 safety precautions created procedural difficulties that reduced the number of patients that could be seen each day. Shortages of medical supplies that were diverted for human medicine made it necessary to postpone elective surgeries or wellness visits, and now pet owners are trying to make up for the lost time by getting those services.

There is also a greater demand for veterinary services. Many people added new pets to their families during the pandemic, creating even further need for veterinary services. Owners able to work remotely spend more time with their pets, noticing subtle physical changes they would not have otherwise noticed had they been working outside the home all day. These observations led to more requests for veterinary examinations. A lot of pet owners had more disposable income during the pandemic and put that money back into their animals, obtaining more services for their pets and further increasing the calls for veterinary care.

Most people outside the veterinary medical profession are unaware of the mental and emotional challenges faced by these professionals. Veterinarians and registered veterinary technicians choose their profession to save lives but may be forced to euthanize treatable animals because the owners are unable or unwilling to pay the cost of treatment. (For more on pet health care costs, read my May 2021 blog post here:

Many veterinarians are asked to provide care or medicine for free, and then are harassed or cyber-bullied if they don’t. A 2014 survey by the AVMA found that 20% of veterinarians were cyber-bullied, had negative online reviews, or knew colleagues who did. That year, Dr. Shirley Koshi, a Bronx veterinarian, died by suicide after being harassed over a stray cat by a person who went so far as to lead demonstrations outside her clinic, write online attacks, and file a lawsuit against her, severely damaging her business. That same year, internationally renown veterinarian, animal behaviorist, and author Dr. Sophia Yin also tragically died by suicide. Following Dr. Yin’s death, the organization Not One More Vet was formed to address the rate of veterinarian suicide and provide resources to veterinarians struggling or considering suicide.

A highly demanding workload, demanding and difficult clients, financial pressures of running a profitable business, deep emotional and mental stress, and a shortage of trained professionals have all led us to where we are today. What can a pet owner do? Take advantage of annual visits which can be scheduled in advance; remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Plan ahead for your medication refills; Most refills can be requested by email and can be done weeks in advance. Be patient with scheduling delays. Have a plan for emergency care in advance and discuss your plan with your veterinarian. Pet-proof your home and keep an eye on your pets, especially puppies and kittens. A lot of emergencies are preventable. And above all, be kind to your veterinary medical professionals. They are equally as devoted to your animals as you are and are doing the best they can during these difficult times.

Marcia Mayeda

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