The stories that come out of animal shelters in LA are heartbreaking for any animal lover: Overcrowding and staff shortages have resulted in cramped and filthy kennels and inadequate care, and some dogs are left without walks for weeks.
Last month, critics questioned Los Angeles Animal Services’ heavy reliance on volunteers to provide “enrichment, exercise and walks” rather than increasing funding for shelters in the city’s budget.
City leaders are holding public rallies in an effort to address the problem. But for people who want to take immediate action, donating your time, a few needed items, or money can ease some of the burden of current volunteers.
Pets in city shelters and those run by nonprofits continue to be adopted, said Ana Bustilloz, communications director for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals LA. But: “The number of adoptions [at SPCA L.A.] is stable, but has not met or surpassed pre-pandemic figures,” said Busstilloz.
SPCA LA sees many factors at play, but economic challenges are paramount.
“Lack of affordable housing and stagnant wages affect all aspects of life, including the decision to adopt a new pet,” she said.
In shelters, she added, volunteers are “invaluable and very important to shelter operations.”
If you’re looking to help rescue animals in and around LA, here’s an overview of the needs of some of the larger public and nonprofit shelters, as well as tips for helping smaller local shelters.
LA Animal Services
What it does: This city ward provides temporary shelter for lost and stray animals at six Los Angeles shelters. It offers adoption, licensing, and microchip services, as well as free spaying and neutering of pets from low-income residents.
How you can help: The agency needs volunteers to help animals with playtime, walking, socialization and engagement with people. Volunteers are also needed to assist with adoptions, greeting clients, photography, grooming, and more.
Interested persons should apply and, upon approval, complete the training. LA Animal Services requires a minimum commitment of six hours per month for six months.
If you can’t meet the time commitment of volunteers, you can also take care of a dog or cat in your home. You can also make a monetary donation through the Animal Welfare Trust Fund, the Spay/Neuter Trust Fund and the Star Program. If you’d like to help stock the pet food pantry or provide supplies for the Boredum Busters program, check out the Amazon Wishlist.
Best Friends Animal Society Los Angeles
What it does: The nonprofit works with rescue groups, city shelters and individuals to prevent animals from being euthanized. It hosts adoption and fundraising events, runs two shelters, and leads the No-Kill Los Angeles initiative.
How you can help: The center offers onsite and remote volunteer opportunities, including work that does not require training. On-site work is done at one of the shelter’s two locations – in West Los Angeles or Mission Hills. Remote volunteer work is required to answer the shelter’s headset line and help with the social media accounts. You can also help with the shelter’s monthly cleaning days or special events.
All volunteers are asked to commit to two shifts per month. To get started, create a volunteer account online.
You can also make a monetary donation towards adoption programs, spay and neuter services, and No-Kill Los Angeles.
Animal Care and Control in Los Angeles County
What it does: The seven county shelters serve the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County and 44 contracted cities. They provide animal control and rescue services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition to low-cost spay and neuter services, the county’s animal protection officers patrol for lost, injured and abandoned animals, investigate animal cruelty cases and provide emergency response during natural disasters.
How you can help: You can donate to a specific shelter location by purchasing items from their Amazon wish list. Or you can make a donation to the Animal Protection Department.
The province will resume virtual information sessions for interested volunteers this year. For starters, volunteers aged 18 and over can apply online – 16 and 17 year olds need parental consent. Once your application is submitted and training is complete, volunteers will be required to purchase a Volunteer T-Shirt ($11).
SPCA Los Angeles
What it does: The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles is a not-for-profit animal welfare organization that conducts cruelty surveys, responds to disasters, and provides violence prevention, education, and shelter programs.
How you can help: The nonprofit needs volunteers to help shelter animals, raise animals at home, assist youth in its violence prevention and humane education program, assist with administrative tasks, assist with fundraisers, and making shelter animals.
You can also make a donation online.
Pasadena Humane Society
What it does: The community-supported nonprofit provides shelter, care, and adoption opportunities to animals. It also focuses on programs and services that aim to help people care for and keep their pets with free and low-cost spay and neuter services, as well as vaccines. It also has a pet food bank and an animal support call center.
How you can help: The organization has volunteer opportunities for people of all ages. Volunteers 15 years and older are expected to commit a minimum of 2 hours per month for 12 weeks and can be a shelter or ambassador or raise a kitten. Younger volunteers can participate by being a reception greeter and ambassador.
If you don’t have enough time to meet the minimum volunteer hours, you can be a one-time volunteer and help with fundraising, adoptions, and outreach events. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also make a one-time or monthly donation online.
Helping local animal shelters
Matt Bershadker said when people support local animal welfare organizations in any way, “it’s an act of admirable compassion.” Bershadker is the president and chief executive of ASPCA (unaffiliated with SPCA LA), a national organization dedicated to saving animals from abuse, passing humane legislation and sharing resources with shelters across the U.S.
“As many animal shelters and rescue teams face increasing challenges in taking in and placing animals with medical and behavioral needs, pandemic-related staffing shortages and reduced adoptions, supporting community members is now more important than ever before,” he said.
Contact or visit their website to help a shelter in your community not listed above. Here are some questions to ask to find out how you can help.
- What options are there? (And which ones make sense to me?)
- What is the minimum time commitment?
- What training is needed?
- Are there other ways to help (donated items, monetary donations, foster care)?
- What does it take to adopt a pet?
- How can I spread the word about how I can help?
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