An Estimated 1000 Pets Have Been Taken to L.A. Pound by BFAS

I have an update to the Best Friends post from Monday but decided to post it on its own in the interest of transparency, in order to make it as visible as possible to anyone interested.  Jon Dunn from BFAS answered the questions I had previously sent to 3 different BFAS e-mail addresses on 2 separate occasions.  The e-mail response is pasted below, in full, with my questions in regular type and the responses in italics.

My takeaways:

  • BFAS has taken 10-15 animals a week to the East Valley facility since taking over at Mission Hills in January 2012.  If I estimate 12.5 pets per week for 20 months (80 weeks), that works out to about 1000 pets that BFAS has brought to the pound.
  • BFAS does not keep track of what happens to these animals.
  • BFAS does not perform documentation or networking of any pet taken to the pound in order to help get the pet reunited with his owner (if there is one) or get seen by rescues and adopters.
  • BFAS sometimes places a hold on pets they take to the pound but since they don’t keep track, they can’t say how many.
  • Regarding the animals BFAS has pulled from the city shelter, BFAS does not pay fees to the city for these animals.  BFAS neuters and chips these animals themselves.  Some of these pulled pets have been transported to states other than CA.
  • My question, “What has happened to these pulled pets?” does not appear to have been specifically answered.  My reason for asking was to determine how many of the pulled pets may have been adopted, sent to other rescues, returned to the pound, or any other possible outcome.

Jon Dunn’s e-mail response, in full:

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: Re: Grandpa – BFAS LA
From: Jon Dunn
Date: Tue, September 10, 2013 11:18 am
To: Shirley Thistlethwaite <>

How many animals has BFAS taken to the East Valley facility since taking over at Mission Hills?

10-15 animals a week are usually brought in either as strays or owner surrenders to the Mission Hills Center. As you have likely already read elsewhere, it is illegal for us to accept animals from the public either as strays or owner surrenders (per the contract we have with the city of LA, all animals at the Mission Hills Center must come from one of the 6 LA Animal Services shelters). The animals must go to the East Valley shelter where they are held for their required hold times (dependent on microchip, etc.). It is important to note that these animals are never considered as “intake” by Best Friends.

What has happened to each of the animals taken to the city pound by BFAS?

We do not track the outcome of every animal that falls into this category. In some cases, we do put a hold and pull the animal ourselves. In other cases where we see an animal has a particular need served by one of the 65 NKLA coalition members (to whom we pay adoption subsidies), we notify that particular group. In others, one of the 190 LAAS New Hope Partners steps in and pulls the dog (as what happened with Grandpa). Best Friends is a large cog, but certainly not the only cog in the Los Angeles animal welfare system. We are thankful to the other organizations, many of whom we work with very closely, who are also working hard each and every day to contribute to the fantastic drop in shelter killing we’ve seen in LA the last two years.

When taking an animal to the city pound, does BFAS always perform documentation and networking of the pet in order to help get the pet reunited with his owner (if there is one) or get seen by rescues and adopters?

No, as we said above, the animals we re-direct to the East Valley shelter are of indeterminate status and must be held by law for the required hold period. They are never considered Best Friends animals. The hold time / owner reclamation process is wholly owned by the LAAS. Rescue work is full of tough decisions, and Best Friends and other rescues and shelters face them every day. The five million dollars committed to Los Angeles is a lot, but it is not infinite, and as such, we must make decisions on where to put our time and resources.

When taking an animal to the city pound, does BFAS always place a “hold” on the pet so that, if the animal goes unclaimed/unadopted and ends up on the kill list at the pound, BFAS will be notified to pick up the pet?

Not always. We place holds based on the same factors and pet profiles that we employ in pulling animals from the city shelters for the Mission Hills Adoption Center. We take old dogs, young dogs, black dogs, white dogs, “bad” dogs, cute, silly and all breeds including pit bulls and Chihuahuas and everything in between. We try to maintain a mix that reflects the shelter population, so we have around 50% pit bulls at any given time. That also goes for seniors and medical cases. We have a limited number of kennels/cages allotted to medical cases. Since there are always medical cases at the shelters those medical slots are usually full. We welcome anyone to come visit the Mission Hills Center and see the pets for yourself! Of course, our goal is to save as many lives as possible, and to do that right now it means moving animals out of LAAS shelters at the fastest rate possible and placing them in new homes as quickly as possible. It should be noted that in a system as large as LA Animal Services, we do not receive preferential treatment to get “first pick.” We are allowed to place holds at the same time as the rest of the groups.

How many pets has BFAS brought to the city pound and then later rescued via the previously described process?

We don’t track that particular statistic, but since taking over the Mission Hills center, we have pulled 7,075 animals from LAAS shelters. 3,149 animals in 2012, and 3,926 through the end of August 2013. All of the animals in our Mission Hills center are pulled from LAAS shelters.

Regarding the animals BFAS has pulled from the city shelter, what fee has BFAS paid to the city per animal? What has happened to these pulled pets? Have any of them been transported to rescues or adopters in states other than CA?

When we pull animals from LAAS, we do the spay/neuter surgery, and microchip the pets. The $45.50 fee New Hope Partners pay to pull, covers those same services performed by LAAS. So the city waives the fee and the associated services. Since we pull so many shelter animals at a time it would clog the system for the city to provide those services for Best Friends. Also, the operational costs of the Mission Hills Center fall entirely on us. Those costs, and our other operational expenses in LA exceed five million dollars a year. That’s a tremendous amount of value to the city, far beyond the $318,000 in New Hope fees (7,000 animals at $45.50) they have waived since the beginning of 2012.

We do offer a transport program for LA pets, known as Pup My Ride. So far in 2013, 2,011 animals have been taken to other areas. Roughly half of those pets came from LAAS, the rest were pulled from LA County shelters and other local shelters.

31 thoughts on “An Estimated 1000 Pets Have Been Taken to L.A. Pound by BFAS

  1. “It is important to note that these animals are never considered as “intake” by Best Friends.”

    It is important to note that we feel zero responsibility for these animals, their welfare, or their subsequent survival. We do handle them with our own two hands, but we have no need to care about them in any way, shape, or form because they aren’t “intake”.


  2. I’m continuously amazed at the lack of decent record-keeping at ACCs and shelters. So far as I’ve seen on-line even competent and compassionate places fail at it one way or another. I just don’t understand. It’s not brain surgery. If for whatever reason there’s a problem with the management software in use, if it won’t accurately record these kinds of transfers or separate them into the right categories, then report it to the software provider, ask for a fix and use paper in the meantime. Or just open an ordinary spreadsheet and plug them in there.

    You’d think the shelters involved would want to do this, to keep track of each pet for whom they have any responsibility, however tenuous or brief – but especially in coalitions like NKLA. How will they know where they need improvement, how will they know if they’ve made any, if they’re missing data? How many pets have fallen through the cracks because no-one kept track of where they went? Oh, I’m sure someone will have an answer – as above, in the presumption that someone else stepped in – but is this always true? I’d bet not. Good intentions aren’t proof against FUBAR situations. Heck, paperwork isn’t either, but at least if you have it you can see what went wrong and maybe figure out why.

    1. Plus, looking at it from a fundraising standpoint (which is always popular), wouldn’t it be great to include in your monthly pitch something like:

      This month we took 50 dogs and cats to the pound per our agreement with the city. We immediately began networking each and every one of them, utilizing our extensive community of pet lovers. With your help, ten of these pets were reclaimed by their owners at the pound and twenty were adopted by new loving owners. Ten more were taken by area rescues and we took ten here at our shelter. Of those ten, four found homes immediately and the other six are included at the bottom of this e-mail. If you are in the area, please come by to see them yourself and meet our many other beautiful pets. If you’re outside the area, please help us share these pets in as many places as possible so they can find the caring homes they deserve.

      1. I keep telling you that we need you to be in charge . . .
        It’s almost like some of the airlines – bags not here? well, they’re somewhere so don’t worry

      2. If I saw an appeal like that, not only would I donate, I’d write a glowing letter and tell all my friends.

      3. I’d be overjoyed with this approach! But I sometimes wonder if those who keep lousy records want that data lost or at best really difficult to track down. You might say I’m a bit cynical but then I’ve earned it, lol.

      4. I try not to attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence. Although I also suspect a certain sort of entitlement comes into play too, as if to say, ‘We’re busy here in the trenches saving lives and we don’t need no stinking forms.’

        In this case, BFAS seems to think that it’s not their responsibility to keep records on these pets – or routinely follow up on their welfare – because it’s in their contract that they be transferred to the city. So they don’t. I really think it’s as simple as that.

    2. I had a long, drawn-out argument with several people who were of the mind that rescues have zero obligation to attempt to reunite lost pets with owners. First they claimed that anyone who loses a pet doesn’t *deserve* to have the animal back, as they were obviously abusive or letting the animal run free. Then they said it was an unfair burden…that taking five minutes to post a found animal ad on Craig’s List would result in more animals being killed because it takes away resources. Every single second spent in anyway that didn’t directly involve finding a home was time wasted- to which I replied it becomes much easier to find a pet a home when *they already have one.*

      These people, who had volunteered with rescues in the past, truly saw paperwork and accurate record keeping as an impediment to their ‘mission’. Just the suggestion that they should keep records on every animal that came in and where that animal ended up was greeted with eye rolling. It boggles my mind, especially since I’m a very organized person who tracks damn near everything. And purposely making it more difficult for lost pets to find their way home is outright negligence.

      I don’t think this is just a Best Friend’s problem. It’s an animal rescue problem, and needs to change if we’re ever going to reach no kill as a nation.

      1. this is exactly what I have seen at my local shelter… not one animal picked up by AC is photographed … they don’t have time.. they say if someone is missing a pet and want it back, they’ll call the shelter… so then no one ever knows the animals are even there…not even rescues makes me so mad

      2. Thats so weird, Triangle. I, like you, am very organized and have to keep track of everything. A large part of it is because my memory sucks, but if I were head of a shelter/rescue, I would know that potential adopters would be more likely to want to come to an organized place. I mean if I were a potential adopter, I would want all the information available on that dog including medical history, etc. If a rescue/shelter didnt have those things available and things were missing, Id be afraid that I would be biting off more than I could chew and Id have to re-think adopting the dog. Not everyone who wants to get a dog is a huge dog lover, some are kind of “well, I didnt really want to, but my kid has been bugging me about it”. Those people are going to look for any reason to walk away.

  3. This makes me wonder if BFAS is making it clear to people who surrender pets to them that those pets will be going to LAAS. It probably doesn’t matter to people surrendering strays, but I’m guessing some people believe that they are surrendering their pet to a No Kill facility that will commit to finding a new home for the pet. I wonder if these people would not surrender if they knew the pet was going to end up at LAAS, with no guarantee that it would come back to BFAS.

    I have never been to BFAS, so I don’t know how clear they make this policy to the public. Does anyone know?

    1. I think this is a good question, and it may matter quite a bit to people surrendering strays. I know when I was working for a vet hospital and found myself networking stray animals that came in, I spent a great deal of time, energy, and money getting them into no-kill rescues. I would have been devastated to learn one of the animals I committed to helping ended up at a kill facility after I took them to a no-kill. People bring in strays because they want to help, so I think most of them would absolutely want to know where that animal will be going.

  4. *Sigh* This is so frustrating. I think most people have a general idea about pounds/ACCs that the animals dont have a good enough chance to get out alive, but NK shelters and places like this, people have no idea how slim a chance that pets’ chances are. I didnt even know until I came to this page. I didnt know about HSUS/ASPCA until Nathan Winograd. This has to change and soon!

  5. There’s a difference between BFAS’s approach to reducing shelter killing in LA as described by Jon Dunn, and Austin Pets Alive!’s approach to reducing shelter killing in Austin as described by Ellen Jefferson in a report for Maddie’s Fund last year.

    If I understand Jon Dunn right, BFAS uses an approach in which the types and percentages of pets in their adoption center approximates the types and percentages of pets in the city shelters, so that BFAS is consciously avoiding simply pulling the “cute and fluffies.”

    By contrast, in Austin, as Jefferson wrote in a report for Maddie’s Fund,

    “It was apparent right from the start that the only way we would NOT displace animals that already had live outcomes was to develop a laser-like focus on the euthanasia list rather than all the animals in the shelter (or any animal in the community). The protocol was set that APA would intervene and help only animals that were definitely going to die without APA’s help, usually within hours of being put on the euthanasia list. This was critical for our success because it provided data to easily measure performance and impact on euthanasia in terms of the No-Kill goal. After an agreement was reached with the shelter, the AAC began to provide the euthanasia list an hour before closing each night. If APA did not intervene on those pets’ behalf, all the animals would be euthanized before opening the next day. APA’s measurable impact could be easily seen and tweaked even on a daily basis, by dividing the number of animals saved by the total number that were set to be euthanized daily. For instance, if there were 100 animals on the euthanasia list and APA saved 10, our impact, and ours alone, was a 10% reduction in killing for that day.”

    If I had been in charge of planning BFAS’s effort in LA, I think I would have opted for the extraordinarily simple, clear approach that Austin Pets Alive! took.

    There was also a component of changing shelter policies in Austin that seems missing from BFAS’s work in LA:

    “APA was able to convince city officials that AAC needed to vaccinate before intake 100% of the time, which has led to an almost nil distemper infection rate for the rest of 2009, all of 2010 and 2011.

    “Since we rescue the animals that would be killed for disease including distemper, we are able to keep close tabs on AAC’s vaccination compliance and also the disease infection rates.”

    Jefferson’s depiction of the decision process as it unfolded in Austin is very interesting and shows why APA has become a teaching organization as well as a rescue that does hands-on work.

    1. Interestingly, Jefferson has a great chart that she shares in her presentation that essentially is shown as a pyramid. At the bottom of the pyramid are the 50% that were already being saved when they started. The next 10-15% represented healthy desirable animals that were currently being euthanized. The next 10-15% were desirable animals with minor needs. The next 5% were underage kittens and puppies that were desirable, but made more work. The next 5% were ones that had pretty significant behavior/health needs and the last 10% were not savable. In their “laser focus” they focused on the highly adoptable animals first because it represented the opportunity to save the most animals with amount of work available and then worked their way into the resources to work their way up the pyramid. From my understanding, Best Friends is using a fairly similar approach (although described differently) although they are taking more of the challenging dogs as well. Keep in mind that before Best Friends opened its shelter LA was killing more than 22,000 pets a year, so there are more than enough to choose from.

  6. I have an 18-year-old border collie mix that I brought home from the shelter when I was volunteering there he was seven and a half years old at the time and abuse, scared of everybody he attached himself to me, they were going to put them down they asked me if I wanted to bring him home. He is now 18 years old cannot hold his bladder all night, one night I took Teddy out at 4 o’clock in the morning I heard thunder off in the distance all of a sudden a big flash and a big bang at the same time, it startled him he took off into the night it was a horrible storm heavy downpour and lighting, I stood inside the garage with the light on yelling for him walking around my home thinking maybe he went in under the deck finally at 7:30 in the morning after I been out driving around trying to find him wondering if he could even hear me, asking everybody that was on the road, walking their dogs, out jogging ,driving in cars, one of my neighbors spotted him, when I finally found him he didn’t even hear my car he stood there and looked at me like he didn’t know who I was sometimes things happen, for them to act like we don’t deserve them because they got away is the poorest excuse I’ve ever heard come out of their mouth, no wonder these places are filled up, I get so angry with the shelters just like with ours there be dogs there and they wouldn’t even check, I swear when people would call they would not even write down the information. I would look in the paper and call the people up and tell them to go over to the shelter and bring a picture and proof, and many would get their pets back, but one of the tricks the shelter would do, they would charge the people $45 per day the dog was there, great way to make money because that’s all they care about ,making money for their paychecks !

    1. I really think some shelters outright run a scam with this. Let’s say my gate somehow comes open and my dog escapes. I immediately call the shelter and they tell me my dog isn’t there. I call again the next day and hear the same thing. Finally it’s Saturday and I have a day off work, so I decide to go to the shelter and look myself but oops…they closed for the weekend. I manage to convince my boss to let me come in late on Monday so I can check the shelter and indeed, there’s my very recognizable, easily described dog sitting front and center. Then I’m told it’ll be $225 to bail him out because of the 5 day boarding fee.

      And all that is assuming they didn’t oops kill him on day one.

      This sort of thing shouldn’t be allowed, but shelters do it as a matter of course. And then they pat themselves on the back and blame the ‘irresponsible’ owner who didn’t triple padlocked the gate and didn’t ‘do enough’ to get his dog back home. It kills me. One of my worst nightmares is either of my cats ending up in a shelter- they’d be scared, and that would get them killed for being ‘feral’.

      That whole scenario above is a big part of the reason I’ve changed my thinking in regards to kill shelters. The excuse is always ‘we’re doing the best we can’…but shit like that is NOT the best one can do. An eight old could read that and point out all the ways it’s unfair and doomed to fail.

      1. That’s one of my nightmares too, even more so than them being hit by car, and almost as much as some creep get ahold of them, every morning I kiss them and tell them, may your guardian angel watch over you and keep you safe from the evil in this world .

      2. I was the same way regarding my dog and the landscapers. They had key to the gate for the backyard so they just came and went whenever they were in the neighborhood and I never knew when they were coming by. I had to make sure my dog wasnt outside whenever they came by, but I didnt know when thatd be. They would try to be good about keeping an eye on her so she wouldnt run out but with a bunch of guys coming in and out, it was easy to lose track of her. She died a year ago, but I still forget shes gone when they come by sometimes.

  7. This is no different than what BF does in Kanab at their HQ, where pets left on their property may or may not be turned over to the local ACO depending on how cute and fluffy they are.


    Animal sheltering is the one industry where a director can fail 60% of the time, 70% of the time, 80% of the time, even 90% of the time and more–meaning every time they put an animal to death–and still keep their job. Where’s the accountability? It simply does not exist.

    Here’s the litany of excuses: “It’s the public’s fault,” “It’s pet overpopulation,” “It is too expensive,” “Wait five years,” “Wait 10 years,” “No one wants to kill,” “No one will adopt”…

    And every single one of them is a lie:

    No Kill 101:
    Dollars & Sense:
    We Can Do It!:
    The Lie at the Heart of the Killing:

  9. I can answer what happened to 83 of the pulled dogs. They were transferred to the SPCA of Tompkins County in upstate NY and were adopted out. Yes, they were all “little” dogs, but there is a huge demand and no supply in upstate NY… unless you count the Amish breeders and puppy mills.

    1. If Tompkins Co needs to import little dogs, have they tried other shelters in NY state – specifically ones that kill for “space”? How about places that kill pets in CT and other surrounding states?

      1. Tompkins does pulls from local, and not so local, kill shelters- even have pulled cats. You asked where some of the dogs ended up that Best Friends pulled, I told you. I can also tell you unlike the difficulty of working with a variety of kill shelters, Best Friends made the process easy and took care of the vaccinations, spay/neuter, and transport. Given the day to day of operating an open admission, no kill shelter in a small, upstate NY rural community like Tompkins, searching endlessly for a dog here and a dog there is not feasible. I know there are differing opinions on transport, but a life saved is a life saved, or 83. (And they went quickly because Tompkins had ~20 at each time, giving people a selection, not just one or two that they feel will be gone by the time they get to the shelter.)

  10. OH THE IRONY. PETA is bashed continually for the animals they PTS for the inhumane NC kill shelters with freaking gas chambers…and has to account for EVERY SINGLE ANIMAL they TOUCH and what happened to it? But BFAS NOT??? Yeah, right. LIARS.

  11. The Humane Society for King County/ Seattle also takes a bunch of Pup My Ride dogs from LA. They pull small dogs across the state as well. In fact, Brenda Barnette was the CEO before transitioning to LA as their director. We had high hopes for her, but as I have seen myself, coming from Washington State to Austin. There is certainly more challenges. There is just a huge intake of animals in the summer from breeding here in the south that we didn’t have as much of in the north (there is some but still not to the extent that there is down here and unless things have changed there is no TNR in that county either). As you probably know, she is doing a terrible job.

    In western Washington, it rains 9 months out of the year. I have found some strays and knocking on neighbors doors, many of the neighbors would point me to the correct house who would be grateful and tell me what happened. I find many animals here running around and when I ask the neighbors, they point to the house, sometimes. When I ask the owners, they tell me they have let them out to use the bathroom and they will come back when they are done. Thankfully every animal I didn’t bring back to its owners in the neighborhood was microchipped so they were contacted. BFAS are probably contractually obligated to turn the animals over to LAAS, hopefully, that is clearly displayed in the shelter and on the intake paperwork completed by the owner/finder.

    San Antonio Pets Alive (SAPA) will be running a shelter for San Antonio Animal Care Services in October because they can do it cheaper and with better results than ACS. I suspect that they have something in their contract that if they take owner surrenders, it will go straight to ACS or that they will redirect the owners to ACS’s main location. Because SAPA focuses on euthanasia animals, taking anything into their program that comes over the counter would actually be a detriment to their program since only a portion of the intakes will actually find themselves on death row and in need of SAPA services. It seems to be a trend for more and more rescues to partner with the local animal control, acting as the marketing, adoptions, and operational partner of the adoption program. Waco, Texas has this sort of setup in place too.

  12. I also know of several people who are volunteers for their local shelter in San Antonio who comb Craiglist lost and found ads with the intakes at the shelter and notify their possible who have been responsible for many successful reunions. I would love to see all shelters do what the Reno does and has a Lost Database to compare intakes to and a found/pets at shelter database – . If I remember correctly, they have a huge return to owner percentage.

  13. Kittypurr  /  October 28, 2013
    65 NKLA rescues get adoption subsidiaries. So they get fixed animals and money. That would I turn allow for fee waived adoptions and increased adoption rates- looking very successful going forward.
    The New Hope rescues get to pull fixed animals for $45. Can they do fee waived adoptions and compete to stay in business with the other 65??
    Very interesting twist to driving the business.

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