Let the lifesaving begin! Best Friends prepares to open L.A.'s Northeast Valley Shelter

The Best Friends team in Los Angeles has been doing a lot of heaving and hauling, scrubbing, polishing and painting. We are about to embark on an exciting and ambitious new project. The staff in L.A. is in the middle of taking over operations of the city’s Northeast Valley Shelter and transforming it into Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Services. Year-one targeted goals for this new undertaking are to find homes for a minimum of 3,000 L.A. city shelter animals and provide 6,000 spay/neuter procedures for the community, along with a variety of special events and community outreach programs.

The shelter will play an important role in No More Homeless Pets Los Angeles, a coalition led and funded by Best Friends, that to date is made up of 33 local rescue and shelter partners, including Los Angeles Animal Services. It all adds up to a massive effort to take Los Angeles no-kill. The coalition will focus on boosting shelter adoptions through a subsidy program from Best Friends and reducing shelter intake through targeted spay/neuter projects that offer low-cost or free services to low-income residents.

Briefly, for those of you unfamiliar with the recent history of this project, Best Friends put forward a proposal last February to operate the facility, which L.A. Animal Services had never opened to the public due to budget and staffing shortfalls. Our proposal was accepted by the chief accounting officer and approved by the City Council back in August. What followed were five months of the slow turning of bureaucratic wheels as contracts were negotiated, vandalism damages at the shelter repaired, and legal challenges overcome. Finally, on January 3, 2011, the contract was signed!

In the time since, our L.A. team, along with some Sanctuary staff and lots of volunteers, has been moving offices from the previous location; clearing the grounds; getting up to speed on the maze of automatic controls, switches, misters, sprinklers and lights; figuring out which key goes to which of the hundred or so doors in the 44,000-square-foot facility; and cleaning the building and kennels, which had been used to house a small population of L.A. Animal Services animals, who for one reason or another were not being offered for adoption at one of the other city shelters (e.g., animals held as evidence in cruelty cases, etc.).

Despite the best intentions of all concerned, there have been a few hiccups, like the day a repair crew turned the power off, but when it was restored, the lighting timers had reverted to their default settings, which had our crews working on emergency lighting for four days until the exact nature of the glitch was identified. And then there was the day — a Sunday of course — when the automatic gates to the parking area decided to march to the beat of a different drummer and do their own thing, necessitating a night watchman to keep an eye on the gear waiting to be moved into the clinic and adoption rooms. All minor stuff and the kinds of things to be expected as we get a handle on all the moving parts of this remarkable facility. After a few weeks of getting acquainted, all that is happily behind us.

As I write, the first of the thousands of animals who will be transferred from the other L.A. Animal Services shelters during year one of operations are being pulled by our adoption team and relocated to the Northeast Valley Shelter. Last Monday, two weeks of intensive training for new staff began, and on Saturday, January 28th, the doors will open to the public for the first time in what will be the illustrious history of Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Services.

Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society