It was in 1971 that Actors and Others began its commitment to caring for animals in need and a dedication to changing society’s attitudes towards them. We recognized that pet overpopulation was rooted in a lack of education and availability of services resulting in unwanted animals being surrendered to City and County shelters or living on the streets causing public safety issues. In 1971, 110,835 animals were killed by Los Angeles City alone and, due significantly to spay/neuter acceptance, accessibility and financial support, that figure today is less than 20,000.
Approximately 15 years ago we realized that pets were being surrendered to shelters or being euthanized by an increasing number of pet guardians when veterinary care was unattainable. This was especially apparent during the most recent economic crisis. So we began providing financial assistance for veterinary procedures enabling guardians to keep their companions.
In simple terms, the measurements for success can be gauged in the number of spay/neuter surgeries and medical procedures achieved. Over our history to date we have facilitated the sterilization of over 400,000 animals and over 15,000 medical procedures. However, long-term attainment must also look at the decrease in animals being euthanized in shelters, the proliferation of spay/neuter services and animal welfare organizations, the changing view of how animals are treated and the acceptance of pets as part of the family.
Social media is also a good indicator of this success. In the 1970’s, pets on television were seldom represented and usually not as family members, and those working for their protection were seldom heard. Today, all of the airwaves and all of social media are filled with stories and videos of dogs and cats enjoying life with their human families, and of all the individuals and organizations working on their behalf. We like to think that we have had a little something to do with that change.
But, as the saying goes, success is a journey and not a destination. We still have a long way to go to plug the pet overpopulation problem and stop the killing of unwanted animals. Hurdles still exist, one of which is the rising cost of veterinary medicine. Actors and Others’ objective is to sustain and hopefully increase our resources to continue to help pets and their guardians in need. We will continue to offer vitally needed support to make it possible for guardians to keep their companions by helping to get their pets spayed/neutered or subsidize emergency veterinary procedures.
In the next five years, we need to continue to promote that sterilizing early can prevent deadly and costly medical conditions such as mammary cancer, in addition to curbing the pet overpopulation problem. And we need to convince veterinarians that they should to be the ones to start the conversation with their patients about the need and benefits of having their pets sterilized early.