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A Word With Lola McKnight Of Shelter Animal Advocacy Fund, Los Angeles

A Word With Lola McKnight Of Shelter Animal Advocacy Fund, Los Angeles

There are countless dog friends in Los Angeles. I’d like to think my fellow buddies are all in homes and happy and safe=–but that isn’t the case. So many are in need of adoption and help: Los Angeles still is not a perfect city for all dog friends. If films like Street Dogs Of South Central have taught us anything, it is that needy dog friends are right under our snouts. Thankfully, there are lots of people friends who are helping us out. One of them is Lola McKnight of the Shelter Animal Advocacy Fund, Los Angeles, a non-profit organization that seeks to serve and help shelter animals in our community. I got the chance to speak with Lola about dog friends in Los Angeles and a very special event happening this Sunday to help local animals.

As a Los Angeles dog, I see a lot of bad and good things happening for fellow dog friends. From lost, abandoned friends to lack of proper care, there seems to be so much we need to help with. What do you find to be the first, most important issue we need to help dog friends with? And how can we help?
Yes, Dottie you are so right about that, we hear a lot of news about our dog friends. I think the number one most important issue right now is to promote shelter adoptions! Around 4 million animals die in shelters every year because people are not adopting from shelters. Most people don’t realize what great animals they will find at their local shelter. I’m constantly amazed by the number of breeds that are readily available at a shelter if you look online at Petfinder.com, you can search almost any breed of dog or cat and find them not too far away.

People need to be educated on the fact that animals bought at a pet shop or through an online breeder are coming from horrible puppy mills where little concern is given to the health and care of the animals and where making money is the only focus. These places are not regulated and a lot of them operate under the radar. The reality is that you are much better off getting your pet from the shelter and saving a life. Educating people, kids, friends, and relatives about adopting shelter animals and avoiding doing business with disreputable puppy mills and breeders is really the most important thing you can do to help the plight of shelter dogs (and cats). Knowledge is power!

A Word With Lola McKnight Of Shelter Animal Advocacy Fund, Los Angeles

Certainly, for every bad there is something good: what do you find Los Angeles to excel at when it comes to helping dog friends? Is there something we are exceptionally great at?
Los Angeles has an amazing number of rescues and animal support resources. I think LA is an animal loving city. Most rescues take animals from the shelters so when you adopt through these rescues you open a spot for a another shelter animal to be rescued. Some people don’t like to go to shelters so adopting through a rescue is a viable alternative. There are all kinds of rescues so you can get pretty much any dog you like!

Thankfully, we are seeing more organizations getting involved in helping out low-income areas that don’t have a lot of services. Downtown Dog Rescue operates a hotline through the LA city shelter called “Operation Safety Net” that is set up to help the low income areas in LA by providing information on resources and training. Sometimes people don’t realize that their pet problem can be solved if they know where to get their dog treated or it can be just a behavior problem that is easily solved. Speaking to someone through the hotline can actually keep a dog out of the shelter and that’s the goal of the program. There are many organizations that offer services like low-cost spay and neuter, veterinarian services, etc. that the public doesn’t know about.

There are so many people here in LA with big hearts who want to help animals and are willing to get past judging people and actually getting out there to help. That’s what I see happening in Los Angeles that makes me very proud.

I’m originally a pup from Georgia and I find life in LA to be great. How do we Los Angeles dog friends stack up against other cities in the United States? Are we sadly behind on helping or actually leading the pack?
As you know Dottie, LA is a dog loving city and there are many options out there for doggie entertainment. There is a lot of money spent in pet stores, doggie daycare, dog training, etc. and many animals enjoy a very high quality of life. However, I think in some other areas, such as our animal shelters, we are lagging behind a bit. Some smaller cities are having a lot of success having no kill shelters where over 90% of the animals are adopted and, in LA, we are only just beginning to think “no kill” can be a reality here. I think part of the problem is the size of the city and the numbers of animals that need to be addressed. We need to do better in getting dogs spayed and neutered and making that readily available to everyone. There are private organizations that provide such services but have limited capacity. If the city was able to take a more pro-active role in providing S/N services we would have many fewer animals ending up at the shelters and ultimately dying there. There are so many dogs and cats that are being turned in at the shelters on a daily basis especially in areas that have suffered greatly from the housing crisis. S/N is not a 100% solution to the problem, but it greatly helps.

I do think that the city’s heart is in the right place but things like money and vision with those running things are really impeding the progress that must be made to get the kill numbers down. Unfortunately the economy has had a really negative affect on what has happened at the shelters and Los Angeles has cut the budget big time resulting in fewer employees to help the animals. I hate to say it, but the numbers are up this year for animals killed in Los Angeles. :-(

A Word With Lola McKnight Of Shelter Animal Advocacy Fund, Los Angeles

Now, I just thought Street Dogs Of South Central was so moving and powerful and important for all dog parents and dog friends in Los Angeles. How has the film helped out local pups, from the South Central pups to Valley dogs?
The exciting news is that the filmmakers are getting involved in fundraising to help the South Central dogs and the community by making their film available to groups who want to raise money towards this cause. They are really embracing the rescue community. In addition to our June 10th event, Bill Marin and SAAFLA are working with BlueCollar Working Dogs in Highland Park who are hosting another film screening of Street Dogs to raise more money towards our goal which is to pay for services made available to the South Central community through the city shelters.

The other cool thing is what the film is actually showing people: dogs are survivors and have an incredible will to live. Strays like Elsie in the film, often end up in the shelters, yet they are really amazing beings who deserve our respect and deserve a home! Maybe after seeing this movie a person would be moved to adopt a stray from the shelter. What also makes me so happy about the involvement of the filmmakers is that the movie is a wonderful vehicle we can use to bring knowledge to the public. I hope that the film gets more recognition and can be shown in more venues.
Plus, the filmmakers have been very generous, they’ve also been donating street dog wristbands to raise funds and we are selling them on our website.

Aside from the screening of the film, is there anything exciting dog parents should expect at Sunday’s event? Will there be any doggie bags to take home?
This is going to be amazing event. First off, beyond viewing this incredible film there will be a Q&A after the film with Bill Marin, producer of the film, Brandon Fouche, dog behavior expert and Lori Weise founder of Downtown Dog Rescue, all experts in this field. In addition, we are going to have all kinds of fabulous items for our silent auction. Pet photographer Seth Casteel known for his underwater dog portraits that went viral is donating a large signed print of one of his iconic images. I’m sure you have seen those! We have 2 incredible fine artists who have donated pieces to the event, David Lloyd and Joe O’Neil. We also have really cool items like 2 nights at the Biltmore Hotel, a trapeze class, a cooking course for two–I mean there are just too many cool things to name. We will also have giveaways, food and drink plus, a VERY exciting performance by Katrina Parker from The Voice. She was a semi finalist and a fan fave on the show! So I think we are offering a pretty amazing evening for a mere $35 in advance or $45 at the door! 100% of the funds raised are going directly to our cause. All donations are tax deductible as well.

A Word With Lola McKnight Of Shelter Animal Advocacy Fund, Los Angeles

Lastly, from a dog friend to a dog parent, what is your favorite Los Angeles thing to do or visit with dog friends? There’s just so much happening!
Well, I’m kind of funny as I’m not a big dog park person but there are a lot of fine dog parks all around the city. Re: the dog park issue, I think it’s important to realize that not every dog likes to be social with other dogs, so know your dog before taking them to dog parks. [Dottie Note: Amen! I’d rather get pets from dog parents!] Actually, dog parks are just one thing that people can do with their dogs. If your dog isn’t a dog park type of dog, you can still take take your dog on a hike or a walk on leash where the dog gets exercise and mental stimulation. In fact, walking is a really important aspect to a dog’s life. There are so many beautiful places to hike in Los Angeles that are dog friendly.

Another fun thing is to teach your dog to do agility. There are many classes available at local parks or you can even make your own agility course if you have a yard. Dogs that have herding instincts can go to these amazing herding courses that are located close to the city. It’s a really fun day trip and your dog gets to do what comes naturally without getting in trouble! The most important thing you can do is to spend time with your dog either training him or exercising him providing both mental and physical stimulation, it all helps to create a balanced lifestyle for your dog and your dog will love you for it!

As you can tell, we are doing a great job in Los Angeles helping dog friends out and becoming a great city for animals. But, there’s still more work to be done! Be sure to check out the SAAFLA screening and fundraiser this Sunday if you are available, which you can get more information on here. And, if you can’t make it and want to help, you can make a donation to the organization here.

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