Pet overpopulation in South LA raises questions about animal safety

Listen to the audio story from Annenberg Radio News:

By Conrad Wilton

imageSouth Los Angeles resident Dina Cabrera feeds salmon to stray cats that wander into her backyard. But don’t worry; she caters to all animals.

“I have 3 dogs, 7 cats, 2 parrots, one cockatiel, 20 finches, 3 squirrels, and I’m not counting all the wild doves and finches I feed every day,” said Cabrera, who is often considered the “Snow White” of her community.

Cabrera manages to provide food, medical care, and love to all of her pets, but she still finds a way to work fulltime as a legal secretary and raise her three-year-old daughter Sophie, who, like her mother, loves the animals around her.

After asking Sophie, who her favorite pet was, she responded with “Mimi,” a 16 year old Chihuahua and holds two records – one for the oldest animal in the Cabrera household, and the other for the animal bringing in the highest vet bills.

“Sometimes it’s hard because there are so many and the bills can get pretty high,” Cabrera said.

imageCabrera has opened her home to stray animals to combat the rising rate of pet overpopulation in the city of Los Angeles. LA County Animal Control Officer C. Green has been rounding up stray animals in South LA for over 13 years. He says pet overpopulation is out of control because many pet owners fail to spay and neuter their animals.

“Some people just don’t come in even if we spay and neuter for free,” Green said.

The Los Angeles City Council passed a law in 2008 that requires all pet owners to spay and neuter their animals. Although many people simply ignore the mandate, Green says it is enforceable. But Cabrera says regardless of the law, there are some South LA pet owners who will never spay or neuter their animals because of a negative cultural stigma.

“The Hispanics I’ve encountered, being Hispanic myself, don’t want to spay or neuter their animals because they thing it’s cruel,” said Cabrera, “and I always tell them it’s the first thing that needs to be done.”

But spaying and neutering operations are only part of the solution.

imageIn the city of Los Angeles, pet owners are only legally allowed to house three animals. But according to Green, many South LA residents have several dogs to combat crime.

“If you’re going to kind of rough neighborhoods, you’ll see people with 4, 5, 6 dogs. And that’s where the problem comes in at.”

So what’s the solution? “I think people need to become more educated about animals,” answered Cabrera.

According to Green, many animal shelters and volunteer agencies are currently boosting their efforts to educate Los Angeles pet-owners about pet care and overpopulation.

As of now there is no government legislation on the table to curb pet-overpopulation in South LA, but animal lovers like Cabrera believe this is a top priority.

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