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Scratch This: Meet the LBACS shelter's new top cat

Lindsie Merrick is heading Animal Care Services’ new community partnership for humanely controlling the outdoor cat population.

Scratch This: Meet the LBACS shelter's new top cat
Lindsie Merrick, the new cat coordinator at the LBACS shelter, with Octavius, a friendly former community cat one day before he was adopted. Photo by Kate Karp.

Long Beach, like cities nearly everywhere, is home to unaltered stray and homeless cats. Known as community cats, they’re prolific procreators. With climate change, kitten season lasts about three quarters of a year, and female cats can have up to four litters a year, starting at 4 months old. Community cats have shorter lives than the average house cat and run the risk of disease, poison, death by vehicle or coyote, and human cruelty.

“The definition of a community cat is a little vast,” said Alma Vera-Lima, Long Beach Animal Care Services’ recently hired superintendent. “They can range from the very unsocialized, very feral cat who comes once a week to eat to that friendly cat that lives on a patio and visits a couple of neighbors.”

Cat trappers who practice TNR (trap/neuter-spay-vaccinate-microchip/release) have their hands full — literally — trying to control the cat population. They unflaggingly set traps at all hours of the day and night, scramble for spay/neuter appointments and spaces to recover from them, and seek homes for the kittens if any are born. Many of the expenses come out of their own pockets. They also deal with neighbors who don’t understand what they’re doing.


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That’s why a lot of us are happier than a cat in a yarn factory that our shelter at Long Beach Animal Care Services has stepped up to engage in Long Beach’s TNR Coalition and its TNR Action, Education, and Awareness Group meetings, which have been taking place monthly.

The Coalition was organized by retired FBI agent Kris Beardsley, who wanted to unite independent trappers and groups of trappers to share resources, knowledge and frustrations. The first meeting took place in January, and I’ve been chronicling its development ever since.

“It’s so great what Kris did,” Lima said. “I’ll meet someone who feels they’re in it (TNR) alone, and I say, we’ve got a group of about 60 people who meet at LBACS. It’s going to make it easier for them.”

Vera-Lima has worked in animal welfare for 20 years with spcaLA and Kitty Bungalow. Lindsie Merrick, the shelter’s new cat coordinator (is that an enviable job description or what?), is another recent hire. She came in as a kennel attendant and quickly catapulted to animal control officer in December 2023. She became the official cat person shortly after.

“I found that I really loved working with the cats, even cleaning up, like I was in tune with them and could work with them really well,” she said.

Merrick mentored under community cat coordinator Anna Wong and stepped into Wong’s position when she left.

“I’m trying my best to do what’s best for the shelter and teach all of our four cities [Long Beach, Signal Hill, Los Alamitos and Cerritos] about what resources they have and what’s available to them,” Merrick said. “Even if [a community cat] is not cute and cuddly, there are people who care for them.”

That was obvious when Merrick and one of her trainees returned a cat to an industrial complex in one of the service cities. The little fellow had been picked up by animal control officers and spent two weeks in the shelter recovering from abscesses and lack of appetite. Finally, he was ready for his return to field (RTF).

“This one guy ran out of the building when he saw our car — he shouted, ‘Are you bringing a cat? Are you taking a cat? I’m missing a cat!’” Merrick said. “I was bringing the cat he was looking for. He had this bed set up in the warehouse, and he was just waiting for the cat to come back. He was so excited to see the cat, as he did not know what had happened to him. And then five other men came out to look at the cat!”

The man was an employee at the complex and had been the cat’s bestie for nearly five years. He’d named the cat Morris.

“I think it was around October 2019 — I was working late, and I heard a cat meowing,” Lymon said. “He was just skin and bones. I started feeding him, and surprisingly, he trusted me almost immediately. Since he came back, he has stayed even closer to me. How can you not enjoy being greeted every day you go to work?”

Lymon said that Morris has gained weight since he was returned. Both guys exemplify unconditional love and trust that a compassionate human and a needy animal, no matter how scruffy, inspire. Photo courtesy of LBACS.

Merrick regularly connects with the public by taking “cat walks” in neighborhoods that have reported roaming cats. She particularly speaks to people who don’t want cats in their yards and may not understand what trappers do.

“I assess the situation, meet with the neighbors, talk to them, reason with them,” she said. “As for the feeders, they have to be willing to pick up poop and plates. Getting them on schedule for feeding makes it a lot simpler to trap. [And trappers have to] make sure they tell the neighbors that they have plans to trap.”

The TNR Coalition meetings exemplify the connection with the community. LBACS’ hosting them lends credibility for both the trapping operations and the shelter itself. TNR practitioners and residents who want to conduct TNR can share ideas, techniques, resources such as trap sharing, and spay/neuter appointments. Merrick provides trap-setting training after the meetings.

“Any time you have a TNR program, it’s critical to have those trappers [involved] because they know where the colonies are, they know who the people are,” Vera-Lima said. “They all need support, whether it’s vouchers or municipal services.”

Merrick wants to continue to build community engagement in LBACS’ service cities.

“I want to see who is interested,” she said. ”Come see what we do.

See Tail-waggin’ and nose-boopin’ events for details about the next TNR Action, Education, and Awareness Group meeting. The shelter’s community cats page has information about our community cats, and the link at the end of the column identifies vet clinics that spay and neuter community cats and accept shelter vouchers for community cats.

Yours drooly

In anticipation of Foster the Fourth, Scratch This! would like to boost the effort to empty the shelters by asking you to adopt a few dogs or foster available ones. Of course, if that works, no one will object to you making it permanent. We have a few suggestions, and the shelter has even more.

Foster the Fourth meetups take place Sunday, June 23, 4 to 6 p.m. and by appointment on Tuesday, June 25 and Tuesday, July 2. Please submit your Foster Application BEFORE visiting the shelter. To schedule an appointment on either Tuesday, June 25 or July 2, email PetFoster@longbeach.gov.

Long Beach Animal Care Services is located at 7700 E. Spring St., Long Beach, at the entrance to El Dorado Park (no parking fee for shelter visitors). Visiting hours are Wednesday–Friday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday–Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Chevy

Chevy (ID#A717826) is a lovely two-year-old basset mix who enjoys his playgroups, especially if people join in. Here he is retrieving a toy! Chevy isn’t doing well being garaged in a kennel — he’d love a road trip to a fun home!

Enzo

Enzo (ID#A712421), a Siberian husky/German shepherd mix, is so enthusiastic about his volunteer friends that he attempts to hug them! He loves the play yard, he loves treats, he loves to show off how smart he is by sitting on command, he loves running with other dogs, he loves splashing in the doggie pool, and he loves us! He’s almost three years old and has been in the shelter since December, so he deserves a vacation. If you need some love in your life and don’t get enough hugs, Enzo’s your guy!

Rodney Dangerfield

So many animals come in to LBACS with medical issues and broken bones, especially during the weeks before and after Fourth of July when too many get hit by cars. American bulldog mix Rodney Dangerfield is one such doggie — his leg was broken when a vehicle hit him, and he has some road rash from the incident. But he’s a sweetheart. “I met him yesterday, and his tail wagged and wagged!” said Dr. Wags herself, aka LBACS bureau manager, Melanie Wagner. Rodney needs a quiet place to recover, with people who have the caregiver instinct to monitor his wounds.

Sabine

Can you give Sabine some much-needed comfort? This poor little Chi mix is 8 years old and has a nonfunctional left eye and a heart murmur. She needs a quiet place to rest and be loved.

Tail-waggin’ and nose-boopin’ events

LBACS and CAMP low-cost vaccine and microchip clinics

Our city shelter, Long Beach Animal Care Services, has teamed up with CAMP (Community Animal Medicine Project) to bring weekly affordable vaccine clinics to pet parents because every pet deserves to be happy and healthy. The clinics will offer vaccines and treatments such as Bordetella, anti-flea/tick, and rabies, which is a requirement for all dogs and cats four months or older. The clinics also offer microchips, which are essential for identification if your pet should run off or become lost, particularly during the July 4 season.

Clinics open to the first 60 pets, no appointment necessary. All are welcome, whether you’re within or outside of the shelter’s contract cities. Remember to have your dog on a strong leash and your cat in a carrier, and please bring your pet’s vaccine records. Access this link for dates, locations and times of clinics and other LBACS events; visit CAMP’s website for a full list of vaccines and wellness treatments offered at each clinic. This effort is part of LBACS’s Compassion Saves model to improve and enhance the quality of life for all pets in the community.

Clinics take place every Monday, second Friday, and fourth Friday of the month, 10 a.m.–3 p.m., at Long Beach Animal Care Services, 7700 E. Spring St., Long Beach (no parking fee for shelter visitors). No clinics Labor Day, Sept. 2. Additional clinics will take place at one of the city’s contract cities, Signal Hill, at the Signal Hill Public Library parking lot, 1800 E. Hill St., Signal Hill, on the following dates and times:

  • Saturday, June 29, 8 am. to noon
  • Friday, July 19, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Saturday, August 17, 8 a.m. to noon

KLOS Radio Pet Adoption Day at P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village

This enjoyable event will feature family fun, vendors, music, food trucks, giveaways and, of course, some of the best cats, dogs, bunnies and other pets of all ages from Long Beach Animal Care Services and spcaLA, all looking for homes! All adoption fees will be waived; each pet will receive initial vaccinations, spaying or neutering, a free VCA vet exam and a goodie bag!

The event takes place Saturday, June 22, 10 a.m.–3 p.m. at LBACS and spcaLA, P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village, 7700 E. Spring St., Long Beach at the entrance to El Dorado Park. No parking fee for shelter guests.

Third annual Independence Day Dog Parade

Whether you dress up your doggies in their patriotic best or just let them be their furry selves, sign them up here to walk in District 1’s Independence Day Dog Parade! You can come too, of course. Meet representatives from military-veteran organizations and pet rescues and shelters. No doggie? Adopt one from Long Beach Animal Care Services or Sparky and the Gang! will have the adoption wagon and a table set up at the park and will be showcasing some adoptable dogs and cats. All dogs must be leashed and under control, and up to date on their vaccines, and humans must keep their pets with them at all times and be ready to clean up after them, so pack the poop bags.

The parade takes place Saturday, June 29, 10 a.m.–noon at Lincoln Park, 101 Pacific Ave., Long Beach.

TNR Action, Education, and Awareness Group meeting

Do you do TNR (trap/spay-neuter-vaccinate-microchip-release of stray cats) with a passion but want to share resources with and get support from an equally engaged community? Are momcats having kittens in your neighborhood, and are dadcats yowling at them to make more? Are you on your last shred of yarn trying to figure out what you can do?

Get some answers at this grassroots meeting, the first in Long Beach to focus on combining forces to humanely stop the birthing of unwanted kittens in the urban wild. Speakers will include rescues, experienced trappers, and Long Beach Animal Care Services staff members, in particular LBACS cat coordinator Lindsie Merrick.

The group meeting will take place Saturday, June 29, 2–4 pm at Long Beach Animal Care Services, 7700 E. Spring St., Long Beach, at the entrance to El Dorado Park. No parking fee for shelter guests.

Need a low-cost veterinarian, information about trapping community cats, places to volunteer—anything pet related? Follow this link for resources. Please add your own ideas in the Comments section.

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