LOS ANGELES -- Ulysses Sandoval was desperate to save his dog.
Chia needed surgery to remove a large stone in her bladder, but Sandoval had lost his job during the COVID-19 pandemic. He had asked family members for help and was ready to take out a loan and sell his car to come up with the $2,200.
Frantically calling rescue groups, he dialed the L.A. County animal care center in Downey. A staff member said he might be eligible for a $500 voucher.
Giving up Chia "would have been my last, last option," said Sandoval, 25. He suffers from anxiety attacks, and Chia — a 10-pound poodle mix — calms him.
The voucher, which Sandoval obtained this past spring, is part of an approach called "managed intake" now being used at the seven animal shelters run by Los Angeles County.
People who want to relinquish their dogs or cats must have an appointment, rather than just stopping by during business hours. Shelter workers then assess whether they can help the pet stay with its owner by providing assistance with veterinary bills, food, supplies, boarding or training for behavioral issues.
If those options won't work, owners are advised to look for another home, though the shelters will still accept the animals as a last resort.
People interested in adopting are also required to have an appointment.
To proponents, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, managed intake helps pets stay in their homes while reducing the head count in the largest shelter system in the country.
The goal is to accept only sick, malnourished, injured, neglected or dangerous animals, as well as those whose owners are facing an emergency or have exhausted all other options.