Marine Mammal Care Center of Los Angeles will shut its doors if it can't raise $1 million this year
A California animal hospital that rehabs marine animals is currently at risk of shutting down if it does not raise $1 million by June.
Marine Mammal Care Center of Los Angeles is a nonprofit facility that has nursed thousands of sick and injured sea lions and seals back to health since opening in 1992.
“They arrive sick and injured at our facility and they look at you with the saddest eyes that cry ‘please help me,’ ” the center’s president, Amber Becerra, tells PEOPLE. “We have the honor of helping them recover, heal, and gain weight, and then we get to watch their recovery … They are very loving and playful creatures — I like to call them ‘ocean puppies’ because they play, bark and cuddle with each other just like dogs do.”
The center has seen almost everything — they’ve treated animals that have been shot by guns, attacked by sharks, entangled in netting, and hurt by plastic and trash left in the ocean. In just 2019, the center treated some 350 patients.
“Oftentimes these injuries stem from human impact on their environments, such as plastic ingestion and fishing net entanglements, gunshot or machete wounds from fisherman,” Becerra says, adding that starving baby pups that are separated from their mothers due to warming waters often end up at their center.
But after helping out so many animals, the center has found itself with a money problem.
While the facility had operated under for-profit status for much of its existence, it switched over to being a nonprofit in 2016. At the time, they hoped they would be able to stay funded with donations.
“The change to nonprofit status occurred approximately three years ago, and the prior management was unfortunately not able to raise enough money during that time to reach financial sustainability,” Becerra says. “When I took over as president a month ago I inherited a fiscal crisis, and we are faced with closing our doors if we don’t raise this money in the next six months.”
If they aren’t able to raise $1 million to cover costs, the facility will be forced to end operations and transfer the animals to other facilities.
As one of the only marine mammal hospitals in the area, this will undoubtedly lead to the deaths of countless sea animals in the coming years.
“If we were to discontinue operations of the Center, L.A. County and other local agencies would incur substantial and measurable public safety costs to handle and transport hundreds of sick or injured animals found on beaches with no local resource to take them in,” Becerra explains.
On Monday, the center was surprised by a $100,000 donation from Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn.
But they still have much more to be raised.
“To be frank — these precious animals would be left to die on our beaches,” Becerra says of the importance of keeping the center open. “Many of them from injuries that humans have caused.”