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February 23
1998 - Worst day of record-setting 1997-98 El Nino storm season [story]
El Nino


Marcia MayedaIn November I received a delightful letter from a seven year old girl from the Santa Clarita Valley named Madeline, requesting our permission for her to keep a unicorn in her backyard if she could find one.

I happily agreed to allow her to keep a unicorn, with conditions. These included compliance with Los Angeles County Code regarding the keeping of animals; the unicorn must have regular access to sunlight, moonbeams, and rainbows; it must be fed its favorite treat – watermelon – at least once a week; that its horn must be polished every month with a soft cloth; and any glitter used on the unicorn must be nontoxic and biodegradable.

A few weeks later, on her seventh birthday, Madeline and her family came to our Castaic Animal Care Center. Her mother told her she was coming for a special private tour and to talk to me about her unicorn license application. I reviewed all unicorn-keeping requirements with her, and she solemnly agreed to comply. I then approved her license application and provided her with a pre-approved unicorn license, permanent unicorn license tag, and a unicorn stuffed animal to keep her company until she could find a real one.

Madeline’s letter was so sweet that we shared it and our response on social media, and it went viral around the world. We received hundreds of thousands of kind remarks, words of thanks and statements that we have restored peoples’ faith in local government. People were so glad we took the time to respond to a child, and thoroughly enjoyed the creativity and fun we had with our response.

Kind people sent Madeline gifts, such as a unicorn fleece blanket, unicorn stickers, and unicorn books. OrangeOnions & Brands, the company that makes the Plushible unicorn, generously sent Madeline a giant one that is about as big as she is. Madeline was overwhelmed and thrilled.

Why did we respond to a child, when there are so many pressing matters before our department? Because I was Madeline, many years ago. We all were, in some form or another. I remember when I was a child and how impactful it was when a grown up took the time to respond to me and listen to my concerns. But her letter and our response went much further than this. It seemed to touch at the very core of what many people want to see in the world – innocence, compassion, and a little bit of humor.

Our response delighted and touched many people. We were told how it made them smile, brought tears to their eyes, and restored their faith in humanity. Clearly, we are all so happy when we see kind, lighthearted stories of compassion to offset the many negative items in the news today. All of us at DACC that participated in this project got so much joy out of it.

We are all so happy that Madeline’s letter and our response had such a positive impact, and on a global scale. In fact, to honor Madeline and help the animals in our care, the Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation started “Madeline’s Magical Unicorn Fund” to “support the adoption and care of unicorns and other less mystical animals” cared for by the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control. Donors to this fund will receive a pre-approved unicorn license and permanent unicorn license tag. Madeline, a devoted animal lover who wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up, is happy that animals will be helped in her name. Get yours here.

I learned many things from Madeline about unicorns. For example, their horns can shoot rainbows or glitter and grant magic wishes. I hope your magic wishes come true, whether they are for unicorns or other things dear to your heart. I can’t wait to meet Madeline’s unicorn; if anyone can find one, she can!

Marcia Mayeda is the director of Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control.

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