LA Zoning Goes to the Dogs and Cats under Koretz' New 'Pet Shop' Plan

ANIMAL WATCH-If you live, work, own a home or business in the city of Los Angeles, Councilman Paul Koretz has a holiday surprise for you! Soon, you could find that an unlimited number of Pit Bulls or cats "rescued" from city animal shelters are relocated to a “pet shop” next to your business or less than 500 feet from your home. (Most other impounded dogs are adopted.)  

Not uncharacteristically for Koretz, this is being done during the year's busiest season, when Angelenos and city watchdogs are traveling to visit loved ones, involved in religious observances, and enjoying family events.  

But that's not all. Additionally, and so subtle that it was almost overlooked, is the language in the proposed Planning Code change to remove ALL animal-ownership limits citywide. (Whether this was inadvertent or intentional, I will leave up to you.)  

Paul Koretz has been continuously attempting to increase household animal limits since 2010. With the increased density in Los Angeles it is vitally important to public health/safety that the best-practices limit in LA and most surrounding cities (3 adult dogs and/or 3 adult cats) is retained in order to preserve peace, safety, quality of life and property values in communities with rapidly increased population (people and pets). 

This proposal (CF17-1237, AND  PLANNING CASE NO. CPC-2017-4075-CA / ENV-2017-4076-EAF, -- go down to Pet Shop Ordinance in right column) is also an enticement for large corporations involved in the animal industry to open more large "retail rescue pet shops" and import "rescued" puppies and kittens from other states and countries (i.e., Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Asia) because they can be obtained cheaply and resold (fee-for-adoption) to Los Angeles pet lovers who want purebred animals but cannot legally buy them other than directly from a local breeder. 

This puts the small, often long-established LA rescue organizations at a serious disadvantage. They compete with "retail/rescue" stores in prominent locations, while they depend upon daytime showing of animals at outdoor events or pet supply stores.  

REGISTER OPPOSITION AND COMMENTS WITH THE PLANNING DEPT. IMMEDIATELY. (Deadline is December 22, 2017.) 

It is important to read this short, PROPOSED ORDINANCE CASE CPC-2017-4075-CA / ENV-2017-4076-EAF and register your comments to the Planning Department by December 22.) Provide written comments to Yi.Lu@lacity.org. 

Writ of Mandate was issued by Judge Joanne O'Donnell (BS147232) when a similar holiday surprise in 2013 resulted in a Zoning Administrator's Interpretation (ZAI) to allow circumventing City zoning law.  

Now, Koretz is using a legislative approach to create "pet adoption centers" and "retail rescue pet shops"-- both with unlimited numbers of animals -- in C2, C4, C5, CM and C1.5 zones. 

Also, in Sec. 4"for a business," has been added to the definitions of "Cat Kennel," "Dog Kennel," and "Kennel." By the addition of this three-word phrase, all limits on household pets in LA are removed.  

Here's how it works: Coupled with the CF 17-1237, removing "Kennels" from Sec. 12.03 of the Zoning Code, there is no other provision in the LAMC to limit the number of dogs and cats that can be owned on private property. 

The PAW Committee meeting scheduled on Dec. 6 to consider CF-17-1237 was cancelled. Jim Bickhart of Speedway Policy Associates spoke on behalf of Koretz at the Dec. 7 Planning Hearing; however, to the audience behind him, his testimony was almost inaudible. It sounded like he said this would be "delayed." There was no recording of that meeting, according to the Planning Department, in order to confirm that testimony. 

PLANNING DEPARTMENT GIVEN INACCURATE/INCOMPLETE INFORMATION? 

There are major flaws in the premise/information justifying these Code Amendments, described in two ways by the Planning Dept:  (1) In the Notice of Public Hearing as "a proposed Code amendment updating regulations pertaining to Pet Shops to facilitate pet adoption;" and (2) In the Pet Shop Code Amendment Q&A it is described as, "The purpose of the Code amendment is to facilitate adoption of stray or neglected animals and lower the euthanasia rate in the City's animal shelters." 

Missing from their proposal is any reference to statistics that would indicate that these sweeping zone changes will accomplish this goal. There was no mention in their presentation of restrictions assuring that ALL animals which will be housed in these facilities are ONLY from City animal shelters or Los Angles city humane societies, or that ALL obtained from other "rescuers" must be Los Angeles animals.  

If the City is predicating Citywide changes in zoning that could affect almost every business (and nearby residences) in Los Angeles, its premise must assure that the desired result has been proven or is likely.  

Often "rescues" bring in animals from other cities, counties, states, or countries and offer them for sale (fee-for-adoption) at events or in ads. If importing is allowed under this Zone change, then the City is merely enabling an increase in homeless animals, rather than insuring an effort to reduce shelter population and euthanasia. 

It is also allowing a “non-profit” business a discriminatory advantage over a "for-profit" business which might establish a training or boarding facility with the same number of animals and the same impacts on the environment and community. 

Recent CityWatch articles demonstrate that just being a "rescuer" does not guarantee humaneness for animals or responsible conduct in regard to public safety.  

  1. The representatives of the Planning Dept. stated that similar changes have been made in other cities/areas [as the result of banning sales of "mill-bred" or any live puppies kittens, dogs or cats not obtained from an animal shelter, humane society or "rescuer."]  

However, they failed to identify even one of these jurisdictions. Our on-going research on this issue has not shown any city/county changed its zoning code to accommodate such a provision.   The "retail rescue" shops which exist in areas other than Los Angeles have been placed either in permissive zoning or with a variance or CUP. We will be asking the Planning Department to provide the referenced jurisdictions that have made similar code changes. 

  1. The Planning Department describes in its notice,"...a proposed Code amendment updating regulations pertaining to Pet Shops to facilitate pet adoption."  It DOES NOT include Notice of the removal of household animal limits nor the pervasive zoning changes.  

Pet adoption is not the responsibility of the Planning Department, nor should it be the cause of changing commercial or commercial/ public health and safety. 

  1. "Rescued" animals are from unknown sources, have unpredictable behavior patterns (many are surrendered by prior owners because of aggressive/problematic behavior) and their health background or even current health condition is not fully discernible. Many serious health conditions in animals do not present symptoms for days, weeks or months, during which they may be contagious. (Animal diseases can become airborne, or are spread from walking in an area where they have defecated and the bacteria is carried on shoes or paws.) 

The purpose of zoning is to separate toxic activities (including animal kennels or sheltering facilities) from locations where the public and businesses or homes are vulnerable to noxious conditions and exposure to diseases (some animal diseases are zoonotic -- can be contracted by humans.) Zoning laws also protect other animals/pets from such exposure. 

ANIMAL SERVICES DOES NOT DESIGN/REGULATE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT POLICY 

All regulation (other than Bldg. & Safety violations) would be removed by Planning/Code Enforcement and become the responsibility of LA Animal Services.  

Animal Services does not have jurisdiction under state law to enforce laws other than in regard to the protection of animals. It does not have the authority, expertise or technical knowledge to design environmentally compliant facilities (which the Planning Assistant said is expected of them) nor authority to enforce any environmental regulations to control excessive noise (other than barking complaints), odor, effluence, waste removal, or waste water control (water used to hose down a facility to remove urine and feces.) This toxic substance cannot flow directly into a sewer to a storm drain, but must first be "treated," according to experts. It also cannot be washed across access walkways, sidewalks nor into streets, nor allowed to drain onto surrounding yards or open areas.  

Animal Control Officers  derive their limited powers from California Code, Penal Code - PEN § 830.9. 

COUNCIL NEEDS TO LOOK AT ITS OWN RECORD  

Paul Koretz has had a seven-year opportunity as Chair of the Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee (PAW) to address the issues causing animal overpopulation in Los Angeles. He has refused to strengthen the responsibilities of cat owners by enforcement of the spay/neuter law, microchipping and licensing. 

He did not pursue an opportunity to develop specific spay/neuter provisions to curtail the breeding of Pit Bulls. Now our shelters are filled with Pit Bulls, and Craigslist and the Recycler are exploding with ads by breeders selling Pit Bull puppies in Los Angeles, many under permits that are automatically issued (for a fee) if an owner refuses to spay/neuter a dog.  

It is time for Paul Koretz and the City Council to look at city government's responsibility, rather than foisting homeless animals like commodities into business districts, further crippling the economy in Los Angeles.

 

(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of LA employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

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