Unlimited Pit Bulls, Feral Cats and 'Retail Rescue' Pet Shops May Soon be Unleashed in LA 

ANIMAL WATCH-Since 2010, LA Animal Services' General Manager Brenda Barnette and Councilmember Paul Koretz (photo above, right) have been trying to raise the pet limits in Los Angeles – and for different reasons.

Koretz, who maneuvered the oversight of LA City shelters away from the Public Safety Committee when Barnette was hired, maintains ultimate control over animal policy and dictates how the Council will vote.  

Now, it appears Los Angeles' dog breeders and "retail rescues" will both get their long-awaited increase or removal of limits on the number of dogs and cats that may be kept per property or per store in the City.  

The public and organizations can still comment/object. Address an email to the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti to:  Adam.Lid@lacity.org, indicating that they should be filed in both CF 17-0079 and CF 17-1237-S1. 

THE BEGINNING 

When GM Ed Boks left LA Animal Services, Councilman Paul Koretz encouraged former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to select Brenda Barnette, head of the Seattle Humane Society, a dog breeder and the Seattle AKC Legislative Representative, which he announced on June 17, 2010. The City Council, with Eric Garcetti presiding, at the urging of Koretz and late-Councilman Bill Rosendahl, also a former dog breeder and purebred dog enthusiast, approved her appointment unanimously. 

Barnette had no animal control experience but was embraced by both local dog breeders' organizations and the ADL-LA (Animal Defense League-LA) -- the above-ground local arm of the extremist (often-called "terrorist") group Animal Liberation Front (ALF), which had LA Animal Services' employees and other government officials under siege, demanding that the shelters "Stop the Killing." 

Barnette was willing to cooperate with Best Friends Animal Society and eagerly supported their $1-per-year lease of the brand new $19 million Northeast Valley (Mission) shelter which was, and still is, funded by Los Angeles' taxpayers. 

LA ANIMAL SERVICES HAS SUFFERED UNDER BARNETTE 

Koretz displays obvious disdain for animal shelters and the employees (as revealed in his failure to act on their behalf in safety issues) and little, if any, serious concern about their safety and welfare. He has given only lip service to activists' complaints about Barnette's failure to replace aging and dangerous animal-collection vehicles and her alleged inability to find qualified applications for positions on the depleted staff of Animal Control Officers (less than 60 officers for a city of 4.9 million people, their pets and the stray, abandoned animals in the streets over a 469-square-mile area. The County of LA has approximately 100 more officers to serve a similar area and population.) 

Most of the LAAS officers are still driving dangerously deteriorated collection vehicles that have not been replaced since 2001/2003. 

Two recent, serious attacks (one on an employee mauled by a Pit Bull in 2017 and one on a volunteer last month) have been disregarded, with no call for an investigation of safety conditions/policies and proactive prevention. 

And, the death of 75-year-old Valentine Herrera, after an attack by two Pit Bulls which also killed his tiny Pomeranian near his downtown home, did not garner even a public comment of regret or consideration by Koretz or any LA city politician. 

The failure of LA City government to consider the welfare of the animals, employees and the public has been accompanied by an equally intentional move to create "no kill" policies dictated by high-profile organizations, which benefit their personal agenda and fundraising efforts. 

This has caused city shelters to be filled to overflowing and -- as is currently happening -- lost pets and stray animals are fighting and unsafe in the overcrowded kennels. Brenda Barnette admitted at the Commission meeting that they are forced to put more than one animal in a kennel, which can cause a dangerous "pack" mentality even with small dogs. So much for the “sustainability” of the recent "no kill city" announcement by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Best Friends Animal Society. 

 KORETZ AND BLUMENFIELD SET STAGE TO 'UNLEASH' LIMITS ON DOGS/CATS 

A January 23, 2018, response to a Public Records Act request confirms that, contrary to some claims made at public meetings, the Los Angeles Planning Department has no documents which indicate any other jurisdiction in the U.S. has changed its zoning laws to allow "retail-rescue pet shops." 

So, the stage is now set for unleashing the culmination of eight years of effort by Koretz and Barnette, whose daughter was called a "responsible breeder" by Best Friends -- joined by Councilman Bob Blumenfield (photo above, left) -- to destabilize vital law-enforcement obligations, along with the intentional breakdown in zoning/kennel laws which protect neighborhoods and animals. 

Along with unlimited "retail rescue" pet shops, Barnette, Paul Koretz and Blumenfield, have paved the way to the last step after obtaining a preemptory Council OK for Brenda Barnette and the LA Animal Services' Commission to set the allowable number of pets per property -- which was one of her original goals for the dog breeders who flocked around her when she was first appointed GM.   

One of these, Louis Krokover, who calls himself a "champion dog breeder" is still on the Zoning AdvisoryCommittee (ZAC), while Blumenfield is conveniently on the Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee. 

This could soon result in VASTLY INCREASED or (if Best Friends advocate Commissioner Layne Dicker gets his way) UNLIMITED dogs and cats being allowed in homes and yards (with UNLIMITED breeding). Any number of puppies and kittens under four months of age are not counted. 

Of course, Commission President Larry Gross and GM Barnette proclaim that there will be "public hearings" but, based upon prior experience, residents can be assured these will not be widely publicized, as they were in 2010, when opposition by Homeowners' Associations, Neighborhood Councils, apartment associations and the general public soundly shut down the effort to allow ten animals (five dogs and five cats) per resident. See Council File 10-0982.  

These hearings will undoubtedly be held at one or more of the night meetings of the Commission, carefully planned when selected rescuers can attend to testify in favor of more animals and assure the Commission this will result in more adoptions, but not considering that it will also result in more breeding, hoarding and purchases of purebred pets and puppy-mill imports. (None of the small rescue groups have attended in support of the "retail-rescue shop" hearings, undoubtedly because they realize these high-end tax-exempt businesses (where animals are sold for-profit – although it is called a fixed "adoption fee" or "required donation") are likely to reduce their ability to adopt pets they pull from shelters. 

KENNEL RESTRICTIONS COULD SOON BE GONE IN LOS ANGELES 

At the same time, the destruction of the requirements to distance dog/cat kennels from nearby homes and businesses is ready for automatic approval by the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee and "consent approval" (no comments allowed) by the City Council. Best Friends Animal Society and Found Animals Foundation -- both strong supporters of Councilman Koretz -- have lauded the effort. 

In fact, the”'retail-rescue" effort was started by Found Animals and then-Villaraigosa aide Jim Bickhart and pursued by Bickhart, who has been under contract for “consulting services” to both Blumenfield and Koretz after Villaraigosa's term. 

Since at least 70% of the dogs impounded and about 90% of those not adopted from LA Animal Services shelters are Pit Bulls, in order for the new "retail-rescues" to serve their purpose, they must take these dogs of unknown origin and health/behavior history into communities for sale (fee-based adoption.) GM Brenda Barnette will be in charge of issuing permits for such stores -- with no animal handling or veterinary experience required of the "rescuer." 

Barnette will also be approving "walking routes" of multiple dogs in the nearby neighborhoods by volunteers, because there will be no outside runs for the dogs to move around and enjoy the fresh air, exercise and sunshine vital to their health. 

Jan Brown, a member of the Board of the Panorama City Neighborhood Council and an appointed liaison to the Dept. of Animal Services, who formerly has held volunteer and staff positions with animal rescue organizations including Wildlife Waystation and Pet Orphans of Southern California, submitted a personal comment (not representing the NC) in CF 17-0079, which includes the following observations regarding environmental impact: 

"Regarding the CEQA Negative Declaration that "there is no substantial evidence that the project will have a significant effect on the environment." How, with potentially dozens or hundreds of dogs being walked, pooping and peeing in front of businesses along commercial streets, is this not considered an environmental negative? 

DOG/CAT LIMITS CAN BE INCREASED OR ELIMINATED 

Although he claims this is to increase shelter adoptions, Koretz has not limited additional animals over the traditional 3-dog/3-cat limit in LA to shelter or rescued animals. Therefore, they can be purchased from commercial pet shops outside California, through local or out-of-state puppy-mill internet sales, local backyard breeders, and imported from foreign countries, all adding to the city's overpopulation problem. 

Koretz has also continually refused to make microchipping of cats mandatory or demand that cat spay/neuter be enforced. Thus, all the bluster about the plight of impounded animals has tarnished credibility. 

Los Angeles could soon become the nation's backyard-breeding capital because of the ideal weather conditions, lack of regulation and inadequate Animal Control Officer staffing. 

If you have recently purchased an expensive home (is there anything else in LA?) and suddenly discover your next-door neighbor has started a dog-breeding operation with an unlimited number of animals, don't bother to call LA Animal Services or the Planning Department because it will be legal and your property value will undoubtedly be in the litter box. 

FERAL CATS - TRAP/NEUTER/RELEASE (TNR) 

The City of Los Angeles cannot increase cat numbers due to an injunction obtained by the Urban Wildlands Group and others in 2010, which requires environmental review under CEQA regarding TNR (Trap/Neuter/Release) of feral cats. While the injunction does not prohibit the practice of TNR by private parties or groups, it does not allow City funding of such activities. Unaltered owned cats are obviously a major source of increased feral cats.) 

The City is engaged in fulfilling the instructions of the Court at the latest reported cost of $1.5 million (up from the original $800,000, requested by Councilman Blumenfield and approved by the Budget Committee and Mayor.) This is your tax dollars at work! 

When completed, Barnette hopes to be able to empty the shelters by releasing the feral cats and kittens to feeders of colonies or individuals, who can place them anywhere in public locations in the City -- including adjacent to homes and businesses. 

BARNETTE'S BASIS FOR INCREASING, REMOVING LIMITS ON DOGS/CATS 

Brenda Barnette said at a June Commission meeting that an earlier survey (by Found Animals Foundation) revealed that Santa Monica allows unlimited animals and has no problems, and she commented that some LA County areas have increased the allowable number. The following are some facts for these comparisons: 

SANTA MONICA v. LOS ANGELES (CITY) 

Santa Monica covers a total area of 8.42 square milesThe population is 92,247, with a median household income of $82,123. The poverty rate is 11.3%. The population identifies itself as 65.4% White, 16.1% Hispanic, and 9.9% Asian, according to DataUSA.   

The median property value in Santa Monica, CA is $1.09 million, and the home ownership rate is 27.5%. It is estimated that about 50 gang members are based in the Pico neighborhood. 

The City of Los Angeles covers 469 square miles and has a population of 3.98 million. The median household income is $54,432 (some areas have a median income averaging $26,000.) The poverty rate is 19.5%. Median property value is $593,500. The population is 48.9% Hispanic, 28.5% White, and 11.2% Asian, according to DataUSA

COUNTY OF LA DOG LIMITS 

The current LA County Pet Limits chart shows that 35 out of 39 contract cities allow three or fewer dogs. (Agoura allows more based upon property size over 2 acres.) 

BARKING DOGS IN CITY OF LA 

A CA Public Records Act Request shows that dog barking is increasing in LA-- even before Brenda Barnette increases the limits. June 1, 2016 - May 14, 2018 shows the following:  2016: 23 cases; 2017: 33 cases; and 2018 (from January 1 to May 14): 23 cases..

WHY IS TARZANA NC SUPPORTING "RETAIL RESCUE" SHOPS WHEN THE PROPERTY OWNERS' ASSOCIATION IS OPPOSED? 

On December 19, 2017, the Tarzana Property Owners' Association, Inc. wrote a letter of opposition to Pet Shop Code Amendment, CPC-2017-4075-CA, as written, because of the inconsistencies and potential negative consequences of changing kennel definitions to allow large numbers of animals housed next door to businesses. (Read documents here.) 

The Tarzana Neighborhood Council took a strong position of support for "retail rescue" shops, with its animal welfare committee advocate Jeffrey Mausner even joining as an appellant in the Planning Commission review of Rockin' Rescue on Ventura Blvd. in Woodland Hills, which had been denied. Although he appeared as a private party, Mr. Mausner made his connections with the Tarzana Neighborhood Council evident. 

Mr. Ady Gil, who Mausner lauded for his rescue work and being a nice guy, had his own attorney and certainly can afford a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), according to his interview below with John Stossel. 

In an August 19, 2009, ABC News Special by John Stossel, Dating Web Site Brings Together Sugar Daddies, Babies - ABC News, Ady Gil is quoted as follows, which is not an exactly exemplary attitude toward women in the age of the "MeToo" movement: 

Ady Gil, a 50-year-old entrepreneur, claims he's worth between $10 million and $50 million. He owns two large production companies in Los Angeles. He believes the arrangement site is a great way to meet women. 

"You can make a deal with the girl. You don't have to worry about whether it's going to be 'yes' or 'no,'" he said. "You don't have to take them to dinner and hope that maybe something will happen. The cards are on the table." 

Men pay $45 for membership on the Web site, but some, like Gil, pay an extra $1,000 to have the site verify his wealth and put his profile in a prominent spot. (Read more at link.) 

Mr. Mausner seems to have no animal experience except as a volunteer at the West Valley Shelter and his intentions are undoubtedly good. Councilman Bob Blumenfield, elated with Ady Gil's win, issued a statement that he was going to introduce the motion to allow zoning in commercial and residential-adjacent locations citywide to be used for "retail rescue." 

Shouldn't our consideration of our communities and City zoning for animal and human welfare have a stronger foundation before laws are changed?

                                                             

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