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Does LA Animal Services-UCLA Dog Bite Investigation Class Have a Hidden Agenda?

ANIMAL WATCH-On July 8, LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette sent out a media release to the LAAS social media mailing list inviting the public to attend a joint program with UCLA on July 19 on Dog Bite Investigations, taught by Jim Crosby, (photo above) an "expert in canine behavior, dog bites and attacks and shelter management and operations." 

Crosby is described as "a retired Police Lieutenant from Jacksonville, Florida, and former Animal Control Division Manager in Bay County, Florida." (He was also featured in this Best Friends' "Stop Breed Specific Legislation" [BSL] investigation and is thanked by Karen Delise (in Acknowledgments) in her book, The Pit Bull Placebo.) 

But, he seems an awkward choice (to say the least) to instruct at this class for UCLA Law School, which Professor Bryant described in an email as, "geared toward those in animal shelters and police departments whose work is directly related to the subject matter of the seminar." 

It is hard to believe that UCLA Law Professor Taimie Bryant and LAAS GM Brenda Barnette are unaware of the Huffington Post article on 08/20/2010, "Animal Control Head Resigns Over Employee Who Butchered, Ate Pig ‘Fluffy’ In Facility’s Care," which announces that Jim Crosby, the then-director of Bay County Animal Control in Florida, resigned following an investigation that determined he “condoned” the actions of an employee, who took home a pig in the facility’s care nicknamed “Fluffy,” butchered, cooked, and ate it. 

The Huff Post provides a WJHG News report on Crosby, which included: 

County officials released new information Thursday that was uncovered by an investigation launched by Mark Bowen, the Director of Bay County Emergency Services. 

County Commissioner George Gainer went so far as to say that “the pig didn’t cause Mr. Crosby’s untimely resignation,” but was just the last straw in a series of institutional disagreements with Mark Bowen, the director of Bay County’s Emergency Services. 

More about Jim Crosby later. 

UCLA ADMINISTRATIVE HEARING CLINIC AND LAAS 

Los Angeles Animal Services has two full-time experienced Administrative Hearing Officers, each a former Animal Control Officer, with many years of field and shelter work experience. 

But few LA taxpayers realize that serious decisions regarding barking dogs or biting dogs that are cited by Los Angeles Animal Services Animal Control Officers are also being decided by (potentially first-year) law students under a UCLA Dog Bite Clinic devised and taught by UCLA Professor Taimie Bryant. 

Beginning in August 2018, LA Animal Services entered into a very vague agreement (C-132102) with UCLA School of Law, through June 30, 2019, to benefit students by providing participants the opportunity to "utilize their skills in service to the City by serving as hearing examiners in dangerous dog and as temporary hearing examiners to assist in the reduction of backlog of complaints and to process more complaints."  

This contract was approved by the LA Animal Services Commission and the City without wide-scale knowledge by the public, except a few attorneys involved in dog-bite law who immediately expressed concern about the fact that this involves law students, with NO prerequisite classes or training in law. 

DANGEROUS DOG HEARINGS HELD BY LAAS 

A request for Public Records brought this response from LA Animal Services on how many dangerous dog hearings were held since January 1, 2018, and who served as hearing officer.  

Total number of Dangerous Animal hearings conducted by Los Angeles Animal Services from January 1, 2018 to July 10, 2019. 

 (a) Total number of hearings conducted. 747*

 (b) No. of hearing conducted by LAAS Hearing Officers. 535

 (c) No. of hearings conducted by any outside Hearing Officer(s), including law students from any educational institution. 39

 (d) No. of DOGS involved in total hearings. No report available to provide a response

 (e) No. of dogs declared as a "Dangerous Animal" in such hearings. 24

 (f) No. of dogs whose owners appealed such decision to the LAAS Commission. 38

AND No. which were upheld as a "Dangerous Animal" by the LAAS Commission. 4

 (g) No. of dogs euthanized by LAAS as a result of ruling by Commission. 3

 (h) No. of dogs released to "rescue" organizations, after being declared "Dangerous Animals." 0 

*There is a discrepancy which leaves 173 hearings without an officer, but I suppose this is close enough for government work. 

WHO IS TAIMIE BRYANT? 

According to her UCLA Biography Taimie Bryant, who trains the student administrative hearing officers, teaches PropertyNonprofit Organizations, and Animals and the Law.  She received a Ph.D. in Anthropology in 1984 and a J.D. in1987 and has been on the UCLA faculty since 1988. 

Her bio also states: 

"Professor Bryant has published several articles on Japanese law, focusing primarily on family law in Japan.  However, since 1995 she has been interested primarily in animal law"; and that she applies "... literature in the context of advocates for animals, arguing that some forms of legal activism that seem ineffective for helping animals actually increase public activism and understanding of animal suffering, thereby making other forms of legal change more likely." 

It continues that she "...utilizes the literature of social justice activism in feminism and disability rights areas in order to inform activism for animals. In particular, she seeks to combine the approaches of radical feminism and social justice activism in her work on animal protection." 

Therefore, it seems clear that Professor Bryant is an activist who uses her position as a law professor to further an agenda -- one that has caused her to be referred to as a "no-kill" advocate. 

Included on the UCLA profile is that, "in 1998 she was the lead drafter of California state legislation to shift animal sheltering from killing to saving lives.  That legislative work resulted in Bryant's serving as a consultant regarding the extent to which the animal shelter legislation was a state mandate requiring reimbursement of local government." 

That legislation was known as the Hayden Act, which, due to the unworkable financial burden resulted in Governor Jerry Brown suspending state-mandated requirements in 2012. 

Much of the Hayden Act was naive and unworkable in the real world of animal sheltering and has resulted in overcrowding, hoarding and release of animals free of charge to adopters in a desperate effort by shelters to keep up with intake. (See: Do CA Animal Shelters and Rescues have a Right to Release Dangerous Dogs?

It also resulted in vilifying public "open-entry" shelter managers who found it necessary to euthanize animals that created a potential or real danger to public health or safety. (See "White Hats and Black Hats," an editorial by Merritt Clifton, now editor of Animals 24/7.) 

DID PROFESSOR TAIMIE BRYANT EVER PRACTICE LAW? 

There is no public record at the CA State Bar site that Taimie Bryant has ever been licensed in California, thus it appears she has never actually practiced law (at least not in this state.). 

Does her apparent career-seclusion in the world of academia and apparent lack of any experiential work in animal-sheltering qualify her to train first-year law students for the life-and-death decisions of public safety which result in dangerous dog hearings?  

There is no experience nor are there class pre-requisites necessary to sit as an Administrative Hearing Officer -- a quasi-judicial position -- under the LA Animal Services contract to decide the impact of serious nuisance noise (barking) on LA residents who have made complaints and to decide the outcome of dog attacks/bites that are severe enough to warrant an official hearing by the City.  

Several attorneys with long experience/practice in animal-related and dog-bite law advised me that absolutely NO first-year law student should be making this type of decision. They independently opined that being a third-year student would be the minimum requirement. 

ARE THESE HEARINGS OBJECTIVE OR IS THERE ANOTHER AGENDA? 

Here are excerpts from the Video Message from Prof. Taimie Bryant about Law 938 A/B (Emph. added): 

"Dogs in the United States frequently die just because someone accused them of being 'dangerous.' Some accusations are legitimate, but many are not. An accuser can be a disgruntled neighbor or someone who provoked the dog, for instance. All that stands between accused dogs and death is a hearing officer charged with taking in evidence, writing reports, and making recommendations to a government official." 

"Often those hearing officers rose through the ranks of animal control, bringing forward a bias in favor of killing these dogs." 

"Students taking this course have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of these dogs and the people who care about them. Many families are devastated by the destruction of loved, gentle pets who bit only one time under unusual circumstances."

She also states, "The General Manager of Los Angeles Animal Services (“LAAS”) will then appoint students to conduct these quasi-judicial dangerous dog complaint hearings. Students will also conduct barking dog complaint hearings." 

There is also specific mention of dogs belonging to those "without residences," (aka "homeless"), which seem of special concern to Professor Bryant. She states, "...it can be effective to impose conditions of ownership to prevent specific dogs from interacting with people and other dogs unless under direct supervision. However, that is usually effective only when their owners live in residences that allow for restriction of the dog's interactions." 

She then asks, "What about dogs belonging to individuals without such residences? Those dogs and the people who care about them are greatly disadvantaged in a system that relies heavily on restricting dogs' interactions to prevent risk of harm to others. This is just one example of a difficult situation hearing examiners encounter and must solve with fairness and compassion." See: Experiential Courses - Clinics, Simulations, and Externships

LA ANIMAL-LAW ATTORNEYS' COMMENTS/CONCERNS ABOUT 'BIAS' 

I asked several practicing/retired lawyers in Los Angeles for an informal opinion on the UCLA Barking/Dangerous Dog Clinics. Here are some random responses -- "not intended as legal advice." 

There are no prerequisites for taking this class and serving as a hearing examiner. This means that a brand-new law student could take this class without the benefit of having taken foundational classes.  

Students need to be familiar with the laws that apply to the issue. If it is a barking dog case, they need to be familiar with laws regarding noise and barking dogs. If it's dangerous dogs, they need to be familiar with the City's laws regarding dog bites, dangerous, vicious and potentially dangerous dogs. They also need to be familiar with rules of evidence and courtroom procedure and should have had a trial skills class. Even though the rules of evidence are relaxed in a hearing proceeding, there are still guidelines that need to be followed.   

The second disturbing factor as enumerated in the course description has removed the most important prerequisite for a hearing examiner--that of unbiased fairness and an open mind.

Here, the instructor openly promotes (and instills) a bias in the students in favor of the animal over the victim or public safety, as evidence in this statement in the course description: "The goal is to keep dogs in their families.... 

In her video advertisement for her clinic class she focuses not on insuring public safety, which is the legislature's goal of the dangerous dog laws what society expects, but focuses on keeping dogs--including a dog trained to attack--with its homeless owner and equal outcomes for all dogs regardless of their potential to harm. Justice is not about equal outcomes, it is about equal access to due process and about fairness. There is nothing "equal" about a lack of protection for the public from a dog because its owner is homeless. 

The LAAS-UCLA contract does not set forth any guidelines or qualifications for participating students, so there is no way to tell the competence of the volunteer student examiner. 

Nor is there any indication that the City is obligated to provide the students with the resource materials; i.e., the applicable Muni Code sections and hearing guidelines in advance of the hearing. So the contract is silent on what the City is going to provide to the student in order for the student to perform competently. Every City's guidelines are different on these issues. 

The most essential quality that the student hearing examiner brings to the hearing is an UNBIASED sense of fairness.  The instructor appears to be imposing social values and discriminatory treatment in such issues as "homelessness." Public safety and health must be the Hearing Officer's primary concern. He/she is acting as a judge, not as an activist." 

The basic teachings appear to disregard the first canon of judicial ethics, "an independent, impartial, and honorable judiciary is indispensable to justice in our society." and Canon 3.b.2, a judge shall be faithful to the law regardless of partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism and shall maintain professional competence in the law." An advisory comment to that Canon states, "A judge shall perform judicial duties without bias or prejudice." 

WHO IS JIM CROSBY?   

Jim Crosby describes his qualifications as, "Certified Behavior Consultant-Canine-Knowledge Assessed (CBCC-KA)." However, that certification seems to be issued by the organization that he founded and where he serves on the Board, Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. (How to become a certified dog behavior consultant - CCPDT)

Has he issued disparate opinions on Pit Bulls and fighting-breed dogs in his current testimony against Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)? Or, is the following archived statement still his position? 

INVESTIGATING SERIOUS AND FATAL DOG ATTACKS: A Suggested Protocol James W. Crosby CPDT Canine Aggression Research Jacksonville, FL 

Jim Crosby describes how he based his bite assessment protocol: ("Dr. Ian Dunbar of California, veterinarian and behaviorist, originally developed a six-level bite assessment based on his experience and study. I have adapted that assessment tool slightly, as shown in Appendix A. ") 

Mr. Crosby has a section on Breed Specific Legislation, which I have partially copied below and added some emphasis (in bold) and may be read in its entirety at DogsBite.org.  

JIM CROSBY'S PROTOCOL (Excerpt) 

Still, I have concerns that I must share, concerns that are based on behavioral science, not knee-jerk fear. 

First, we will look at ‘normal’ canine interaction. Two strange canines interact, and the potential for tension is there. Territory, access to food or reproductive resources, or social dominance are often the source for tensions. Canines have, over time, evolved an extensive vocabulary of body postures and positions, and some vocalizations, that enable two canines to ‘negotiate’ an understanding. 

The level of negotiation depends on the drive each of the affected canines feels, their own social and reproductive status, and needs for resources. Only rarely do these contacts devolve into physical fights, and when they do the fights are rarely to the death; after all, if every dispute ended in the death or maiming of the animals, the species as a whole would not last long. 

Canines have clear signals that provide an off button, if you will, that enables the combatants to stop fighting and survive. 

Enter now the Pit Bull, and other breeds specifically selected by Man to fight each other. These animals have several concerning behavioral difference[s] from most other canines. When they fight, human intervention has selected for animals that do not turn off, and do not stop fighting until one, or both, are dead. There is no surrender for these animals. A fully submissive body posture is no more than another opportunity for them to disembowel their adversary. 

 As a corollary to this, these dogs seem to have a shorter negotiation sequence. Many times we hear of a Pit Bull or similar dog that “…just went off…” The expected precursors to a full fight seem to be lacking, much like the quick interactions we see with some teens and young adults these days; one insults another, and the first response is to “…pop a cap…” into the offender. 

Even popular Pit Bull sites on the Internet admit that fights between Pit Bulls can occur with little or no warning. Granted, Pit Bull enthusiasts insist that their dogs are also bred for positive human interaction and sociability, and that is largely true. 

But take the example of a dog that is trained for protection work, mistreated, or reinforced for meanness by someone wanting an aggressive ‘yard dog’. These dogs already have a propensity for tenacity and continued aggression based on years of selective breeding. One than takes and, through fear, mistreatment, or misguided training, positively reinforces the display of aggressive behavior towards humans without the establishment of a clear set of controls. 

This animal has now learned to manipulate its environment, to its own benefit and sometimes safety, by directing aggressions towards people, with a genetically selected lack of an off button. A bad situation has now become tragically dangerous. 

Are breed bans the answer? I don’t believe there is a single answer. Breeders of these dogs must be responsible for the intelligent placement and homing of these animals. And I would suggest Bite Investigation Protocol rather than banning breeds, that the behavior of the dogs must be handled on a case by case basis, with the overall caution that those choosing to own these animals must be held to a higher level of control and care than owners of other, less-potentially hazardous breeds. Are they all dangerous? No. Do we need to use caution? Yes, and we also need the cooperation of the responsible owners to educate and inform on the nature of these animals and the potential for disaster. 

Above, Mr. Crosby clearly acknowledges -- describing in detail -- the unique risk that these fighting breeds pose, and advocates for special restrictions on their ownership and maintenance. Yet, more recently, his position seems to oppose any such restrictions. What has changed, if anything? 

 According to Dogsbite.org in Comment: The Anatomy of a Whitewash, James Crosby, "In November 2008, after Crosby gave expert testimony against the City of Aurora's Fighting Breed ban, it came to our attention that portions of his website had been removed that directly relate to this blog post, specifically the teal colored text. The original text can be found here."  

 As recently as February 25, 2019, a People.com article discusses, "Pit Bull from Dog Fighting Ring Placed on Death Row, Now Changing Lives with her Second Chance." It states that this dog was evaluated by Jim Crosby, "a retired police lieutenant out of Jacksonville, Florida, who has devoted his post-retirement years to learning about dog behavior, especially aggression in dogs."  

"After his evaluations, Crosby cleared 29 of the 31 dogs for retraining and eventual placement," People states. 

While there does not seem to be a question that he served as a police officer and obtained an M.S. in veterinary forensics, Jim Crosby had a very short and questionable career in animal control. What perspective is he going to provide for Los Angeles Animal Services and other law-enforcement agencies at the UCLA Dog Bite Investigations class? 

Will he teach how to protect themselves and the public? Will he share a greater concern about them staying with the owner even after attacks or if the owner is homeless?  

HOW MANY PERSPECTIVES ARE THERE? 

Mr. Bryant responded to my request to attend the class, as follows: 

"I have had a tremendous response from members of animal control operations and police departments in different jurisdictions. Given the volume and nature of that response, I cannot include you in this particular program. I spoke to the speaker about strong demand coming from people with different perspectives, and he offered to come back for a different program that can encompass a broader range of issues. There will be a posting for that through LAAS when we have worked out details." 

Although I requested to attend promptly after the invitation was sent out by LA Animal Services, I do not question that she had filled a class with only 50 available seats at UCLA. However, I do question her comment on "people with different perspectives." 

How many perspectives are there? This is supposed to be a class that discusses the technical, scientific aspects of dog bites regarding "the basis of canine aggression, why it exists, how that applies to animal complaints. Why dogs bite, and how to assess just what a bite involves. Reasonable perception of dog behavior vs. unreasonable fear and how that fits with CA law/LA ordinance code..." 

Shouldn't anyone wishing to attend this program -- which clearly states what is to be discussed -- be provided with the same information? 

Or, do Professor Bryant and Mr. Crosby have differing views on what perspectives should be shared? Does this class at a public university and sponsored by a City agency have any other than the stated agenda?

 

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