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ANIMAL WATCH-Before Brenda Barnette was hired as General Manager of LA Animal Services in 2010, the mantra for the Department was, at all times, “officer, animal and public safety.” Whenever there was a major disaster such as a fire or an earthquake, Animal Control Officers were placed on alert at all city shelters -- whether of or not they were ultimately dispatched to the emergency scene. 

The Animal Services’ Emergency Response Coordinator (for many years the well-known and highly experienced Captain Karen Knipscheer), once notified that a fire/disaster command center had been set up, and aware that the focus of fire and police personnel is to stop destruction and evacuate humans, would either go to the location or send a representative to advise that LA Animal Services was available to help with any animal-related need. 

But, in the current LAAS “Department Emergency Plan,” it states that, The Department of Animal Services will send an Agency Representative (AR) to the Police [Fire/Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control] Incident Command Post “ONLY when requested…” (Emphasis added.) 

On Monday, May 23, at 2:20 pm, a fast-moving fire was reported near the 13000 block of Wheatland Avenue above Lake View Terrace and at the border of the Angeles National Forest. Hundreds of city, county and federal firefighters joined to protect the multi-jurisdictional area. Spotter planes and water-dropping helicopters helped battle the blaze, which burned a total of about 185 acres. 

On that day, prompt response, the level of preparedness and expertise, and the wind-direction blew the fire away from structures and into the National Forest; no evacuation was required. 

However, notably absent to those who worry about pets and other animals in these situations (Lake View Terrace and other Valley areas still have substantial equine communities) was any announcement that LA Animal Services was on standby in case the wind-blown fire changed its course and headed toward populated areas.

City fire Capt. Daniel Curry told KTLA.  “The fire spread very rapidly due to the steep terrain and the status of the fuels in the area.” The south end of the fire, closer to homes, was part of the containment line, he said. Special attention was given to protecting structures in the Little Tujunga Canyon Road to Big Tujunga Canyon Road areas "as a precaution," according to Los Angeles Fire Department’s Erik Scott.

Angelenos are aware that fire season is approaching and that the “Big One” may rock Los Angeles at any time, putting their homes instantly in danger. The City advises us to be prepared. That message also applies to pets and large animals who will need to leave disaster areas with their owners or to be evacuated by LA Animal Services and taken to safety. 

But, recent changes in the allocation of funds for LA Animal Services by the Mayor and City Council have resulted in a lack of resources that have been the stalwarts of safety for animals during past emergencies. City Hall doesn’t seem to care much. 

While the Council Budget & Finance Committee easily allotted $800,000 of taxpayer money for a Feral Cat/Trap-Neuter-Release/Relocate Report so that feral cats can be released to roam unimpeded on residential and commercial property throughout the city and be sterilized using City funds, it rejected a request for ten badly needed animal control trucks as part of the replacement of the dilapidated and unsafe LAAS fleet not replaced since 2000 and 2003. 

The current situation is that the Animal Services’ entire fleet of animal control trucks (animal collection vehicles) needs to be replaced immediately. Some can no longer be driven safely on the streets and officers state that, even when sent for repair, they seem to break down almost immediately. 

Dangerous enough under normal conditions, but should trucks that break down or suddenly not start, with failing brakes and doors that fly open (both on the passenger cab and animal compartments) be allowed behind fire lines? 

This lack of assistance by Animal Control Officers to pick up pets trapped in homes during a fire or disaster, or to catch frightened animals that have escaped, could leave beloved furry and feathered family members behind to die. 

The Department is expecting (after unconscionable delays) to hire 30 new animal control officers soon; however, if there aren’t enough vehicles, they will not be able to work in the field. Even with 13 anticipated new vehicles that are tentatively expected within ten months, this will be fraction of what is needed to replace the current decrepit fleet. 

Even now, animal control officers that could be helping injured and stray animals and doing humane investigations are reportedly sitting in the shelters because of a lack of vehicles. 

This should be no surprise to Councilman Paul Koretz. 

During a report to the Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee (chaired by Koretz) on September 16, 2015, at which Koretz feigned great concern about heat affecting animals in collection vehicles with inadequate ventilation or cooling, he was advised that the officers, animals and the public are endangered by the deterioration and poor mechanical condition of the fleet of collection trucks. General Services Fleet Director Richard Coulsen confirmed there are repeated breakdowns while officers are driving trucks which are “falling apart.” Koretz has never agendized this matter again. 

Coulsen announced at the May 24 LAAS Commission meeting that there is now authorization to order twenty-two trucks by the end of the 2016-17 fiscal year for another partial fleet replacement. Director of Field Operations Mark Salazar has subsequently recited a litany of fiascos occurring from LAAS designing totally unsuitable vehicles and then receiving new trucks that have such serious defects they have been returned to the manufacturer. In addition, he has noted the painfully slow process of upgrading vents on ten 2008 animal-rescue vans currently not in use because they lack an alternate air-circulation system. This left Commissioners and attendees obviously confused. 

After Salazar’s additional lengthy and convoluted excuses for all these mistakes, frustrated activist Michael Bell stated in public comment, “…I didn’t understand anything you said. It seemed one thing piled on another…this is just silliness.” He encouraged the Commission to “just get this done because it is obvious that General Services and Officer Salazar are not doing it.” 

With the current deficit in officers and equipment (the Department also has 33% less horse-hauling vehicles,) it is important for all small and large-animal owners to realize that, if a disaster hits, you may be on your own.

The following are some basic tips from experts for saving or safeguarding your pets and horses in a disaster. However, since each situation and animal is different, please talk with your neighbors, experts and community advisors and/or go on the Internet for a wide variety of information. (Plus, we invite any readers to leave comments to help.) 

Devise a disaster plan in advance, which includes -- but is not limited to -- these basics, and please microchip your pets and horses. 

SMALL ANIMALS: 

  1. Have a strong kennel/travel cage that can be securely latched ready for each pet.  (Keep it in a place easy to access quickly.) 
  2. Store or fill containers with enough water to sustain your pet for several days. 
  3. Have a tightly closed container filled with enough food for each pet (use the kind your pet regularly eats) for several da
  4. Keep a fresh supply of medications your pet takes (enough for several days).
  5. Have some toys/blankets familiar to the pet ready to take. 
  6. Practice placing your pet in a kennel/cage at least monthly, so that it is comfortable with the process.
    Rotate/replace food/water/meds every 3 to 6 months. 
  7. Have your pets’ licensing/microchip info handy to take, along with a photo of you with your animal(s). Keep contact information current on microchip and license.

LARGE ANIMALS: 

  1. Have a plentiful backup supply of water, and plenty of buckets available to take with you. 
  2. Halter/lead rope for every animal. (For smaller farm animals, keep transfer cages easily available.) 
  3. Training and practice. Make sure your animal loads in a trailer quickly and easily before an incident occurs. 
  4. Have an evacuation plan in place. Know where you expect to take your animal(s) and practice ahead of time. 
  5. Have special feed or medications set aside with easy access in an emergency. 
  6. Have your horses microchipped and update the contact information regularly
  7.  Have any licensing/other info ready to take with you, along with a photo of you with your    horse, showing any special markings on the animal.

                                                                       

(Animal activist Phyllis M. Daugherty writes for CityWatch and is a contributing writer to opposingviews.com.  She lives in Los Angeles.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

ANIMAL WATCH-A Pit Bull named Sammy with a prior record of repeated aggression and who had just bitten a Los Angeles Animal Services kennel worker in the abdomen, was released on April 28 to NovaStar Rescue, at the personal instruction of LA Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnette. NovaStar states on its site that it started in 2012, lists only a PO Box address in Ola, Arkansas, and describes itself as “[a] small rescue in Ola, Arkansas. The main focus of NovaStar is to . . . save the pitties, the most loyal yet most misunderstood dogs.” 

“Sammy” was the name given to the dog by kennel staff. He was “Sodom” when he was surrendered to the shelter on January 28 by his owner, who reportedly gave the reason that the dog had “tried to bite him.” A behavioral memo that same day by an Animal Care Technician states, “dog growled and snapped move with acd [animal control device] and according to owner dog is a guard dog.” 

Sammy was described as a Male, Unaltered, Black and White American Staffordshire Terrier, Age: 5 yrs. Weight: 69 lbs. (Impound #A1608123) on PetHarbor.com, where he was listed for adoption to the public. 

During the time Sammy was being offered to a “forever” home, he was chalking up warnings by shelter personnel -- warnings such as: “dog attempted to bite through the kennel when I was lowering the guillotine door on the kennel next to his. be careful when anywhere near this dog;” “this dog is getting worse. lunges at kennel door, growling, barking, biting at door;” “THIS DOG IS VERY AGGRESSIVE. WHEN I GOT NEAR KENNEL DOG LUNGED TOWARDS FACE AND WAS TRYING TO BITE THROUGH KENNEL CAGE. USE CAUTION WHEN HANDLING THIS DOG….” 

Then on April 14, the memo reads, “DOG BIT AN ACT. RABIES OBSERVATION.” The rabies observation is a standard procedure required by the County Department of Public Health (DPH) when a dog bite breaks the skin. The dog is quarantined for ten days. (This is mandated whether or not the dog has a current rabies vaccination.) 

On April 24, at 4:28 PM, an e-mail from a private g-mail account was sent to Brenda Barnette, stating: 

“Attention Brenda and Mario: 

“I am providing you notice prior to the euthanasia of ID number A1608123 [North Central] that he has rescue interest. Pursuant to California Food and Agricultural Code section

31108 (b) you are prohibited by law to kill him/her. This is your official notice of rescue interest for ID number A16081234. DO NOT KILL HIM! 

“If you do, you will be in direct violation of FEDERAL CODE and will be prosecuted by intent policy and California Animal Networks will press charges. 

“Pursuant to section 31108 (b) of the California Food And Agriculture Code: 

“(b) Except as provided in Section 17006, any stray dog that is impounded pursuant to this division shall, prior to euthanasia of that animal, be released to a nonprofit, as defined in Section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code, animal rescue or adoption organization if requested by the organization prior to the scheduled euthanasia of that animal. 

“Paperwork was sent in from NovaStar Rescue placing a hold on this dog. “PLEASE ADVISE. 

“Tiffany” 

At 4:53 pm, April 24, Brenda Barnette responded, with cc’s to three LAAS staff/shelter personnel: 

“Tiffany,

Will the rescue pick him up Monday? I do not know if this dog is in danger, but you can’t put an indefinite hold on an animal. Please check, I notice that you gave two different “A” numbers.

“Brenda” 

It is surprising that -- considering the documented history of this dog -- -the GM would release it for adoption, first to the public (before it bit the Animal Care Technician) and then to a ‘rescue.’ Ms. Barnette could have easily determined that the above Fd. & Ag. Section did not apply, because this dog was not a “stray.” Additionally, according to legal experts, there are no federal laws governing this issue. 

So, was Brenda unsure of the law, or intimidated by the threats of an individual who does not appear -- nor claim -- to have a formal association with either of the groups she identifies in her email? 

Secondly, GM Barnette acknowledged that it was a dangerous animal by requiring under the condition of release, according to reports, that Sammy leave the state and be taken to Arkansas. 

Here is the LAMC Section that describes how an animal can be declared dangerous: 

SEC 53.34.4. DANGEROUS ANIMAL – PROCEDURES. 

(b) Dangerous Animal-Declared. The Department, after a hearing, may declare any dog or other animal to be a dangerous animal whenever it has bitten, attacked or caused injury to any human being or other animal. 

Apparently the GM’s order was not taken seriously by the local rescuer, because on May 15, Los Angeles Fire Department and LAPD responded to a small, unkempt older house on White Knoll Drive, Los Angeles 90012, (near downtown LA) at approximately 9 pm, where a pit bull was attacking a woman who “was visiting dog to determine if she wants to adopt from the rescue who had been fostering the dog.” That dog was later identified by LA Animal Services as Impound #1608123, “Sammy.” 

The victim was unidentified in the LAFD report, except for the first name, “Melanie,” at a 760-485-XXXX phone number. 

“Sammy” was alive but had been stabbed 19 times by a neighbor who heard the victim screaming. He was transported to an emergency clinic, where he was euthanized, according to the County Dept. of Public Health report.  

Ironically, on May 16, NovaStar Animal Rescue posted on Facebook: 

“For those of you who follow this rescue you probably saw the writing on the wall. Terre has been taking in more dogs than we have been able to place. NOVASTAR IS FULL. We cannot take any more pups. Please help!” 

So who is “Tiffany?” Is she a qualified rescuer under LA Animal Services criteria? Did she sign a release form that she was aware that the pit bull had attacked a human, causing bodily harm, and that he had exhibited a pattern of aggressive behavior? 

Since he was not transported out of Los Angeles, is the City potentially liable for injuries to the victim? 

If Tiffany was designated as a legitimate member of NovaStar Animal Rescue in Arkansas for the purposes of “pulling” Sammy, can that organization or the California Animal Networks, which Tiffany claimed would “press charges” if Sammy was not released, be held legally and/or financially responsible for the attack? 

Or is this just a symptom of a greater quandary? There is no state or federal law governing “rescuers.” There is no prior experience or training mandated, nor are there maintenance, health and sanitation requirements for privately housing multiple animals for adoption. There is also no prescribed inspection or monitoring of care and condition of the animals and no mandate for insurance or standards for temperament of animals sold/adopted to the public by rescuers. In California there is no permit or license issued to establish accountability. To become a “rescue,” all that is necessary is a nonprofit tax status, as defined in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. 

The safety and lives of not only adopters and their families and pets, but also the dedicated people who care for animals in shelters and humane societies -- and the rescuers, themselves -- need to be given more thoughtful consideration. At least five shelter employees at LA Animal Services have reportedly been injured in dog attacks in the last three months, two sustaining possibly permanent damage.

Rescuer Rebecca Carey, 23, was killed in her home in 2012 by dogs she had ‘saved.’ And, an 18-month-old pit bull, named Lily, viciously attacked her adopter and rescuer Patricia Agnello as she was placed in the car with her new “fur mom.” Lily was stabbed-death by a neighbor to save the women. 

Although there are highly responsible and competent rescuers all over the country who maintain high standards for both themselves and adopters, there are also those who act on emotion and make poor decisions as to how many animals they can adequately care for and which animals may not be safe to rehome. 

Based upon the rapidly increasing number of tragic attacks by adopted dogs (including the April 22 killing of a three-day-old baby in San Diego by a recently adopted Pit Bull,) isn’t it time the CA Food and Agricultural Code that mandates unsafe animals “shall” be released to rescues upon request be reconsidered by California lawmakers?

                                                           

(Animal activist Phyllis M. Daugherty writes for CityWatch and is a contributing writer to opposingviews.com.  She lives in Los Angeles.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

ANIMAL WATCH-Rabies is a virus that infects the brain and ultimately leads to death. Any mammal can spread rabies. It is also preventable in pets by keeping their rabies vaccination current. It is hoped the following media reports will demonstrate current instances and tragedies that will cause every dog (and cat) owner to follow the State rabies law and keep California safe.

Read more ...
 
 

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