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Best Friends 'Unfriended' - Feral Cat-TNR Plan Nixed, Pregnant Veterinarian Fired? 

ANIMAL WATCH--Best Friends Animal Society may be losing friends, but not Los Angeles Animal Services' GM Brenda Barnette,

who praises the BFAS "No Kill" shelter program, regardless of unprecedented Pit Bull attacks on shelter staff and the public, and a proposed TNR (Trap/Neuter/Release) plan, to release 200,000 feral/stray cats into the city's streets.   

HISTORY OF THE 'FRIENDS' 

Best Friends was first incorporated as the Process Church of the Final Judgment  (and later the Foundation Church.)  The numerous name changes of the organization since 1964 can be seen on the Louisiana Secretary of State website.  "In 1991, the church was renamed Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, which became a tax-exempt, nonprofit charity, and in 2003 was renamed Best Friends Animal Society," according to Wikipedia

It has occupied L.A. City's newest Valley (Mission) shelter, rent-free, since 2011 in exchange for taking homeless cats and dogs from LAAS.  But, recent stats show these numbers trending down--not up. 

Comparing January 2020 to January 2019, the decrease in animals transferred to Best Friends from LAAS shelters shows:  Cats:  -47%; Kittens: -51%; Dogs: -36%.  (At the same time, dog breeder license sales increased by +21%.)  

Is this a formula for "No Kill?"   

DID BEST FRIENDS FIRE A VETERINARIAN FOR TAKING MATERNITY LEAVE? 

A Labor: Family and Medical Leave Act lawsuit was filed in the Tenth Circuit, Utah Court, by Dr. Dora Csuha, a former Veterinarian at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Knaab, Utah, on January 2, 2019. The Scheduling Order shows motions were due by 1/15/2020. 

In  Bad Blood at Best Friends Animal SocietyHumaneWatch.org explains that, although Best Friends brings in about $100 million a year in donations--supposedly to help animals, "if this lawsuit is true, it didn’t treat a pregnant employee humanely." 

On February 18, 2020, HumaneWatch.org described the allegations filed with the court by Dr. Dora Csuha, who worked as a veterinarian for Best Friends (BFAS) beginning in November 2016. She says she was promoted two months later, after receiving spay/neuter training. 

According to the report, she was then the only veterinarian in the Ogden, UT, high-volume clinic and she also performed other minor surgeries, and received "all A’s during a performance review." By October 2017, Dr. Csuha claims she had performed over 3,500 surgeries at the Ogden clinic and says she was "well trusted at BFAS." 

She alleges that same month she told her boss she was pregnant and would need time off for the birth and bonding with her baby, but BFAS said it was "too early" and she would have to wait three more months to request time off. 

Dr. Csuha claims she then "started receiving unwarranted condemnation and criticisms," even though she was maintaining BFAS standards and expectations. She continued her work, and in February she requested leave under Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to begin on March 17. Instead, she says she was fired on March 15. 

Dr. Csuha is suing BFAS for pregnancy discrimination and violating the FMLA. According to HumaneWatch.org, the case is expected to be heard by a jury sometime this year, and it will provide updates to readers.

BEST FRIENDS' TNR PROPOSAL REJECTED IN NUVAS (UTAH COUNTY) REPORT

The North Utah Valley Animal Services Special Service District (NUVAS) in Utah County, UT, presented a 364-page research report, entitled, "The Science of Feral Cats," at the October 1, 2019, meeting of the Saratoga Springs City Council. The study was prepared by the Environmental Health Director of Utah County, the Assistant City Manager, and a list of officers from various agencies, and was provided at this link, The Truth about TNR, on February 26, 2020.  

This feral cat plan is like the one Best Friends is supporting for implementation in the City of Los Angeles. The research project was for the purpose of establishing the efficacy of TNR.  Here is the conclusion reached regarding Utah County: 

At the conclusion of our exhaustive investigation we find it evident that science simply does not support the effectiveness of Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) programs

Overwhelmingly, the scientific literature indicates that TNR programs not only fail to effectively reduce feral cat populations but also adversely affect the health and well-being of cats, humans, other animals, and ecosystems. Again, and again we discovered that the evidence-based data contradicted claims that TNR is a viable solution to the management of feral and free-roaming cats ... Therefore, we feel it is incumbent upon us to recommend ... not to support, endorse, or implement a TNR program in our community." 

Best Friends Animal Society in Dog Fight over Shock Collars 

 Pet Professional Guild Moves Its PPG Summit 2020 from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary  

On October 26, 2019, the prestigious Pet Professional Guild advised its members it was moving its PPG Summit 2020 from Best Friends Sanctuary and provided its reason for this decision (in pertinent part.)  "We regret to announce that, due to circumstances beyond our control, PPG’s Annual Summit will no longer be held at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary (BFAS) in Kanab, Utah next year."  

It continues, ". . .Having now reviewed a number of videos and firsthand reports from a Best Friends meeting held in Kanab, Utah last Wednesday evening (October 23, 2019), it appears that the assurances we had understood regarding Best Friends’ philosophy on training and behavior protocols were not accurate and, in fact, Best Friends’ philosophy is in direct conflict with PPG’s mission and Guiding Principles – especially our non-negotiables concerning the use of Shock, Prong and Choke, Pain, Force and Fear." (Entire statement here.)   

DOES BEING "NO KILL" JUSTIFY AVERSIVE DOG TRAINING?  

Best Friends, which encourages donating to their "No Kill" program to "save them all," including aggressive Pit Bulls, reportedly (and on video) recently held sessions with its volunteers to discuss its exploration of the use of "aversive" training and the outcome was the perception that some of the more "challenged" dogs could become prospects for training using shock collars-aka, "e-collars."  

One comment on Facebook summed up the feelings of many: 

 "The purpose of bringing this controversial issue to light is to say, Best Friend’s Animal Society you cannot preach kindness to animals and support the use of shock collars. The reason for this uproar by your many supporters is because this is inhumane. To inflict pain on another being for the sole purpose of saving lives, that message is conflicting and makes no sense." 

IS BEST FRIENDS' INCOME AFFECTED BY CRITICS?

Best Friends Borrows $25,000,000 in 2017 

At the Kane County Commissioners May 14, 2018, meeting  Resolution R-2018-14 was passed, approving the financing of acquisition, construction, equipping and furnishing buildings, fixtures and improvements for Best Friends Animal Society--issuance not to exceed $25,000,000, by the sale of industrial facilities and government revenue bonds. It was noted that this was a conduit bond and also that it can't be spent on land. 

The minutes said that "Best Friends financial reports were done on revenue, not on property or real estate."  (Best Friends Animal Sanctuary reportedly owns 3,700 acres, with an additional 33,000 acres leased from the United States Bureau of Land Management.)  

Three members of the public objected or asked questions.  One said these types of bonds should be used for university studies and parks and should support the public and not just one entity."   

The items listed to be purchased/built with the bond money can be seen here under Item 20. (They do not include the new Best Friends' hotel.) 

BEST FRIENDS ROADHOUSE AND MERCANTILE OPENS IN KANAB

In early November 2019, Best Friends announced the opening of the Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile in Kanab, UT--a pet-centric hotel with 30 regular rooms, eight suites and two two-level suites. 

Room prices range from $159 to $299, according to the L.A. Times. The Mercantile next door offers food, drinks, including beer and wine, and Best Friends-branded merchandise. Proceeds from the hotel and store will help fund the animal sanctuary’s campaigns, the report states. 

SINCE 2018 "BEST FRIENDS' NEW TOP DOG IS A WOMAN" 

Best Friends 'Humble Beginnings," according To New CEO 

Julie Castle was appointed CEO of Best Friends in 2018. She is the wife of Gregory Castle, one of the original photographed members of the Process Church of the Final Judgment. 

Julie, being a newcomer, has a little different memory of the organization's "humble beginnings." She told the Salt Lake City Tribune that, at the time she started, Best Friends was “really living hand-to-mouth. We were an $800,000 organization, and, literally, we were raising money by sitting out in front of grocery stores asking for donations.“  

She added, "Today, Best Friends is a $130-million organization with locations in Kanab, Salt Lake City, New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles, with programs in “nearly every state. We blossomed into the leader of the no-kill movement.”  

FollowTheMoney.org states (under Best Friends Lobbying) that BEST FRIENDS has hired 36 different lobbyists over 9 years.  

It is clear that Best Friends is no longer "living from hand-to-mouth" as a mere $800,000 organization. And, it is also unlikely that being "unfriended" is even being noticed.  

With this kind of income stream, business acumen and political clout, who needs friends?

 

(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of LA employee and a contributor to CityWatch.)

-cw