ANIMAL WATCH-While LA Animal Services’ General Manager Brenda Barnette was gushing over the success of her COVID-19 Fostering Campaign and emptying Los Angeles animal shelters, on April 23, TMZ reported, “‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding’s Foster Pit Bull Mauls Smaller Dog.”
Media accounts reveal that Stella, a Pit Bull, who was shown in a photo in front of a Los Angeles animal shelter with Golding and his wife, attacked a five-pound terrier-mix in a West Los Angeles park.
Referring to Stella as a “new family member,” Read Sector wrote, “Golding and wife Liv have fostered Stella since March 31, as overflowing animal shelters in Los Angeles appealed for help caring for their inmates during quarantine.”
It seems the fostered Pit Bull, Stella, grabbed little Lulu by the neck while being walked by Golding at the Los Angeles Pan Pacific Park in West LA, leaving a nasty gash on the tiny dog’s neck and resulting in hours spent at an emergency veterinary hospital getting sutures to close the wound.
OTHER FOSTERS / FAMILIES AND ATTACKS
If you follow CityWatch, you know that attacks on fosters, adopters (or potential adopters), other animals, volunteers and employees by LA shelter Pit Bulls are far too common. Often the dog is surrendered by a prior owner due to dangerous, aggressive behavior or it has already bitten someone. The shelter then offers these Pits to the public as pets.
Here are a few recent examples:
‘Fostered” Pit Bull Attacks Wife of Los Angeles Drummer / Instructor Noel Jasso) - Los Angeles Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnette’s plaintive media pleas for pet lovers to “foster” impounded dogs from the City's six shelters during the Fourth of July holiday week touched the hearts of LA drummer Noel Jasso and his wife, Tori, who opened their home on July 7 to a two-year-old Pit Bull named Mugsy.
Without warning, Mugsy -- whose eyes were now totally focused on Tori -- left his bed and came toward her. Tori told me that he stopped and rested his head very briefly on the corner of the couch, as he often did, and she didn't move. Mugsy then jumped up onto the couch and immediately lunged toward her, biting her head, and ripping her scalp. He also bit her hand when she tried to protect herself. She began screaming as blood gushed down her face.
Pit Bull that Attacked LA ‘Foster’ Had Known History of Aggression – Can Shelters Escape Liability?” – Noel [Jasso] said the city shelter staff informed them that, after Mugsy -- identified only as a "mixed breed" at the shelter -- was first impounded in November 2018, he had been adopted and returned twice and that "he is a little aggressive with other animals but he is good with adults and children."
Dog with History of Aggression Attacks Child at Los Angeles Animal Services ‘No Kill’ Shelter. On July 20 a large German Shepherd-type dog, named Boss, with a reported history of aggression, attacked while being introduced to a family, disfiguring a 7-year-old boy who was with his family at the City shelter to adopt a family pet.
The latest (unconfirmed) report is that, in addition to lacerations and punctures to his face, the child may lose one eye as a result. The dog had recently been surrendered by another family, with a written statement that it had bitten a child.
WHAT IS GM BARNETTE’S POST-COVID-19 PLAN?
Soon Los Angeles Animal Services' six animal shelters will again be filled with at least 70% Pit Bulls, (many of which have known behavioral problems). Animals fostered for COVID-19 will come back -- some may be pregnant because Barnette is releasing them in-tact. And, people who have lost jobs and homes will be dumping their pets.
So what is General Manager Brenda Barnette's plan for the anticipated influx of animals?
It doesn't seem clear. She has shut down two critical shelters, is releasing free dogs, cats and rabbits without spay/neuter, and people who find pets--and want to take them to the shelter for the owner to find them--are being advised to take the animal home and make an appointment, according to reports.
She has also put Animal Control Officers on 12-hour shifts (day and night), which can pose serious risks of more accidents/injury from stress and fatigue.
She says this is due to being short-staffed because of COVID and non-COVID-related absences. (See: Pit Bull Attacks at LA Animal Services Shelters: Did City Attorney Try to Hide Reports?)
WILL A $1.5 MILLION WEBSITE HELP?
At the March 10 LA Animal Services Commission meeting, GM Barnette unveiled her plan to enter into an agreement with a relatively unknown company, called “The Glue LLC” for website design, PR consulting and management, for an amount not to exceed $1,545,000. She failed to mention the cost in an otherwise fairly well-detailed report.
At a February 26, 2019 meeting, where this project in conjunction with the Mayor's Office was first introduced and no cost was indicated, Barnette advised the Commission that Item 6A, to "Release Marketing, Fund Raising, Public Relations and Website Development / Management Services" (request for proposal) did not require an estimate of cost, because they will be informed later of her recommendation as to whom the contract should be awarded. The report stated any contract will be paid for by the Animal Welfare Trust Fund (AWTF) -- a donation fund, which is designated to improve conditions in shelters.
Barnette also informed the Board that this request is necessary because, "The experience, time and resources needed to implement an LAAS rebranding, website development and management and fundraising outreach program are not within the scope of current [LAAS] resources."
At both meetings, this has, of course, received unanimous approval from the Mayor-appointed Commission. Brenda stressed emphatically that this is being done in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office and the Mayor wants this passed. If it was that important, why was a web-design/PR company with extensive experience in this field chosen for the contract?
And, why is Garcetti suddenly so interested in animals? He has only been tacitly involved in these issues in the past as Councilman and Council President. Perhaps the publicity? Or maybe the monetary/political influence of the large humane organizations?
IS 'LOVING DOGS' ENOUGH TO CREATE THE LAAS WEBSITE?
Barnette wrote that out of eight bidders, The Glue LLC had the “highest qualification and the lowest cost.” Yet it was obvious that the two young women who appeared at the meeting had no planned oral presentation. They also appeared to have little, if any, knowledge of the technicalities of animal control agencies or animal shelters (other than one owning rescued dogs.)
Barnette emphasized that the Mayor’s office will be directly involved in this project designed to bring in major donors.
When asked by the Commission how soon the website would be up, the Glue LLC representatives replied that they would have to do various analyses of all aspects of the Department's needs for ONE YEAR before producing a website. Then there would be “two years of advising, managing and perfecting the program.”
According to the LAAS report, the company will provide marketing outreach related to high-level donor fundraising, public relations, and rebranding. (The entire discussion is on the audio of the March 10, 2020, Commission meeting.)
A PLAN OR A GAMBLE?
Barnette interjected that, after the first year, donations should double. But that speculation sounds like a “gamble” not a plan—and it is being done with the animals’ money. There is no indication from what is on the Internet, that this group has done prior fundraising sites, but there was repeated mention of "re-branding" during the meeting.
The only outside rating for The Glue LLC that came up on Google search or by perusing any of the few items which contain this name, was on InHerSight, which describes it as a Los Angeles “Marketing and Advertising” firm, with 2 to 10 employees—all of whom are women. The Glue, LLC Employee Ratings is 3.1.
On its own site, The Glue LLC displays LA City transit-related sites and the Pasadena Water Department.
There was no Commission discussion about the Animal Welfare Trust Fund being just that -- a “Trust,” created to assure the money donated is spent ONLY on the direct improvement of shelter conditions and programs for the animals.
HOW BRENDA CURRENTLY SOLICITS FUNDS FOR THE AWTF
Here is the wording used by GM Barnette to tug at heartstrings and open wallets:
The Animal Welfare Trust Fund 859. Your donation to the Animal Welfare Trust Fund will be used to enhance the quality of life for shelter animals by funding animal supplies, medical equipment or services and other improvements to enrich the lives of the animals in our care. These funds also assist with expenditures related to the foster program and special medical treatment that may be outside the scope of day-to-day shelter care.
However, at this same meeting she “recommended that the Board of LA Animal Services Commissioners approve “the use of up to $23,000 in Animal Welfare Trust Fund for a two-day Leadership and Management for Animal Welfare Professionals training for up to 50 employees.” (Is this what most donors have in mind when they donate to an animal shelter?)
LA Animal Services has funding for training in its near-$50- million budget. Should money donated for homeless animals be spent this way? Or, is training a governmental (budgetary) responsibility?
HISTORICAL SANCTITY OF THE ANIMAL WELFARE TRUST FUND – BEFORE BRENDA BARNETTE
In 1986, then-Mayor Tom Bradley signed an ordinance to provide an official Animal Welfare Trust Fund (AWTF) to assure that money given by private donors or bequeathed by estates would be used ONLY to improve the animal shelters and directly enhancing the lives of animals who are impounded in LA City shelters.
It was established as a “Trust” fund so that it could not be siphoned off for the personal whims of corrupt managers or fall into the greedy paws of politicians.
The restrictive use of non-targeted donations also assured it could be regularly audited and not diverted to programs that might violate the public's trust and confidence and cause reluctance to give money to a City-managed fund.
Until Brenda Barnette and Councilman Paul Koretz (Chair of the City Council PAW Committee) decided more flexibility was needed and revised the ordinance, it remained carefully guarded by that covenant.
BEST- KEPT SECRET -- NEW ANIMAL WELFARE TRUST FUND ORDINANCE
The new Ordinance (CF No. 17-1141), which was requested by GM Barnette, approved by the Council and signed by the Mayor on June 19, 2018, allows the General Manager of Los Angeles Animal Services to implement ANY new program, other than pet sterilizations (these are funded by the Animal Sterilization Fund), and Council approval is required only on contracts exceeding $25,000. (This does not appear to preclude awarding short-term contracts under $25,000 with options for renewal.)
'A TRICKY AREA OF PHILANTHROPY' - KPCC (Public Radio)
On August 23, 2017, KPCC published ‘A tricky area of philanthropy:’ LA mayor solicits millions for his favored causes."
Under the photo of the Mayor, it states: “Mayor Eric Garcetti has used a little-known mechanism to raise $31.9 million in big donations for his favored causes. About two dozen of the contributors do business with the city.”
Craig Settles, broadband industry analyst, told KPPC, “If there’s anyone that’s paying attention, you realize that the company doesn’t have to give the money to the legislator directly . . . You just basically funnel it into different activities where the elected official can get a great photo op and then, boom, there you go."
“Limits on the amount that a donor can give directly to a candidate are in place for a reason, and that’s to limit corruption,” Settles added, “By a donor being allowed to support a public official above and beyond the legal contribution limits undermines the law’s anti-corruption purpose.”
IT'S CALLED ‘PARTNERING’ and ‘INFLUENCERS’
Increasingly quid-pro-quo relationships with government officials and agencies are being exposed. The LA City Attorney’s office needs to stop ignoring partnering and influencer arrangements by non-profit organizations and others with the LA Animal Services Department that allow any form of access to information about, or contact with, pet owners.
Municipal/public animal control agencies and shelters are governmental law-enforcement agencies that mandate pet owners to divulge personal information about themselves and their pet for licensing and other purposes.
Why would foundations and non-profit organizations want this information? In 2019, $95.7 billion was spent on pets in the U.S., according to the Pet Industry Market Size & Ownership Statistics.
EPIDEMIC OF PIT BULL ATTACKS
And, in view of the increasing epidemic of attacks by Pit Bulls and other aggressive dogs, LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette and Mayor Garcetti must first consider the safety of all in this city and stop promoting the deceptive and dangerous “No Kill” scheme, which appeals to the emotions of animal lovers, and generates millions of dollars in donations annually but leaves a bloody trail of victims (human and animal).
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of LA employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.