ANIMAL WATCH-Without an aggressive, well-funded spay/neuter plan in place for Los Angeles when COVID-19 seclusion ends, two animal populations -- Pit Bulls and feral cats -- will explode at a time when dog attacks are already at record levels and City Hall plans a $2M money-grab to TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release) 20,000 feral cats annually into the streets over ten years, under the Best Friends' Animal Society 'No Kill’ decree.
At the March 24 LA Animal Services Commission meeting, GM Brenda Barnette discussed that Mayor Garcetti has appropriated $650,000 for free or subsidized spays/neuters of dogs and cats next year. However, the current $250,000 unspent balance is expected to revert to the City's General Fund. That will leave a total of only $400,000 to provide free or subsidized surgical sterilization for pets of low-income owners in a population of 4-million people.
Did this dangerous depletion of spay/neuter funding occur because of mismanagement, failure to monitor (not likely because a financial report is provided monthly to the Commission,) or is it part of a carefully crafted plan by former dog-breeder Barnette to stop mandatory spay/neuter and increase owned-cat and dog limits in the City so that breeders will not be deterred?
CITY OF LA HAS A MANDATORY SPAY/NEUTER ORDINANCE
Los Angeles has had a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance for dogs and cats four months of age or older (with some exemptions) since February 26, 2008.
The July 1, 2019, census report shows per capita income in LA is $33,420. Median income per household in 2018 was $58,385 and EVERYONE, even if homeless, is encouraged to have a pet in their tent, apartment, or house in order to empty the animal shelters.
One of the sources of revenue for spay/neuter is $2 from each dog license sold, but since Barnette has been GM, there has been no robust licensing effort and there is no requirement for tax-exempt, non-profit 'rescue' organizations to assure that the thousands of dogs adopted from them to City residents are licensed by the new owner.
WHY DIDN'T BARNETTE REPORT A PENDING SHORTAGE OF S/N FUNDS?
On March 31, 2016, LA Animal Services had an unspent balance of $5,004,395.66 in the Animal Services Pet Sterilization Trust Fund and Barnette was instructed by the Commission to increase her spay/neuter efforts.
Barnette admitted that an additional 2016-2017 annual contribution by the City Council of $1,000,000 was cancelled because of her high reserve. (That annual contribution has not been restored.)
However, the Council did not authorize her to drain the fund without maintaining an achievable permanent revenue stream, including licensing (which is pitifully low in L.A.), donations and other sources (in addition to the General Fund contribution) to assure there was assistance for pet-owners who qualify.
In 2018, the Budget and Finance Committee must have had some concerns and recommended authorizing a full-time Accounting position.
Barnette is paid $315,000 per year (the President of the U.S. makes only $400,000) to manage this small City department with approximately 350 employees. According to the Council, it is her job to assure that there is money in this fund to assist low-income dog owners to comply with this mandate. However, the mandate is still the law--with or without public subsidy.
ANIMAL STERILIZATION TRUST FUND v ANIMAL WELFARE TRUST FUND
The financial status of funds is reported regularly to the Commission, which has also shown no alarm or concern about this declining sterilization-fund balance.
Instead, Barnette has devoted her efforts to changing the Animal Welfare Trust Fund so that she can use much of the money from bequests/donations to this fund for programs of unmeasured and unproven value that DO NOT directly improve the daily lives of animals.
The impetus for establishing this fund in the 1980's and carefully limiting how funds could be spent was to assure donors that their money would be spent as they wished -- to maintain the animal shelters and sustain and improve the quality of life in these structures.
Some of the recent programs on which this money has been used are little-known or start-up non-profit organizations providing services with NO actual auditable results.
The Commission and Paul Koretz have also gushed over a string of pricey programs with no actual comparable cost-benefit analysis to the city or shelter in terms of helping ALL or a large number of the animals. (See: LA Animal Services "Prison Dog Training Program" Flyer Features Black Man with Pit Bull.)
NO PROGRAM TO INSURE CAT-OWNER RESPONSIBILITY
Although Councilman Paul Koretz' committee authorized spending $100,000 in 2018 and again in 2019 for free cat spays, most other programs have been to get free cats out of the shelter. "Free," unlicensed animals do not replenish spay/neuter funding.
However, both GM Barnette and Councilman Paul Koretz (who told KPPC radio that he owned 19 cats as a child) have consistently refused to support required microchipping or licensing of owned cats to establish owner responsibility and accountability. Their solution has been instead, to attempt to pass laws to permit increased or unlimited cats.
BARNETTE OPENLY OPPOSED MANDATORY SPAY/NEUTER AFTER BECOMING LAAS GM
Two years after being hired, Brenda Barnette publicly opposed Pasadena's effort to pass a Pit Bull spay/neuter ordinance to control breeding after numerous attacks on humans and animals had occurred.
When LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Councilman Paul Koretz announced on June 17, 2010, that Brenda Barnette was the “most qualified” candidate to head Los Angeles Animal Services, Barnette was quick to attempt to separate herself from the breeding community by stating that she had bred dogs in the past but was not doing so when she was hired.
She added that being the Legislative Representative for the American Kennel Club (AKC) amounts to merely hitting the “forward key” when the world’s largest purebred dog-breeding registry sends information on issues to oppose or support.
Ron Kaye, former editor of the Los Angeles Daily News, wrote on June 29, 2010, on Ron Kaye LA news blog, “The most serious questions revolve around her [Barnette’s] roles as legislative liaison for the American Kennel Club and with a political action committee funded by breeders who waged a vigorous fight against mandatory spay/neuter laws in California — information she has taken down from her Facebook page since her nomination.”
However, old habits apparently die hard, and on November 16, 2012, at 3:21 p.m. Barnette pushed a "forward key" and posted the following on Facebook during working hours, which gave the impression that this could be the official position of the City of LA -- especially since it was on a site regularly used to announce and discuss programs of the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services:
Pasadena, CA to Discuss Possible Breed-Specific Mandatory Spay/Neuter on November 19th
The Pasadena Public Safety Committee will discuss a possible breed-specific mandatory spay/neuter ordinance at their meeting Monday, November 19th. This is an informational item and the committee does not have a recommendation at this time. The full report and agenda can be seen here.
Concerned residents and responsible dog owners are encouraged to attend this meeting and highlight the ineffectiveness of breed-specific legislation.
HOW WERE PIT BULLS DOING UNDER GM BARNETTE’S WATCH?
Although Barnette was appointed to her Los Angeles City position in June 2010, she didn’t actually start the job until September and here’s what happened after that in regard to the serious Pit Bull overpopulation in Los Angeles.
Shouldn't this have been a signal:
During the pre-Brenda 12-month period ending August 31, 2010, (and in the height of the foreclosure crisis), the number of Pit Bulls impounded in the six city shelters was 6,917. According to her own stats, in the 12 months ending on October 31, 2012, the number of impounded Pit Bulls had jumped to 7,243. That is an increase of 326. And there is no indication that this upward swing will reverse anytime soon.
One reason, obviously, is that little emphasis has been placed on spay/neuter in Los Angeles or enforcing the City’s existing spay/neuter requirements for any non-exempt dog since Brenda has been here.
Also, in 2012, a photo appeared in an article showing Brenda Barnette holding a trophy at the Seattle Kennel Club Dog Show in March 2010. (During the period of Interviews for the LAAS GM job.)
WHY THE SUDDEN INTEREST IN FERAL CATS?
Suddenly, in 2017, the feral cat problem reportedly become so great that the Mayor and Council approved a total expenditure of $1.5 million to do a study to overturn a court injunction (Urban Wildlands Group v. City of Los Angeles) which prohibits the expenditure of City funds to sterilize feral cats, and they are now proposing to spend $2 million of taxpayer money to TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release) feral cats in a CITYWIDE CAT PROGRAM.
And current practices also include RTF (Return-To-Field), which essentially means just altering even an obviously domestic cat which may have an owner, back into the streets, rather than holding it in the shelter. Spay/Neuter funds used for feral cats cannot be audited because there is no owner to verify what services were performed.
WHO IS KEEPING TRACK? - THE LAST AUDIT OF LAAS
Sadly, a golden opportunity in 2015 for Controller Ron Galperin to assure tax-allocated funds and Animal Sterilization Trust Funds were being used to address pet overpopulation and compliance with spay/neuter and licensing laws turned into a cheerleading session for Brenda Barnette and Best Friends' "No Kill" program.
Galperin admits his assessment was done to appease animal advocates’ skepticism. Yet, the most obvious flaw of this audit -- which was far too narrow to be anything more than an effort to silence the criticism of Brenda Barnette -- is that it misses the objective measures of accountability in the area it purports to analyze, which is “No Kill.”
Councilman Paul Koretz inserted himself into the hiring process for Brenda Barnette and had LA Animal Services removed from the oversight of the Public Safety Committee (which generates the LAAS budget) and assigned to him, as Chairman of then-formed City Council's Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee. This assured that there was no question -- other than his -- in regard to Brenda Barnette's spending or program activities.
Koretz is closely allied with Mayor Eric Garcetti -- his wife works in the Mayor's office -- and the Council does not question his decisions on any items related to LA Animal Services.
Paul Koretz is now planning to run for City Controller as Ron Galperin is termed out and is announcing an intended leap to State Controller. "It is all a little too incestuous," a CityWatch reader recently commented.
BRENDA BARNETTE MAY DO SOME SPAY/NEUTER FUNDRAISING
It's a little late for GM Barnette to decide to raise spay/neuter funds. But late is better than nothing at this point, but can we trust how they will be used? She has made efforts in the past to create "foundations" or develop a group to solicit funds to help shelter animals, but all have run into legal issues AND NONE MENTIONED SPAY/NEUTER.
Here's a brief summary and the link to learn more: (Has LA Animal Services Brenda Barnette Crossed the Line with Questionable Fundraising MOU?)
The most recent “Los Angeles Animal Rescue Foundation” is actually Brenda’s third (known) attempt to form a nonprofit.
An August 13, 2014, report by Barnette to Mayor Garcetti regarding the creation of an Animal Foundation with former-Commissioner Maggie Neilson, is marked “Note and File.”
It identifies that, “The General Manager is working with former Animal Services Commissioner Maggie Neilson, Partner and CEO of Global Philanthropy, to form "The Foundation," a public nonprofit to help support the work of Animal Services.”
Then it took a strange turn -- proposing that “Part of The Foundation would use the abandoned South LA shelter as a job training location for community members. . .” Concluding, “Animal Services is working with Chrysalis, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a pathway to self-sufficiency for homeless and low-income individuals. . .”
This is visionary; but it is hard to grasp the nexus to raising money for an animal shelter.
Friends of Los Angeles Animal Shelters
Former-Commissioner, Terri Marcellaro and GM Brenda Barnette were involved in forming the 2011 nonprofit, called “Friends of Los Angeles Animal Shelters” to solicit funds in the name of LA City shelter animals. Donor packages of up to $50,000 were planned to be offered by the Friends of LA Animal Shelters, according to their documents.
Mr. Barnette was not entirely forthcoming in her report to the Commission about her involvement with this group, and Dov Lesel of the City Attorney’s Office and the City Administrative Office denied knowledge of an MOU or contract, in response to my inquiries.
A visit to the Friends of LA Animal Shelters website on November 14, 2012, showed the following under “Donate”:
"Friends of L.A. Animal Shelters is the fundraising arm of the city shelters. If you give directly to the city, there is no guarantee your money will reach the animals. Any money donated to us is guaranteed to go directly to the animals." (Note: This wording was changed soon after my CPRA was received by the City.)
GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOME - GIVING $50 MILLION TO CATS?
In a recent CityWatchLA article we explored, "Best Friends: CA Gov. Newsom's $50M Budget Proposal for 'No Kill' was a Promise to Whom? It seems Governor Newsom told the Sacramento Bee in January 2020, "We want to be a No-Kill state. . .and he's ready to put taxpayer money toward the cause." In fact, he is pledging a $50M recommendation in his budget proposal.
However, the $50 million will not go directly to the shelters, but will reportedly be a one-time allocation from the State's general fund to UC Davis' Koret Shelter Medicine program, administered by Dr. Kate Hurley, who will control its use and develop a grant program for shelters over a five-year period.
It appears Dr. Hurley's passion is TNR and feral cat management, which removes cats from shelters or traps them in the streets and creates "colonies."
Many animal lovers do not consider a life of fear to be humane because they are still subjected to hazards and predators. They also encroach on private property rights by wandering into yards to defecate and urinate and can spread diseases to domestic pets and humans.
Governor Newsom may be changing his mind, considering that 36 million people (probably more by now) are unemployed due to the COVID-19 restrictions on commerce. But, even if that had not happened, is the Gov's interpretation of “No Kill” merely releasing cats?
BRENDA BARNETTE LOVES PUPPPIES
LA Animal Services GM Barnette Wants Puppies Born in Shelters
In 2013, GM Barnette announced that when pregnant dogs come into the shelter they should not be spayed, but should be allowed to have the puppies, which can be sold for extra revenue. And again in 2019, Brenda said puppies can increase revenue to shelters and retail rescue pet shops.
In her latest attempt last year to promote an effort to end pregnant-spays in shelter, the mother dog, named Snowball, died what may have been a very painful death. No one knows for sure, because Barnette and her Director of Field Operations Annette Ramirez had moved the dog to a private unnamed veterinary office. (See: Why Did LAAS GM Barnette Try to Cover Up Death of Pregnant Shelter Dog, Snowball.
Brenda, the former dog breeder, whose daughter was called "a responsible breeder" by Best Friends' Mark Peralta, (See: Brenda Barnette's daughter is a responsible dog breeder, says Best Friends LA) has made no overt effort to stop this activity.
What Brenda Barnette has done to both LA Animal Trust Funds since she has been here speaks louder than any promises she can now make of remedying the current and impending crisis.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER COVID-19?
Under normal conditions, most dogs and cats are altered upon adoption or release to fosters, but during the COVID-19 crisis, pets are leaving the shelters unaltered as (temporary) “fosters” or (permanent) adoptions. At least 70% of the dogs on the LAAS at website are Pit Bull breeds or mixes. All that is required is a "photo ID.” No formal background check is made of the individual or the home, and there is no fee or deposit for a fostered animal.
Since this is the peak of dog and cat breeding season, it can be expected that shortly a substantial number of adolescent or adult female animals will be returned to the shelter pregnant or with puppies or kittens and will add to the anticipated overpopulation of shelters. Some will escape and become strays, and some may be given away or sold on Craigslist.
Brenda Barnette definitely does not appear to have a plan. Her management in this crisis has been pathetic and even cruel. The shelters have been closed -- WITH INADEQUATE OR NO SIGNAGE ON DOORS OR BANNERS ON THE SHELTERS TELLING PEOPLE HOW TO GET IMMEDIATE VETERINARY HELP, which is required by law!
She apparently plans to continue accepting animals only by appointment--unless it is an emergency. We pay for our LA shelters to provide public service 24 hours a day. Is this the tragedy it appears to be or is it an opportunity for Barnette to possibly implement some of her personal goals regarding the benefit of puppies in the shelters and the need to leave/release cats in the streets.
And it appears there will not be adequate funding to immediately spay/neuter many of the animals that will be returned from foster. She has boasted about how progressive she has been in management of the animals. It appears time will tell -- and that time will be soon.
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a contributor to CityWatch and a former LA City employee. She is currently employed by the U.S. Postal Service.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.