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Is Best Friends-'No-Kill' LA - Abandoning the Pit Bulls in Los Angeles Animal Services' Shelters?

ANIMAL WATCH-Since August 16, 2011, shortly after Brenda Barnette was appointed GM at Los Angeles Animal Services, Best Friends Animal Society (NKLA) -- one of the nation's strongest proponents of Pit Bull ownership--has occupied the new Northeast Valley "Mission" Animal Shelter rent-free and as a "service provider."

The construction of this facility was deemed by consultants to the City to be necessary because of population increase in 2000 and is still being paid for by Los Angeles City property owners under Prop. F bonds.  

Best Friends has developed and marketed its plan called "No Kill Los Angeles" from this location since then, initially predicting LA would reach a “live-save” rate of 90% by 2017. 

Best Friends is also one of the nation's most-outspoken promoters of Pit Bull ownership, maintaining several sections on its website expounding on the virtues of this breed-type. Pit Bulls are also by far the dominant breed in L.A. Animal Services shelters, with the longest impound periods.  

Best Friends has dramatically decreased the number of animals it "saves" from City shelters under its annual contract with the City of LA and indicates it is making further changes in its "lifesaving" center, which according to the description, would preclude many of these long-stay dogs -- in favor of concentrating on cat and kittens. 

COVID AND TWO CLOSED SHELTERS HELP BEST FRIENDS- LA REACH 'NO-KILL' 

It appears that COVID has aided Best Friends in its "No Kill" efforts. On August 21, Best Friends Animal Society - Los Angeles sent an e-mail announcement, with a Pit Bull photographed on the heading, to "Los Angeles Volunteers," stating, "Year-to-date LA City is at the combined save rate of 90.80%." (See more below.) 

This could be a very temporary indicator; however, largely due to COVID allowing GM Barnette to minimize intake of animals by closing two busy shelters--West Valley and North Central, serving downtown LA and Hollywood). 

In fact, LAAS stats show that in July 2020, City shelters had impounded only 14,527 animals in its four open shelters, compared to 27,657 by July 2019, in all six. 

 And that makes us wonder what happened to the other 13,000+ pets/strays. LAAS advises that lost/stray animals be left where found on the streets, taken in and kept by strangers, or brought into an open-shelter location by appointment only has dramatically decreased impounds--and, thus, lowered the number that were euthanized for severe illness, injury or aggression, which would help its "No Kill" stats, but not necessarily the animals. 

And it doesn't tell us whether the animals are safe, well or how they died. 

Best Friends admits that COVID has helped: "We could not have dreamt up the support we received from the community at the start of COVID and want to keep the momentum going . . .As a result, we are making a few changes in Los Angeles. These changes really seize the acceleration opportunities that COVID helped bring about." 

It also states, "In Los Angeles, we've seen how effective we can be when working with a coalition of partners, Best Friends, Los Angeles Animal Services and our incredible NKLA coalition has already made LA no-kill for dogs, and we are primed to continue to support LAAS as well as expanding our work beyond the city's borders." 

BEST FRIENDS' OVERVIEW OF THE FUTURE 

Here are excerpts from the "overview" under "The Best Friends Lifesaving Center in Mission Hills, "We will continue that evolution by ending the long-term housing of dogs and cats on-site and shifting our focus and resources to a community embracing, foster-based model of lifesaving programs. . .this will include transferring long-term resident dogs out of kennels to the Sanctuary. . .by the end of 2020." It continues, "Mission Hills will continue to be open to the public for cat and dog adoptions who are there for short-term stays."  

Under The NKLA Facility in West LA, "We will be shifting the terminology from the NKLA Pet Adoption Center to the Best Friends Pet Adoption Center. . .and will use the power of Best Friends brand to drive even more traffic to the center to learn more about NKLA and our regional/national programs and partners."  

A DIFFERENT FORECAST BY GM BRENDA BARNETTE 

"No Kill" is supposedly achieved by achieving a 90% live-save rate at the shelter (meaning 90% left alive, no matter where they went.) So, in July 2020, LAAS stats show a "live-save" rate of 93.84% of dogs; 94.25% of kittens; and 83.05% of cats reportedly left alive. Averaged out this equaled an overall 91.19% = BINGO! 

It appears Best Friends quickly announced that Los Angeles has reached the magical "No Kill" --  before the doom-and-gloom reality forecast by GM Brenda Barnette and Commission President Larry Gross -- all based on "evictions," not loss of jobs or closing businesses -- to justify changing the West Valley shelter to a Community Services Center, which will allow free space for New Hope rescuers with pets from other City shelters/areas and a rental/eviction office. (Larry Gross heads one of the most prominent rental-advocates groups in Los Angeles.) 

Barnette has not been able to make a plausible explanation of how closing one of the largest City shelters to homeless animals in the community is going to solve or assist this problem AND not add to it, since 40% of the entire City of Los Angeles (224 square miles -- see map) will be left with only the smaller East Valley animal shelter located in Van Nuys.) 

AT LEAST 85% OF DOGS IN L.A.SHELTERS ARE PIT BULL-TYPES 

The database of current dogs impounded in the four Los Angeles city shelters remaining open during COVID shows that  at least 85% are Pit Bull-types -- some stating “for rescue only,” which indicates behavioral/aggression issues too dangerous to release them directly to the public, thus "rescues" are allowed “re-home” them. Many came into the shelter as early April 2019. 

Best Friends Animal Society is undoubtedly the nation's strongest supporter of  "saving them all" when it comes to Pit Bull-type dogs, even featuring a Pit Bull on the "No Kill" announcement to LA volunteers. 

According to Los Angeles Animal Services statistics, there are only 243 dogs currently held at the four shelters (North Central still closed and Barnette planning to "reconstitute" the desperately needed West Valley shelter as a “Consumer Service Center,” which would not impound the animals for which it was built and paid.") 

She assures that the thousands of others (14,527) have been “fostered” or adopted into wonderful homes. 

THEN, WHY ARE LAAS DOGS BEING FLOWN TO OREGON AND WASHINGTON? 

On August 28, LA Animal Services tweeted, "L.A. Animal Services and Dog is my Copilot, Inc. sent 23 dogs and 132 cats and kittens to Oregon, Washington and Idaho for a second chance at finding that new home! #AnimalShelteringReimagined #LAAnimalServices (and three others). 

And, Dogs as my Copilot, Inc. later tweeted, "And that's a wrap! Wow, 151 dogs and kittens are starting their new lives today! Thanks to our incredible life-saving partners -- we are SO proud to work alongside these amazing organizations!" (The groups listed include Paws for Life K9 Rescue, LA Animal Services, Best Friends Animal Society - Los Angeles, Angel City Pit Bulls and several more, and end with Idaho Humane Society @kootenia humane.) 

If the City of Los Angeles is "No Kill" and finding so many amazing homes for all its animals SO THAT ONE OF THE MOST VITAL SHELTERS (WEST VALLEY) CAN BE "RECONSTITUTED" as a Customer Service Center, why are kittens and dogs (the short video strip was a Pit Bull) being shipped to other states? 

RISKS OF PIT BULLS GOING TO DOG FIGHTERS 

Also, an alarming warning about the possibility of any transfer of Pit Bulls to other states is this news story by KREM2 in 2017, showing a "Cour d'Alene Swap 'N Shop Facebook Page and titled, "Pit bull fighting Facebook post sparks outrage online."  

The message reads: 

I'm looking to buy a few pitbulls. Does anybody have any they wanna sell or get rid of?  It's for a chomper league.  I need 2 bait and at least 2 fighters. Thanks in advance.  I can pay $500 each. 

Local police acknowledged dog fighting is a felony and referred this to animal control, according to the report.  (Dog fighting became a felony in 2008 in Idaho.) 

Cour d'Alene is in Kootenai County (one of the shelters thanked in the transport message.)  

BEST FRIENDS CONTRACT WITH L.A. ANIMAL SERVICES 

On April 27, 2020, Mayor Eric Garcetti transmitted a "First Amendment to Contract No. 128954 with Best Friends Animal Society, to provide Facility Operation Services for the Northeast Valley Animal Shelter," to extend the contract for one year, from January 1, 2020, through December 30, 2021. The CAO's report states that the Northeast Valley (NEV) shelter will be included in the $500,000 provided for animal-shelter Capital Improvements. 

This should be carefully read by any taxpayer in the City of Los Angeles and can be seen here and compared with the earlier contracts on the City Clerk's site.)  

HAS BEST FRIENDS' VALUE TO THE CITY DOUBLED FROM 2017 TO 2020

2017 FISCAL IMPACT SUMMARY: 

"The Department of General Services is budgeted $200,000 annually to continue to provide basic facility maintenance and utilities for the Northeast Valley Animal Shelter. The recommendation will provide cost avoidance savings during the term of the contract based on the services Best Friends is willing to provide at no additional cost to the City. The value of services provided is approximately $3.8 million per year.

2020 FISCAL IMPACT SUMMARY: 

"Approval of the recommendation in this report will have no additional impact on the General Fund. An allocation of $500,000 is included in the City's Fiscal Year 2019-2020 Capital Improvement Expenditure Program. . .to support maintenance costs at all Animal Services facilities, including the NEV (North East Valley). 

The recommendation will provide cost avoidance saving during the term of the contract based on the services Best Friends Animal Society is willing to provide at no additional cost to the City. The value of services provided is approximately $6.8 million per year." 

HOW MUCH SERVICE FROM BEST FRIENDS FULFILLS THE VALUE OF $6.8 MILLION? 

LAAS Statistics for the total number of animals taken from LAAS shelters by  Best Friends this year, compared to the same period last year, show a 50% decrease -- from 1,125 (2019)  to 568 (2020). Thus far this year (through July), there is a decrease of 63% -- from 192 (2019) to 72 (2020). The chart can be seen here.  

What services will fulfill the anticipated value of $6.8 million in services to the City by Best Friends before December 31, 2020? 

And Best Friends stated in its "Best Friends Los Angeles Operational Changes for 2011 and Beyond," that, "Mission Hills will continue to be open to the public for cat and dog adoptions who are there for short-term stays." 

The animals that have the longest stays in Los Angeles Animal Shelters are Pit Bull-type dogs. Does this mean Best Friends is abandoning the breed it most extols? 

                                                           

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