ANIMAL WATCH-Since 2010 the seminal obligation of Los Angeles Animal Services to maintain animal-law enforcement and protection has been intentionally destabilized by General Manager Brenda Barnette in her mania to achieve the Best Friends Animal Society mythical "No Kill" goal.
The results are now tragically obvious and graphic as huge and small blood stains are increasingly seen on freeways winding through the city's highly populated downtown and semi-rural Valley areas -- the evidence of lost and stray animals being hit by speeding traffic and dying terrifying and often painful deaths. (No, that is not red paint spilled by Cal-Trans workers.)
How many of these are the result of LAAS city shelters refusing to admit them under Barnette's inhumane plan?
LA RESIDENTS PAY $43,000,000 in 2020-2021 FOR CLOSED ANIMAL SHELTERS
For the decade before Barnette's selection as General Manager by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Councilman Paul Koretz, Los Angeles Animal Services emphasis had been directed toward reducing the number of lost, abandoned and stray dogs and cats because of the danger to the public, the potential spread of disease (including rabies) and the dismal life of homeless dogs (and cats).
There was also a tragic and alarming rise in traffic collisions resulting in injuries and deaths of both the animals in the streets and on freeways and the drivers who could not avoid them. When she was confirmed by the City Council and then-Council President Eric Garcetti, Barnette (who had NO animal control experience) responded to questions about how she was going to enforce laws by stating, "I will leave that to the police department."
But it is not the duty of LAPD nor the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to assure residents of the City comply with animal-care and confinement laws, thus with Barnette's recent announcement that LAAS has become part of a social experiment called SHELTER AT HOME, it appears the City is reverting to pre-2000 conditions, when large packs of dogs were so common in many areas that groups of residents testified at Los Angeles Animal Services' Commission meetings about their fear for their safety just trying to get from their front door to their cars. Their children could not play in their own yards or public parks without risk of attack (and there were frequent attacks on school yards), and pets were killed before their eyes by loose Pit Bulls (often used for backyard fighting and "trunking") as groups of hungry dogs roamed residential and business communities in search of food and fought over mating rights.
In the increasingly desperate and chaotic effort by Barnette to make LA Animal Services appear "No-Kill," she disregards the obvious fact that the animals that are being left to die in the streets, where she claims owners will usually find them within 24 hours. But dogs (and cats) do not always stay in the immediate area of "Found" posters on utility poles and some can travel a long distance in a short time, often right onto a freeway ramp.
And those strangers she urges to take in lost pets and not surrender them to the shelters for their families to find may not have adequate fencing or knowledge of how to control or care for a dog of that breed or characteristics, may be abusive or may just turn the animal loose for many reasons, including a conflict with their own pet(s). Perhaps a small percentage of lost dogs return home or are found nearby, but what about those that don't?
According to a report published by LostPetResearch.com in 2013, Lost Pet Lord et al., found that most lost dogs were found due to a call or visit to an animal agency/shelter (34.8%). This was followed by 25.5% found due to a license or ID tag and 15.2% found due to neighborhood signs. Only 7.6% of dogs returned home on their own.
The California Hayden Bill also confirmed that found pets were more likely to be found by owners and receive appropriate and necessary care (including a prompt veterinary examination) if taken to an animal shelter.
It states, "The Legislature finds and declares that it is better to have public and private shelters pick up or take in animals than private citizens. The Legislature further finds that the taking in of animals is important for public health and safety, to aid in the return of the animal to its owner, and to prevent inhumane conditions for lost or free roaming animals."
‘SHELTERING’ IS NOT DONE IN A STRANGER'S HOME
Keeping someone else's personal property (animals are in this category) with the intent to potentially claim ownership and keep sell, or re-home the pet (often with an "adoption fee") is called "theft," no matter how it is couched in politically correct terms.
Here's what Barnette claims, "Statistically, lost pets are often easier found the closer they are to home. With Shelter-at-Home, communities can come together to help bring four-legged family members back home by utilizing social media and posting flyers nearby."
This ignores a large part of the Los Angeles community, which is immigrants, often without a sophisticated command of English and/or without access to computers and social media but are aware of animal shelters.
Here's how Barnette describes her plan for the City's lost pets:
Shelter-at-Home aims to:
- Give lost animals home care, and medical care if appropriate.
- Keep animals out of the shelter system and provide much needed life-saving space.
- Work with residents who are concerned or refuse to turn in animals to the shelter for fear the animal will not be claimed or placed.
- Expand LA Animal Services’ foster program and increase community involvement in helping find animals’ owners, and meanwhile, allow animals to be held in less stressful environments.
Barnette also claims the shelter's rights to any puppies born as a result of her "Finders, Keepers" policy, rather than directing that pregnant dogs be brought to the shelter for spay to decrease the overpopulation of dogs she is claiming to address.
‘THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS’
- The "Shelter-at-Home" program may aim to but cannot guarantee that appropriate medical care will be given by "finders" of animals.
- The "life-saving space in the shelters should be available to ALL animals in need -- including, and especially, those that are found in the streets.
- There is no guarantee that "finders" of animals will "work with residents who are concerned or
refuse to run i animals to the shelter for fear it will not be claimed or placed. (All finders of animals can request first-rights if the animals are not claimed and then legally adopt it.)
- There is also no assurance that found animals kept by strangers will hold it "in less stressful environments." The animal may be continually threatened by other pets or other elements of the home environment that would not occur in a shelter. AND THE ANIMAL MAY BECOME A PROBLEM AND BE ABANDONED AGAIN.
(Under Barnette's plan, there is no penalty for failure to comply with her "aims."
WALKING A DOG WITHOUT A LEASH IS DANGEROUS AND CAN BE COSTLY
A current trend that may also be contributing to the number of loose, stray animals killed in the streets or on freeways is that, with Barnette's decreased emphasis on law-enforcement, more people are walking their dogs without a leash.
But even well-trained dogs succumb to a momentary stimulation that causes them to sprint into a street or farther. . .and, often, to continue pursuing an enticement to the point of total separation from the owner.
Leaving a dog off-leash is also dangerous in that it can be attacked or attack another animal or a human. Too late, this results in the comment by the owner, "but he never did that before."
LOOKING AT HISTORY SO IT IS NOT REPEATED
"Street dogs" and other stray/loose dogs and cats were such a serious problem before 2001, that there were daily interruptions of radio broadcasts to announce closure of freeways to remove (especially) dogs -- dead or alive. This cost millions of dollars in valuable time for those sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, missing appointments or delivery times and/or other damaged vehicles during chain-reaction collisions.
It also resulted in tremendous suffering for the animals and mental and physical stress for the drivers who hit them. If the animal was still alive, it was necessary to wait for an Animal Control Officer to respond to transport it for emergency veterinary care. (If an animal were not hit but just wandering on a freeway, often the CHP officers would take them to the nearest shelter in their vehicle -- but this still required a traffic break and capturing the animal.)
This became such a costly danger that the CA State Legislature passed a simple but unique law to bring awareness to drivers and pet owners who take the Department of Motor Vehicles driving test. It is still part of the DMV testing process, but its effectiveness is also contingent upon LA Animal Services enforcing animal control laws.
STATISTICS ON DEATHS BY COLLISIONS WITH ANIMALS
Understandably there is no accurate count of how many animals die in incidents where they are struck by vehicles, largely because too often the body is either shredded so badly that there is nothing to pick up or the animal is able to escape from the immediate scene and die in another location. But the stains on the freeway cannot be denied and when they occur in an urban area, it can be assumed they most often are -- or were -- someone's pet, even if it had become a "stray."
Animals that die on City streets or public areas are removed by the Department of Sanitation, but no statistics are kept. Animals that are hit and die on freeways are removed by Cal-Trans, which also does not keep those statistics.
We also don't know how many animal deaths/injuries have also resulted in the death or injury to drivers and their families. But, in 2018 the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that 66% of accidents that ended in a human death were caused by a vehicle hitting an animal as the initial event. Statistics also showed that few motorcyclists survive a collision with an animal.
SB 237 - ANIMAL ABANDONMENT LAW
During the 1990s, the California Highway Patrol found that animals, including abandoned/stray pets, on highways and freeways caused 38,828 driver and passenger injuries and fatalities.
As a result, in 2001, Senator Ed Vincent introduced Senate Bill 237, sponsored by Los Angeles-based Animal Issues Movement, and supported by various humane and driving-related groups -- including the Auto Club of Southern California and the California Highway Patrol, plus many members of the public. SB 237, passed in September 2001, and CA became the first state to require its Department of Transportation to place roadside signs saying it is illegal to abandon animals on state highways.
It also requires the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to include language in the California Driver's Handbook about animal abandonment, as well as one question on some driver's license tests about penalties for animal abandonment. (Animal are considered abandoned if they are not properly cared for and kept under control, as well as if they are intentionally dumped.)
Rotating the animal abandonment questions instead of mandating a question on every exam, allows the Department of Motor Vehicle's test focus to remain on driving and safety in general.
In the CGA research report, the analyst summarized, "Dumping and/or abandoning animals on a highway is not only cruel but specifically against the law. Such a crime is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, 6 months in jail, or both. It is one of few questions on the California DMV test, where an applicant may be asked about the consequences of a violation."
SENATOR ED VINCENT ( 1ST BLACK MAYOR OF INGLEWOOD), ANIMAL LOVER
Edward Vincent Jr. (photo left) was a great animal lover who regularly took his dog with him on his flights to Sacramento after he was elected to the California State Senate in November 2000. He represented the 25th District until 2008, which included Compton, Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lynwood, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Pedro, and the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
"Vincent became Inglewood’s mayor in 1983 and remained in that role for 13 years before entering state politics," according to the Sentinel News.
In earlier years, he earned Big-Ten and All-American honors playing football for the University of Iowa and then the Los Angeles Rams.
After serving his country in the U.S. Army, Vincent went on to a 35-year career with the Los Angeles County Probation Department, before entering politics.
Former-Senator Ed Vincent died in 2012 at the age of 78, but his memory AND HIS LAW live on.
WHAT ARE THE RULES/LAWS IF YOU HIT AN ANIMAL WHILE DRIVING?
Most states require that if you hit a domestic animal, you must stop and notify the appropriate state of local authority. CA State law requires notifying California Highway Patrol, which will make the decision as to what local authority should be involved.
Domestic animals (including dogs) and certain farm animals such as horses, cows and goats are considered property.
"A driver who hits and injures a dog or a domestic animal, therefore, is damaging property, requiring the driver, under California Vehicle Code section 20002, to try to locate and notify the animal’s owner and law enforcement.
Outdoor cats are considered feral — and aren’t considered property.
The Ellis Law Firm in El Segundo, CA, specializes in cases that involve hitting an animal while driving a vehicle offers this (and more) basic advice regarding collisions with pets or livestock, ". . .the state usually finds the owners liable for failing to adequately leash, enclose or otherwise restrain their animals -- this includes paying for injures and damages."
If the owner [of the animal] cannot be located, the driver's personal injury or comprehensive car insurance coverage should pay for the damages caused, the firm states.
SHOULD YOU TRY TO RESCUE AN ANIMAL FROM A FREEWAY?
Officials recommend that you do NOT leave your vehicle to try to save an animal that is not in traffic, because you may frighten it and cause it to run across lanes, injuring or killing itself and/or others. If left alone, it may retreat off the freeway by itself. It is a natural instinct for animal lovers to want to save an animal in distress or danger; but it could also cost both you and the animal your lives.
CA Highway Patrol also urges drivers to control their urge to get out into traffic to save an animal that is in the road or freeway lanes -- too often results in the injury or death of the "rescuer." The most important thing is to contact the local agency (CHP in California if you are on a freeway) through 911 and advise them of the location and whatever information they request to provide response.
If you see an animal ahead of you on the road, authorities advise not to swerve to miss it, because that can cause loss of control of your vehicle, may cause you to hit another vehicle, and often results in roll-over accidents.
The best advice if you do not have time to stop is to decrease your speed, maintaining full control of your vehicle, and try to lessen the impact. Sad as that sounds, it is the most humane and safe action under the circumstances.
HOW DO WE STOP THIS GROWING DANGER TO ANIMALS AND THE PUBLIC?
We would not be seeing the blood on the freeway if those animals were in an animal shelter. If someone doesn't want an animal, the people of Los Angeles pay taxes for it to be legally sheltered with Los Angeles Animal Services.
Although contacting Los Angeles City officials to curtail LA Animal Services' GM Barnette's risky programs usually proves to be an exercise in futility, for the sake of the animals -- who have no voice -- it is important to file petitions and letters opposing any of her actions that demonstrate unwise decisions under the claim of "No Kill" or other nebulous objectives where the outcome cannot be clearly audited. This is true even if they are supported by large organizations which are becoming increasingly wealthy from the fundraising opportunities such programs as, "Shelter-at-Home," provide.
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of Los Angeles employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.