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Animal Services GM Barnette Boasts LA Reached Best Friends ‘No Kill’ Goal, as Families Mourn COVID Deaths

ANIMAL WATCH-On March 12, LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette callously and boastfully announced that Los Angeles has reached the Best Friends Animal Society “No Kill” goal for the city’s animal shelters due to efforts of “the city, LA Animal Services, a coalition of animal welfare organizations, compassionate leaders and a dedicated community.”    

At this same time, terrified humans all over Los Angeles clamor for vaccinations to save their own and loved ones’ lives from the deadliest disease outbreak in over a century, and many are paralyzed by the helplessness suffered from the sudden loss of one or more loved ones. 

There was no compassion or mention by Barnette nor the CEO of Best Friends Animal Society of the sacrifices by pet owners to keep their beloved four-legged family members during unfathomable hardship.   

And this could have been a jubilant announcement if it were actually true. But Barnette created an “artificial environment” by refusing to freely and openly accept all animals in need, which resulted in many of them being abandoned in the streets or given to “rescuers” that transported them to an unknown fate. (See:  Freeways Stained with Blood Dispel LA Animal Services 'No Kill' Myth.

Rescuers attending the LA Animal Services Commission’s on-line meetings begged Barnette to assure that animals had a way to be taken in, as they personally responded to calls day and night from distressed residents and watched frightened, sick, and dead animals dropped at the doors of the two vacant shelters, which Barnette had closed. The also opposed Barnette’s plan to “reconstitute” the shelter by allowing private “rescues” to occupy the space. (See: LAAS GM Barnette’s Plan for West Valley Shelter ‘Handled by Vendors’ Faces Legal Questions) 

Was the rush to make the “No Kill” announcement now a ploy to report numbers from half-empty facilities before the proposed March 14 re-opening of the downtown-LA-area North Central shelter and the West Valley shelter? 

Interestingly and importantly, only one major news outlet (NBC-LA) carried Barnette’s fairy-tale version of forever homes for 90% of all unwanted, stray, elderly and dangerous dogs and cats that find their way into LA City animal shelters. Maybe this is a sign that the Los Angeles media is finally seeing the truth about the self-aggrandizing “No Kill” movement, which pats itself on the head with no regard or concern about the ultimate outcome for the animals it “clears” from the shelters, like particles of dust.  

Any shelter can boast about “No-Kill” if it doesn’t take in all the animals in need and if it is willing to release indiscriminately those known to pose a danger to humans and/or other animals because of aggression.   

Barnette has a long, documented history of endangering unsuspecting adopters and employees to keep the favor of major affluent organizations and “rescues” which thrive on feel-good, stories that tug on heartstrings and open wallets. (See: Dog-Bites Soar at LA Animal Services – Will Shelter Donations Become the Mayor’s New Slush Fund?). 

What was not disclosed in the NBC4 story is that Barnette has created vastly lowered intake by refusing most over-the-counter surrenders of unwanted animals (forcing people to make appointments at her convenience), and she encourages leaving lost pets and strays in the streets, stating they will be found by their owner faster than if taken to the local animal shelter (for which Angelenos are paying $43,000,000 in taxes this year.) And she wants finders to keep lost pets and put out flyers, rather than turn them into the shelter where owners expect them to be taken. 

LAAS AND BEST FRIENDS’ COLLABORATION 

Lest we overlook it, Barnette and Best Friends were the key players in a TNR (Trap/Neuter/Release) ordinance recently passed by the Los Angeles City Council which mandates that 20,000 feral cats per year for 30 years will be dumped in the perilous streets of the city to fend for themselves. The total cost to taxpayers is estimated at $60 million. This will also result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of songbirds and wildlife hunted by the cats; and the cats, themselves, being hit by cars, dying from untreated diseases/injuries, being eaten by the coyotes that they attract to our communities, and subjected to heinous acts of cruelty by humans. 

Yet, the City will not mandate microchipping of cats so that owners can be held accountable for their pets and is aware that some of the strongest supporters of this Cat TNR Program may benefit financially from this long-term expenditure. 

Is this a “No Kill” city or a city which exploits animals for financial gain? At just one resent Commission meeting on February 28, LA Animal Services accepted $100,000 in grants from groups which support “No Kill” and another $30,000 donation on March 9. Do we think these generous benefits come without a quid-pro-quo from City politicians?  

BEST FRIENDS’ CONTRACT WITH THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES 

In June 2011, purportedly due to budget cuts reducing revenue for LA Animal Services to run its seventh, badly needed new Northeast Valley shelter, an arrangement  was made by former-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, (with the encouragement of Councilman Paul Koretz) to enter into a “shared-sacrifice” contract with Best Friends Animal Society. This would turn the $19 million state-of-the-art animal shelter over to Best Friends for $1 a year.  

In return, Best Friends would reportedly conduct from that location adoptions of a small number of desirable pets brought from the other six City shelters, while cash-strapped Los Angeles would pay for maintenance and security. Best Friends, a non-profit corporation, at that time had received over $51 million in donated income, according to its 2009 IRS report, but the “shared sacrifice” would come from Los Angeles taxpayers’ pockets. 

 MAYOR GARCETTI RENEWS BEST FRIENDS’ CONTRACT, AGAIN 

The $1-per-year contract for the sole use of the North Valley (Mission) Animal Shelter has been renewed every two years since then, even though in 2019, Best Friends Animal Society took in $102,896,740 in gross revenueaccording to Charity Navigator. And, the “shared-sacrifice” is still paid from Los Angeles tax dollars, including the $500,000 allotted per year for the LA City General Services Department to perform maintenance for all shelters, including the Mission shelter. In 2020 LA City Council File 11-1345-S1 shows that Mayor Eric Garcetti again approved a two-year extension of the Best Friends contract, stating, “The value of services provided is approximately $6.8 million per year.” There is no indication of how that figure was calculated.  

BARNETTE RELUCTANTLY RE-OPENS TWO CLOSED SHELTERS

Barnette is advising those who can no longer keep their pet, to just advertise on Craigslist and similar venues and post it on the LAAS website to try to give their dog to a stranger without involving the shelter. (The adoption process in the shelter requires adopters to provide valid current ID and assures the animal is microchipped, licensed (if it is a dog) and it provides vaccines for immunization against common diseases, including state mandated rabies shots. (See:  L.A.’s West Valley Animal Shelter to Reopen, but Pets and Strays Need Appointments.)  

Although this is all couched in glowing politically correct terms and many large organizations are pouring money into this program, it is an abandonment of laws that protect the pet and an effort to glorify Best Friends and Brenda Barnette. For one, legal title to an animal cannot be transferred by just telling a finder to keep it for 30 days and the shelter will then arrange a legal “adoption.” This encourages theft and bypasses the laws protecting personal property -- in this case, a beloved pet.

Whether it is distorted values, an exaggerated sense of her own importance, and/or just an unacceptable disregard for the treatment of animals, Los Angeles Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette demonstrated an appalling lack of sensitivity and an insult to those who have not had a $43 million budget -- or may have lost their job due to COVID -- but sacrificed to keep their pets. 

It also is an unforgivable insult to struggling Los Angeles city taxpayers and those we elect and pay for leadership that Barnette is bragging to the media that she has achieved the Best Friends Animal Society goal of “No Kill” by a dereliction of her duties. 

(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of Los Angeles employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Graphic: Ping Zhu/NYT. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.