ANIMAL WATCH - Anyone who has volunteered or otherwise worked with Los Angeles Animal Services is especially grateful to see the L.A. Times coverage of the overcrowding problems that have been increasing for years under GM Brenda Barnette and Councilman Paul Koretz, but have now become a “ticking time bomb,” according to a former-California shelter director.
Animals are reportedly being kept in cages, crates, rolling cages and any containers available as permanent housing and are doubled, tripled and quadrupled in each.
Also, unaltered males and females are not being separated, which can lead to violent incidents. Our L.A. City shelters have become guilty of the same hoarding and animal cruelty that it is the duty of LAAS to prosecute.
Ironically, while this suffering is allowed in L.A. City animal shelters to assure “No Kill,” the University of California at Davis (UC Davis)—one of the world’s foremost schools conducting animal experimentation and the resultant euthanasia of animals they have bred for that purpose—was selected to distribute $50 million dollars to animal shelters across California to assure a “No Kill” state.
KORETZ – FAR TOO LATE TO BE RELEVANT
Paul Koretz, who oversees the Department for the City Council, and now candidate for Controller, announced this week that he is almost ready to give his response on the horrific conditions and overcrowding in Los Angeles Animal Services shelters as they strive to keep every animal alive and meet Best Friends’ “No Kill” goal—after Best Friends admitted that this program cannot be sustained.
In fact, Dr. Kate Hurley of U.C. Davis. Koret School of Medicine, was designated to distribute the funding to the State’s animal shelters and LAAS received $200,000.
Koretz is undoubtedly going to offer more money as his solution, which will not resolve—but just better fund-- the issue of underlying mismanagement and employees not coming to work because they can’t tolerate the conditions for the animals and inability to improve their lives under Interim General Manager Annette Ramirez.
It was reported in a comment at last week’s Commission meeting that one day no employee was there to open the West Valley shelter, but, fortunately, the volunteer coordinator came in on his day off to unlock the doors and let volunteers enter.
However, a further report indicated that none of the West Valley employees were there for the week and East Valley employees were temporarily transferred to keep the shelter functional. This is the result of gross mismanagement and low morale among very dedicated employees.
Koretz has had ten years to “give his report” and he has ignored all the problems that have been sizzling just under the surface that was held together by the experienced shelter personnel, many of whom have now left LAAS due to the out-of-control problems at the upper level of this department and lack of concern by the appointed Commission, the Mayor, and the Council.
Koretz began his destruction of LAAS immediately after appointing himself to oversee it by removing this law-enforcement Department from oversight by the Public Safety Committee of the Council and placing it under his control in the Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee, which he created and has headed for over ten years.
NO REVIEW OF LAAS AFTER BARNETTE
Until the recent Los Angeles Times reports, Koretz’s PAW Committee only agendized items for LAAS since ex-GM Barnette retired have been approval of major donations by humane groups and the two administrative positions for his Citywide Cat Program.
However, his absence of interest also resulted in him not hearing Ramirez report to the Commission that at a playgroup, organized as a result of volunteer complaints of animals not getting time out of kennels, two dog fights broke out and a volunteer sustained a severe bite. Apparently the basic rules of assuring sufficient staff is present at these events where numerous animals are put together to “play” were unknown or ignored.
Koretz also changed the long-established Animal Welfare Trust Fund from use only to improve the conditions of the shelters to being able to be used for any purpose by the General Manager and has never called for an audit of the expenditures.
It is disappointing that Councilman Marquese Harris-Dawson (also on the PAW committee) states that he was unaware of problems at LAAS, when he was informed early after his first election and vowed to call for an audit of South Los Angeles services, which would have led him to be aware of the greater problems in this department and affecting his constituents.
So, in order to save his campaign for Controller, during the last few weeks before the election, Koretz is suddenly going to come up with a way to increase staff at shelters and fix all the problems.
THE AFTERMATH OF LAAS VOLUNTEER COMPLAINTS
Of course, the shelters can use more staffing and management will always seek more money, but from what is shared by those close to the situation, it isn’t just the numbers, but the fact that the employees say they are “burned out” under the current lack of organization and support. That is demonstrated by the fact that staff is not coming to work and employees are using the maximum COVID leave option, even though they could be tested and potentially return.
Even the most dedicated employees in an animal shelter cannot stand to see the overcrowding, refusal to euthanize animals that are suffering emotionally, as well as physically, under long-term confinement and will never find a home—so that others can have space to be taken in and potentially be adopted.
Animals are doubled, tripled and quadrupled in cages. When any living creature (animal or human) is deprived of all free will and placed in a position where it must eat and sleep in constant fear of attack or being killed, the stress can turn into insanity. A visitor from one of the national organizations recently visited an LAAS shelter and said the “conditions are like those in a third-world country.”
The Mayor also assured a continuation of the downward spiral by appointing Annette Ramirez—who has not managed a shelter, and best known for her role in the controversial Small Animal Rescue Team (S.M.A.R.T) movie, which was made using City equipment and on City work hours to solicit funds for a private corporation involving the team members, and was not approved by the City Attorney at that time or since, although it is still offered for sale on-line. (See: Why is GM Barnette Protecting LA's Animal Services SMART Leaders?)
KENNETH MEJIA – CANDIDATE FOR CONTROLLER – SPEAKS OUT
Kenneth Mejia, who was far ahead of Koretz in the primary race for Controller, spoke at the last Commission meeting and said he is appalled at what he is hearing from volunteers and will be looking into—not only the conditions at the shelters—but also how the money that is pouring into this Department is being spent! He vowed to audit the contracts that seem to be shams, and find out what is really going on with the money.
Yet, Koretz has not agendized even one Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee regarding the LAAS Department since Interim GM Annette Ramirez was appointed without public review—other than to accept donations from large humane organizations and to assure the hiring of two administrative positions for the Citywide Cat Program.
THE HYPOCRISY OF “NO KILL” & GOV. NEWSOM’S $50-MILLION GRANT
It appears LA Animal Services hasn’t heard “No Kill” has failed nationwide in the light of reality and has left in its wake deaths, injuries, heartache and in many cases a commitment to buy a dog from a breeder, rather than risk a shelter dog.
Best Friends, which supposedly set the standard for “No Kill,” admitted publicly that it is not supportable in the real world.
EUTHANASIA – A HUMANE CHOICE, ACCORDING TO U.C. DAVIS
CA Gavin Newsom was persuaded by someone to announce a $50 million proposal in the 2020-21 budget for statewide “No Kill” animal shelters, meaning at least 90% of the animals impounded in shelters are released alive (not necessarily adopted into homes).
BUT, the irony is that Governor Newsom’s $50-million to assure CA becomes a “No Kill” state was given to Kate Hurley (Koret School of Medicine) at UC Davis. This is mind-boggling.
The University of California at Davis boasts of having one of the world’s leading animal-experimentation programs and is also the national expert in euthanasia (listing how to euthanize laboratory animals and others on its site)—which it must perform on the animals after the experiments are completed. They consider it a “peaceful ending.”
This places euthanasia in an entirely new light.
Newsom was persuaded by someone to announce the $50 million proposal in the 2020-21 budget for statewide “No Kill” animal shelters, meaning at least 90% of the animals impounded are released alive (not necessarily adopted into homes). Although that someone is not named, it had to be a very powerful and influential group or individual.
ANIMAL SHELTER EUTHANASIA –A NEW LOOK AT MERCY
It is important to understand that the same chemical solution that put humans and animals into a comatose state for surgery are those used to peacefully and humanely end a life of a shelter animal which has a future of suffering, endless confinement or causing injury or death to other animals or humans. Veterinary professionals in animal shelters have the obligation to make this decision to provide a peaceful end of life when advisable in their opinion.
Keeping animals in cages for months and—yes, LAAS has far too many that have been there over well over a year—is cruelty. Keeping them with numerous other animals in one cage/kennel is torture.
See this video filmed in Los Angeles city shelters after the Hayden Bill was first enacted to understand the potential consequences of a true “No Kill” shelter
I AM NOT A PROPONENT OF MEDICAL RESEARCH OR HOARDING
Personally, I abhor the thought of animals being used for experimentation and applaud every effort to find other methods of developing medical treatments to save human (and animal) lives.
However, overly long stays in shelters can be an even more cruel “living death” for animals, and it must be the decision of the veterinary experts as to what is the humane thing, physically and emotionally, in each particular case—not a “rescue” or the shelter manager, who is focused on an arbitrary euthanasia statistic instead of the welfare of the animals—and definitely not a politician.
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a contributor to CityWatch and a former Los Angeles City employee.)