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Councilman Can’t Decide Who to Blame … LA’s Shelter Dogs Caught in Crossfire

ANIMAL WATCH-At the Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee’s special meeting on February 3, Chair Paul Koretz pursued punishment of business owners for the fact that LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette and Best Friends Animal Society’s mercurial e-metrics still have not leveraged a rate of euthanasia that can be called “no kill.” Somebody must be blamed -- other than those leading Los Angeles animal lovers down a donation-paved, vote-assuring mythical path promising that the endless influx of homeless animals that end up in shelters can find “forever” homes if Angelenos will just make enough sacrifices for the cause. 

So Koretz is unleashing his frustration and desperation on businesses by insisting the City Council change the zoning code to allow dog kennels (more than three adult dogs -- and in this case, unlimited dogs) to be maintained within 500 feet of residences and right next door to any business in C-2 zoning (CF 11-0754.)  

The rationale is that this will allow “rescue” groups to remove unadopted (or behaviorally unadoptable) dogs from the shelters and keep them in stores in commercial districts, thus making Barnette’s “live-release” rate look better. 

These “new-model” dog kennels will be called “pet shops.” The City is pretending that adult shelter dogs do not intrusively bark, urinate on communal store/office walls, or produce objectionable odors. 

There is no requirement for outdoor space, which means that the dogs could be deprived of natural sunlight and would be exercised on adjacent sidewalks and parking lots -- increasing the possibility of escape as well as the amount of animal excretions where humans and pets are walking. 

This ordinance also assumes that shelter animals are not carriers of air-borne or contact diseases transmissible to humans and other animals. It abandons requirements for proper air circulation and space currently imposed by the Conditional Use Permit process when dog kennels are maintained in other than light-industrial zones. 

Since no provisions are included for sanitation and waste disposal, pedestrians may find dog feces washed across alleys and into storm drains. But it’s a public health risk the City has already indicated it is willing to take. 

This ordinance is scheduled for Council hearing on February 16, 2016, and upon its passage local businesses and residents will have no legal recourse. 

I asked two of my most witty, politically astute colleagues to describe this intentional desecration of the zoning code, which will turn man’s best friend into a business owner’s worst nightmare. They quipped back immediately, “Council Committee ‘Screws the Pooch’ and L.A. Businesses” or “Los Angeles Does Business Doggy Style.” 

Too funny and too true not to share! Sadly, they are good metaphors for what will happen if the Council approves the ordinance that City Attorney Mike Feuer and Deputy City Attorney Charles Sewell are assuring will absolutely bring the intended result and render the business community helpless to defend itself. 

New Councilmembers David Ryu and Marqueece Harris-Dawson (both on the Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee) unquestioningly passed the motion in a unanimous vote. This is disappointing since both made pre-election promises to voters that business growth and residential protection were keystones of their campaigns.  

Koretz, who was involved personally in the selection of former dog breeder/AKC Legislative Representative Brenda Barnette, chooses to ignore that she is failing to address rampant breeding all over the city, which adds to shelter impounds and stray population. Her latest stats show that 347 Breeder’s Permits have been issued by LA Animal Services for the first half of the 2015/16 fiscal year. 

This assault on businesses by Koretz stems from his ban of puppy-mill puppies from pet stores in the City of LA. In the usual whimsical law-making we see in Los Angeles, the fact that there were reportedly only eleven such stores selling puppies in the 469 square miles of the City was not considered. 

With this action, they nullified the benefit of the existing, comprehensive and detailed State laws that protect animals offered for sale or purchased from California pet stores (Lockyer-Polanco-arr Pet Protection Act—Health And Safety Code Sections 122125 – 122220.) 

The City Council could have demanded that Brenda Barnette enforce these laws, cite or revoke permits for any pet stores that were not providing required care and/or complying with after-sale provisions, and who were engaging the media to broadcast the tragic conditions of animals from puppy mills. 

Instead, the ban caused pet stores to go underground, posting photos and contact information so that customers seeking purebred puppies can obtain them directly from puppy mills via the Internet. 

Some pet store owners also make referrals to local breeders, profiting through commissions rather than maintaining live puppies. Both of these methods allow them to completely circumvent the jurisdiction of LA Animal Services and other government regulations. But, has it reduced the number of purebred puppies being bred for profit or entering Los Angeles from puppy mills?  

Just as the well-intentioned ordinance banning the sale of puppies jeopardizes animals by removing statutory safeguards, the proposed change in the Zoning Code will similarly jeopardize countless businesses and residents. 

The City of Los Angeles has the means and ability to accomplish its goal of facilitating the new- model kennel/pet shops in commercial areas without jeopardizing public health/safety and area property values. Instead of removing all protections for surrounding residents and businesses, the City could streamline the CUP process in suitable commercial locations for this type of business by reducing fees and fast-tracking applications from those seeking to partner with the City in reducing the shelter-dog population. 

In contrast, simply exempting pet shops from the definition of kennels will lead to havoc and desperation when businesses and residents realize they have no legal recourse for nuisance noises and health/safety concerns that appear next door overnight and threaten their livelihood and their survival. 

All businesses and residents of LA need to be aware of this pending passage by Council and immediately demand that all stakeholders first have a chance to review the impact on their business or home. 

(Animal activist Phyllis M. Daugherty writes for CityWatch and is a contributing writer to opposingviews.com. She lives in Los Angeles.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.