ANIMAL WATCH - Last week CityWatchLA reported “Another Pit Bull Attack on Volunteer at L.A. Animal Services’ “No Kill” Shelter,” the latest in a long stream of horrific attacks at Los Angeles City shelters by known-dangerous dogs, and apparently considered just “the cost of doing business” by Los Angeles officials and Interim-General Manager Annette Ramirez, who are sitting in plush offices, not in a hospital emergency room.
That is the only logical assumption when the values of human lives and safety are repeatedly ignored by every elected official and also ignored by the Mayoral-appointed Los Angeles Animal Services Commission, which heads the Department.
This five-member Board demands no accountability and does nothing to eliminate the cause of the increasingly frequent injuries to humans at LA City animal shelters and the injuries/deaths of pets as a result of unacceptable overcrowding to be “No Kill.”
See here the amount of money that flows through this Department from major outside sources—all approved by the Commission—but never seems to improve the shelters, the conditions of which are visibly shameful and dangerous for animals and humans.
As long as hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in grant/program money is poured into this already generously tax-funded agency by major non-profit “No Kill” organizations, sports teams, and auto dealers for the quid-pro-quo free publicity garnered, Los Angeles City government is smiling.
But not the victims and their families—and their coworkers, who are wondering, “Who’s next?”
VICTIM OF LATEST ATTACK IS BELOVED VETERAN EMPLOYEE
s attack will undoubtedly come as a shock to anyone who has worked at/with LA Animal Services shelters and/or had the opportunity to know Animal Control Technician (ACT) Jake Miller—who has also worn many hats serving in “volunteer coordinator” and “life-saving” designations.
No one is more experienced and intuitive about animal behavior, and emphatic about safety rules and no one could ever deny his competence, his deep love of animals and his protection of volunteers, staff, and the public.
Jake has been a rock in the shifting sands of LAAS for many years—and specifically at the East Valley shelter—and extra duties have reportedly recently been “dumped” on him due to LAAS short staffing.
ROCKY’S STORY AT THE SHELTER
According to Los Angeles Animal Services’ records, on February 15, 2023, the East Valley shelter was requested to have an animal control officer pick up a dog that a man claimed belonged to his son, who had left. He said he was moving and could not keep Rocky.
However, at another place in the report, he is quoted as saying, “he couldn’t handle the dog,” he was “afraid of the dog,” and that Rocky was aggressive toward strangers.
But he emphasized that Rocky liked playing Frisbee and ball, which was confirmed at the shelter. He also said the 75-pound German Shepherd-mix was “rough” taking treats and he had no knowledge of how he would react around other dogs.
The animal control officer had to use an ACD (animal control device) to remove Rocky from the yard because of his obvious fear and aggressive reaction, and the father’s apparent reluctance to handle him.
Rocky was unlicensed, unneutered, and did not have vaccines—including rabies.
VETERINARY REPORT ON ROCKY AND WARNING SIGNS
Rocky, approximately 5 years old, was not in good condition physically or emotionally, according to the veterinary report.
The veterinary technician could not examine him because he was too frightened, stressed, suspicious, anxious and not able to be safely handled.
An objective evaluation from visualizing his physical condition at first could only conclude that he was suffering from severe anxiety and had a broken upper left canine (tooth). The vet technician was unable to examine him and was unable to administer vaccinations.
But, unless he made a sudden change in his comfort level (not likely in an overcrowded shelter environment with strangers), Rocky was giving strong warnings that he was not open to social engagement.
ROCKY IS WARNING THAT HE WILL ATTACK—VET TECH NOTES
On 2/16/2023, Rocky was still displaying that he didn’t want anyone near him. The report stated that he was coming to the “front of kennel, growling, snapping.”
The vet tech described that he was “bearing teeth, low growl, tail up, hunched back Cannot safely vaccinate today.” So, he “was started on Trazadone for 7 days to try to calm him down.”
On 2/21/2023, the notes state , “Dog seems more relaxed. At front of kennel, not growling or barking.”
But the following day, the comment reads, “When approached from front of kennel in a quiet manner, dog remains in cubby and stares at you. Mouth Is closed. Dog then lunges forward and barks with a low growl. Unable to safely handle at this time for vaccination.”
The next day was a little better: “Dog seems a bit more relaxed in my presence. No growling, wagging tail, takes treats. When I asked ACT to try to get him out, he said the dog would take treats for a bit but when he went to leash him, dog reacted by growling and lunging. “(Drug was continued for another 7 days.)
Finally, after almost daily notes of trying to relax Rocky, on 3/9/23, the record states, “ACT was able to rope leash dog and muzzle him. Dog did start to thrash, growl, ‘alligator roll’. Eventually he stopped. He is very food/treat motivated. Will sit for treats but, does not take treats gently.”
“We were able to vaccinate him, apply topical, gave dewormer in wet food. (he ate it.)”
Then on 3/23/23, a note was encouraging, but the bottom-line warning was:
“Still, use extreme caution with this dog, he doesn’t like to be restrained and will growl or try to bite. It’s always best when handling him to bring treats to make it much easier.”
OFFER FOR ADOPTION OF ROCKY ON SOCIAL MEDIA / “RESCUERS”
That same day the record says, an “Email was sent to rescuers, networkers, volunteers and social media” to alert them Rocky was available.
ON 3/25 THERE’S A PANICKED NOTE ABOUT THE ATTACK:
“I was informed by Dr. Whitted at around 12:53 pm that ACT Jake Miller had got bitten by a dog out in the play yard. I immediately ran over to the yard to assist. As I got to the yard, ACT Jake Miller was sitting on the floor by the behavior kennels with blood all over the floor and hand. He was screaming and crying for help and that he was in a lot of pain and needed help.
ACT ‘A’ called 911 and one of the volunteers was trying to provide first aid by wrapping his hand with gauze to stop the bleeding. I grabbed a towel and wrapped it around the gauze and told him to keep his hand elevated as much as he could.
ACT ‘A’ told me he had already called 911 to have the paramedics come due to the severity of the bite and injury.
I then grabbed an ACD (animal control device) and placed it on the dog and brought him back to his kennel in OBS. This dog was being housed in OBS because of his aggressive behavior and also for staff and public safety.
Rocky was picked up in the field by an officer because the owner was unable to handle the dog. This dog should not be handled by staff or volunteers unless they [get] approval from Supervision. Use Caution 479.”
L.A. COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH INCIDENT REPORT
The bite report for L.A. County Health Department stated Jake was “trying to place collar on dog and dog reached around and bit hand multiple times. Bite was severe (911) was called and ambulance took victim to hospital.”
ROCKY AGAIN OFFERED FOR ADOPTION ON-LINE TO “RESCUERS” AFTER ATTACK
On 4/3 there is an entry by DFO CURIEL, “This animal is authorized for placement on the Red Alert List and if not committed to by a rescue within 48 hours may be euthanized.” (The e-mail blast shows on that date as being AGAIN sent to rescuers, networkers, volunteers and social media.)
Could Rocky have been offered to the public through a “rescuer” even after severely biting at the shelter?
REMEMBER THAT THIS BURDEN ALL FALLS ON THE TAXPAYERS—INCLUDING THE LIABILITY FOR THIS DOG.
MERCIFULY, FINALLY ROCKY CAN REST!
“Alert for safety, if not rescued, dog will be euth after 5:p.m. on 4/05/23 - end of day by 530.”
Rocky’s final note and his release to peaceful sleep stated “No inquiries or rescue request at this time. OK to euthanize for safety, by 530.”
The public should thank the Supervisors who finally made this decision, knowing that it is the only safety for staff and that, if this animal had been released to anyone, he undoubtedly would have had a horrible life and would have been a danger.
But, how many are taken by “rescues” and offered for adoption by someone who justifies the behavior as “fear,” being “misunderstood” or just having had a “bad puppyhood.”
Rocky was giving continual warnings that he would attack if approached (without treats) and maybe even with treats.
Jake Miller was obviously trying to give him every chance to assimilate and relax when the dog made it clear that he was setting the rules. As a result, the City of L.A. and LA Animal Services has lost a vital person in our shelters for at least a long recovery period.
We need to question the coldness of local elected officials and organizations—including Best Friends Animal Society, HSUS and ASPCA – forcing Directors of animal shelters all over the U.S. to exploit these poor creatures by locking them in kennels and cages for months and years and calling it “No Kill” victories.
“NO KILL” POLICY SHOULD BE A “NO HARM” POLICY
Most attacks result from continuing to coerce or cajole a dog that is not interested in or deathly afraid of humans. Most of these sad creatures have had a lifetime of poor treatment, but when they have given warning that they do not want to—or cannot—make the transformation to a loving pet, these dogs (or cats) should not be the public’s financial burden.
If a dog seeks human companionship, it should be given the opportunity to indicate that desire and the time to “warm up” to physical contact and constraint. If not, there should be the option for shelters to act on behalf of public health and safety and peacefully euthanize it before it harms another animal or a human.
This UC Davis link contains valuable information on euthanasia as humaneness to animals and states that it applies to various species.
The unconscionable aspect of a “No Kill” policy is to wait until an aggressive or anti-social dog has injured a human severely or killed other animals and/or a human—so that there is justification for not doing the right thing to prevent it.
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former Los Angeles City employee, an animal activist and a regular contributor to CityWatch.)