Tue, May

Homeless Animals in South LA … Not Forgotten by Councilman Harris-Dawson


ANIMAL WATCH-As soon as he began his first term representing the Eighth District on July 1, Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson was appointed by Council President Herb Wesson to co-chair the Homeless and Poverty Committee, addressing conditions which have chronically plagued South Los Angeles and are escalating citywide as downtown development tramples low-income housing. 

But there is another homeless group in South L.A. that has long been ignored -- the stray, abandoned and neglected dogs that haunt alleys and streets day and night in an on-going struggle for survival. 

Xaque Gruber wrote in a 2013 Huffington Post article, “Nowhere is Los Angeles' homeless dog population a more chronic problem than in South Central where thousands of canines run wild. And nowhere is a blind eye turned more than in this section of the city.”  

That may soon change. 

Without calling a media conference or recruiting a bevy of celebrities and officials to validate the importance of his mission, Councilmember Harris-Dawson quietly and purposely dove into this heart-wrenching, dark side of South L.A. animals by introducing a motion that was placed on the November 18 agenda of the Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee. His motion (CF 15-1185) deserves to be read  in its entirety by every animal-loving Angeleno. It asks for a detailed report of what resources from its annual budget are to be allocated by Los Angeles Animal Services to South L.A. -- and particularly to the 8th District. 

The LAAS 2015-16 budget is listed as $23,055,166. Adding in “Related and Indirect Costs,” of $20,894,941, which fund programs and internal operating costs, brings the total Department budget to $43,950,107. 

The Department’s response should provide the Councilmember not only with a profile of the service level for picking up roaming animals (not all of which are stray) but also pinpoint where repeated complaints are received regarding menacing dogs and neighborhood packs that are so aggressive that residents report being afraid to go out their door. Too often, residents helplessly watch beloved pets torn apart while walking on leash with their humans or while supposedly safe in a fenced yard.  And many times these people are injured trying to save these animal victims. 

An audit of service requests/responses by LAAS in South L.A. should also disclose the number of calls from horrified neighbors reporting staged dog fights and cockfights in progress, neglected pit bulls chained outside drug labs or guarding other criminal activities, and attacks on humans and other animals in cruel displays by gang members using dogs as weapons for territorial dominance. 

Los Angeles is first in the nation on the U.S. Postal Service’s list of dog bites. This means that Councilman Harris-Dawson (photo) should be provided with a computerized log of daily dog bite/attack reports received at L.A. Animal Services from victims and witnesses in his district and citywide. 

Harris Dawson’s Deputy Chief of Staff Bernard Dory explained that, when the Councilman receives the data on how many animal control officers and other resources are assigned or available to the district, “We will have an audit of our capacity to impact many of the situations. Once we determine what we have, we can decide how we can make the best use of it and maximize our resources.”  He observed, “The complexity is not extraordinary, but it is great.” 

An almost unfathomable number of stray and starving dogs—estimated at over 30,000--roam the streets of Los Angeles. Many are born feral—the offspring of unspayed females who had homes but were driven into the streets by hormonal instincts and often not welcomed back by owners who may have quickly replaced them with a newly acquired puppy. 

A large percentage of the SLA street dogs are purebreds -- turned loose by owners who tired of the responsibility or perhaps given away “free to a good home” on Craigslist. Many end up in the sea of canines fighting (often to the death) over small pieces of garbage or mating rights, dodging traffic, and shying away from humans they once trusted. 

Filmmaker Bill Marin, who directed and produced Street Dogs of South Central, narrated by Queen Latifah, watched the suffering for years. He is quoted by Xaque Gruber in “L.A.'s Homeless Dog Epidemic: Part Two, Taking Action in South Central,” saying: 

"We can't turn a blind eye to what is happening in South Central. L.A. Animal Services is under pressure to move statistics closer to a "No-Kill" city, and as a result, they keep the euthanasia statistics down by impounding less dogs. Dogs are still dying; they're just dying on the streets where they don't become a statistic. We all want L.A. to be a No Kill city, but let's make sure there's no suffering first. This is the whole city's problem, and it's out of control." 

Gruber adds a poignant truth, “Imagine if this same scenario was happening in West Hollywood or Beverly Hills, the problem would be swiftly handled and made a top priority.” 

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I believe Councilmember Harris-Dawson will make this a top priority for South L.A. and the whole city -- not just because of his motion, but also because his staff truly cares about this issue, bringing to it not just emotion, but political acumen and life experience. 

At the South Vermont Constituent Center office, Harris-Dawson’s Field Deputy Anthony Anderson passionately and sadly described the plight of animals he saw during his long career as a U.S. Postal mail carrier in South L.A.  He wants a better future for animals in the community and “homes where they are treated with the same love and respect as any family member.”  His cell phone is filled with photos of his wife, children, grandchildren and his two dogs, Solomon and Sebastian. 

Thousands of loving, responsible pet owners in South L.A. form a base for reducing stray dogs.

Councilmember Harris-Dawson has spent most of his life in South L.A.  He is a pragmatist. His motion seeks direct and specific information, including: how animal control officers and other services are allocated in South L.A., broken down by neighborhood or other small geographic regions; spay/neuter availability (mobile and stationary clinics); officer workload indicators, and other important questions that have not previously been asked. 

The story of the daily suffering and deaths of homeless animals in South L.A. streets is ugly, but it is the truth. The complexity is greater than any of us can imagine, but the solution can start with this single, simple step.


(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.




Vol 13 Issue 97

Pub: Dec 1, 2015

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