ANIMAL WATCH-Isn't it an oxymoron that giving a homeless dog to a homeless person is giving it a "home?" Finding “furever” homes for shelter animals is supposed to be the goal of "No Kill," according to Best Friends Animal Society and Presidential-hopeful Mayor Eric Garcetti.
In fact, this was so important to the Mayor that, when the 2017 widely touted "no kill" goal was missed by LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette, Garcetti held a press conference to announce that LA was the first big city to be “almost no-kill.”
And, the current Best Friends' donation-soliciting ad on Google urges, "Support Best Friends' Mission to End the Killing of Homeless Pets. No More Homeless Pets."
Recently, homeless animals have become a very lucrative and politically powerful industry, since most of the organizations that claim to be ending the problem receive unlimited tax-exempt donations. There is little monitoring of their activities and expenditures because money spent on "homelessness" is difficult to audit, and many boast of large memberships which they imply can influence the outcome of elections.
ANOTHER BAD DECISION BY LAAS GM BRENDA BARNETTE
Among the most obvious and egregious decision being made in the name of "no kill" or "life-saving" by LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette is that Pit Bulls with a known history of aggression and/or other behavioral concerns are either held indefinitely, using space that could be available for lost and homeless pets, or they are being released from shelters and have attacked innocent, unsuspecting adopters, their pets and other victims.
Recently, Pit Bulls and other homeless animals at LA Animal Services are being given away "free" or heavily discounted by large donation-based organizations, with absolutely no knowledge of the future of the living creature for which the City took responsibility and claims to have "saved." Pit Bulls are coveted by many of the homeless as "protection" but it doesn't always work out that way. Anything free is devalued in the eyes of many adopters who often take them only because there is no cost. Of course, they can also be sold, and dumping them does not incur a penalty. Many of their fates are determined on Craigslist or worse.
Michael Phillips posted on Dec 26, 2012, "...San Francisco is giving dogs to homeless people on the assumption that most homeless people need company and so do the dogs.
"So far in the past week I have been offered two sweet little dogs for one dollar each by homeless people."
BARNETTE PROPOSES VIOLATING STATE LICENSING LAWS
Brenda Barnette's newest proposal would lower the bar regarding pet ownership even further -- the "homeless" person taking a dog would not even need to provide a residence address -- which is usually a friend or relative with whom they are in contact or knows their approximate location -- to assure the Department can follow up on welfare, rabies vaccination or license renewal. An address is required by CA State law.
Barnette's desperation to be "no kill" is showing a dangerous disregard for public and animal health and safety.
Although she states that the Department wants to work with the City Attorney's office to achieve "alternative contacts," why wasn't the City Attorney consulted before taking this to the Commission to be elevated to Council? Was it an attempt to have pressure from the Council influence the outcome? Or is further pandering to the "homeless community" part of the Mayor's presidential bid?
Most homeless don't vote (unless they have an available address), so perhaps the Mayor should begin considering the safety and welfare of the larger "Los Angeles community" that works and struggles to pay exorbitant taxes and to rent, lease or own a home?
BARNETTE'S PROPOSED MODIFICATION TO LA MUNICIPAL CODE
In a report (Item 6A) to the Animal Services Commission at its meeting last week, General Manager Brenda Barnette proposed to submit modifications to the City Council for LAMC Sections 53.15.2 and 53.17, which "would allow homeless individuals the opportunity to meet alternative contact information requirements to obtain an animal license."
BACKGROUND: "In an effort to serve the homeless community of Los Angeles, staff is recommending that portions of the LAMC be modified to allow animal ownership without the need of a permanent home address. (Note: The word "permanent" does not appear in either local or state law in regard to an address for licensing and is misleading in this report.)
These modifications could be beneficial to the homeless community and the Department as it may increase the live save rates and decrease the impounding of animals for lack of proper licensing."
Increasing the live save rates means more homeless animals can be given to more homeless people if an address is not required address.
The mention of "decreasing the impounding of animals for lack of proper licensing" shows that the GM is not familiar with her own city laws. There is no authority under local law to impound a dog merely because it does not have a license, as long as the dog is either on its own property or under the control of a responsible adult while off the property.
SUMMARY OF PROPOSED LAMC CHANGES: Sec. 53.15.2 of the LAMC defines ownership of an animal as a person who provides care for an animal on property which he or she owns, rents or leases. Additionally Sec. 53.17 prescribes that each animal license issued to owners should state the residence of the person to whom the license is issued. Staff requests that the Board approve proposed modifications to the LAMC which would allow individuals that do not have a permanent address to own dogs in the City of Los Angeles while still allowing the enforcement of animal control laws.
Upon approval by the City Council, staff would like to work with the City Attorney...to allow homeless individuals the opportunity to meet ALTERNATIVE CONTACT INFORMATION REQUIREMENTS IN LIEU OF A PHYSICAL ADDRESS. (Emph. added.)
[This] "...will help to better serve the homeless community by providing a method of pet ownership that is in compliance with City laws without the need of a physical address."
(Note: A physical address is also State law.)
DOG LICENSING LAWS APPLY EQUALLY TO ALL DOG OWNERS
One of the most obvious fallacies in Barnette's proposal is that the City can establish one set of rules for homeless dog owners and another set for owners who have a home. The law is the law and applies to all equally. If the City Attorney approves her suggestion, no one in the City of Los Angeles would have to provide a physical address.
STATE LAWS REGARDING LICENSING
At the October 11, 2016, Commission meeting, GM Brenda Barnette proposed Homeless Allowed to Use Post Office Box only (no physical address) for licensing and microchiping dogs.
At that time, Attorney David Zaft, who was President of the Commission, expressed serious concerns about the violation of State laws:
Cal. Food & Agric. Code §30802. Each application for a dog license tag shall state the age, sex, color, and breed of the dog for which the license is desired and the address of the owner.
California Health and Safety Code - HSC § 121690 (in pertinent part)
In rabies areas, all of the following shall apply:
(a) Every dog owner, after his or her dog attains the age of four months, shall no less than once every two years secure a license for the dog as provided by ordinance of the responsible city, city and county, or county.
(e) The governing body of each city, city and county, or county shall maintain or provide for the maintenance of a pound system and a rabies control program for the purpose of carrying out and enforcing this section.
(Los Angeles County is a rabies area.)
Licensing of dogs is not primarily for reuniting a dog with its owner. The State law was devised as a necessity following serious rabies outbreaks, the last of which was when animal control departments were formed to enforce vaccinations.
Although rabies is not currently epidemic in LA County in dogs, this is only due to the continuous enforcement of the vaccination law and notification to owners. Barnette's proposal for "alternative contact information requirement" offers no enforcement opportunity and little contact assurance.
Also, animals which are kept by the residentially challenged (which may be someone's lost pet that they have picked up from the street and has not had a chance to be redeemed by the legal owner) are likely far more likely to encounter exposure to infected animals or areas, with fewer effective methods for restraint from physical contact and separation from danger of attack by unvaccinated animals.
Because much of their life is often spent outdoors -- often under bridges or on undeveloped or abandoned property -- there is also a much greater potential for encounters with potentially rabid wildlife.
Wearing a current dog license indicates that the dog is immunized against rabies. It is important that LA Animal Services has an accurate address (as required by state law on the application) where there is at least someone who is related or knows the approximate location of the owner and the dog.
This also provides protection for anyone who may be bitten by the dog of a homeless person and may help them avoid having to endure the stress and pay for the expensive ($3,500 - $10,000) rabies series. (Remember that homeless dog owners do not have homeowner's insurance to help the victim.)
LA CITY MUST COMPLY WITH STATE LAW
The Commission, Council, Mayor and the Department of Animal Services have an obligation to protect animals and humans and to assure that no ordinances are changed to violate either the letter or the intent of State law.
The intent of Fd. and Ag. Sec. 30802 is clear. It is to insure applicants for dog licenses provide the "address of the owner." If there is no address, perhaps the person should consider waiting until they have a place to keep a pet responsibly. The animals have no choice and depend upon us to keep them safe. Encouraging homeless adoptions is not giving them a home.
The ultimate goal and purpose of licensing is public and animal health and safety and it must apply equally to all who assume the privilege and responsibility of dog ownership.
REALTIES FOR DOGS OF THE HOMELESS
There is sympathy and romanticizing among the naive for giving a homeless person a dog because it sounds so comforting for a person living alone in the streets and often addicted to drugs or alcohol to have a pet "to give them love and companionship and purpose."
But what about the welfare of the dog? Granted that a few homeless have the presence of mind to try to keep pets protected, the dog -- which may be someone's beloved stolen or found pet -- is doomed to a filthy life on the streets or in a camp permeated with parasites, feces, urine and typhus.
The short life span of a pet belonging to a homeless person is not filled with fun and play. It is a life of terror from fear of attack by other animals, parasites from unsanitary conditions, lack of available water and/or quality food (the myth that homeless go hungry to feed their pets is overrated) and constant uncertainty of the reaction of the person who controls its existence, because most homeless persons are subject to wide and often violent mood swings, forgetfulness and insecurity.
THE HOMELESS OFTEN CHOOSE PIT BULLS FOR "PROTECTION" HOW DOES THAT WORK OUT?
Jul 10, 2018 - A Deputy Sheriff in Hillsborough County, FL, was hospitalized after a homeless man's pit bull attacked her, FoxNews reported on July 10, 2018. Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputy Annamaria DiLascio was called to a shopping center in Seffner following complaints of a group of homeless people with their dogs disturbing shoppers, officials said in a news release.
DiLascio called for back up to get help with restraining a dog. She asked the group not to release the dogs but Randy Lee Betts, 36, let a pit bull go that attacked the deputy, biting her upper thigh and lower calf. More deputies arrived at the scene to help before arresting Betts, who was charged with trespassing after a warning, resisting with violence and aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer. His dogs were impounded by Hilsborough County Animal Services.
July 21, 2018 - “An aggressive Pit Bull named “Sharkie” who belonged to a Manteca, CA, homeless man, called “Ghost,” attacked two women in the Target parking lot Friday at noon, sending both to the hospital.
Another homeless man wrestled the dog to the ground until police and animal control officers arrived.
Another homeless man in his late 20’s had thrown his bicycle at the dog to try to stop the attack and someone else tossed a can of pepper spray, which was used to stop the dog from continuing the attack.
The girlfriend of the dog owner later said she took the pit bull out of their parked SUV and the dog turned on her first as she ran to a friend’s pickup and jumped in the back as it sped away. The shopper then became the object of the dog’s attention and he attacked, inflicting a severe bite to her thigh. The dog was temporarily stopped by the pepper spray but then circled her again and bit her on the arm.
A witness said it seemed like the dog “was just mad and out to get women” She also described how, when the white pickup truck picked up the first injured woman and a male friend, the dog chased it out of the parking lot leaving telltale blood on the ground.
The witness said the dog had previously been gentle with people and “it would only go after other animals.”
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of LA employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.