ANIMAL WATCH-Why aren't Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Paul Koretz, Chair of the Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee (PAWS) for the LA City Council, holding General Manager Brenda Barnette responsible for the unending series of aggressive-dog attacks -- mainly Pit Bulls -- on both employees and the public in Los Angeles Animal Services' shelters?
Visitors to the South Los Angeles shelter recently watched a white and brindle Bull Terrier/Mix named Beethoven (photo above) maul an employee, as coworkers struggled to save her from the relentless attack by a dog known to have "neurological issues." The public filled out "Service Feedback Forms" to document the event seen by adults and children (see below).
GM Barnette has not stopped warehousing dogs with bite histories since the sudden departure of Asst. General Manager Melissa Webber, who left LAAS for Dallas Animal Services with the blood of an increasing number of serious attacks on adopters and injured employees as her legacy.
In fact, GM Barnette is still praising Webber at Commission meetings. The Commissioners seek no facts about attacks and the welfare of the victims and Barnette repeatedly dismisses the incidents.
There is something very eerie and very wrong with this picture.
THE ANATOMY OF A PIT BULL ATTACK, THE AFTERMATH, AND THE APATHY
A County Public Health veterinary report on December 14, 2019, states that at 1415 (2:15 p.m.) a person was bitten at 1850 W. 60th St, Los Angeles CA (South L.A. city animal shelter). The dog is described as a “Mixed Breed (BullTer – Male Wht/Brown Brindle). The animal was euthanized with “specimen prepared for rabies testing.”
A California Public Records Act request was submitted December 15, 2019. It took two months to get this report from LA Animal Services and the LA County Department of Public Health, but it was worth the wait.
This is a chance to experience in their own words, the terror and the courage of LA Animal Services employees at the South Los Angeles shelter as a Bull Terrier-Mix (Pit Bull breed) directed an unprovoked attack on a young female shelter worker.
It is not the first time LAAS employees risked their own safety to save a coworker. And, sadly, with the apathy of General Manager Brenda Barnette, her "management team" and City political officials who ignore this department unless it’s when a major financial donation is made, it probably won't be the last.
DOG BITE INCIDENT REPORT
This report was written by one of the Animal Care Technicians (ACT) who tried to discourage members of the public who insisted on "spending time" with this dog, based upon its health issues and behavioral history. The wording is slightly modified to omit actual names and shorten the narrative, but the story is theirs, as they lived it.
(Note: Bull Terriers are a "Bully breed" that can have a propensity for "spinning" in circles or other compulsive behavior indicating a hereditary neurological disorder. This tendency can also make them unpredictable. It is GM Brenda Barnette's "No Kill" policy which keeps these dogs stockpiled in shelters even when they are an obvious, or known, safety risk.)
At around 2:15 p.m., on 12/14/2019, while walking through the kennels and adding to my rounds, a family of three to four adult females stated that they were interested in A1909792 (Beethoven). I was specifically approached by one of the women who wanted to know if she could spend time with this dog. At that time the dog was spinning a bit in his kennel but would stop at times and allow me to give him a treat.
This dog did have some issues. . .I explained that the dog was previously adopted but the adopters did not want to go through with the adoption when they learned that the dog may have a neurological issue. This dog was also declined for neuter at the ASPCA [spay/neuter clinic at SLA shelter] due to his possible neurological issue. This information was also explained to them. I explained that the dog may need a large amount of medical attention and treatment. I informed them that, if they did not take the time to work with the dog, he may bite them.
One woman still wanted to spend time with this dog. I explained that I would find someone to get the dog out for her since I was working on my rounds. I saw ACT "A" in the kennels videotaping Zeke (A1915158) to get video info on his behavior. This female ACT was assigned to Dog Observation this day but, since she was near, I asked her if she could take this dog out for the family. The ACT stated that she was not comfortable working with this dog. I then explained that I would find someone else to help.
I paged over the radio for a Zone 3 & 4 ACT to come to the kennels to help with an adoption. ACT "M" (who became the victim of the attack) responded and informed me that she was on her way. I informed the woman that an ACT would be right with her and continued with my rounds.
After a few seconds I decided to check on ACT "M" to make sure everything was going well. I glanced over to witness the dog spinning and ACT "M" had the kennel door open and was trying to leash Beethoven. I did not feel at this point that the dog was a threat but I wanted to help her get the dog out, so I explained that I would go to the cubby area to get the dog. Once in the cubby area, I asked "M: to hand me her leash so I could place it on the dog.
I opened the cubby and the dog continued spinning for a few seconds but then came out into the cubby walkway. I placed "M's" leash on the dog with no issues. She was able to walk out and into the kennels with the dog. We then agreed that I would wash out his kennel while they were gone. I grabbed the hose and began walking toward the dog’s kennel and witnessed a "tussle" between M. and Beethoven. I saw that he was attached to her arm and she began yelling for me. The dog began shaking his head and ripping at her arm and would not let go. "M" managed to get loose but the dog went right after her again and latched on.
[Note: In LAAS "play group" jargon, a "tussle" can be a serious confrontation. Employees must mask any negative dog behavior behind non-judgmental terms.]
I ran over as fast as I could, looking for things to grab in the process. I ultimately grabbed the dog’s leash from "M" because I could not get ahold of anything else because the tussle was so intense. I knew I could not pull the dog off so I tried looping the leash through a kennel door in order to trap the dog. But at this point "M" had the dog pinned against a kennel door and I lost the leash.
I managed to grab the leash again while she had him pinned and slip it through the space between the kennel door and the guillotine handle in order to trap the dog so that "M" could get away. I then radioed for help.
The dog was extremely focused on "M" and ripping at her arm. Once the leash was secured I told "M." to come my way so that the dog would not be pinned against her and she could get away. When she moved, he moved with her but she managed to swing around to another kennel, so I could tighten the leash. Once I was able to choke the dog by pulling on the leash, he let go of M. and I told her to run.
While she was running away, I noticed two very large bite wounds on her right arm with muscle tissue exposed. After she ran away, I secured the dog.
ACT "D" and ACT "J" helped secure the dog. Three of us walked Beethoven to dog observation. Once secured in a new kennel I went to "M" to make sure she was OK. I found her sitting in medical, surrounded by medical staff, Supervisor "T" and ACT’s. Everyone was trying to keep her calm. She was very upset and crying.
Medical staff was bandaging her arms. I informed RVT "A" that the dog also bit her leg. She checked the leg and we witnessed a large bite wound on her right leg.
Suddenly "M" began to feel overwhelmed and did not want to be touched. She stood up and ran out. After a couple of minutes, Supervisor "T" and I went to look for her so someone could get her to the hospital. She was in the women’s locker room with three female ACT’s. The ambulance arrived and was ready to transport her. After she left in the ambulance, I received a text from her saying she was “freaking out.”
I told her to stay calm. She said she was being transported to Kaiser Cadillac. I informed her that I would call her brother and inform him of her location.
ANOTHER REPORT ON THE ATTACK -- THE PUBLIC "WANTED TO SAVE HIM."
Animal Care Technician "A.R.", who was taking the video of Zeke and had been approached to ask if she was “comfortable taking Beethoven to show to the public," wrote the following account of this incident:
“ACT Supervisor "R" asked me if I was comfortable taking Beethoven to show to the public." R" Stated that she already talked to the family that was interested in him and they insisted on seeing him, despite her disclosing his behavior.
I went to the kennel and watched Beethoven spinning in his kennel and explained to the family that, since he was constantly spinning between being barrier reactive, I wasn’t comfortable taking him out. I tried to talk them out of seeing the dog because he seemed unpredictable and I asked them why they wanted to see him and if they had any experience with Bull Terriers.
(Note: I think we can assume that being "barrier reactive" in this instance means jumping against the sides of the kennel.)
One of the women replied that, “she wanted to save him.” I told them if they insist on seeing him, I would need to get someone else to take him out.
I told "R" and she radio’d for an outside kennel ACT. I saw R. go to the back of the kennel and M. at the front of his kennel. I walked back inside and about a minute later, I heard a distress call over the radio. I ran outside and Diana and R. had him on an ACD and M. was going to the medical area.
I spoke to the family afterward and they still wanted to find out if Beethoven was going to be okay. (Note: No apparent concern about the employee by the public.)
One of the women fainted and we called 911.
AS OF THIS DATE, THE INJURED EMPLOYEE IS REPORTEDLY STILL OFF WORK. She is described as in her early 20s with less than one year of experience at LA Animal Services.
TWO "SERVICE FEEDBACK FORMS" FROM PUBLIC WITNESSES TO THE ATTACK
First witness statement:
"My family and I witnessed one of the workers taking a dog back to his kennel, barking at other dogs. When the worker tried to pull the dog away, the dog immediately lunged at the worker's right arm. The worker began screaming, "HELP ME!" while three volunteers stood and watched. . ."
Second witness statement:
"She was getting the dog out of the cage, the other dogs began to bark, so the dog jumped onto her. When she tried to back up, he bit into her arm & she began to move around, trying to remove the dog from her arm. She started running around while the dog was still on her--even pressed him onto a cage to try to get him off. I ran after that."
WHEN WILL THIS END?
Are Los Angeles elected officials ignoring the poor judgment of GM Brenda Barnette, the dangers to employees, the suffering of victims and the cost of lawsuits to taxpayers because of the political power and promises of wealthy "No Kill" interests, such as, Best Friends Animal Society and the ASPCA, and their own political ambitions?
When you go to a shelter (or to a rescuer) to adopt, think of the potential dangers and your own and your family’s safety while there and after you take an animal home. Ask if any of the dogs have bite-records or negative-behavioral histories and are still being made available for adoption. If the answer is “yes,” run for the door and visit a shelter that puts safety of employees, adopters and pets above money and politics.
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of LA employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.