ANIMAL WATCH-Did GM Brenda Barnette dupe the Los Angeles Animal Services Commission into believing animal care and control services would be restored at the West Valley shelter post-COVID-19, while she and Mayor Eric Garcetti (and possibly Councilman Paul Koretz) were secretly conspiring to give the City's premier animal-sheltering facility to "rescue" groups?
This abdication of responsibility for public safety will leave loose, dangerous Pit Bulls and other behaviorally challenged dogs, plus sick or injured animals, warehoused at the already overcrowded East Valley shelter or left on the street (and, according to Barnette's plan, picked up by strangers.)
And it will leave West Valley taxpayers footing the bill without animal control and public safety services for their own communities because it depends on East Valley Animal Control Officers to meet urgent assistance requests.
West Valley residents/businesses will continue to be taxed for their share of the $48 million LAAS budget and paying the balance on the 2000 Prop. F obligation bonds to finance new and renovated animal shelters throughout the city, including the West Valley Animal Care Center at 20655 Plummer St, Chatsworth.
WAS BARNETTE MISLEADING THE COMMISSION, OR IS THE PRESIDENT A GOOD ACTOR?
At the July 14 Commission (zoom) meeting, President Larry Gross seemed serious in asking when full shelter operations would resume at West Valley -- a question he had also asked at the prior meeting. Barnette again alluded to how anxious she is to have the shelter open again "in some form," and made it sound almost as if LAAS personnel, including officers, would soon be back serving the community.
However, in a June 26 Proposal letter to Mayor Eric Garcetti -- over two weeks earlier -- (which became public this week), Barnette already had her plan completed. So, as a City Manager why didn't she tell the whole truth?
Was this done with the Commission's knowledge -- indicating secret or serial meetings in violation of the Brown Act? Or did GM Barnette deliberately withhold information from the public and the Commission which is (under the City Charter) the legal head of the Department?
The subject line of her Proposal to the Mayor reads, "ADDITION TO ANIMAL SERVICES RECONSTITUTION PLAN: RECOMMENDATION TO APPROPRIATE THE WEST VALLEY ANIMAL SERVICES CENTER AS A COMMUNITY RESOURCE CENTER PROVIDING SERVICES AND ASSISTANCE FOR PETS AND PEOPLE FOR PET RETENTION."
Hey, West Valley Voters, Property Owners, Renters and Taxpayers -- did you agree to give up your animal shelter? Was a vote taken in your community? Or did your Councilmember agree to this deception/corruption without your knowledge? (Valley Councilmembers are Koretz, Blumenfield, Krekorian, Martinez, and Lee.)
This will create a conglomerate of "rescues," which do not provide services to lost or injured animals and there will be no Animal Control Officers stationed at the West Valley shelter for your animals' and your family's protection.
Who will be there to help evacuate your animals during the approaching fire season?
And where will horses and other livestock be taken for secure holding? The West Valley shelter is the only LA Animal Services' location with stalls and pasture area for large animals.
Who is getting political donations from the major backer of this plan? When you find out, let the IRS know!
West Valley has enough political power, stakeholders and voters with horses and other animal-related interests, and five ambitious councilmembers who can be reminded to restore your full services.
BARNETTE MIXES METAPHORS AND MAKES THIS RACIAL
Introduction/Excerpts from the Proposal to Mayor Garcetti:
"We are pleased to present this addition to the Department of Animal Services (Department) Reconstitution Plan which will support your important leadership to end institutional racism and injustice while doing our part to make sound financial recommendation [sic] during this difficult economic time." (Emph. added)
Huh? Is Barnette talking about the WV animal shelter and/or comparing animals to disenfranchised humans?
Barnette continues, "To support and assist with the City's large goal of ending institutional racism and injustice, the same work must be done in animal welfare to combat discrimination and inequality in animal services and to build programs and services that are accessible and welcoming to all."
Later she explains, "We want to create. . .services to support pet ownership so that having the love of a companion animal in your life does not become a matter of privilege."
Isn't this doublespeak for saying that all homeless people in the West Valley deserve/need a free pet?
More. . ."we envision providing space for two or three dog rescue partners, one or two cat rescue partners and one rabbit rescue partner to house and maintain adoptable pets obtained from our five Animal Services Centers. . .we want to create office space for other services such as a qualified dog trainer. . .office space for homeless advocates for people and pets. . .intervention partners. . ."
WHAT'S THE ARRANGEMENT WITH THE CITY?
Barnette also plans to have an office for one LAAS senior-level manager who would be managing and maintaining oversight of the premise and the operations of these non-profit organizations.
(Question: Is there a legal position in LAAS with such duties and which covers the liability to the City occurring from a City employee-manager of independent non-profits with free housing inside a City building? This is not like just renting or contracting space. And would the City get a percentage of their profit in selling/adopting out pets? Or will the entire burden for maintaining the facility remain with the City?
There is a rumor this position may be planned for Director Annette Ramirez, formerly with S.M.A.R.T. You can read about her at "Why is GM Brenda Barnette Protecting the L.A. Animal Services SMART Leaders?" to see what qualifications/background she brings to this position.
BARNETTE SAYS THIS WILL SAVE MONEY
In explaining the economic aspect, Barnette summarizes, "Savings generated by transitioning WV to a Community Resource Center will not occur immediately but over time through attrition."
On what established business-model is she basing that? This proposal destroys the shelter income from adoptions/auctions, licensing (including the breeding permits required with each in-tact dog license), redemption fees, and the charitable contributions to LA Animal Services by West Valley donors, who would undoubtedly be urged by the "rescues," to donate directly to them. Basically, the City is creating a "pet shopping mall."
APPROXIMATE GEOGRAPHIC BOUNDARIES FOR EAST AND WEST VALLEY LAAS SERVICE AREAS:
WEST VALLEY BOUNDARIES: North -- Porter Ranch/Balboa/Sierra Hwy (Santa Clarita; West -- Valley Circle/West Hills; East -- Sepulveda Blvd./ (Encino/Van Nuys); South -- Mulholland Hwy. / Calabassas.
EAST VALLEY BOUNDARIES: North --Angeles Crest Hwy. /mountain area); West -- Sepulveda; East-- Haynes Cnyn/Tujunga; South -- Ventura Blvd./Mulholland Hwy.
Calls for Animal Control Officer assistance/protection could be delayed by hours because East Valley Shelter at 14409 Vanowen St, Van Nuys, will have only two or three officers to serve BOTH areas during daytime hours and fewer at night.
PUBLIC SAFETY SERVICES THAT WILL BE AFFECTED:
- Dog Attacks- Animal Control Officers will not respond to on-going attacks because their arrival time will be too prolonged. These usually are 911 calls and LAPD has responded in the past. But, since this may involve having to shoot an attacking dog (often a Pit Bull or other Bully breed), the potential political fallout probably will no longer allow this to be a priority call, and victims will be on their own.
- Lost Pets- Lost pets are no longer picked up by ACO's -- unless the finders absolutely cannot keep them or take them to a shelter by appointment. There is no longer a mandate in the City of Los Angeles to take a found pet to a shelter, and GM Barnette encourages leaving them in the street -- claiming most will find their way home within 24 hours. What is going to stop cars from hitting them?
- Dog packs where multiple officers and trucks are required, will not be picked up.
- Animal cruelty investigations will be dependent upon the availability of an East Valley officer.
- Barking dog complaints would probably be handled by mail only. No kennel (or animal-limit) investigations and enforcement will be done because the city of LA no longer has a definition for a "kennel."
- Licensing /Rabies vaccination enforcement for the City will not be possible, increasing the risk of disease.
- Officers will often not have time to respond to injured wildlife calls or the response time will be too late to help the animal.
VALLEY FIRE EVACUATIONS -- AN EVER-PRESENT DANGER
No secure equine or livestock evacuation/holding area will be available in the West Valley in case of fire, earthquake, or major disaster/animal cruelty case. This facility is also used for housing any such animals confiscated in criminal cases in LA Animal Services' citywide jurisdiction.
West Valley is the ONLY LA City shelter that currently has pasture or stable area. Private stables cannot be used to house animals confiscated in criminal cases because the "chain of evidence" security cannot be maintained.
In the event of a major fire -- to which the West and East Valley areas are both vulnerable -- it is likely that available equipment and personnel will have to concentrate on evacuating the "rescue" animals which are housed in City property before addressing privately owned pets. This facility will still be owned by, and the responsibility of, the City.
THIS PROPOSAL IS REGRESSIVE AND DANGEROUS
While animal adoption is important, this regressive Proposal by Brenda Barnette is naïve. Barnette is not an expert on this subject. She has no prior animal-control management experience and was head of a small humane society, a dog breeder and AKC legislative liaison before coming to Los Angeles. And she is following the advice of a new, untested concept by HASS -- Human Animal Support Services, which admits it is a pilot program.
This is a nice idea, but it does not match the funding purposes of a municipal animal control agency of one of the largest shelter systems in the country, and which is financed under PUBLIC SAFETY in the annual City budget.
AN INDEPENDENT AUDIT OF LAAS (AND TRUST FUNDS) MUST BE DONE
Controller Galperin claimed to do an audit on LAAS in 2015, but it turned into a sermon on "No Kill.”
It is time for a federal agency (IRS or FBI) to look at whether Los Angeles funding and donations are being properly spent and from what sources they are received. The quid-pro-quo approach in animal organizations is hard to audit because it contains so many "services," where profit is derived from and paid back to the same donor and often claimed to be used for animals without owners, making it difficult to verify.
TELL THE MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL THIS EXPERIMENT IS TOO RISKY!
Brenda Barnette is attempting to impose an experiment on the City of Los Angeles to purportedly "keep animals with owners," which is a great ideology, except that she leaves out the need for evaluation of the conditions under which the animals are kept, how much they may be suffering and how much damage is resulting. There is no emphasis on anti-cruelty measures or remedies.
It also can place humans and pets in danger by allowing dangerous animals to remain loose.
Former Valley Councilman Dennis Zine, who also served as a career-LAPD officer, warned Los Angeles residents in an important CityWatch article this week warning that they should arm themselves and be ready to protect themselves as the government abandons its obligations for public safety.
The West Valley needs to heed this warning with regard to protecting its streets from the dangers of increased stray animals and potential spread of animal-related diseases by demanding that their shelter be re-opened and Animal Control Officers be returned and retained at a functional level by LA Animal Services for the purpose of serving and safeguarding its communities and pets.
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of LA employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.