ANIMAL WATCH-At the same time Chief Michel Moore is forced to make painful cuts to specialized units within the Los Angeles Police Department --
including the Animal Cruelty Task Force -- due to budget defunding by Mayor Eric Garcetti, LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette is anticipating Council approval of an estimated $60-million program to spay/neuter 20,000 feral/stray cats annually for the next 30 years.
At the November 10, 2020, meeting of the Los Angeles Animal Services Commission, as residents of Los Angeles reel under new COVID-19 restrictions and looming job and home losses, GM Brenda Barnette urged -- and received -- approval of the Citywide Cat Program which commits the City to provide annual spays/neuters for 20,000 TNR (trap/neuter/release) feral/unsocialized or stray cats per year.
This is an estimated expenditure of $2 million annually, based on current cost of approximately $100 per cat.
There is no identified source for funding as this proposal which would require the City to spend an estimated minimum of $2 million on feral cat sterilization beginning in 2021, and a mandate to spay/neuter at least 20,000 wild cats every year for 30 years, if approved by the Council and Mayor by the end of the year.
Since no budget is provided for this plan, which is now scheduled for City Council Committee hearings and anticipated approval, this total expenditure will automatically fall upon taxpayers.
The City has already paid at least $1.3 million to its own Planning Department for an EIR (Environmental Impact Report) which concludes that there will be no negative impact on neighborhoods or wildlife resulting from the release of 20,000 feral cats into the streets annually.
(See: LA’s Animal Services Chief Thinks $800,000 Feral Cat Study is a ‘Budget Priority’)
Although Barnette tacitly alluded to possible charitable fundraising under the $1.5 million public relations firm recently awarded to The Glue by LA Animal Services, she has repeatedly bemoaned that it is very difficult to solicit donations for spay/neuter and humane education.
PET SPAY/NEUTER FUND DEPLETED?
On May 18, in a CityWatch article, we discussed that the balance in the LAAS' Spay/Neuter Fund, which provides pet sterilizations mandated by law for owned dogs, cats and rabbits, had dropped from $5M to $400,000.
At the October 27 Commission meeting -- two weeks before approval of the feral cat plan -- Barnette announced that the City's Animal Sterilization Fund to assist owners of pets meet the City's mandatory spay/neuter requirement is depleted.
This fund was originally designed to provide vouchers for low-income pet owners who cannot afford to comply with the City's mandatory pet-sterilization law. However, Barnette has distributed partial or full-payment vouchers to all Los Angeles residents, regardless of income and allowed recipients to "self-identify."
A very clear analysis of this financial crisis for City animals and pet owners was provided by Senior Management Analyst II, Catherine Chico but is not even partially provided in the transcribed minutes for that meeting. The recorded meeting can be heard here, and seen on the Department of Animal Services Fiscal Year 20-21, 1st Quarter Financial Report Consolidated Overview.
A detailed summary of this foreseeable problem was provided on May 15, 2020, in LAAS' Spay/Neuter Fund Drops from $5M to $400,000 - Is GM Brenda Barnette Clueless or Crafty?
Barnette commented on this monetary crisis as if she is an innocent bystander who can't imagine who mismanaged LA Animal Services' funds.
COMMISSION PRESIDENT URGED PLAN HE DIDN'T UNDERSTAND
The lack of funding for owned pets was not considered as the feral cat program was approved. There seemed to be a major disconnect evidenced in an "oops moment" before the vote was taken to approve the potential $60-million commitment when President Larry Gross jubilantly stated that it was a good move because, even if the City didn't meet the 20,000 per-year goal, it would still help the feral cat problem.
He was quickly corrected by Dr. Jan Rebstock of the Bureau of Engineering, who clarified that, if this program is approved, the City MUST prove that 20,000 surgeries are being performed in order to be in compliance with the City's analysis, which is intended to overturn a court injunction obtained by the Urban Wildlands Group.
Los Angeles is in big trouble when its guiding Commissioners don't clearly understand the impact and cost of their vote.
CAT LIMITS INCREASED--BUT NO ACCOUNTABILITY
Another component of the Feral Cat Program is that the cat limit per household will increase from three to five -- supposedly spayed/neutered cats, but, since there is no enforcement of cat sterilization -- who will count the cats?
Thus, the recipe for failure and disaster is perfect -- owners are not held responsible for allowing cats to reproduce, which creates cats that are put outside as they mature and wander (or owners abandon them) -- either way they become feral and reproduce rapidly.
On the other side is the City spending an estimated $2 million per year to perform surgeries on these now unsocialized, stray cats--which have a constantly replenished source.
ANIMAL CRUELTY TASK FORCE, DEFUNDED
Throughout these budgetary discussions, there has been no mention by the Commission or Barnette of budget cuts possibly affecting the Animal Cruelty Task Force.
However, this specialized unit, created by a motion in 2005 by former-Councilman Tony Cardenas who now represents California's 29th Congressional District," and seconded by Councilman Alex Padilla, who currently serves as the CA Secretary of State, "will be disbanded," according to a FOXNews report.
The Animal Cruelty Task Force is under the Protective Support and Vice Division.
Barnette most-recently publicly demonstrated her lack of respect and disdain for law-enforcement in a Facebook post on September 25, 2020, in which she undermined an on-going cruelty case and demeaned her own officer -- and possibly mislead LAPD about a criminal investigation. (See: LAAS GM Barnette Undermines Animal Cruelty Case, Bashes Animal Control Officers on Facebook.)
WERE CONGRESSMAN TONY CARDENAS' EFFORTS FOR LA ANIMALS IN VAIN?
Councilman for LA's Sixth District, Tony Cardenas, had a dream that the City of Los Angeles could stop, or at least deter, cruelty to animals but he also wanted to end painful pet overpopulation.
Councilman Cardenas, who grew up in Pacoima, also was dedicated to spay/neuter to stop pet overpopulation and the suffering of animals when there are too many for the available, responsible homes. In 2008, he worked diligently on the development of a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance for all dogs and cats in the City of LA and seconded a successful motion, with an important clause at the end of this motion, which stated:
The proposed ordinance should be consistent with provisions of AB 1634 but adapted to the specific needs of Los Angeles, including an expanded program to assist pet owners earning less than 300% of the Federal Poverty Level spay and neuter their pets. REFER TO COUNCIL FILE 07-0002-S65
PITY THE ANIMALS OF LOS ANGELES
The City of Angels, as it is described by Mayor Eric Garcetti, seems to have forgotten its obligation to closely monitor the money spent on its companion pets, rather than spending it on a program where the money spent cannot be audited, which occurred when City funds were depleted under the feral cat program unofficially implemented by prior GM Ed Boks.
Combining the lack of concern about maintaining funds for pet spay/neuter, as required by law, coupled with the transformation of Animal Control Officers from law-enforcement to "intervention," which attempts to inform and persuade violators, and the dissolution of the Animal Cruelty Task Force, the voiceless constituents of this city who cannot protect themselves, have been abandoned.
Los Angeles needs the Animal Cruelty Task Force now -- more than ever -- and the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti are paid to maintain the health and safety of all of the city's pets now, not obligate taxpayers to unending debt for an unproven program at an undeterminable total final cost and benefit to the City.
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a contributor to CityWatch and a former LA City employee. She is currently employed by the U.S. Postal Service.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.