ANIMAL WATCH - The last extension of the Best Friends Animal Society’s $1-per-year lease of the Los Angeles Animal Services Mission shelter has ended with no fanfare, barely noticed by the media, and its final announcement lacked any celebration of L.A. being a “No Kill” city.
Best Friends was described by KABC merely as a “no-kill organization that works with animal rescue groups and city shelters to provide cats and dogs with a safe space until they are adopted.”
But “no kill” has been a cruel experiment in keeping animals that are unadoptable, including known-dangerous dogs, alive in cages and kennels for months—and sometimes years.
Best Friends has also concentrated on “saving” aggressive Pit Bulls and received unfavorable publicity as a result of lawsuits filed by victims of attacks. (See: Lawsuit: Vicious Pit Bull Attack on Child Settled by Best Friends Animal Society
The former Process Church of the Final Judgment which became animal saviors, “Best Friends,” told KABC that the City-owned Mission facility will be open to December 31, at which time they will have transferred all animals to its non-profit West L.A. “lifesaving” center.
The KABC report also states, “Officials say the Mission Hills location will be replaced with another animal rescue center. It's not official which one yet, but they are working on it.”
Many taxpayers in the community (and beyond) have asked why the City is not staffing this shelter for its original purpose as a public shelter taking in lost, stray and unwanted pets—especially with the current complaints of overcrowding at the remaining six LAAS shelters.
The Mission shelter was built under $532 million Prop. F. funds approved by voters in 2000, because a study at that time showed the growing population in the Valley warranted an additional shelter for public and animal safety.
TURMOIL OVER LAAS SHELTER ALLEGED MISMANAGEMENT
Current turmoil at L.A. Animal Services involves public complaints about inhumane conditions, mismanagement by Interim General Manager Annette Ramirez, and refusal by LAAS to allow volunteers to help, including cleaning and exercising to impounded animals to improve their health and relieve stress.
A two-part hearing of complaints by former volunteers at LAAS, held by Councilman Paul Koretz, who is running for Controller, brought Wallis Annenberg to the “rescue,” but she may want to look a little deeper into some prior history related to her plan.
Reportedly, “Despite her father leaving the majority of his multibillion-dollar fortune to the Annenberg Foundation, it is estimated that [Wallis] Annenberg has a personal fortune in excess of five hundred million dollars.”
But is this latest infusion of donated money, and the political influence that it brings, the magic bullet that Koretz seeks?
BEST FRIENDS ANNOUNCES “SETBACK” IN LIFESAVING [NO KILL]
On June 07, a Best Friends Animal Society media release that newly collected data shows an “Increase in Number of Dogs and Cats Killed in U.S. Shelters for the First Time in Five Years.”
“Unfortunately, the setback in lifesaving is largely due to the historic decreases in pets entering shelters in 2020,” said Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society. “As shelters began to reopen in 2021 in increasing numbers, so did the number of pets entering their facilities. Over the course of 2021, shelters saw an 8.1 percent increase in intake, and sadly, the number of pet adoptions could not keep pace with the increased intake,” the release states.
The shift was even more dramatic for dogs than cats, as dog intake increased by nearly three times the rate of dog adoptions. Despite this, cats remain the most at-risk animals in shelters being killed at twice the rate of dogs.
More statistics from the 2021 dataset, include that, “Five states make up fifty percent of the overall number of dogs and cats killed in 2021 (Texas, California, North Carolina, Florida, and Alabama).”
But other things have also marred Best Friends’ L.A. Animal Services’ “Save them All” campaign and popularity with “rescuers” and their ratings seems to have fallen in the animal-welfare community since a video taken at a Best Friends’ meeting, during which it was acknowledged that its high-ranking leaders (Judiah Battista) and DogsPlay4Life founder Amee Sadler, shared a philosophy that accepted shock collars in training of [especially] Pit Bulls.
BEST FRIENDS' STATEMENT
Because of prohibitions on copying from the Best Friends' blog, I am providing the link to the entire Best Friends statement re: dog training on October 28, 2019, here.
AIMEE SADLER DISCUSSES HER TRAINING PHILOSOPHY
Boulder, Longmont humane societies at odds over shock, choke collars was posted by the Daily Camera on March 16, 2011, stating that two humane societies—in Boulder and Longmont—were at odds over what tools dog owners should use to walk or train their pets, with the Boulder shelter asking owners to ditch choke, prong or shock collars.
Aimee Sadler, training and behavior program director for the Longmont Humane Society, said, “There is no one trainer or no one system or method that is going to work for all families and all pets,” and that “the Longmont Humane Society is leading the way in saving more animal lives.
“We have severe behavior issues with some of our pets and shelter dogs, and if we are not balanced and comprehensive in our approach to training, the potential consequence is death,” Sadler said. “We are not going to deny any of our families any resources that are going to support animal needs and get them to rewardable behavior.”
Lindsay Wood, director of animal training and behavior at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley and a certified animal behaviorist, said, “choke, shock or prong collars can be painful and cause injury to the trachea. And because they rely on aversive behavior to achieve control, she said, the collars can have an adversarial impact on a person’s relationship with the pet.”
Here is the posted video link: Video Link – Shock Collars; and the meeting Best Friends Animal Society Meeting; Shock Collars (Excerpts) [link to full version in Description]
OTHER STATES QUESTION “NO KILL”
Texas – Overcrowding, Mismanagement at Austin Animal Center “No Kill” Shelter Alleged
An August 5 article by the Austin Chronicle, Austin’s Animal Shelters Struggle to Uphold No-Kill Reputation in the Face of Overcrowding, is a must-read for anyone who wants thorough investigative information on why No Kill does not work and much of it is the exact wording and testimony heard in Los Angeles.
Following are quotes that are important to understanding the seriousness and cruelty of the failed experiment of No Kill and why putting band-aids on a profusely bleeding national wound will not help:
The report states, “For more than a decade, Austin was the largest city to designate itself a no-kill sanctuary for animals.”
“To achieve that level of performance, the partnership at the system's core—between the city-owned and -run Austin Animal Center and its nonprofit partner Austin Pets Alive!—needs to operate seamlessly and without friction, as it sustains the work of hundreds of volunteers and makes connections with scores of community partners.
But, commenters say, “that is not happening now.”
Employees say they face retaliation for speaking but they can no longer remain silent.
Today at AAC, “dogs are at 145% of capacity and cats are at 171% as of July 28. Council, employees, stakeholders, and volunteers are all uniformly disappointed with the state of animal rescue in Austin.”
Another comment was that, “AAC is grossly overcrowded in part because they are refusing to euthanize dangerous dogs. They are being pressured to do ANYTHING to avoid euthanasia, even if that anything is grossly irresponsible and dangerous to both people and animals.”
AUSTIN ANIMAL CENTER DIRECTOR RECEIVED VOTE OF “NO CONFIDENCE”
The Chronicle states “The Animal Advisory Commission cast a vote of no confidence in [Director] Don Bland's leadership in June, citing a lack of transparent data on no-kill policies and no willingness to collaborate with Austin animal stakeholders that could provide immediate, free help to solve the problems the shelter is facing.”
Current and former volunteers at the shelter spoke of mistreatment and a toxic work environment at the July 11 commission meeting, which they said leads to high turnover and fewer resources for the animals.
FLORIDA - SUMTER COUNTY’S ANIMAL SERVICES TO ADOPT “SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS SHELTERING”
On August 24, 2022, the Daily Sun announced that “the Sumter Animal Shelter is now at nearly triple its design capacity.” And the Commission agreed that the County’s foray into providing a ‘No Kill’ animal shelter has been a failure.”
The Board unanimously decided that, “The county will shift to a ‘socially conscious sheltering’ model in a move designed to provide more humane treatment for the animals,” writes reported Chris Hill.
An emotional new commissioner, Don Wiley, stated, “I’ve only been on the board two and half months. My worst day was the day I went to the animal shelter,” and dogs coming in are outpacing those being adopted, with 143 dogs housed in 54 kennels.
The report stated that at least 13 people have been bit, according to a County Administrator’s report, and “it’s not a safe operation to continue.
One contributing factor is that area rescue partners have decreased their “direct transfers,” and a “No-kill operation” was “not sustainable.”
Commissioner Wiley was “visibly upset” in describing dogs, such as “Noah,” who has endured 530 days in confined captivity. “In our efforts to be humane, we’ve not been,” he said.
“No-kill” often becomes “slow kill…,” a Commissioner commented.
Socially conscious sheltering supports sheltering and adoption efforts while focusing on quality of life in making euthanasia decisions. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has long supported this and says, “Unfortunately, under intense pressure to increase ‘live-release’ statistics, many animal shelters have resorted to harmful ‘no-kill’ policies, which make statistics look appealing but at animals’ expense.”
Compassionate euthanasia is “an act of kindness for animals who are suffering without hope of recovery or are unadoptable for other reasons.” PETA states.
In August 2019, Marcia Mayeda, Director of Los Angeles County Animal Control and was also at that time also Vice-President of the California Animal Welfare Association, stated:
I do see a great difference between Socially Conscious Animal Sheltering and “No Kill.” No Kill requires agencies to meet an artificially created 90% Live Release Rate; a number that has no basis in research or studies to support it as the right number.”
Dr. Roger Haston, former Chief of Analytics at PetSmart Charities, has shown quite clearly that chasing the No Kill target has also created many dangerous practices such as refusing admission to animals in need, overcrowding and disease in shelters, and release of dangerous dogs into the community.
I think No Kill served a purpose several decades ago to jolt the nation into awareness of the excessive euthanasia at animal shelters. But, we have evolved beyond that and Socially Compassionate Animal Sheltering is a more responsible and humane approach to the very different tenets of No Kill.
ANNENBERG COMES TO L.A. CITY SHELTERS VIA AIMEE SADLER
On August 26 2022, Los Angeles Animal Services posted a media release that stated (in part):
“In response to the ongoing issue of overcrowding and overall animal wellbeing in Los Angeles city shelters, Wallis Annenberg PetSpace will partner with Los Angeles Animal Services (LA Animal Services) to begin a dual-pronged approach to help ensure the more than 1,000 dogs currently in city shelters are getting enrichment and exercise every day, and that animals are finding homes more quickly.”
“First, starting September 1, PetSpace will fund two new Canine Enrichment Coordinator positions within LA Animal Services. Second, also in September, PetSpace will begin a six-month program of hosting weekly spay/neuter surgeries at their Playa Vista facility for LA Animal Services animals. (LA Animal Services animals must be spayed/neutered before they’re adoptable.)”
Reportedly, the Canine Enrichment Coordinators will work directly and collaboratively with current LA Animal Services staff and volunteers across the city’s six shelter facilities to create a structured program to get every dog outside—in play groups—every day, maintain individualized enrichment and training protocols, and attend to the emotional and behavioral well-being of the entire shelter canine population.
MORE SMOKE AND MIRRORS?
There is NO mention of volunteers in this proposal, and Interim GM Ramirez has stated her problem with even keeping all the shelters open is a lack of staffing. Thus, who will transport the animals for spay/neuter at their facility? And, can volunteers be used?
A more urgent concern is where will the people that run the playgroups come from? Playgroups take several humans being simultaneously involved in retrieving, monitoring and returning dogs to kennels. If there are not enough staff and volunteers to do that now, how will two high-paid consultants help?
There is no mention of how two employees will be “funded” inside the LAAS Department, which brings up the issues of union rules, liability, chain of command and if there will be backup of kennel support staff at the shelters during the playgroup periods?
Aimee Sadler's “Dogs Playing for Life” program releases a large number of dogs of unknown background—many surrendered or stray Pit Bulls—to work out relationships with each other in an open yard, with shelter staff and/or volunteers monitoring, but rarely enough for safety with the number of dogs. Often one of the smaller or more timid dogs is a victim of attack.
For selected dogs with NO history of aggression engaging in carefully monitored play can be a positive activity, but when the DogsPlaying4Life program was at L.A. Animal Services shelters before, the notes on some of the dogs known to have attack staff or the public do not indicate inclusion of the precautions—recommended by Tufts Center for ShelterDogs Playgroup Manual—and have resulted in attacks on staff in the shelter and the public at the shelter and at home.
When are the details of the program and the results going to be made available for public review?
And, unless L.A. Animal Services gives up the façade of “No Kill,” which has failed, and becomes Socially Conscious, it is unlikely this will reduce overcrowding.
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a contributor to CityWatch and a former Los Angeles City employee.)