ANIMAL WATCH-Before his re-election in March 2017, Mayor Eric Garcetti was accused of being silent on LA’s rising crime. Opponents claimed Garcetti was hiding and suppressing 2016 crime statistics that showed a 10 percent increase in violent crime in the city and ignoring the need to hire more police officers. The Mayor's political ambitions may have also been the reason he and Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette made no public comments about two tragic Pit Bull attacks in Los Angeles in early 2017.
There was also no public response by LA City officials when, on April 6, 2017, the U.S. Postal Service announced that dog bites to mail carriers in Los Angeles soared to #1 in the country in 2016, with a total of 80 attacks. This was a 43% increase from 2015.
According to Dana Brown, who was Assistant GM of Animal Services at that time, there are still only 50 Animal Control Officers working 24/7 to serve almost four million residents and their pets. Twenty-five positions are vacant. She explained at the April 11 Commission meeting, that LAAS had only been able to start four new ACO's during the past two years because of a “glitch” in the hiring process.
Yet, Mayor Garcetti and the City Council have further cut staffing for LAAS in the 2017-2018 budget.
Garcetti Celebrates Almost "No-Kill," Ignores Pit Bull Attacks
On May 4, Mayor Garcetti joined City officials for a celebratory photo-op, announcing that the city's shelters are “close to reaching the no-kill status, which is a 90 percent save rate.” He ignored that Priscilla Romero, a ten-year veteran Animal Care Technician (ACT) at LAAS North Central shelter, had recently been savagely attacked by a Pit Bull and was still recovering. Nor was there any expression of concern for other employees helping him meet his "no kill" goal.
The Mayor also did not express dismay that two Pit Bulls escaped from a yard in Lincoln Heights near downtown LA on February 2, killing Valentin Herrera’s 5-year-old Pomeranian and inflicting injuries on the 75-year-old man that resulted in his death. The Pit Bulls were reported to have also killed a small pet dog belonging to another local resident as her children watched.
How Animals can be affected by the Rise in Violent Crime
Councilman Bob Blumenfield asked for a study of Los Angeles crime, citing a 14 percent increase in homicides in 2016 in Valley communities and a 33 percent leap in robberies in the entire San Fernando Valley. However, most of Los Angeles has experienced rising victimization, according to the LA Times crime map, which shows widespread homicides, assaults and thefts throughout the city.
It is a fact that the history of many violent criminals and much domestic violence/child abuse involves past or current cruelty to animals. News reports disclose that Los Angeles is experiencing a rise in bold, violent criminal acts toward humans. We cannot ignore what may be happening to animals in their possession. Their only protection -- and often that of human victims in a household -- is the fact that an animal control officer (with the assistance of police/sheriffs) can gain entry to observe conditions of the animals and remove victims.
State Changes Can Also Affect Animal Laws
"Last year, Los Angeles saw a wave of homicides and gang-related shootings amid a tide of homelessness that impacted crime in every corner of the city,” officials said.
"We've seen a huge spike in the homeless population, which contributes to crime," said Councilman Mitch Englander. "The misdemeanor charges from drug- and alcohol-induced crimes, from theft to burglary, are a joke.”
Assembly Bill 109, created “realignment" in 2011, allowing perpetrators of crimes classified as non-violent, non-serious, and not sex offenders to be released from California prisons and supervised at the understaffed local level.
And in 2014 California voters approved Proposition 47, reducing drug and property offenses from felonies to misdemeanors and stripping prosecutors of leverage to compel drug and alcohol rehab. At least, this would have allowed offenders to be tracked.
No attention has been given to the fact that any changes lowering the penalties for crimes in California may reduce the potential for incarceration for animal cruelty and neglect convictions.
GM Brenda Barnette Promotes Pets for the Homeless
In the midst of evidence that the increasing homeless population is contributing to crime, Brenda Barnette announced in August 2016 that LAAS is teaming up with two non-profit organizations to launch an "easily accessible" Pet Resource Center on Skid Row.
Brenda told us, “ICLC, DDR and LAAS want to make it known that no matter what a person's housing or financial situation there are ways [to] keep pets with their people.”
This statement is unsettling because, although it does not directly say so, it implies this is always advisable. Yet, statistics confirm that many homeless people are drug- or alcohol-addicted or mentally unstable. They live in squalor in homeless encampments, reeking of urine, garbage and animal/human waste. Their pets are frequently attacked and/or killed by larger aggressive dogs, often goaded by an intoxicated or sadistic person.
Many of these “pets” of the homeless are picked up in the streets and may be beloved lost companions being sought by grieving owners. Barnette’s plan would, among other things, grant legal ownership by licensing these dogs to the homeless.
Reporting Behavior Before Adoptions Not Required
GM Brenda Barnette has admitted that LA Animal Services does not track or compile records on dog attacks in the city. Nor is there a mandate to disclose to potential adopters that an animal has an unknown behavioral history or reported incidents of aggression.
An April 2016 article provides details on how a Pit Bull with a Violent History was personally released to a "rescue" by GM Brenda Barnette. It was then placed with a local "foster" home near downtown LA, where it brutally mauled a potential adopter and was stabbed 19 times by a neighbor to save the woman's life.
Los Angeles is not alone in failing to reveal that the future behavior of a shelter/rescued dog is not predictable. The following list of recent attacks in Los Angeles and surrounding areas shows the increase in Pit Bull attacks and the refusal, even in the face of repeated tragedies, to admit the genetic nature of Pit Bulls.
The same month Barnette released the vicious dog in Los Angeles, a Pit Bull recently adopted from San Diego Humane Society & SPCA killed a three-day-old baby while the parents were lying with the infant and the dog on a bed. The Pit Bull was adopted six months earlier. Humane Society President Gary Weitzman stated that the attack could not have been foreseen.
Animals 24-7 reminds us that this tragic event occurred in the 77th California state assembly district, represented by Republican Brian Maienschein, author of a subsequently successful 2016 bill -- AB 1825 -- which allows animal shelters to rehome dogs impounded in dogfighting cases.
RECENT PIT BULL ATTACKS IN AND NEAR LA.
Police Shoot 2 of 3 Pit Bulls Dead After Dogs Attacked Man
On May 10, 2017, three pit bulls were shot, two fatally, by police after officers observed the dogs attacking a man – and killing his smaller dog – in downtown Los Angeles Wednesday morning, according to LAPD.
After attempts to stop the attack with a Taser were ineffective, responding officers opened fire on the dogs in an effort "to preserve life," LAPD tweeted.
Police confirmed that the victim's dog also died from the attack. The man in his 50's was walking his pet when the off-leash pit bulls attacked. The man suffered multiple bite wounds all over his body and was taken to a hospital, where he was reported in guarded condition.
The Pit Bull owner assured detectives that his dogs were well behaved and would come when called, reported CBS.
On April 20, 2017, CBS-2 LA reported a man was airlifted to Harbor UCLA Medical Center after a vicious attack on him and his Jack Russell terrier while they were visiting Santa Catalina Island.
The victim said he and his dog were strolling on the pier when two 11-year-old Pit Bulls went after his dog. When he attempted to protect Josh, the pit bulls came after him, ripping out a piece of his calf and biting both his arms, he said.
Brady told CBS-2 he will have to undergo numerous surgeries. “My dog is alive, and I put my body over him because he’s my best friend in the world,” Brady said.
The LA County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that the pit bulls are owned by a woman who lives on a boat in Avalon, and she agreed to have both of them euthanized.
On June 1, 2017, KABC reported that about 3:30 p.m. a pit bull was shot by an off-duty Los Angeles police officer inside the famous Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop on Hollywood Boulevard.
Police advised that the person with the pit bull was a possible robbery suspect, which was what caused the initial interaction with the officer.
The Pit Bull attacked the cop and an off-duty security officer. The off-duty LAPD officer shot the dog, which was transported to an animal hospital. The two officers bitten were also transported to hospitals.
On June 2, police fatally shot a pit bull that was attacking its 51-year-old owner in Long Beach, officials report. The owner later told officers, the dog had “a history of violent behavior towards people.”
Police responded around 11:25 p.m. to a call regarding “a screaming female being attacked” by a pit bull, authorities said. Officers found the woman lying in the street, with the dog nearby and, "…She had sustained multiple dog bites all over her arms and legs, and her clothing had been partially ripped from her body,” officers stated.
Long Beach Fire Dept. personnel could not provide medical aide because of the “aggressive nature” of the dog, which "began to advance,” causing officers to react to its “aggression.” They first fired a 40mm rubber bullet at the dog to attempt to drive him away, but a second officer then shot his duty, striking it, officials stated. A Taser was also ineffective in attempting to gain control of the dog after the attack, police reported.
After at least three attacks, Redondo Beach to determine fate of Pit Bull mix
On June 15, 2017, The Beach Reporter discussed a hearing held for a Pit Bull-mix dog named Bodie in Redondo Beach who has attacked at least three times, with a possible fourth incident reported by neighbors.
On May 22 of this year, at second encounter with Bodie resulted in multiple lacerations to a Chihuahua-Corgi mix, named Shogun, and his owner, Andrew Chen, who attempted to defend his pet.
In all incidents, the dog rushed out of the house through an open door or gate. Four neighbors also testified they too did not feel safe with the pit bull in the neighborhood.
Bodie's owners testified he is "a loving animal that’s great with kids." They have paid several thousand dollars in medical bills for Chen’s dog, according to the Beach Reporter.
A distraught poodle owner, Rudy Jesus Barajas, accused of fatally slashing the throat of a pit bull after the big dog killed his small pet must be tried on felony animal cruelty charges, a Riverside judge ruled, according to June 15 report by MyNewsLA.com.
The man's attack on the pit bull would have probably been justified, according to law enforcement investigators, if it had occurred while the poodle was being attacked, but charges were filed because the Pit Bull's throat was slashed after it was forced to release the poodle.
About 10 a.m. last Dec. 24, the defendant’s poodle was in the front yard of his house The pit bull left its yard and attacked the poodle, clamping down on its neck and carrying it into the street, according to a Riverside County Animal Services' officer.
After neighbors came to help pry the tiny dog from the Pit Bull's mouth, witnesses told animal control and police officers that the defendant dragged Devo into his kitchen, grabbed a knife and slit the dog’s throat.
At the time, investigators stated that Barajas had the right to defend his pet and safely extricate it, but not to employ deadly force after the poodle had been released.
A post-preliminary hearing arraignment is scheduled for June 29. Barajas is free on a $10,000 bond. The defendant has no prior documented felony or misdemeanor convictions, according to City News Service.
These reports in or near Los Angeles, all occurring in less than six months should alert Los Angeles City officials, including the Mayor, that Los Angeles could face a crisis due to lack of animal control officers.
LA OFFICIALS MUST TAKE STEPS FOR SAFETY
Just as LAPD is asking for more officers to handle increasing violent crimes, it is time for Mayor Garcetti, GM Barnette and the City Council to answer to residents who paid $44 million in tax money for LA Animal Services in 2016.
With evidence of increasing, violent dog attacks, what is being done to insure the safety of the public, provide quicker response to concerns about treatment of animals, and pick up loose dogs? How many officers are being added to protect innocent residents from dogs, including Pit Bulls that are threats to humans and the source of violent attacks/deaths of their pets?
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of LA employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.