ANIMAL WATCH-An elephant walking up Weidlake Drive to a late-night party on Saturday, November 15, at a house in Hollywood Dell, caused concerned residents to call LA Animal Services, LAPD and the Fourth District Council Office. As a result, Councilman David Ryu is asking for a report from LAAS on closing a “loophole” in the City’s exotic-animal permitting process.
One neighbor reported being “concerned that the elephant was agitated,” the Councilman said in a letter to the department that was read into the record by his Director of Policy and Legislation, Nicholas Greif, at the November 24 Animal Services Commission meeting. (Photo: Elephant at party example is from a Blake Edwards Hollywood party in 1968.)
Representatives of the Hollywood Dell community were also present to testify. The first, Mary Ledding, described how perplexed she was by being unable to find a listing of issued permits on the LA Animal Services website. However, according to the Councilman’s letter, “…organizers of the party at 6447 Weidlake Drive said that they had a permit for the elephant. And they did.”
Councilman Ryu wrote, “I find it hard to believe that our permit system for exotic animals is meant to be allowed for late-night parties in the City of Los Angeles. I do not believe that bringing an elephant up the rutted roads of this hillside street to a loud party is humane treatment …”
Skip Haynes told the Commission he has lived in the area for over 15 years. He said he attended the meeting to support the LAPD Senior Lead Officers who responded regularly to “party house” incidents. He voiced concern for the animals and what will happen as a result of proposed development and the increasing number of “party houses” in residential communities -- houses that are not used as homes, but merely rented out for events such as this.
Haynes, co-founder of Citizens for LA Wildlife (CLAW), said that on June 6 a similar party was held at the same house and a full-grown lion was clearly visible to neighboring properties. An earlier event involved a giraffe; and reportedly no proof of a permit was produced He also voiced concern about the damage that can be done by large transport vehicles or, as in this case, walking an elephant on aging, narrow canyon streets.
George Skarpelos, who serves on the Board of Directors of Hollywood United Neighborhood Councils, stated, “Using animals as 'props' in this manner is not the type of thing we want to see.” He also expressed great concern over alcohol consumed at these events and how that may impact the treatment of the animals. He stated that Councilman Ryu’s office had promptly contacted LA Animal Services and asked that this item be placed on the Commission agenda.
In a subsequent e-mail to Councilman Ryu, George Skarpelos wrote, “I believe the letter…sent to the commissioners was a forceful indictment of this ridiculous craze and certainly gave weight to the community's concerns.” He also noted that Councilman Ryu’s policy director Nick Greif, “… gave very clear and valid reasons for restricting the permitting of these animals.”
Senior Lead Officers Ralph Sanchez and Tracy Fields of the Hollywood Division voiced apprehension over how public safety is compromised when wildlife is used in a private party setting. They explained that, if any emergency arose in the area which required a helicopter and/or other emergency equipment to be brought in, there is a very real risk of the animal becoming frightened and out of control.
Captain Martin Wall of California Fish and Wildlife advised me by phone that, while a company may have the proper permit(s) to provide wildlife for events, the animals and public safety are always the first concern. He agreed with the LAPD officers that an emergency could cause a chaotic scene in which the elephant could become alarmed and “stampede,” injuring itself and humans and also damaging emergency-response vehicles and equipment. He stated that the local jurisdiction can develop an ordinance to establish restrictions on how wildlife permits are used.
I am withholding the name of the company (obtained from the Council office) which provided the elephant at the party, in order to avoid giving them free advertising. However, the services listed on their website include “Exotic Animal Rentals” and are vividly described on Google as the,“Cutting edge of extreme party themes and over-the-top events. Party, prop and exotic animal rentals…”
LA Animal Services did not provide a written report at the Commission meeting. General Manager Brenda Barnette was present and confirmed that a permit had been granted, but she seemed uncertain as to the process or details. According to an attendee at the meeting, when they called Animal Services to report the incident that night, they were told by the dispatcher that only one officer was on duty and there would be nothing that could be done about an elephant at 11:30 p.m.
Animal Services Commission President David Zaft issued the following statement in response to my request for the Board’s position on the concerns expressed by Councilman Ryu and residents about the City’s permitting regulations:
"I and the other Commissioners were extremely concerned to learn that some individuals are bringing elephants, giraffes, lions and other exotic animals into our residential communities to use as party props. Such behavior manifests an outright disregard both for the well-being of these magnificent animals and the safety of our communities.
“The Board has asked the Department of Animal Services and the City Attorney's Office to take swift action and propose changes to the Municipal Code to make sure this sort of reckless activity is stopped, while the humane and safe use of such animals for legitimate and limited purposes may continue when properly permitted."
Councilman Ryu affirmed in his letter that, “It is important that our City maintain a clear and easy to use exotic animal permit system for legitimate filming purposes.” However, he added, if the purpose for which animals are permitted is “disrupting the quality of life of residents and the animals, then this is a loophole that must be closed.”
For more information contact: Phyllis M. Daugherty at [email protected].
(Animal activist Phyllis M. Daugherty writes for CityWatch and is a contributing writer to opposingviews.com. She lives in Los Angeles.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
Vol 13 Issue 99
Pub: Dec 8, 2015