Tue, May

‘No Kill’: LA’s Big Lie


ANIMAL POLITICS--Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus is a Latin phrase most familiar in legal circles meaning if a witness lies about one thing, you may assume that he lies about everything.


Today’s witness: Mayor Eric Garcetti. 

In my quest to get to the bottom of doctored and misleading animal shelter statistics, Garcetti’s top legal advisor Rich Llewellyn last week denied me access to public documents “because the public interest served by withholding the records clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure.” 

When Llewellyn writes “the public interest” he most likely means Garcetti’s interest, and that of his peers, like City Council president Herb Wesson and City Controller Ron Galperin. 

Last week, a press release from LA Animal Services promoted the bold-faced lie that “LA Animal Services hits historic live save rate, coming close to No-Kill benchmark” and suggested that LA is about to become the country’s largest no kill city. 

Let’s break it down.                                                                             

First of all, there is no No-Kill city in the United States. City Hall wants you to believe that LA is the biggest of something that does not actually exist.

The release came from Sara Ebrahimi with an @lacity.org email address extension on the city’s electronic letterhead. But according to her LinkedIn page, Ms. Ebrahimi is a public relations employee of the Best Friends organization. Is she an employee of the city or, if not, why would a vendor’s employee have a city email address? Is that the standard used for employees of other city vendors like attorneys who handle the city’s outsourced legal work? 

A bigger question is whether Best Friends has access to city statistics and internal documentation that Garcetti’s office is denying to give to me? Is it because their interpretation of them advances his political aspirations and mine exposes the killing of thousands of shelter animals who he says were never killed, and thousands of animals who he said were adopted when they were, in fact, sitting in cages in government owned buildings? 

The release claims that killing 10% of a shelter’s population is No Kill. But since LA Animal Services took in 49,694 animals in its last year, by its own flawed understanding of death, it killed nearly 5,000 animals – for starters. Nathan Winograd, a well-known figure on the subject, recently explained what no kill actually means in the Huffington Post.   (Mr. Winograd did not respond to a request for an interview for this article.) 

LAAS also did not explain thousands of other animals that should be counted in its kill rate, but are not. 

If you turn in your pet, a stray, or a litter of feral kittens to LA Animal Services, they can and have found reasons to consider them “unadoptable,” killed and therefore not counted in kill stats. If the dog has sniffles or a fixable injury, it might be killed as unadoptable and not counted. Same if it is a pit bull or other bully breed regardless of its disposition. A litter of perfectly healthy neonatal kittens can and has been considered unadoptable because they might not survive without their mother.  Their deaths, if you can imagine killing a box of perfectly healthy tiny kittens, do not count in Garcetti’s statistics. And if a dog or cat is black, they can and have been considered less desirable, therefore less adoptable, killed, and not counted.  

LAAS also didn’t mention the impact of its policies that prevent animals it is supposed to help, but does not. 

Anyone bringing an animal into LAAS, whether or not the person is the owner, is supposed to pay – per its policy – a $25 drop-off fee, per animal. Too many people are either disinclined or cannot afford to pay that fee, let alone $250 if it’s a box of ten tiny, abandoned kittens. Instead, they are sometimes abandoned elsewhere, including right outside the shelter door. Councilmember Paul Koretz, who chairs the committee overseeing LAAS, knows about this but has done nothing to change such misleading factors. 

LAAS also doesn’t go out to help stray animals anymore, either. The reason is illustrated in what LAAS GM Brenda Barnette has repeatedly said on the record. “If we are successful at rounding up all the strays, it will place more crowding pressure on our shelters, rescuers and everyone else working to increase the live save rate.” 

In other words, Garcetti’s, Wesson’s and Galperin’s statistics are treated with greater reverence than the communities and animals LAAS is there to serve.

That may explain why Garcetti and other city officials are averse to coughing up the documents to which I am entitled in their entirety and without redaction but allow Best Friends to access and spin on their behalf. 

And make no mistake, I will get those documents and share them with the public, compared and contrasted to what the politicians have said, and how Best Friends, which raked in $259,474,991 over the past five years, may have a financial motive to advance that false narrative. 

Until then, I offer this to Garcetti, Wesson and Galperin: let’s all stand with a few members of the media in a shelter “bump room” as the next batch to be killed dies, and you can explain how they are not actually dead, and why they are not in your kill statistics. Deal? 

In order to reduce the number of animals a city kills, fewer must be born. Plain and simple, LA needs but lacks wisely written, effectively and consistently enforced spay/neuter laws, humane education and free mass spay/neuter for all, including neighboring cities, without excuses or exceptions. 

LA can call itself no kill, low kill or approaching it all day long. That doesn’t make it the truth. It does not tell the whole story.


(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a writer who lives in Los Angeles and blogs on humane issues at http://ericgarcetti.blogspot.com.)   Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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