I think it unwise to speculate too much as to Brenda Barnette's future performance as General Manager. For her to succeed, she has to pull the community together and all these irrelevant and relevant "concerns" being raised, only serve to lower the probability that will happen. It is poisoning the well.
My attitude is to watch and learn. I far too quickly embraced Ed Boks because he talked a good game, but character flaws and poor performance undermined his game.
Brenda has the Mayor and at least 2/3 of the LA animal community on her side, and maybe ten people "questioning" her: Heisen, Guss, La Rosa, Atake, Garcia, Phyllis Daugherty, and a few that skip my mind now. Many of the critical emails appear to be penned by some of these people under various pseudonyms or anonymous posts.
I don't know why they are spending so much time casting doubt. The rumor is they are trying to make Heisen the GM by killing Barnette's appointment. Guss may still want a PR/marketing job with the department as Boks alleged in the past. Many have called into question the sincerity of these “concerns” because the number is so vast. How can anyone raise 15-20 “concerns” without at least citing many positives?
Based on Barnette's very different environment in Seattle, I don't know how anyone can predict she cannot adapt to the LA scene. That she was able to build and maintain large foster and volunteer programs is independent of any opinion she has on breeders or mandatory spay/neuter.
One of Barnette's detractors sent me a list of 15 "concerns," many requiring detailed knowledge of LAAS, and wanting immediate answers to these "concerns," far more than can be expected, as one reporter put it, "Before she even puts her pencils in her desk."
I think all the issues raised about her past association with breeders and breeding is besides the point as to whether she can build foster and volunteer programs that will lead to a far lower kill for feline neonates, temporary shelters for impounds during high intake periods, and greatly increasing adoptions, and hopefully return to owner rates.
This is what is going to get the live save rates up.
Pit bulls are being killed now by the carload at LAAS, whether by official or unofficial temperament testing, or because no one adopts the dogs. The kill rate is far higher than the 8% that Winograd points to as the unsavable factions of dogs, either because of temperament of illness.
San Francisco has solved that problem to a fair degree, and as of two years ago had a combined public/private save rate of 87%.
It is all about adoptions, New Hope rescues, and stopping animals from being abandoned, and lost animals returned to owners.
Part of Reno's success is due to one man working in the County shelter who has radically increased the return to owner rate, while Bonnie Brown on the private side, has radically increased the adoption rates, including taking animals from the County shelter.
I find it a strong endorsement of Barnette that she was able to take in animals from high kill shelters from other cities, and use her organizations and her connections to get them adopted. This is fantastic.
I also find that a high turnover has accompanied every shelter turn around as employees who can't get with the high intensity work and be gracious towards the animals and the adopting public are forced out. This happened with Winograd in Ithaca, and in Piladedelphia where they went from 90% kill, to 45% kill in under two years. For this to happen at LAAS, Barnette will have to work closely with union management and personnel.
Lastly, there is a wide misconception that temperament testing will be used to exclude some dogs in the kill statistics because they are deemed unadoptable. This is nonsense. Animal Services statistics have long been about live animals in and live animals out. LAAS has never, so far as I know, not listed a “vicious” dog as an intake. The intake stats are of all impounds, and the outcome stats include adoptions, RTO, Foster, Died in Shelter, Killed and Miscellaneous, such as stolen, lost, and escaped. A “vicious” dog or cat is still an impound and those impound figures can and will be followed as always by several of us out in LA’s animal community that follow the department’s performance.
This is my take.
I am sure Brenda will acquit herself well at the various meet and greets over the next few months. I hope she does even more meetings with the community, not like Boks with just one on ones, but in frequent town-hall type meetings to help bring the community together. Ed Boks held just ONE town hall style meeting in his 3-1/2 years as GM.
Some independent organizations are already anticipating the needs to the dept. and its new GM by getting resource and volunteer lists together, such as by Rich McClellan.
I am cautiously optimistic about LAAS future. I would be more enthusiastic except for my poor experience with Ed Boks who completely fooled me as to his ability to turn Animal Services around. However, Boks past statistics betrayed him. I was against his appointment in the first place because the shelters he had worked at showed little improvement. However, I met him, and his “charm” overcame my doubts.
Barnette on the other hand, has really good statistics as well as dozens of commendations of employees and Seattle animal community members that worked with her.
With Barnette I am adopting a stance of open welcoming and offering to help however I can. Time will tell as to her and the department’s performance. I just don’t see the wisdom of the oblique attacks in the guise of “concerns” before she has even started.