The Hayden Act and the Future of LAAS and Boks

As everyone knows, I was an enthusiastic supporter of Ed Boks last year.

However, by June the LAAS kill and save numbers started to go south and I stopped posting them on this blog. I continued to support Ed and the department, because he said the bad numbers were due to a high number of unweaned kittens, and that the overall numbers are improving and would so continue in the future. I believed him. He even stated the department was making a giant leap forward towards no-kill. It was not.

In the meantime, the ADL was raising the ante when it came to attacking him and the department. I had committed myself to defending him and the department almost out of habit and because I still believed that by the end of the year the final numbers would be significantly lower than 2005.

During August and September I was very distracted with fighting Santa Monica’s killing of ground squirrels. They were all killed by September and I came back to the situation at LAAS. I watched the poor LAAS numbers and for some reason, chose to ignore them and continue to defend Ed and the department.

By November, it was clear that there would be no substantial change from the year before, yet, inside I still hoped and continued to defend Ed, until early December. Then I published there would be no improvement over 2005.

When the final 2006 numbers came out and I saw no change from 2005 I felt let down and angry.

During about this time I heard that I was considered persona non grata by city hall because I was considered too high profile and controversial by Blackman, and Villaraigosa wanted to avoid controversy of any kind, even that about defending his employees and LAAS. I had hoped to be part of Villaraigosa’s winning team when he became governor. I had even been a photographer in his successful run for mayor.

Thus I felt let down by Ed and scorned by the Mayor’s Office, which gradually overcame my internal commitment to defending him. Still, if you look back, I continued to defend him as late as February 9 when I said he and Winograd ought to work together for a no-kill LA, even though by this time I had withdrawn my support. I felt obligated to present a balanced view as opposed to going over to the Dark Side.

Then, a few days ago I was given a set of statistics by someone who had done a Request for Public Documents, and from what was given, he created the charts and stats summaries reported in my past two posts. I was appalled by how unfairly cats were treated vs. dogs by LAAS under Boks. I learned he probably favored dogs because he was allergic to cats and cats were less easy to handle than dogs in the shelter environment.

At this point I had become quite angry. Then, I saw almost immediately that the stats and charts demonstrated that may have been over 1,000 violations of the Hayden law were committed just during the first nine months of 2006.
It also became clear he was constantly too optimistic about where LAAS to the extent what he was saying at any minute was close to being an untruth.

He told me he worked 18 hour days, yet I heard he was leaving at 5 pm just like everyone else. Apparently he was counting the time schmoozing with rescuers and politicians, and creating, what I thought, were many innovative and positive events that were not really helping the animals.

I understand Ed has done a lot to make the department work better—a lot, but this has not helped the animals.

I think one of Ed’s biggest problems is he knows so much old-school methods of sheltering, that he has not really looked for new solutions. The programs he has brought here are essentially what the department and rescuers have been doing all along, but he gave them different names, the same as he used in Phoenix and New York. Even his new Mission Statement was almost identical to that of the New York shelter system he ran.

There was nothing innovative.

I have urged the development of a fundamental knowledge of what animal populations and behaviors are really all about. Several scientists, including a biologist and two demographers agreed. Ed clearly demonstrated he was not interested in this approach, I think, because he didn’t understand it and did not want to be perceived as incompetent. I think he equated not being an expert at everything, as a personal fault, rather than being humble enough to accept help.

At this point, as with the other Blogger, I am just mystified as why Ed didn’t improve the numbers. That is why he was brought here, not to improve the department’s internal functioning.

I wish he were forced to spend effort to develop the science of the external forces of dog and cat population dynamics, including fertility peaks and ways of interrupting breeding cycles, and the external dynamic problems of each shelter and how to deal with them locally. I understand that the West LA shelter is close to being no-kill, or at least it is very low kill. What has to be done at other shelters?
I think he has to carefully analyze which of his programs work which don’t and put more resources in those that do.

What about pit bulls and cats? What can be done to bring the numbers down? Is any effort being made to put unweaned kittens together with lactating mothers? Is there some way to keep the kittens with their moms?

I think he had to reach out to epidemiologists, demographers and animal behaviorists to help him find new ways to reach no-kill and he doesn’t want to do that either.

Therefore, the only short term solution I see, is to watch, month by month, whether Boks can dig himself out of the hole he has created. I think LAAS had already progressed to the point under Stuckey that improvement will be slight unless there is a radical change away from programs that do not work and to shift attention to the detailed operations of each shelter.

That is, each shelter must deal with understanding why animals are coming in, their internal procedures and how to turn the numbers around. It comes down to establishing local accountability. Yet, if an employee cannot be fired as under LA’s civil services regulations, that will be difficult for anyone to achieve.

What I think we ought to do is watch LAAS kill/save numbers each month and see whether there is substantial improvement from this day forward. There was no improvement during this past January.

The clear discrimination against cats has got to end. If it does not immediately, I will clamber for Boks’ removal yesterday. Ferals have to stop being killed the day they are brought in, or whatever else is causing such a large first day killing of cats. This is what bothers me the most about LAAS and Boks.

But, we need more scrutiny of all levels of the department, including a strengthening of civilian oversight and not make the Commission and the Civilian Oversight Committee weak outsiders. I wish both would retain their own experts to analyze operations and make suggestions to Boks that he cannot shine on.


Anonymous said...

I think you're going easy on the guy. How dare a nokill "guru" come to LA to "turn things around" only to make them worse? How dare he call Nathan a "guru wanna be" when he hasn't even made any progress.

Violating the Hayden Act is no small thing. There is a reason for mandatory hold times. Lost pets will frequently act feral in an animal shelter. If they've been lost for a few days they could even be ill on injured. What if your lost pet ended up in the shelter ill, injured or acting wild. It could be killed instantly. You'd waste time and money putting signs up when your pet is already dead. You'd agonize for years wondering what happened to him or her.

These are serious charges and the City must respond. I hope Boks doesn't just spin this like he's spun all of his messes.

Jeff de la Rosa said...


It looks like you've found out what I suspected as soon as the GM reports and the Commission Meeting minutes began to disappear from the LAAS web site last August--that there was nothing but bad news and more of the same.

Meanwhile, after Boks pledged to re-open Stu's case (a perfect example of what is wrong with the hearing and appeal process, shelter neglect, and other violations of the Hayden Law), he reneged and has relegated the public backlash to a "rumours" page on the City funded site.

He should go.

Stu's Dad.

Ed Muzika said...

I received 3 comments regarding this post. One just disappeared when I tried to publish it. Whoever sent it, please send it again.

I agree that these 1,000 violations-- more if we include October-December 31--are outrageous. They may be the tip of the iceberg as to what is going on at LAAS that are either violations of the law, or of common decency.

If there were 1,000 violations of the Hayden Act or maore, which apparently there were, what else is going on as violations of the law or of common morality, such as the discrimination against cats?

I agree with the post regarding Boks claiming to be a no-kill guru and yet saving fewer animals than the year before under Stuckey. It sounds like he is the guru-wannabe.

Someone should be held accountable for these illegal killings. I cannot believe that Civil Service protects employees who are consciously violating the Hayden Act.