Honorable Mayor Villaraigosa
It was with great dismay that I read about the resignation of one of the best Commissioners we have had in recent memory in the City of Los Angeles. Marie Atake has dedicated the past two years of her life to enact policies that would improve the Department of Animal Services and help achieve better care for animals in this city.
Her appointment indicated your administration’s commitment to real positive change for a troubled Department. Her resignation comes on the heels of stymied attempts to wrench accountability from a General Manager who will not take direction and who has trouble working cooperatively with anyone whom he fears might take the spotlight off himself.
Having worked with a succession of General Managers beginning with Dan Knapp to improve LAAS policies, particularly for the rabbits, I too cannot begin to express my disappointment that this administration does not see and act on the obvious: The current General Manager is not competent to do the job. His disregard for the authority of the City Council, the Board of Animal Services Commissioners, and the Rule of Law has been demonstrated repeatedly with the implementation of policies that have not yet been approved or are plainly illegal.
The history of my attempts to work with Mr. Boks is as follows. In March of 2006, based on my prominent position in the rabbit welfare community and proven record of achieving a high adoption rate and dramatically improved shelter conditions for the rabbits in one City animal shelter over the course of more han six years as a LAAS Volunteer, Ed Boks sent a directive to senior staff, “Heidi Huebner and I are putting volunteer Michelle Kelly in charge of the LAAS Rabbit Rescue and Adoption Program effective as of now. Michelle will issue appropriate policies and procedures for our rabbits and all staff are expected to support Michelle fully. It is my expectation that we will make our rabbit rescue and adoption program second to none under Michelle's leadership and with your full support!”
When he did this, I expressed concern that without an official, paid position and consistent support from the administration such that the staff understood they were expected to follow my recommendations, I could not effectively fulfill his expectations. He insisted that I would have his full support, yet at the first indication of conflict he chose to side with the staff and to sacrifice the lives of untold numbers of rabbits.
The outpouring of support from members of the animal welfare community —including caring LAAS staff with whom I have worked closely over the years--notwithstanding, Mr. Boks allowed staff and a paid contractor to harass me and undermine my efforts to improve the rabbit adoption program.
The ways in which LAAS’s rabbit program has suffered because of Ed Boks’s refusal to work cooperatively with me include, but are not limited to: rabbits live outdoors in the new, multimillion-dollar facilities in dangerously high temperatures, rather than indoors in an air-conditioned environment as recommended; rabbit cages are not locked, resulting in theft of rabbits for unknown purposes; rabbits are adopted without proper advice on their care; rabbits have been adopted unsterilized and improperly sexed; rabbits are not consistently cleaned or cared for in the LAAS facilities.
I no longer wish to volunteer for an organization whose administration so consistently puts politics before the animals that the animals pay with their lives. Therefore, I am resigning my position as Volunteer for LAAS. Enclosed please find my volunteer identification card, cut in half.