DA Steve Cooley
CA Rocket Delgadillo
Deputy CA, Don Cocek
On October 11, 2007, LA Animal Services, the Animal Cruelty Task Force, the LAPD, City TV, County Health and a reporter from the Daily News wrongfully raided the home of Ron Mason in Northridge. They seized 52 cats and killed 25 within a day—without an order from a judge. Two days earlier, another six kittens were seized and killed, again without a judge’s order. Therefore, 31 evidence animals were seized and immediately killed. Also about 15 cages and traps were seized and have never been returned.
Mr. Mason was arrested on charges of felony animal neglect, CPC 597(b) handcuffed and taken to jail. At no point was he Mirandized and advised of his rights. He was released on a $20,000 bond posted by a relative. Mr. Mason is a semi-employed day worker with no other income at the time. (He is now receiving food stamps.)
Felony or misdemeanor animal neglect CPC 597(b) is defined as having failed to provide food, water and shelter to an animal. Also failing to provide adequate medical care can also be construed as animal neglect. (Please see Attachment A for relevant sections of CPC 597 and 597.1.) No list of seized animals with description or whereabouts of the 52 animals impounded on October 11 was ever given to Mr. Mason at the time of the seizure as required by CPC 597.1 for any animal seized under a suspected violation of any section of CPC 597.
A Request for Public records for that list required to be given Mr. Mason by Animal Services has never been answered or responded to by Ed Boks, General Manager of LA Animal Services.Mr. Mason was not advised that he could request a Postseizure Hearing requiring Animal Services to provide reason for impounding the animals and allowing Mr. Mason knowledge of their whereabouts and the protocol for getting his animals returned.A Request for Public documents for this form has also gone unanswered.
In addition to the animals seized, Mr. Mason’s entire extensive veterinarian records were seized which proved thousands of dollars had been spent to spay/neuter the animals as well as pay for their medical treatment. He was never given a list of the medical records seized. Also seized were various Orders to Comply issued by Animal Services to Ron Mason, as well as documents from his veterinarian, Cynthia Hockman, DVM, that conditions of those Orders had been met.
Ed Boks released a press release stating that Mr. Mason was a hoarder and had mental problems. He said that conviction on felony animal abuse charges would provide him with the support and counseling he needs to make sure the excess of animals would not take place again.
He stated the cats and kittens killed were irremediably suffering and therefore killed. He gave a statement from a department veterinarian that they were suffering from Rhinotracheitis—a common cold--and therefore were killed. Subsequently, information about the raid was expanded and is published by Ed Boks on the Animal Services website (http://laanimalservices.org/PDF/info/rumor/ACTF%20Response%20A_1.pdf). It is also included as an appendix attachment below.
Requests for those department veterinary records that would show the animals really were irredeemably suffering were also denied. There was no judges order to permit the killing of these evidence animals, nor evidence of treatment, even though Boks on the department Internet site stated that they were treatable. He did not state why the department did not treat them. This would be a double violation of the Hayden Act, killing a cat before four days were up, and failing to treat impounded cats (for Rhinotracheitis as he alleged they had).
The Daily News reporter, Dana Bartholomew repeated all the charges made by Boks as to Mason’s mental health and the horrendous conditions at his home. Photographs of the raid were displayed on the Internet, and subsequently, footage of the raid filmed by City TV was also aired and the same allegations repeated.
Despite repeated requests for knowledge of the whereabouts of his animals, Ed Boks has refused to release that information because they were evidence animals and he “was unable” to give that information.
A request for Public Records of all software information including impound numbers and status as well as medical treatment and disposition of those animals was also denied on the same grounds despite CPC 597.1 clearly stating that Mason be provided that information as well as the means to get the animals back.
I made a separate request for public records to Ed Boks requesting copies of the list of seized animals that was required to be given to Mason, as well as any notice he had been given a Declaration form so that he could request a Postseizure hearing. There has no response after almost three weeks.
After my requests were denied, I post on my blog www.laanimalwatch.blogspot.com, a list of seized property sent to Mason six days after the raid on October 17, by the LAPD, not Animal Services, which listed only 11 items, but did not include: 1) any list of even one of the 52 animals seized or their location; 2) any list of medical records for the animals, including spay/neuter; 3) any list of cages and traps seized; lists of Orders to Comply and his veterinarian’s notes to Animal Services that Mr. Mason did comply.
A County Health inspector, Manuel Garcia, who inspected Mason’s property ten days or so after the raid stated there was nothing wrong with the health conditions of the property, as he said, “I have seen 1,000 times worse.”
Two days before the Mason raid, Ed Boks announced that the TV show, Animal Precinct was going to televise five shows featuring Animal Services and following the Animal Cruelty Task Force in its various activities, including busting hoarders, which Boks accused Mason of being. It appears the October 11 raid was done either as an audition tape for the show, or the City TV footage will be included in an Animal Precinct show. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_kJ9nGiVis for the City TV footage aired.
That taped show was shown on City TV on approximately December 12, 2008. On that show, Lt. Troy Boswell, I believe head of the ACTF, is interviewed on camera stating neighborhood cats were showing up on Mr. Mason’s property because there, they were provided everything they needed, food, water and shelter. That is, the animals were not neglected as described under CPC 597 according to the head of the AC Task Force.
Very surprising and disturbing, was that Cynthia Hockman, DVM, who had been Mason’s vet for several years treating and spay/neutering his animals, as well as supplying evidence to Animal Services that Mason was complying with their Orders to Comply, refused to give Mr. Mason medical records more than three years old when he was trying to recreate the vet records seized by the ACTF. She told Mr. Mason, “I wish I had never met you. I might lose my job. I am not required by law to keep any records for more than three years.” She refused to give Mr. Mason those records.Three weeks later, approximately November 1, Cynthia Hochman left her private practice to become a veterinarian at Los Angeles Animal Services. Apparently this was the job she feared losing, and this is why she refused to give Mr. Mason the older veterinarian records.
These records show that not only was Mason providing adequate food, shelter and water for the animals, but he was getting them neutered and providing extensive medical treatment over the years. Therefore, again, there was no animal neglect.
I would also note that Mr. Mason stated he felt overwhelmed by the number of cats showing up on his property and asked Animal Services many times to help him capture the cats and take them to the West valley shelter to be cared for and adopted.
His every request was refused. Mr. Mason stated that he was not only asking for help, but “I was Begging them for help.” Instead, Animal Services refused and gave him bottle feeding kits to nurse the kittens and told to bring them to the shelter when they were eight weeks old.
Remember, this is a man who is a part-time dayworker receiving food stamps, and getting the cats spay/neutered through the free certificates supplied by the Amanda Foundation. There is no way he could care for the cats in the way he wanted and he asked Animal Services for help.They raided him a few weeks later for a TV show.
Fortunately, the District Attorney has refused to press felony animal neglect charges against Mr. Mason as apparently the City Attorney’s Office is not pressing charges of misdemeanor animal neglect. They are aware that the evidence to charge Mason with animal neglect is not there.
However, the animals are either all dead now have been held hostage for three months in very small and cramped cages apparently waiting for the statute of limitation to run out before Mason is exonerated of misdemeanor animal neglect and hopefully everyone will have forgotten about Mason and his missing cats.
It is quite obvious that Mr. Mason was raided for taping an audition tape or actual footage for the Animal precinct TV show. This is why well over 30 people from various City departments, police, the ACTF, City TV and the press all made it to Mason’s property at 6:30 A.M. on October 11—for a TV show.
Imagine, over 30 people showing up for a raid on his property to take cats he has been begging them to take for months, then charging him with felony animal neglect. Then they impound the animals to “rescue” them from alleged neglect and kill at least 31, and will not show reason why they were killed.
Mr. Boks in his press release stated the main reason why Mr. Mason’s property was raided was the health conditions of the cats. He stated the cats seized on October 9 tested as having Panleukemia—a virulent viral infection, and often fatal, and as one officer in the taped and aired briefing, stated could kill all cats within blocks.
However, lab samples were sent to a professional lab, Antech, proved negative for this disease. These results were returned to Dr. Rao, the department veterinarian, one day before the raid on October 10, not October 12, the day after the raid as Ed Boks claims.
Requests for Public Records for these test results have also been refused despite Ed Boks stating the results on the LAAS website and that they had been received a day after the raid. We have strong reasons to believe that these test results would help clear Mr. Mason of charges on animal neglect.Officer Linda Ortega, shown at the police station briefing room on the morning of the raid, informed officers present that the cats had panleukemia. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_kJ9nGiVis. However, the LAAS vet who was at Mason’s property that morning of the raid, Dr. Rao, told members of the ACTF and LAPD that the cats that were moments later seized and killed, in fact were free of the disease that prompted the animals seizure and issuing the warrant for felony animal neglect in the first place.
That is, Animal Services and the ACTF had no probable cause for the seizure but decided to go ahead with the raid because of the massive amount of personnel present.
(Sarcasm) Why call off the raid just because there was no evidence of the presence of panleukemia? How can Ortega, Boswell or other city officials call off the raid after they arranged to have a half dozen City and County departments present, and therefore, look stupid?
This is a civil rights abuse horror story. It is also a sign of an almost depraved immorality that a department General Manager, Ed Boks, and the LAPD Animal Cruelty Task Force, would stage a bogus raid on a man whose animal problems they refused to help him with, and who was not Mirandized, was not given a list of seized animals, or cages, was not informed of his right to request a Postseizure Hearing, whose own veterinarian refused to give Mason copies of his own veterinarian records, and this veterinarian had already been hired by Animal Services, all so that Animal Services and the ACTF can be on a network TV show.
Mr. Mason was raided because he had been working with Animal Services for two years, complying with their orders, providing food, water, shelter and medical treatment. They knew about the problem and had visited his property over the previous three years. Then, for nine weeks prior to the raid he had been actively soliciting Animal Services help and they refused.
He was set up for the bust.They knew he had no money to defend himself with. He was an easy target and it would look good for Animal Precinct to make a felony bust with handcuffs, rather than for a permit violation of having too many cats, Municipal Code 53.51. Mr. Mason is having a hearing for this permit violation on January 16, yet the Misdemeanor charges still have nine months to run during which the LAPD and Animal Services can hide Mr. Mason’s animals and veterinary records from him and the public, waiting for me, and the court of public opinion, to go away.
In the meantime, the animals, if any survive, are being held in small cages in a strange and frightening environment, all for Ed Boks’ and the ACTF’s publicity.
I am asking for: a review of all aspects of this case, especially of civil rights violations and legal and ethical abuses against Mr. Mason; copies of the contract and emails between Ed Boks and Animal Precinct; a release of Mr. Mason’s animals to him so that he, and members of the LA rescue community can adopt these animals out; an investigation of the policies and procedures of the Animal Cruelty task Force including whether there was sufficient evidence as claimed by Ed Boks of animal neglect prior to the raid as, and whether the Antech the lab results were available on the morning of the raid rather than the day after the raid as Ed Boks claimed; an audit of Animal Services and the ACTF, including civil rights violations as well as over 1,155 Hayden Act violation.
Mostly we want an assurance that Boks and the ACTF are not running a private police force whose main purpose is to intimidate legitimate rescuers with a threat of being raided, all animals being impounded and most killed.