Daily News Op Ed by Phyllis Daugherty

L.A. needs to heal, restore and rebuild its animal services department

By Phyllis M. Daugherty
Updated: 05/13/2009 03:11:32 PM PDT

SELECTING the Los Angeles City Animal Services General Manager has become the humane world's version of "American Idol."

E-blasts promote contenders and phones frantically submit votes, while contestants navigate their way through a maze of sniping and in-house politics to try to survive until the selection date. Recently animal services General Manager Ed Boks extended his tenure by tap dancing through a litany of City Council and public criticisms and by maintaining self-serving blogs to defend his controversial sideshow antics, such as, "Hooters for Neuters" and the parolee-staffed Pit Bull Academy.

Boks was hired in 2006 to extricate Mayor Villaraigosa from the political nightmare caused by his promise to animal-activists to fire Boks' predecessor, Guerdon Stuckey, whose accomplishments were acceptable by industry standards.

Boks recently resigned amid the furor over a settlement for his alleged sexual harassment of a female volunteer. The week before, Boks' prior employer, New York City Animal Care & Control also settled a lawsuit on Boks' behalf for racial discrimination - filed before Boks came to Los Angeles.

L.A. Animal Services is a serious and vital public health and safety agency - not a circus; and in that capacity it deserves the same respect as police or fire agencies.

LAAS employees, our city's animals and the public must not be subjected to further games of "musical general managers." Because the victims they serve are voiceless, the dangerous


and disheartening work done by this department is largely undervalued and overlooked until a major disaster occurs.
In 1999, Los Angeles property owners agreed to pay $154 million in bond indebtedness for new shelters for the city's unwanted or homeless animals. This was done on the promise that it would end overcrowding, pet-overpopulation would decrease, and dangerous dog packs would disappear from the streets.

It is now the obligation of our elected officials to fulfill their part of that commitment by assuring these facilities and the city's very successful spay/neuter campaigns are managed and maintained so that we accomplish these goals.

Los Angeles cannot risk the experiment of transferring our sheltering responsibilities to private organizations because of the legal mandates for municipal animal control. Nor can we abdicate our responsibility to the county, which is struggling under even greater problems of shelter overpopulation and understaffing.

In these dire economic times, we must seriously address the problems that cause animals to be dumped in shelters and drain city resources. We can start with serious enforcement of the myriad humane laws in the state, county and city codes.

It is important that an animal is sterilized but more important that it is well treated. Los Angeles can join other local cities in implementing a program that holds offending pet owners financially responsible for the administrative costs incurred in enforcing humane laws.

This would create an immediate improvement in pet care citywide and a revenue source for enforcement. Those who do not want to fulfill the legal responsibilities of ownership can opt not to get a pet. A large number of neglect and abuse cases are the result of an attitude of disposability, such as, getting a puppy or kitten "to see how it works out."

Many result from deliberate exploitation; such as illegal animal fighting and breeding for this purpose. Some people don't believe an animal needs care and attention, feel that it can be released into the street at will, or don't get veterinary attention for illness or injuries.

Animals are sentient beings. They feel fear, pain and loneliness and experience hunger, thirst and cold. Failure to protect them and provide their basic necessities is a crime - not an oversight.

Statistical probability based upon U.S. Census human-population figures indicates that there could be up to 1.2 million dogs in the city of Los Angeles. All animal-control agencies in California are required to assure owned dogs have up-to-date rabies vaccinations. Licenses are validation of compliance and are required by municipal code.

LAAS needs to collect these animal licensing fees so that the department is not a burden on taxpayers. Los Angeles must stop chasing the elusive myth of "no kill," which does not apply to municipal shelters that accept animals regardless of condition. It dooms any general manager to failure and gives the public the impression that all unwanted pets will live happily ever after.

It is time to heal, restore and rebuild the internal structure of L.A. Animal Services. It is time for a leader with respect for protocol, whose primary goal is not star-studded photo-ops but effective animal-welfare and public-service programs supported by sound city policy.

Phyllis M. Daugherty is the director Animal Issues Movement.

In many ways Phyllis I agree with you about how animals need protection and need a new moral standing in the minds of people. But you need to spell out what laws you want enforced that will raise revenue, help animals, and not result in higher owner relinquishment rates from frustrated or angry owners. 

If you mean get the animal cruelty task force to re double its efforts to go after people with too many animals, then you are talking about expensive raids that end up killing dozens of animals with no real value accomplished anywhere. 

What on earth do you mean when you said Stuckey's performance met industry standards? What standards do you mean? Los Angeles County standards, Maricopa County standards, Kern County or NYC standards, HSUS standards, PETA high kill standards, or do you mean San Francisco or Reno standards?

You are dead wrong that No-Kill does not apply to general admission shelter systems, especially when they have associated private shelters. San Francisco, Reno, Charlottesville, Ithaca, and probably some Non-Winograd public/private shelters are at the threshold of No-Kill. How can you deny this?


Tina Clark said...

This is the comment I posted on the Daily News site in response to her article:

Daugherty claims that Stuckey's performance was "acceptable by industry standards." But if you take a look at "industry standards" you will see that they aren't very high. Killing a high percentage of animals rather than signing on to the proven no-kill paradigm is the industry standard, and that should not be considered acceptable.

She also speaks of people's "attitude of disposability" as a factor in animal abuse. But a shelter system which continues to kill animals itself is a major factor in reinforcing this attitude. Is it any wonder that so many people treat animals as throw-away commodities when they see the very system that is supposed to take care of and protect these animals treating them like so much trash?

Daughtery refers to the idea of no-kill as a "myth," saying that it "does not apply to municipal shelters that accept animals regardless of condition," She should do her homework. No-kill is becoming a reality in a growing number of open-admission shelters across the country. She claims that "it dooms any general manager to failure." Actually, it is that fact that past general managers have not truly embraced no-kill that has doomed them to failure.

Thankfully, the time is coming when the mass killing of animals by those very entities who are supposed to protect them will be a thing of the past, and the nay-sayers like Daughtery will have to either get with the program or be left behind and seen as the backward-thinkers they are.

Ed Muzika said...

Actually, the general managers who are really no kill are held in the highest regard, such as Bonnie Brown in Reno, Susan Kogut in Charlottesville, Nathan Winograd in Ithaca N.Y., and Carl Friedman in San Francisco. There are many others.

However, the Daily News has obviously taken a position against No-Kill, and accepted as truth that the animal community activists and activist Councilmembers are the problem, not shelter performance. They refuse to to do basis research in this area despite all evidence I give them.

Anonymous said...

Phyllis is a wack job and I love how they always say she is the director of her ONE person organization, like it actually does anything. She is an old lady who has nothing better to do than attend every single meeting that relates in anyway to LAAS. Not sure what her issue is, but she believes someone from inside the shelter system should be promoted. AND if you look at the city charter, there is nothing saying the shelter system can not be contracted out to a private organization...she is way wrong on that part.

Anonymous said...

OMG she is crazy. She posts articles and then comments under fake names just so she can call people names. She likes to provoke people and really isn't for the animals, that is a front. SHe hate pit bulls and thinks all pit owners are stupid. Not someone that should be "voiceing" their opinions for the animals IMHO