Los Angeles may have to euthanize an additional 11,000 animals in city shelters next year if Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council go through with cuts that critics say will gut the city's animal services.
The city killed more than 19,000 unwanted dogs and cats and 4,000 other animals last year. But some city officials and rescue advocates say a proposed $1.8 million reduction to Los Angeles' Animal Services department will not only mean more euthanasia, but more animals roaming around uncontrolled on the streets.

"How can can you be talking public safety as a priority and gutting animal services?" Councilman Richard Alarc n said Wednesday.

"This will have a severe effect and it's obvious we're moving in the wrong direction to the no-kill policy."

The proposed cuts will also likely mean the closure of the Northeast Animal Care Shelter in Mission Hills, as well as personnel losses equal to the entire staff of another animal care center, according to city documents.
Those cuts will require a 58 percent increase in the number of dogs and cats euthanized over the next fiscal year, according to Kathy Davis, interim general manager of the Animal Services department.

"The department believes this will obligate the mayor and council to choose closure of an operating animal care center and to sanction a likely resulting increase in pet euthanasia," Davis told the council's Budget and Finance Committee in a recent 14-page memorandum.

"If our Northeast facility as well as one other large animal care center close, we expect that number to rise to about 30,000 pets (annually) that we have to euthanize," Davis elaborated in an interview.

"The only thing that could keep this from happening, unfortunately, is money. We've tried to live through this - through the early retirements, through the work furloughs - but we're at a point where we've cut to the bone and now anything more than this means an amputation."

The City Council's Budget and Finance committee is holding hearings this week on the budget of most city agencies, including Animal Services.
When he released his budget last week, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa warned that fixing the city's massive deficit will require sacrifice from every agency and employee.

"The mayor was the first to say that this was a very difficult budget, it is not perfect, and he looks forward to working with council to make it better," mayoral spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said.
Daniel Gus, a Sherman Oaks rescue advocate, decried the proposed closure of the Northeast shelter.
"What a crime this will be," Gus said.

He also said certain cuts, such as the license canvassing program, would be counter-productive because they are revenue-generating.

Clearly though, both rescue advocates and officials agree, the most moving aspect of the cuts is the impact they will have on animals' lives.

The city is required to hold the animals for five days before euthanasia, but officials said the city has extended that to eight days for cats and nine days for dogs.

Last fiscal year, the city euthanized 11,938 cats, 7,623 dogs, 292 rabbits and 3,802 other animals.
Davis said that three years ago, city animal shelters were euthanizing fewer than 16,000 animals. More than 30,000 are returned to their owners or adopted out.

Those figures are down from a decade ago when, according to department records, the city euthanized 53,000 animals and placed only 13,000 for adoption.

The budgetary impact to her department, Davis said, is the proposed 26 working days reduction of city workforce that will mean an effective cut of eight animal control officers, 14 animal care technicians, three registered veterinary technicians, four clerical staff and two supervisors.

Davis said those reductions were the equivalent of the staff of one of the six fully operational animal care centers.
The Northeast Animal Shelter to be shut under the proposed budget cuts has never been open to the public but is used to hold about 200 animals at a time, officials said. It has the capacity for 900 animals and has been used as an evacuation center during fires and floods.

"We use the facility to keep animals that are under quarantine (and) evidence animals for crimes that you have to keep separate or those with special medical needs," said Linda Barth, assistant general manager of animal services.

Officials said all shelters are often already overcrowded by the increase in animals taken in every day, either as strays picked up on the streets or pets turned in by owners who can no longer afford to take care of them.
At the East Valley shelter in Van Nuys, center manager Helen Brakemeier said that on any given day the number of animals remains at about 200 dogs and 100 cats because adoptions fail to outnumber the animals taken in.

"We just try to keep up and encourage adoptions, but the numbers don't really drop," said Brakemeier.
On Wednesday, for instance, an owner had dropped off three pug-mix puppies at the shelter, but it likely was going to take three separate adoptions to move them from the center.

"I would like to have all three but I'm only looking to adopt one," said Julie Ward of Shadow Hills, whose pug died recently.

Another visitor Wednesday was Renee Merrill of Ventura, an adoption placement specialist, who said she has been working diligently to find homes for pets in shelters, fearing what will happen if she does not.
"For every pet I find a home for, I'm actually saving two," said Merrill. "A home for the pet that's being adopted and it opens a spot for an animal in a shelter that otherwise might not be there."