Best Friends to Run Valley Shelter---Yeah!

This is the best thing to happen to LAAS since Barnette was hired. She started her job August 15, 2010. I know friends of mine plan on doing a one year review of the shelters' progress statistically soon. But this act and disarming the animal police bodes well for the future.  Winograd was on the mind that real change can only happen in LA if the shelters go private.

Nonprofit to run city shelter

 Alarcón opposes deal, saying other operators should have been considered.

By Rick Orlov
 Staff Writer

Overriding complaints about the bidding process, the City Council on Tuesday approved a three-year contract with a non­profit group to operate the vacant Northeast Animal Shel­ter in Mission Hills.
Best Friends Animal Society will have a three-year contract with options for two additional years to operate the $19.5 mil­lion shelter at 15321 S. Brand Blvd.

Councilman Richard Alarcón, whose district includes the shel­ter,
 opposed the action, saying the city had failed to consider other potential operators.

“We don’t know what we could have got because we didn’t talk to anyone else,” Alarcón said.

But officials said they had reached out to potential bidders in letters and on the city website and Best Friends was the only group to respond.
The mission-style shelter was built in 2008 with revenue from a voter-approved bond issue, but never operated at full capac­ity because of city funding short­falls.

Before it was closed this sum­mer, it housed problem animals or those whose owners were in jail or involved in a criminal cases.

“The voters of the northeast San Fernando Valley came out in high numbers and they were promised a full service shelter. And they aren’t getting it.”

— RICHARD ALARCÓN, city councilman

Under the terms of the contract, Best Friends will be able to stage adoption events, provide spay-and-neuter services and issue dog licenses. However, animal control actions will remain under the jurisdiction of the Department of Animal Services. 

The plan is one of several ideas the city is looking at to increase the involvement of private groups in government programs. The city is also looking at a public-private partnership involving management of the Los Angeles Zoo, and earlier this year examined, but then dropped, a plan to lease out city parking garages. It may also consider private involvement in managing the Convention Center. 

City officials say such efforts are the best way to keep offering services at a time of severe budget crunches, but some critics question whether the city is giving up too much control of its operations to the private sector. Some unions also worry that increased privatization will lead to cuts in city jobs or salary decreases. 

Animal Services Director Brenda Barnette said she would be unable to open the Mission Hills facility with the budget she has now. 

She added that the city also plans to reach out to other nonprofits to operate the new South Los Angeles shelter opening in several months. Because of the controversy over the Northeast Shelter, she said the city will issue a formal request for proposals before contracting with an operator. 

Barnette has said the deal with Best Friends will help the city avoid having to euthanize 250 to 400 animals per month. To keep it open under city management would have required diverting city workers from other shelters, reducing their hours and increasing euthanasia rates. 

Best Friends has promised to invest more than $1 million in the Northeast Shelter and believes it will be able to provide 3,000 adoptions in its first year. It also predicts it will spay or neuter 6,000 animals. 

City officials have estimated they could save up to $3.3 million a year by having Best Friends run the shelter. 

Francis Battista, founder of the organization, said his sole goal is saving animals’ lives. 

“Our model has the demonstrated ability,” Battista said. “The best way is a partnership with a strong nonprofit to reduce shelter killings.” 

Best Friends is headquartered in Utah, but has operated in Los Angeles since 1991. Alarcón said he was concerned about the city negotiating only with Best Friends when several other organizations — including the Amanda Foundation and the SPCA — said they would have bid for the operation if they were aware of it. 

“Something is wrong here,” Alarcón said. “It looks bad to only talk to one organization and we aren’t getting the full service from this shelter. It was built for 350 animals and they are only taking 50 or 100. That leaves 250 other animals out there. 

“I would have hoped the city could have done more with this shelter that we promised the voters. The voters of the northeast San Fernando Valley came out in high numbers and they were promised a full service shelter. And they aren’t getting it.” 



Hans Gutknecht Staff Photographer 

The Northeast Animal Shelter in Mission Hills was built in 2008 with revenue from a voter-approved bond issue, but it never operated at full capacity because of funding woes. 


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