Monthly Archives: January 2013

Baldwin Park & Downey Shelter Pets Urgently Need Your Help!

  

The  Road to Improving the DACC (part 3)

The Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC) is underfunded and understaffed. The following is Part 3 in a series suggestions are offered as ways to better use available resources without increasing costs.

Volunteers:  Tax revenues have fallen and the budgets and staff of governmental agencies including the DACC were cut.   Volunteers can help fill in the gaps, The shelter volunteer program is more important than ever.  Yet on January 24th the DACC notified more than 70 volunteers from the Baldwin Park Shelter alone that they had been placed on “inactive” status and advising that “…you will no longer be an active volunteer in the program and may not from this point volunteer”.  This was because the DACC’s records indicated that these volunteers had not participated for a period of 90 days.  This was erroneous – a number of the “inactive” volunteers had served during that period but their login records seem to have been misplaced.   Volunteers are donating their time, and the DACC pays lip service to their value, but DACC management seems to view them as either adversaries or employees. Treating volunteers as the valuable resources they are would significantly help the overburdened shelter staff.

Foster/Bottle Baby Program:   Under DACC policy all unweaned puppies and kittens are to be immediately euthanized unless released to a foster who has attended the applicable DACC training class.  I was a volunteer at the Baldwin Park Shelter from January 2009 – December of 2012, during which period the required class was not offered.   Other county shelters report similar stories.   A well-organized foster and bottle feeder program would save the lives of thousands of puppies and kittens.

Best-Price Purchasing:  We all have a legitimate aversion to government waste of tax dollars.  The DACC is currently required to purchase supplies and services – from kennel keys and computers to truck repair and shelter renovation – through the county’s government purchasing system, County Internal Services Department (ISD) at vastly inflated prices.  If a light bulb burns out at my house I go to the store and buy a pack of light bulbs, with the cost per bulb somewhere around one dollar.  If a light bulb burns out at one of the DACC shelters, they are only authorized to purchase a replacement bulb through ISD  – at a cost of $250.  If I need to copy a key, I trot down to the nearest hardware store, pay between two and three dollars and walk out with a brand new shiny and working key two minutes later.  If I work for the DACC and need a new key, I fill out several forms, submit them, and several weeks later – if I’m lucky – I receive a key that cost the county taxpayers $25!  A local mechanic quoted a price of $3,000 to repair a truck, but the shelter was forced to go through ISD and the repair cost $10,000.  A professional roofing contractor estimated the cost to repair a leaking roof at roughly $6,000.  ISD’s price for the same repair? $125,000!  If the DACC were allowed to receive a dollar of value for each dollar spent, there would be enough money to put the ‘Care’ back into the Department of Animal Care and Control and improve conditions for the animals, the shelter employees and the volunteers.  There would be money to operate enough spay/neuter clinics to meet community demand.  We can’t afford the government waste built into the ISD, and transparency is needed on why it is the only option available to the DACC.  If the only way to buy goods and services at fair market price is to privatize the shelter system that is an option that should be seriously considered.

Next week I will be back with part four of how we can improve the poorly managed Los Angeles County shelter system.

  

Baldwin Park & Downey Shelter Pets Urgently Need Your Help!

  

The Road to Improving the DACC    (part 2)

The Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control is in disarray and needs improvement on many levels.  The following suggestions will lead towards building a more humane and well run shelter system.

Currently the high intake shelters (Baldwin Park, Carson, Downey and Lancaster) each have two veterinarians.   At all four shelters both veterinarians work from Monday to Friday.    Pets are in the shelters seven days a week and their medical needs don’t dovetail with a Monday – Friday veterinary schedule.   If the county staggers the work schedules so that one veterinarian at each shelter works Sunday – Thursday and the other works Tuesday through Saturday animals will receive medical care seven days a week without the DACC having to hire additional veterinarians.   Under the current structure an animal needing medication must wait until the following Monday for the shelter veterinarian to authorize treatment, during which time other animals are at risk for contagion and the sick animals often become sicker.  If there are more pressing medical needs the responsible shelters send the pet out to a DACC approved private veterinary clinic.   These clinics are authorized to provide fifty dollars worth of treatment, except in rare cases when the shelter manager can at his/her discretion authorize a fee of up to three hundred dollars.  Most shelter managers work Monday – Thursday and emergency clinics are more often used on the weekends (when there are no veterinarians at the shelters), so there are few instances of three hundred dollar veterinarian fees being authorized.   As anyone who has taken their pet to a private veterinarian knows, fifty dollars doesn’t cover much treatment.  An informal survey showed that roughly 75 percent of shelter pets taken to emergency clinics are euthanized – often because treatment would be too expensive.   Having seven day veterinary care would not only save money, it would save lives.

The DACC needs to supplement its budget.  It currently costs ten dollars for an owner to surrender a pet to a DACC shelter.  The surrender fee in the City of Los Angeles is twenty-five dollars.   The DACC should match the fee charged by the City of Los Angeles.  The people who increase the shelters’ burden by dumping their pets should contribute more towards the cost of caring for these pets.  Granted, a few more people will lie and claim their pets are strays to avoid paying the turn-in fee – but this will be more than offset by those who pay the increased fee.

Two weeks ago Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer suggested that New York City’s Shelter system be privatized due to its horrific performance.   Privatization would also be a great idea for Los Angeles.  It has been shown that private prisons operate more efficiently and at a fraction of the cost of their public counterparts.  If the DACC was privatized we could remove civil service protection from employees at all levels whose job performance is unsatisfactory.  Until the County government is ready to take this step (with steps taken to preserve employees’ salaries, pensions, and benefits), a civilian oversight committee should be appointed which will regularly meet to review the DACC’s performance.  This civilian oversight committee should be unpaid and its members drawn from the various stakeholder groups (employees, volunteers, rescue groups) in the County shelter system.  The committee should be empowered to implement changes and hold the DACC to performance standards.   The DACC’s performance would be more open and transparent, which would increase the agency’s credibility and allow stakeholders to move from criticizing to problem solving. With the exception of a select few criminal animal abuse investigations that it conducts, nothing the DACC does should inherently be viewed as classified and hidden from the public .

Next week I will be back with part three of how we can improve the poorly managed Los Angeles County shelter system.

Meanwhile two brief notes on events of the last week:

In December the DACC conducted a charity fundraiser.  The County Shelter who raised the most money would have the privilege of having Marcia Mayeda, the beleaguered Director of the DACC, work one day as a kennel attendant at their shelter.   I contributed money to insure that the Baldwin Park Shelter won the contest, and Mayeda was scheduled to work on January 24th.  We publicized the event as a chance for the public to come meet Ms. Mayeda and offer their praise or criticism on her job performance.   Evidently Director Mayeda does not like to face the public and on January 14th she showed up ten days early and unannounced with taxpayer funded security in tow to make sure that she avoided public scrutiny.   When a public employee has to travel with her own security detail it speaks volumes as to both her job performance and popularity.

The Los Angeles County Shelters are perpetually in a state of crisis, and things rarely get better, they only get worse.  A directive was received last week that set volunteers and staff members into a frenzy as they learned that the County had run low on Doxycycline, the inexpensive and best medicine to use for treatment of Upper Respiratory Infections (Kennel cough).  Staff were instructed to aggressively segregate pets showing any symptoms of illness.  Several of the shelters interpreted this as carte blanche to euthanize any animal who as much as sneezes and staff and volunteers are extremely concerned.  Currently there is a nationwide shortage of Doxycycline, for which the DACC cannot be blamed, but because the county shelter system cannot afford more expensive antibiotics pets will likely be euthanized at increased rates.   This makes our networking lists even more urgent.

  

 

Baldwin Park & Downey Shelter Pets Urgently Need Your Help!

  

As many of you know I have been fired as a shelter volunteer by the people who run the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC). It seems that they and I have a different view of constitutionally protected First Amendment rights.

However freedom of speech issues aside, when one makes a misstatement they have to be accountable for their errors. I made a mistake in one of my recent blog posts and for that I owe a sincere apology to Marcia Mayeda. According to my letter of suspension during Ms. Mayeda’s stewardship the DACC had only killed 549,430 pets through December 12th, and I had said on this blog the DACC had killed a million. For this mistake I am truly sorry. Please do not judge Ms. Mayeda job performance on the basis of my misstatement and only judge her on killing the 549,430 pets. I only hope that the truth will change your perception of her performance as much as it did mine!

On January 3rd one of the lead volunteers at Downey was summoned into a shelter officer’s office and told that the DACC has “requested” that the Friends of the Downey Shelter Facebook page be handed over to the DACC. I established this Facebook page on January 8, 2012 to feature the networking pictures and videos of the shelter’s pets which were taken by United Hope for Animals volunteers together with Downey shelter volunteers. During its one year of operation 1,788 pets have been adopted or rescued from this Facebook page. 1,381 of these pets were dogs, and only 57 of the dogs to date have been euthanized – which means our Facebook networking efforts have had a 96.03 percent success rate, well above the DACC’s adoption rate. The networking cat and rabbit adoption numbers have been incredibly high as well.

The Downey volunteers felt they were given an ultimatum, that if they refused to cede control of their Facebook page they would not be allowed to have any more networking and video shoots.

DACC employees work 40 hours a week and in this economic climate there is no money for overtime. Meanwhile, the volunteer-run Friends of the Downey Shelter Facebook team works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week updating the page and answering questions about the shelter’s pets. The adoption statistics prove how good a job the volunteers have done. With the exception of senior management very few shelter employees have access to Facebook while they are at the shelter as it is a blocked site on most Los Angeles County computers. Finally as anyone who has tried to call the shelter to ask for information on a pet knows – the shelters rarely answer their own telephones.

Until I came to the Los Angeles County shelter system, no one at the DACC had ever tried to utilize the social media as a tool to find homes for shelter pets. When I first presented the idea to the County they were hostile to it. The Downey volunteers put their hearts and souls into their Facebook page, and the shelter pets have benefited. The Downey Shelter volunteers truly do an excellent job of networking the shelter’s pets.

We will not be giving the keys to the Facebook page to the Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control. If the DACC cannot even answer their telephones, we cannot rely upon them to operate this valuable page which saves so many lives.   The DACC is welcome to start their own Facebook page, like they recently did for the Baldwin Park shelter… but they would be well advised to actually add some content to it (maybe just a teenie weenie bit about the shelter’s pets would be our recommendation), so that they actually get more than 32 “likes”.

It was gratifying to see the public bombard the DACC and the Board of Supervisors with complaints on this issue.  The message was delivered and the DACC was forced to retreat with egg on their faces… at least for now.  Our networking efforts will continue and the networking lists will still be posted on this website – right alongside my blog.

Meanwhile it is worth noting that on the afternoon of January 4th potential adopters at the Downey shelter were told to “take a number” and waited in line for over 45 minutes, so that they could meet pets they wanted to adopt. Once these people got through the line they were told that the shelter had insufficient staff to take out any pets for “meet and greets” and told to come back another day. Shelter pets are not fungible and often do not have another day. Thankfully senior Downey management have been contacted and said this is against stated policy and are launching an investigation as to how this occurred yet again.