Monthly Archives: August 2014

Baldwin Park and Downey Pets Urgently Need Your Help!

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I am constantly amazed by the disdain the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control under its horrific leader, Marcia Mayeda, has for not only the poor animals entrusted into its care, but for its employees and its volunteers.

At Baldwin Park shelter workers and volunteers are shaking their heads on a daily basis at the number of dogs being killed while there are literally forty empty kennels. According to the official DACC Policy and Procedures manual it “is the policy to adopt out all adoptable animals.” This sounds like a laudable goal – but when left to the interpretation of the burned-out bureaucrats who run the DACC and its Baldwin Park Shelter, the word ‘adoptable’ can easily be misconstrued. Dogs known to staff and volunteers to be friendly were suddenly and mysteriously relabeled “aggressive” and minutes later were given lethal Marcia Mayeda cocktails and their carcasses stuffed into barrels inside the shelter’s freezers.

Anyone who works the relinquishment window will tell you that a significant percentage of the people who dump their dogs at any shelter lie about their reasons. They don’t want to lose face by admitting that their own shortcomings caused them to discard their pets. Instead they transfer the blame to the pets and will often claim they are aggressive or destructive. So we were shocked to hear that new Baldwin Park manager Pat Claerbout instructed that all dogs labeled “aggressive” by their former owners are to be killed, without bothering to temperament test the unfortunate pets.

Ms. Claerbout has a long history of being aggressive in her killing. When one volunteer mentioned the dismal results of a Google search on Claerbout’s name to her, Baldwin Park’s new shelter manager acted furtive and distressed and asked the volunteer why she would perform such an internet search, in much the same way an ex-con would be upset when you discovered he had served time for robbery.

Meanwhile our attention turns to the criminal trial of Alex Jackson, the owner of the dogs who fatally mauled Pamela DeVitt on May 9th of 2013. According to the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Ryan Williams said “animal control officials ‘dropped the ball’ on Jackson’s case prior to the fatal May 2013 attack”. What amazes us is that despite Williams’ allegation that multiple previous attacks were attributed to Jackson’s dogs, these attacks are not reflected in the DACC’s computerized records. Marcia Mayeda sent an e-mail on August 9, 2013 to Attorney David Casselman stating

“We never received complaints from Jackson’s neighbors regarding his pit bulls (that killed Mrs. Devitt). We received two complaints from horseback riders, one just a few weeks before the attack. We attempted to get this person to complete a statement THREE times so we could pursue a community hazard case. She never did it, until after the attack. We made several visits to Jackson’s home to find the dogs but never saw them. He told us they were a stray pack, and we had no proof to the contrary”.

Someone is lying, either the prosecution or Marcia Mayeda. One of the two has to impress a jury. The other has yet to impress anyone.

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Downey and Baldwin Park Shelter Pets Urgently Need Your Help!

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Having spent the last six months providing logistics for the Wings of Rescue/Shelter Me/Bark Avenue transports, which have flown nearly a thousand pets – from 21 different high intake shelters in twelve Southern California shelter systems – to safety in 10 different northwestern no kill shelters, has been a real eye opener for me.   Interacting with the different shelters’ staffs has shown that there are shelter directors out there who are doing everything possible to save pets, and that nearly every shelter worker I’ve met is underpaid and underappreciated for their long hours working to save lives.

Some of the highlights have been watching shelter directors like Ted Stevens from Long Beach and Willa Bagwell from the Animal Friends of the Valleys shelter in Wildomar not only personally driving their pets to the airport and helping load the planes, but then asking how they could work even more closely with us.   Working with the Downey Shelter has been an absolute pleasure as we’ve watched the entire shelter, from manager Danny Ubario and Lt. Maria Rosales to veterinarian Carissa Jones and lead volunteer Debbie Tittle, leave no stone unturned to get over 400 of their pets to safety. East Valley’s Veronica Perry embodies everything that is right with municipal shelters and I was particularly pleased that Seaaca’s head, Sally Hazzard, not only came to our big Long Beach transport but then thoughtfully offered constructive criticism that will make our team even better. Carson’s Kat Rosales has been a dream to work with and we give full marks to Orange County’s shelter for their eager ‘can do’ attitude.

All of these people from so many different shelter systems are working together to try something new and save their pets.   Even Marcia Mayeda, whose natural tendency is to make it difficult to save the pets in her shelter system, deserves thanks for staying out of the way and letting her staff rescue pets, which is the job they thought they signed up for when they entered her employ

Unfortunately one particularly shortsighted shelter system’s director has one set of rules for pets taken by national fundraising organizations and another for local rescues, but this could not hamper what has been a great experience for shelter workers and rescues working hand in hand together to save lives.

The problems facing Southern California shelter systems – an overabundance of strays, lack of spay/neuter laws and enforcement, and a poorly educated public – aren’t going away any time soon, but when we all work together and do our utmost to get pets into loving homes we can make a difference.

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Baldwin Park and Downey Shelter Pets Urgently Need Your Help

Nearly every open admission Southern California municipal shelter is overcrowded and looking for help in placing their pets.   Supply considerably outstrips demand – and the public does not adopt as many pets as they dump at the shelters.   The 501(c)3 rescues have to step in and try and help where they can, but most of these well intentioned rescues are underfunded and beyond full.   When everyone is full the only way the shelters know how to solve the problem is to kill their excess inventory.

No one likes people who kill cute pets.   Killing pets is abhorrent and those who kill are vilified.   Some shelters react to this by saying they are trying to evolve to a no kill policy, but disingenuously obfuscating the English language and claiming that “No Kill” means you are adopting ninety percent of your animals.   Some SPCA’s drive their “unadoptable” animals to municipal shelters or private vets to kill them off premises so they can cling to the myth they are no kill.  I may not be an expert on the English language but from my layman’s perspective “No Kill” means you aren’t killing anyone, anywhere, ever.  Anything less than that is a fraud and an outright lie, akin to George Bush claiming Mission Accomplished in Iraq.

Adherents of the No Kill movement are, like me, very vocal in their criticism of municipal shelters.  However as much as I believe in the Utopian goal of no kill, I realize it is an elusive myth and not about to happen in present day Southern California except in small, extremely well run shelters like the SPARC shelter in Santa Paula, no matter how many billboards are erected, how many Nathan Winograd books are sold, and how many t-shirts are sold.  Until adoptions can catch up to impounds it just isn’t happening.  I hate that shelter management orders their workers to kill, but I battle the demon of understanding their rationale while still not quite being honest enough with myself to admit that I condone it.

So rather than debate how close we are to getting to fake no kill standards I would rather focus on how we can save as many pets as possible who are in the shelters.  To maximize rescue efforts we as the general public need to perform due diligence and ask where our donations are going.  You have the right if not the duty to ask what percentage of your donations is actually going to saving pets and how much money is going into salaries and fundraising.  Is the animal welfare group that sends out brochures and maybe runs a few late night advertisements showing sad shelter animals using all their donations to save shelter animals?

I’m proud that every dollar donated to Wings of Rescue/Shelter Me/Bark Avenue Foundation rescue flights has been used to save pets.  Not one cent in donations has been spent on salaries, t-shirts, billboards or advertisements.  I’m equally proud of all the small rescues who are teetering on the edge of financial ruin as they try to save every pet they can, without taking a penny for themselves.   These rescuers who are toiling in obscurity working one miracle at a time are the real heroes in this never ending struggle and the animals they save day in and day out are the proof in the pudding.

We need to work together to help municipal shelters do better, think better and work more innovatively to increase adoptions and rescues.  We do not need to be spending our time and money making “No Kill” into some perverse form of an oxymoron.

Downey and Baldwin Park Shelter Pets Urgently Need Your Help

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I often wonder if Marcia Mayeda, the widely maligned head of the Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control, stays up late at night trying to figure out what new ill-advised policy she can implement which will lead to increased euthanasia at her shelters. While municipal shelters like SPARC in Santa Paula (the only truly no kill open admission shelter in the Los Angeles metropolitan area), Riverside County, Long Beach City and even Camarillo are trying to do everything possible to reduce euthanasia by bringing in rescue groups to save their pets, Mayeda is hellbent on making it harder for rescues in her shelters.

As I predicted last month in my blog, Mayeda sent out a new FATwa adoption policy which included the following language (Please note “AP” stands for “Adoption Partner”):

DACC only allows registered APs to adopt under the AP program. APs may not extend their adoption privileges to third parties, who may be adopting for private purposes or for another rescue organization not registered with DACC as an AP

The intent of this poorly worded adoption policy is to prohibit DACC approved rescues from transferring pets ownership to other rescues. For instance I will no longer be able to pull young German Shepherds and send them to a rescue group in Colorado who trains the dogs to detect and warn children with severe peanut allergies of the presence of peanuts. These cherished dogs not only save these children’s lives on a daily basis – they also allow these children to live normal lives. No longer will we be able to work with out of state rescues who can take Chihuahuas, the number one most euthanized breed in California, to rescue groups throughout the northwest and Canada where there is a shortage of small dogs. When you consider that rescue groups save approximately 75 percent of the pets released from DACC facilities – I predict at least 5,000 to 6,000 dogs’ lives will be snuffed out each year because of this ridiculous policy.

Besides being myopic, the new DACC policy clearly violates California State Law. In SB1785 Sec. 12 (b), popularly known as “The Hayden Act”, the law states:

Any stray dog that is impounded pursuant to this division shall, prior to the killing of that animal for any reason other than irremediable suffering, be released to a nonprofit, as defined in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, animal rescue or adoption organization if requested by the organization prior to the scheduled killing of that animal.

California law does not grant the DACC the right to impose restrictions on rescues cooperating with each other.  Mayeda’s latest promulgation restricts the transfer of property – and therefore is unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment.

Rescue is collaborative. To save one pet you will often have three or four rescues involved, some of them County adoption partners and others not. Several rescue groups have already notified us of their intention to stop pulling pets from the DACC. The ones who will suffer from this are the pets in need of rescue.

The DACC does not impose restrictions on the transfer of pets from a private adopter to another party.   Therefore I suggest that the most likely workaround to circumvent Mayeda’s latest in a long line of follies, is for rescues to outright “adopt” dogs to individuals at their partner rescue organizations – rather than “transfer ownership” . Mayeda will then have to choose between outright banning rescue groups from being able to adopt out their pets – or to sit back and realize that she is suffering from an acute case of rectal cranial inversion.

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