Monthly Archives: September 2014

Baldwin Park and Downey Shelter Pets Urgently Need Your Help

There are two primary reasons why the Los Angeles County Shelter system is not killing as many dogs as it has in previous years. First is the economy has somewhat improved and fewer people are losing their homes and being forced to leave their pets in the shelter, and the second is because of the many transports. Under former shelter manager Lance Hunter’s adept leadership, Best Friends, the Heigl’s and my own, Wings of Rescue/Shelter Me/Bark Avenue Foundation transport team have moved thousands of dogs from high intake/high kill shelters to safety at no kill shelters from where they are quickly adopted – and recently the ASPCA has joined in to take even more pets out of county shelters, creating kennel space for incoming dogs.

All of the transportation groups are in close contact with their receiving shelters and know what breeds and ages of dogs these shelters are willing to accept – as none of them want to tie up their own kennels with pets who cannot be easily and quickly adopted. Generally all the receiving shelters have a high demand for relatively young fluffy and scruffy dogs under twenty-five pounds.  All of the transporters try to get the receiving shelters to accept as many Chihuahuas (the number one most euthanized breed in California) as possible – but there is not as huge a demand for them.

Transports leave the shelter nearly every week and Baldwin Park ‘s management has taken to moving the dogs selected for transports into Building 4 which they have made off limits to the public – often for a week to ten days in advance. The dogs in this building cannot be readily seen. Often dogs are ‘cherry picked’ for these transports from the moment they enter the shelter – and these dogs are never seen by the public – or even potentially by their owners if they are strays.

In my opinion this is wrong. The public should have the right to see and adopt any dog at the shelter – whether the dog is going on transport or not.  As transporters we do not need to transport dogs who have a local home waiting for them. Unfortunately the intakes are sufficient in Los Angeles County that we can always go get another dog from one of the other nearby County shelters, Downey and Carson, to fill in for any dogs who were lucky enough to be adopted – and if for some reason there are not enough dogs to transport – that in my opinion would be cause for a major celebration and we would be able to turn our rescue efforts to other shelters.

Because of the transports, Building 4 often has up to twenty empty kennels. Meanwhile Pat Claerbout and her mistress Marcia Mayeda. are still ordering dogs to be killed because of what they claim to be shelter overcrowding. As transporters trying to save as many lives as possible, it is our duty to stop cherry picking, and to commit to making all dogs adoptable to the public until the day before our transports are due to leave and our health certificates are issued. Our mission as transporters is to save as many lives as possible and not to tie up kennel space.

The Baldwin Park Shelter has 192 kennels and all of them should be used to house dogs in need of homes – and all of these kennels need to be in clear view of the public.

Downey and Baldwin Park Shelter Pets Urgently Need Your Help

The high intake Los Angeles County shelters have either two or three licensed veterinarians on duty. These veterinarians work eight hour shifts from Monday to Friday.   There are Registered Veterinary Technicians (RVT’s) on duty seven days a week. Veterinarians are able to prescribe medication while RVT’s are not.

If a sick or injured pet is impounded after three o’clock on a Friday afternoon the shelters either ignore the pet’s suffering until a veterinarian can examine the pet on the following Monday, or the shelters have the option of sending the pet to an emergency veterinarian through a system known by the acronym “ETF”.  Often the high intake shelters don’t have an officer available to leave the field and take the sick or injured pet to the outside vet clinics (the average ETF call involves approximately 2 hours of an officer’s time), and the dog or cat will sit in a kennel – in pain if injured or potentially infecting the shelter’s other pets if having a communicable disease – for three days until a veterinarian is on duty.

When a pet is sent to an emergency center, outside veterinarian has authorization to provide $75 in treatment costs. As any pet owner knows $75, even with preferential veterinary rates, does not provide much in the way of treatment.   However at the discretion of each of the shelter managers they are allowed to authorize $300 to treat a sick or injured pet.   From Friday afternoon to Sunday – shelter managers do not work – and many of them are entirely unreachable if the shelter calls – so for wont of funding, these pets are euthanized rather than treated by the outside veterinarians.

How difficult is it to stagger shelter veterinarians’ shifts and have one veterinarian work from Sunday to Thursday and the other from Tuesday – Sunday? In Los Angeles City’s shelter system – a shelter system which in no way serves as a paragon of good management – they have been able to do this for years. However for Marcia Mayeda, the apathetic despot running the Los Angeles County Shelter system this has been a challenge.  Challenged on this issue for at least the six years since I first came in contact with her poorly run shelter system, she has done nothing.

Three years ago Mayeda rebranded her facilities from “shelters” to “care centers”.   To use the term “Care Center” it implies that you provide “care” on a consistent basis. If Mayeda was held to truth in advertising laws, she would have to change the name of her facilities to “occasional care centers” or to be totally honest, “pet warehouses.”

For the Los Angeles County shelter system to even be considered “Care Centers” Veterinary care must be provided 7 days a week – and the term “Care Center” would be even more appropriate if Marcia Mayeda was unemployed.



Downey and Baldwin Park Shelter Pets Urgently Need Your Help!

This past week I drove 90 miles to the high intake, open admission Animal Friends of the Valleys Shelter in Wildomar, California in southern Riverside County. I was pleasantly surprised! The facility was the cleanest, best run and most innovative shelter I have ever seen. Entering the facility you walk into a modern reception area that looks like an upscale veterinary clinic rather than a shelter.

A large percentage of the dogs are located in clean air conditioned suites with nice dog beds rather than in runs with bars. Every pet is walked, the shelter uses play groups to socialize their pets and the shelter appears to receive more volunteer hours than all four high intake County shelters combined. Also the shelter runs a food bank that provides food for pets whose owners might be down on their economic luck and might otherwise have to relinquish their family members. Additionally Animal Friends of the Valleys has built a large community room for local groups to hold meetings and by so doing, learn that the shelter is a friendly place – rather than a pet concentration camp.

Willa Bagwell, the affable and charming Executive director’s office is at the shelter and she is there on a daily basis. Mrs. Bagwell intimately knows what is going on at her shelter. Mrs. Bagwell’s charisma, compassion and accountability is contagious and the shelter’s staff is efficient, motivated and perhaps the most rescue and adoption friendly group of people ever assembled in one place. Leadership starts from the top.

Driving back home, I stopped at two Los Angeles County shelters. I asked the employees when was the last time they saw Los Angeles County’s shelter head Marcia Mayeda. They laughed and said the only time they see Mayeda is when there is a photo opportunity. If I was masochistic enough to want to see Mayeda I would have to go to the DACC’s office in Long Beach – seven and one half miles away from their nearest shelter in Downey. I then visited a Los Angeles City Shelter and asked when the last time their staff saw Brenda Barnette, and was met with the same derisive laughter and told a similar story.

One of the biggest and easiest solvable problems the Los Angeles County and City animal shelters have is that their executive staff need a road map to find their shelters. They are out of touch and don’t understand the havoc and carnage their failed policies cause. Pets have become faceless statistics to be manipulated rather than sapient beings who need saving. Employees and volunteers have become anonymous inconvenient peons who occasionally need to be disciplined rather than prized assets who could provide valuable insight while rescues have often become targets rather than adoption partners.

Los Angeles’ County and City governments would be well served both from a financial and a humanitarian perspective  to look at Riverside County for lessons on how to run their Animal Control departments Animal Friends of the Valleys – as well as their counterparts at Riverside County Animal Control – get it. Their executive directors and senior staff are headquartered in their shelters. Their shelters are set up to facilitate the live release of pets rather than to dispose of them.

It is time for Los Angeles County and City to save millions of dollars and close their costly Animal Control administrative offices in Long Beach and on North Figueroa Street and to repatriate their hopelessly out of touch directors and staff back to their shelters.