Monthly Archives: January 2015

Baldwin Park and Downey Pets Urgently Need Your Help!

At the end of the classic movie, Animal House, a young Kevin Bacon is yelling “Remain calm.  All is well” as his little street descends into total chaos. Watching that scene today I am reminded of the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC).

Both the DACC and Marcia Mayeda individually are being challenged in court for their roles leading to the tragic death of jogger Pamela DeVitt. The complaint also alleges that Mayeda and the DACC committed intentional fraud by trying to cover up their culpability in Ms. DeVitt’s death and claims that she knowingly lied in her testimony on the tragedy to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Ms. Mayeda has told close associates that she is not worried about this lawsuit.  She should be.

She should also be worried about several other events going on in her crumbling realm. Word is filtering out that this past week an officer at the Lancaster shelter received a call to assist an injured dog who had retreated under a dumpster after having been hit by a car. The officer arrived at the scene and told onlookers that she didn’t see the dog and wasn’t going to get her uniform dirty by trying to crawl behind the dumpster to get a better look. The officer then left the scene. The next day the dog was found dead under the dumpster, probably from a combination of internal bleeding and exposure.

The news isn’t much better for Mayeda at Baldwin Park, the facility that had somehow ‘misplaced” over 100 animals during Pat “Google Me” Claerbout’s tenure, as a surveillance camera caught one of its senior employees stealing cash from the shelter. The alleged culprit is one of “Google Me’s” favorite employees and the incident, much to the consternation of Baldwin Park’s already demoralized employees, is being swept under the table rather than being actively investigated.

Meanwhile rumors have it that the Castaic shelter’s operations are being investigated by the County Auditor. Apparently the complaints made by Wendy Sue Mesny, an ex-Castaic officer, concerning poor DACC management and retaliation against those who spoke out about bad euthanasias and other misdeeds, are being looked into by the independent County Auditor since Mayeda has repeatedly stonewalled any attempts to investigate her or her inner circle’s performance – or lack thereof.

Adding to Ms. Mayeda’s bad week is the disclosure that one of her senior employees unintentionally, or perhaps not, e-mailed DACC employees’ confidential disciplinary files to several outsiders, including myself.  One of the files belonged to a Lancaster employee who adopted an unaltered white German Shepherd to her husband so she could try and breed the dog.  In this case the DACC is actually to be commended as they did the right thing and acted swiftly and properly.  However other files sent to us show a different side of the DACC which will be the subject of future blog entries.

DACC insiders observe that Mayeda seems more concerned about trying to figure out where all these leaks are springing from rather than addressing and fixing the cause of her agency’s problems. Many, if not most of these problems stem from Mayeda’s capricious management style and her inability to inspire loyalty from her employees.  This could easily be fixed if Mayeda and her inner circle resigned or were fired and replaced by a professional management team with integrity – a quality which is sadly missing from the director and her few remaining loyal minions.

“Remain calm, all is well,” is what DACC stakeholders are being told – but it’s not the message that is getting through. Instead we are hearing another more apropos line from Animal House, “You fucked up – you trusted us!”

Downey and Baldwin Park Shelter Pets Urgently Need Your Help

Over the last year I have shifted my focus from exclusively working to save Los Angeles County Shelter pets to coordinating large scale transports involving many of the larger Southern California shelter systems and it has been eye opening. One doesn’t need to have an adversarial relationship with municipal shelters to help save their pets! No open-admission shelter system is perfect, they all have problems – and nearly all except for the impeccably run no kill S.P.A.R.C. shelter in Santa Paula kill pets (at S.P.A.R.C. “no-kill” means that they don’t kill any pets ever as opposed to the disingenuous definition advocated by the “No-Kill” movement allowing you to kill ten percent of your pets and still claim that you are “no-kill”). However the difference is some shelter systems actually try their hardest to rehome pets as opposed to the Los Angeles County and City shelter systems which are still run by inept bureaucrats who, as one shelter director said, “run their systems as if they were still in the 1960’s.”

Innovative leadership and programs abound in other communities. Ventura County has dramatically dropped its euthanasia result, largely due to S.P.A.R.C and a progressive shelter director. Long Beach will move hell or high water to effect a safe rehoming of its pets, Riverside County is perhaps the most innovative shelter system we’ve dealt with, while Animal Friends of the Valley in Wildomar has forged close bonds with its community to try and reduce the killing. Seaaca has made significant strides to improve and has devoted considerable effort to lessen the tidal wave of incoming pets by offering spay/neuter services within its community, and Orange County, Kern County and Bakersfield have always been eager to remove any roadblocks to rescuing their pets.

Meanwhile back in Los Angeles County it is not all doom and gloom. The Downey shelter, under Danny Ubario’s capable leadership, has taken over the “Rescue Friendly” mantle that was abandoned at the Baldwin Park “shelter” when it was taken over by the brutal Pat “Google Me” Claerbout. The DACC claims Claerbout is ‘an innovative leader’. We had never considered the definition of “Innovative” to mean that you alienate your staff, volunteers and rescues but it seems that bureaucracy tends to employ its own vocabulary.

The good news is that throughout Southern California and the Pacific Northwest the month of January has been kind to shelter pets. Impounds are dramatically down in Southern California and nearly every shelter is reporting lower kill rates and high releases. Shelters in the Pacific Northwest are reporting back to us that they are not just low on dogs, some are even out of dogs – and all the Southern California transports, including my colleagues at Wings of Rescue, are scrambling to transfer at-risk pets to shelters in Washington, Idaho and Oregon where these pets will be quickly adopted. The sad part is we know this is the calm before the storm, and the tidal wave of owner turn-ins and strays will hit us again very soon.

Some Southern California shelter heads are already preparing for this oncoming deluge and are working tirelessly to institute programs to save these incoming pets. History has taught us to not expect Marcia Mayeda and Brenda Barnette, the respective, but not respected, heads of the Los Angeles County and City shelter systems to be doing anything other than following their age old tried and tested failed methods.

Baldwin Park and Downey Shelter Pets Urgently Need Your Help!

This week’s news that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors are considering refurbishing the aging Baldwin Park and Downey Shelters was met with general skepticism by employees and veteran watchers of the DACC. Everyone knows the Downey Shelter, originally built in the late 1940’s and the Baldwin Park facility, built in the 1950’s are woefully inadequate and hanging together by bubble gum and super glue. However, few people who either work for, or with, the DACC believe that the County of Los Angeles will do anything more than waste money commissioning a study recommending that they move or fix these two facilities, and then let the plans rot on the backburner until they are eventually forgotten altogether.

The reason they won’t fix these antiquated shelters is that the Downey Shelter is lying on condemned land that for over ten years has been designated to be used to construct a new highway. Los Angeles County is not going to spend twelve million dollars and then have it destroyed a few years later, if and when this road is ever built. Likewise the Baldwin Park Shelter is also on a parcel of land that is reportedly to be included in a redevelopment project which would force the poorly run facility to relocate.

Perhaps it is due to the intense mistrust for the bureaucrats running the DACC  permeating its workforce, but more than a few employees and a few people committed to bettering the shelters, including myself, feel that the timing of this announcement was nothing but a smokescreen to try to divert media attention from the recently filed lawsuit against Los Angeles County and DACC head Marcia Mayeda for negligence, fraud and their covering up their own culpability in the death of jogger Pamela DeVitt. It has been amazing how many shelter employees, including several DACC executives, have expressed their disgust and outright hostility towards Mayeda’s conduct, and the amount of evidence being leaked showing Mayeda’s misdeeds is growing on a daily basis. One well-placed DACC insider went so far as to instruct employees to stop complaining about Mayeda to the Board of Supervisors, because the Board never investigates complaints about the DACC and merely  forwards any complaints to none other than Marcia Mayeda for investigation!   To no one’s surprise, asking Mayeda to investigate herself has not been working that well!  Instead the DACC executive suggested complaints about the DACC be made to the Los Angeles County Auditor, whose investigations cannot be perverted by Mayeda’s dirty hands.

New shelter facilities are desperately needed.  New shelter management is even more desperately needed.  We aren’t holding our breath for the former, but on the latter it may finally be that the light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train.

Downey and Baldwin Park Shelter Pets Urgently Need Your Help!

If I were a more charitable person I might actually feel sorry for Marcia Mayeda, the head of the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Control. Holiday cheer must have dimmed for the overpaid bureaucrat when she found that Santa had evidently checked his naughty list carefully this year and left a big chunk of coal in her stocking in the form of a lawsuit naming both the DACC and her personally as defendants.   The suit was brought by Benjamin DeVitt, the widower of jogger Pamela DeVitt who was killed by a pack of unlicensed and unaltered dogs.   The D.A.C.C. had received multiple complaints about these dogs but failed to act. As the prosecution in the murder case against the dogs’ owner Alex Jackson said in opening arguments, “Animal Control dropped the ball on the case.”

This lawsuit is not a referendum on Pit Bulls. It is about outright lies to the Board of Supervisors, falsified evidence and an attempt to cover up negligence which resulted in an entirely preventable death. The evidence shows a conspiracy at the highest level of the DACC to hide the true facts and tell outright lies – which has been the trademark of the agency under Marcia Mayeda.

A DACC employee backdated notes in Chameleon, the County’s tracking software – apparently unaware that these entries are time-stamped.  The DACC has a written policy that all notes are to be entered promptly and failure to do so can cause suspension or termination, yet these notes were backdated several months.  The emplyee in question is still working as an officer at the Lancaster shelter.

Los Angeles County self-insures. Somewhere this week in a Los Angeles County Government office an attorney is going to assess the County’s risk from this lawsuit. He will try to calculate the financial value of Ms. DeVitt’s unlived life and her family’s suffering. He will look at the incriminating evidentiary trail.   At that point he will probably conclude that this is not a winnable case for the County and that a trial would expose many things that the County would not want known, and he will probably recommend settling the case.   The question is what that will take, and whether it can be accomplished without a guarantee of changes at the highest levels of the DACC.

But I guess I’m not that charitable a person after all and I hope you share my optimism that 2015 will be an awesome year!