When Marcia Mayeda, Los Angeles County’s head of Animal Control, hired her friend Pat Claerbout to run the Baldwin Park facility everyone knew she was hiring a ticking time bomb. Anyone with access to Google knew there were multiple allegations that Claerbout was a serial animal abuser and it wasn’t a matter of ‘if’ but only a matter of ‘when’ the bomb would explode.
Last week the bomb exploded. Over 75 percent of Baldwin Park’s employees signed and submitted to the Department of Animal Control’s Human Resources Department a petition demanding that Claerbout be removed. Three quarters of the shelter’s employees were willing to risk retaliation to make their dissatisfaction with the head who is described by Mayeda as being “innovative”. Word of mouth says many other staff members wanted to sign but felt too intimidated.
Also last week a distraught Spanish speaking family showed up at the Baldwin Park Shelter with their beloved Cocker Spaniel. The dog had gone into seizures and was immediately rushed to a private veterinarian who told them any possible treatment would cost between $1,000 and $1,500. Because this was beyond the family’s financial wherewithal, the vet directed them to Baldwin Park where the ASPCA had instituted a program to provide financial assistance for low income families with veterinary needs. The family arrived at Baldwin Park and explained their plight to the shelter’s impound clerk who told them that the ASPCA representative would be arriving shortly and they were welcome to wait at the ASPCA booth in front of the shelter.
Their dog was clearly in bad shape, and the family was crying as they waited for the ASPCA. According to multiple witnesses, this drew the ire of Claerbout who complained loudly to staff members that these people should not be in front of the shelter in this condition because it was bad for the shelter’s image. Claerbout ordered the facility’s impound clerk to impound the dog, even though the family had not legally relinquished their pet. Then Claerbout went out and grabbed the dog from the family telling them she was going to take him to the shelter veterinarian. Claerbout took the dog to the back of the shelter and ordered the veterinary staff to kill him. While Baldwin Park’s medical staff agreed that the dog should be put down, they quickly recognized that the family had not relinquished the dog to the shelter and euthanizing him would be both illegal and immoral, and therefore refused to kill him – apparently unbeknownst to Claerbout.
While this drama was playing out a Baldwin Park officer went out to console the family. The family tearfully said they realized the dog was in bad shape and wanted to take their pet to an outside veterinarian so the pet could die with dignity amongst his loved ones. Claerbout returned and, seeing the officer talking to the family, asked them, “What are you still doing here?” When the officer explained that they wanted to be with their pet, Claerbout replied “It’s just a shot – the same as a veterinarian would give.”
The officer reminded Claerbout that she could not legally kill a dog that hadn’t been surrendered to the shelter. Claerbout, who had already ordered the dog killed, became agitated with the officer and ordered her to secure the relinquishment form. The officer reluctantly informed the family of the dog’s medical situation and persuaded them to sign the form.
Claerbout’s actions were illegal and a violation of department policy. There may have been racial overtones – several people wondered whether she would have treated the family the same way if they were white, educated and spoke English. Her actions were heartless and insensitive and, according to policy and procedure warrant at minimum a 15 day suspension without pay. This case warrants stronger sanctions and possible criminal prosecution.
Marcia Mayeda’s judgment and motives in hiring Claerbout are questionable. Allegations that Marcia Mayeda lied to the Board of Supervisors in open session and instituted a coverup in the fatal Pamela DeVitt mauling have been raised in the case of DeVitt vs Los Angeles County and Marcia Mayeda . This may go beyond Mayeda as there is some evidence that the Board of Supervisors, specifically the office of Mike Antonovich, knew Mayeda was lying and at best did nothing and at worst condoned if not outright sanctioned it.
E-mails and calls to the Board of Supervisors have generated canned responses claiming the Board takes the allegations seriously and cannot comment on an ongoing investigation. Current procedure is that complaints about the Department of Animal Care and Control are sent to Mayeda for resolution. There is evidence of corruption involving Mayeda and we urge the Board of Supervisors to appoint an independent investigator in this matter. We also call on the Board of Supervisors to suspend both Claerbout and Mayeda with pay pending completion of the investigation as there is a real and immediate risk that witnesses will be intimidated and the investigation compromised if they remain actively employed. It is time for the Board of Supervisors to take responsibility and answer to the public.
Meanwhile “Google Me” Claerbout is trying to cut down the number of pets included on the Baldwin Park volunteers’ networking list and also shorten the hold times they are given – despite the fact that historically this networking list has had a 97 percent live release rate – a rate which was even higher before Claerbout arrived. The live release rate for the facility as a whole is down to 79 percent for dogs and only 18 percent for cats – yet Claerbout wants to lower the pets exposure. Anything you can do to help by adopting, rescuing or networking these highly deserving pets is appreciated and urgently needed.