Last month, an Orange County Grand Jury issued a scathing report condemning its shelter system’s leadership for operating a dilapidated facility, saying “Structural integrity, cleanliness and sanitation continue to be compromised and pose serious risks to human as well as animal health.” The Grand Jury went on to state “The county’s lack of leadership, lack of commitment to animal care, and the prioritization of other Orange County Community Resources Department functions ahead of Orange County Animal Care are the primary reasons for failure.”
If Los Angeles County investigated its shelter system, something we pray for every day, they would find the same, if not worse conditions in their Baldwin Park and Downey shelters. These sixty year old shelters pose dangers to both the unfortunate pets and the workers consigned to these facilities. They are literally crumbling apart and are so intrinsically filthy that they can no longer be properly cleaned.
But merely renovating or replacing these two shelters will not solve the huge problems facing Los Angeles County’s Department of Animal Care and Control. Under the feckless leadership of Marcia Mayeda, the DACC has become an inefficient and unresponsive bureaucracy infected with a culture of duplicity and corruption which careens recklessly from one scandal to another and is an utter waste of the taxpayers’ money.
Citizens calling in complaints about hoarding situations and tips about animal cruelty are routinely ignored, owners of unlicensed and unaltered dogs are not being cited and fined while Mayeda and her chief Deputy Derek Brown are in perpetual cover their ass mode and only stir their inertia bound agency to act when their masters at the Board of Supervisors rattle their cages.
A concerned citizen in Lancaster reported that a trailer property located at 19021 East Ave Q in Lake Los Angeles had 120 Chihuahuas and Shih Tzus living in deplorable conditions. The DACC refused to respond and despite multiple complaints have not visited the property since December 2004. When the DACC failed to respond a rescue came in and rehomed most of the dogs but there are still 20 dogs left. Reportedly the property is being used to grow marijuana and the owner has an unlicensed, unaltered pit bull who has been chained in plain sight to a tree for six years guarding the property. There are several other dogs chained in the yard living in deplorable conditions and at least six dogs have died mysterious deaths on the property – but the DACC refuses to respond.
According to the DACC the reason they haven’t responded and investigated this, and several other similar situations, is because the agency is understaffed.
Why is the DACC so understaffed? A good deal of the reason falls back on Marcia Mayeda. A huge amount of salaries and staff positions are taken by bad Mayeda hires who were later removed for good reason – like Pat Claerbout.. Other honest employees like Baldwin Park’s capable Lieutenant Eileen Hill have been put on paid administrative leave for whistleblowing against Mayeda. We don’t know what prompted Patricia Learned to be removed but she is still collecting a paycheck. Mayeda is further hamstrung by civil service protection regulations. The rogue Lancaster employee who was caught red handed stealing both money and dogs from the shelter is still drawing a paycheck. The list goes on and on, and the result is there are is a shortage of officers in the field protecting animals. Things are so bad that a Baldwin Park Sergeant who was caught on camera stealing money hasn’t been disciplined, much less terminated, because Mayeda can’t take him off the payroll. Apparently Mayeda figures as long as this person limits his theft to small items it is better to keep him on the job than have a vacant position. As several DACC employees have ruefully observed, they should steal money on camera and then they would be able to stay home and get paid!
The only way that the County can extricate itself from this mess is to privatize the shelter system. If 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 to regularly meet and 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.
Of course if performance standards were used to determine employment, the next time you see Marcia Mayeda, she might be hanging around outside of Home Depot looking for work. If this pipe dream ever should happen, I would hire Mayeda, especially if I needed anything whitewashed.