The Downey and Baldwin Park Shelters are outdated and irremediably dirty structures. With sixty years of grime caked on the walls, these shelters can no longer be adequately cleaned. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has ignored the crumbling infrastructure of its two oldest animal shelters for years – and the only times they seemed to ever focus on the Department of Animal Control was when there was a photo opportunity that might get their faces next to a cute dog in the media.
Ironically, a photo of a dog with feces in its kennel, something that happens several times every day in every shelter across the county, triggered a protest which went viral; the organizers were able to gather 5,000 signatures from people angry with the filth. When you get that many angry signatures career politicians will pay attention – and Supervisor Don Knabe pushed through a resolution ordering the County’s Interim Chief Executive to investigate the safety and cleanliness of the shelters and report back in 15 days with a specific action plan to improve the shelters, customer service and ensure accountability within the shelters.
Whether this is just a lip service, “I made a photo op statement and now I can ignore it again” winking glance at, or a sincere investigation of the DACC, we don’t know yet. If it is the latter the Board will quickly discover that Director of Animal Control Marcia Mayeda has badly mismanaged this agency, which routinely violates State laws and OSHA regulations, tramples the rights of its employees and members of the public, provides substandard care to its animals and routinely kills pets who did not need to die. If it is the former, the BOS will quickly lose the forest for the trees and fall for Mayeda’s snake-oil saleswoman’s pitch, and be told that the lack of care is caused by too many animals in the shelters – and Mayeda will then order her underlings to lower the kennel populations through mass killings. We would like to hope that the BOS and Knabe are sincere, but years of experience have not left us overly optimistic.
To further demonstrate how pernicious, mendacious and morally corrupt Mayeda is, last week former Baldwin Park kennel attendant Erika Valles was sent a letter signed by DACC Sergeant Rachel Montez-Kemp informing her that criminal charges have been filed against her for animal cruelty. After disgraced former Baldwin Park Shelter manager Pat “Google Me” Claerbout ordered pets to be fed less in a cost cutting move, Valles began photographing the shelter’s pets getting thinner. Valles was also fostering pets for the shelter, and when one of her foster kittens became ill, she brought the pet to Baldwin Park for its veterinarians to examine. Because it was a cold day and Valles thought that the kitten might be contagious, she placed the kitten in her car as she waited for the veterinarian to be available. Claerbout had Valles’ car illegally broken into and claimed that having the kitten in the car constituted animal cruelty. The kitten turned out to have panleukopia, a common but nearly always fatal disease that claims hundreds of cats’ lives at Baldwin Park each year. Claerbout blamed the death on Valles, and sent Montez-Kemp, who works at the Lancaster shelter to Valles’ home in Riverside County, far out of the DACC’s jurisdiction for an illegal inspection. Claerbout also summoned the DACC’s hatchetman, David Hou, to illegally threaten Valles with animal cruelty charges if she refused to resign immediately. Valles had no legal representation and tearfully quit. The DACC reneged on its deal and now is pushing for prosecution.
Ironically the same day Valles’ kitten died, five other kittens at Baldwin Park died of panleuk, yet no one was prosecuted. Equally ironically at the Lancaster shelter, an animal control officer left a dog on his truck, parked in the sun for 8 hours in 115 degree heat. The dog died a horrible death. Interestingly, it was this very same officer who backdated the Chameleon notes that are the key evidence of the DACC’s cover-up in the fatal pit bull mauling in Littlerock which claimed the life of jogger Pamela DeVitt. Oddly enough Sgt. Montez-Kemp never managed to secure a criminal charge in her own backyard.
Mayeda and the DACC’s leadership cannot be trusted on any level – and if it’s a small pile of dog shit at the Downey Shelter that triggers some sort of shelter reform, we can only wonder what kind of reform should be inspired by the huge pile of stinking manure residing in the DACC’s Long Beach headquarters.