Monthly Archives: May 2017

Downey Shelter Pets Urgently Need Your Help!

On May 12th Los Angeles residents had an opportunity to watch their tax dollars at work as Attorney Justin Sarno from the law firm of Carpenter, Rothrans & Dumont dove head first into the world of alternative facts. Sarno has been retained to defend his clients, the County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC) and Marcia Mayeda against a lawsuit brought by the family of Mrs. Pamela DeVitt, who was fatally mauled by a pack of Pit Bulls on May 9th of 2013.

The facts of the DeVitt case came to light after a DACC employee leaked computer printouts showing that the DACC believed the dogs were owned by Alex Jackson and had repeatedly failed to impound the dogs and had, following Mrs. DeVitt’s death, backdated records to cover up their inaction. The DACC’s printouts show that the dogs had previously attacked two men on horseback on January 21, 2013 and, in a separate incident on April 3rd, 2013 five dogs jumped over Jackson’s fence and attacked a woman on her horse. After more than two months of repeatedly failing to respond to complaints about these dogs, the DACC finally went out to the property and left a notice telling Jackson that they were looking for the dogs. On April 12th Mr. Jackson called Animal Control and denied that the dogs were his – claiming they were strays. The dogs were never picked up and 4 weeks later Mrs. DeVitt was dead.

At the time Los Angeles County Code Section 10:32.010 stated that the DACC shall impound any stray dogs whether these pets had a license or not. The law was very specific and left no discretion to the agency. Jackson had stated that the dogs were not his and the DACC was required to impound the dogs.

Four days after Mrs. DeVitt’s death, Mayeda made the following statement to the County Board of Supervisors:

We received two reports about these dogs, one in January of this year and one in April of this year. We responded to the January report. We did not locate any of the dogs that had been reported. The owner was cited for violations of animal control ordinances regarding rabies vaccination, licensing, spay and neuter and microchip.

Mayeda was never asked by the Board of Supervisors to explain how the DACC could issue tickets for these dogs if they were never seen. And a few weeks after the fatal DeVitt mauling the DACC’s lawyer, County Council Diane Regan, proposed that the word “shall” in County Code Section 10:32:010 be changed to “may”, thus modifying the law to give the DACC discretion as to whether they had to pick up sick, stray, etc …dogs.

At last week’s hearing Mr. Sarno took the position that the word “shall” did not imply a mandatory duty. Probably in the alternative facts world of the Sarno and the DACC, the 10 Commandments were options rather than duties. All those “thou shalt nots” are just a bunch of suggestions.

Mr. Sarno then argued that even if there was an obligation which the DACC had failed to fulfill, no legal recourse was available to the DeVitt plaintiffs because the harm suffered was not the harm the law was intended to prevent. In other words, the obligation to pick up stray, sick  animals was not intended to protect members of the public from being attacked but was in fact intended to ensure the welfare of the animals. Perhaps Mr. Sarno did not have the benefit of reading any of his client’s numerous policy statements on “potentially dangerous” dogs, which statements firmly insist that it is the DACC’s right and duty to confiscate.

DeVitt vs. Los Angeles County and Marcia Mayeda being referred back to a lower court for a jury trial is not attractive to the County of Los Angeles for either from a financial or a public relations point of view especially for a government still reeling from the Sheriff Baca and Tanaka scandals. Who would a jury side with? The plaintiffs consist of Ms. DeVitt’s grieving family. Ms. DeVitt was jogging to get in shape so she could enjoy a healthy life of a grandmother. Her husband of 42 years was devastated. Her son, a highly decorated Green Beret was serving his country and her daughter’s child will never have the benefit of knowing her grandmother.   The County and Marcia Mayeda aren’t quite so lovable – as the evidence is clear cut they conspired to obstruct justice.  According to legal experts we have spoken with, a verdict in the neighborhood of thirty million dollars would not be surprising.

Although the case might be entertaining for those who enjoy stopping to look at train wrecks, we hope the County will not allow this sordid case to go to trial.  Offering Ms. Mayeda’s resignation would be the best way for them to open negotiations.


Downey Pets Urgently Need Your Help

It is disturbingly ironic that despite Los Angeles being regarded throughout the world as a trendsetting community where progressive ideas are born and implemented, it fails so miserably when it comes to animal control.  Whereas large cities such as New York have dramatically reduced their euthanasia rates through innovative leadership and programs, Los Angeles, both the City and particularly Los Angeles County fail miserably.

The solution to alleviating shelter overcrowding and thus reducing our tax dollars being used to kill highly adoptable pets is not difficult to implement.  All one needs to do is enact and enforce spay/neuter laws and incentivize the public to buy in to the concept. Our neighboring communities have taken great strides towards this goal.   In Riverside under the excellent leadership of Robert Miller, the County shelter parks a spay/neuter truck at the bottom of a street and sends a team of canvassers to aggressively ticket neighborhood pet owners found to have unaltered pets.  If the ticketed owner takes the pet to the spay/neuter vehicle and has the surgery performed the ticket is cancelled.  If the pet owner refuses to comply there are financial penalties.   Meanwhile, in Bakersfield, under the progressive leadership of Julie Johnson – Wings of Rescue is working with the agency to implement “Operation Pit Stop” where the owners of unaltered Pit Bulls will be able to purchase a low priced raffle ticket for a 72 inch Smart Television, if they bring in their Pit Bull for a free spay/neuter.

But in Los Angeles County, under the “leadership” of Marcia Mayeda – it’s crickets.

She has several communities, including Azusa and West Covina, two cities that contribute the largest number of strays into her Baldwin Park facility, that totally lack spay/neuter laws.  Mayeda has done absolutely nothing to pressure or incentivize these cities to enact spay/neuter legislation.  Two years ago El Monte had no mandatory spay/neuter laws – and an El Monte school teacher and I went to the City Council and persuaded them to enact one.  Did Mayeda or the DACC offer to help – by even writing a letter of support for the effort?  Of course not.  It would have required Mayeda to do something proactive rather than reactive – something that is not in the DNA of this overpaid ($238,000 per year plus benefits) morally bankrupt bureaucrat.

Los Angeles County’s shelter systems are adopting out hundreds of unaltered pets each week to the public under “health waivers”.  Pets who are sick with diseases such as kennel cough are exempted from surgery and the adopters are charged a $50 spay/neuter deposit – which they can get refunded when they later provide a certificate of sterility, which can be secured by either taking the pet to a private vet for surgery, or by returning the pet to a DACC facility within three months of adoption when the pet is deemed healthy enough to be altered.  We do not criticize the DACC for the concept of the program, however the problem is that less than 50 percent of the pets are ever sterilized and the DACC does not have a single employee following up on the scofflaws who have not had their pets altered.

Mayeda’s shelters have also been automatically deferring pets if they are over eight years old.  The rationale behind this is that older pets require bloodwork analysis before being subjected to anesthesia.  Blood machines are relatively inexpensive – but Mayeda refuses to provide her veterinarians with most basic diagnostic equipment beyond a stethoscope.  The other huge problem that has caused hundreds of pets to be released unaltered is that a few of her staff veterinarians are lazy.  When I was a Baldwin Park volunteer our vets were capable of altering 40 pets a day; now the vets have reduced their surgeries to 25 per day and will often do even fewer by claiming healthy pets are too sick to be altered.  Considering that Downey is now routinely adopting more than 25 pets a day this creates enormous backlogs in the spay/neuter clinic and pet owners who have adopted deferred pets cannot get spay/neuter appointments at the shelters.  More often than not these pets are never altered.

As a result of the Mayeda-led department’s failure to track the unaltered pets released by her own department thousands of pets are born each year who ultimately flood the shelter system – and cause the continual cycle of killing that has been the trademark of Mayeda’s reign of error.  We would like to attribute this failure to Mayeda’s laziness and incompetence, but also muse that it may be due to a more sinister and venal reason – that Marcia Mayeda would rather keep the unclaimed trust deposits and use these monies for her pet projects like her $60,000 private dog park by DACC headquarters, rather than have to pay for the surgeries to be done by hiring additional veterinary help.