It must be tough to be Betsey Webster, Marcia Mayeda’s Chief Deputy Director and Whitewasher at the Los Angeles County Department of Animal “Care” & Control. Webster has had the unenviable job this past week of trying to cover up for Mayeda’s trainwreck of a hire, Pat “Google me” Claerbout as Baldwin Park Shelter Manager.
At the beginning of the week Baldwin Park had three horses. One was a small black mare, who had been abandoned for two months, living off weeds and dirty water, before she was impounded at Baldwin Park. A respected horse rescuer named Betsy Bueno of Lost Hearts and Souls Horse Rescue, contacted a Baldwin Park officer and told them she was willing to rescue this horse. During their conversation, the officer – who has a huge heart and has always been a big advocate for the animals – told Bueno there were two other horses at the shelter in need of rescue. One was a lame and unridable dun Gelding with damaged legs, who had been used in Charro events. The other was a 22 year old Thoroughbred, who was blind in one eye and difficult to touch. Ms. Bueno agreed to take all three horses. All appeared to be well for the horses.
The following day, Pat Claerbout called Bueno. Without checking Bueno’s impeccable references, Claerbout was rude and aggressive over the phone and said she and she alone makes the decisions at the DACC about where the horses go – and she wasn’t letting the horses go to rescue.
By then Bueno had discovered that the dun Gelding had been treated by an outside veterinarian, Dr. Lindsay Brown, after Claerbout had negligently allowed the horse to get into some feed that he should never have had access to. According to Dr. Brown due to Baldwin Park’s negligence, “There are high levels in the horse’s blood work showing possible kidney failure.” Several Baldwin Park insiders think that Claerbout’s reluctance to allow Bueno to have these horses was due to the substandard care they were receiving, which is a violation of the Hayden Act, California SB 1786 Section 12:
(A) All public pounds …. shall treat the animals in their care kindly and shall provide them with all the following:
Protection from accidents and injuries caused by people, other animals, or inadequate housing or treatment.
(5) (all shelters shall provide) …Veterinary care as needed
(B) The duties imposed by this section are mandatory duties for the purposes of Division 3.6 (commencing with section 810) of Title 1 of the Government Code and any of the entities subject to this section, or their employees, that fail to perform these duties may, in addition to other liability or penalty permitted by law, be liable for civil damages, including, but not limited to, damages for the loss of a companion animal, and may also be subject to criminal prosecution for cruelty to animals as provided in Section 597 of the Penal Code.
Bueno – who has spent her career in law enforcement – promptly circulated the story and the wrath of the public was such that Betsey Webster was forced to defend Claerbout. In an e-mail to Michael Bell, Webster wrote:
After reading Betsy’s E-mail and speaking with Pat it appears to me that Betsy may have misunderstood how our organization works with networkers. Some social media sites have been critical of Pat Claerbout, and have based their position on social media complaints and some news reports from a couple years ago. Regrettably, the information provided is incomplete. Pat is a compassionate, dedicated animal welfare professional who is working towards making the Baldwin Park Animal Care Center a model for animal care. We always take the responsibility for the ultimate placement of shelter pets and will favor adoption to rescue – as rescue is an interim solution. Additionally, we will always look into organizations who seek to rescue our animals to ensure they are capable of providing necessary care and are not organizations of concern to their local animal control agencies. Of course, this is in the best interest of the animals.’
Ms. Bueno’s response was curt and to the point:
…you claim Ms. Claerbout is “a compassionate, dedicated animal welfare professional who is working towards making the Baldwin Park Animal Care Center a model for Animal Care.” Perhaps you need to reread my credentials. I have had a long career in law enforcement – which means I know how to conduct investigations. Rather than rely upon your word, or even the noise from the social media you seem to want people to ignore, I made direct contact with the governmental officials in both Stockton and Sacramento. They told me that the allegations against Ms. Claerbout are true, and that she was dismissed from each department. They are also waiting for this investigation and outcome from L.A. County, since their case is still pending for the same issues. It is clear that you hired a person who is clearly unfit to be allowed to be involved in sheltering animals and is a liability both civil and criminal.
The black horse was rehomed. Yesterday, after much drama, Bueno was finally allowed to rescue the thoroughbred who was in deplorable condition. The dun Gelding is still in need at Baldwin Park.
Meanwhile Baldwin Park is buzzing with the news that Claerbout has been illegally adopting out stray animals during their legally mandated hold periods. Recently an orange snake was brought to the shelter as a stray and the very next day Claerbout adopted the snake out to a snake rescuer friend of hers who is not a County adoption partner. This is a suspendable offence and it will be interesting to see whether Mayeda will take action or whether poor Betsey Webster is going to have to get out her bottle of Maalox, hold her nose, and write another disingenuous e-mail.