Like nearly every other government-run open admission animal shelter, Los Angeles County’s shelter system is woefully underfunded. Even if you take out the bloated salary and benefits given to Marcia Mayeda, the morally challenged despot running the operation, and if you subtract the salaries of all her tragic hires who are being paid not to work because of their misconduct and her inability to fire them due to their civil service protection, the agency is not sufficiently funded to provide homeless pets with anything beyond the most basic care.
The saving grace is that there are thousands of kindhearted people who selflessly donate their time and money to help the unfortunate pets who find themselves in these refugee camps. These people are called “volunteers” and without their donations of time and labor the shelters would not be able to provide even minimal care.
Volunteers should be cherished – and at some Los Angeles County Shelters, particularly Agoura and Downey, they are. Regrettably, at Baldwin Park the opposite is true. In prior years Baldwin Park volunteers often spent 8 hours a day at the shelter – sometimes arriving at 5 A.M. to prepare pets for mobile adoptions and not leaving until the event was over and the pets were kenneled and fed at 9 P.M. Volunteers made transports possible, showing up at the shelter at 4 A.M. to make sure that pets were at LAX by 8 A.M. There was a camaraderie amongst staff and volunteers and a sense of shared purpose.
When Sheri “Goldilocks” Koenig took over at Baldwin everything changed. A Baldwin Park volunteer who showed up on New Year’s to help clean cages and feed the animals was told that volunteers were no longer allowed in the shelter on holidays. The shelter’s lead cat volunteer – let’s call her “Kitty” – who spent 8 hours a day every day at the shelter, was suspended for two months because, in response to a question posted on her personal Facebook page, she truthfully confirmed that Baldwin Park had recently killed off most of its cat and rabbit population on the orders of Koenig. Koenig denied going on Kitty’s Facebook page which was ironic considering that she had, a few days previously, told a group of Baldwin volunteers that she enjoyed reading their Facebook pages. During Kitty’s absence cat adoptions plummeted and cages were often cleaned improperly – when they were cleaned at all.
Last week Koenig met with Kitty to discuss her reinstatement, one condition of which was that Kitty divulge no information about the number of animals killed. Apparently Goldilocks thinks that this should be a state secret and hasn’t yet learned that the euthanasia statistics are posted on the DACC’s own web site! She also banned Kitty from fostering kittens because she was, according to Koenig, the first foster ever to have kittens come down with the deadly disease Panleukopenia. For years Baldwin Park’s cattery has been losing hundreds of cats to Panleuk and nearly every foster has lost kittens to the disease – but as usual Koenig was either lying or poorly informed.
Goldilocks reinstated Kitty – but limited her to volunteering three hours a day, four days a week and only during the shelter’s open-to-the-public hours.
Needless to say when you treat volunteers this way, you lose volunteers. When you lose volunteers your staff members, already stretched thin, pick up the slack as best they can. Conditions worsen, pets become sick and staff members are demoralized. It’s a vicious cycle.
What is ironic is that while this drama was going on there were several transports offered of both cats and dogs offered to Los Angeles County’s shelter system by the two major transport charities helping the shelter system. Baldwin Park claimed it did not have enough eligible pets for transport. Perhaps if the shelter had not killed so many pets over the Christmas holidays – they might have been able to send them on transport to safety at no kill shelters!
As a follow up to last week’s blog entry about Koenig killing pets over Christmas while there were kennels sitting empty at Baldwin – the DACC leadership has removed Koenig from making euthanasia decisions. These decisions will now be made by a trio of Baldwin Park senior staff – two of whom in particular are well respected by rescue groups and volunteers alike as they have a track record of doing everything within their power to save pets.