Yesterday the Animal Legal Defense Fund held a seminar on animal cruelty. Attendees were surprised to see Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC) Director Marcia Mayeda in the audience listening to the proceedings. In her fifteen year career as head of the DACC , Mayeda has had a poor record in bringing charges against animal abusers. Sergeant Rachel Kemp Montez of the Lancaster shelter and several other DACC officers were summoned numerous times over the last eight years to the home of Palmdale School District Assistant Superintendent Pauline Winbush. They saw injured pit bulls tied up, scarred and emaciated animals and dog fighting tools, yet failed to pursue an investigation. It wasn’t until Sheriff’s Deputies raided her house that the major dog fighting ring headed by Winbush and her boyfriend Kevin Williams was shut down and charges were brought – not by the DACC but by the Sheriff. In a plea bargain deal earlier this month Winbush pled no contest to a single felony charge – and was sentenced to 270 days in jail and five years probation.
However Mayeda and her crony Pat “Google Me” Claerbout were able to get one animal abuse case into court this week. Former Baldwin Park Shelter kennel attendant Erika Valles was in West Covina Court to answer misdemeanor charges stemming from the death of a kitten she was fostering in October 2014. While head of Baldwin Park’s shelter, Claerbout ordered employees to reduce the feeding of dogs as a cost cutting move. The dogs were getting thinner – some to the point of being emaciated – and Valles had begun photographing them to show the negligent care that the DACC was providing. When Claerbout heard about this she was upset, and upon finding out that Valles’ foster kitten was sick, Claerbout decided to get revenge. Valles had brought the kitten to the shelter in the morning to be examined by Baldwin Park’s veterinarian. The vet was busy and could not see the animal until later, so Valles, mindful of protecting other pets in the shelter, placed the kitten in a carrier in her car. Claerbout broke into the car and seized the kitten. The kitten was taken to the back of the shelter, diagnosed with panleukopenia and euthanized. The shelter did not perform a necropsy and sent the body to a rendering plant. Without a body as evidence Claerbout was able to claim that the cat became sick due to Valles’ mistreatment and, in collaboration with Mayeda and the aforementioned Sergeant Montez-Kemp, filed charges against her. What is ironic is that Baldwin Park killed over 100 cats the same week and closed down their cattery because of a panleuk epidemic that swept the shelter. Although Claerbout was directly responsible for the cats’ welfare no one was charged for their deaths.
Valles is being offered a plea bargain deal which does not involve jail time. Because she has no financial resources to fight these baseless charges, Valles might have to take the deal. However, a whistle blower lawsuit which would vindicate Valles may be in the cards and Mayeda and Claerbout’s act of vengeance could end up costing the county millions of dollars in damages.
In Marcia Mayeda’s disastrous reign of error at the DACC, she has killed over 600,000 pets. She is a serial abuser of animals – which makes many observers wonder whether she attended the Animal Defense League’s seminar to learn how to be better at her job fighting animal abuse, or whether she was trying to learn how to abuse animals better.