Since the economic collapse of 2007, federal, local and state governments have seen tax revenues plummet. The polarization of Democrats and Republicans has caused gridlock throughout the county, and there seems to be no issue that either party can agree upon… except for one. Both Democrats and Republicans agree that we will have to do more with less. Government agencies have seen their budgets slashed, employees have been furloughed and services curtailed.
The Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control (DACC) has lost a significant portion of its budget. In the DACC’s case it wasn’t fat that was trimmed, it was essential services. Marcia Mayeda, the controversial head of the DACC, is paid well over $200,000 of our tax dollars in annual salary and benefits. Has she earned her money? To answer this question you have to look at the challenges her agency faces and see if her priorities are straight.
Nearly everyone agrees that the DACC’s top two priorities should be protecting public safety by removing dangerous animals from our community and reducing the killing in the shelters by decreasing the number of pets coming into the system and increasing the number of adopted and rescued pets going out of the system.
The DACC has not come up with an effective policy on the public safety issue. Nearly everyone agrees that truly aggressive dogs should not be allowed into the public. However the DACC has not been able to accurately identify what is an aggressive dog. Dominant breed dogs (Rottweilers, Chow Chows, Shar Peis, Pit Bulls, Bulldogs, Staffordshire Terriers, Jindos etc.) are presumed by the DACC to be dangerous and have to prove themselves, by means of a temperament test, to be suitable for adoption. Pets who fail are routinely killed for failing the tests. However according to most professional pet behaviorists the test is highly flawed, and often poorly administered and does not yield reliable results. Interestingly the City of Los Angeles does not require temperament testing of these breeds – having determined them to be highly non predictive of future behavior.
The DACC has a dismal record on reducing the number of pets coming in to the shelters. The head of the DACC should be simultaneously using her position to get her bosses at the Board of Supervisors to implement a county-wide enforceable spay/neuter law, and enforcing the spay/neuter ordinances in communities where there are laws. Currently when irresponsible pet owners discard their puppies and kittens they are rarely ticketed – and even more rarely are officers sent to their addresses to check and see if there are unaltered pets on the premises.
The DACC is supposed to promote adoptions and rescues. But the DACC does not have a viable foster program (to be authorized as a foster for bottle babies requires completing a class that is virtually never offered) and nearly all unweaned puppies and kittens are immediately given a “Marcia Mayeda cocktail” the popular euphemism among shelter workers for the lethal injection given to kill pets. The DACC has made it more difficult for rescues by implementing policies which make it increasingly difficult for rescues to work collaboratively to rescue pets from the shelters. (You can read more about this in previous blog posts on www.ricbrowde.com/dogrescue)
Also as discussed in my previous blog posts, the DACC has made it harder for volunteers to donate their time to support the shrinking kennel staff. At Downey, Baldwin Park, Lancaster and Carson potential adopters are often told that pets cannot be taken out of their kennels and shown due to staff shortages.
If Mayeda’s leadership was held to the standards of CEOs in the private sector, she would be forced out by the stockholders. If she were an elected official, she would be shown the door by the electorate. Mayeda has proved she is not worth two hundred thousand dollars a year. It is time for her to go – and be replaced by a smarter, more collaborative and more innovative leader.