Animal Rights

Are AKC, Dog and Cat Breeders Taking Over L.A.?

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

Villaraigosa, Rosendahl/Koretz plan will increase dogs/cats in residences by 66%. Is it really to save shelter animals?

Is it really to save shelter pets, or is there a much larger and different agenda that brought the American Kennel Club (AKC) in New York and Concerned Dog Owners of California (CDOC), which represents over 100 dog breeders and breed clubs, to the forefront in promoting Los Angeles Councilmen Bill Rosendahl/ Paul Koretz’ motion to increase by 66% the number of allowable owned dogs and cats in residential zones of Los Angeles?

In 2008, Rosendahl, a former dog breeder was the solo “NO” vote against the L.A. spay/neuter ordinance to reduce shelter population and euthanasia. The AKC website announced, “Last week, the City Council voted 10-1 in favor of the ordinance, with only Councilmember Bill Rosendahl standing up for responsible owners and breeders.”

Cathie Turner, President of  Concerned Dog Owners of California (CDOC) quickly filed a lawsuit to stop the spay/neuter ordinance, which was dismissed without prejudice by Judge David Yaffee. 

On June 4, 2010, Rosendahl/Koretz proposed to remove the “…one barrier that prevents animal adoptions—the City’s limit on the number of animals a person may own” (Los Angeles now allows three dogs and three cats per residence.)  By allowing everybody to have two more cats and two more dogs, the motion tells us, Los Angeles can provide stray animals with homes and keep them from being euthanized in City shelters, and bring increased dog-license revenue.   

It’s pretty hard for any Councilmember to vote against that—especially with elections just a few months away!  Rosendahl and Koretz knew that when they proposed raising the limits to ten (10) animals per property (five dogs and five cats). So did Concerned Dog Owners and the AKC, which quickly became its most active and organized supporters. Or were they part of the planning? 

The devil is always in the details--in this case, it’s what the motion doesn’t say. There is no guarantee that these animals will come from shelters. (They can come from breeders, pet shops, and backyard mating.) There is no criteria for “responsible” homes, to insure these added animals aren’t later dumped. And, since the City only licenses about 10% of the estimated dog population, shouldn’t we get the other 90% into the system before adding more?

There’s another glaring omission--no mandate the extra animals must be altered and not add to shelter impounds, rather than helping. (The City’s spay/neuter ordinance can be circumvented by merely purchasing a breeding license). In a letter dated November 15, Los Angeles attorney Jeffrey Zinder, who handles animal-related cases, writes, “…because of the numerous exemptions in the City’s spay/neuter ordinance, this proposal would appear to condone and legitimize breeding operations in backyards and private homes citywide, which is the antithesis of the city’s purported goal of reducing pet population and shelter euthanasia.”

Coincidence or conspiracy?

-- On February 22, 2010, interviewers picked the finalists in a nationwide search for a new Animal Services General Manager. Brenda Barnette of Seattle Humane Society, a dog breeder and the AKC Legislative Representative for the Seattle Kennel Club (but with no animal control experience), was at the top.

--Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had Councilman Paul Koretz and all five of his personal appointees to the Animal Services Commission participate at various stages in the selection process, according to reports.

-- On June 4, Rosendahl/Koretz introduced the dog/cat-increase motion, and on June 17, Brenda Barnette’s appointment was announced by Mayor Villaraigosa and Paul Koretz. Barnette took over L.A. Animal Services on August 16.

 -- Rosendahl claimed his animal-increase motion came from a suggestion by a West Los Angeles veterinarian.  A visit to the clinic’s website revealed the doctor’s personal narrative on selecting a mate to breed his female dog, in such Story Book Episodes as, “Looking for Love.”

-- At its October 12 meeting, the President of the Animal Services Commission announced, “…the Mayor wants this passed,” and GM Brenda Barnette’s report was unanimously approved without discussion or questions. Cathie Turner was present, urging passage on behalf of breeders and members of Concerned Dog Owners of California (although the City Ethics Commission reports she is not a registered lobbyist). 

Strangely, not one rescuer or adoption group appeared in support, and the Commission—including two attorneys—did not challenge a glaring addition which excluded “… animals in temporary foster care.”  In other words—allowed unlimited animals.  (This was “deferred” at the October 26 meeting after an opposing animal advocate pointed out it was a violation of the Brown Act.)

--Then,  on October 16, 2010, it all came together in an e-mail in the City Clerk’s on-line file to Rosendahl and Koretz  from Louis Krokover, President of the Encino Neighborhood Council and former President of Concerned Dog Owners of California (CDOC) – with a long public record of breeding and showing dogs.

Krokover wrote, “This motion MUST PASS to protect our rights as individuals…Your good friend and supporter,” signed, President, Newday Development Company.  What possible “individual rights” are involved in adopting pets from shelter?

An earlier e-mail to Krokover from Cathie Turner, current CDOC President, was on the e-mail thread and undoubtedly not intended for public viewing.  It reads: 

I have been checking this constantly and the issue is that, other than one communication from Valley Glen NC, all the letters are in opposition. … LAAS has written to me several time to find out why no one is supporting this now that it has passed the Animal Commission. It could come up as soon as October 25th. If it is defeated in Public Safety, we are done. AKC is supposed to be sending out a bulletin as well. Cathie”

And the AKC did.  It’s October 2010 “Taking Command” Bulletin contains the following alert:  “…AKC GR staff alerted local club members and breeders in Los Angeles County and provided them with talking points that laud the proposed changes, but also discuss the ineffectiveness of limit laws;”

Avoiding legal requirements

This pressure by the breeders to pass the limit increase quickly may be the reason it was introduced with no study by L.A. Animal Services, nor was it directed to the City Planning Commission, which must review all zone changes. There was no input by L.A. Police or Fire Department/Emergency Response, nor other public-service agencies which send employees into private property.

Even with the large increase in animal waste, added pollution to storm drains dumping into waterways and the ocean, and the potential for spread of disease, there was no mention of a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review by supposedly environmentally sensitive Koretz and Rosendahl. 

Also avoided was notification to city property owners whose property values and quality of life could be severely impacted by turning every city residential lot into a “farm” or “kennel,” as many subsequently have said.

Changing the definitions of Dog/Cat Kennels in residential zones

In fact, if passed, this ordinance will alter the L.A. Municipal Code definition of a “kennel.” “Kennels” would start at “more than six dogs” and “more than six cats.” And, only “kennels” must locate 500 feet from residences. City residents will have no recourse if there are 10 animals living a few feet from their bedroom window or their baby’s nursery. There is no question that the current difficulties with enforcement of animal-regulation laws will increase exponentially. The number of hoops that a homeowner must jump through and the scarcity of remedies, exacerbated by continuing L.A. Animal Services staffing cuts, mean that barking-dog rules will be unenforced and there will be diminished response to bites or attacks.

The ten-animal limit, itself, would basically be unenforceable, as breeders are aware. How can Animal Services, or a neighbor, count with certainty that there are only 10 animals present on a property? Unless you can prove someone is violating the ten-animal standard or that serious humane violations are occurring, you will have no cause for complaint. 

However, in reality the number of animals which might be on the property is uncontrollable because the limit would only apply to ADULT dogs/cats. Puppies and kittens under four months, literally, do not count. It also offers a cover for dog-fighters under the guise of merely breeding bullies. When the numbers reach this high legally--unprecedented in a city of our density and size--the ability to prosecute shrinks to zero.

There is major profit in breeding and selling purebred dog and cats. Four purebred dogs stolen in Bellflower, CA, on November 30, 2010, were valued by their owner at $500,000. 

When done from residences, breeders avoid the bureaucratic red tape required for other businesses, and income can be unreported and untaxed. There is an incentive also for the AKC to enable and promote breeding because they register every puppy for a fee. But should the public and the City Council be mislead that this is an innocent measure to save the lives of shelter animals, if, in fact, the real purpose is to enable a major, unlimited breeding industry to be set up in Los Angeles residential zones?

What can result from increased animal-limits, other than breeding?

Barking/sanitation: GM Brenda Barnette rationalizes that one dog can be as annoying as five.  Maybe so, but not if all five dogs are barking or the owner is not cleaning up after them!  She declares that, if there is a problem on a property, the department will take action to reduce the number of dogs. That’s unlikely, since the Animal Services Commission repeatedly refuses to remove even dangerous, attacking dogs, stating that it is a “neighbor conflict,” not an animal issue.  You also must disclose any unresolved problems to prospective purchasers if you decide to sell your property. 

Dangerous dogs/hoarders: San Diego is cited as an area of comparable population that has a six-dog/unlimited cat rule and allegedly “no increased problems” with noise or sanitation, dangerous dogs and hoarders. However, San Diego’s own media reports tell another story.

Also, San Diego County covers a total of 4,526 sq/mi (including small cities with lower animal limits), and has a population of 3,222,466, and a density of 712/sq mi. Los Angeles city is only 469 sq/mi. with a population of 3,833,995, and a density of 8,205 sq/mi.

A “Pet Limit Matrix” provided by Mr. Barnette assures us that Chicago, Newark NJ, Dade County, FL and Philadelphia are doing fine with high or no limits. And, that most fatal dog attacks from 1968-2001 were by single dogs. But pet profiles have changed in the last decade and no data is offered regarding recent increased attacks, especially by pit bulls, which have gained popularity in the past decade and also constitute about 50 percent of shelter euthanasias.

Self regulate: Ms. Barnette’s October 6, 2010, report cites, “In random polling, community members know their limits and self regulate.” Common sense tells us that if pet owners knew how to self regulate, the city wouldn’t need animal shelters or an $18 million-a-year budget for animal control.

Numbers do matter: Council members have been assured that, if someone can care for three dogs, they can handle five. This is not entirely accurate, because increasing above three creates a greater likelihood of “pack mentality” prevailing. Also, the expenses of five dogs/cats for special dietary needs, grooming, or veterinary care can become overwhelming for even the most caring owner. And, if owners are NOT taking care of three pets and/or decide to dump them in the shelters, that could increasingly be five dogs/cats—there is nothing in the ordinance that allows discretion as to who can have an extra two.  (Note: Some people in Los Angeles have extra pets and are able to care for them properly. They do not become the subject of investigation unless there are complaints of inhumane conditions.)

Cats (indoors/outdoors) and ferals: Although on October 26 the Animal Services Commission approved keeping extra cats indoors, it rejected a proposal for required spay/neuter and microchipping, making ownership determination impossible and unenforceable. Anyone who knows the difficulty of keeping unaltered cats inside (unless you are a breeder who keeps them in cages) can see that this increase could enable hoarding and/or add to outdoor cats. Since the proposed ordinance creates a new legal category of “indoor cats,” it appears to conflict with an existing injunction obtained by environmental groups that restricts increasing the limit or exempting feral and strays--and requires  CEQA review of any  such action.

Animal fighting/hoarding: Ms Barnette contends that "dog and cat limits are unrelated to animal hoarding and fighting, which in the former case are the manifestation of mental illness and in the later case deliberate illegal activities." Attorney Jeffrey Zinder questions her qualifications to make such blanket determinations, and opines, “Even those with good intentions may place their devotion to animals above their concern for their own neighbors and neighborhood. It is not the intention of the person that is in question; it is the effect their behavior has upon our city."