Ten years after a hard-fought battle by passionate Los Angeles animal activists and rescuers, who were exhausted by increasing pet overpopulation and the heartbreaking realization that pregnant animals were being allowed to have puppies in city shelters and were being adopted out pregnant, the Department of Animal Services instituted a policy of spaying/neutering all dogs and cats before release, unless a medical condition diagnosed by a veterinarian warrants delaying the surgery. This included dogs/cats in late-term pregnancies—which, obviously, results in one homeless animal producing three to ten offspring needing homes.
That may soon change. Within months of collaborating on and supporting an ordinance which would prohibit any pet stores from selling puppies, kittens, dogs or cats from puppy mills or local breeders and mandates that ALL dogs and cats sold in any pet store MUST be animals taken from a Los Angeles City shelter, former breeder and current General Manager of Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS) Brenda Barnette, issued a report on June 23, 2013, recommending that the Department:
Make dogs in late-term pregnancy available to New Hope partners (rescues) as Department fosters OR to Department foster volunteers if fosters are available.
(1) Prohibit third-trimester spaying if a foster is available; and
(2) New Hope partners (rescuers) could also serve as foster volunteers for the Department for the pregnant mother and subsequent litter.
In her Fiscal Impact statement in the report, Barnette contends:
“Fostering puppies until they are eight weeks old, and returning them to Animal Services to be adopted out, represents additional revenue opportunities through adoptions to the public or through pet shops.”
However, earlier in this report, GM Barnette states, “If the New Hope partner (rescuer) chooses, they can return them [the puppies] to the shelter for spay/neuter surgery and then adopt them for the regular fees.” OR “The New Hope partners can have the dog and the puppies altered and after the Department receives proof…they can be transferred to the New Hope Partners at no additional charge.”
It is difficult to understand how the above description adds up to “additional revenue opportunities through adoptions to the public or through pet shops.”
IS L.A. ANIMAL SERVICE PLANNING A MONOPOLY ON BREEDING?
By passing a "puppy mill" ordinance prohibiting the sale of commercially bred puppies (and kittens) in pet stores and simultaneously requiring that they sell only shelter animals, and then actively producing more shelter puppies( and possibly kittens), Barnette has created the perfect monopoly on pets in the City. This appears to be in violation of a number of laws against unfair labor practices and anti-trust regulations. Certainly it would appear to any reasonable person to raise serious ethical questions regarding the abuse of governmental power.
If this is allowed to continue, L.A. Animal Services will be the only legal breeder in the City! No private business or corporation would ever be allowed to eliminate all of its competition as Brenda Barnette has—and, unfortunately, she has also involved the City Council and Mayor.
CAN BARNETTE CIRCUMVENT THE VINCENT BILL?
Since the incongruence in Barnette’s proposal seems obvious to anyone experienced in animal rescuer/welfare and it also appears to be a deliberately destructive act, it must be made clear that only three of the five members of the Animal Services Commission were present and voted unanimously for it: Commission President Lisa McCurdy, an attorney; Commissioner Alana Yanez of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and Commissioner Tariq Khero, also an attorney.
Unfortunately, these three Commissioners jumped on the opportunity to have puppies born, and disregarded reservations presented in public comment by agreeing with Ms. Barnette that they would count on her to make it “legal,” alluding to the requirements of the 1998 Vincent Bill which mandates pre-release spay/neuter of impounded cats and dogs statewide, unless a veterinarian advises that it is inadvisable for that animalat that time. In those cases where a veterinarian is not available to perform the surgery (or a veterinarian has determined the animal is not fit for sterilization at the time of adoption), a deposit must be held by the shelter to insure that the animal is spayed/neutered and proof of sterilization is provided.
The introduction to the 1998 Vincent Bill (Senator Edward Vincent) states:
“(a) The Legislature finds and declares that overpopulation of dogs and cats in California is a problem of great public concern. The overpopulation causes public health problems, adversely affects city and county animal control departments, and results in needlessly euthanized dogs and cats.
“(b) It is the intent of the Legislature, by enacting this act, to
reduce the number of unwanted dogs and cats in California. In order
to reduce the number of stray dogs and cats on the streets, and the
number euthanized in shelters each year, the birth rate must be
reduced… The single most effective prevention of overpopulation among dogs
and cats is spaying and neutering.”
ARE 'PREGNANT SPAYS' SAFE?
According to both private and shelter vets, late-term surgical sterilizations are safe!
The question was posed to an experienced veterinarian in another municipal shelter, “How does one know the number of fetuses being carried by a pregnant dog or cat?” The response was that one would have to x-ray the pregnant animal after bone development of the fetuses. This occurs towards the end of a pregnancy, and it is unlikely any shelter vet will have to time to make this determination in every pregnant dog or cat that is in a shelter.
Both private and shelter vets stated that it should be up to the shelter vet to determine if a pregnant animal should or should not be sterilized and not a General Manager or Commission.
So that leaves us with an additional question for Brenda Barnette, “How does LAAS—a Department she claims is critically understaffed--follow up on the spays of considerable numbers of dogs released to rescues and members of the public who wish to "foster" pregnant animals?
WHO PROPOSED THE LAAS PLAN TO STOP THIRD-TERM PREGNANT SPAYS?
Since there had been no public discussion at any Commission meeting regarding changing the policy of spaying pregnant dogs/cats, it is amazing that Barnette seemed to devise this on her own and then word it in such a way that it makes it hard to say “no.”
Barnette stated at the meeting that “a New Hope Partner” had made this suggestion. She also defiantly stated that she [Barnette] had already made the first release in violation of existing policy by allowing a rescuer to take a late-term pregnant Chihuahua without spaying her. Ironically, in her statistical report presented at the same meeting, Barnette discussed the fact that in May 2013, the most impounded breed in L.A. City shelters was Chihuahuas (almost at the 600 mark)—even surpassing “Bully Breeds.” So, do we really need more Chihuahuas?
Although all dogs, and especially Pit Bulls and Chihuahua’s are admittedly being transported in indiscernible numbers all over the United States and Canada to find them unidentified “forever homes,” GM Barnette admitted to the Commission that she had knowingly added to this tragedy.
BARNETTE’S OTHER PLANS FOR ANIMALS
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced on June 17, 2010, that Brenda Barnette, CEO of the Seattle Humane Society, and an admitted “former” dog breeder is most qualified to make the City’s policy decisions regarding the lives and welfare of the dogs and cats living in Los Angeles and how they will affect residents.
Barnette’s other job in Seattle is Legislative Representative for the American Kennel Club (AKC), which she stated at the media conference, amounts to merely hitting the “forward key” when the world’s largest purebred dog-breeding registry sends her information on issues to oppose or support.
A list of articles describing her approach to animal sheltering since then is at the bottom of this article:
IS THE PURPOSE OF RESCUE/FOSTER TO GUARANTEE A PUPPY SUPPLY FOR SHELTERS?
Barnette’s plan to stop spaying pregnant dogs also flies in the face of sound policies regarding rescue and fostering of shelter animals. The basis for allowing rescuers to take animals from shelters at reduced prices (or in some cases for free) is to save the lives of animals that would otherwise be euthanized because of a lack of space or because their health/behavior is deteriorating in the shelter environment.
Fostering is a newer concept where pets are taken into private homes for a limited period of time in order to allow them to maintain socialization and a close relationship with humans in a loving environment. These animals have the potential for adoption and are intended to be returned to the shelter for that opportunity.
Nowhere in the definition of “rescue” or “foster” is there the provision to have them remove animals merely for the sole and specific purpose of insuring their reproduction cycle is completed. Along with the production of puppies and kittens comes the sad reality that most of them will not remain in their adoptive homes past the first year before either being passed on to a new owner, returned to a shelter or being abandoned in the streets. In addition, sadly, there is no shortage of puppies and kittens entering the doors of Los Angeles Animal Services shelters.
IS GM BARNETTE’S PAST BECOMING HER PRESENT?
One of the major concerns regarding the hiring of Brenda Barnette was articulated by Ron Kaye, former editor of the Los Angeles Daily News, June 29, 2010, on the Ron Kaye LA news blog, “The most serious questions revolve around her [Barnette’s] roles as legislative liaison for the American Kennel Club and with a political action committee funded by breeders who waged a vigorous fight against mandatory spay/neuter laws in California — information she has taken down from her Facebook page since her nomination.”
It appears her background as a breeder is still an underlying factor of concern regarding Ms. Barnette’s tenure as General Manager of Los Angeles Animal Services. The foregoing is just part of the devastation that has undermined this strife-torn agency since she took this position.
L.A. ANIMAL SERVICES UNDER BARNETTE’S WATCH
Ms Barnette is the first General Manager who has not maximized existing spay/neuter subsidy money for low-income residents. Over $200,000 was reallocated for staff salaries and an additional "surplus" of $400,00 was reportedly lost due to it not being spent.
On July 1, 2013,Mayor Eric Garcetti and six new representatives on the full-time, 15-member Los Angeles City Council assumed responsibility for public health/safety and soundness of policies that affect both people and animals. The issue of producing more puppies in shelters under the guise of developing an additional “revenue source” (and pet store inventory) must be closely examined and rejected. Even without animal-shelter experience it is clear that creating more homeless animals is not the way to end pet overpopulation and reduce the tragedy of euthanasia.
WHERE CAN YOU READ BARNETTE’S REPORT ON THE PROPOSED PLAN?
GM Barnette, who boasts about transparency, did not post the report on this issue on the Department’s Commission meeting site. The agenda merely describes agenda item #4 as a Board report, “Spays of Pregnant Dogs in the Third Trimester.”