Society

Why Does L.A. Animal Services' Brenda Barnette Oppose Spay/Neuter of Pit Bulls?

| by Denise A Justin

Did Los Angeles Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnette (far right in photo) have a momentary mental relapse to her avocation as a dog breeder and AKC Legislative Representative when she posted on Facebook a formal call to action to attend a meeting of neighboring Pasadena’s Public Safety Committee discussion of a possible Mandatory Spay/Neuter ordinance for Pit Bulls? 

Barnette’s post encouraged “concerned residents and responsible dog owners” to be there to “highlight the ineffectiveness of breed-specific legislation.” 

When L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined Councilman Paul Koretz on June 17, 2010, to announce  that Brenda Barnette, then-CEO of the Seattle Humane Society and Seattle Legislative Representative for the American Kennel Club (AKC), was the “ most qualified” candidate to head Los Angeles Services, a reporter asked about Ms. Barnette’s affiliations with breeders and the AKC. 

Barnette was quick to attempt to separate herself from the breeding community by stating that she had bred dogs in the past but was not doing so when she was hired. However, she admitted that she is fond of purebred dogs and might be seen at a dog show.

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Barrette’ explained at the press conference that being the Legislative Representative for the American Kennel Club (AKC)  amounts to merely hitting the “forward key” when the world’s largest purebred dog-breeding registry sends information on issues to oppose or support.

Is that what she did on Friday, November 16, at 3:21 p.m. when she posted the following on Facebook? This was done during normal working hours, which might give the impression that this is the official position of the City—especially since it was posted on a site regularly used to announce and discuss programs of the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services.

Brenda Barnette

Pasadena, CA to Discuss Possible Breed-Specific Mandatory Spay/Neuter on November 19th
The Pasadena Public Safety Committee will discuss a possible breed-specific mandatory spay/neuter ordinance at their meeting Monday, November 19th. This is an informational item and the committee does not have a recommendation at this time. The full report and agenda can be seen here.
Concerned residents and responsible dog owners are encouraged to attend this meeting and highlight the ineffectiveness of breed-specific legislation.
Pasadena Public Safety Committee Meeting
Date: Monday, November 19th, 2012
Time: 4:15 p.m.
Location: Pasadena City Hall, City Council Chambers, 100 Garfield Avenue, Pasadena, CA

HOW HAVE L.A. PIT BULLS BEEN DOING ON BRENDA BARNETTE’S WATCH?

 Although Barnette was appointed to her Los Angeles City position in June 2010, she didn’t actually start the job until September and here’s what has happened since then in regard to the serious Pit Bull overpopulation in Los Angeles:

During the pre-Brenda 12-month period ending August 31, 2010, (and in the height of the foreclosure crisis), the number of Pit Bulls impounded in the six city shelters was 6,917. According to her own stats, in the 12 months ending on October 31, 2012, the number of impounded Pit Bulls had jumped to 7,243.

That is an increase of 326. And there is no indication that this upward swing will reverse anytime soon.  Once reason is that little emphasis has been placed on spay/neuter in Los Angeles or enforcing the City’s existing spay/neuter requirements for any non-exempt dog since Brenda has been here. 

 Ron Kaye, former editor of the Los Angeles Daily News, wrote June 29, 2010, on 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.” 

He also reflected, “What’s wrong with asking how a dog breeder and dog-breeding supporter can be in charge of a department that is supposed to save lives and enforce spay/neuter laws?” 

Ron Kaye’s question might have been more strongly posed if he had seen the following photo that did not appear until after Barnette was hired as LA’s “top dog.” It shows Brenda Barnette holding a trophy at the Seattle Kennel Club Dog Show in March 2010. This was during the period of the headhunter search which resulted in her being hired by Los Angeles.

http://www.seattlekennelclub.org/wp-content/uploads/GF_Sat_Working1.jpg  

Ron Kaye LA also published part of an e-mail Brenda Barnette sent out justifying her efforts, along with local breeders, to raise the legal limit of animals a residence may maintain in the city and discussing enforcement of the City’s spay/neuter ordinance:  

“There are philosophical elements that some may want to consider such as how much control the government should have over citizens’ personal lives. For example, we do not mandate how many children a family can have even though they may not be able to afford to give their children what they need and deserve.” 

It appears GM Barnette had not yet embraced that she now IS government and she has an obligation for public safety and animal welfare from that perspective. This includes controlling through law-enforcement some personal liberties that harm animals or people. 

Barnette knows the term “mandatory spay/neuter” is a misnomer because no jurisdiction with a spay/neuter ordinance physically enforces this as a mandate.  Rather, financial incentives are used to make it a desirable option to alter a pet, accompanied by an educational effort to help pet owners realize the benefits. 

Pasadena has clearly laid out the issues they are attempting to address—among them, in 2011 the total number of dog bites that generated reports in Pasadena was 101.  Police were required to use force against dogs 3 times that same year.Pasadena is not a large city and reported a population of only 137,122 residents in 2010, according to the United States Census.

CALIFORNIA LAW ALLOWS BSL IN REGARD TO SPAY/NEUTER

 Food and Agricultural Code Sec.122331 reads:. (a) Cities and counties may enact dog breed-specific ordinances pertaining only to mandatory spay or neuter programs and breeding requirements, provided that no specific dog breed, or mixed dog breed, shall be declared potentially dangerous or vicious under those ordinances.

Brenda Barnette should not have to be reminded that Los Angeles city’s rate of Pit Bull impounds is up 3.5% in 2012 and has risen every year since she became General Manager. The City is also euthanizing 51.8% of those Pit Bulls that enter the shelters she manages.  

 “While Barnette is actively working to prevent Pasadena from implementing this most humane method of reducing its city's number of Pit Bulls, Barnette has not come up with any method to reduce Pit Bull impounds at LAAS. Enforcing Los Angeles' spay/neuter ordinance and focusing on Pit Bulls—as Pasadena proposes- would be one excellent method, but Barnette has not made spay/neuter or enforcement a priority, writes Laura Beth Heisen, MBA, JD, and former Animal Services Commissioner. 

Barnette also will not disclose data on the level (by surgery or dollar amount) of LAAS' spay/neuter assistance for the public's dog and cats, and specifically for pets of low income residents,” she added. 

SHOULDN’T LOS ANGELES ENCOURAGE SPAY/NEUTER OF PIT BULLS IN PASADENA?  

Shouldn’t Brenda Barnette be giving credit and encouragement to Pasadena for its attempt to address an overabundance of Pit Bulls in the most humane way possible—spaying and neutering, rather than attempting to sabotage efforts of a city that shares borders with Los Angeles that are invisible to stray and abandoned dogs?  

What facts or statistics does Brenda Barnette have to encourage “concerned residents and responsible dog owners” (code words for “breeders”) “to highlight the ineffectiveness” of breed-specific spay/neuter legislation?  

And, as a public official who answers to the Mayor, City Council and Animal Services Commission does she have the right to post a public notice during regular City working hours urging attendance at a meeting of another City to oppose a proposed public health/safety policy change? 

Doesn’t it sound like maybe Brenda Barnette has reverted to her previous position of American Kennel Club Legislative Representative and is just “pressing the forward key.” 

Sources:

http://ww2.cityofpasadena.net/publicAffairs/agendas/pubSafety.pdf

http://ronkayela.com/2010/06/brenda-barnette-battleground-f.html

http://ronkayela.com/2010/09/isnt-it-about-time-we.html#more