This is the story of Dexter, a non-descript German Shepherd/Chow-mix, 50-lb. dog, like thousands in shelters across the country.
In February 2011, Dexter was scheduled for transport by air from Los Angeles to destination unknown by a Los Angeles rescue group. However, Dexter didn’t need a new home. His owner was looking for him for four months, since he disappeared from her yard. The rescuers removed Dexter’s microchip.
Here’s what the dog owner wrote:
“In August of 2010, I…adopted a puppy from the animal shelter and approx. 2 mo. later he was stolen from my yard. I reported him stolen to Avid Chip and the Animal Shelter but never gave up looking for him. (I was out of town from 2/18/11-2/22/11.)”
Dexter (the “puppy”) is now a 50-pound dog; and, on 2/18/11, he was turned in to the South Los Angeles city animal shelter by a rescuer. The shelter staff immediately scanned Dexter and found his microchip. They realized he had been adopted from their shelter. A staff member called the phone number on the chip and left a message for the owner on her home voice mail.
When the owner returned from the holiday weekend on the evening of 2/22/11 and heard the message, she called the shelter after hours to say she would be in the following morning to pick up Dexter. An employee checked the kennel and the computer and informed her that her dog was not there. The computer record showed that on 2/19/11 Mark Salazar, LAAS Director of Field Operations, had authorized that the dog be given back to the rescuer who brought him in.
Here’s what the shelter records show regarding Dexter:
2/18/11—“Scanned Found Chip”
2/18/11 – “Called D/O (Dog Owner name & phone #) and left a voicemail stating the impound of her dog. Will send letter too."
2/19/11 – “Per Mark Salazar, Okay to release this dog to Bonnie Schumaker [rescuer] at No Charge.
2/19/11 – (Note by Kennel Supervisor), “On February 19th 2011 at approximately noon, [Acting] Lt…came over to me at receiving to inform me 2 dogs I had refused to release to “Bonnie Schumaker”, were to be released per DFO Mark Salazar…”
2/22/11 – “Dog owner called in to ask about dog. She will come in tomorrow and wants to redeem dog. She really wants her dog back.”
On 2/23/11 – Four entries were made by various shelter employees:
---“Went to Animal Rescue Center on 2901 W. Exposition Bl. And picked up this dog…
--“Dog came in to shelter with large shaved spot on back, with small incision in the middle. Unable to find microchip, had several employees scan dog but no chip found. Appears that microchip may have been surgically removed from dog.”
---“…healing wound, will keep in isolation until owner comes in to redeem dog. Will need new microchip upon redemption.”
The dog owner writes:
“The early morning of 2/23/11, I went to retrieve Dexter thinking there must be some mistake and when I got there it was true that Dexter was not there…After 3:29 I received a call…informing me that Dexter was back at the shelter and…the chip had been surgical removed when he returned to the facility and they were going to place another chip in him and I wouldn’t be charged for it but would need to pay $47 to retrieve him.”
Here’s GM Brenda Barnette’s written explanation to dog owner on City letterhead on March 25, 2011 (excerpts of pertinent parts):
“I got a phone call on February 19, 2011, from Jean Scoccimarro (formerly Chow Dog Rescue, not Adopt A Chow) who told me that her transporter had mistakenly dropped your dog off at the South Los Angeles Shelter (SLA) shelter rather than a veterinary clinic, located on Exposition and 9th, where the dog was to be health checked and made ready for flight. The transporter is Bonnie Schumaker who has a website entitled, “On Winds of Care”. It appears that they pull together pilots to fly dogs for care and for adoptions and are not part of our New Hope Rescue network.
“I contacted Mark Salazar, Director of Field Operations for Animal Services and told him that there appeared to be an honest mistake and asked him to help out. Mark called the shelter and asked the Acting Lieutenant in-charge to help the rescue and get them their dog back. The Acting Lieutenant knew your dog was scanned and had an identifying microchip and he failed to tell Mark. It was not until you arrived to pick up your dog on March 23rd that Mark and I learned about the microchip.”
“After you came to the shelter to claim your dog, only to discover that the dog had been given to a rescue, staff contacted the rescue, located the dog and received permission to pick your dog up from the veterinary clinic, and return the dog to you. When staff picked up the dog from the veterinarian’s office, they discovered the dog had a laceration which the veterinarian stated they had treated. It was later discovered at the SLA Shelter that the microchip appeared to have been removed.”
“…poor communication on the part of a Los Angeles Animal Services staff member resulted in your dog not being at the shelter when you arrived to pick him up. Please accept my assurances that this failure to communicate and use of poor judgment is being handled by the staff members supervisor. Further, it appears that your dog had a surgical procedure to remove his microchip. I am very surprised to learn that a veterinarian would remove a microchip from an animal and I am not sure if that is a violation of best practices in veterinary medicine.”
IF THIS WERE AN HONEST MISTAKE, WHY WOULD A CITY GENERAL MANAGER “THROW AN EMPLOYEE UNDER THE BUS” TO COVER HER OWN DECISION?
The Acting Lieutenant states:
(1) The City shelter staff carefully documented in the computer the fact that DFO Mark Salazar instructed the Acting Lt. to release Dexter to a rescuer after the staff had identified and notified the owner.
(2) GM Barnette and DFO Salazar both had access to all shelter records by computer and should have been aware of the information entered by staff. On 2/19 Salazar called the Acting Lt. on his personal cell phone and told him to instruct the kennel supervisor to release Dexter back to the rescuer who brought him in. He did not ask the Acting Lt. to provide information on the dog prior to issuing that instruction.
(3) Neither Ms. Barnette nor Mr. Salazar has held any meeting with the Acting Lt. to discuss this matter, nor did they advise him of the accusations in GM Barnette’s March 25 letter. He obtained the letter by a CA Public Information Act Request to the Council Office.
(4) The Acting Lieutenant--an 11-year LAAS officer with a flawless record--was removed from his five-year supervisory assignment, reverted to a field officer, and moved to another shelter
(5) He wants the truth known and the record set straight—that he was following instructions of Director of Field Operations Mark Salazar. (Salazar is still a probationary employee and has a troubled employment history in Riverside.)
(6). The Acting Lieutenant’s efforts to have his reputation cleared have been ignored by GM Barnette.
Will the City Council and Mayor conduct an investigation?
(a) Did Ms. Barnette immediately determine how the rescue group gained possession of Dexter and whether they knew he had a microchip before he was scheduled for a transport flight?
(b) Why did Ms. Barnette order the release of a dog to a person she claims is not part of the City-approved New Hope Adoption Network and also is not someone known to her?
(c) Why did Brenda Barnette not demand an immediate investigation of the L.A. rescue group removing the microchip of a shelter animal (or any animal) before transporting it?
(d) Where was this dog being transported and why was the microchip removed?
(e) Why did Brenda Barnette waive all fees for the rescuer, while the dog owner, (whose dog has subsequently required medical care for the site of the microchip removal) was charged $47 for redemption?
The dog owner indicates that Mr. Salazar has never returned her calls.
Short Background on “Pet Transports”
Brenda Barnette, GM of Los Angeles Animal Services has released hundreds, if not thousands, of dogs from Los Angeles City shelters for transport to Canada or to other states, primarily Washington and Oregon, where they are supposed to all find “forever homes.” This is called “live release “and reduces Ms. Barnette’s euthanasia stats to please political officials. But what happens to these dogs?
There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of mixed-breed, homeless canines in any of the destination areas. In fact, Multnomah, the most populous Oregon county, reports 43 percent of the 8,300 dogs and cats brought into its shelter last year ended up dead.
Transports are not limited to smaller breeds. I adopted a older, scared, black female, over-bred Rottweiler/Shepherd at a city shelter, while a white Econoline driver prepared to load her into the cargo van for Canada. There were also a number of pit bulls scheduled for transport to Canada, including one which was clawing desperately to get out of a carrier so small he could not stand up. http://www.opposingviews.com/i/l-a-shelter-dogs-transported-to-canada-re...
The animals often leave the shelter crammed into unsecured, stacked vinyl carriers in the back of unventilated vans/trucks driven by non-professional operators. The L.A. Animal Services Commission recently failed to enact a requirement for specific reporting of the ultimate destination/disposition of these animals which are entrusted to the care of L.A. City.
There is no required accounting for the dogs after they leave Los Angeles, just lots of PR rhetoric on how each one finds a home. It has been reported that some don’t arrive alive. If they do, do they stay alive?
And, who is paying for all this transport? It is nebulous how much the drivers are being paid and by whom, but one report is $30 per dog and 30+ dogs are hauled at a time (33 on the day I was there). It seems each driver only drives a “leg” and then turns the dogs over to someone else (for instance, “English John” told me he was only driving across the Oregon border.). This driver-switch may happen several times before a transport operation is completed.
Especially troubling is the widespread transport of pit bulls. Could rescuers be unknowingly transporting these dogs across state lines to dog fighting operations?
In Dexter’s case, why was he (an ordinary large mutt) worth the cost to have his microchip removed and additionally to pay for him to be transported somewhere by flight? http://www.opposingviews.com/i/l-a-shelter-dogs-transported-to-canada-rescue-or-ruse
BARNETTE’S CONFIDENTIAL E-MAILS TO MANAGEMENT STAFF:
Several local animal advocates have already publicly voiced alarm regarding “Confidential” e-mails by Barnette, which cause them to believe there is a cover-up of her actions. GM Barnette accidentally sent these to a member of the public. In view of the foregoing, these can be placed in proper context, and the City Council and the Mayor should decide if this is appropriate conduct for someone heading the Los Angeles Animal Services Department:
From: Brenda Barnette <email@example.com>
To: (name removed)
Sent: Wed May 25 17:55:06 2011
Subject: CONFIDENTIAL question
Hi, (name removed)
[Lieutenant] has reported that you told him, "Just to give you a heads up, looks like you are being thrown under the bus for the chip" in reference to the owned dog that the rescue "accidentially" brought back to South LA. Do you remember saying that or remember if it is true?
I do remember briefly discussing that case with him at sla after the incident occurred. During our talk, I did not say anything to him about a "heads up". I'm pretty sure that as I was leaving his office, I said something to the effect of "boy, everyone better cover their butts on this one". This comment was said in a joking manner but he evidently did not take it this way. He never brought up the case again to me so I never thought there was an issue. I certainly apologize if this is going to cause you any problems and I'd be happy to speak to (name removed) if you think it appropriate.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Brenda Barnette <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wed, May 25, 2011 at 6:27 PM
Subject: Re: CONFIDENTIAL question
To: (name removed)
Let's keep it between us for now. I suspect someone who has a motive is pushing (name removed). It didn't sound like you so I wanted to ask. Thanks.
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