The on-going tragic implosion of Los Angeles Animal Services continues in an undated communication from General Manager Brenda Barnette,entitled, “Graveyard Shift Change for Animal Services,” sent out on March 14, 2013. She states, “At the end of this month, Animal Services will not have Animal Care Technicians (ACTs) in the shelters from midnight until 6 AM.”
It sounds so innocuous and “internal” that you may have missed it if you are on Barnette’s e-mail list and certainly it wouldn’t be an attention-grabber for media, which was undoubtedly what she intended. Except that Dana Bartholomew of the Los Angeles Daily News saw the potential consequences and got the story out to readers that same day in his article, "Los Angeles Animal Shelters Lose Nighttime Staff.”
Ms. Barnette states, “We believe this is a prudent management move and one that benefits both employee welfare and will improve services to animals in our care.” She should have just written “All care ends for city shelter animals at night in Los Angeles.” In straight talk it doesn’t sound so warm and fuzzy!
How can it benefit over one thousand animals to be left without cleaning or supervision overnight with multiple dogs in almost every kennel, and cats and other creatures without even occasional monitoring?
In removing all 16 shelter employees from six facilities at night, Ms. Barnette will now incur the added cost of a private security guard service outside each facility. None of the employees are slated for layoff (yet) according to her letter so, not only is there no cost saving in canceling the shift, she is actually increasing her costs significantly by adding security.
Barnette has indicated in verbal announcements that even the two graveyard-shift Animal Control Officers who pick up injured animals for the entire 469 square miles of the City and Valley will soon be gone, even though that is denied in the e-mail. It’s hard to see how this will result in cost savings either, since by morning—if they survive—their injuries will be much more critical and expensive to the City and they may have caused additional traffic accidents.
IS THIS THE PROP. “F” SHELTER-BOND DREAM?
In 2001, City voters were promised state-of-the-art care and housing for shelter animals if they would just agree to $154 million in bonds, paid for 30-years by added property taxes, for new, massive L.A. City shelters.
Here’s the reality of what they are getting under Brenda Barnette’s management decision for the graveyard shift.
First, there will be no one to impound found and injured animals and answer frantic phone calls from the public regarding the myriad of emergencies that occur with animals at night--even if it is just to advise them on immediate action to take for the protection of the public and the animal. If someone can get an animal to the shelter, LAAS has always impounded them 24 hours a day, so that they are not abandoned or dumped in the street and so that they get prompt veterinary care, if needed.
Ms. Barnette brushes away the overwhelming concerns of both the public and employees about dog fights, attributing them only to Pit Bulls, which she says will be kept alone. With the doubling or tripling of dogs per kennel and no one present to interfere, bloody, fatal dog fights will likely be rampant. They occur with any breed, just because dogs are dogs and are territorial. They can be just as vicious between small breeds, ganging up on the weakest, as they are with large breeds, when someone’s gentle lost Golden Retriever tries to survive in a kennel with a dog, or dogs, from the streets.
What will LAPD, Sheriffs and the California Highway Patrol do with the dogs that they pick up on freeways at night, often injured, or are confiscated from crime scenes?
There will be no one to help new moms with litters, provide special care and sustenance for sick or special needs animals, or to transport an animal that is suddenly in serious distress to a veterinarian.
There will be no one to wash off the continual accumulation of feces in over 1,000 dog kennels so it will not stick to the floor, deteriorate the surfaces and collect bacteria, causing more spread of disease.
There will be no way--with only one outside security guard from a private company—to stop people from dumping sick, injured and dangerous animals on or very near the shelter property, and no Animal Care Technician to do routine checks of the premises to bring these animals inside to safety so they do not roam into streets and adjacent communities and/or pose a safety risk to the unsuspecting public.
City shelters are not covered by premise-wide security surveillance systems and few inside or outside cameras exist. If gang members want the drugs, medical equipment or their impounded fighting dogs, can we believe one private security guard parked somewhere outside these block-long facilities will stop them?
Ms. Barnette claims that there are 2029 kennels and cages filled with animals. Isn’t that reason enough to leave two ACT’s on staff at each shelter at night? Does Ms. Barnette believe that the ACO’s coming in on the morning shift can pick up the dead and/or alive animals outside, check for dead animals inside each cage (so that the public won’t be the ones to announce them,) and then clean up the poop from this many animals in two hours before adopters and others with shelter business arrive?
“Brenda, I’m afraid your inexperience is showing,” said one longtime shelter manager who asked not to be identified.
Strangely, when she was hired in June 2010, L.A. Daily News reporter Rick Orlov quotes the Mayor proclaiming, "Barnette has one of the nation’s strongest portfolios in animal shelter management, effective pet adoption and public education.” Yet she had never even worked in a municipal animal shelter. She ran a small humane society in Seattle and was an AKC Legislative Representative and former dog breeder.
SHE MAKES HOW MUCH???
Ms. Barnette laments in her announcement about the consequences of long-term LAAS budget cuts that, “…staffing decreased by nearly 22%.” With a staff that is now well under 400 people, we must question why Ms. Barnette’s 2013 salary has increased to $202,703, from her starting salary in 2010 at $170,000.
We thought budget stringency was the reason she is shuffling employees (who haven’t had a raise for years.)
Could it be that the Mayor and Council really like what Barnette is doing and are rewarding her because they hope this department can be disbanded and they won’t have to deal with politically problematic animal issues?
SERIES OF BARNETTE MISMANAGMENT FAUX PAS
On August 5, 2011, the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Police officers and city officials swept into six Los Angeles animal shelters Thursday, confiscating guns and ammunition from employees as part of an expanding internal investigation into the animal services agency.”
Ms. Barnette said she had asked for the investigation, apparently because her own management team did not know how to audit the well-secured guns and ammunition that were kept to dispatch suffering wildlife and large injured animals that are in critical condition in the field. Outcome: No guns and not even a single bullet were missing; and there was no indication of even the slightest misuse or inappropriate conduct on the part of LAAS staff.
On February 14, 2012, the Daily News headlines shocked the City again, “Six Animal Shelter Captains Benched Pending Vending Machine Contract Probe.” The saga continued, “February 15, 2012, The city has sent home six animal shelter commanders pending a police probe into shelter vending machine contracts…The six captains were placed on paid administrative leave Sunday by Brenda Barnette, general manager for Los Angeles Animal Services.”
On June 13, 2012, the Daily News announced, "Los Angeles Animal Services Captains Cleared. Six Los Angeles Animal Services captains returned to work this week after being cleared of any wrongdoing for improper vending machine contracts during "Pizzagate."
“Five captains were placed on paid administrative leave Feb. 12 by Brenda Barnette, general manager for Los Angeles Animal Services…for 17 weeks…The cost of their combined paid leave: $426,000, union officials calculated. Victor Gordo, an attorney for the Laborers' International Union of North America, Local 777, said, "Combine that with the dollars spent during its investigation, and this was truly a waste of taxpayers' money and resources."
ANOTHER DECISION WITHOUT PUBLIC OR UNION INPUT
Now, GM Barnette wrote in her e-mail on March 14, 2013, about the graveyard-shift change, “Director of Field Operations Mark Salazar met with affected staff on March 13 to discuss this change. A letter will be sent to the union(s) this week to advise them of the change.” So that means night-shift employees have two weeks to completely rearrange their lives, and there apparently was no meet-and-confer with the Unions, as required.
Conveniently, this announcement was made while City Council was on a two-week break. It is not known whether that was pre-planned with Council so that constituents could not complain, or whether the Councilmembers were deliberately left uninformed.
The rumor mill has it that shelter supervisors told Barnette and her Director of Field Operations, Mark Salazar, that deploying this large number of ACT’s to days and swing shift is unnecessary and that they would find it more efficient to keep two ACT’s per shelter on graveyard shift so that the kennels would be cleaned and animals checked before the start of day shift.
So far, Barnette has not shown much concern for the opinions or reputation of Los Angeles Services employees or supervisors.It is understandable why this sudden decision, without consulting them, is the cause of suspicion as to her real intentions—could it be that overstaffing the two shifts would serve as an excuse to begin layoffs and further decrease services for animals and the public?
And, if so, did she think of this all by herself, or is the Mayor’s office behind it?
Read more about Brenda Barnette:
(Brenda Barnette’s posting: Graveyard Shift Changes for Animal Services is posted here: http://www.lizardmarsh.net/2013/03/los-angeles-city-animal-facilities-will.html)