Brenda Barnette, General Manager of Los Angeles Animal Services (pictured at left), has been getting a lot of press this week but not the kind that’s a real confidence booster. On Tuesday, May 31, 2011, a Los Angeles Times article by Dave Zanhiser added L.A. Animal Services to a string of City departments facing internal investigations. Barnette is accusing employees of stealing dogs and other animals, although she admits that some of it may be clerical errors.
“Brenda Barnette, General Manager of the Animal Services Department, said 64 animals have disappeared from six shelters in roughly a year,” Zanhiser reports. “Of that total, 39 were housed at the city's North Central shelter on Lacy Street — a missing rate considered unusually high.”
“They were the young ones, the cute ones," Barnette said. "They were ones that would have been likely to have been sold or be a nice gift for someone." The majority of the unaccounted-for animals were dogs, Barnette said.” http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jun/01/local/la-me-missing-dog-probe-20110601
At a recent Encino Neighborhood Council meeting Ms. Barnette announced that her LA Animal Services staff has a “few bad apples”—not exactly the public description you expect from a City manager. This week she disclosed that she went to Mayor Villaraigosa and LAPD, plus Human Resources to ask them to help sniff out what happened to 64 animals—mostly dogs—missing from over 68,000 impounded this year at six city shelters.
Ms. Barnette apparently failed to mention that early this year she personally ordered that volunteers are to have keys to the kennels to remove animals at any time. The type of key she made available is reportedly the universal key that provides access to all city facilities and is not marked “Do Not Duplicate.” She also reportedly did not set up a standard procedure for monitoring the issuance and use of the keys.
LAAS staff has been very vocal in their opposition to releasing these keys, and formally complained in writing. They warned Barnette of potential dangers to the animals, public, volunteers and employees and also warned of potential theft. For the sake of this investigation, Ms. Barnette must hand over a complete list of everyone who has access to the animals in Los Angeles City shelters.
Also L.A.P.D. must be told that for months Ms. Barnette has been conducting continuous mass transports of (especially) dogs in vans driven by non-professional operators, purportedly taking them to Oregon, Washington, Utah, Canada and other unknown faraway destinations. It is possible not all of them were correctly counted.
Ms. Barnette is paid $180,000 a year by taxpayers to run Los Angeles Animal Services. Shouldn’t that include resolving internal problems? She heads a management staff of one Assistant GM, plus two Directors of Field Operations, one of which is Mark Salazar, recently hired by Barnette and formerly plagued with personnel problems of another type in Riverside, where he was the subject of a lawsuit for sexual harassment and discrimination. He oversees the North Central shelter, http://www.pe.com/localnews/riverside/stories/PE_News_Local_D_rcode20.413b5ea.html
Then there are six Captains, five Lieutenants, and twelve kennel supervisors. That’s 29 chiefs for around 285 shelter employees and animal control officers. You’d think Ms. Barnette could deploy her staff to conduct a dognapper sting without taking police officers off their duties. I hope Chief Beck is asking for reimbursement of costs.
Note: On June 1, 2011, an article on opposingviews.com explains an oddity on Ms. Barnette’s recently unveiled city website, “Search or Scam: LA Animal Services “Lost Pet Postcards.” http://www.opposingviews.com/i/search-or-scam-l-a-animal-services-lost-pet-postcards