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Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa closes City animal shelters

by Ann Angeleno Wednesday, Jun. 20, 2007 at 7:12 PM

In astounding news earlier this week the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services announced that they are basically closing the shelter doors to owner relinquished animals. Their rationale behind this move as per Ed Boks the General Manager is to "fine tune" "the population during the annual spring/summer crush of neonatal turn-ins." Read that, "we have no more room because we've been warehousing animals all year to keep our euthanasia rate artificially low to try to make me look good."

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa closes City animal shelters

In astounding news earlier this week the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services announced that they are basically closing the shelter doors to owner relinquished animals. Their rationale behind this move as per Ed Boks the General Manager is to "fine tune" "the population during the annual spring/summer crush of neonatal turn-ins." Read that, "we have no more room because we've been warehousing animals all year to keep our euthanasia rate artificially low to try to make me look good."

None of the previous General Managers ever turned away animals yet they had many more animals, smaller shelters, less money and fewer employees. How could Ed Boks the supposed "NoKill King" have no room to receive animals when his shelters are much larger than before and fewer animals are coming in? More importantly, why is the Mayor still doing nothing about the problem? This author wrote an article about all of these issues March of this year and things have only gotten worse.

On June 14, 2007 the Department released the press release entitled "Cat-Tastrophe forces policy change." They stated that as of June 18th they will only accept healthy owned animals Wednesday and Friday from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. This means that people who work could only relinquish their pets during a small window after work. There is already a long wait to relinquish pets when they can do so any day of the week. People line up outside the shelter doors in the mornings. Some just leave their pets in boxes, bags, running free in the parking lot or tied to the fence.

For the past two months the shelters were already telling the public that they should find their animal a new home themselves. If it's a cat, they should spay or neuter them and just set them free in a feral colony. If they don't want to do that, they are instructed to contact private rescues who will "gladly" take the animals. The people take their animals home and call rescuers who are of course all full. In frustration which can be seen by many complaints on, people are just setting the animals free in parks. One man threatened to kill kittens if someone didn't come and get them.

In the days since Boks' press release he has backpedaled a little. He now says that he will accept ill, injured and orphaned owner relinquished animals at any time. He said he will "revisit the policy" if problems arise. He says he will also "politely" accept any animal if the person is really "insistent." So then, has anything changed at all, except for the promise of being "polite?"

The Rescue and Humane Alliance represents most of the animal groups in Los Angeles. They sent out a bulletin about this new policy this morning. They don't believe it's a good idea and raise some valid points which I've paraphrased here. (1) People will not have a change of heart. They will just abandon the animal somewhere else. (2) Then these animals will be picked up as strays which must be held longer than owned animals before being offered up for adoption. (3) People will lie and say their animal is a stray. They already do this because they're embarrassed that they're an irresponsible pet owner. (4) Some may get confused and think this policy applies to all animals so they won't pick up a stray animal. (5) The restricted hours are deliberately inconvenient so few people will be able to relinquish their animal. The public will complain that the Department isn't doing their job.

RHA believes this is "an act of desperation" and I agree. They say "despite all the 'new' programs, the shelters are more overwhelmed than ever and have no real plan and no real solutions." The new policy "seeks to address the problem by not addressing the problem. It amounts to a refusal by LA Animal Services to perform it's charter-mandated public safety function. It seeks to improve statistics at the expense of animal welfare." "RHA-LA is outraged, and you should be, too!" Very well said.

RHA-LA suggests that you contact your LA City councilmember and complain about this new policy now before countless more animals end up on the street. Find your councilmember here On a note of levity, the Department's press release fueled another more creative "press release" written by NoKill Joe.

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