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Hearing today seeks public comments during search for new L.A. animal services chief

January 12, 2010 | 10:28 am

Los Angeles Animal Services commissioners will hold a public hearing today to hear from citizens and advocates about the qualities they want in the next general manager of the animal shelter system.

The most recent general manager, Ed Boks, resigned 6-1/2 months ago after receiving criticism from all quarters. His predecessor, Guerdon Stuckey, was fired by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

The next general manager will have to make peace with various constituencies: staff members who perform the emotionally and physically taxing work of caring for tens of thousands of abandoned animals; City Council members who want explanations; and the hundreds of passionate rescuers, welfare advocates and shelter volunteers.

The general manager also has to oversee thousands of animals abandoned each year.

"How do you change a public perception that sees animals as disposable?" said Animal Services Commissioner Kathy Riordan. "It will take more than one committed manager. It will take all our leaders, in words and in budgets, and it will take a society."

An online survey has been sent to about 300 "stakeholders": volunteers, rescuers and advocates deeply involved in protecting shelter animals. A search firm, Citygate Associates, has been hired to find candidates and gather input from animal services commissioners and staffers. Citygate Associates will be monitoring today's hearing.

"It's my understanding that they've reached far and wide under the assumption that there are people who don't agree with the Animal Services Department, but that's not to say they don't have good ideas that should be heard," said Sarah Hamilton, a spokeswoman for the mayor's office. "The mayor is interested in hearing all different points of view so we can make an informed decision."

The ultimate goal for municipal shelters is a no-kill, or very-low-kill, policy that would involve rarely using euthanasia and never using it because of a lack of space. Riordan said she would like a manager who could aggressively move toward keeping most animals alive without endangering them in the process.

"It's not just a matter of warehousing the animals until they die of diseases," she said.

Daniel Guss, an animal rescuer who runs a foundation devoted to animals, received a survey in early fall.

"In order to get the right GM, the mayor himself should meet with good, viable candidates and think outside the box for a change," said Guss, who was critical of how Boks ran L.A. Animal Services. "It's not brain surgery to do this job well, but it does require special knowledge and a lot of heart."

-- Carla Hall
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