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L.A. Animal Services faces $1.8-million budget cut [Updated]

April 27, 2010 |  1:34 pm

No doubt many Los Angeles city agency managers have written letters to council members beseeching them to spare their departments deep cuts during this budget crisis.

But few start with a story about police officers in a standoff with three strapping Cane Corso dogs. Police shot several rounds, killing one of the dogs, but it was an animal control officer who arrived on the scene that day in South L.A. and impounded the other two dogs without anyone getting hurt.

“The reason L.A. Animal Services exists is to provide for public safety,” wrote Kathy Davis, interim general manager of L.A. Animal Services in an April 21 letter to the council's Budget and Finance Committee. “Safe streets are those in which trained Animal Control Officers are available to respond to dangerous animals and handle situations without injury to the public. …”

The department runs a shelter system that takes in thousands of stray or surrendered animals each year, but it faces a proposed $1.8-million cutback. Davis said such a substantial loss in funding could not only compromise public safety but result in a significant increase in animal euthanasia.

The city has been under pressure for years from animal welfare advocates to move toward “no-kill” sheltering. The cuts could compel Davis’ agency to shutter one of six animal-care centers open to the public.

Officials have already proposed closing a seventh center -- not open to the public -- that houses quarantined and evidence animals.

Closing them both will drop the shelter system’s total holding capacity by 15%, said Davis, “and pet euthanasia will rise by 4,000 to 11,000 more pets, depending on intake. …”

Davis argues that impounding animals, adopting them out and euthanizing them are not discretionary services “for which city residents can find temporary alternatives. ... We must accept animals found or brought to us, 24/7.”

The Budget and Finance Committee will discuss possible cuts to Animal Services -- as well as several other departments -- and hear from the public on these issues Tuesday afternoon.

[Updated at 3:19 p.m.: Animal welfare advocates will have to wait at least another day to hear the Budget and Finance Committee weigh in on the proposed cuts. The funeral of former LAPD Chief Daryl Gates put council members behind schedule.

People who showed up at the meeting Tuesday to make public comments on the issue were allowed to do so.

The committee will discuss the budgets of several agencies Wednesday before taking on the proposed cuts to Animal Services. It meets from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Budget committee hearings will continue for roughly two weeks before the budget is sent to the full council with recommended changes.]

-- Carla Hall

Photo: A chihuahua at the East Valley Animal Care Center in Van Nuys in December. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times