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Villaraigosa set to name new head of the L.A. Department of Animal Services

June 16, 2010 | 11:00 pm

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is expected to announce Thursday that he has chosen Brenda Barnette, chief executive of the Seattle Humane Society, to be the new general manager of the L.A. Department of Animal Services, a City Hall source has confirmed.

Barnette follows in the footsteps of the embattled Ed Boks, who left the position a year ago.

Barnette heads the privately funded and operated nonprofit Seattle Humane Society, which, among other things, runs one shelter campus in Bellevue, Wash. and opens it to the public for adoptions seven days a week. It is also known as the Humane Society of Seattle/King County. It is not the public shelter system for that area of Washington state.

The organization’s website indicates that the group aggressively promotes adoptable animals through local media of all kind -- print, TV, blogs, radio.

Two members of the Los Angeles animal welfare community said that the Seattle Humane Society’s euthanasia rates were considered impressively low. According to the statistics on the society’s website, in 2009 the shelter took in 6,937 cats and dogs and euthanized 923, only for reasons of being unhealthy or untreatable. According to the statistics, that total includes 368 animals that owners requested be euthanized for being untreatable.

The Los Angeles shelter system, on the other hand, took in 54,129 dogs and cats in 2009. Almost a quarter of the dogs and more than half the cats taken to the city's six shelters were put down -- for untreatable illness, intractable behavior or dearth of space.

The job of managing the city’s system of public shelters while trying to reduce the euthanasia rate and working with a community of impassioned, often critical animal welfare advocates and shelter volunteers proved to be a crushing task for the last two general managers. The new general manager will also deal with a city agency struggling with budget cuts.

The city spent months on the quest for a new general manager, hiring a search firm, polling so-called stake holders -- members of the animal welfare community -- and setting up an informal advisory committee to meet with the mayor. According to sources, the eventual finalists were questioned by a panel of interviewers before a group of four or five were interviewed by Villaraigosa.

The mayor will present his new general manager at noon Thursday at the city’s North Central shelter.

-- Carla Hall