L.A. Animal Services reinstates spay and neuter voucher program
L.A. Department of Animal Services General Manager Ed Boks' decision to cut the city's spay/neuter voucher program for low-income pet owners was met with almost uniform disapproval when it was announced earlier this month.
"No one regrets cutting these funds more than I do," Boks said of the move, which he explained was made only due to dire financial straits resulting from a budget shortfall. But vocal critics, including Councilmen Dennis Zine, Jack Weiss and Tony Cardenas, said Boks' explanation simply wasn't good enough. How, they asked, could a city that recently mandated sterilization of pet cats and dogs do away with the very program that made it possible for low-income owners to comply with the law?
Zine, Weiss and others aired their grievances against Boks in a Public Safety Committee meeting Monday. From LAist:
"You have a tendency not to work with anybody, and what you've done is alienate a whole bunch of people -- the folks that love animals, council members," fumed irate [Councilman Zine]. "What you've done is one blunder after another. This is another example of shortsightedness.''
Then Zine hit Boks about his blog. "I don't know of any general manager in the city of Los Angeles that has time to do a blog with all their responsibilities, yet you find time to do a blog."
Elizabeth Oreck, a member of the city's Spay/Neuter Advisory Committee, added her voice to the chorus denouncing Boks' decision, saying that firing staff would be a better money-saving option than cutting the vouchers. "I understand the need to make budget cuts, but eliminating this program is not going to reduce the deficit because the people who no longer have the resources to comply with the law are going to start relinquishing their animals in order to avoid the penalty of noncompliance, and that's going to create a greater burden on our already overcrowded shelters, which is just going to increase the budget deficit," Oreck said.
Today, only about two weeks after the decision was announced, the Department of Animal Services announced its reversal.
"After a review of the program with several City Council offices and the mayor's office, the department developed a plan to restore distribution in a manner we believe is fiscally prudent, sustainable and consistent with the most pressing community needs and the City Council's guidance when it approved the landmark Spay/Neuter Ordinance in February 2008," says a statement released by the Department. "As of today the Department is reinstating distribution of the $70 certificate for qualified low-income residents ... and to senior and disabled residents also meeting the Very Low Income Level."
Animal Services says it will implement "strengthened procedures" to verify that those applying for the vouchers meet the income requirement of less than $30,300 annual income per household.
Certificates can be obtained at any of the city's six shelters.
The blog that drew such objection from Councilman Zine contains no mention of the controversy and has only been updated once since the voucher debate began.
-- Lindsay Barnett
Photo: Ed Boks in 2007. Credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times