Proposed L.A. Animal Services budget cut could mean increased euthanasia rates, public safety concerns, says interim general manager
Last year, many in L.A.'s animal rescue community were angered by the decision of L.A. Department of Animal Services' then-general manager, Ed Boks, to cut funding to a program that offered free spay and neuter vouchers to low-income pet owners in an effort to make up a budget shortfall. The decision proved so controversial that it was eventually reversed, and Boks later resigned his post, which has yet to be filled.
Boks' former job is currently being filled by interim General Manager Kathy Davis, who wrote an impassioned letter last week to the L.A. City Council's Budget and Finance Committee protesting another budget cut that, she says, could lead to even more dire effects than the loss of the spay-neuter voucher program.
The proposed $1.8-million cutback could compromise public safety, according to Davis, whose letter referenced an April 16 incident in South L.A. in which an animal services officer was able to impound two dogs that police believed posed a danger to the public. A third dog was shot and killed by police "on the public sidewalk, in this neighborhood of businesses, homes, and churches," Davis wrote.
"The reason L.A. Animal Services exists is to provide for public safety," the letter continues. "The City's first obligation is the public's safety. 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, without wasting police resources, and without shots fired."
The proposed cut to the department's budget "is an effective cut of 8 Animal Control Officers, 14 Animal Care Technicians, 3 Registered Veterinary Technicians, 4 Clerical Staff, and 2 Supervisors, the equivalent of the staff of one of the six fully operational Animal Care Centers," according to Davis. Such a cut could mean the closure of one of the city's six public shelters -- South L.A., North Central, West Valley, East Valley, Harbor or West L.A. -- where residents can adopt homeless animals and search for their own missing pets.
Officials have already proposed temporarily closing a seventh shelter, Northeast Valley, which is not open to the public but which Davis says is generally filled to about one-third capacity with quarantined animals, animals being held as evidence and nursing mother dogs and cats with their offspring.
If both Northeast Valley and one of the six public shelters were closed, Davis' letter warns, such a move would decrease the Animal Services Department's capacity to house animals by about 15% -- a figure that would probably increase the number of animals euthanized in the shelters "by 4,000 to 11,000 more pets, depending on intake and the number of animals held as evidence and quarantine, using kennels that would otherwise be available for adoptable animals. Again, we will also lose adoption revenue, and spend more on euthanasia, aggravating rather than alleviating our revenue situation."
The Budget and Finance Committee was expected to discuss the proposed cuts to the Animal Services Department and other city departments facing cutbacks Tuesday afternoon, but the discussion was delayed due to the funeral of former LAPD Chief Daryl Gates.
The committee is now expected to discuss the issue Wednesday; hearings on the city budget are likely to last several weeks before a budget with the committee's recommended changes is sent to the full City Council.
-- Lindsay Barnett
Photo: A pit bull awaits adoption at the L.A. Department of Animal Services' North Central shelter. Credit: Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times