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Mayor Villaraigosa appoints Brenda Barnette to head L.A. Department of Animal Services

June 17, 2010 |  8:32 pm

Puppies

After an intense, months-long search to find the successor to controversial L.A. Department of Animal Services General Manager Ed Boks, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced Thursday that he's appointed former Seattle Humane Society Chief Executive Brenda Barnette to the job.

Villaraigosa tweeted that he is "confident Ms. Barnette will do an outstanding job serving the people and animals of our City." A City Hall source confirmed to The Times on Wednesday that Barnette -- who has helmed the privately funded Seattle Humane Society since 2006 and previously headed Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation -- would be tapped for the general manager job.

The Seattle Humane Society boasts impressive adoption statistics, although it handles far fewer animals than the L.A. Department of Animal Services does. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports:

Under [Barnette's] leadership, in 2009 the Seattle Humane Society had the best year in its 113-year history with the placement of 6,091 animals and a Live Save Rate of 91.4 percent. Much of this success was due to a robust Foster Care Program that allowed more than 4,300 animals to benefit from home care while they waited for homes of their own.

The L.A. Department of Animal Services last year saw more than 54,000 dogs and cats come through its doors; more than half the cats, many of them feral, and nearly a quarter of the dogs were euthanized. (Those euthanasia rates include both animals that were put down for lack of space and those that had severe health or behavior problems that rendered them unadoptable.)

Thursday's announcement, which Villaraigosa made at the city's North Central animal shelter, isn't the final word in Barnette's hiring process. The Los Angeles City Council must confirm her appointment, but it is widely expected to do so.

"I am really looking forward to getting to know the community and working with them to make this a safe city for animals and the people who love them," Barnette told the Daily News of the general manager job. "I'm going to start right away, meeting with stakeholders -- people who have pets, our staff, our volunteers, council members, people in special interest groups -- so that we can find a common ground to help animals."

The embattled Boks, whose resignation last April left the organization without an official leader, had angered a number of L.A. Animal Services staffers and members of the city's animal-welfare community since his arrival in L.A. in 2006. He wrote on his now-defunct blog on the organization's website that his goal was to "develop and implement programs designed to make Los Angeles the first major metropolitan 'No-Kill' city in the United States." 

Some animal-services staffers took issue with the policies he implemented to achieve his no-kill goal in the city's shelters, however; dozens of them even voiced their complaints against Boks in a public meeting held about six months before his resignation. Some shelter staff argued that Boks' policies had effectively turned the city's shelters into warehouses for homeless dogs and cats, endangering both the animals and the animal-services workers who cared for them.

Since Boks' resignation, the organization has been headed by interim General Manager Kathy Davis, whose term expires this month. Sources told The Times that a panel of experts had interviewed a number of candidates for the job, and four or five finalists met with Villaraigosa before he made his decision.

RELATED RESCUE NEWS:
Proposed L.A. Animal Services budget cut could mean increased euthanasia rates, official says
Worth a thousand words: L.A. pet photographer's portraits help shelter dogs find homes

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Puppies peek out of a kennel at the L.A. Department of Animal Services' South L.A. shelter. Credit: Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times

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