After more than a year without a general manager, the L.A. Department of Animal Services once again has an official leader. Brenda Barnette, who comes from the Seattle Humane Society and previously headed Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation, was unanimously confirmed by the Los Angeles City Council as the city's animal service department head on Tuesday.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced his nomination of Barnette last month, and her confirmation by the City Council was largely considered a formality. The search for a new general manager had been lengthy and robust.
Under Barnette's direction, the privately funded Seattle Humane Society shelter achieved a remarkably low euthanasia rate and killed no animals for lack of space -- one of the primary reasons homeless dogs and cats die at L.A. city shelters. But the Seattle organization also took in far fewer animals than L.A.'s municipal organization, causing some members of L.A.'s pet-loving community to wonder whether Barnette is up for the challenge of leading the troubled department.
The organization's previous head, Ed Boks, resigned in April 2009 after a tumultuous stint as general manager. Boks had angered many animal services staff members, some of whom accused him of "warehousing" animals in an effort to achieve his aim of making L.A. a "no-kill" city. He later felt the scorn of L.A. City Council members and animal welfare advocates when he decided to cut funding for free spay and neuter surgery vouchers for low-income pet owners, a decision that was later reversed.