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Los Angeles animal shelters have a new head: Brenda Barnette

July 13, 2010 | 11:49 am

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday morning unanimously confirmed Brenda Barnette as general manager of the Department of Animal Services, the city's municipal shelter system, which Councilman Greig Smith said had been "under siege for a long time."

The previous general manager resigned under fire. His predecessor was fired by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Barnette, referring to an animal-welfare community that is passionate and often critical of the municipal shelter system, said everyone only needs to agree on a few things: "We need to save more animals' lives in the shelters. We need to spay and neuter more animals in the community."

She said she would not tolerate animal cruelty.

Asked about her past criticism of mandatory spay-neuter laws -- which L.A. has -- she said she supported spaying and neutering pets "100%."

As chief executive of the private Seattle Humane Society, Barnette reached a 92% live-release rate, and no animals were killed for lack of space. Villaraigosa cited this statistic when he announced he was appointing her.

But the Seattle Humane Society took in about 5,900 cats and dogs last year — about a tenth of L.A.'s number.

"That's less than the animals that come into the San Pedro shelter in my district," said Janice Hahn. "Tell us how you would be up for the job?"

"I very much want to spend time with the staff formulating ideas," Barnette said. She also noted that the Seattle organization had an extensive foster program that helped increase the number of adoptions.

"I'm very pleased that you want this job," Hahn told her. "It's one of the more difficult jobs in the city."

Several council members noted that they got more calls and e-mails on this appointment than they did on the appointment of Police Chief Charlie Beck.

"There's going to be a microscope on everything you do," said Councilman Dennis Zine. "We're giving you that green light. But be cautious. ... Include the community groups, the staff workers."

-- Carla Hall