Nearly 150 animal activists marched in front of the home of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Sunday. They were protesting his support of Los Angeles Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnette and the policies and practices she has instituted at the city’s six shelters.
Included in the laundry list of accusations is Barnette’s lack of leadership in enforcing the city’s animal welfare ordinances. Over the years the Los Angeles City Council has passed some of the most progressive animal welfare legislation in the nation but activists say the laws mostly go unenforced.
Two such ordinances were specifically enacted to address the issue of pet overpopulation which results in so many unwanted animals in the city shelters: mandatory spay and neuter and breeder permits. Irresponsible pet owners and backyard breeders contribute the most to pet euthanasia, not only in the city of Los Angeles, but across the country.
Los Angeles approved a mandatory spay and neuter ordinance in 2008, which largely goes unenforced except for those residents who voluntarily comply with the law and license their dogs. The law was intended to curb the number of unwanted litters born in the city but the effect has been minimal due to lack of enforcement by Barnette’s department.
Since the 1970s, euthanasia rates in the United States have been reduced overall by 90 percent or more due to the push for spay and neuter and aggressive education campaigns enlightening pet owners about the significant benefits. Still today, 10,000 shelter animals a day are killed in the U.S. , in part due to the lack of enforcement of laws already on the books in many areas such as in the city of Los Angeles.
On a more controversial note, the city also enacted a requirement that breeders be permitted. It was an effort to discourage backyard breeders and puppy mill operations. But the lackadaisical, and often non-existent enforcement, has instead given an air of legitimacy to those few backyard breeders who go through the process of obtaining a permit.
It was little more than two years ago, in April 2013, when Garcetti was on the campaign trail seeking votes from the animal activist community that he touted his animal-friendly platform, garnering an endorsement from the California chapter of the League of Humane Voters. But with his continued support of Barnette he has created a wide rift with advocates who feel he is supporting Barnette without looking at the reality of her lack of accomplishments and not living up to campaign promises.
Actors Paul Darrigo and Michael Bell organized Sunday’s event. Darrigo says he was happy to see the turnout but expressed disappointment that the mayor will not meet with activists to discuss their concerns.
“I was so honored and pleased to see such a huge response. We will continue to request collaboration and our appointment with the mayor. Until then, we further strengthen our argument for such a reformation of LAAS by revealing more deficiencies, derelictions of duties of current management and administration. Any logical and professional person would be on our side,” wrote Darrigo in an email to Examiner.
Instead of agreeing to a meeting with activist leaders, the mayor’s office shared a different view. “We are working to address these complicated animal welfare issues and support Brenda Barnette and her work in this administration. We will continue to listen and work towards solutions through the important conversations we are having with Angelenos who are passionate about the lives of animals in our city,” said Los Angeles Deputy Mayor of City Services Barbara Romero in a released statement.
The lack of commitment by Garcetti did not deter activists’ determination to effect change. “I was proud to be present at the protest for such a worthy cause. Shelter reform is mandatory,” says Bari Fiore, manager for AGWC Rockin’ Rescues. Her sentiment is shared by most of the activists who vow to get Garcetti’s attention. He will be up for re-election in May 2017. His re-election website includes a tab to send him a message.
To get up-to-date information on future protests, information and other events, check out Protest LA Animal Services and . . . on Facebook.