Animal services

Koretz unveils plan to improve Los Angeles Animal Services

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, 5th District, released a damning report on the state of the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services along with a set of motions to improve it. (photo courtesy of the 5th District office)

The Los Angeles Department of Animal Services only has enough resources to properly run four of its six shelters for 2022, 5th District Councilman Paul Koretz said.

The Great Recession of 2007 and 2008 and the COVID-19 pandemic compounded decades of mismanagement, resulting in a network of shelters across the city where dogs live in filthy kennels and are rarely walked and exercised, cats, rabbits and other small animals are kept in poor conditions, volunteers and paid staff clash, and not enough animals are adopted or fostered, Koretz said.

In an effort to improve those conditions, Koretz released a 46-page report on the state of the department on October 7 along with a corresponding set of 11 motions.

“I have worked hard to focus this report on making recommendations for how the department can take steps to better serve Angelenos and the animals in the department’s care. I hope the report leads to a healthy discussion and productive,” wrote Koretz, who chairs the Council’s Personnel, Audits and Animal Welfare Committee.

The report addresses seven major concerns, each detailed: animal care, adoption and foster programs, shelters, volunteer program, staffing, community relations and “other issues “.

The motions call for more than $3 million to be made available to LA Animal Services and for city and department officials to revamp the department’s hiring practices, overhaul its volunteer program and improve facilities and treatment. animals.

Koretz spokeswoman Ali Simard did not say when the city council would vote on the motions, although she added that it “is important to [the Personnel, Audits and Animal Welfare Committee] advance the movements [the council] as soon as possible.”

“[The department] is committed to serving our community by providing programs and resources to keep pets and their families together, and to ensure the safety and well-being of animals, both inside our shelters and outside. outside our communities, and the people who love them. … We appreciate the thought and time spent on the report and will review the recommendations made by Board Member Koretz,” said LA Animal Services spokesperson Agnes Sibal.

She added, “While increasing funding and adding staff will help address some of the concerns, animal care is an ongoing collaborative effort between the city, the community and our department. As a municipal shelter, there is always an opportunity to do more, including ways to better engage and educate the community on neutering and neutering their pets, licensing their pets companionship and the provision of other available alternatives to animal abandonment so that our shelters are not the first. or the only option for pet owners when faced with financial hardship.

Eileen Smulson and her husband Brad co-founded Operation Blankets of Love, a nonprofit animal welfare organization that provides pet supplies and food to shelters, helps homeless pet owners, and teaches care. humans to children. They agreed that the city’s shelters suffered from a lack of staff, volunteers and community awareness, and they hoped Koretz’s motions could be a fresh start for the beleaguered organization.

“The idea is, let’s be proud of LA Animal Services once again,” said Brad Smulson.

Eileen Smulson added that shelters have had inconsistent hours since the start of the pandemic, further reducing opportunities for people to adopt or foster animals, and she and her husband called on the department to resume normal hours of functioning.

Making an appointment with the department became so difficult that Smulson resorted to adopting a dog from Mexico instead of one of the city’s shelters, she said.

While Koretz’s report did not advocate changing shelter hours, it did recommend that the city relax its COVID-19 quarantine protocols, ending the current requirement for shelter employees. city ​​to have a 10-day quarantine after an exposure, and instead requiring a five-day quarantine and a negative test.

Perhaps the most significant motion calls on the city to transfer $3 million in emergency funds from the reserve fund to this year’s LA Animal Services budget to cover the cost of improving the spay and neuter program. neutering, increase funding for the Citywide Cat program, and increase the budget for food, operational needs, and animal enrichment programs.

Koretz introduced another motion to allocate funds to the department, calling for $100,000 to be transferred from the General City Purposes Fund to the Animal Welfare Trust Fund. The motion stems from a question posed by a ministry critic, who asked why the trust fund is not being used to hire more staff to complete the dog-walking program.

“Trust fund money can be used to contract with consultants or contractors to handle various specific tasks that department staff are unable to perform at any given time. Thus, the Animal Welfare Trust Fund can be used to bring in consulting firms, non-profit organizations and/or individual experts to meet various departmental needs,” the report states.

Many of Koretz’s motions seek to review and restructure department operations, including one calling for a review of the hiring qualifications and training of animal care technicians. ACTs are responsible for keeping the kennels clean, but there are so many dogs that it becomes an almost impossible task, according to the report.

The councilman also made motions for the department to report back to council in 30 days with plans to ensure all dogs are regularly exercised and properly cared for, and to ensure the best possible treatment of cats, rabbits and all other small animals during their stays. in city animal shelters.

With dwindling numbers of staff at shelters, recruiting more techs is sometimes made more difficult by a hostile atmosphere among staff, the report said.

“Complainants who came to the department through the Targeted Local Hiring Program noted that the required training is made inconvenient for them and that existing staff sometimes make derogatory remarks and [are] unwelcoming,” the report said.

With those complaints in mind, Koretz also introduced a motion asking the department to report to city council in 30 days on its program to integrate targeted local-hire interns into shelter operations, “including the training and mentoring, and other procedures to give them the best chance of succeeding in their work for the department, and how the program could be improved.Another motion directs LA Animal Services to report to the city council within 30 days with a plan to ensure a more effective joint management-union committee.

This motion also echoes a complaint from the report, which quotes an LA Animal Services staff member who said the JLMC would improve problem-solving and communication at shelters if it met more frequently.

But the Smulsons also called for a better discourse between the department and the public.

“We need better communication so we can get more animals adopted,” said Brad Smulson.