The Los Angeles City Council approved a series of articles on Friday, Nov. 4, calling for adjustments to the city’s Department of Animal Services, which has come under fire for alleged animal neglect and understaffing at city shelters. town.
Following media reports that widely exposed the issues, Councilman Paul Koretz, chair of the Personnel, Audits, and Animal Welfare Committee, introduced several motions and held special committee meetings.
Items included reactivating the Animal Cruelty Task Force, creating a plan to ensure all dogs are regularly exercised at shelters, and a review of staff training and qualifications to serve as animal care technicians.
A motion calling for the transfer of $3 million in emergency funding to animal services for the current fiscal year and requesting a report on the cost of operating the department and its seven city-owned shelters was referred to the committee of the budget and council finances.
Koretz, too, faces criticism that he took too long to address the underfunding and staffing shortages that plagued Los Angeles animal shelters. At a committee meeting Oct. 24, several callers claimed Koretz was only acting now because he is running for city comptroller against Kenneth Mejia, who criticized Koretz’s handling of the situation.
“After more than 10 years of failing to address the animal shelter crisis, Koretz is using his final weeks as committee chair to ruthlessly attempt to alleviate the crisis,” Mejia tweeted.
Koretz cut off at least four public speakers who criticized him during a committee meeting, saying they were off topic.
Koretz defended his role at a City Hall press conference earlier this month, calling it a “false narrative” that he could “make all the decisions to solve every perceived problem.” He claimed he had limited oversight over the department.
“I kept hearing and reading that I’m responsible for every complaint anyone has with Animal Services,” Koretz said. “Some of these allegations are driven by genuine concern about real issues. Others, I suspect, are politically motivated.
Koretz, who is named to the board this year, released a 46-page report on the department last month. He writes that the department has been the victim of a “chronic budget problem” and needs “significantly more staff and a drastic increase in funding”.
“Unsurprisingly, some people have been critical because they feel I’m not coming up with big enough changes or moving as fast as they’d like,” Koretz said during Friday’s meeting. . “And it is their right, but it is our duty to be realistic and to respect the constraints that we face on a daily basis.”
According to the report, the ministry has $27 million in funding for the current fiscal year, with 300 of the 343 budgeted positions filled. A “desirable” amount of funding would be almost double that amount, but the report argues animal services is not a “sexy” department to fund and notes that a ballot measure may be needed to secure adequate resources.
Koretz said the city only has enough money from the General Fund to operate four shelters, instead of the six it currently runs, plus a seventh operated under contract with a nonprofit group.
Koretz admitted that a month ago he had not visited a city shelter since the pandemic began. He claimed that he did not need to physically go to the shelters to solve the problems there, because few of them had changed.
The report mainly blamed staff shortages for not regularly walking dogs and cleaning kennels more frequently. Staffing issues also contributed to around 300 unprocessed volunteer applications, according to the report. He called on the city council to relax a mandatory 10-day quarantine for animal shelter staff exposed to COVID-19, recommending the period be reduced to five days and testing negative.
Several callers complained about what they described as a long application process to become a volunteer and strict requirements that they felt were unnecessary.
“It was somewhat disastrous,” Koretz said at the committee meeting. “There are a lot of unhappy volunteers there.”
The report generally agreed with the ministry’s ‘no kill’ policy of achieving a live release rate of 90%, although it noted that shelters should not compromise and be transparent in statistics. .
Koretz’s report documents friction between staff and volunteers, but says it “long predates any recent controversy.”
Other items approved by the board requested:
— creation of a centralized program to manage volunteer requests;
— promote the city’s sterilization law;
— ensure that the Orange List, a list of animals requiring serious care that the department cannot provide, is given to organizations that could provide such care;
— a plan to ensure the “best possible treatment” of cats, rabbits and other small animals;
— integrating interns from the city’s targeted local hiring program into the shelter; and
— a plan for the use of the department’s joint management-union committee.