Best Friends to run shelter for Los Angeles

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  September 2011:

LOS ANGELES--“The Best Friends Animal Society’s proposal to run our vacant Northeast Valley Animal Shelter as a high-volume adoption center and spay/neuter facility passed today in City Council 11-1,”  Los Angeles Animal Services general manager Brenda Barnette e-mailed to ANIMAL PEOPLE on August 16,  2011.

Built in 2008,  the $19.5 million Northeast Valley Shelter was never fully staffed because budget cuts left L.A. Animal Services without the additional $3.3 million per year that full staffing and full-scale operation would have cost.  “A proposal to open it with staff taken from six other shelters would have reduced hours and service” throughout the Los Angeles city shelter system,  and would have increased shelter killing “by as many as 10,000 animals a year,” said Los Angeles Daily News staff writers Rick Orlov and Dana Bartholomew.

Operated sporadically with partial staffing,  the Northeast Valley shelter “has housed problem animals and those whose people are in jail or are part of a criminal investigation or animal cruelty cases,”  Orlov and Bartholomew said.  Equine facilities on the premises have been used to hold horses who were temporarily evacuated from fire zones in the Los Angeles hills.

Barnette in 2010 asked animal charities serving Los Angeles for proposals to manage the Northeast Valley shelter.  “We were the only ones to respond,”   Best Friends cofounder Francis Battista told ANIMAL PEOPLE.  “We see this as an opportunity to save more lives. It is in line with our No More Homeless Pets mission,  and we believe that the good that can be accomplished will be worth the sizable investment of Best Friends resources that the project will require.”
Added Battista later,  to Orlov of the Daily News,  “This is not entirely new territory for us,”  since the Best Friends headquarters in Kanab,  Utah,  is the largest sheltering complex in the U.S.  Best Friends has also stepped in to manage several nonprofit shelters in response to temporary emergencies,  and has long been involved in adoption promotion in the Los Angeles area, “but we have never operated a shelter like this,”  Battista said.

Animal Issues Movement director Phyllis Daugherty expressed skepticism of the deal.     “The Northeast Valley is responsible for at least 50% of the animals, especially dogs, that go into the East and West Valley shelters,”  Daugherty told Orlov.  “This community has one of the highest needs for a shelter.  But we need full animal control services,   not just an adoption center and clinic.”

The deal with Best Friends came 12 days after “plainclothes officers from the Los Angeles Police Department and managers with the animal services agency swept into the six Los Angeles animal shelters,  confiscating about 120 weapons,  including shotguns, rifles,  and .38-caliber handguns,”  reported David  Zahniser of the Los Angeles Times.

“The city’s 75 animal control officers are issued firearms to kill wild animals who are too injured to transport,”  Zahniser explained.  “Brenda Barnette, general manager of the animal services department,  said investigators were trying to determine what guns the agency has,  and how they are being used.”

“We suspect there are some missing guns,”  Barnette told Zahniser.

“The sweep came two months after Barnette revealed that the department was looking into allegations that shelter workers stole and sold animals,”  Zahniser continued,  “and it occurred less than a month after city officials confirmed that there is an investigation into time card fraud involving department employees.  Five employees are on paid administrative leave pending the internal investigation’s outcome,”  Zahniser wrote.

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