Spay LA

February 28, 2012  

StubbyDog chats with Los Angeles Animal Services’ Brenda Barnette about mandatory spay/neuter and making LA shelters no kill in the next five years

Los Angeles Animal Services is one of the largest municipal shelter systems in the United States, with six shelters serving approximately 60,000 animals annually and responding to 20,000 emergency calls involving an animal or person in danger each year. With an earned reputation as a positive change manager and only 18 months on the job, Brenda Barnette is fighting the financial deficit and severe budget cuts by forging an innovative partnership with Best Friends Animal Society. Together and with the help of animal loving Angelenos, she believes Los Angeles is on track to become a no kill city with a 90 percent live save rate in the next five years. Here, StubbyDog chats with Brenda about the city’s mandatory spay/neuter policy and what impact it’s having.

Q: Los Angeles enacted mandatory spay/neuter in 2008. What brought about this decision?

A: The spay/neuter ordinance was before I got here, but I believe that similar legislation was under consideration statewide and when that failed, our city council decided we can do it in Los Angeles. The need grew out of the simple fact that wonderful animals were coming into the shelters every day at a higher rate than they could be adopted, so many were put to death for space. Of those, many were pit bulls and pit mixes.

Q: In your opinion, has the measure been effective at lowering shelter intakes/euthanasia rates?

A: I get asked about the effectiveness of the spay/neuter ordinance often. The simple truth is that we really can’t tell yet. In the time since it was passed, the economy plummeted, the department changed the way the vouchers were distributed, and there was a change in leadership. Certainly the city council was looking at the large number of animals being put to death each year and trying to offer a logical solution.

Q: How is it enforced?

A: Enforcement of the spay/neuter ordinance starts with education. People are given a warning and a limited amount of time to get their dog spayed/neutered, or they must pay for the more expensive license for an intact dog. Our officers use a combination of techniques, including going door to door, and patrolling the beaches and dog parks to identify unlicensed dogs. Often citizens will alert us to unlicensed dogs, dogs being allowed to run at large or people breeding dogs without obtaining a license to breed.

Q: Many who oppose mandatory spay/neuter say that most people who don’t spay/neuter can’t afford it. What has Los Angeles done to address this concern?

A: The city appropriates over a million dollars each year in the animal services budget for spay/neuter for low-income community members. Charitable foundations such as Best Friends, PetSmart Charities, Amanda Foundation, Found Animals and Heigl also provide funding for spay/neuter surgeries.

Q: Opponents also say that these types of ordinances increase intakes due to unaltered dogs being seized. Has this been an issue in Los Angeles?

A: I think it is hard to attribute the increase in dogs in our shelters to the unaltered dogs [being seized]. In some communities, people believe in outdoor dogs and tend to let them run lose. Those are the ones that get picked up. In those situations, the people who had been feeding them may not go to the shelters to pay fees to get them out. I don’t like to blame the economy, but the truth is that a lot of families have lost their homes, had to downsize and move in with family members, and they just can’t keep their companion animals. It is sad for the person and the pet to be separated during a difficult time when they really need each other most.

Q: Are there certain things animal control or the shelters are working to change/improve in regards to mandatory spay/neuter that could make the ordinance more effective?

A; Yes, we are working to make the spay/neuter ordinance more effective. The Board of Animal Commissioners has approved a pilot program to deliver additional spay/neuter surgeries to targeted zip codes where we know that nearly everyone is very low income, and we also know that these are the zip codes linked to the highest intake of animals into the shelters. We are also combining resources with other partners with a goal of providing over 20,000 spay/neuter surgeries in 2012.

Q: If people advertise puppies for sale, can the city check to see if they’re in violation of the ordinance, or is there not the personnel for that?

A: The department does not have the resources to track down the ads on Craigslist, but we do have a number of volunteers in the community who do track these ads. When they can provide a Los Angeles city address, we send an officer out to investigate. This is helping get more pets spayed or neutered.

Q: StubbyDog focuses on pit bull type dogs. How has this ordinance impacted pit bull type dogs?

A: Angelenos love pit bulls. Gratefully, I can’t imagine the foolish breed-discriminatory legislation being proposed in Los Angeles. However, we very much need the help of the pit bull community members to help stop the indiscriminant breeding that is producing far more dogs than we can place. We take in approximately 600 pits and pit mixes each month. When we add up the number we place in new homes, return to owners or that rescues pull, we are lucky if they total 200 a month. That is a tragedy that could be resolved if people would spay or neuter their dogs. Some of the resistance may be from men not wanting to neuter the males. Some resistance may be simply that people do not know how to get vouchers for free spay/neuter.

Q: In your opinion, what is the solution to pet overpopulation?

A: I don’t think that the term “pet overpopulation” is accurate. I think we haven’t found enough homes. Consider this. Last year, in Los Angeles we put approximately 20,000 (out of approximately 56,000) pet animals to death. By most standards, at least 10 – 15 percent of the 20,000 was irreparably suffering (8,400) and could not be saved. So, do the math: 20,000 did not make it out alive and 8,400 were suffering and could not be saved, leaving 11,600 who were unnecessarily put to death for the reason of no space available. There are 4 million Angelenos. If we find one good adopter in every 345 people in Los Angeles, we will end the killing of treatable and adoptable pets. If we expand our volunteer foster care program, we can give great pets the extra time (and home care) they need until we can find them a home of their own.

The animal services department is fighting the financial deficit and severe budgets cuts by forging an innovative partnership with Best Friends Animal Society. Together with the help of animal lovers all over the city, Los Angeles is on track to become a no kill city with a 90 percent live save rate (noses in and noses out) in five years.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: [I hope] StubbyDog and your friends and allies who love pit bulls will take to the streets and educate people about the challenges these great family dogs face and the numbers who unnecessarily die every month in the shelters.

This is not a shelter problem. It is a community challenge. If we can all pull together for the animals – public shelters, private groups, citizens – we will become a no kill city within the next five years.

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3 Responses to “Spay LA”
  1. RichardCox says:

    Brenda Barnette has no right to comment about “no-kill”.  Under her watch, L.A. Animal Services has INCREASED killing by 12% compared to her predecessor.  Other local animal controls are not sufferng this tragedy.  Brenda Barnette is MORE KILL.    Watch this two minute video (no sad photos) and hear in Brenda Barnette’s own voice how she cares more about her breeder friends than she cares about the animals
    Barnette says people cannot find spay/neuter vouchers.  That is because SHE made them harder to find.  She says we cannot tell yet if the mandatory spay/neuter law works.  That is because SHE is not enforcing it.   As a result, she is killing 75% of the kittens who enter L.A. city shelters.  Those kittens are born becasue of failed spay/neuter.  Brenda Barnette offers nothing to help. 
    Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the two city officials who want to be the next Mayor and Controller (Wendy Greuel and Dennis Zine) need to stop falling for Brenda Barnette’s b.s and excuses and do something about the REALITY.  18 months into Barnette’s reign of terror and increasing the killing, it is long past time to admit what a disaster she is and get someone who can do the job.  Barnette has LOTS excuses.  She has NO solutions.  Tell the thousands a year MORE she is killing that you still believe this failure’s promises.  Five years to no-kill?  That’s what she said two years ago and here we are 12% WORSE.
    Here are the sad facts of Brenda Barnette, all from official LA city statistics:

  2. honestyhelps says:

    And obviously this writer didn’t bother to look at Barnette’s record on pits before coming to LA. Seattle Humane turned pits away under Barnette. SHS had an evaluation system and pits rarely passed. Plus you had to fork over $200 to have your dog evaluated and if it didn’t pass, you didn’t get your money back either. Can anyone say scam? Here is a blog that followed her in Seattle when she was conspiring to undermine animal control for her takeover of it. Her own employees came out to the public saying Barnette had no management skills and that dogs were suffering under her watch.  Do a search for “ACO Guild” and see what Barnette’s own employees, not the ones she fired, the ones she hired, had to say about her. 

  3. JoshLiddySwayLove says:

    Those “irreparably suffering” numbers that Barnette throws out are way off…