At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the general manager of Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS), Brenda Barnette, decided to shutter two of the six facilities in the City of Los Angeles, North Central (Highland Park) and West Valley (Chatsworth). The rationale given at the time was that shutting those facilities would make staffing more manageable at the remaining facilities.
The result is that there are currently 398 dog kennels and approximately 200 to 300 cat kennels sitting empty in the city. Barnette has concocted a plan for opening North Central and West Valley as “community resource centers”, but she has been trying to do this in secret. That is, until someone from her staff disseminated her written proposal to members of the public.
In that proposal (see attached Reconstitution Plan), Barnette boldly states that the goal is “to support and assist with the City’s large goal of ending institutional racism and injustice.” However, there is absolutely nothing in her plan that even begins to address racism or injustice. In fact, Barnette’s plan will likely do just the opposite.
If City officials were truly interested in creating resources for the community, they would open up North Central and West Valley to house pets for people who don’t have anywhere for themselves or their pets to live.
If Barnette and other City officials were truly interested in creating resources for the community, they would open up North Central and West Valley to house pets for people who are newly evicted and don’t have anywhere for themselves or their pets to live. Allowing people to house their pets at those facilities temporarily, until they get back on their feet, would truly be a community resource, but that’s not what Barnette is planning.
In fact, Barnette is acting much like Republicans in Congress and using this as an opportunity to reward her favorites. Barnette’s proposal, in addition to doing nothing to address racism or inequality, would in fact create more inequality because she intends to select a handful of local animal rescue groups to use those facilities, rent free, for their own purposes. According to Barnette, those groups would provide services in exchange for free space, on the taxpayers’ dime.
How does this plan help anyone other than Barnette’s favorites? We are facing a tidal wave of evictions starting in a few weeks. It’s devastating enough to be evicted, but the situation is made infinitely worse when families have to decide what to do with their pets. Homeless shelters don’t permit pets, so where should those people go? It’s bad enough to lose your home, but to lose your pets at the same time is too much.
Because Barnette’s plan has been made public, she finds herself in a position to have to explain her actions in a series of Zoom meetings next week:
- Monday, August 10th, 10:00am - 11:00am
- Tuesday, August 11th, 5:30pm - 6:30pm
- Thursday, August 13th 3:30pm - 4:30pm
The meetings are open to the public, so feel free to join them to voice your opinion. Why should taxpayers subsidize activities of private rescue groups and waste this opportunity to really provide a public service?