For several months, rescue groups and volunteers in Los Angeles have been issuing complaints against the animal shelters in the city for neglecting the animals brought there. Department officials have blamed the lack of enough staff for the issues in the proper running of the 6 shelters.
The criticism escalated further recently when the representatives of the commission overseeing Animal Services demanded an answer from department officials regarding complaints against the shelter staff turning away people who came to surrender animals.
According to Commissioner Jose Sandoval, they continuously get emails from the public regarding the rejection of animals at the shelters. These concerns come in the wake of the ongoing struggles faced by the department, which witnessed a double-digit rise (in comparison to last year) in the number of dogs and cats taken in by the shelters in October.
At a meeting held by the Board of Animal Services Commissioners on Tuesday, the panel sought a report from the department regarding city policy on taking in stray animals. During the meeting, Commission President Larry Gross mentioned that the members were really concerned about people being turned away by the shelters. The meeting also saw several speakers sharing stories about how shelter staff refused to take in animals.
A volunteer at the West Valley shelter, Michelle Cornelius, spoke about a person who called the shelter to surrender a kitten they found. The shelter staff, however, asked them to release it into the street unless it was injured.
However, releasing the animals on the streets may not be the best way out – especially if they exhibit an aggressive tendency. The animals may attack people on the streets if they feel threatened, thereby increasing the workload of Los Angeles County Dog Bite Attorneys.
In Cornelius’s opinion, “It is quite clear that giving staff any discretion as to which animals to take in does not work.” “The department needs to return to accepting all animals that will come to the door,” he added.
Fabienne Origer, the manager of AGWC Rockin’ Rescue in Woodland Hills, mentioned that the rescue functions as a de facto shelter for the animals turned down by the staff.
The rescue group was contacted by a person who wanted to drop off a pregnant cat at one of the shelters in the city but was asked by shelter staff to abandon it. Even though the rescue was at full capacity with over 100 animals, Origer ultimately took in the pregnant feline.
In another instance, the animal rescue manager ran into two people trying to drop off a pair of cats at the South Los Angeles Chesterfield Square animal shelter. These cats had been left inside a cardboard box on the roadside. She recorded the people’s interaction with the shelter staff and posted it on Instagram. She mentions that one of the staff members said they needed an appointment to drop off the cats; otherwise, they could just leave them on the streets.
However, the Animal Services’ website ironically mentions that the “six open-intake municipal animal shelters throughout Los Angeles mean no animals are turned away when brought into our shelters.”
The commission president, Gross, said that Animal Services is awaiting leaflets and signs that would make both the staff and the public aware of the open-intake policy. While not all claims of the staff declining to take in animals aren’t true, the department will be taking steps to reduce such instances.
Overcrowding at the shelters is one of the main reasons why the staff try to turn away animals. In addition, due to lack of space, sometimes even three dogs need to be kept in one kennel, making cleaning difficult. The department, however, has done away with adoption fees to reduce the crowd. The department has also requested the public to foster or adopt an animal to ensure enough space to accommodate others.