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Thu, Jul

L.A. Animal Services' Proposal to Compensate Public for Shelter Animal Foster Care Raises Concerns of City Liability

ANIMAL WATCH

ANIMAL WATCH - It is no secret that Los Angeles Animal Services’ shelters are packed far beyond capacity with unaltered cats, litters of kittens, and dogs–mostly Pit Bulls and aggressive-breeds--impounded because of behavior not clearly explained by the shelter when adopted, and/or excused by major non-profit organizations which dictate shelter policy and demand a national “No Kill” rate—discouraging euthanasia of even known-dangerous dogs. 

But faced with six City shelters crowded to the point of blatant animal cruelty and extreme danger to employees and volunteers, Spectrum News reported on April 19 that “The Los Angeles City Council approved a motion Friday seeking to establish a monetary stipend to encourage Angelenos to foster animals in the city’s six shelters, and to help reduce overpopulation at these facilities.The measure was approved by a 13-0 vote, and Department of Animal Services was instructed “to report back on the City’s existing foster program to gauge its efficiency.” 

The City Administrative Officer was also asked to develop a proposed “monetary stipend for fostering animals, including a recommended dollar amount and pay structure based on models at other cities,” according to the report. 

However, the model for the proposed stipend may be hard to find—because shelters nationwide already realize it is a bad idea! 

LOS ANGELES DOES NOT NEED TO PAY FOSTER HOMES TO KEEP ANIMALS

 

 Fostering shelter animals is intended as a gift to the shelters and a blessing to the animals and the foster (when properly performed). And, although there may be a few non-profit organizations that pay fosters, government agencies pay only for supplies, food, veterinary care and any other needs for the animal, but not a paycheck for fostering. The reasons are obvious. Doing so runs the risk of creating an employer-employee relationship. However, a foster can deduct from personal taxes any costs of mileage to bring the animal for introduction to possible adopters. 

 Los Angeles, unlike many cities, already has all the legal tools it needs to manage the shelter-overcrowding problem, including a mandatory spay/neuter law, introduced by former-Councilman Richard Alarcon in 2008 (which has never been enforced for cats). 

The problems stem from the fact that, during the tenure of L.A. Animal Services former-GM Brenda Barnette, a former dog breeder and AKC political liaison, dog limits were expanded by Councilman Paul Koretz, along with the abolishment of the need for a kennel license for keeping four or more dogs. These changes allow the breeding of unlimited puppies for the mere purchase of a breeder’s permit, which is offered by LAAS for $235 .and a $100 unaltered dog license.   

Koretz and Barnette also changed the law/policy requiring that found animals needed to be taken to the shelter so that they could be found by owners and, instead, urged finders to keep them or leave them on the street—stating that the owner would soon find them. 

So, why is it so difficult for the LAAS and the Mayor and City Council to understand why our shelters are--and will continue to be--overflowing? 

This is a problem that needs to be first solved from the source and the Council has merely to review Koretz record to see why this has happened.  Also, it must be cognizant that any announced plan for reduction of shelter overcrowding will also signal to those planning to dump a pet that they can just discard them easily and without guilt, or those who purchased/adopted a puppy that has become a problem now have a place to leave it, because there is “room at the inn.”

 

LEGAL OPINIONS ON PAID FOSTERS FOR SHELTER ANIMALS

 

I asked for an unofficial opinion by a Los Angeles attorney who is familiar with animal and government laws, and he voiced concerns about the City’s proposed direct payment to any foster because of it potentially changing the classification of the “volunteer” foster to a paid employee. This would also bring up the issues of benefits, payroll taxes, insurance and a myriad of, so far, unanswered questions. And, whether or not the foster is paid, the pet remains the property of the City—unlike releasing an animal to a “rescue” or adoption 50l(c)(3) agency, which is required to have its own insurance, etc. He added, speaking of insurance, the pet in the home of a foster, needs to be insured both by the foster and the City, and the City needs to assure that is part of the foster agreement. 

“There is little information or legal opinions on disputes regarding ‘fosters;’ however, it is clear that, since pets are property, most issues will be civil disputes and it may take decisions in court to establish laws,” he said. 

Overview of the Laws Regulating Rescue and Foster Care states, “Under the law, animals are still considered property and therefore are subject to ownership claims…. Because the animals are property, disagreements over who the companion animals belong to can lead to legal disputes There is little case law available on these types of disputes but in these situations, an attorney would likely apply state civil, property, and contract law to the problem.” 

SHELTER STATS DO NOT INDICATE AN ALARMING INCREASE IN SHELTER ANIMALS

 

The 2023-2024 LAAS Woofstat report on shelter population, save rate, adoptions and other relative data can be seen here. 

Even if the number of animals is increasing slightly, that must and can be handled by addressing the local source first—mainly backyard breeders and imported dogs from other states and countries. (Internet advertising usually reveals the location to purchase or order pets.) The shelter’s own statistics don’t seem to indicate an increase from 2023 to 2024 that would signal an emergency situation. The LAAS Woofstat report, shows that in March 2024, there was a total of 2,921 animals impounded by the shelter and in March 2023 there was a total of 2,539. While it has increased slightly, that can easily be attributed to the breeding that is allowed—not necessarily to some crisis that requires the City to develop a dangerous and risky “stipend” to fosters, who now perform this service as a free gift to the animals. 

There is also a slight difference (year-to-date) in 2023 and 2024 in the “save” rate, meaning that the animal left the shelter alive: 

LIVE-SAVE RATES: (January to March) 

2023: Cats: 86.91% … 2024 Cats: 86.20%; 

2023 Dogs: 94.84% … 2024 Dogs: 93.35% 

2023 Kittens: 95.71% … 2024 Kittens  93.69% 

Undoubtedly, this small decline in the “save rate” could have been avoided if the City also had use of its largest shelter in Mission Hills, built  from Prop. F funds at taxpayers’ expense) but rather than being staffed to serve the community, it was taken over by Best Friends Animal Society as its Mission shelter and, upon iBest Friends moving strictly to its West LA shelter in 2022, the Valley facility mysteriously became the Community Animal Medicine Project – Mission Hills with no apparent notice to the public or community and it does not house animals for the City but lists its corporate headquarters as at the L.A. Harbor Shelter, 957 North Gaffey St., San Pedro? The City has an obligation to fund it as a public animal shelter. 

See: LA Animal Services’ Mission Shelter Cannot be a “Gift of Public Funds” 

How Best Friends Animal Society Rips Off LA … with City Hall’s Blessing 

2022 Annual Revenue Report: Best Friends Animal Society 

THE UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCES OF PAYING “FOSTERS.” 

 If this program is adopted, it will undoubtedly result in a drop in volunteers, who have never thought about compensation and have given freely of their time and dedication and who have generously paid out of their own pockets to do laundry (during long periods of inoperable washing machines) without reimbursement, and contributed in countless ways to the comfort and mental and physical health of the animals, only to be treated with disregard and disrespect  for speaking out when LAAS did not want conditions to be made public. 

There are also the Reserve Officers, which were discussed in last week’s article and are going to be expected to locate unlicensed breeders as volunteers. Will these two essential groups also be paid in conformance with a policy of paying a foster who cares for one animal awaiting adoption in his/her home? 

WHO WILL MANAGE A “PAID” CITYWIDE ANIMAL FOSTERING PROGRAM? 

Undoubtedly Councilwoman Eunice Hernandez, 33, who is new to the Council, is touched by the plight of lost/stray animals that need a safe haven. However, it appears she has also succumbed to the claims that the City (and the taxpayers) are just not doing enough, rather than realizing this is a problem that was intentionally devised under the leadership of ex-Councilman Paul Koretz and former-LAAS GM Brenda Barnette, an admitted dog breeder, and AKC legislative Liaison. 

A supporter described Councilwoman Hernandez as having developed a “reputation for idealism…. She’s a real believer.” But there is no indication she has ever worked or volunteered in an animal shelter. Thus, she is dependent upon the opinions of others. especially major donation-based humane organizations, which will not admit that “No Kill” is a profitable myth and this fact is becoming increasingly evident.

 (Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former Los Angeles City employee, an animal activist and a contributor to CityWatch.