The council spoke about the poor conditions at animal shelters in Los Angeles

Dogs doubled in city kennels. Kittens thrown into shelters. Hamsters spend the night without food or water.

A Los Angeles City Council committee hearing on Tuesday brought new details and allegations about dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals at city shelters.

The three-hour meeting came as a relief to many volunteers — the unpaid members of the public the city relies on to walk the dogs and do other shelter duties — who say they are raising concerns with city leaders For years.

Councilman Paul Koretz, who chairs the committee overseeing animal issues, held the hearing following a Times report about overcrowded kennels, staff shortages and dogs not walking for long periods of time. weeks. Koretz began the meeting by thanking the volunteers and calling them “brave whistleblowers.”

Koretz said he intends “to look into the indefensible and inexcusable situation of caged dogs, sometimes for months at a time, without exercise.”

“We will also focus on other departmental issues, bringing transparency to these important issues,” said the councilman, who is running for city comptroller in the November election.

Staffing issues, disagreements over the level of care the city should provide for animals and the loss of two key employees have rocked the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services in recent months. The town is largely dependent on volunteers for a range of tasks – a system that is under strain as more and more animals arrive.

One of the best staff members who left Animal Services this year did so out of frustration with the treatment of animals.

More than 50 people spoke at Tuesday’s hearing; about 140 registered but were unable to speak due to the deadline set by Koretz.

Some speakers, including a South LA shelter volunteer, asked city leaders to see the conditions for themselves.

“You will see from the moment you do this where the problems start,” the volunteer said. “The whole system must be changed.”

Jill Dyché, executive director of rescue group Outta the Cage, called for “disruptive and systemic change” at the Department of Animal Services and said city leaders should consider privatizing shelters.

“Los Angeles taxpayers need experienced outside leaders to take over the shelter system and run it like a business,” Dyché said. Other callers also suggested privatization.

This angered Charles Leone, an organizer for Service Employees International Union Local 721, which represents animal care technicians and other workers. He told Koretz there was a “political agenda” behind such proposals.

Some callers have raised red flags about the treatment of small animals at shelters.

“They are just as important as dogs and cats, and hamsters will go all night without food or water,” said Sharon Tydell.

Annette Ramirez, acting general manager at Animal Services, did not respond to comments about small animals, but spent much of her time talking about staffing issues that have pushed the department beyond its “capacity.” “.

Ramirez said the staffing shortages are partly the result of a city protocol that allows employees to self-quarantine for 10 days if exposed to someone with COVID-19. The policy states that employees are not required to be tested during the quarantine period, Ramirez told Koretz.

“It’s definitely something we should be looking at,” the councilman said.

These guidelines appear to diverge from those of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which does not recommend self-isolation if a person has no symptoms after being in close contact with someone with COVID-19.

Ramirez explained how the lack of veterinarians is hurting operations, leading to wait times for animals at shelters. She also said the city is “struggling” with the cat population.

Ramirez noted that volunteers “do a lot of work” at shelters. “But they shouldn’t be the ones we depend on to look after the animals. It’s our responsibility as a city, as a department of animal services,” she said. “We should have enough staff to provide the minimum care for the animals that are in our shelters.”

Koretz said he would hold a second hearing in August and release a report outlining solutions to the shelter issues.

Some callers questioned why Koretz had an “emergency” meeting, saying the issues had existed for years.

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