Animal welfare groups called for reductions in fines for impounding runaway pets in Los Angeles County, saying owners are sometimes forced to give up their animals because they can’t afford the high fees.
Activists spoke at the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting during a public comment period.
Some noted a $200,000 donation from a non-profit agency set up to support the Department of Animal Care and Control on the agenda.
That money was earmarked to offset adoption fees, but an attorney for the coalition of activists said it could be “put to much better use to help low-income people after their animals are seized.”
The Department of Animal Care and Control said in a statement addressing the coalition’s concerns that impound fees may be reduced or waived in cases of hardship and that nonprofit organizations do sometimes help pet owners cover the costs.
The fee for a first impound for a dog or cat is $20 plus a boarding fee of $18 per day. Special handling fees may also apply.
Marla Tauscher, a lawyer working alongside four animal welfare groups, accused the county of holding animals “for ransom” because the Department of Animal Care and Control doesn’t allow installment payments.
Another woman told the story of a pit bull that was euthanized while its owner was pulling together cash for department fees.
The nonprofit groups had a host of other objections to the way county animal shelters are run.
Appeals were made by representatives from the Eastwood Ranch Foundation, All About the Animals, Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation, Santa Barbara-based Davey’s Voice and Bunny World Foundation, among others. They demanded the repeal of laws revised last September and October.
The changes to the county code last fall expanded the forms of identification that trigger the six-day protection, adding tattoos and microchips instead of relying only on identification tags, a change department officials said they hoped would help reunite more owners with lost pets.
The law offering the six-day hold was also changed to include all species of animals, not just dogs and cats.
Many of the speakers focused on abuses to bunnies, which they said were sold illegally and treated inhumanely by vendors in downtown’s Santee Alley.
Baby bunnies are sometimes dyed Easter egg colors, which can blind them.
“We see this problem every year at Easter time,” a Bunny World Foundation volunteer said. “People want Easter bunnies. When the bunnies clean themselves, they are blinded.”
The bunny advocates claimed the county had deleted protections against cruelty to rabbits, but county officials said the language was dropped only because it was redundant to state law.
It is a misdemeanor to dye or artificially color live chicks, rabbits or ducklings or to hold them for sale without adequate food, water and shelter.
Other advocates complained that the treatment of animals varied widely from shelter to shelter.
“What struck me was the most diverse and inconsistent treatment of the animals across the seven shelters,” said Laura Jones of All About the Animals.
“From the luxury of (the) newly-built Palmdale shelter with heated floors … to (the) Downey shelter with the majority of pets laid out on a cold, hard floor, it just doesn’t seem fair.”
The Department of Animal Care and Control is close to completing nearly $2.2 million in shelter improvements ranging from upgrade of a surgical suite in the Downey shelter to installing closed-circuit television systems in the Agoura, Castaic and Downey facilities.
Officials acknowledged that while policies are uniform across shelters, some centers deal with a bigger population of animals, while others benefit from volunteer groups that donate beds and other goods and services.
“DACC is addressing this by employing full-time volunteer coordinators for the five largest animal care center to expand volunteer programs and animal care enhancements,” according to a department statement.
No related agenda item was before the board and no immediate action was taken.
—City News Service
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: