By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Perhaps as significant as the budget increases, Knapp has found, is the support of a humane community that had been estranged from the department for years. Ongoing talks with the Coalition for Pets and Public Safety center on a deal in which the foundation will lease two mobile spayneuter clinics to the city for an as-yet-undetermined nominal fee.
“I used to see the department as a dogcatcher killing animals,” says Bobby Dorifshar, who provides free dog-training seminars for people who adopt dogs from city shelters. “Now I see it protecting animals and supporting animals.”
Not all animal-welfare advocates are as pleased as Dorifshar. At one public hearing, Lois Newman, of the Cat and Dog Rescue Association, angrily denounced the 10 goals that guided Knapp’s reorganization, saying that the department “should spend $3 or $4 million dollars on spayneuter -- period!”
But the most daunting challenge to Knapp‘s reforms may be the acrimonious factions now squared off over the pet-overpopulation ordinance and whose bad blood was on vivid display at a public hearing last fall in West L.A.
There were groans of “Oh, come on!” when Kathleen Greenwald, a 15-year dog-rescue activist, protested, “This is a serious issue, and I wish these breeders would come up with some solutions other than ’Don‘t do it.’ If they sold one animal, it would cover the cost of a license for a year.”
The hisses went the other way when George Eigenhauser, regional director of the Cat Fanciers Association, protested that only 20 percent of L.A.‘s dogs are licensed with the fee for unaltered dogs now at $30. “Raise the dog tax to $330 . . .? As long as we have license fees higher than people can afford and spayneuter fees higher than people can afford, you’re going to have a low level of compliance.”
One persistent theme was the charge that many of the breeders testifying at the meetings are not from within Los Angeles -- and department records bear that out. Statistics from the hearings show that 58 of the 171 individuals testifying against the ordinance, most of them representing breeders, were from outside the city.
The California Federation of Dog Clubs‘ Di Biasi responded in an interview that she herself is from Riverside but argues that her constituency resides within the city. But they apparently don’t all comply with the present ordinance that requires a $50 breeder fee for each litter of puppies put up for sale. Records show that only five breeders have bought permits in Los Angeles.
Breeders use their own noncompliance to argue that the new ordinance would be unenforceable -- another repetitive theme in the hearings.
“When I hear that, I want to scream -- and I‘m supposed to sit up there with my mouth shut . . .” says Kathy Riordan. “If police officers couldn’t respond to a number of armed-robbery calls, would we now say, because it‘s unenforceable, that should be legal? We do want to enforce it. I believe we won’t have a problem enforcing it, but in the event that we do, we will work that out and fine-tune it. But that‘s not a good enough reason not to have it in place.”
Knapp says the fee will be enforceable with the help of 10 to 15 new animal-control officers he expects to have on board by March. But his approach is more complex than that. “What I want to do is take these mobile spayneuter clinics into the challenge areas, provide free spayneuter, but also blanket the area with education and use enforcement for the most egregious cases.”
He explains how he would, neighborhood by neighborhood, make the services available. “Then,” he adds, “if you have somebody in the neighborhood that’s breeding pit-bull puppies for sale for 50 bucks a pop -- those are the ones who you know aren‘t interested in spayneuter, so you say, ’Okay, we‘ve got a law. You have to comply.’”