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
The notion that four animal-control officers could make a dent in freewheeling Los Angeles is questionable, but Alarcon insists he has an answer: an advisory committee of 15 volunteers who will oversee the administration of the ordinance. After a year, the committee will be disbanded, leaving the job to the Animal Services Department.
There's no evidence that the volunteer group will make any difference, however, and critics fear that with the city's extremely poor enforcement record, the ordinance could actually buoy shelter numbers and increase the number of dogs and cats euthanized.
"The bottom rung of the people affected by this are people who can't afford it," says Pamelyn Ferdin, a spokesperson for the Animal Defense League. "They will end up dumping the animals back at the pound."
The animal-rights movement is filled with emotionalism and friction, but its leaders appear to agree that Alarcon was making a showy act of appeasement, largely intended to assuage the activists' anger over Villaraigosa's hiring of Ed Boks to run the city's shelters.
Michael Bell, president of Citizens for a Humane Los Angeles, was a Villaraigosa supporter when he ran for mayor, donating thousands to his campaign and introducing him to other supporters. In 2005, Bell's organization, along with the Rescue and Humane Alliance of Los Angeles, hosted a convention at which Villaraigosa pledged to eliminate pet euthanasia in L.A.
Now, Bell says, "The [Animal Services Department] ... has been turned into a killing field by a lousy manager [Boks] and a mayor that doesn't care."
Boks was hired to assuage angry animal-rights groups who called for the firing of former Manager Guerdon Stuckey. Boks has earned some support, but holds what has become a thankless government post. He drew the ire of many activists after they learned Boks had been fired as an animal-services manager in Maricopa County, Arizona, and as animal-services director in New York City.
When he chose Boks, Villaraigosa stated, "Ed is committed to my goals of making L.A. a more animal-friendly city, increasing adoption and spay/neuter, reducing euthanasia." But now, Ed Muzika, who once supported Boks, publishes a full-time Boks-bashing site, laanimalwatch.blogspot.com. He accuses Boks of allowing cats and dogs to die of natural causes to keep down euthanasia numbers — not an illegal practice, but one that animal-rights groups oppose. Muzika says, "He's likable, but he's a liar."
In recent weeks and months, emboldened Animal Defense League protesters wearing facial bandannas have protested against Boks outside the homes of Villaraigosa's Chief of Staff Robin Kramer, Deputy Mayor Jimmy Blackman, and Villaraigosa's sister Deborah Villar.
Some City Hall observers say it is obvious that unnerved elected officials passed an ordinance that echoes the failed spay-or-pay ordinance of 2000: A law with few teeth is now added to a law with little bite.