The Front Page Online
Letters to the Editor
Oct. 21, 2008
From Greg Smith
‘Correcting’ Weissman and Netzel: He Says the Animal Control Officer Groundwork Has Been Done Re: "A Laundry List of 28 Requirements Before a Culver City Animal Control Officer Is in Place," and "Backers of Animal Services Officer Have Not Made Any Progress, Weissman Says," both from Oct. 16.
Let me try to answers some of the questions that City Councilman Andy Weissman and activist Chip Netzel have about the Animal Services Officer for Culver City.
First of all, Mr. Weissman’s assessment of this large group of Culver City residents as aggressive and enthusiastic is very accurate. I have to disagree with Mr. Weissman that this group dropped the ball by not having a comprehensive blueprint and they haven’t done anything.
The citizens of Culver City are not expected to complete detailed reports for services that they are requesting for the taxes they pay. It is the City Council’s responsibility to direct city staff to complete these detailed blueprints for any city service. That is what they are paid to do. This group came to the city about four years ago with a very comprehensive survey that they compiled from cities with Animal Control Officers in Los Angeles County and the costs associated with these programs. This project was assigned to a member of City Manager Jerry Fulwood’s staff, and with the help of this group she completed a very comprehensive and complete report.
I worked with her on this project, and I completed a complete report on the Police Dept.’s role and all costs associated with an Animal Control Officer program. Our research showed that most cities in Los Angeles have their own animal control program, and the majority of these programs are run by the police departments or city code enforcement offices. Very few maintain their own shelters. Most agencies utilize the County’s animal shelter for dropoff.
I believe the completed reports answer Mr. Netzel’s very complete list of questions about the program with a few exceptions. As to the question of who will handle animal control calls when the animal control officer is not on duty, the answer to that question is, the same people who have done it for the past 32 years that I am aware of, the Culver City police officer on the street.
Contrary to what a lot of people believe, Los Angeles County Animal Control handles very few calls in the city. It is Culver City police officers who handle your barking dog complaints, dog bite reports, vicious animals, dead animals. The citizens of Culver City get very little followup by L. A. County on Animal Control complaints in the city. This is why most cities have their own Animal Control program. The training costs are very minimal for a program like this. Police departments are geared for this type of in-house training.
We also have access to numerous local police agencies that have similar programs and will assist with training needs at no cost. Also, community service officers and parking enforcement officers can be trained in-house to perform these animal control functions. The equipment that will be purchased for this program will not only be utilized by the Animal control officer but by all Culver City personnel in animal control situations. Officers will no longer have to find a piece of rope a belt or use their firearm to control a vicious animal. Or find a piece of cardboard to push a dead animal out of the roadway until L. A. County comes by to pick it up. This should also help with the cities possible exposure to liability. As any city that has an animal control program will tell you, it is not a revenue generating program. It is a taxpayer-provided service. From what I can recall of the report I assisted with three years ago, $129,000 is a reasonable figure for the first year. The Red Light Traffic program contract and the large executive raises that were given out two years ago are not revenue-generating programs.
So what aggressive and enthusiastic taxpayer groups are pushing these programs completed the blueprint for fiscal responsibility. Mr. Weissman is new to the Council, but he has been around long enough to know that if the program goes a little over budget, it can be funded like the other General Fund accounts that exceed their budget. Over-inflated costs are placed in certain line items of the General Fund budget each year in order to fund programs that staff knows will exceed their budgets.
It’s very clean. No need to revisit the budget for an amendment, and no four/fifths vote should be needed.