Culver City Observer
August 11 - 17, 2005
By Sue Chehrenegar
At Monday night's Council meeting more than 20 members of the audience wore tags bearing the slogan "Friends of Culver City Animals." The "Friends" counted among their membership both new and long-time Culver City residents. Their organization appeared to include members of many different age groups, and their supporters represented many different ethnicities.
Their diversity underscored the breadth of the City's community of animal lovers. Some of the voices of those tag wearers spoke up during the first of the agenda's public comment sections.
The first comment addressed the issue that had brought the large audience - the City's decision to use contracted animal control services. Deborah Weinrauch and two other "Friends" detailed the results of their own investigation into ways that the City could correct the absence of a City animal control officer. Ms. Weinrauch made reference to the willingness of one agency to donate a truck for use by such an officer. She also said, "There is an animal shelter in Los Angeles that is interested in relocation to Culver City."
Ms. Weinrauch returned to the podium when the Council took-up Action Item A-3, a consideration of removal of the City's contract with L.A. County Animal Control and Canvassing Programs. She made reference to her earlier appearance on June 13. Alluding to others who had shared her views on that evening, she said, "Many of our speakers expressed concerns about health and safety issues."
Ms. Weinrauch had some questions for the Council. She asked, "How much would it cost Culver City to hire our own control officer?" Then speaking for many of the "Friends," she said, "Our resident dog owners need to know why they are paying for dog licenses." Finally, showing that she had done her home work, she said, "A dog control program would cost less than 0.1 % of our [City's] annual budget."
Jay McDaniel came to the podium with more information about the needs of all the "Friends." He said, "Animal control is control of all animals, not just dogs. Who benefits from animal control?" Mr. McDaniel answered his own question by offering a long list of animal control services including animal vaccinations, pet store inspections, resolution of accidents caused by animals and control of abandoned animals. He concluded by saying, "Residents of Culver City will benefit from local control".
Two younger City residents emphasized a problem that seemed to catch the attention of Alan Corlin. A small girl named Terri spoke about making daily trips to Carson to inquire about a lost cat. She recounted how she had gotten conflicting information from the workers at the Carson facility. She complained about having to wait in a long line, and about later discovering that the answer she sought had escaped notice of the Carson employee charged with entering information into the computer database.
Another young girl, Yvonne, echoed many of Terri's complaints. She had encountered problems while searching for a dog that had disappeared. The appearance of both girls stood out, because each made an excellent presentation, while a parent watched proudly in the background.
Following the public comments CAO Jerry Fulwood said, ''The issue of animal control surfaced about a year ago." After providing some figures to underline the extent of the problem, Mr. Fulwood said, "We need to look at ways that we can work with the community. We have a very difficult budget to balance this year."
Steve Rose said, "Adding a program is always a difficult issue...To have a proper animal control program, it'll take four to five employees to make it a 24-hour program."
Carol Gross had similar thoughts. "I think Mr. Rose has been reading my notes," she said.."There could be dogs loose from outside our City; they don't recognize the City boundaries. It would be very nice if we could have our own shelter ...Right now we have not been able to restore some of the services that were cut."
Gary Silbiger added another thought. "When we talk about animal control officers.. it is one of safety and control," he said.."Of the 8 cities surveyed, six of eight have their own program."
Silbiger moved that Culver City hire its own animal control officer.
Corlin asked the representatives from the County to come to the podium. Then Mr. Corlin asked the County employee to respond to the problems detailed in the public comments. The County representative said, "I'm not aware of these problems."
Corlin said, "That's your answer?!" Corlin then tried to get other information from the County employee. He said, "We asked for a separate line. Perhaps you could give us information on that."
The County representative said, ''The staff who are answering the phones have other duties."
Corlin asked, 'What is a reasonable number of rings that I should get?"
The answer: "All calls should be answered within a minute."
Corlin: "What percent of time is related to animals other than canine?"
The answer: :We take care of dead animals and animals other than canine."
Corlin: "Right now it's a quarter to nine. How many officers are on duty?"
The answer:: "two people."
Corlin: "And 12 hours from now, how many people?"
The answer: "five or six."
Corlin then said, "Someone should call a shelter closer than you are." He went on to present his suggestions. First he said, ''The path into trouble is not necessarily the same path out of trouble." Then he addressed the Staff and said, ''There's a 45 day grace period if we want to break this contract, is that correct?"
A member of City staff said, "Actually it's 90 days."
Corlin said, "I would hope that Culver City is not the lone island of this complaint.. Contact those cities close to us. Let's find out if we can get the dogs impounded dropped-off somewhere other than Carson. When a dog is picked-up, it should be inputted in the computer. I move that we go ahead with the contract, but arrange for licensed dogs to be closer for a pick-up. Mandate canvassing in Culver City."
Carol Gross said that she was willing to second Corlin's motion, if it also recognized the CAO's suggestion that City staff look at ways to work with the community. Corlin agreed to amend his motion to include that suggestion.
Corlin said, "I want our staff to interact with the County."
Silbiger said, "We want to resolve this as quickly as possible."
Corlin said, "I want to address the individual problems that people have."
Mayor Vera, finally provided an opportunity to speak, said, "Most of the things you want to say, they said already. I want staff to go ahead and give us reports and also to work with a committee."
Rose, speaking to the CAO asked, "When is the next COG meeting?" Mr. Fulwood said, "The 29th.
Then the Mayor addressed the audience, specifically the "Friends," and I said, "This Council will get back to you."
All five Council members voted in favor of the motion made by Corlin. The Council had thus reached a decision on the item that had been the focus of the first public comments.