Culver City News
January 3, 2008
Death of Puppy Sparks Investigation
by Gary Walker
A 10-month-old mixed breed female puppy that died in a county animal shelter in Carson was reportedly transported there from Culver City, the News has learned.
The puppy's death has led to an investigation by Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke after two animal rescuers joined an animal rights organization in filing a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Department of animal Care and Control on Dec. 21.
Zephyr, a female puppy, reportedly was picked up from the 6300 block of Green Valley Circle in Culver City in October and taken to the shelter, where she was scheduled to be adopted soon after. She was found dead at the shelter by an animal rescue worker on Dec. 5 due to exposure from cold weather.
Abandoned pets and animals from Culver City are taken to the Carson shelter.
The county received a barrage of e-mails - several from Culver City - after the news of the puppy's death spread, and that prompted Burke to request the county's chief executive officer and director of animal control and care at the Dec. 18 board of supervisors meeting to report back on the results of the investigation at the first meeting of 2008, which will be held on Tuesday.
"While the exact cause of death has not been substantiated, allegations have been made by advocacy groups in the media about inadequate shelter and treatment, calling into question the overall condition of county shelters and the protocols to ensure that the animals that are brought in receive quality care," Burke, whose district encompasses both Carson and Culver City, stated in her motion.
Deborah Weinrauch, president of the Culver City Friends of the Animals, has visited the Carson shelter many times and is appalled at the conditions there and the news that the puppy had died. "Our organization is outraged by Zephyr's death," she replied when asked her organization's response upon learning of tragedy. "We are outraged any time that something like this happens to an animal."
Weinrauch and her supporters have advocated for an animal control officer in Culver City, and she believes that what happened to Zephyr could have been averted had there been an officer in Culver City. According to Weinrauch, the puppy was about to be adopted when she died in the county shelter. "She was left on the floor to die a slow, horrible death," said the organization's president.
The City Council has repeatedly rejected the group's pleas to hire an animal control officer as many other South Bay and Westside cities have done. The council has cited fiscal restraints as the primary reason for choosing not to honor the organization's requests.
Burke toured the facility shortly after the discovery orf Zephyr's death and subsequently called for an investigation of the facility.
The Department of Animal Care & Control was recently granted $5 million for capital improvements at the Carson, Baldwin Park and Lancaster shelters for new medical treatment and surgery wards. However, an in-depth analysis of the Carson facility's infrastructure and personnel is necessary to ensure that the highest quality of service is being delivered, says the supervisor.
The No Kill Advocacy Center, a San Qlemente based nonprofit corporation, is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The organization describes itself in court papers as being "dedicated to saving the lives of millions of abandoned, lost, neglected and abused animals that find their way into the nation's animal shelters every year." Two rescue workers, Cathy Nguyen and Rebecca Arvizu, are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
The legal action, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Dec. 21, names Los Angeles County, the Department of Animal Care and Control and its director, Marcia Mayeda, as defendants and asks that the court order the county animal control department and Mayeda to comply with state laws that protect animals from arbitrary and inhumane. treatment.
"The Los Angeles County animal control system is supposed to provide a reasonable safety net for the care of lost and abandoned animals," said Nathan J. Winograd, the executive director of the No Kill Advocacy Center. "Instead, the system betrays the trust of the citizens of Los Angeles County by failing to treat animals humanely and kindly."
The lawsuit also alleges that the county has retaliated against rescue workers who publicize unlawful treatment of animals at county facilities. The lawsuit accuses Mayeda of indefinitely suspending the volunteer status of Janet Taylor, Nguyen's rescue partner, and refusing to release any animals to either rescue worker in their capacity as volunteers for nonprofit animal rescue groups willing to care for those animals or as members of the public, among other allegations.
Weinrauch said that the animal shelter in West Los Angeles is a much better facility than the Carson shelter, and Culver City should consider using other animal facilities, as other Westside municipalities are considering. "Culver City taxpayers are paying for these services already through county taxes," she noted. "The City Council heeds to realize that, and realize that we need an animal control officer here in Culver City.
"This is about public health and safety," Weinrauch continued. "Our organization will continue to fight to get an animal control officer in Culver City."
Calls to the Carson shelter were not returned as the News went to press.