Kevin James is a Candidate for Mayor of Los Angeles
As the proud guardian of a rescued Dachshund named Lisa-Marie, I have taken an active and vocal role supporting animals for many years. Lisa-Marie's previous guardian dropped her off at a Bakersfield shelter with serious injuries to her head and mouth. Therefore, she was considered a "special needs" rescue. After a few trips to the vet, plus lots of TLC at home, she has been in excellent health for five years now. I feel lucky that I have often been able to bring her to work with me.
I went through the dog adoption process to obtain Lisa-Marie on-the-air on my KABC radio show. A listener from Thousand Oaks put me in touch with the Dachshund rescue center where I adopted Lisa-Marie. Pets have shared my home my entire life. Lisa-Marie is a very special dog - she seems to have figured out that she's got a pretty good gig.
My record working in the community to help animals in Los Angeles dates back many years when I worked with the PAWS/LA program at AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA). I served on the all-volunteer board of APLA from 1995 through 2000, and was a volunteer with APLA dating back to the late 1980s. PAWS/ LA was founded in the late 80s in response to the companion animal related crises faced by LA residents who were financially and physically debilitated by HIV/AIDS and who needed assistance in keeping and caring for their pets. The program recognizes the value of the loving bond between people and their companion animals, and seeks to preserve that bond. The program has now expanded its scope to assist any low-income individual living with a chronic or life-threatening illness who needs assistance with their pet.
As my broadcast career grew in Los Angeles, I used my radio show to raise public awareness of animal issues. I assisted in the pet adoption process by featuring pets that were in need of a home. I also hosted radio segments featuring many non-profit humane organizations working on the pet rescue, adoption and care industry in Los Angeles, including Operation Blankets of Love.
I also used my radio show to assist volunteers seeking to raise money to pay for uniforms for the city's Reserve Animal Control Officers (RACO). RACO officers are volunteer animal control officers that work with the city's full-time animal control officers. Because of city budget cuts, Los Angeles shockingly only has one or two animal control officers on duty on any given night.
During the 2009 Station Fire, I used my radio show to inform the equestrian community of immediate shelter locations to protect their horses. Also, the city must be prepared to address other critical issues facing the equestrian community (e.g., Building and Safety issues on barns and corrals).
I have already voiced my opposition to the use of bull hooks on elephants in our city, and my support of the city ordinance precluding the use of such bull hooks.
My work within Los Angeles on animal issues over the past two decades has prepared me to meet the many challenges the city's Animal Services department (LAAS) currently faces.
There are several issues facing LAAS that I will make a priority as Mayor.
First, LAAS must implement a genuine "no-kill" plan to bring down the killing of animals in our shelters. This is an important humane goal on which almost everyone agrees. Reportedly the recent "No-Kill December" relied heavily on transports and was not "no-kill" at all. We must be honest with Angelenos about the numbers.
Second, LAAS must work harder to reduce the number of homeless animals. With fewer homeless animals, the shelter intake numbers will be reduced. Lower shelter intake obviously results in lower LAAS costs, and less killing. Emphasis should be placed on animals at highest risk: Pit Bulls, Chihuahuas and cats.
Third, LAAS must increase adoptions to the public. This saves animals' lives, and with animals leaving the shelters, LAAS costs go down. LAAS must also develop strategies to help owners keep their companion animals. Educating the public about the wonderful animals for adoption in LAAS shelters is a big part of increasing adoptions, as are more strategic marketing and better customer service. Deep discount adoptions often result in returns, so public education is key in avoiding this problem. Positions supporting New Hope Partners and volunteers should be restored.
Fourth, LAAS must restore spay/neuter as a top priority and enforce the city's ordinances. This is a key remedy to the high number of impounds, high kill rates and high LAAS costs. Enforcement of the city's ordinances will bring revenue which can then be used to provide greater access to more affordable more spay and neuter services.
Fifth, LAAS must work to solve the animal services challenges rather than relying so much on transports. Transported animals are reported to the public as "live release" when in fact many of the animals are simply being moved from LAAS shelter cages to other shelter cages. The actual outcomes of the transported animals are not known. Transports save lives, but such heavy reliance on transports should not enable LAAS to postpone solving its own problems.
Sixth, LAAS must enforce the city's animal license law. This is a significant revenue generator for the city. Conservative estimates put the number of dogs in the city at 750,000, yet only one out of six is licensed. At $20 per license, the unlicensed 625,000 dogs would bring in at least $12.5 million in revenue each year. Having a consistent working knowledge of our dog population through licensing is also a public safety benefit, and an effective licensing program will increase spay/neuter through the license fee structure. Furthermore, animal license fees should not be cost prohibitive.
Seventh, LAAS must enforce anti-cruelty laws which includes working with law enforcement and the offices of the City Attorney and District Attorney. This is a serious humane issue as cruelty, hoarding, tethering, and neglect cannot be tolerated. Many animal advocates are concerned that LAAS has no real anti-cruelty plan in place.
Eighth, LAAS must continue to strengthen and expand its outreach and education. Effective public outreach and education strategies will increase shelter adoptions, increase owner responsibility and owner retention, and bring in new volunteers, fosters, rescuers and community resources. Outreach and volunteer recruitment should be open to all segments of our diverse population. An emphasis needs to be placed on helping the public solve animal issues.
Ninth, LAAS must do a better job at accountability. LAAS leadership should be accountable for achieving real results. The public deserves transparency. Better decisions are made with complete information. There are numerous opportunities to partner with non-profit organizations, private companies and foundations that can all provide much-needed financial resources to the department. However, to be successful in such partnerships, LAAS must operate efficiently and effectively and be responsive to the requirements of these organizations as well as to the public at large.
Tenth, LAAS must demonstrate that it respects appreciates and supports its volunteers and each of the individuals and groups working hard to help companion animals, wildlife and other animals. LAAS cannot succeed without their dedicated life-saving assistance.
Finally, I am also concerned that our city does not have a comprehensive disaster plan for animals. Our city's emergency preparedness plan needs to include shelters that allow animals when a family or individual is forced to seek shelter assistance because of an emergency or tragedy. Time and time again we have seen individuals or families refuse to go to a shelter if the shelter will not allow their pets. Pets are part of the family and our city government should recognize this fact when planning for emergencies.