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Council Declares West Hollywood a 'Cruelty Free Zone' for Animals


Animal control officers say there are several species of wild critters that from time to time encroach on West Hollywood. Coyotes, skunks, foxes--all have been spotted in the city.

And although the Los Angeles Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals occasionally has to relocate a raccoon that has cleared out an ornamental fish pond, nobody recalls ever having seen a vicious, steel-jawed leg trap, which is used to capture and kill an animal, in West Hollywood.

Even so, the West Hollywood City Council last summer approved a resolution declaring the city a "Cruelty Free Zone." It also banned the use of animals in non-medical testing, as well as the steel-jawed trap, which holds the prey until it dies of thirst or starvation.

City Councilman Paul Koretz, who authored the resolution making West Hollywood the first Cruelty Free Zone in the state, admits there are probably no traps or non-medical testing in the city and concedes that the action was largely symbolic.

But Koretz, who was honored Tuesday by a coalition of national animal rights groups at a press conference complete with displays and products, said he hopes the city's stand will be a beacon for other cities on an emerging social concern.

"Of course, neither of the specific practices we singled out is done here at the source," Koretz said in an interview. "But we have been so out front on human rights, there is no reason we should not with animal rights."

At the ceremony, national animal rights activists and a Hollywood celebrity refused to minimize the significance of West Hollywood's stand on cruelty.

The crowd of about 80 animal rights advocates, who had demonstrated on Santa Monica Boulevard with signs and enlarged photographs of animals used in testing, cheered the news that the City Council had sent a letter to state lawmakers urging them to pass a pending bill that would outlaw two such testing procedures.

Chris DeRose, president and founder of Last Chance for Animals, cited as an example of unnecessary experimentation the Draize Eye Irritancy Test in which rabbits are restrained and household products are sprayed into their eyes to see test for damage.

"We can choose insensitivity and torture, or we can choose compassion," said Holly Hazard, the Washington, D.C.-based executive director of the Doris Day Animal League. "We hope (West Hollywood) can take its decision on to the Statehouse."

Actress Rue McClanahan of television's "Golden Girls" presented plaques to city officials and to West Hollywood resident Sonndra May, whom Koretz credits with getting him to think about animal rights in the city.

Koretz insists the sentiment behind the resolution is real.

"We are on the receiving end--we are heavy cosmetics users and many stores sell fur coats. Rather than stopping West Hollywood residents from buying these products, we are going after companies that employ abusive practices," Koretz said.

To illustrate that products can be made without unnecessary animal testing, the Committee for a Cruelty Free California delivered a truckload of "humane" products to be used in city social service programs. Products from such companies as Paul Mitchell, Redken Laboratories and Knudsen Juices are manufactured "cruelty free."

Animal rights groups, such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Last Chance for Animals, also distributed leaflets listing companies that do not conduct experiments on animals and passed out information claiming that animal testing is inaccurate and can lead to human safety problems.

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