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Mayor Appoints New Head of Animal Services Dept.

Maryland official will manage L.A. agency that has often been a target for activists.

September 28, 2004|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn announced Monday that he has appointed a new general manager to head the city's besieged animal services department.

Guerdon H. Stuckey, the director of neighborhood and community services for Rockville, Md., replaces Jerry Greenwalt, who retired in the spring amid an intense campaign by animal rights activists that included demonstrations at his home to protest conditions in the city's shelters.

Some animal rights activists, who have also staged protests outside the mayor's San Pedro home, immediately assailed the mayor's choice of Stuckey because he does not have a background in animal services. Besides working in neighborhood services, Stuckey was an assistant to the president of the Urban League in Charlotte, N.C.

"I just don't understand why Hahn refuses to do what is best for the animals and best for the city of Los Angeles," complained Pamelyn Ferdin, co-founder of the Animal Defense League's Los Angeles chapter.

In a statement, Hahn said that Stuckey's "credentials and skills are exactly what the department needs to get itself back on track ... especially his experience in turning around troubled city departments."

Hahn chose Stuckey from candidates recommended by a panel of experts headed by Madeline Bernstein, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "With Guerdon Stuckey's wide range of expertise and passion for the position, I am confident that he is the right person," she said in a statement provided by the mayor's office.

Stuckey will be responsible for overseeing the city's six animal shelters and about 250 employees, who handle about 60,000 dogs, cats, lizards, skunks, rabbits and other animals each year. Stuckey is also charged with reforming the department to meet the mayor's goal of ending the killing of all adoptable animals by 2008.

In an interview, Stuckey said he is excited about the job and plans to work with city officials and outside groups to improve the city's shelter system and find a way to stop killing adoptable animals.

In 2002, the city euthanized more than 34,000 animals.

Addressing the protests that have plagued the animal services department, Stuckey said he has never worked in a situation "like what has been described to me in Los Angeles," but said he was determined to improve things.

Activists said they are willing to give him a chance.

"Let us hope he is interested in working with the humane community," said Michael Bell, who heads the Coalition for a Humane Los Angeles and works as a voice artist for "Rugrats." "If not, it's going to be the same old, same old from both sides."

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