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New staffing plan for L.A. animal shelters stalls after protests

March 22, 2013|By Catherine Saillant | This post has been corrected. See the note below for details
  • Dogs await adoption at the South L.A. Animal Shelter. Overnight hours at L.A.'s shelters may be eliminated.
Dogs await adoption at the South L.A. Animal Shelter. Overnight hours at… (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles…)

Work schedules at Los Angeles city animal shelters won't change, at least for now, after animal activists and union workers protested a plan to eliminated overnight staffing.

Brenda Barnette, general manager of Animal Services, announced she will delay a plan to cut the graveyard shift at six shelters operated by the city. The move, which could affect as many as 22 animal shelter workers, will be reviewed during an April 8 town hall meeting, Barnette said in a letter released Thursday.

The postponement came a day after community activists and shelter workers held a vigil to protest the proposed staffing change. Under Barnette's plan, the nighttime workers would be reassigned to day and swing-time shifts.

A security guard would be posted at the shelters from midnight to 6 a.m., at a cost of $256,000, she said. Changes are necessary because the agency doesn't have enough staffing to cover six shelters around the clock, Barnette said.

Budget cuts have reduced the number of shelter workers from 179 in 2006 to 140 today. At the same time, more people are abandoing pets, she said.

Jacob Miller, who works graveyard at the East Valley Animal Shelter, said he is worried that people will "ditch" newborn kittens at the door of a shelter. 

"Kitten season is coming up. These animals are going to be cold and will probably pass away,'' Miller said, who went on to ask City Council members to put pressure on Barnette to change course.

Councilman Pauk Koretz introduced a motion asking Barnette to explain her proposal to the city's Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee. He called her proposal "dramatic" and said that it should have been vetted by the committee before being presented to shelter workers.

Councilman Dennis Zine, who is running for City Controller, said Barnette needs "to explain what she's doing and why she's doing it."

Labor representatives and animal activists welcomed the delay.

"These dogs, these cats, they need us to be their voice,'' said Damon Andres of Dr. Doghouse, a pet rescue group. "Shutting down the night shift, I believe, is just wrong."

[For the Record, 3:49 PST: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote to Councilman Dennis Zine. The quote, "These dogs, these cats, they need us to be their voice. Shutting down the night shift, I believe, is just wrong," was made by Damon Andres of Dr. Doghouse rescue group, not Zine.]

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Twitter: @csaillant2

catherine.saillant@latimes.com

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