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L.A. animal shelters to keep nighttime staffing for now

Postponement of plan to cut the graveyard shift at six city-operated shelters comes a day after activists and shelter workers held a vigil to protest the proposed staffing change.

March 23, 2013|By Catherine Saillant, Los Angeles Times
  • A pair of Chihuahuas check out a visitor at the South L.A. Animal Shelter. Work schedules at city shelters won't change, at least for now, after animal activists and union workers protested a plan to eliminate overnight staffing.
A pair of Chihuahuas check out a visitor at the South L.A. Animal Shelter.… (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 eliminate overnight staffing.

Brenda Barnette, general manager of Animal Services, has 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 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 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 abandoning 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 a shelter.

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

Councilman Paul Koretz introduced a motion asking Barnette to explain her proposal to the city's Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee. He called it "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," Zine said. "Shutting down the night shift, I believe, is just wrong."

catherine.saillant@latimes.com

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