Friday, September 17, 2010

CityWatchLA - Rosendahl Dog Motion Sparks Howls of Discontent

CityWatch, Sept 17, 2010
Vol 8 Issue 74

Councilman Bill Rosendahl has introduced a motion in City Council that would increase the animal limit per residential property in the City of Los Angeles to 5 dogs and 5 cats. This simple motion has brought out the best in people and the worst in people, giving credence to the axiom, "There are no bad pets, just bad owners!"

Supporters of the motion argue that at its simplest, the increase in the legal number of pets per household would result in an $800,000 increase in revenue for the City of Los Angeles. Of course, this number might be swiftly consumed by mediators if the ensuing battle over the motion doesn't calm down.

Opponents to the motion contend that in densely populated communities, such as Echo Park or the Downtown loft environment, an increase in the already large number of animals would contribute to a public health and public safety crisis. Anecdotal examples are offered of pet "hoarders" and pit bull breeding mills.

Lola McKnight, Director of the Shelter Animal Advocacy Fund, points out that the beneficiaries of the motion are 1) the animals in the shelters that would have more adoption options 2) homeowners with space and finances for more pets 3) animal rescue services that need more foster homes 4) animal shelters who can place more animals and free up resources.

McKnight contends that those who would not benefit from the motion include 1) breeders who would still be operating illegally 2) dog fighters who would still be operating illegally 3) animal hoarders who would still be suffering from an illness and acting illegally.

Jose Sigala, President of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council, argues that his community is "very supportive of pets for families, however, to allow five dogs and five cats per resident or even per property will create an increase in barking and fighting, and waste that may not be properly removed daily. This will cause odor and could result in epidemics of disease in a community where animals may not be regularly vaccinated and many are not licensed."

Sigala called on the City Council to reject the motion increasing the limit saying "adding more animals to our pet population when we do not have adequate control of existing pets could create unsafe conditions for the animals and our residents."

Through it all, there are some who contend that the debate over a limit of three vs. a limit of five is a distraction and that the real issue is the management of the Animal Services Department so that the people of Los Angeles can move from a complaint driven to a standards driven approach to incorporating LA's best friends into the community.

Proponents of a larger discussion point to cities such as San Diego and San Francisco, arguing that simple restrictions on the number of animals per household do little if anything to alleviate feral populations or the unnecessary euthanasia of companion animals in shelters.

James Clarke, Executive Director of the Apartment Association Greater Los Angeles, wants no part of it, pointing out "Housing providers (apartment owners) invest large amounts of money in the economy of Los Angeles and are dedicated to quality living conditions for tenants. There is very real and valid concern that allowing five dogs and five cats in all adjacent residential properties will cause even further impediments to meeting this goal and will create conditions that cannot be rectified expediently through the City process."

Brenda F. Barnette, General Manager of Animal Services, expresses optimism that the City Council and the people of LA will be able to craft model legislation that will be good for the animals and good for the people. Barnette said "At the Los Angeles Animal Care Centers we take seriously our responsibility to create a safe community for our two and our four legged citizens. Our job is protecting life and providing love. Let’s work together." (See GM Barnette’s complete letter)

Rosendahl's motion has stirred a literal hornet's nest of passionate debate, perhaps because this topic has been ignored for so long. Regardless of the outcome, Barnette's call "work together" is certainly a great place to start and a worthy accomplishment in and of itself.

(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: Disclosure: Box is also a candidate for 4th District Councilman.)

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