Brenda Barnette: L.A. Animal Shelter Giveaway to Best Friends a Gift of Public Funds?

On August 4, 2011, Los Angeles Police Department officers conducted an unannounced early-morning weapons raid on all six L.A. City animal shelters, initiated by Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette, who sent a note with the police telling her employees, “Please give LAPD any and all hand guns, rifles, shotguns and ammunition that are at your shelter.”

Was this shocking LAPD removal of all LAAS’ weapons just an “inventory,” as Ms. Barnette later told reporters in the resulting media frenzy? Or was it a ploy by Barnette to erode public and officials’ confidence in LAAS employees and cover up her own inability to effectively manage this City department?

Impounds are at “record rates” according to Barnette—who has not promoted the City’s spay/neuter laws or licensing. Euthanasia rates are climbing. Ms. Barnette admitted at the last Commission meeting that she now must euthanize for time and space. Adoptions are plummeting. One Councilman recently stated that all he saw at the prestigious West Valley shelter were pit bulls when he went to adopt a dog. And, it is almost impossible to search for a lost dog on Barnette’s new LAAS website,

Barnette Backs Off

At 2:30 a.m. on August 5, less than 24 hours after the police “raid,” Ms. Barnette posted an employee bulletin regarding her afternoon meeting with SEIU union and City personnel officials. “They ask [sic] me to make it clear to everyone that this is an inventory and not an investigation..If there are deficiencies, they will be deemed the fault of management and we will work to make any necessary correction.”

Was “Weapons Raid” A Smokescreen To Cover Best Friends’ Takeover?

Was this full-blown “weapons raid” also a smokescreen to divert taxpayers' attention from the City’s proposed rent-free/utilities-paid, three-year gift of use of the $19-million bond-funded Northeast Valley shelter as a private adoption center by Best Friends Animal Society--an organization with which Barnette has had a long association, and an item scheduled for City Council vote on August 12 and continued to August 16?’

While Animal Services officers struggled to minimize the suffering of severely injured wildlife without the firearms required for humane field euthanasia, Best Friends—which reported a 2009 income of $51 million--held an August 6 event in West Hollywood for “No More Homeless Pets.” GM Barnette and Animal Services Commissioner Terri Macellaro are listed on the Steering Committee, along with others who testified for this proposal at the August 12 meeting.

The invitation was sent to a select group of L.A. animal-rescuers and proclaims, “We have come together to give you funding incentives…” Reportedly this includes $100 per animal a rescuer takes from an L.A. City shelter and adopts to a home, above the rescuer's prior-year adoption total.

Then on August 10 a Best Friends’ e-mail was sent, entitled, “Contact your city council member and ask them to support Best Friends.” It reads, “Please take a moment to contact your city council member and ask him or her to support Best Friends’ proposal to operate the North East Valley shelter…”

Why Would Barnette Want to Give Away Our Shelter?

At the August 12 hearing, the City Council considered the Best Friends takeover of the Northeast Valley shelter to create an adoption center for about 50 of the most desirable pets selected from other City animal shelters. The Council wanted to postpone the item to September. Ms. Barnette told them that without Best Friends, animals will die. She estimated in a “the-sky-is-falling” presentation that at least 240 animals would be euthanized during a 30-day continuation of this item.

She failed to mention that up to 15,000 animals, or about 50% of the impounds per year which overcrowd the East and West Valley shelters, are from the Northeast Valley service area. This expedites euthanasia of thousands of animals because of limited shelter capacity. These pets could be held longer and have a much better chance for adoption if the Northeast Valley shelter is opened by the City even at reduced hours.

This is not necessarily just an animal issue; it is a management issue. Giving away a shelter will only make it worse. Moving the most desirable pets to the proposed Best Friends adoption center will discourage adopters from visiting their local shelter.

Barnette also ignored that the Northeast Valley shelter was constructed with equine and livestock-keeping capabilities specifically to meet the needs of a uniquely rural area. These facilities were intentionally NOT incorporated into the East or West Valley shelters construction, because these shelters were never intended to operate without each other.

The Northeast Valley animal shelter has the potential to hold up to 900 animals of all species. It serves a large low-income area with a huge and dangerous problem created by stray and packing dogs, especially pit bulls. Increased animal control in the community and a closer location for relinquishments, stray-animal acceptance and redemption of lost pets is critical to residents and animals.

Why Is Northeast Valley Being Treated Differently?

The Northeast Valley should NOT be treated differently from any other area of Los Angeles. Much of its population is hard-working, lower-income families who do not have the time nor resources to attend meetings and organizing efforts to save their shelter. They should not be punished for this. NO other area of the City faces a give-away of its animal shelter.

The limited adoptions and education programs proposed by Best Friends Animal Society do NOT constitute the full public services badly needed and provide NO additional animal control field services to this under-served community which is, and will continue, paying its share of the Prop. F $154 milllion, bonded indebtedness for many years.

Gift of Public Funds?

In the opinion of an increasing number of Los Angeles taxpayers, the proposed contract with Best Friends Animal Sanctuary constitutes a gift of public funds and possibly indicates that Proposition F was a misrepresentation to the voters.

The 2000 Prop. F. Ballot clearly states: “The number of animal shelters—6 for the entire City—does not meet the health care requirements set by the State.”

If this is not true--if the Northeast Valley shelter, which is shelter #7-- is NOT needed to meet State health requirements by housing stray animals from that community, then the $19 million paid by property owners for this shelter should be refunded.


A member of the legal community questioned whether this is a misrepresentation of law or a misuse of resources by the City—or both.

Keeping Our Shelter

Because at least 50% (about 15,000 per year) of the animals at the East and West Valley shelters come from the service area of the Northeast Valley, opening this shelter at least four days a week would decrease the need for staffing and resources at both those shelters and also reduce their budgets. The combined savings, plus an effective licensing program, would support services at the Northeast shelter (both dogs and horses are licensed by LA City.)

By equitably dividing shelter budgets, the Northeast Valley shelter could enable thousands of animals to be saved by a longer hold period, rather than being euthanized for time and space.

Hopefully, the Los Angeles City Council has the clarity to see through the media drama and remember that Los Angeles MUST provide ALL care needed and promised for homeless animals.

And, hopefully, more Los Angeles City and Valley residents will contact their representatives by August 16, 2011, and demand what they are paying for.

Animal care and control by the City is not an option but a State mandate. We must pick up stray animals and provide rabies control. This is a core service!

L.A. Animals Services' staff has continued to provide these core services through disasters, budget cuts, activist attacks and a series of incompetent managers.

Brenda Barnette was hired to run all the City shelters, including the Northeast Valley. It appears she is not considering options to fulfill her employment obligation.

Why is Barnette so determined to give away our shelter to Best Friends?

Best Friends should run the shelter as an open admission No Kill shelter, thereby taking all the animals intended for that shelter. This would benefit LA the most by taking the load off the other shelters and by creating a No Kill shelter that hopefully, the other LA shelters would be able to follow once the burden has been lifted off them. This plan will save more animals and taxpayers money.

Yep, Kevan, let's stack 'em and crate 'em. Let's let them die of neglect and overcrowding, so typical of "No Kill". Do your research to see how many failures this movement has. Many more failures than successes I assure you. Here's a blog that exposes this movement. It ain't the way you think. The path to reach a GOAL of no kill can either create more unnecessary suffering or help the animals. Be careful of which path you take.

Please Best Friends. We want your help. But with this very important change.

The current Best Friends proposal has some really terrific and needed ideas but has a fundamental flaw. Best Friends plans to take over the Northeast Valley shelter. That is alienating and turning people against Best Friends because:
• Taxpayers just paid $19,000,000 to build that shelter. People are angry that Best Friends now wants to take their shelter.
• The Northeast Valley area needs an animal shelter. It includes large very low income areas that produce a lot of homeless animals.
• Without the Northeast Valley shelter, the two other valley shelters (mostly East Valley) are severely overcrowded and the other LAAS shelters have to kill about 5,000 more animals a year to make space for the Northeast Valley animals. That's an undeniable fact that Barnette and Best Friends are not mentioning.
• Best Friends will grossly underutilize the Northeast Valley shelter. It proposes to house only an average of 50 animals at a time in a shelter built to hold holds many hundreds at a time and at least 6,000 a year.
• The point isn't whether it was ever open as an animal shelter. The point is that it is the taxpayers' shelter. They bought and paid for it. They need it open. Just like the rest of the city has their area shelters.

Best Friends wants to operate a $19,000,000 shelter as another adoption agency. That isn't what we need. And that is so beneath Best Friends' enormous abilities.
• L.A. already has humane (and some that aren't so humane) organizations running adoption agencies for public shelters. There's nothing new about that concept.
• Best Friends should be a leader. It is too good to be just another wheel in something already invented long ago.
• People have a bad taste from adoption agencies that cherry pick to make themselves look good meanwhile the public shelter loses too many cherry picked animals and the public shelters stop having adopters come in.
• Best Friends should be doing something to motivate more people to go into all seven LAAS shelters. Not just carve out one shelter for itself and cannibalize the others.

Come on Best Friends. You have so much to offer. Do something big. Do something new. Do something we WANT and NEED. Not this idea that has already turned people against you. Please.

The mystery emailer sent an idea and there is one in it that is ideal. Please do parts of your proposal that do not involve taking the Northeast Valley shelter.
• You offered to operate the spay/neuter clinic at the Northeast Valley shelter. How great that would be. The area needs it so much, and you know how. Ideal.
• You offered to do public outreach and education. How great that would be. The area and all of LAAS needs that so much. This is your greatest expertise. Ideal.

Please Best Friends do those. We need those. LAAS does not do them. You can do them. This is where you excel. This is where LAAS needs you, very much. There has not been one complaint about these parts of your proposal. Only joy about these parts.

But your plan to take over the shelter and turn it into an adoption agency you run, no that won't work. But there is a better way, that will be better for the LAAS animals and that you can use to spread your ideas to help animals all around! (And earn yourself well-deserved recognition if you do this.)

Best Friends, you can assist the shelter and its staff instead of trying to take over. If you want to really make an impact, then don't take the shelter away, but rather HELP LAAS become the best shelter in the country. Best Friends, if anyone knows how to organize and how to promote animals, it is you. TEACH LAAS how to do that itself, show us all, test ideas with us, refine with us, find the best models for what is most in need, the city's and the country's public open admission shelters.

You will find wide open arms for this. Help Brenda Barnette figure out how to get all seven shelters open so they can all operate with LAAS staff (not hard). Do it first at the Northeast Valley shelter where your spay/neuter clinic will be and where the community has not had an real effort made in this regard. Bring your great Best Friends ideas and do you mobile adoptions and outreach with LAAS volunteers and staff. Then spread to all of LAAS' shelters. Show LAAS how to do outreach, encourage adoptions and spay/neuter, to change minds in favor of kindness to animals and responsible animal care.

Then you can use LAAS' turnaround from its current badly failing shelter system with euthanasia rushing to the top, and turn it into the very best shelter ever, anywhere. Then take those strategies and publicize them, so other shelters in the country can learn too, and they can get better too.

Do it this way Best Friends, and you can make a wide and lasting impact for the better of animals not just in LA but everywhere. Publicize your techniques and strategies so other public shelters sparkle with ideas and compassion. You won't just save LA animals. You can change the model and save more animals everywhere.

That's a choice for you Best Friends. Take the LA shelter away and be just another limited admission adoption agency, something we know is not that hard to do (and that will upset taxpayers). Or do the desperately needed transformative work WITH LAAS staff and LAAS volunteers and show how to make LAAS' PUBLIC OPEN ADMISSION SHELTERS top-notch to save more animals. We don't need another cherry picking adoption agency. We need nitty gritty creative help with our LAAS open admission shelters, help no one has done anywhere. This is help you Best Friends can provide. You have the expertise. This is help we all want. This is something no one can argue about. Leave - leave the shelters to LAAS taxpayers and please help us make them all better. No one has done this before. You will be the first and the leader. With your spay/neuter clinic operation, public outreach and bringing your creativity to LAAS public shelters, you will do something enormously significant that everyone knows we all need, and that everyone WANTS. Give us the change we need. Public open admission shelters everywhere will benefit enormously. Please Best Friends. Help us with the help we NEED.

Thank you Best Friends for considering this important alternative.

Plea, you have some good points. Only problem is you think that Best F(r)iends is in this to help animals, they aren't. They are in this to increase their donor base. They don't care about the animals or they would already be doing what you suggest. Here's an interesting website you could learn a little more about this cultist group.

Employees tell the real tale of Best Fiends.

Supporting Best Friends means supporting no-kill. Supporting no-kill means supporting 'slow-kill' (animals languishing in cages, desperation in finding homes for cats so much so that adoption fees are no longer charged and animals go to not-so-well screened owners who can't afford to care for the animals so they just wind up back in the shelters or on the streets from where they were 'rescued', and lots of TNR - can't have no-kill without having TNR).

What is TNR? A program of animal cruelty spread as the gospel according to Winograd. You know TNR is not for feral cats anymore, right? Any friendly cat can be TNR'd. Just look at the new, handy 22 page Feral Freedom guide on BF's website - available for any town, USA. Now, any cat on the streets, feral or friendly, can be trapped, desexed, and stuck right back outside and fed forever, even if friendly, even if the people nearby don't want the cat (or dozens of cats) around.

Why give a shelter as a gift to a group that is so disrespectful to the wildlife that cats kill and doesn't give a hoot about the rights of property owners?

Thanks, RealDeal, your comment fits your handle perfectly. Visit this website to see the horrors of this TN and Abandon movement.

Supporting Best F(r)iends also means supporting a cultist group where their founders still are drawing money from marketing. All this is is a ploy to get more donors, taking away donors from our local non profits. You don't think this is to save animals, do you? Absolutely not, BF is donor driven and that is the essence of these moves, to collect names, addresses and donations. This will hurt our local non profits but BF doesn't care, they just want the money.

F(r)iends and Barnette don't care about what happens to the animals once they are outta sight therefore no screening. And that's why we have so many feral cat colonies, feed stations that attract owned cats, and other animals. TNR is nothing more than outside hoarding. If you truly love cats and want to help them, stop being lazy, bring those cats inside and work with them. They are domestics gone wild and they can become tame again. These cats have already been abandoned once, then along comes these so called rescues and they abandon them once again. Talk about inhumanity, talk about cruelty, yes, that is what you talk about when you talk TNR.

This is so incredible!! And not in a good way. Breeder Barnette is not a manager, she wasn't in Seattle, and certainly is not here in LA.

Her employees, the ones she hired, not fired, have spoken about her lack of management skills.
""SHS employees report overcrowding in isolation areas is a real problem due to disease prevention not being a concern of management. Staff has issue with improper housing and ventilation where sick animals are housed especially when the shelter is over capacity. SHS just recently recovered from a bad strain of Calici Virus affecting at least 22 cats. Improper quarantine and willful disregard for Veterinary protocol combined with adverse recommendations from management is of grave concern to SHS staff.""

Obviously Breeder Barnette doesn't care about overcrowding the other shelters, she never cared in Seattle and she doesn't care here in LA. Barnette worked for Best F(r)iends, no wonder she wants to give a shelter to them as payback. Besides, her tenure in LA is going to be short anyway so this is a good way to ensure her job security with a new job at Best F(r)iends.

Tell this woman where to get off, LA City Council, and run her outta town. Too much damage already, cut your losses and "get rid of" her.

Isn't there something about separation of church and state? Then how can this be justified as a separation, looks like LA City is giving the shelter to this church, is that legal?