Mayor Villaraigosa of Los Angeles and the Truth about Cats and Dogs
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Mayor Villaraigosa of Los Angeles and the Truth about Cats and Dogs
By Charlotte Laws

The earth is starting to tremble in the Los Angeles animal community because Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has refused to honor his January 2005 campaign promise to fire the General Manager of Los Angeles Animal Services Guerdon Stuckey, and this broken promise has drawn attention to a potential scandal involving a loss of $1.1 million to the city over the next three years. Even fiscally responsible Angelenos who don't care about cats and dogs can be officially outraged.

Animal advocates might have let the mayor out of the doghouse on his pledge if Stuckey had reformed the department, fostered relationships with the community and saved animal lives. But according to an October 27, 2005 L.A. CityBeat article, a poorly negotiated contract by Stuckey for a spay-neuter van "may have robbed the city of half its needed spay-neuter services" and will endanger animal lives.

Due to a shortage of van operating hours combined with the high spay-neuter quota, anesthetized animals will have to be whipped on and off the operating table at great risk to their health. The District Attorney has been asked to investigate.

Many animal community moderates--such as the dignified and caring former L.A. Animal Commissioner Erika Brunson--who were originally unwilling to jump on the clamorous "we want Stuckey fired" bandwagon, are now steering their own wagons through the streets picking up angry passers-by, such as the fiscally responsible crowd.

The "Reasons to fire Stuckey Email Series" has been circulating for months. Reason number 61 warns the Democratic mayor--who may hope to land in the Governor's office someday—that animal advocates will begin cc'ing the California Republican Party with their complaints. Villaraigosa could be one misstep away from tarnishing his dapper suit with controversies much like those that haunted the Hahn administration.

The mayor says he has decided not to fire Stuckey at this time because the Animal Liberation Front (ALF)—a "direct action" animal rights group that has not injured a human or animal since its inception in 1972–recently planted a smoke bomb at Stuckey's apartment building, making him look like a victim. He says he will not fire an employee who is being threatened or vandalized.

It is understandable that the mayor would want to protect city workers. But in an attempt to be tough on crime, Villaraigosa is being weak on his convictions. If he truly believes Stuckey should be fired, why is he allowing himself to be controlled by the Los Angeles ALF?

If Villaraigosa intends to be a strong leader, he must do what he feels to be right, despite the acts of a few on the "fringe." Democratic leaders did not turn away from unions, in spite of the fact that there were 2193 incidents of union violence against people and property in this country between 1991 and 2001, including those related to bombings, shootings and near fatal injuries.

Republicans did not become pro-choice after doctors who performed abortion operations were killed. According to the National Abortion Federation, there have been 13,256 "incidents" against abortion clinics or doctors since 1977, including seven murders, 17 attempted murders, three kidnappings, and 41 bombings. The pro-life movement remains firm in its beliefs.

Despite media hype that makes it seem scary, the ALF's credo prohibits injury to humans and animals. The ALF recently took credit for sending cabs, pizzas and prostitutes to the home of an unsuspecting animal services veterinarian. Although one may disapprove of these tactics, they resemble high school pranks more than crimes.

Villaraigosa's new "ALF policy" is good news for those city employees who fear job termination. Anyone whose porch falls victim to a puff of smoke cannot be fired. At-risk employees who fail to command the attention of the ALF might be tempted to place a suspicious package on their own doorstep.

The City Council has become so concerned about the ALF and the L.A. protest group called the Animal Defense League that it has approved a plan which provides taxpayer dollars for surveillance equipment at the private homes of animal services employees. With high tech cameras, these workers can weed out door-to-door salesmen and pesky in-laws—again on the taxpayer's dime--under the pretense that the big bad wolf, also known as the animal activist, might show up with a feral cat flyer, order them a fake cab or protest on the sidewalk with a sign. Although city workers have a right to feel safe, this measure amounts to another questionable use of limited resources for a city that had 31,000 violent crimes last year.

The mayor continues to react to the "ALF threat." He recently removed Erika Brunson from the Los Angeles Animal Commission and replaced her with surveillance expert Glenn S. Brown. The Commission, which is endorsed by the humane community, provides a compassionate and intelligent voice for the powerless victims of our public shelters: the animals The current commissioners—except for Mr. Brown--may not be experts on installing cameras to detect fake pizza deliveries, but they are experts on how to combat the violence perpetrated against the dogs, cats and other animals that we have a responsibility to protect.

If Mayor Villaraigosa fails to honor his promise to fire Mr. Stuckey and to hire a compassionate and experienced General Manager who can implement a no-kill plan and reform the department, he may find that the animal community is politically-speaking, more bite than bark. A decision to retain Stuckey is likely to become a permanent smudge on Villaraigosa's finely tailored lapel.

The animal community expects the mayor to do the right thing. But in case he doesn't, they have forwarded this article to the Republican Party.

______________________

Charlotte Laws, Ph.D. is a member of the Greater Valley Glen Council and is the president of the League for Earth and Animal Protection (LEAP). Her websites are www.CharlotteLaws.org and www.LEAPnonprofit.org 

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