LA’s Animal Control Gone Wild

by Mary Haight on July 1, 2009

I got a really interesting comment today from a reader on an old story I did on LA’s Animal Services (LAAS) Ed Boks forced resignation.  The comment moves the story forward and sheds light on how legislation, unfiled court pleadings, and politics can coalesce to ensure that an innocent dog is killed with no due process or recourse, in direct contravention of the law. Apparently, LA’s Animal Services has gone wild.  An object lesson on how you never want your city’s animal care services to operate.

A dog named Stu has been kept from his owner at Animal Services for more than 4 years after biting the owner’s assistant in the arm while she wasstu_-_impound trying to harness the dog after he had his ear torn by another dog.  There is nothing unusual about a dog in pain biting someone.  Ask every vet tech and vet you meet.  Three weeks later, the assistant sues for $6 Million (really?).  The dog’s case circumvents the legal process to adjudicate “dangerous dog” designation, and is simply branded “dangerous.” From all reports, politics between agencies appeared to be involved. Stu had no bite history, and has not bit anyone since. 

Well-known dog behaviorists, Dr. Richard Polsky, who worked with the City to write standards for assessing dangerous dogs; and Bobby Dorofshar of New Leash on Life, who has also worked in this regard with the City, have both stated that Stu is not aggressive toward humans.  Their opinions are based on behavioral evaluations, assessments of his behavior prior to the incident, and understanding the circumstances under which the bite occurred.  In Dorofshar’s case, he has voluntarily housed Stu at his own facility and has had the opportunity to get to know Stu over many months. The temperament expert who helped formulate the “dangerous dog” guidelines said Stu was not dangerous, and not aggressive.  And as Serrena, who tipped us to this story, states: “…despite his owner’s best efforts, the best efforts of the Commissioners on the Board of LA Animal Services, and the best efforts of 1000’s of private citizens, he is scheduled to be euthanized July 23, 2009.”  So what is it going to take to inject some sanity into this perversion of the legal system?  Are there no leaders in LA with a modicum of common sense?

Several Animal Services Commissioners themselves believe there are too many discrepancies in this case and that Stu is innocent of the dangerous dog charge and should go home.  Commissioner Archie Quincey stated in a meeting June 22,  “I’ve been over this case backwards and forwards,” beginning with how Stu initially came to be in custody in 2005.  The dog was kept in a locked kennel found to have been tampered with.  Allegedly found by an unidentified private citizen and brought into a City shelter, Quincey questioned the circumstances of the dog’s appearance in City custody, “I don’t see a report.  Who picked up the dog?  That’s a big discrepancy.”

Quincey also stated that since the single biting episode occurred inside a private residence, it was “not a violation of the municipal code.  There’s no way that dog could have been impounded [by Animal Services].”

Stu has had his life stolen, slowly, separated from those who love him. And now, after 4 years of that cruelty, now, they decide to kill him. Stu’s owner, Jeff de la Rosa, has had his funds drained and his emotions laid raw, fighting to get his dog home.  It appears LA Animal Services and other responsible government bodies refuse to admit and rectify a mistake.  Will it take a pardon from the Governor to allow this dog to live out the few years he has left with de la Rosa?  Is there no leadership in the City Council or the Mayor’s office that will review all the facts of the case and give back to this dog what little is left of his life? Remarkably, the City Attorney will not drop the case.

While cities resent “outsiders” interfering in their political battles, often when this kind of news hits a national chord they are forced to look at themselves through someone else’s eyes.  Sometimes they duly note the grave error of their ways.  Let’s hope this is one case where common sense, egged on by outside polite but insistent interference, will rule the day.  LA City Attorney’s office at: (213) 978-8100.  Mayor’s Office: (213) 978-0600.  This could happen anywhere.

There’s more to the story at the LA Daily, and don’t miss the first comment by Marie Atake, a former Commissioner who quit because of this case.  She also has a blog, where more points of contact are available. Thanks also to Kate Woodviolet, Pet Rescue Examiner, for her coverage on this topic.


  1. […] With thanks to Kate Woodviolet, LA Pet Rescue Examiner, for her detailed coverage of this story.  Related article: LA’s Animal Control Gone Wild […]

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