Open LA County Animal Shelters
Rescuers, animal shelter volunteers, and celebrity activists speak out against the public access restrictions at the LA County Animal Care Centers
Aug 2, 2021, Los Angeles – Priscilla Presley, Kim Basinger, Alison Eastwood, Katherine Heigl, and a chorus of rescuers, animal shelter volunteers and activists, have expressed their concerns regarding the LA County Department of Animal Care and Control’s restrictions on the public's access to their animal shelter network.
The restrictions, which fall under the “managed intake” policy adopted by the LA County Department of Animal Care and Control in March 2020 following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, revolve around an appointment booking system which must be utilized by owners surrendering their pets, and by members of the public adopting and recovering lost pets, alike.
There have reportedly been complaints prompted by a petition from animal rescuer Ted Trentman, which garnered almost 5,000 signatures, that the appointment booking system is resulting in delays to adoptions, with days passing between an appointment request to meet an adoptable pet, and the appointment coming to fruition.
Don Belton, Public Information Officer for the LA County Department of Animal Care and Control, explained via email to Ted; “Although we implemented this system to ensure public safety and social distancing, we have learned in the past year that the appointment-based system benefits the animals in our care." Belton went on to explain how, "our staff experience the calm in our animal care centers, with animals able to take naps and relax throughout the day." He also noted that, "all of our animals are listed and posted on our website, available for viewing and inquiry by the public."
In response to the continued restrictions, on Saturday, July 27, a group of rescuers, former and current LA County animal shelter volunteers, and animal rights activists, gathered at Baldwin Park Animal Care Center to share their concerns about the perceived barriers to adoptions resulting from the appointment booking system. Key concerns expressed by the group, included that the shelter staff do not have time to provide any individualized enrichment or attention to the animals besides cleaning the kennels/cages and feeding them; nor the time and resources that nonprofits and others do to take quality photographs and videos in order to promote the animals for adoption.
Priscilla Presley, who attempted to speak on the issue to the LA County Board of Supervisors at the July 27 Board meeting, however was denied the time to do so, explains; “It doesn’t allow families to walk through to evaluate and compare animals to determine which pet is their best fit." In addition, "LA County should want more, not less timely public access to [your] facilities."
Stephanie Broviak, a former Baldwin Park Animal Care Center volunteer for 7 years, also attempted to express her concerns to the Board to no avail due to the imposed time restrictions for public comment; “I have seen cats rub the bars of their cages, dogs run circles in their kennels, and bunnies run around their hutches before poking their noses through the bars with excitement." Her statement continues, "Without this interaction the animals not only go through the fear of being at a shelter, but they also become depressed in a lonely confused mindset as the hope in their eyes dies."
Katherine Heigl made a statement on social media on behalf of the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation on the public access restrictions, expressing; “Shelters are funded by the public and their tax dollars. We, as taxpayers, who pay for the shelters and their employees, have a right to see what takes place there and to physically be able to see all of the animals during normal working hours.” She elaborates; “The primary purpose of our shelters, the reason for their existence, is to find homes for the animals that are sheltered there. It is not to make things as easy as possible for the employees and staff.”
Kim Basinger also voiced her concerns on challenges faced by the homeless pets via social media, noting they have been "Wanted during COVID, dumped after COVID by selfish humans. LA County shelters STILL closed to the public."
On July 13, LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn commissioned a “report back” from the Department of Animal Care and Control on the appointment booking system, requesting that “the Department should evaluate the changes it implemented to ensure that the ongoing needs of animals and the public are met.”
Issued to the Board on July 26, the report explained the Department’s proposed enhancements to the appointment booking and adoption process. However, full open public access to the shelters is not planned for reinstatement. Alison Eastwood, President of the Eastwood Ranch Foundation, shared; "While we appreciate the enhancements, they do not go far enough in allowing full access to the homeless pets to the public and the rescue community. The Department of Animal Care and Control are making assumptions about how the animals feel about lesser interactions with the public, but the message from the rescue community is clear; we wish to restore full, open access to view and interact with the adoptable pets. The appointment booking system for adoptions and surrenders can coexist with this."
Laura Jones, CEO of animal welfare organization All About the Animals, stated; “While the measures to restrict public and animal shelter staff interaction during the COVID-19 pandemic were understandable on a temporary basis, I do not feel that it is justifiable to continue restricting access to the public and the rescue community on a permanent basis. Potential adopters should be able to view multiple pets in person at will before choosing an animal to book an appointment to adopt. The community should be able to walk through the shelter at will and look for their lost pet. The rescue community should be able to video and photograph the shelter pets at will to promote them for adoption. It’s not acceptable for the homeless animals to suffer with a lack of human interaction, and potentially face euthanasia, due to this continued policy barring full public access to the shelters.”
Furthermore, the Department is not accepting public applications to volunteer at the LA County Animal Care Centers at this time. Jones states; “This, together with a lack of existing volunteers at a number of the shelters, compounds the issue of the lack of enrichment for the homeless pets while they await their fate at the LA County shelters.”
Interviews with Priscilla Presley, Kim Basinger, Alison Eastwood, Stephanie Broviak and Laura Jones can be requested by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 949 316 7111; or by contacting:
o: 310.454.3080 m: 928.713.6286