I have received many phone calls and emails about the new General Manager of Los Angeles Animal Services, Ms. Brenda Barnette. She seems like a very nice person with an impressive background in shelter management. She's had successes she can be proud of. I wish Ms. Barnette good luck. I am hopeful and delighted at the support from so many of my friends in the animal protection movement.
But we have questions. We must not jump up and down yet just because someone gingerly disgorges the words "no kill." It is our obligation to be skeptical in the interest of the animals we protect.
We are deeply concerned about Brenda Barnette's connection to the AKC, an organization that has profited from large volume breeding facilities and smaller substandard breeding operations that violate the Animal Welfare Act. In my opinion, and I speak for many, it is incongruous for an animal welfare professional to be affiliated with that organization--a notorious organization that enjoys unjustified and undeserved non-profit status while profiting from the misery of breeding dogs. Our investigators have observed AKC reps shaking hands at the puppy mill auctions where old breeding stock is sold for $5 and young "producers" are sold to live out their lives in wire prisons. We've investigated many, many substandard commercial breeding facilities that sell AKC registerable puppies.
The AKC enjoys the undeserved reputation of being the most established of the breed registries but in the animal protection movement, we know that the AKC is not an unimpeachable source of goodness. It's our job to know better than the general public, who buys the notion that the AKC cares about dogs. The AKC has a dirty little secret that is glaringly apparent to us: puppy mills. It's their "bred and butter." We want to know how an AKC "legislative liaison" past or present, could ever be considered for the LAAS job.
We know AKC whistle blowers, ex-inspectors, who have exposed what a sham that org is. CAPS worked closely with AKC informants while they were still employed, and their information was used in exposés by ABC’s “20/20” and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Why is Ms. Barnette associated with the AKC? I want to know. We need a factual explanation that is not propagandistic. And how does she excuse the AKC anti animal protection agenda? She is affiliated with them right now. She is on the AKC website as a "club contact" and "legislative liaison."
See link below:
The AKC is at war with the animal protection movement, relentlessly spinning the PR machine to its advantage while obfuscating the facts. As evidenced in their public IRS returns, which we have examined closely, the AKC spends resources it makes off the backs of breeding dogs to fight animal protection legislation in every state. The AKC is squarely in the business of protecting commercial breeders from legislation that might hinder their ability to do business as they please--while breeding stock suffer endlessly.
Ms. Barnette was reported to be against anti-puppy mill legislation in the state of Washington. See link below:
Was she? We want to know.
If she was, as the West Coast Director of the Companion Animal Protection Society, I have a problem with that. Our organization promotes caps on the number of dogs a commercial breeder should be allowed to exploit, with good reason.
And there are more questions: Is Ms. Barnett a pet overpopulation denier? If Ms. Barnette thought that overpopulation was a myth, as the Nathan Winograd disciples and backyard and commercial breeders insist, she is about to dive into a bottomless pit of pit-bull carcasses, where her beliefs will have to be re-examined. The breeders aren't going to help her adopt out all the Chihuahuas either.
In LA, we've got breeders galore-- licensed ones and many, many more unlicensed ones. Pups are sold out of boxes in every parking lot. Intact dogs, all of them. "To think I'm a breeder is a little bit of a stretch" Barnette tells the L.A Times, explaining vaguely how she hasn't bred her Portuguese Water dog in "a long time." Isn't that like being just "a little bit pregnant?" Well, how long has it been, exactly? And is the dog now sterilized? And how many other dogs has she bred? How many times? Has she ever sold a dog? If she has, how many? And why is she minimizing such pertinent information? The vagueness of her statements up to now makes the investigator in me itch.
Clearly, the idea of profit from inbreeding, which is what "The Fancy" is guilty of, is entirely incompatible with the task that lies ahead for Ms. Barnette. Quite simply, if she was, is or will be breeding dogs, how can she be given the highest position of convincing the citizens of our city to spay and neuter their dogs? Wouldn't that be hypocritical? We are in need of a GM who believes in spay/neuter in her own backyard as well as for the rest of us.
Before we roll out the red carpet, Ms. Barnette needs to fully explain her connection to this pernicious corporation (AKC) to the animal protection community. We want to understand better her philosophy regarding the business of breeding. It is, after all, unfettered breeding that is causing our crisis here in our city. This is why educated lawmakers have passed progressive legislation here regarding spay/neuter. Does she agree with the decision to quell pet overpopulation through legislation? Or is she out to prove us wrong? In her capacity as GM of LAAS, she will be in a position to control the message--and the numbers. That's why we want to know more about her before we open our arms and throw confetti. From experience, we are fearful. Many lives are at stake.
Maybe she can turn things around and surprise us. I'm rooting for her success, I really am. But right now, if she is an AKC apologist and a "sometime breeder," her reasoning is going to be challenged. Her Facebook page indicates her favorite pass-time as "Dog Shows." Collectively, we raise our eyebrows at that. I would have preferred golf or tennis because those pass-times, at least, have more in common with animal protection than dog shows. Barnette's favorite pass-time invites us to make the argument that her choice is equivalent to the picking of a new Environmental Protection Agency chief who enjoys Nascar as a favorite pass-time on his Facebook page. If her ideas are compatible with the "Fancy," as the dog show peeps call themselves, she is entering the gates of hell. There ain't nothing fancy at Barkenwald, which is what we call LAAS, with death camp gallows humor.
Finally, any "liaison" to the AKC is questionable to me. I wish Ms. Barnette well, as this is a thankless job. Let's hope she can save some lives. One thing is certain: it's hard to fight an overpopulation crisis if you think it doesn't exist.
What DOES she think? The dogs (and cats) are dying to know.
Carole Raphaelle Davis, West Coast Director, Companion Animal Protection Society