Letters, articles, and editorials from the Daily Breeze (www.DailyBreeze.com)
October 4, 2006: Play With Misty for Him, by Doug Irving
October 16, 2005: Letters to the Editor: Animal hoarding leads to abuses, By Lindsay Pollard-Post
October 15, 2005: Pigeon man returns to find only one of his pets left; Torrance man returned Friday from a forced psychological evaluation after officials euthanized some of the 340 pigeons found at his home. By Larry Altman
October 14, 2005: Torrance spares man's favorite pigeon for now, By Doug Irving
October 13, 2005: Self-styled pigeon pal is arrested, By Larry Altman
February 5, 2004: Miami Mice in pursuit of renegade animals, By Doug Irving
February 5, 2004: Letters to the Editor: Feral cat removal a waste of money (written by Jacqueline Sherman)
July 24, 2003: Local News: Compassion in the classroom, By Renee Moilanen
July 11, 2003: Local News: Long-awaited Torrance animal control office opening, By Jasmine Lee
March 27, 2003: Local News: Torrance spares animal control, By Jasmine Lee
March 23, 2003 Breeze Editorial: Torrance faces hard budget choices
March 20, 2003 Letters to the Editor: Donít delay on animal control (written by Stephanie Terronez)
March 13, 2003: Tell Us: Marsh becoming pet dumping area
March 4, 2003 Letters to the Editor: Donít delay on animal control (written by Jan Sand)
February 23, 2003 Letters to the Editor: Deferring animal control sensible
February 5, 2003 Letters to the Editor: Stop stalling on animal control
January 24, 2003 Local animal control is at risk, By Jasmine Lee
June 19, 2002 Local News Animal control service gets OK, By Jasmine Lee
June 13, 2002 Local News Torrance animal control decision delayed, By Jasmine Lee
June 11, 2002 Breeze Editorial: Act now on animal control
June 11, 2002 Letters to the Editor: Decision day for animal control
June 9, 2002 Letters to the Editor: City barking down wrong path
June 8, 2002 Local News Animal control surfaces as issue, By Jasmine Lee
June 7, 2002 Letters to the Editor: Keep promise on animal control
June 5, 2002 Letters to the Editor: Take next step on animal control
June 2, 2002 Letters to the Editor: Crack down on squirrel trapping
May 28, 2002 Local News Dispute is tough nut to crack, By Jasmine Lee
May 2, 2002 Local News Hawthorne animal control becomes city-run, By Ian Gregor
April 6, 2002 Local News Torrance animal control plan is pitched, By Jasmine Lee
Play with Misty for Him
A Rancho Palos Verdes woman taking care of a stroke victim's dog goes the extra mile to create a father and son reunion.
By Doug Irving
Michael Gargalis doesn't remember his father walking out on him. It was more like the old man faded away, little by little, until one day there was nobody there at all.
On Tuesday, Michael stood in a Torrance hospital room and introduced his wife to a man he hadn't seen in some 20 years. It had taken a remarkable series of events to reunite father and son, and it all began with a dog named Misty.
Misty is a border collie mix with a plume of a tail and shaggy tufts for ears who no doubt would have preferred to spend Tuesday lounging in her pillowy bed in Pete Gargalis' camper. Pete is a 77-year-old wanderer who makes his home wherever he can park his camper; he's also Michael's father, but that's getting ahead of the story.
Pete is known around Torrance as a man with a kind nature and a big heart for his dog. When he was taken away in an ambulance last week after suffering a stroke, Torrance animal control officers started calling rescue groups to find someone to take care of Misty.
Lynne Amano, a woman with a giggle in her voice and an acre of land in Rancho Palos Verdes, came forward. She keeps goats and chickens, ducks and peacocks on her property; she also founded the Whiskers & Tails Foundation, a rescue group.
She found Misty looking sad and alone in a kennel. That night, she visited Pete in the hospital to let him know she would look after his dog while he recovered. His eyes welled up at the first mention of Misty's name.
Pete had listed no relatives on his hospital paperwork, and he had left the emergency contact line blank. But on Monday evening, over a dinner of rice pilaf and applesauce, he began sharing his past with Lynne. He told her he did have children -- Micky, Franky and Cathy -- but he had left them years ago, when they were still very young. He had lost touch with them as they grew up and moved on with their lives, and he hadn't seen them in years. He'd never even visited their homes.
Lynne went home and logged onto the Internet. She tried searching "Gargalis," but the computer thought she meant Gargoyles. She tried "Peter Gargalis," but found nothing useful. She typed in "Micky Gargalis" and, again, came up empty. She erased Micky and tried Michael.
Michael Gargalis. Canyon Lake, Calif. There was a phone number.
It was getting late, but Lynne dialed the number. A woman answered. Lynne wasn't quite sure what to say, so she started at the beginning. "I'm fostering a dog named Misty," she said. "Misty belongs to Peter Gargalis. Is ... Peter related to you?"
There was a long silence on the other end. And then the woman said yes. Peter was her husband's father.
"You can always tell a man by the way he treats his dog," Lynne remembers telling her. "Your father-in-law is a very gentle man, and he's in the hospital."
And so on Tuesday, Michael Gargalis drove with his wife, Priscilla, from their home in Riverside County to a rehabilitation center in Torrance to meet his father. Michael, now 56, couldn't quite remember the last time he had seen his father, but he thought it was during a family reunion two decades ago.
"Dad's always been kind of a loner," he said. "He liked being by himself. ... He's always been a good person. I don't have bad memories of him.
"He's always had a dog, all his life. Of all the things important in his life, that's probably number one."
Pete Gargalis was working with a physical therapist to raise his arm when his son walked into the room. He smiled.
"He's handsome, just like you," Lynne told him.
Pete nodded in her direction and joked, "What a gal." And then Lynne led Misty out of the room, leaving Pete alone to catch up with his son and daughter-in-law.
Misty flopped down just outside the room and squeezed her eyes shut against the midday sun. Michael came outside, scruffed the fur on her head, and said he was making arrangements to take care of his father.
Lynne held Misty's red leash and beamed. "This is the dog," she said, "that brought us all together."
Animal hoarding leads to abuses
Thank you to animal-control officers for rescuing dozens of severely neglected pigeons from Gerard Redmond Enright Jr.'s home ("Self-styled pigeon pal is arrested in Torrance," Thursday).
Enright appears to be an animal hoarder. While hoarders often begin with good intentions, trying to "save" animals, these situations inevitably become abusive and a threat to human and animal health.
Experts agree that mental health disorders may play a part in hoarding cases. The relapse rate for animal hoarders is near 100 percent, according to Dr. Gail Steketee, a professor at Boston University's School of Social Work. Let's hope Enright is given psychiatric counseling and is banned from owning or harboring animals in the future to prevent a relapse.
We can help prevent hoarding by being attentive neighbors and notifying authorities at the first sign of abuse.
To learn other ways you can help animals, please visit HelpingAnimals.com.
-- LINDSAY POLLARD-POST
Staff Writer, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Norfolk, VA
Pigeon man returns to find only one of his pets left
Torrance man returned Friday from a forced psychological evaluation after officials euthanized some of the 340 pigeons found at his home.
By Larry Altman
Gerard "Red" Enright Jr. nestled Twister against his beard Friday, moments after Torrance officials returned his trusted pigeon to him.
"Gimme a kiss, gimme a kiss," he said, smooching the bird whose neck bends over backward.
The Torrance man had begged animal control officials to spare the pigeon, his personal pet among some 340 pigeons -- dead and alive -- kept at his home.
Enright, 61, again denied Friday that he meant to hurt any of the birds removed from his Via Los Altos house Wednesday. Officials found 220 birds in pet carriers encrusted with bird droppings and put 219 of them to sleep because of malnutrition and illness.
About 120 dead pigeons were found in bags and boxes outside the house, and Enright said more were kept in refrigerators inside, including one next to his bed.
Torrance officials spared Twister after Enright pleaded with them when he bailed out of jail. (He was handcuffed and taken for a psychological evaluation afterward at County Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, and was released a few hours later.)
The bird was kept in quarantine until Friday, when officials released it to Enright.
"Oh God, she's the only one left," Enright said while trying to coax the 4-year-old pigeon from a plastic pet carrier.
Animal control officials, police and supporters looked on as he cupped the animal in his hands and cried.
"They executed them all," he said. "Oh God, they executed them all."
Relieved the bird had not been killed with the others, Enright knelt on the ground outside the police station. He kissed and nuzzled the bird in his beard.
"She's alive," he said to the crowd. "She's alive."
Enright said he had yet to comprehend his loss. For 15 years, he said, he devoted himself to rescuing pigeons from man's ills, including poison and mistreatment. He admitted to operating on some birds, a key reason why animal control officials became concerned at the goings-on in his house.
Only licensed veterinarians can legally do surgery.
People regularly brought birds to him once he gained a reputation as the "pigeon man." An Easy Reader article two years ago declared the attorney a Renaissance man, and soon led residents from as far away as Hollywood to deliver injured birds to him.
But animal control officers and police said the birds were in terrible shape when they served a search warrant Wednesday. Enright's house was deemed so unfit to enter that county health officials closed it down.
Charges are pending, including possible felony counts for the surgery.
Enright said Friday the authorities have it all wrong. Over the years, he had treated some 1,000 birds, most brought to him when veterinarians showed no interest.
"A lot more lived than died," he said. "These little guys I've gotten to know as little beings. Each one has got a personality that's unique."
On Friday, it was difficult for Enright to understand why officials put them to sleep. He said they weren't sick and malnourished because of anything he did. They were ill when they arrived, and he was trying to nurse them back to health.
They should not have been killed, he said.
"If I actually comprehended what they did, I wouldn't have been able to stand here right now," he said.
The dead pigeons that authorities found, he said, were ready for burial or to be sent for testing to see how they died. He just had not taken care of the disposals because he was so busy with the live ones.
Enright said he did find some humor in his plight. His mother, Susie Ann Enright, was instrumental in 1964 in persuading the Torrance City Council to pass an ordinance outlawing anyone from keeping more than four pigeons at home.
Enright's mother wanted the law enacted because nearby coops created dust in the neighborhood. Now her son is a prime violator of the law. (Torrance law today says residents can keep only four pets of any kind without a special permit.)
Enright said he will stay with friends, unsure what to do with his house. He coughed numerous times during an interview, acknowledging that it was a symptom of the dust in his home.
He said he didn't know whether he will rescue pigeons again. For the moment, he can't.
"I love these birds a lot more than many people love their children," he said.
Staff writer Cortney Fielding contributed to this article.
Torrance spares man's favorite pigeon for now
All but one bird of flock taken from self-styled rescuer's home are given lethal injections due to poor health.
By Doug Irving
Veterinarians euthanized more than 200 of the pigeons found living in squalor in a Torrance home earlier this week after deeming them too sick or malnourished to survive.
They spared only one, the favorite of self-styled pigeon rescuer Gerard Redmond Enright Jr. Animal control officers who raided Enright's house found hundreds of pigeons, some already dead. He faces possible charges of cruelty to animals.
Health officials plan to test both the house and some of the birds for any dangerous bacteria or diseases, said Lt. Rod Irvine of the Torrance Police Department. The cages and carriers that officers found stacked in the house were so caked with droppings that a hazardous-waste company was called to dispose of them, he said.
Enright remained free Thursday on $20,000 bail. Boards covered the windows of his house, along with a notice to stay out and a padlock on the front door. A copy of the Los Angeles Pigeon Club News lay on the porch, covered with pigeon feathers.
Enright, a 61-year-old attorney, has compared the birds to a family. He said he had devoted himself to rescuing them, but couldn't find foster homes fast enough.
The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals first asked police to check on Enright and his birds Monday. He had told a PETA member that he was performing surgical operations on some of them, said Stephanie Boyles, a wildlife biologist with the group.
"Some of the things he told us he did to the birds in his care sounded very disturbing to us," she said.
An animal control official from Torrance found Enright conducting surgery on a pigeon when he visited later that day. Enright told the Daily Breeze he had been operating to remove a growth, after numbing the pigeon with a shot of vodka and pain-relief gel.
Police and animal control officers raided the house Wednesday, dressed in protective suits and masks. They said they found pet carriers filled with pigeons even in the bathroom and basement.
They found about 120 dead pigeons in bags and boxes outside the house. They found 220 birds alive, but veterinarians on the scene decided that 219 should be euthanized with lethal injections, Irvine said.
They spared the bird Enright had named Twister after he bailed out of jail, returned to his house and pleaded for her life. He had described her as his "dearest little close friend" and was known to walk her to get coffee.
Twister was in quarantine Thursday, under observation at an undisclosed location for any signs of sickness or poor health.
County health officials declared the house unlawful for habitation. On Thursday, piles of two-month-old newspapers stood on the front porch, along with plastic bins of birdseed and discarded carriers. Black flies circled the porch in small swarms.
Tests of the house and birds will determine whether those who entered the house were exposed to any harmful bacteria, and how extensive the cleanup will be. "At this point, there's no reason to believe there's a risk to the public," Irvine said.
Enright faces possible felony charges of cruelty to animals, and will likely face violations of health and municipal codes, Irvine said. The District Attorney's Office will decide how to charge him after reviewing investigative reports.
Enright appears to have been active among local bird-rescue groups. He had taken the lead in a campaign against the use of a glue-like substance to trap and exterminate pigeons. He was known among friends as Red.
Charlotte Laws met him -- and his bird Twister -- at a meeting in Culver City of an animal-welfare network she had helped found. He gave a short talk on the history of pigeons and said they should be the most revered of birds because of their battlefield heroics as message carriers.
"After he got done speaking, I thought they were very special creatures," Laws said.
Self-styled pigeon pal is arrested in Torrance
Animal control officers raid attorney's residence, where they find hundreds of birds living in conditions that the officers considered unfit.
By Larry Altman
A Torrance attorney who says he has devoted himself to rescuing pigeons was arrested Wednesday after animal control officers raided his house and discovered at least 300 caged birds, both dead and alive, in filthy conditions.
About 120 dead pigeons filled bags and boxes alongside Gerard Redmond Enright Jr.'s house in the 200 block of Via Los Altos. Some others found alive in pet carriers were immediately euthanized because they were sick or malnourished, said Patrick Wren, administrator in charge of Torrance's animal control department.
Some birds were taken to a veterinarian's office, where they also were likely to be put to sleep to prevent illness, Wren said.
"There's droppings everywhere," Wren said. "I'm wearing a mask. That says it all."
County health department officials quickly declared the house unlawful for habitation because of the accumulation of bacteria, including dried bird feces and particulates from feathers.
"We are concerned that the sheer accumulation of birds in a concentrated area makes the area unfit for breathing," said Terrance Powell, a county environmental health official.
Enright, 61, arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty, bailed out of jail by late afternoon. In an interview, he denied mistreating pigeons and said he had devoted his life to saving them.
"I'm literally in shock," Enright said. "They cannot be killing any of my birds. That's like if someone was killing your kids. All my family has feathers."
Animal control and police officers clad in protective plastic suits and masks marveled at the home's interior. Officers said each room -- including the bathroom and basement -- contained beige pet carriers filled with pigeons.
"There are pigeons stacked in pet carriers from the floor to the ceiling," Torrance police Lt. Rod Irvine said.
Pathways less than 2 feet wide allowed movement through the house.
Enright said he took good care of the birds. Wednesday was supposed to be feeding day.
"All these birds in there were doing fine. They were enjoying life," he said. "I'm not trying to collect these birds. The only reason I have so many is I couldn't find homes for them fast enough."
Asked why he did not release them to the wild, he said they were domesticated and would fall prey to hawks.
By midafternoon, officers stacked about 40 pet carriers taken from the living room in the front yard. Wren said work was expected to continue late into the night to remove the rest and take the birds away. "I will be showering very well tonight," he said.
Enright, who said he had 150 carriers in the house, is no secret to the community. Well-known in Riviera Village in Redondo Beach, the man with a long thick beard walks with his pigeon Twister to get coffee at Starbucks. "She's my dearest little close friend," he said.
Police said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal rights organization, contacted Torrance animal control authorities, concerned about Enright's birds.
Wren visited Enright on Monday and found him conducting surgery on a pigeon. Only licensed veterinarians can conduct such procedures.
"It looked like he was trying to do CPR on the bird," Wren said.
Enright said that was exactly what he was doing. He had just conducted a second operation on the bird, which had been brought to him days earlier for treatment of a growth in its stomach.
A woman told him she had taken the bird to three veterinarians, but no one would help it. The growth was slightly smaller than a tennis ball. Enright said he had watched his own veterinarian perform such an operation.
He gave the bird a shot of vodka and used an Exacto knife to cut into it. He also used Anbesol, a numbing agent used for teething babies, as anesthesia.
"I made a gentle cut in the rear abdomen right where the growth was," he said. "It looked like stuff I'd seen before. It looked like old remnants from where several eggs had not ejected. I got out quite a bit of it."
Enright said he let the bird heal for a few days. He was wrapping up a second surgery when Wren arrived at his house Monday.
"Unfortunately, she was too weak to make it," he said. "The poor little thing died in my hand."
Pamela Kahrer, a friend and supporter, arrived at the house concerned about Enright and his birds. She said she found an injured bird in Manhattan Beach on Monday and brought it to him.
"He cares so much for them," she said. "They are his life. I don't understand all this."
Neighbors said they never had been inside the house, despite the fact Enright had lived in it most of his life. Once his parents died, the house's exterior fell into disrepair.
Although his neighbors have lush green lawns, Enright's is dead. Out back, police said, the yard was littered with junked cars and an airplane fuselage.
"He's the eyesore of the neighborhood," one neighbor said.
Thursday, February 05, 2004
'Miami Mice' in pursuit of renegade animals
TORRANCE: Answering the call of dissatisfied animal owners, the city opens an office to deal with dogs, cats, raccoons, bees and more.
By Doug Irving
Publish Date: February 5, 2004
Shayne Brinkerhoff has chased a dog through traffic, freed a raccoon and kept a close eye on a cloud of bees -- all in the past week.
His polished badge says animal control officer, and it's the first of its kind issued by Torrance. The city opened its own animal-control office this week after hearing for years from dissatisfied pet owners.
The office may soon face a bigger challenge than lost dogs. Los Angeles County has talked about closing the nearest animal shelter, in Carson, unless its budget improves.
"We're hopeful that it won't happen," said Kaye Michelson, a spokeswoman with the county's Animal Care and Control Department. "But we have to have a plan."
Torrance spent about $270,000 to start its animal-control office, and expects to spend another $374,000 a year to keep it running. It figures dog-licensing fees will pay for most of the cost, Finance Director Eric Tsao said.
The office is really a modular trailer parked in the northeast corner of Wilson Park. Pictures of dogs playing poker decorate the walls inside.
The animal-control officers -- the city hopes to hire one more -- work for the Police Department but do not carry guns. They rank alongside jailers and traffic officers.
Other police personnel have started calling the new department "Miami Mice."
But Brinkerhoff wears a bulletproof vest and looks as if he could take down a fugitive as easily as he captures runaway dogs. He attended an animal-control school a few years ago and had to wrestle a calf to the ground.
He drives a special truck with six air-conditioned cages in the back, putting about 50 miles on it every day.
In the span of five hours Wednesday, he collected a dead cat and a dead pigeon, returned two dogs to their homes and chased down a Labrador mix that was running through morning traffic. He has written two citations since he officially started work Monday, for an unlicensed dog and a dog off its leash.
"Every time you answer the phone, it's a new experience," said Patrick Wren, who manages the office. "OK, what're we getting into now?"
Brinkerhoff tries to return lost cats and dogs to their owners; but he drives those he can't place to the shelter. For now, that's in Carson.
But under the county animal control department's plan to cut costs, the Carson shelter would be closed and animals caught in the South Bay would be taken to a shelter in Downey. The county hopes that shelter is large enough to absorb the extra animals; the Carson shelter usually houses about 300 cats and dogs, said Lt. Dennis Carter of county animal control.
"We would be hopeful that we wouldn't see any increasing euthanasia," Michelson said.
Torrance's new animal-control office could ease the impact if the shelter closes, Councilman Frank Scotto said. The local officers will spend more time tracking down the owners before taking animals to the shelter -- sparing them the long drive to Downey, he said.
And Scotto raised the possibility of a city-owned animal shelter that would hold dogs and cats in Torrance. That remains only an idea, and many years down the road, he added.
But June Allen, who has pressured the city for more than two years to hire its own animal-control officers, said she plans to keep fighting for a shelter. She volunteers with Friends of Torrance Animals, a community group that has complained about euthanasia at the county shelters.
"I'm just thrilled" about Torrance's animal-control office, she said. "As the saying goes, we have a paw in the door."
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Thursday, February 05, 2004
Letters to the Editor
Feral cat removal a waste of money
Taxpayers do not like to see their hard-earned money wasted! I certainly don't and I don't know of anybody else who wants to see tax dollars squandered on projects that don't fix anything.
Two front-page stories in The Daily Breeze (one on Jan. 24 and one several weeks before) detailed plans for the trapping of feral ("wild") cats in Torrance's Wilson Park and the grounds of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Both articles stated that volunteers at each location had already at their own expense trapped, neutered and released back the inhabitants of both of these colonies of feral cats.
Colonies are stabilized in this manner. Tame cats and kittens young enough to be tamed are removed, and the remaining wild cats "hold down the fort," so to speak, by preventing other animals from moving in. In these two locations, all this was done on volunteer time, with no expense to the city of Torrance (in the case of the park) or the county of Los Angeles (in the case of the hospital).
Now the city of Torrance wants to spend lots of taxpayer dollars to have animal control trap and remove all the cats (leaving, I assume, any skunks, opossums, raccoons, birds, rats and mice). Harbor-UCLA wants to do the same things. People who don't like cats might think this is a good thing. But would they like to pull money out of their own pockets to pay for it?
Well, that's where it comes from! If you ever had to bail a pet out of the county shelter, you know that there's a charge for every animal brought to a shelter. The county will charge the city of Torrance for each feral cat brought in, plus euthanasia fee (to kill it). It's not cheap! Plus, of course, the salary for the animal control officer who is not available to answer real calls for service. Think hundreds of hours of work. It will cost lots of taxpayer dollars.
And for what? The result of removing all those animals: a huge leap in the population of rats and mice, coupled with many unaltered, untested feral cats and other animals moving into the area.
Does anyone really believe that removing a stabilized colony of cats is not going to create a void just waiting to be filled? The South Bay is full of wildlife. Do we have to kill everything that walks (or flies) to be "healthy?" And when people start complaining about the new problems, who's going to have to pay to solve them?
But then it's only tax money! Stop the madness before it goes any further!
-- JACQUELINE SHERMAN
Editor's note: Harbor-UCLA Medical Center officials have suspended efforts to trap feral cats living on the hospital grounds.
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Compassion in the Classroom
TORRANCE: Group will introduce elementary students to animal education
curriculum this fall with help from public.
By Renee Moilanen
Publish Date: July 24, 2003
Joni Gang once asked a group of elementary school children how often dogs
should get fresh water.
"Every month," one replied. A thirsty pet may have cringed at the answer,
but it wasn't a complete surprise to Gang, president of the nonprofit
Friends of Torrance Animals.
"A lot of kids don't know what it takes, because they haven't been
responsible for anyone," Gang said.
That's why Friends of Torrance Animals is introducing a humane education
program in several Torrance schools this fall, hoping to teach respect for
animals, responsible pet ownership and animal safety.
Classrooms that are involved will receive KIND News , a monthly newspaper
with be-kind-to-animals themes, plus other materials, such as State Farm
Insurance's dog bite prevention activity book. Students may play trivia
games, discuss their own animal encounters or have "scavenger hunts" of
words and photos related to animals.Friends of Torrance Animals hopes to
create a comprehensive humane education curriculum, Gang said.
Students and teachers in more than 400 classes have expressed interest in
the program, but for now the organization has committed to eight classrooms
at Adams, Anza and Arnold elementary schools and First Lutheran School.
Friends of Torrance Animals is encouraging people to adopt a classroom for
$33 a year, hoping to raise $15,000 to meet the demand. Friends of Torrance
Animals made a name for itself pushing for a city animal control department,
but now that the city of Torrance is moving ahead with the idea, the
organization can focus on its original mission of community education, Gang
Carol Amin-Smith is looking forward to using KIND News with its colorful
photographs, simple vocabulary and fun activities in her first-grade class
at Anza Elementary.
"We can incorporate reading and writing together with teaching compassion
and humanity," she said. The lessons, Gang said, have relevance beyond the
"If we can teach Johnny to be kind to animals and then tell him Billy is an
animal, too, it encourages kindness toward each other, which helps the kids
and the classroom," she said.
Though the program will start with elementary school classrooms, Gang
envisions one day having humane education in high schools, where the older
students can critically evaluate issues such as animal rights and animal
Using animals is a great way to make learning fun, Amin-Smith agrees.
"They love animals. It's high interest," she said. "It's things they love to
talk about. They all have pets at home."
To adopt a Torrance classroom for the humane education program, send checks
to Friends of Torrance Animals, P.O. Box 10123, Torrance, CA 90505, or call
toll-free at 877-571-4189. The cost of adopting a classroom is $33 per year.
For more information, visit the Web site www.friendsoftorranceanimals.org
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Friday, July 11, 2003
Long-awaited Torrance animal control office opening
TORRANCE: Activists have waited nearly three years for the city to take over
such services from the county.
By Jasmine Lee
Tina Lestelle has waited nearly three years to hear the words "Torrance
Animal Control Office."
That's what Torrance residents will hear when they call the new phone number
for the city-run animal control program - now in development and expected to
be operational by November. It's just a first step. The city has yet to hire
animal control officers or purchase equipment.
And although the new office consists - so far - of only a phone line and
someone to answer calls, it is still cause enough for celebration by
community activists who struggled to persuade city officials to break away
from the county Department of Animal Care and Control and start their own
"I'm really excited," said Lestelle, who is involved in animal rescue
groups. "I think it's going to be great. We need it, we desperately need
The office is now a function of the Torrance Police Department, where it is
operated from the special operations division.
Already, Debra Corwin, who runs an animal rescue group, is working with
police to coordinate rescues. "They've been extremely receptive about it,"
Before this transitional period for animal control services in Torrance, the
city's environmental department acted as a liaison to the county on such
issues, said Lt. Patrick Shortall, a Police Department spokesman.
"People can call police, just like they called environmental in the past,"
Shortall said. "Since the Police Department took over July 1, nothing much
has changed." The big changes will take place in the fall, he said.
The Police Department is testing candidates in a search for two animal
control officers, one of whom also will be a supervisor. The office also
will include an administrative position. Torrance will continue to contract
with the county for after-hours and weekend services and sheltering. The
program is expected to cost $374,000 annually, although the city is expected
to recover most of that through pet license fees.
City Council members approved the program in June 2002, responding to the
grass-roots efforts of Friends of Torrance Animals, which pushed for better
public safety for people and humane conditions for animals. Activists such
as Lestelle and Corwin, led by Friends President Joni Gang, attended council
meetings, conducted research and spread public awareness about animal
Several South Bay cities, including Hawthorne, El Segundo, Redondo Beach and
Lawndale, operate a city-based animal control program.
Lestelle said she would next like to work toward building a city-run animal
shelter, perhaps in cooperation with other South Bay cities.
"I visualize something really positive coming from Torrance," she said. "I
visualize a shelter eventually. . . . I wouldn't be surprised if other
cities might want to join."
Find out more: For animal control issues, Torrance residents should call the
city's Animal Control Office at 310-618-3850.
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Thursday, March 27, 2003
Torrance spares animal control
BUDGET: City scales down program and plans to hire only one officer. Community faces a $12 million revenue shortfall.
By Jasmine Lee
An animal control program was the latest service spared the chopping block as the Torrance City Council continued its preliminary efforts to squeeze out of an expected $12 million budget shortfall.
The hotly contested in-house animal control service - approved last year but not yet in place - was scaled down Tuesday to just one officer.
The original idea was to hire three officers and operate a five-day program at a cost of $612,000.
After taking in revenues such as pet licensing, Torrance would spend $6,800 on the new proposal, according to a city memo.
City Manager LeRoy Jackson had proposed a delay in providing animal control - currently contracted out to the county - as a part of a broader plan to bridge a $12 million deficit expected to hit Torrance in the 2004-2005 fiscal year.
The plan includes a 5 percent budget reduction in all city departments that would save nearly $4.9 million; a reduction of $3 million through reorganizing within departments and raising revenues; and an additional $4 million saved by shifting internal reserves.
The council embarked last week on the process to balance the two-year budget for fiscal years 2003 through 2005.
Animal control came under fire as other departments and programs faced cuts.
Representatives of the police, firefighters, and municipal employees unions asked the council to defer animal control rather than slash positions.
Councilman Paul Nowatka said it might be a case of now or never.
"We have an opportunity to do this right now," Nowatka said. "Itís really tempting to say put this thing off, but as we sit here right now, if we put this animal control program off, we will never see it."
In a 4-3 vote, with Mayor Dan Walker, Councilwoman Hope Witkowsky and Councilman Mike Mauno dissenting, the council voted to move forward with the minimized animal control program.SK,2 Walker cautioned that the service could prove more costly than the estimated $6,800 and said that Torrance should work with other South Bay cities for a regional approach to animal control. Last week, the council said it would try to avoid shutting down a library branch and making deep cuts to the Fire and Police departments.
That means the city would have to make reductions elsewhere, and also raise fees for some businesses and residents.
Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman Jerry Say cautioned that if the city imposes too many fees on the business community, it could drive companies to relocate.
Hangar tenants at Torrance airport said raising their rents could prompt them to move to nearby municipal airports. They are willing to deal with leaking roofs and aging facilities, but the tenants of the 339 older hangars said it was unfair and unreasonable to charge them top rates for second-rate facilities, said Barry Jay, president of the Torrance Airport Association.
Art Brock, a 25-year airport user, added: "No one else is going to come out of this bleeding except for us."
None of the cost-cutting measures or fee increases is final. In the coming months, the city will conduct more budget workshops to solicit community comment and then conduct a public hearing before approving the two-year budget.
Publish Date:March 27, 2003
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Sunday, March 23, 2003
Torrance faces hard budget choices
Torrance officials can be congratulated for looking at a looming $12 million budget deficit squarely in the face. Like most other cities, Torrance will face its share of budget pain as it copes with cutbacks stemming from the stateís projected $35 billion deficit.
The city is in the process of holding several public workshops on the budget to hear community views before making any final decisions. Many of the ideas the city is considering to keep its books balanced seem reasonable. These include across-the-board spending reductions by city departments, reorganizing departments, eliminating some vacant positions and raising some fees.
The emphasis should be on reducing spending. The city, like the state, needs to make the hard decisions about where to cut now rather than later.
Prolonging such budget decisions only puts off the inevitable and increases uncertainty, especially with the nation at war, the economy treading water and the costs of retirement benefits on the rise.
Obviously, trying to rely on gimmicks or one-time fixes simply won't cut it when the state's fiscal health is so precarious.
It makes sense to avoid layoffs and keep spending cuts from affecting services that residents depend on. One disappointment is the possibility that the start-up of an in-house animal control program will be delayed to save money. We concede that moving forward on that program may be difficult in the current fiscal environment, but animal control can't be delayed indefinitely, as it proved to be a key issue in last year's municipal election.
As the budget process moves forward, Torrance officials must make the tough decisions that will avoid the long, drawn-out budget fights that are likely to happen this year in Sacramento. That should keep the city poised for progress once the economy turns around.
Publish Date:March 23, 2003
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Your Views: Letters to the Editor
Donít delay on animal control
Last June, our City Council voted to hire our own animal-control officers. I am greatly concerned that now not only is the city manager recommending abandoning the program, but Los Angeles County is considering closing the Carson shelter, which services the city of Torrance.
The next closest shelter that Torrance residents will have to rely on for assistance with lost pets, injured animals, violations of leash and pooper-scooper laws, and dead animal pick-up is in Downey. Response time would be ridiculously long. Imagine how many people will be hampered in their ability to search for a lost pet after they get off work, or their efforts to secure a dog license if they have to make the trip across several cities and at least two freeways to get to Downey.
The city of Torrance provides first-rate services in public safety, education and infrastructure. Why do we need to rely on what will undoubtedly be substandard service from an overextended county department? When the City Council meets to approve the budget for the coming year, I hope council members will recognize the benefits of a city-based animal-control program as being long overdue for Torrance.
A Torrance city-based animal-control program will ensure efficient and quality service for all Torrance residents. Local control will no doubt also inspire local involvement.
Let us make sure all our city programs are second to none. Is that not, after all, one of the reasons we choose to make Torrance our home?
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March 13, 2003
Marsh becoming pet dumping area
I was reading about the cats at the refinery (ìCatsí refinery run may be up,î Friday, Page A1).
When are people going to get it into their heads that they cannot dump any household animal anywhere? I am referring to the fact that people dump their animals at Madrona Marsh and the fact that Wilson Parkís little pond has 14 turtles that have been dumped and one soft-shelled turtle that was dumped just two days ago ñ plus there are two koi fish in that awful water.
What can we do to make it criminal to drop your pets off? This is dangerous.
NOTE from Friends of Torrance Animals: It is already criminal. It is a violation of the California State Penal Code, section 597s, to abandon any animal. This crime carries a penalty of up to $1,000 and 6 months in jail. The law is in place. The problem is enforcement of this existing law by the local law enforcement authorities, and education regarding responsible pet ownership.
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Tuesday, March 04, 2003
Your Views: Letters to the Editor
Donít delay on animal control
Like other South Bay residents, I was concerned to read Los Angeles Countyís proposal to close half of its animal shelters, including the one in Carson. I hope the response of more South Bay cities will be to start doing an adequate job, rather than blaming the county for continuing to do a poor job.
It is a tremendous failure of the South Bay Cities Council of Governments that so many residents in this area still depend on the county for animal control. The SBCOG knew there was a problem and looked into starting an independent animal control agency in 1998 as an alternative to using the county. I attended a SBCOG meeting in May 1999 with several dozen South Bay residents regarding county animal control. Our concerns were ignored.
If they had done what needed to be done five years ago, the closure of the county facility would have little impact on the South Bay. Instead, it is going to be devastating for local residents. Until cities start offering effective animal control, as they should, residents will suffer from dangerously poor service.
I am gratified that the city of El Segundo has addressed this problem and developed a city-based animal-control agency. I understand that larger cities donít have all the options we did, but they do have options we didnít have. The difference is in their willingness to see a problem and work to correct it, rather than blaming the county for its continuing failure to take responsibility for a local service.
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February 23, 2003
Deferring animal control sensible
On Feb.5, you ran two letters on Torrance citizens who are upset about the deferment of city animal control. Four of the City Council people voted for it, but Mayor Dan Walker and council members Hope Witkowsky and Mike Mauno voted against it.
Although Mayor Walker campaigned for it, he realized fiscal responsibility to our Police Department, Fire Department and street maintenance. In these times in the face of cutbacks. City Manager LeRoy Jackson was right in putting the animal shelter on hold. Right now, the $700,000 start-up price plus ongoing costs are more than the city can afford.
Itís nice to know that we have a mayor, two council persons and a city manager who, although they might have made election promises, are more concerned about the citizens of Torrance.
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Stop stalling on animal control
Regarding the article on Torrance animal control (ìLocal animal control is at risk,î Jan. 24), itís outrageous that the Torrance city manager can say heís going to recommend against a program instead of implementing it.
The City Council voted to start an animal control program. The council gave him a job to do.
If I ignored the things I didnít want to do, and then seven months later told my boss that I was going to recommend against doing them, then I would be fired.
I know itís a public health and safety issue, but I am very concerned about property values in Torrance. If the city cannot afford to do something as basic and common as having animal control, what else is going wrong? It does not help our property values to have Los Angeles County provide our vital services.
If the city manager doesnít own property here, he should at least know that residents want property values higher, not lower.
I was appalled to read that we still don't have animal control in Torrance.
Was it the cityís intention all along to charge us dog owners more for less service? We are paying more for dog licenses now.
We should have our own animal control now.
If the city manager continues to delay the program, then he should pay rebates to dog owners. We are paying the highest rates in the South Bay, for the worst service. Better, of course, would be to start a program, as the City Council voted to do six months ago and as residents have been demanding for years.
I want to see progress on this program.
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Friday, January 24, 2003
Local animal control is at risk
TORRANCE: City official fears the stateís financial crunch will make it impossible to fund promised program.
By Jasmine Lee
Fearing the worst in the cityís financial forecast, Torrance City Manager LeRoy Jackson says he will recommend delaying the launch of a long-awaited animal control program.
The city was expected to start offering its own animal control services sometime this year. But instead of bringing the council an update on how the new program is developing, the city staff in March will propose putting the nearly $300,000-a-year program on hold.
Torrance, already facing a $7 million to $8 million budget deficit by the 2004-05 fiscal year, could be hit hard if the state withholds funding in an effort to balance the California budget. Under the governorís proposal, Torrance would lose out on almost $10 million.
Jackson said the city will have to adjust its budget ó including such measures as postponing some programs ó depending on ìhow large of a biteî the state takes.
Residents who lobbied for more than two years for city animal control services said they will wait and watch as the budget situation plays out before jumping to conclusions.
"Itís too early to be panicking yet," said Joni Gang, who heads Friends of Torrance Animals. "I donít get the sense that theyíre going to slam the brakes on."
After attending weekly council meetings and spreading its message with a public education campaign, the grass-roots group persuaded Torrance officials to break away from the countyís Animal Care and Control Department and hire its own animal control officers.
Gang and others in the Friends of Torrance Animals have said the countyís animal control agency is stretched too thin and insisted the city could do a better job. Volunteers documented hundreds of pages of alleged animal abuse, unnecessary or accidental euthanasia and poor response times by the county animal control.
The city has contracted with the county for animal control services for seven years. In 2001, the council decided against establishing its own program, but approved it in June 2002.
Torranceís animal control program would operate out of the Police Department with two animal control officers and a supervisor for weekday service. The city would continue to contract with the county for after-hours and weekend patrol and sheltering.
Because the city was still in the early stages of setting up the program, it had not yet hired any animal control personnel nor purchased any equipment, Jackson said.
Councilman Ted Lieu said he and his colleagues will compare how the cost of running a city-operated animal control program compares to the price of a county contract. Also, they must take into account the still-sluggish economy, potential cuts by the state and a projected shortfall.
"Thatís all going to affect how we decide this issue," he said.
Publish Date:January 24, 2003
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Wednesday, June 19, 2002
Animal control service gets OK
By Jasmine Lee
Ending a two-year grass-roots campaign by residents seeking better public safety for people and humane conditions for animals, the Torrance City Council this week narrowly approved hiring its own animal control officers.
The community activists who lobbied for Torrance to break away from the county Animal Care and Control Agency said the Tuesday night decision is only the beginning.
"It's a good first step," said Joni Gang, founder and president of Friends of Torrance Animals.
Torrance will operate its animal control program out of the Police Department with two animal control officers and a supervisor for weekday service. The city will continue to use the county for after-hours and weekend patrol and sheltering.
The program, expected to cost $236,050 to start and $296,605 each year to operate, is scheduled to be operational in eight months.
Mayor Dan Walker, Councilman Mike Mauno and Councilwoman Hope Witkowsky voted against the city-based animal control program, saying it is best to be cautious in uncertain economic times. California cities face a potential loss of revenue because of the state's budget problems.
"Every community in California that I've talked to is waiting for the other shoe to drop with the state, yet we're looking at expanding something that's outside of our initial budgeting, substantially expanding," Walker said. "Now we're looking at spending half a million dollars and we wind up with what? We wind up with the puppy police."
Councilman Ted Lieu said the city has several reserve funds, including a $2.5 million fund specifically earmarked "in case the shoe drops from Sacramento."
The animal control program did not force the council to shave city services and programs from its budget. The council identified future cuts, such as eliminating Sunday library hours, that could be made if needed. The council also delayed filling a newly created administrative fire captain position.
Councilman Paul Nowatka said Tuesday that times are always uncertain and financial concerns arise every year, but the council still needs to make its decisions. Councilwoman Pat McIntyre agreed and said the city must ìrecognize that the need is nowî when it comes to animal control.
Torrance can't rely on the county's promise of better service when the county is also facing cutbacks, McIntyre said.
City Manager LeRoy Jackson said the council will likely need to pare down or eliminate other programs in future budgets.
The city's unofficial policy is to cut the newest programs when budget tightening is required. Some council members and residents criticized the practice, saying programs should be weighed on their merit and not on chronology.
"I must say, I'm not surprised, but I am appalled that when looking for an offset to increase public safety through animal control officers, the first place that some people look is the Fire Department," said Gang, of Friends of Torrance Animals.
During the past two years, Gang and others in the Friends of Torrance Animals have said the county's animal control agency is stretched too thin and insisted the city could do a better job.
Presented with the issue last year, the council decided against establishing its own program. The cause gained momentum during the campaign for the March election when nearly every council and both mayoral candidates ó including Walker and Mauno ó expressed support for hiring animal control officers.
Friends of Torrance Animals documented hundreds of pages of alleged animal abuse, unnecessary or accidental euthanasia and poor response times by the county animal control. The county agency's relatively new director, Marcia Mayeda, has acknowledged problems in her department and tackled several of the issues. The city has contracted with the county for animal control services for seven years.
Walker, who advocated a regional animal control system with other South Bay cities, said the county's service has improved during the past two years.
Mauno said he also supported a regional program, telling animal advocates that lost dogs from Torrance can and probably will stray outside city limits, only to be picked up by county animal control officers.
"I think it is short-sighted . . . to only care about animals with a Torrance address," Mauno said.
Several South Bay cities, including El Segundo, Redondo Beach and Lawndale, operate a city-based animal control program. Hawthorne hired its own animal control officers earlier this year.
Last week, the council approved a yearlong county contract with a 30-day cancellation clause. The city will pay an additional $93,000 to the county and receive 120 less hours of field service under the new contract, which goes into effect July 1. The council raised dog license fees to offset the extra cost.
In previous years, the county collected the dog license fees - about $250,000 annually - as payment and the city had no out-of-pocket expense. However, the county was losing money under that agreement.
Councilman Frank Scotto said the county opened the door to charging Torrance more and more for its services and, in the future, a city-based program may prove more cost effective. Also, council members who support in-house animal control said it could generate revenue through such fees as leash law citations.
Scotto agreed with Walker that a regional agency is a worthy long-term goal, but "first we need to take a small step and have our own animal control officers in Torrance."
Although split on the issue, the council maintained a cooperative tone. Witkowsky called for an educational program to promote responsible pet ownership.
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Thursday, June 13, 2002
Torrance animal control decision delayed
By Jasmine Lee
The Torrance City Council kept the prospect of an in-house animal control program afloat this week, but delayed making its much-anticipated decision on the issue.
On a 4-3 vote, the council on Tuesday asked the city staff to bring the proposal and ideas on how to fund it to next week's meeting along with other budget items. To pay for city-based animal control officers, city officials said they would have to free up money elsewhere in the budget.
The council also unanimously approved renewing a yearlong contract with the county Animal Care and Control Agency. The pact contains a 30-day cancellation clause.
The city will pay an additional $93,000 to the county and receive 120 less hours of field service under the new contract, which goes into effect July 1. In previous years, the county collected the dog license fees ó about $250,000 annually ó as payment and the city had no out-of-pocket expense. However, the county was losing money under that agreement.
The council is expected next week to raise dog license fees to offset the extra cost. The rates would go from $15 to $20 for spayed or neutered dogs and $30 to $40 for dogs that are not neutered or spayed.
"We're going to end up signing a contract that's worse than two years ago that costs more money," Councilman Ted Lieu said.
Lieu, along with council members Pat McIntyre, Paul Nowatka and Frank Scotto, supported taking another look next week at hiring the city's own animal control officers.
Mayor Dan Walker and council members Hope Witkowski and Mike Mauno voted against revisiting the issue.
The proposed program would include a supervisor and two animal control officers to provide service during normal working hours. The city would contract with the county for sheltering as well as after-hours and weekend service. The projected cost is $474,000 minus whatever revenue is generated by license fees. A temporary holding shelter in the city would cost an additional $658,500.
City Manager LeRoy Jackson told council members the dog license fees must be raised even higher if they opt to start a city-based animal control program.
Harrison Scott, a longtime Torrance resident, asked the council to reject the costly proposal for in-house animal control and stick with the affordable county agency.
Torrance resident Amy Wagner said the city can actually generate more revenue if its own officers enforce leash laws. She told the council she did not believe the county has followed through on past promises.
"They promised increased patrol, but I have yet to see one," Wagner said.
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Breeze editorial: Act now on animal control
Having a city-run animal-control service may not be the most important issue facing Torrance. But nevertheless, it figured prominently during the municipal election in March, with most of the candidates saying the city should hire its own animal-control officers.
At tonight's meeting, the City Council will have the choice of renewing its contract with the Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control Department or hiring its own animal-control officers.
Considering the promises made by Mayor Dan Walker and the three newly elected council members to support local control of animal care, not to mention the thousands of signatures collected in support of local control, the honorable thing for the council to do is to move forward on a city-based program.
We understand the fiscal concerns of the elected officials. And while it is true that the state government is facing a $23 billion hole in its budget, the likely scenario is that cities will not be as drastically affected as other agencies. Social services, such as public health care and welfare-to-work, will bear much of the burden.
And not moving forward on animal control based on fiscal grounds could lead to more pointed criticisms. Some of the first actions of the new council involved increasing members' travel stipends from $3,500 to $7,500 annually and shelling out $30,000 for new chairs in the City Council chamber.
Starting up a city-based animal-control program, of course, would exceed those costs (an estimated $474,000 minus the money generated by dog license fees). But if funds for chair replacement are readily available, then finding the resources to fund animal control should be within the realm of the possible.
The cost of renewing the county contract for animal control would be $93,000 plus the amount generated by dog license fees in the city.
The city's Environmental Quality Commission is recommending that the city create an animal-control program that provides licensing and field services during normal business hours. Sheltering and after-hours service would still be handled by the county.
The latter course of action would fulfill campaign promises and show residents that the city is responding to perceived criticisms of the county system. Working with neighboring cities on a regional animal-control program makes sense, but that should not preclude Torrance from listening to voters and hiring its own animal-control officers.
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Tuesday, June 11, 2002
Your Views: Letters to the Editor
Decision day for animal control
For some time now, Torrance citizens have expressed a cry to have jurisdiction over animal control within their city. For years, during Mayor Dee Hardison's reign, the City Council acted like fawning sycophants as the mayor waved away any consideration of this rather simple, albeit urgent request.
Now, we have a new mayor and some new council members. It is hoped that at today's City Council meeting, this new group will not follow in the footsteps of Hardison, thus confirming that being elected to office is not an inoculation against foolishness.
During the Hardison era, a ìresearch studyî was bought which not only contained vulnerable statistics, but was basically worthless on several grounds. I explained to then-Councilman Dan Walker that the ìresearchî this firm had produced for the city was not only flawed but would not even meet minimum criteria for accepting their results.
After being shut down when my time was up, Walker went on to demonstrate that his gullibility was seemingly without bottom. Despite Walker's lack of expertise in research methodology and/or statistical analysis, his praise of the ìstudyî continued unabatedly. The danger here is not ignorance. The danger is the illusion of knowledge.
During the recent city election, reading Walker's campaign literature, I was persuaded that he had seen the light and was now in favor of local animal control. Given the choices presented, I believed Walker. After all, if wisdom comes a bit late, I should still applaud it. I voted for him. Now, Walker has the power he coveted. I can only hope Walker no longer is a believer in that flawed research study which helped him conclude that Torrance, of all neighboring cities, should not have local control.
The proposal now is that the contract with the local euthanasia-oriented Los Angeles County shelter in Carson will once again be renewed. I hope Mayor Walker and the council will see the simple wisdom of acceding to the wishes of the citizens of Torrance in granting us local animal control.
In the words of Samuel Johnson, "Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome." The honorable mayor and City Council members should be really honorable and do the right thing this time.
(Signed) -ABRAHAM LEVINE
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Sunday, June 09, 2002
Your Views: Letters to the editor
City barking down wrong path
Let me try to understand what the Torrance city manager and staff are proposing for animal control: higher fees and less service?
According to a Torrance city staff report, dog owners should pay a 33 percent increase in fees for a decrease in actual services performed. They should pay the entire cost of a contract that benefits all residents. By what twisted logic does this make sense?
In most cities, including the communities of Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, El Segundo, Hawthorne and Lawndale, animal control is viewed as a public health and safety function. They recognize that it benefits all residents, and hence a portion of the costs are paid for from the General Fund to have their own city-based program.
Dog owners in these cities pay dog license fees, but those fees don't cover the entire cost of the animal-control program. That would seem to make sense in Torrance, where far more wildlife and cats are impounded than dogs. Indeed, even L.A. County uses General Fund money in its animal-control program.
Using only dog license fees will result in a program that is inadequate, or result in high fees. The staff's recommendation combines both: an inadequate program with high fees.
Let's hope the Torrance City Council sees the light on Tuesday night. It's worth noting that just a few months ago, all three of the new council members, and the mayor, pledged their support for hiring our own animal-control officers. If they value their credibility, they'll realize that we can't afford any more delay in hiring our own officers.
(signed) - DEAN CASE
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Saturday, June 08, 2002
Animal control surfaces as issue
By Jasmine Lee
As the Torrance City Council tackles what many view as its first major issue since the March election, community activists fear some newly seated officials may not follow through with campaign pledges to support a city-based animal control program.
The council will decide Tuesday whether to renew its contract with the county's Animal Care and Control Agency. It also will consider a city commission's proposal that the city hire its own animal control officers.
Because animal control emerged as a major concern during the election campaign this year, many residents thought getting their own officer - an idea rejected last year by the council - would be likely to gain approval this time around.
However, some community activists believe Mayor Dan Walker is waffling in his support of city-hired animal control officers.
ìHe's going against his campaign promise,î said resident Elisabeth Rosinsky, an animal control advocate. ìHe said he was for animal control. I really think that because he made a big point of that, it was a big point for Dan Walker in the election.î
Rosinsky said Walker, who posed with his Shih-tzu dogs in a campaign photo, told her he favors renewing the contract with the county rather than spending the extra funds to hire the city's own animal control officers.
Walker said Friday that he has not decided how to vote, but that he still supports the idea of hiring the city's own animal control officers. However, he emphasized exercising fiscal responsibility.
"It's not a matter of what you'd like to do, but a matter of what the economic reality is," Walker said.
Walker said he's talked to elected officials in the beach cities, exploring the concept of combining resources for a regional animal control program.
Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Lawndale are among South Bay cities that operate their own animal control programs. Earlier this year, Hawthorne broke away from the county and developed its own program. Last year, El Segundo did the same. Most of those cities still use the county for sheltering and after-hours service.
About two years ago, the grass-roots group Friends of Torrance Animals started pushing for Torrance to follow suit. Animal control advocates complained that the county's animal control, which covers all of unincorporated Los Angeles County and about 50 cities, was too understaffed to provide adequate service.
For seven years, Torrance has contracted with the county. Under a unique contract, the county collected an average of $250,000 in annual licensing fees to cover the cost of the services, and the city had no out-of-pocket expenses.
However, the county has been losing money on the deal and Torrance will now switch to the standard contract other cities have. The 2002-2003 contract will require an estimated $93,000 payment to the county in addition to the license fee revenues.
To offset the extra payment, the city staff has recommended raising the dog license fees from $15 to $30 for spayed or neutered dogs and $20 to $40 for dogs that are not neutered or spayed.
The new contract offers 4 percent fewer hours of field service.
"I don't really think that Torrance residents want to pay higher fees for less service," said Joni Gang, president of Friends of Torrance Animals.
The council could, however, choose to go another route. In April, the Environmental Quality and Energy Conservation Commission, which oversees animal control issues, recommended that the council approve an in-house animal control program. The suggested program would include a supervisor and two animal control officers to provide service during normal working hours. The city would contract with the county for sheltering as well as after-hours and weekend service.
The commission recommendation would cost $474,000 minus whatever revenue is generated by license fees.
With the state's tenuous financial situation, cities must be prudent this year about new programs, Walker said.
"It's real simple," the mayor added. "I'm not going to say no to police and fire equipment and to positions of public safety."
Gang said animal control is a public safety issue as well.
"Let's recognize that we can afford to do the things that we need to do," she said.
All four newly elected officials -Walker along with council members Ted Lieu, Mike Mauno and Pat McIntyre - and many of the candidates who didn't win a seat said they supported the city hiring its own animal control officers.
"Now we have to hold them accountable," Gang said.
Last year, the commission voted in support of hiring animal control officers, but the council did not even consider the proposal. This year, Gang said she is still optimistic.
But, just in case: "We're not going away," she said.
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Friday, June 07, 2002
Your Views: Letters to the editor
Keep promise on animal control
A recent article titled "Dispute is tough nut to crack" exposed the tragedy of the trapping of 10 squirrels at one woman's home in the Hollywood Riviera that were then taken away to be destroyed.
There is no city-based animal-control program, so the Los Angeles County's Animal Care and Control agency stepped in, without consulting several residents, and simply decimated these squirrels. They should have provided an alternative method for ridding a yard of squirrels.
This is one of many incidents that validate the need for our own Torrance animal-control program. At Tuesday's City Council meeting, the mayor and council will vote on such a program for 2002-2003 instead of relying yet another year on a contract with L.A. County.
During the recent campaign, candidates for mayor and the three council members who were elected stated their support for hiring our own animal-control officers, but a few of them now, after being placed in office, are reneging on their promise. These few persons think the solution is to have dog owners pay higher dog license fees. How preposterous to target only dog owners when a city-based program would benefit the whole community. We would have dead skunks, raccoons and possums picked up promptly, have pet stores inspected, have ìpooper scooperî and leash laws enforced and have humane education presentations for students. Animal control provides a level of community services ranging from safety, education and health, along with protection for animals.
I hope there is a unanimous vote at the City Council meeting to support the hiring of officers for a Torrance animal-control program.
(signed) - NANCY SNYDER
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Wednesday, June 05, 2002
Your Views: Letters to the editor
Take next step on animal control
The issue of the city of Torrance implementing its own animal control and shelter is one of great importance to me and my family.
We currently have three pets, two cats and a Golden Retriever. Recently one of the cats went missing for several days, and I took a trip to the Los Angeles County Animal Shelter in Carson to find her. Luckily, she wasn't there, and actually came home that day, but going to the Carson shelter reminded me why I signed the petition in support of Torrance implementing it own animal-control program.
What I saw at the Carson shelter two months ago indicated that it continues to be overcrowded and horribly run. I saw the same conditions there three years ago when my wife and I went there to adopt a dog. What we saw was criminal! Cages were dirty, and the animal-control officers treated the dogs with little care or regard.
When we decided to see a dog, it was hard to find someone to help us. The officer we found could barely be bothered and could have cared less if we adopted a pet. The way they handled the animals was disgusting. On subsequent trips to Carson in our search for a dog, we saw similar treatment (of both the animals and us) from other officers.
Needless to say, we turned to private organizations for our pet adoption. From our experiences with L.A. County Animal Control, my wife and I hope that none of our animals ever ends up in county shelters, especially Carson. We shudder to think of the treatment they will receive, and can only imagine the abysmal condition in which we would find them.
Torrance has much to offer in safety, education and business, not to mention location. Our police and fire departments are the best, bar none. The service they have provided to my family and me has been always been of the highest caliber. The city should not cloud its reputation by relying on the county's substandard service and approach to animal control and shelter.
On June 11, the mayor and City Council should move forward on the implementation of Torrance's own animal-control program, including field officers and shelter.
(signed) ó SANDY LOBENSTEIN
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Sunday, June 02, 2002
Sunday June 02, 2002
Your Views: Letters to the editor
Crack down on squirrel trapping
In response to your story on Tuesday, "Squirrel dispute is tough nut to crack," did you know there are two 1890s U.S. Supreme Court cases which say that wildlife is under the public trust domain and therefore wildlife belongs to the people and is to be protected? There are also two very important California Supreme Court cases, one in 1971 and the other in 1983, that say wildlife belongs to everyone in the state and is to be saved for future generations.
From this, I would ascertain that these squirrels were not the property of Yarda Scudder and it was not up to her to determine their fate. I ask her, along with others, to please heed to the laws of our state along with the wishes of the people of the state of California and learn to live with and respect our wildlife.
I would encourage the Department of Animal Care and Control to immediately investigate individuals who continuously bring in trapped animals for destruction. Please question them as to why this is occurring and take any necessary action and provide education to stop the behavior immediately. (signed) ó CHERYL FRICK
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Tuesday, May 28, 2002
Dispute is tough nut to crack
By Jasmine Lee
Hollywood Riviera homeowners who delight in watching wild squirrels in their yards said they haven't seen much of the animals since a neighbor started trapping the cute, and sometimes pesky, creatures.
The residents said they enjoy sharing the street with squirrels, which provide a pleasant reminder that nature is right in their back yard.
"We see the animals as enriching our lives," added resident Tim O'Brien.
However, the squirrels apparently have been enriching themselves on the fruit trees in Yarda Scudder's backyard. And to the dismay of her neighbors, the animals have paid for their property-damaging behavior. About 10 have been trapped, then taken away to be destroyed.
Scudder, who has 15 trees filled with different fruit, said she simply wanted to keep the squirrels from feasting on her crop.
"They all migrate to my yard," Scudder said. "They just multiplied. . . . I don't know what else to do."
Many neighbors around Via Los Miradores in Torrance said they are outraged that they apparently have no say on the fate of the squirrels. They said they have offered to buy fruit for Scudder and begged her not to turn over the trapped animals to be killed.
"They're defenseless little animals," said Sandy Bennett, a longtime Hollywood Riviera resident.
The squirrels could often be seen racing across the cables between utility poles, or as the neighbors call it, the "Squirrel Freeway." It's been two weeks since resident Debbie Tippin has spotted one, she said.
"We used to see them all the time," said Tippin, who provides munchies in a backyard squirrel feeder.
Several residents wondered why the county's Animal Care and Control Agency did not consult with them before trapping and killing the animals. They also said the animal control agency should have provided an alternative method for ridding a yard of squirrels.
"The squirrels belong to everybody," Bennett said. "It's just a part of living here."
To some extent, Scudder agreed. She didn't want to see the squirrels die, but Scudder said she was told there was no alternative. When she complained to the city and the county's Animal Care and Control Agency about her property damage, Scudder said she was instructed to buy a trap and call for an animal control officer when squirrels were caught.
She even thought about taking the rodents to the Madrona Marsh before she learned that was off limits, Scudder said.
She has now removed her trap, and only about two squirrels - a manageable number - remain on her property, she said.
Because trapped animals could carry disease or disrupt the species in a different area, it is illegal to release them after they are trapped, said Kaye Michelson, a spokeswoman for the county's Animal Care and Control Agency.
Alternative methods of repelling squirrels, such as wrapping sheet metal around the trunk of trees, are available and the county is working to educate its animal control employees about them, Michelson said. In retrospect, Michelson said, the county should have called in the Department of Fish and Game ó which has extensive experience in wildlife.
Usually, in the case of a nuisance animal ó the county gets calls about skunks, raccoons and opossums, but rarely squirrels ó an individual traps it and calls an animal control officer.
Also, although people who feed squirrels might have good intentions, it can attract a larger-than-usual crowd of wild animals into a concentrated area.
"That's one thing that Fish and Game is very much behind: Let nature do its own thing,î Michelson said."
Lt. Joseph Baima of the state Department of Fish and Game said his agency is committed to trying to save animals, unless public safety is threatened. Fish and Game works with several rescue groups to nurse and release orphaned or sick wild animals that are trapped.
But, in one 1994 incident, squirrels and chipmunks in the Lake Tahoe basin were found to carry the bubonic plague. In such a case, human health and safety trump the lives of the wild animals, Baima said.
Each situation is separate
Still, there is no fast rule. The wildlife officials weigh each situation separately and decide on the best solution for each circumstance, Baima said.
Gregg Bassett, president and founder of the Squirrel Lover's Club, said he definitely advocates humane methods of keeping squirrels from damaging property, but it might take some creative measures.
Squirrels have been known to damage roofs while trying to hide their food and to tear up gardens and fruit trees in search of a tasty snack.
"I understand not everyone loves squirrels," Bassett said. "But the outdoors is open to all . . . weather, animals, plants. It's a part of life."
Squirrels are clever creatures, so it can be difficult to find the right way to keep them out of trees, Bassett warned. He, like Michelson, suggested a bit of sheet metal around the trunk.
"That doesn't mean that squirrels necessarily go for the easy way out," he said. "One thing I am convinced of, if there's another way the squirrels will find it. I am convinced that squirrels do enjoy a challenge."
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May 2, 2002
Hawthorne animal control becomes city-run
By Ian Gregor
Hawthorne formally divorced the county and switched to a city-run animal control program Wednesday in a move that officials expect will lead to speedier responses, fewer vicious dogs running loose and more canine licensing.
Three new animal control officers now are responding to calls and patrolling the city in a white Ford F-250 pickup truck equipped with a $20,000, air-conditioned animal housing unit.
By midafternoon, they had returned a stray dog to its owner, collected a dead animal and removed a feral cat from a trap, said Hawthorne police Lt. Paul Moreau, who is in charge of the municipal animal control program.
The city, however, was unable to reach an agreement to shelter strays with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, so they'll continue to be sent to the county shelter in Carson.
Councilman expects success
Nevertheless, Councilman Mark Schoenfeld said he expects to see a big improvement in the quality of animal control service.
ìIt's going to be the difference between driving a Yugo and driving a Mercedes,î said Schoenfeld, the major force behind the city's break from Los Angeles County.
ìYou're not going to see vicious dogs running around as they do now.î
The City Council decided to form its own animal control department last year because of complaints that overworked staff from the county Department of Animal Care and Control did not quickly respond to stray dog calls and mistakenly euthanized pets that were brought to the Carson shelter. Hawthorne expected to pay roughly $350,000 for its own program, or twice what the city paid the county.
City officers will be on duty daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Moreau said.
Hawthorne soon will expand the hours to 8 p.m. four days a week, and an officer will be on call every night, he said.
Stray dogs that have identification tags will be housed for a day in kennels at the Police Department while officers try to contact the owners, Moreau said.
ìWe want to be really customer service-oriented here,î he said.
City officials ultimately would like to get several South Bay cities to jointly fund a local animal shelter, Schoenfeld said.
El Segundo and Lawndale also run their own animal control programs.
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April 6, 2002
Torrance animal control plan is pitched
By Jasmine Lee
Saying quality counts more than quantity, a Torrance commission has hammered out a plan to start a small city-based animal control program with the expectation of breaking away from the county's services within a year.
The Environmental Quality and Energy Conservation Commission late Thursday voted to recommend that the City Council approve an in-house animal control program that would provide service during normal working hours. The program would include a supervisor and two animal control officers. The city would contract with the county for sheltering as well as after-hours and weekend service.
Also, the commission voted to extend the city's contract with the county Animal Care and Control Agency for another year, with a 30-day cancellation clause.
The proposal is expected to go before the City Council, which will make the final decision in early May, said Linda Cessna, the city's environmental services administrator.
Rather than trying to initiate a full-time, large-scale program, Commission Chairwoman Sandi Monda said it makes sense to start slow with a brand new program.
ìWe're maybe looking at launching a new ship here,î Monda said.
The commission's recommendation includes keeping dog license fees at $15 for spayed or neutered dogs, but raising the cost for unaltered ones. Those fees, which are expected to bring in at least $260,000, will help offset the cost of the estimated $450,000 program.
The half-dozen residents who stayed to witness the vote about 11:30 p.m. applauded the commission's decision.
Joni Gang, founder of a residents' group pushing for city-based animal control, said she is concerned that the commission's ìrecommendation is a bare bones program,î without specific directions for contracting with a local veterinarian for emergency services and temporary holding cages. Those details could be ironed out by the council.
ìI'm optimistic that the City Council will provide the resources needed for an effective animal control program,î Gang said.
During the past two years, Gang and others in the grass-roots Friends of Torrance Animals have lobbied for a city-based animal control program, saying that the county's animal control agency is stretched too thin and the city could do a better job.
Lately, the consensus has been that the county's services have steadily improved, but residents still said they prefer local control over what they see as a public safety issue. The county's agency serves all of unincorporated Los Angeles County and 52 cities.
Last year, the commission recommended that the council start a city-based program, which the council rejected. However, with three new council members and a new mayor ó all of whom expressed support for Torrance's own program ó this year's vote could be different.
For the past seven years, the city has contracted with the county. Under a unique contract, the county collected an average of $250,000 in annual licensing fees to cover the cost of the services, and the city had no out-of-pocket expenses.0
However, the county has been losing money on the deal and Torrance will now switch to the standard contract that other cities have, said Marcia Mayeda, the director of the county's Animal Care and Control Agency. The 2002-2003 contract will require an estimated $93,000 payment to the county in addition to the license fee revenues.
The agency has started several new programs, and is on a 10-year plan to get more animals adopted and generally improve the services. Mayeda said she supports the city's efforts to start a local animal control program.
ìIt's a good start to them exploring what's best for the city,î Mayeda said.
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