Directors of Animal Welfare It’s a man’s sympathy with all creatures that truly makes him a man. Until he extends his circle of compassion to all living things, man himself will not find peace.
Directors of Animal Welfare
These words spoken decades ago by Albert Schweitzer ring true to a special group of dedicated and caring Los Angelenos. Appointed to be the eyes and ears of those who can not speak for themselves, The Directors of Animal Welfare (DAWs) work with their Neighborhood Councils to tackle problems, initiate proposals and hold events aimed at solving problems or creating awareness on issues that help humans and animals live together harmoniously.
In 1999, the new L.A. City Charter divided Los Angeles into 90 geographic areas and a Neighborhood Council was empowered in each to represent its respective neighborhoods.
In October 2004, Valley Glen Council member Dr. Charlotte Laws introduced the idea of appointing a representative to each Neighborhood Council to handle animal-related issues. The Director of Animal Welfare program was part of her proposal to make Los Angeles a No-Kill City. With approximately 40,000 dogs, cats and small animals euthanized in L.A. annually at a cost of $14 million, it is a crisis in need of resolution.
Valley Glen, won over by Dr. Laws’ enthusiasm and good ideas, promptly appointed her to the position for their area. Additionally, Laws proposed the formation of a California Animal Commission. Comprised of non-paid individuals committed to animal welfare, the Commission would serve in an advisory capacity to help cities and counties achieve the no-kill goal at their public shelters.
According to Laws, “This would be an important first step towards ending the needless killing of tens of thousands of animals each year.” If formed, California would be the first to have such a Commission and would lead the nation by recognizing the plight of its animals.
In Los Angeles County there are 2.6 million dogs & cats in private homes, so helping them peacefully cohabitate with humans makes good sense. Recently Ed Boks, General Manager of the L.A. Department of Animal Services (LAAS), wrote a letter to all 90 Neighborhood Councils encouraging them to support the DAW Program and select a stakeholder as their representative.
Currently 35 DAWs have been appointed, so the program is still looking for more individuals to get involved. With eleven committees, there is something for everyone, from Spay/Neuter Education to the Elephant exhibit issues at the L.A. Zoo; from disaster preparedness plans, to horse trails to animal cruelty cases.
According to Burbank DAW George Shea, “The value of the DAW Program is simply that if you’re into animal [issues], you can feel isolated – a bunch of separate groups not knowing what each other is doing and with no real clout behind us. Becoming a DAW has brought it all together for me…I’m not alone in my struggles; we exchange ideas and support each others goals.”
Reseda DAW Missy Woodward was already active in her Neighborhood Council before being appointed its Director of Animal Welfare. Her Council took their time, listened to Woodward speak, had their President attend a DAW Meeting and asked a lot of questions. They then felt that appointing a DAW to their Council would be mutually beneficial.
A city on the verge of revitalization, Reseda has made Emergency Preparedness a priority and hopes to furnish a van with all the supplies their community will need in the event of the “big one.” Community members will be CERT (Certified Emergency Rescue Team) trained and preparations will be made for their animals as well.
Woodward feels “the Katrina Disaster showed us the best and worst,” and she hopes that Los Angelenos will learn from it and be prepared – for themselves and for their animals.
Kris Kelly, DAW for Beverly Hills and Pacific Palisades, feels the program’s biggest accomplishment to date is the relationship formed with Ed Boks.
“I think Mr. Boks and his department no longer feel alienated by the animal community. We’re working together for all of Los Angeles.” The DAW Animal Abuse Committee, which Kelly chairs, was recently asked to join with the new Los Angeles Animal Cruelty Task Force to share ideas and achieve goals.
According to Kelly, “The only way we are truly going to make L.A. a no-kill city is by joining hands, not fighting with each other.” Differing groups have varying approaches but their goals are the same, so the DAW Program is serving as a unifying conduit to make things happen — a sort of “United Nations” of Animal Welfare.
Case in point: The combined efforts of several DAWs, the West Hollywood Neighborhood Council and the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department recently arrested a puppy dealer who was abusing underage puppies. This criminal now lives in a cell far roomier than the animals housed in our City & County Shelters, but at least he is unable to hurt any more dogs — at least for the time being.
Atwater Village, situated near the Los Angeles River, has long been a dumping ground for unwanted pets, so its five DAWs organized a monthly Pet Adoption Fair at the Farmer’s Market on Glendale Blvd. Additionally, the group educates residents who are unaware of leash and chain laws. According to Beatrice Shapiro, “Any resident violating a leash law is first given information on the rules and best ways to contain their pets.
On a second offense, the resident is given a courtesy notice with the offending Municipal Code attached. If this doesn’t get the message across, Animal Control is contacted regarding the violation.”
Over in Lake Balboa, Lisa Reveen is busy on an avian cause. “A well-meaning lady arrives each morning to feed the birds, but her good intentions have led to chaos for all,” Reveen explains. “Commuters cut through the park to avoid the main roads and since there are no speed bumps or visible stop signs, they do so at high rates of speed. The ducks, geese and other species of birds, now dependent on their morning feeding, are no longer mindful of the cars, dogs or people who mean them harm and are losing their lives in alarming numbers.
” Reveen is asking for speed bumps and stop signs, as well as visible law enforcement to slow down traffic and prevent people from feeding the wildlife.
Attorney Tiffany Krog, who is the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council DAW, hopes to put her legal expertise to use for the animals by encouraging LAAS to put into operation a screening process for potential adopters of Pit Bulls.
Krog states, “By helping animals and promoting their welfare, humans are also benefited – it has been established for some time that animal abuse is a clear indicator of violence towards humans. Not only is this breed physically abused, it is wrongfully maligned and misrepresented.
The reality is that Pit Bulls are being used successfully as search and rescue dogs and have rated higher in temperament tests than Golden Retrievers according to the American Temperament Testing Society’s statistics.” Additionally, Krog is working towards ensuring that a foster program is implemented by LAAS so that animals can be placed in a home or foster home while court cases are still pending.
Currently evidence animals are held in specials areas of the shelter where they can not be seen by the general public and therefore do not have a chance of being adopted. An abuse case can take a year or more to prosecute and all this time the animals are hidden away.
The Directors of Animal Welfare have a lot on their plate and with kudos to Charlotte Laws, the program has created an environment that welcomes all causes and points of view. The individuals come from diverse backgrounds with differing priorities, yet they are finding the organization an excellent forum to make things happen.
After speaking with a dozen or more members of this grassroots organization, I find they work like the many spokes of a wheel…together they move forward and keep themselves in balance. Most are pet parents and concerned with Animal Welfare (those whose goals are to prevent suffering and provide care for animals) and a few are Animal Rights Activists (those who wish to end all human exploitation of animals).
There are Realtors, attorneys, rescue workers, hair stylists, photographers, actors, business professionals, athletes and at least one medical doctor who together are turning the wheel of progress and hope to roll Los Angeles in the direction of Mahatma Gandhi’s vision: The moral greatness of national should be judged by the way it treats it animals.
For more information visit www.dawprogram.org Already the program has spread to Orange & San Diego Counties and even to Canada. Don’t just say you want to make a difference, do it! Become a Director of Animal Welfare or an Assistant DAW and take part in your community.
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