The Los Angeles City Council approved $400,000 in funding Friday to the Department of Animal Services for animal food, weeks after a council committee learned from officials that department was planning to use the animal welfare trust fund for food expenditures.
The council also sought a report on the amount of funding necessary to fully fund the department’s seven city-owned shelters, a citywide cat program and an enhanced spay and neuter program. It sent a motion by Councilman Paul Koretz calling for a ballot measure to establish a minimum in the city budget to fund all city-owned animal shelters to the rules committee.
The $304,000 currently budgeted for food is expected to be completely spent by the end of this month, Sharon Lee, senior management analyst for the department, told the council’s Budget and Finance Committee in November. The animal welfare trust fund was created in 1986 to “augment established programs and activities” of the department.
The committee did not recommend approval of the remainder of a $3 million emergency funding request for the department made by Koretz, chair of the Personnel, Audits, and Animal Welfare Committee. It requested a report back on other funding that might be necessary before the end of the fiscal year.
The council approved a series of items on Nov. 4 seeking adjustments to the budget for the Department of Animal Services, which has been criticized for alleged animal neglect and insufficient staffing at city shelters, but the funding request was referred to the Budget and Finance Committee. The items passed included reactivating the Animal Cruelty Task Force, creating a plan to ensure all dogs are regularly exercised in shelters and a review of the training and qualifications for staff to serve as Animal Care Technicians.
Council President Paul Krekorian, who chairs the Budget and Finance Committee, called bringing a request for full funding appropriation in the middle of the fiscal year “a little unusual” barring critical needs.
When pressed by Councilman Bob Blumenfield on whether the department had sufficient basic services like food, medicine and staffing to provide enrichment and exercise for animals, department officials admitted having to use reserve funding for food but said that other funding requests could wait until after a report on how the money would be used.
Curtis Watts, the department’s assistant general manager, said he was “not certain” that $3 million was the exact amount that would be needed.
Councilman Mike Bonin expressed concern that LA Animal Services didn’t yet have “a handle yet on what it will take to get this fixed.”
“If there are other emergency funding needs, we need to know about those as soon as possible so we can address them,” Bonin said.
Watts replied that there weren’t “any emergency needs to address.”
But he added: “The main issue is the lack of staffing and the staffing shortage that we have. We do not have sufficient staffing to address all the animal needs appropriately with the staffing that we currently have.”