Animal Rights Activists Target Villaraigosa

By Cesar Arredondo

From radicals to moderates, they blast the mayor for refusing to fire Animal Services director.

For the third time in less than a month, angry members of the Animal Defense League have demonstrated against Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa demanding that he make good on his promise to fire Animal Services Director Guerdon Stuckey. “Hey, Villaraigosa, what do you say? How many animals did you kill today?” chanted a dozen of protesters in front of Van Nuys’ Airtel Plaza Hotel, where the mayor was speaking to the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils about school reform. Two protesters held a banner that read: “Mayor Villaraigosa… L.A.’s #1 Puppy Killer.” Another sign read “L.A. Animal Holocaust Headquarters.”The group isn’t letting up.

ADL, described as a no-kill animal nonprofit organization, has stepped up pressure on the mayor recently to live up to a campaign promise made to animal rights and humane organizations to replace Stuckey if he became mayor. Villaraigosa was sworn in July 1. The Los Angeles chapter of ADL has grown impatient, taking its vociferous rallies to Villaraigosa’s neighborhood. Last month the group protested near the mayor’s home in Mount Washington and at the entrance to Paramount Studios, where the mayor was a guest speaker.

“We gave (Villaraigosa) a solid 60 days to fulfill his promise after he was elected,” says ADL spokesperson Jerry Vlasak of Agoura Hills at Thursday’s rally. “He neglected to do so and his party line now is that he made a lot of promises and that he said he would fire Stuckey.” Added Vlasak: “But he didn’t say when he was gonna fire Stuckey. Meanwhile animals continue to die at the rate of a 150 animals a day.”

The mayor’s spokeswoman Janelle Erickson doesn’t deny that Villaraigosa made the promise to fire the head of Animal Services. “But he believes in giving people a chance to prove themselves,” she said. Stuckey has been informed of the mayor’s goal, including the implementation of a more aggressive spay and neuter program and a reduction in the killing of animals, she added. “The mayor expects those goals to be met,” Erickson said but didn’t indicate if a timeframe or deadline have been established. “He intends to uphold his pledge to reform Animal Services to make it more animal friendly and more responsive.”

ADL estimates that up to 44,000 animals are killed every year in Los Angeles’ six municipal shelters, including two in the Valley. Vlasak said that Stuckey, who was appointed a year ago by then Mayor James Hahn, is not qualified for his job. “Mr. Stuckey is a bureaucrat with absolutely no experience running any sort of animal shelter,” he said. “He hasn’t shared his life with an animal, he doesn’t care about animals and therefore the killing of more than 44,000 of innocent adoptable, healthy animals—dogs, cats, puppies and kittens—continues as it has decade after decade.”

Stuckey did not return calls asking for comment.

Vlasak added that the mayor has the power to appoint “someone to head L.A. Animal Services, that knows how to run an animal shelter, that knows how to make it into a no kill facility.” The ADL and other animal right groups want Los Angeles to adopt a no-kill or low kill policy for its animal shelters. “It’s been done in other cities around the world such as San Francisco, it’s being done as we speak in New York and Philadelphia and other major cities,” said Vlasak. “We know it can be done, we want it done here in Los Angeles.”

Such policies have been implemented with the help of Nathan Winograd, head of San Clemente-based No Kill Solutions Resource Center. He’s headed animal services agencies in Tompkins County in the state of New York and the city of San Francisco. The center claims that Winograd reduced animal killings by 75 percent in Tompkins County.

Villaraigosa is not the first mayor to be targeted by ADL. The organization also carried out demonstrations in former Mayor Hahn’s neighborhood. A page of the nonprofit’s web site has a list of its “most wanted scum” to rally against, including other Animal Service officials such as David Diliberto, Cassandria Smith and Stuckey. Villaraigosa is the latest target.

However the boisterous, ADL isn’t Villaraigosa only problem. The usually polite Directors of Animal Welfare, who work with Valley and citywide neighborhood councils, have also taken their gloves off. Until recently their representatives pursued engagement with the mayor. But after Guerdon Stuckey publicly said he didn’t support a no-kill policy for Los Angeles, the DAWs took a stand against the embattled head of Animal Services. “The goal of Los Angeles as stated by (former) Mayor James Hahn and now Mayor Villaraigosa is that our city is moving toward no-kill,” said Charlotte Laws, a residents of Valley Glen. “If Stuckey doesn’t support and doesn’t believe in the no-kill policy than he cannot be the general manager.”Laws warned that the Mayor should listen to the coalition of moderate and radical animals rights activists that have coalesced in response to Stuckey’s position. I do believe this is going to be Mayor Villaraigosa’s downfall if he doesn’t address this animal services issue,” said Laws. “Stuckey must be replaced.” She added that a change is expected “within two to three weeks.”

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Sunday, 11/20/2005

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