Official Political Website for Charlotte Laws - Member of the Greater Valley Glen Council


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Charlotte Laws
Member of the 
Greater Valley Glen Council

21781 Ventura Blvd., Suite 633
WH, CA 91364
Tel.  818.346.5280
Fax.  818.985.1690

Photo of Charlotte Laws in March 2005

For the Animals

For the Animals

By Cesar Arredondo

Valley activists push a citywide proposal for animal rights.

The San Fernando Valley is leading the rest of Los Angeles in a new movement to address animal problems at a neighborhood level, at the center are overpopulation, cruelty and euthanasia issues. A year ago Charlotte Laws, a resident of Valley Glen-a community that borders North Hollywood, suggested that every neighborhood council should have a director of animal welfare. “We want to be the eyes and ears for all the animals in the city,” says Laws, who holds a Ph.D. in social ethics from the USC and completed graduate and undergraduate work at CSUN.

She takes her role as an animal rights activist seriously. Three dogs give her company—all of them rescued from the city’s pounds. A realtor and author, Laws has promoted the ancient practice of “ahimsa,” or non-violence towards all living creatures, through the Sherman Oaks-based nonprofit League for Earth and Animal Protection, which she founded a decade ago. She’s also a member of the advisory board for the national Center on Animal Liberation Affairs.

The idea to create position the director of animal welfare, or DAW position, was first introduced by Laws to her local Greater Valley Glen Council as part of an Oct. 2004 proposal to make Los Angeles a “no-kill animal shelter city.” She claims that between 30,000 and 50,000 dogs and cats are killed every year in Los Angeles’ six animal shelters, two of which are located in the Valley—one in North Hollywood, the other in Chatsworth. The creation of the position appeared in the proposal’s first part that was to be implemented “as soon as possible” to help curb pet overpopulation and mistreatment through education, spay and neuter and adoption programs, among other things. Her local council didn’t need much time to decide. The plan was promptly approved and a few moths later Laws was named the council’s director of animal welfare—the first of many future DAW positions.

Laws reasons that different communities have varying needs and challenges and the directors could help to address and solve the problems accordingly. “Some areas deal with horse-related problems while others face illegal dog fights or feral cats,” she says. Local residents seem to be listening. “I’m just trying to be helpful,” says Bill LaMond, who was recently appointed director of animal welfare with the Studio City Neighborhood Council. He’s seen too much abuse and killing of animals in the Valley to remain on the sidelines.

So in addition to having rescued dogs from almost certain death in city shelters for several years, LaMond joined Laws’ effort to raise awareness about animal issues at the grassroots level. “People treat animals like they’re cars. They just want to get a new one and get rid of the old one,” he complains. Older dogs are among the usual victims and finding them homes is difficult, adds the supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, and a dozen other animal organizations. To him, pet stores are “puppy mills” where people can buy a dog for up to $3,000 while hundreds of canines face imminent death if no one adopts them. “You can find any conceivable dog at the pounds,” he emphasizes. A recent report of the L.A. Animal Services shows that hundreds of boxers, Chihuahuas, Dalmatians, Labrador retrievers, terrier and cocker spaniel were euthanized between July of 2004 and last June.

Yet activists remain optimistic. The DAW concept is spreading throughout the Valley, where another eight neighborhood councils have now approved the position, including Encino, North Hills West, North Hollywood Mid-Town, North Hollywood Northeast, Studio City, Valley Village, West Hills and Van Nuys. The communities of Sherman Oaks, Sunland, Tujunga and Toluca Lake have also expressed interest. The rest of Los Angeles is following suit. At least eight other neighborhood councils have DAW positions—Arroyo Seco, Bel Air, Glassell Park, Hollywood Hills West, Pacific Palisades, Silverlake, Topanga Canyon, Venice and the Westside.

“The DAW program is a natural idea whose time has come,” states George Shea, who was so concerned about animal overpopulation that he became the director of animal welfare for Burbank. “We feel that if there is a serious spay and neuter program there will be less animal killings.” The concept has proven so popular that many other cities in Southern California are taking a clue from the Valley. Now there are directors of animal welfare in Anaheim, Beverly Hills, Laguna Niguel, Santa Monica and West Hollywood. “The DAW program is going international,” says Charlotte Laws of Valley Glen.

Canadians want to emulate Laws’ efforts. Amy Meekison, an activist who opposes the killing of seals and founder of the nonprofit Protect Our Seals, wants to start a similar program in Vancouver. A report of the Humane Society of the U.S. claims that hundreds of thousands of seals are slaughter every year in the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, where seal hunters beat the sea mammals, including 2-week-old pups, with a club or a large ice-pick-like known as hakapik. “I know that I'm not the only one who would like to see this terrible, barbaric hunt ended forever,” said Meekison in her website “I feel with enough pressure and support from the public we have a really good chance at ending the hunt.”

Locally Charlotte Laws and friends continue also their struggle for a municipal implementation of the second part of their no-kill proposal. As the city expands municipal shelters and builds new ones, including one in Mission Hills, the activists hope the additional space capacity will help to save more animals. They also would like to use shelters that become vacant after the new ones are built.

Laws’ plan is also pushing for the creation of a nonprofit to secure grants from Maddie’s Fund, a charity with a $300-million budget to help cities, counties and states become no-kill within a decade. The money can only be given to nonprofits, though. San Francisco, Oakland and New York City, counties in Arizona and Florida, and the state of Utah have benefitted from Maddie’s Fund, which requires a spay and neuter plan and a pet adoption plan, said Laws. While pursuing all components of her plan at once, Laws doesn’t lose sight of increasing the number of directors of animal welfare in Los Angeles. “There are more than 86 neighborhood councils in the entire city, “ she says. “We need a lot of volunteers.”

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