Charlotte Laws, Ph.D.
Member of the
 Greater Valley Glen Council
21781 Ventura Blvd., Suite 633
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
Tel.  818.346.5280
Fax.  818.985.1690

Dr. Charlotte Laws - Councilperson Valley Glen

Proposal for Making Los Angeles a "No-Kill Animal Shelter City"

Written by Charlotte Laws
October 2004 for the City of Los Angeles
Passed by the Greater Valley Glen Council on Nov. 1, 2004
To view brief outline of this proposal

The Greater Valley Glen Council proposes an end to the current, annual killing of 30,000 50,000 dogs and cats in Los Angeles animal shelters; this costs the taxpayer $14 million per year. If we can make L.A. "no-kill," we can save taxpayer money and save animal lives, as well as gain nationwide recognition for the city as a leader in animal welfare.

Part One (To be implemented as soon as possible):

The City of Los Angeles has 86 Neighborhood Councils. Each Council should elect a "Director for Animal Welfare" (DAW). This individual should be a member of the community and should be well-acquainted with animal needs in the area. The DAW would have a duty to look out for the animals, with respect to abuse, vaccinations, wandering pets, spay/neuter, etc. In other words, this person would work towards solving any pet-related issues the community faces. He or she could solicit help from other volunteers, if necessary. Different parts of Los Angeles have different needs: some areas deal with horse-related problems while others face illegal dog fights or feral cats.

The DAW serves as the eyes and ears for that neighborhood's animals. He/she has the following functions: a) to be a contact person when animal control is closed or unable to respond, b) to arrange periodic Animal Care Fairs, in which education, spay/neuter (using the city's van), animal training tips, etc. are offered to the public on a particular day, c) to provide the Neighborhood Council and stakeholders with a report about the animals at meetings, d) to provide useful tips for stakeholders via the Neighborhood Council newsletter or handouts, e) to help with adoption-related issues. 

The Animal Care Fair is a good idea because residents tend to be more receptive to local people working on a grassroots level to effect change, rather than facing outsiders who may be less familiar with the problems of the community.

If some funding becomes necessary to supplement the Animal Care Fairs or other animal-related needs, some Neighborhood Council monies could be used (at the Council's discretion) or dollars could be obtained from a non-profit organization called The Maddie's Fund (to be discussed in detail below). It is unlikely the DAWs would need much money because the Spay/Neuter vans are free, and animal assistance is provided often at no charge by animal welfare and rescue groups.

Part Two (To be implemented over the next two years. A and B to be done simultaneously):

Section A. Los Angeles is spending $154 million in taxpayer bond money to build new shelters and expand others. These structures and additions will increase the space for dogs and cats significantly: from 366 to 1253 kennels, which will assist indirectly with a changeover into a "no kill" shelter city.

There will be three vacant shelters at the conclusion of this building process: the East Valley Shelter with 60 kennels, the Harbor Area Shelter with 21 kennels and the West L.A. Shelter with 26 kennels. These empty shelters should also be utilized to help transition the city into becoming no-kill.

The process to deal with "no longer needed," city-owned property, such as the empty animal shelters, requires a land sale at auction through the Department of General Services. In order to utilize the empty shelters for the transition, the taxpayers would have to pass a local measure that would postpone the sale of these shelters for a few years. Linda Gordon, who is the Liaison to the Bureau of Engineering for L.A.'s Animal Facilities Bond Program, says it is possible to pass such a measure.

As a backup, for the transition, various organizations and individuals in Los Angeles, are willing to help the city with transitional space. 

Section B. An L.A. nonprofit should be established so that Maddie's Fund money can be obtained. Maddie's Fund is a charity with almost $300 million to help cities, counties, and states become "no-kill" over a ten year period. It will not give money directly to a government: only to a non-profit established to help the locality. Utah, New York City, counties in Florida and Arizona, among others, are currently using Maddie's Fund money to achieve the "no kill" objective.

Richard Avanzino, the head of Maddie's Fund, has indicated that the nonprofit associated with Los Angeles might want to apply for $20 million; the L.A. nonprofit would have to raise $20 million in matching donations. Avanzino says this should be easy: New York raised $3 million the first day and $16 million in a few months.  Funds could come from corporate donors, such as Petco and Petsmart, or entertainment industry fundraisers. 

The Maddie's Fund project requires a two-pronged attack on the problem: it requires a spay/neuter plan and a pet adoption plan. Both are detailed at the Maddie's Fund website ( Detailed accounting is crucial, and the locality must demonstrate that the program is self-sustaining.

Prong One:

A person/organization must agree to take responsibility for each prong. Nathan Winograd might be willing to move to Los Angeles and head up the adoption side of this project. He is the perfect choice because he worked with Maddie's Fund successfully in San Francisco, has incorporated a no-kill strategy in Ithica, New York and is endorsed and respected by Avanzino, who helps make decisions regarding the monies given to these projects. He is also an independent thinker with a strong personality who can likely combat the myriad of opposing and contentious views in Los Angeles over this issue. As an alternative, Francis Battista says he might agree to undertake the adoption side of the project.

The three vacant shelters (mentioned in Section A above) would then be leased to the L.A. "no kill" nonprofit for a small monthly fee until conclusion of the Maddie's Fund program. The nonprofit would run the vacant shelters with volunteers and money acquired through Maddie's Fund.

Prong Two:

At a Los Angeles Animal Commission meeting in 2002, Sue Freeman of People and Cats Together offered to head a spay/neuter program for the city.  A licensed veterinarian must be in charge of this prong of the Maddie's Fund process, but numerous vets and volunteers, such as Freeman, can help coordinate and implement the program. Bob Goldman and the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association is a sensible choice for directing the spay neuter program.

Maddie's Fund pays the veterinarians directly to cover the cost of the spaying/neutering of any animal; the public pays no more than $20 per dog or cat.

*It should be noted that if Maddie's Fund money is used, the 2000 ordinance (# 173168  passed by the L.A. City Council which deals with the increased animal license fees) would have to be overturned or "put on hold." Statistics show this ordinance has not proved successful; only 25% of L.A. pets are licensed.  L.A.could try to  acquire full approval for the Maddie's Fund money before considering a temporary reversal of the ordinance.

If the City and the L.A. nonprofit prefer to execute a plan,  similar to that which is outlined in this letter but without the use of Maddie's Fund money, it could be equally successful. Additional nonprofit funds would have to be raised, but the ordinance could stay in place.

Part Three (To be implemented if Part One and Part Two do not entirely combat the problem, after the Maddie's Fund plan ends):

In the San Francisco and Oakland area, the Maddie's Fund process has almost completely eliminated the killing of shelter dogs and cats. Only one problem remains: un-adoptable Pit Bulls and "Pit Bull like dogs." Los Angeles could be faced with the same dilemma, thus might need a third strategy. This strategy would involve creating a local ordinance.

The State of California disallows breed specific legislation with respect to dangerous dogs (Section 31601), however it does not oppose breed specific legislation for another purpose: for highly un-adoptable animals.

Almost every state in the U.S. has some form of "dangerous dog" breed specific legislation, but none has breed specific legislation for the benefit of saving animal lives. Los Angeles could be the first to pass a breed specific law that focuses on the welfare of the animal rather than the person. It shifts the emphasis onto the problem of overpopulation and away from the idea of restricting people from their rights. This shift would hopefully combat the traditional objections breeders and Kennel Clubs might have, and bring recognition to the city for its innovation, compassion, and leadership.

*The breed specific ordinance could be structured in any way lawmakers, animal groups and residents see best. For example, the law could read that within 90 days, all "highly un-adoptable dogs" currently living in the city of Los Angeles must be registered with Animal Control, licensed, fixed and micro-chipped. "Highly un-adoptable dogs" would be defined as Pit Bulls or Pit Bull type dogs. It would be within the full authority of the General Manager of Animal Services or his appointees to decide which animals qualify as "pit bull type dogs. " Highly un-adoptable" dogs not already living within the city of Los Angeles would be banned from entering the area.

Other ideas (Some could be put into place while the above proposals are running their course; others could be kept in mind as alternatives):

1. The city of Los Angeles receives money based on how many animals are killed the previous year. More animals killed means more money for the city. This provides disincentive for becoming a "no kill" city; thus a more compatible formula should be devised.

2. Local 347 puts pressure on City Officials to keep animal shelter jobs for union members. The more animals killed, the more shelter jobs. Animal lives should not be in direct conflict with union jobs.

3. All dogs and cats sold in Los Angeles could be required to have a microchip (like a VIN # on a car). Animals that show up at shelters could be traced, and shelters would be required to microchip any animals they receive. The microchip registry would be held by the shelters. It costs $11 to microchip an animal. Lost dogs would have to be reported missing within 48 hours by the "owner." This idea (which is being considered in Sacramento for statewide legislation) would encourage people to be more responsible for their pets.

4. Current law states that anyone who plans to breed a litter has to get a registration number and disclose the number of animals sold the previous year. Breeders are currently required to publish the registration number in all ads. Most breeders disobey this law, and there is no enforcement by officials. There should be a task force to compel compliance. Sting operations could be set up in which investigators would call newspaper ads and make undercover appointments to catch violators.

5. Cameras should be placed in shelters to reduce cruelty.

6. There should be free animal education and behavioral training for the community. San Francisco shelters have free spay/neuter, free or low cost behavioral counseling, free "pets ok" rental referrals, free feral cat assistance program. Maddie's Fund money can be used for these purposes.

7. L.A. should provide incentive to adopt shelter animals, such as free shots for two years, free medical exams, free spay/neuter, etc. Also, shelter animals should be bathed, dressed with bows, made to look attractive. L.A. Animal Commissioner Debbie Knaan is certain this would increase shelter adoptions.

8. There should be longer or different shelter hours to accommodate the public.

9. Volunteers should be allowed to walk or play with the animals at the shelter. This is successful in San Francisco. Sometimes dogs receive three to four walks per day.

10. Satellites should be placed at local malls, displaying pictures of adoptable animals. This strategy has been successful in Oregon. In addition, the Public Information Officer for the Department of Animal Services should be a "promotions professional," able to successfully advertise and publicize adoptable shelter animals to the public.

11. When building new shelters in the future, we should use models that improve life for the animals. There are alternatives in Utah and Northern California. Animals can live for long periods of time without stress. The Utah model is very inexpensive.


In conclusion, I hope you will find this cost-free, life-saving proposal to be of assistance. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Charlotte Laws at (818) 781-5280. She has contact data and further details about the proposal drafted in this letter.

Thank you.


Click here to view the Preliminary Ideas for this proposal

* This proposal was written in 2004 and is based on numerous interviews with people inside and outside of the Humane Community. Some of the details may be outdated. For example, it is not certain that Mr. Winograd would still be available to head a nonprofit in Los Angeles. However, the ideas stand on their own. Please feel free to take any of these ideas and implement them in your community.