Stuckey: Animals a people problem
Ex-chief's $50,000 report compared to term paper
BY RICK ORLOV, Staff Writer
Ousted Animal Services chief Guerdon Stuckey - paid $50,000 to recommend ways to improve spay and neutering services - has submitted a 32-page report saying the major cause of pet overpopulation is the behavior of animal owners.

Stuckey, who became a lightning rod for animal-rights activists and was fired by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa late last year, was commissioned to write the report as part of a deal in which he dropped plans to sue the city over his termination.

While Stuckey does offer general recommendations for reducing the number of animals euthanized at city shelters, animal advocates said the report - which one critic compared to a term paper - offers little new information.

"I hate to say this, but I had low expectations and it sounds like they were met," said Charlotte Laws, an animal-welfare advocate. "All these recommendations are what everyone is doing. We didn't need to pay $50,000 for this."

Stuckey could not be reached for comment Thursday. But Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller said Stuckey turned the report in on time, satisfied the terms of his 12-week contract and has been paid in full.

"Now it's up to the professionals in the Animal Services Department to decide what to do with the recommendations," Miller said.

Animal Services Commission President Kathy Riordan said she appreciated that Stuckey met the deadline.

"We'll want to review what he has to say to see if it is anything different from what we're doing now," Riordan said.

Stuckey's contract was approved 9-3 by the City Council in February over protests that it set an unfavorable precedent and undercut the mayor's power to hire and fire department managers.

Animal activists also accused the council of rewarding Stuckey despite continuing problems within the department.

City Council members said they had not yet seen the report. But an aide to Councilman Jack Weiss, who had opposed the deal, said Weiss will be the first to review it as chairman of the Public Safety Committee.

Stuckey opens his report with a discussion about the love Americans have for their pets, and traces the history of animal shelters back to the early 1900s.

He also recommends proceeding with plans that are already under way: advocating spay and neuter programs to reduce the number of strays; developing an aggressive pet-adoption program; creating a fund for donations; and creating education and political outreach.

"The idea that shelter overpopulation is a matter of too many animals being warehoused or euthanized is too simplistic," Stuckey said in the report that cites studies done by various groups and individuals across the country.

"Likewise, the notion of building more shelters or creating more rescue groups will alleviate the overpopulation. Those types of pursuits only address the symptoms. Human

behavior is the variable that drives the issue."

The concept of a no-kill policy for Los Angeles shelters was adopted in 2003 by former Mayor James Hahn, who said it would take five years to implement. Stuckey said he was on the path to doing that but was replaced when Villaraigosa defeated Hahn.

In addition, Stuckey noted that the department had three general managers in three years, making it difficult for a consistent policy to be put in place.

The former general manager also suggests in the report that the city consider formally surveying other animal-regulation departments around the country to assess what they are doing to develop a comparison for Los Angeles.

As part of the report, he provided general comparison information between Los Angeles and three areas with active no-kill policies: San Francisco, Richmond, Va., and Tompkins County, N.Y.

Los Angeles is doing as much as the other cities in promoting programs such as spay-neuter, Stuckey said, but needs to do more to educate the public and develop closer ties with the humane community.

Stuckey became a target of animal-rights extremists during his 11-month tenure. His downtown apartment was smoke-bombed and his wife felt so threatened that she left Los Angeles.

The Animal Services Department became an issue during last year's mayoral campaign and Villaraigosa pledged he would replace Stuckey if he was elected.

Ed Boks, who replaced Stuckey as animal services director, said he never heard from his predecessor and already is taking steps to implement change in the department.

"We have started a friends organization to accept donations from some of our foundations and we are expanding all our spay and neuter efforts," Boks said. "We are in the process of opening our new shelters, and each one will have spay and neutering facilities."

Boks said the euthanasia rate of animals is dropping.

"Even with all the controversy involving Mr. Stuckey and that I'm the fourth general manager in four years, over the last five years the euthanasia rate is down by 50 percent. In the first four months of this year, it's down an additional 35 percent, so a lot fewer animals are dying in Los Angeles."