Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Boks Provides Instructive Responses to Anonymous Attack

Another nasty e-mail is circulating the internet. The anonymous author seems intent on squashing any public dialogue in Los Angeles that would help lead our community to achieving its No-Kill goal and transform LA into the most Humane City in the USA. My responses to this anonymous person’s allegations are in bold. Anonymous is in italics. Please note that “anonymous” has no suggestions or recommendations to offer.

Anonymous: Tomorrow Wed August 20th, Ed Boks will be presenting one of his seminars on "RESCUE GROUPS".

There is NOTHING that Ed Boks can teach us about rescue that we do not already know.

ED: If you are a rescuer, I would largely agree. But these workshops are not for rescuers alone. They are for the entire community, most of whom don’t have a clue about the needs or our animals, our rescuers, and our department. These workshops are designed to help us think out side of the box (or the Boks, if you prefer) and come up with some new ideas, strategies and alliances to help save more lives.

Anonymous: If you know Boks and have worked with him, you know that the one value of attending any of his so called seminars is to support Ed Boks since he will use the attendance as evidence of his "success" in getting people to show up.

ED: Actually, my role in these workshops is that of a secretary, to document the ideas and suggestions of the community. A panel of rescuers and other experts will be present to engage on the topics being discussed.

Anonymous: The only possible value of attending would be to use it as a chance to get Boks/Barth to reverse the recent negative changes they made in the New Hope program.

ED: The purpose of tonight’s workshop is to discuss program enhancements, so we welcome discussion on this topic. To put the above allegation into context it is important to understand that there were only two significant changes in the New Hope program. One was reinstituting the $28 spay/neuter fee. This is a fee that rescue partners had routinely paid until the advent of the New Hope program in 2006. The department waived that fee for one year and there was no increase in the number of animals saved through New Hope. The fee was waived to help New Hope partners rescue more animals.

It was difficult to justify waiving the fee a second year when it had no measurable impact the first year. Nonetheless, the department secured a $160,000 grant from the Found Animal Foundation so we could waive the fee a second year. Unfortunately, there was still little increase in the number of animals saved and the grant money was spent. So the department had to reinstitute the fee this fiscal year to help off-set a 15% budget cut.

It would be great if the rescue groups would work together to obtain a grant to cover this fee, as the department did for the rescue groups in 2007.

The second change was asking New Hope partners to share adopter information with the Department so we can follow up on licensing. The Department is rightfully under a lot of pressure to increase licensing and we would appreciate our New Hope partners understanding this new requirement - and that it will lead to saving the lives of any licensed and tagged dog brought to any of our Centers.

Anonymous: However, remember that Ed Boke is famous for his lies and empty promises. He will charmingly agree to take your opinions under consideration but no change for the animals will take place unless it serves him personally.

ED: Serving as the general manager of LA Animal Services is a difficult job, particularly when personally criticized by anonymous mudslingers. However, every effort I make is dedicated to doing the best job I can for the City and the animals in my care.

Anonymous: Ed Boks has already agreed to form several "committees" in the past ostensibly working to improve the New Hope program, improve conditions at the shelters and implement public educational programs. Nothing these committees brought to the table was ever implemented. All of the committees dissolve because Ed Boks not only refused to take recommendations and input for positive change but actually falsely claimed that these committees approved changes when they did not.

ED: Actually, the New Hope program we are discussing tonight is the result of the work of two separate committees, one in 2006 and one in 2007. The department is also working with a committee on the formation of a marketing strategy for the spay/neuter ordinance, with remarkable results you will soon all see. The department has a track record of working productively with committees. Not perfect, as some committees have gone astray from staying focused on the business of saving lives and improving procedures and practices, but we are determined to continue working with the community and individuals committed to developing and implementing life saving strategies!

Anonymous: If you do choose to attend the seminar I ask you to challenge Ed Boks on the following:

Why is the Northeast Valley animal shelter not open to rescuers without the need for an advance appointment during very restricted hours?

ED: The Mission (Northeast Valley) Animal Care Center is not open to the public with the exception of our New Hope partners. The Center has very limited staffing, so we have no choice but to meet New Hope partners there by appointment.

Anonymous: If he blames a poor economy read further and ask him the following: Why did he, while our economy is failing, hire a second Assistant General Manager?

ED: Hiring an Assistant General Manager for operations has been a two year process that obviously began long before the current economic slowdown. This position is critical to the success of the department and I make no apologies for filling it with the most qualified person I could find. Improving the direct oversight over shelter and field staff is a critical function in a department with our history.

Anonymous: No General Manager in the history of LAAS ever had two AGM. The cost of these AGMs is approximately $200,000 in salary and benefits a year?

ED: For years before my coming to LA, the local animal welfare community insisted the City find a General Manager who would hold the department accountable for results. The three cardinal principles for success are Leadership, Focus, and Accountability. You cannot hold the Department accountable for results if you don’t allow for leadership. One person alone cannot effectively manage an organization with eight locations, seven of which are open 24/7, with officers in the field 24/7 covering over 490 square miles that is Los Angeles, and taking in 150 animals a day. All one has to do is look at the stream of General Managers who have graced the revolving door known as LA Animal Services over the past few years to know this is true.

For any organization to be successful the first rule is to get the right people on the bus and then to get the right people into the right seats on the bus. That is not an easy task in LA, and it took time, but the results are the only way to evaluate success. I believe you will see the type of leadership and results the LA community has been demanding.

Anonymous: Why does Ed Boks need 2 Directors of Fields Operations at the approximate cost of $230,000 in salary and benefits a year? Why does Ed Boks need 4 new District Supervisors of Operations at the cost of approximately $407,000 in salary and benefit per year?

ED: See the above answer. LA Animal Services is sometimes viewed very simplistically, as a company of dog catchers and kennel workers who operate on autopilot. However, Animal Services it is a very complex and dynamic organization. The District Supervisor positions are positions that were mistakenly eliminated several years ago as a budget saving measure. What that did was eliminate any opportunity for Center Managers to grow into executive-level positions. Through the reinstitution of these positions we will establish a well run, accountable department that will be able to select its future GMs and AGMs internally and not from out of state.

Anonymous: All at a time when LAAS' budget has been cut to the point that the department is slated to lay off 28 ACTs and the animal food budget has been reduced starting in Sept 2008 from $7,125 per shelter per month to $4,750 per shelter per month. That is a reduction of approx $100,000 a year in the food budget while the number of animals under his care continues to increase.

ED: The food budget was over budgeted in the past and we never spent the entire line budget allocated for food. The layoffs are the result of authorized hiring done specifically to prepare for the opening the new Mission (Northeast Valley) Center. If the City continues in its decision to not open that Center and to reduce operating hours, then, under current circumstances we have no choice but to lay off the extra Animal Care Technicians we hired to staff it. Efforts are being made by members of the City Council and others to remedy the situation, but the results are not yet known.

Anonymous: The following is documentation we have that illustrate how Boks/Barth report their killing, and it is very disturbing. It appears that this is one way he can deliver his false no-kill claims. The numbers below came for LAAS documents.

Ed Boks declared March 2008 as a "No-Kill Month". That month one LAAS district shelter euthanized approximately 271 animals. All but 21 were killed for behavioral, medical and unweaned. So that means that 250 in one shelter in one month were so ill and aggressive that they had to be killed.

In April of 2008 two of the highest kill LAAS district shelters euthanized approximately 898 animals. All but 38 were killed for behavioral, medical and unweaned. So that means that 860 animals in 2 shelters in one month were so ill or aggressive that they had to be killed.

In June 2008, 223 animal were euthanized in one of the district lowest kill shelters and NONE were reported as being killed for time and space. So here again, 223 animals were killed in one shelter in one month due to illness and aggression.

In July 2008; 165 animals euthanized in another low kill LAAS district shelter, again, NONE for time and space.

Since "no kill" accepts euthanasia for the medically and behaviorally unadoptable animals, these euthanasia rates lead one to believe that the killing was only 5% of the animals actually killed in LAAS.

ED: The recent increase in animal impounds has led to an increase in the number of animals euthanized. This is the first increase in pet euthanasia in the past six years. The Department successfully reduced pet euthanasia over 50% in the past six years, and 22% in 2007. YTD 2008 has seen a 37.38% increase in euthanasia (10,217) compared to 2007 YTD (7,437). However, when the numbers are normalized to account for the increase in impounds, the euthanasia rate is up only 3.49%.

So, what does that mean to achieving No-Kill?

Phase I of No-Kill is achieved when no healthy animal is killed due to a lack of space or resources.

Phase II is achieved when we end the killing of animals in need of medical treatment.

YTD 118 cats and 384 dogs were killed due to insufficient holding space and/or resources. These healthy pets represent the challenge to achieving Phase I of the City’s “No-Kill” Goal.

YTD, the Department is over 95% on its way to achieving Phase I of No-Kill.

The Department has always welcomed and invited the closest scrutiny to how these numbers are collected and reported. To date, no one has taken us up on our invitation. But the numbers are what they are…

Anonymous: However, in closely reviewing these numbers, it begs the question how could it be that 95% of animals killed in LAAS are killed because they are unadoptable. How does Ed Boks define "behavioral, medical or IRS"? Any of us that have adopted or rescued out of LAAS know that those are impossible odds. As a matter of fact, most of the animals labeled aggressive or sick are not. However, without using such tactics Boks/Barth team cannot show the mayor that they have created any positive change in LAAS.

ED: I know, the animal welfare community finds this type of success impossible to believe. That is why the department has always shied away from reporting on this and has only reported its numbers in terms of “beating hearts in” and “beating hearts out”.

Our staff doesn’t evaluate animal’s behaviors, by directive of our Commission. But we do evaluate them by observation. Animals that demonstrate dangerous behavior are not placed for adoption BUT THEY ARE MADE AVAILABLE to our New Hope Partners. So no animal is arbitrarily euthanized for behavior without having an opportunity to be considered and evaluated for seven days by our 140 New Hope partners.

Anyone who truly works with the Department knows that we have animals in our Centers for half a year or more, you know that we perform some of the most amazing life saving surgeries, we go to tremendous lengths to save lives, more so than any other municipal shelter system in the country. In the last year, our veterinary team expended over $300,000 in medical supplies and medicines. So yes, only around 5% of the animals euthanized are healthy, sound animals.

The Mayor’s office pays close attention to the work of the Department as well as to the concerns of the humane community regarding our operations and our results and is well aware of the progress we are making in a number of areas as well as of the challenges we continue to face.

Anonymous: The numbers above are not to illustrate the euthanasia rate. We are all aware the "no kill" will take time and planning to achieve. These numbers prove that Boks/Barth have failed to create a viable no kill solution but have succeeded in reated a way of misleading the city of Los Angeles and its mayor.

ED: If anonymous wants to work with the Department in identifying just how we are deceiving ANYONE, I welcome them to come forward. Notice that anonymous provides no solutions or recommendations, only personal attacks. If anonymous – or anyone else – thinks they have something constructive to recommend regarding achieving “no kill” apart from promoting certain personalities who are either unqualified for or show no interest in working here, I welcome those ideas. I believe we are employing viable no kill solutions to the best of our abilities in a difficult environment, and they form the basis of the workshop series. Also, once again, the Mayor’s office is completely familiar with everything that is going on.

Anonymous: Another method they use to provide false numbers is warehousing the animals.

In July of this year Ed was accused of warehousing the animals to improve his numbers. To achieve the appearance of less killing, Mr. Boks warehouses the animals until they develop behavioral and/or medical issues and then euthanizes
them for being medically or behaviorally unadoptable. In so doing the time and space numbers remain minimal.

ED: This is not an easy task; and it does point to the already-mentioned need for a more accountable management structure. The Department is committed to achieving “No-Kill”. Yes, we keep animals a long time in an effort to find them homes. Our Centers have a cadre of dedicated volunteer dog trainers who work with the animals to make them more adoptable while they are with us and to help them stay as sociable and healthy as possible. As mentioned above, we have an improved - and remarkable - veterinary program dedicated to fighting the constant threat of disease and treating animals as quickly as possible as needed.

Are we slow to euthanize animals? Yes. And I am in the process of implementing a program to make the process even slower. Each Center has what we call a “Heart-to-Heart” Team. They are charged with evaluating the animals before deciding if they should be euthanized. The team is made up of the Center Manager, the Animal Care Technician Supervisor, the Veterinarian, and the New Hope Coordinator or their designees. They review the length of time the animal has been with us, the health of the animal, the behavior of the animal, and our New Hope and adoption options. Only when this team feels we have exhausted every live saving option for a particular animal is that animal euthanized.

5% of the time this difficult process leads to the death of a healthy animal to help alleviate overcrowding.


Some of you may not know that the LAAS shelter staff is extremely unhappy with Mr. Boks. performance and would like a change to be made. The staff is behind the humane community 100% and will support all rescue groups in every effort. For the first time in the history of LAAS the staff and rescuers are on exactly the same page.

ED: I am well aware of the concerns of some staff and I try to be available to discuss them. I am absolutely confident in saying I know these statements about total unity between the staff and humane community are inaccurate. Complaints from rescuers and others about incidents involving staff have not disappeared into thin air as anonymous apparently would have us believe.

I try to support both my staff and the rescue community and doing so sometimes raises the ire of one or the other when conflicts arise. Those conflicts arise because staff and the rescuers are NOT always on the same page. The Department’s management team spends too much time working on solutions to these issues for this “unity myth” to be credible. Finding solutions to these challenges is the purpose of tonight's workshop.

If someone has a better approach to managing these situations, I’m open to discussing. I want what is best for the Department.

Anonymous: Do you really want to take out time and attend this seminar or any other of Boks' seminars? The only result will be that Ed Boks can show that someone showed up to support him and will continue to ignore what we tell him we need to help save the lives of our city animals.

ED: I cannot imagine what the value of squashing dialogue is. What is this anonymous person afraid of?