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Why do L.A.’s Animal Services FAIL?

This is BOBO

This is just one example of many, why U.S. shelter systems suck: on Thursday last week I called the East Valley Animal Shelter in Van Nuys to receive more information about one specific dog. I saw a Mastiff, a massive, super sweet-looking dog on the shelter’s website who reminded me of my own dog Samson. Every week I promote a different dog on our Facebook fan page and was looking for a new doggie, when I saw this Mastiff named BOBO.

Owners had surrendered him after 9 years of companionship. I cross-posted his picture on Facebook, tweeted and asked friends for help the same day. After I walked my dogs I called the shelter with my ID number and the dog’s name ready and talked to a woman on the phone after waiting 20 minutes on the line. She was nice but had no clue; she greeted me with a very low and slow “hey”… and I didn’t understand the rest. I gave her the ID number and the dog’s name, and at first she couldn’t find him in the database, then we had this type of not-helpful conversation:

She: He is not at the shelter anymore.

Me (excited): Oh, really? What happened to him, did he get adopted? I’m talking about the big Mastiff with the black mask, he was brown and 154 lbs.

[I described the dog a little more]

She: Oh, hmmmm, yeah that dog…he is AGGRESSIVE.

Me: ‘Aggressive’? Like…dog aggressive, fear aggressive or human aggressive… what do you mean by ‘aggressive’? Is he shy or really aggressive, does he have a history?

She: Ahhhh, I don’t know, but he is human aggressive.

Me: So, is he still available? I want to drop by and take pictures of him. Is he still at your facility? Can you please check for me?

She: Hold on a second…Yes, he is here!

[I’m confused] Me: OK great. I will be there in an hour.


This is silly boy Blanco (now: Bones). He is 2 years old and a very friendly and cute dog. His ID# is A1311910

I packed my stuff and was really excited to meet BOBO, a 154-lb. Mastiff. I arrived at the shelter with a friend of mine and walked through the whole shelter, taking pictures of the dogs and sharing doggie treats with them, patting them, looking into some shy, timid and anxious eyes. I stopped and took a deep breath every time and walked through all cages to see who is behind the bars. Calling them and trying to reach their necks with my fingers. As usual the shelter was full of Pit Bull Mixes and little Chihuahuas, each one cuter and cuter. It took me a while to walk through all cages. I couldn’t find the Mastiff and I walked again and again through every single kennel. Finally, I decided to ask a volunteer to take some dogs out and to help me take pictures of the dogs. We took pictures of 3 different dogs and I asked her if she knew anything about the Mastiff – and she said that he wasn’t there anymore, but she doesn’t know what happened to him.

After I spent an hour-and-a-half taking pictures, I walked to the front desk to find the special dog I was looking for. I was afraid to ask, because I feared to hear that they had to put him down or something. I hoped and wished he was still alive. I walked up to the font desk and asked one of the staff members in his uniform and he said he can’t help me without an ID number. I’d forgotten to write it down, so I started looking up the number on my phone, but had really bad reception inside the building. I described him, I mean, this dog is huge and how can’t you know anything about him? He is very eye-catching and you don’t take a Mastiff like him in every day. He was taken in on May 25 and nobody knew anything. My friend asked again, and the guy in the blue uniform was helping others in the meantime. A woman reminded me: “We need the ID number”. It took forever to load the pages. Then the man with the black shoulder long hair said: Ok let me see in the back. After 5 minutes he came out with an ID card and said: Is this the dog you are looking for? ME: “Yes, that’s him”. He: “Oh, he just got  adopted yesterday! I was looking at him and didn’t really buy it, and he showed me the kennel card with a red mark: ‘ADOPTED’. I took a deep breath and wanted to hug the man (I didn’t do it of course). BOBO made it, what a relief.

Love him! This is Ace – ID#A1313718 – brown and white Staffordshire Bull Terrier mix. 3 years old. He looked at me the whole time but didn’t get up.

I’m asking: Why do you have a back area where other dogs (not open to the public) are kept and just waiting for their death? Why do you hand out wrong information and rob a dog of the chance to get adopted? Why do you know so little about the dogs in your shelter and why do you not care? How can you not know anything about a 154 lb. dog? Why did I receive 3 different versions until I got the information I was trying to get? What kind of service is this, for an institution described as ‘Animal Services’?

Everyone who is involved in animal welfare, runs a non-profit rescue, pulls dogs out for a rescue, fosters dogs or just visits shelters like me as a caring individual, knows what I’m talking about. Why is nobody out in the kennel area? No excuses, please. In the 1 1/2 hours I saw at least 3 people who were really interested in dogs. It’s like going to a car dealer and walking around for an hour looking at cars, reading the detail cards and waiting for the sales guys. Do you think the car dealer would sell a car that way? In this case, these are not cars, these are living creatures waiting for a 2nd chance, a new home to rescue them from a kill shelter.

A young couple was looking for a dog and going through the kennels over and over again, an overexcited woman who fell in love with one of the puppies and talking loudly to her mom begged her to let her bring the little puppy home, another family walked around looking for little dogs. I had the desire to help these people and ask them what they were looking for and show them some dogs myself. They were looking for someone, trying to find a person who could assist them.


Cute ‘Cookie’ – female, black and white Terrier mix. 8 years old. ID#A1309722

Everything was happening outside in the kennel area, while the complete staff was inside. Incompetent and bored staff members, annoyed by the questions of clients, potential adopters and people who just cared about these imprisoned animals and wanted to know more. Every time, I just wanted to kick someone for his/her false information, ignorance or incompetence.

It was 3:30 pm on a not busy Thursday afternoon and I couldn’t find any staff member to ask questions, they were all hanging out at the lobby and answering phone calls and pretending being super stressed and busy. All 5 of them;). Shelter Volunteer Sarah was great, she showed me 3 dogs and we hung out with them to give them some time and love outside the cages. She helped me a lot that day… and she was the only person I could find. The shelter volunteers, however, were sweating and working hard. One of them told me last time that he always picks up hamburgers for the dogs who get killed that day. They are not allowed to handle every dog, just the ones with the specific signs on the kennel cards.

I left the fancy prison in the Valley, many dogs trapped in cages, 70% Pit Bull Mixes. My camera in hand, loaded with pictures and videos. My thoughts were with all the sweet dogs and cats left behind. My heart was heavy and my eyes full of tears; I was happy that BOBO the mastiff made it out, and thank you to the family who adopted him!

The dogs shown in this post are some of the dogs up for adoption at the East Valley Shelter in Van Nuys, California. Please also read Thomas Cole’s article about no-kill’s limitations and Josh Liddy’s article confusion is a consistent trait of la county.

Bones video:

5 replies on “Why do L.A.’s Animal Services FAIL?”

I have wondered this many times myself, Yurda. If the problem is with the shelters then those of us that want to see change need to work in the shelters. But people who loose sleep over animals dying could never be directly or indirectly involved in a healthy animal being euthanized. Every person (at any level) who works in a kill shelter is a part of the terrible process. I do not know how to fix the entire problem, but getting people in the shelters that even CARE would be a start. I am so glad BOBO is ok and so thankful that I know you!

With your permission, Yurda…
Julie, you wrote, “I do not know how to fix the entire problem…” I do, I know how to fix the whole problem. The whole thing, from start to finish. Saving all lives. It’s called The Adoption Center model. Check it out at

Los Angeles just unveiled its brand new $9 million boondoggle called the Southside Shelter. All sorts of hype about innovation, state of the art approach, leading edge designs, etc. Hogwash! There is absolutely nothing in that architect’s design that hasn’t been done more than a dozen times before. That is nothing but a prissy costly “boutique” shelter. The only person who gets to claim innovation is Rich Avanzino because he designed (with ARQ Architects) the first one back in 1998. L.A. did nothing more than jump on the boutique bandwagon. $9 million – sad.

These places are pretty for awhile. They appeal to people. But to animals, they’re just another prison. Wire has been exchanged for glass, that’s all. Americans love this approach to problem solving = throw more money at it! Btw, it never works.

For $9 million my group could have created 3 facilities, all of them far superior. They would have been industry changing, too. They’d bring together the rescue community as no other effort has or can. This is nothing but a pretty addition to that architect’s portfolio at the expense of the animals and the taxpayers.

There’s a better way…

Thank you for your comment, Thomas.

I agree, we don’t want any more fancy prisons for animals. Your adoption center model is the future and I can’t wait to be a part of it.

Wow it is a total coincidence that I found this. I was trying to find a generic photo of an animal shelter on Google and lo and behold I saw a familiar face. I asked myself, “Is that Sir Bobo, the mastiff I saw on the Animal Services’ website awhile back???”

Wow I couldn’t believe it when it turned out to be him. I had wondered about him!!!!

THANK YOU so much for posting about him! Believe me, I know all too well about the horrors that go on at East Valley. I have more than one horror story I could tell about what has happened to me and my friends there, but I’d probably better not say publicly.

Let’s just say NO ONE should ever believe anything they tell you unless you have some proof, or someone you trust tells you. If someone tells you a dog is dead, it may not be true. The dog may be still alive but about to die if it isn’t rescued soon!! If they tell you it is still alive, they could still be lying.

Oh, and there is a woman who works there who HATES all pit bulls with a passion and will override other supervisors’ efforts to save them, and go ahead and kill them herself. I do not know her name but I’m sure it would be easy to find out.

But anyway, thank you for letting me know about this sweetheart mastiff. I feel just a bit better now, and I hope he went to a very loving home!

Hi there –

Thank you for your comment on BOBO. I’m glad I could share information about this dog (I LOVE him). I would love to hear more from you and your rescue efforts. Shoot me an email ( if you want to share your insights and experiences. I think it’s the public’s right to know about all the things going on in animal shelters and to raise awareness.

Again, thank you for your feedback:)

Enjoy your Sunday,

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