Dogs allegedly kept in filthy cages for weeks or months at a time and other animals left overnight without food or water. 

Those are some of the reported conditions at Los Angeles’ shelters that caused protestors to take to the streets, demanding an immediate change to shelter leadership, and for city Mayor Karen Bass to announce plans to hire an outside firm to conduct a nationwide search for a new general manager.

Bass, in an official statement regarding the search, said the safety and well-being of animals is a priority for her administration.

“What we’ve seen recently is unacceptable, and we are committed to improving the care of all animals,” Bass said.

Months ago, the Los Angeles Times reported on criticism from the shelters’ volunteers and rescue groups, alleging neglect of animals and staff shortages. An interim general manager has headed the Animal Services department since April 2021. 

Protestors who gathered on Saturday outside the West Los Angeles Shelter, one of six overseen by the Animal Services department, held signs reading “Killing for Space,” “Suffering Without Love,” and “Don’t Forget About Us Mayor Bass.”

Haze Lynn, with L.A-based Take Me Home Rescue, alleged she’s seen pictures of feces-filled water and food bowls inside shelters and animals forced to sleep in allegedly filthy areas.

“The animals deserve better,” she told local news.

Women United for Animal Welfare, another of the protest’s organizing groups, also posted about the alleged conditions on social media prior to the rally.

“It’s time to make some noise for the shelter animals that are suffering,” the group said in a Facebook post. “The Los Angeles shelter system is failing these dogs. We need new management now.”

Bass’ statement regarding the nationwide search indicates three major goals for the incoming leader: improved levels of care for shelter animals, increased adoption rates, and enforcement of responsible pet care.

The protests follow a 46-page report released from the council’s animal welfare committee in October, which said the Animal Services department was chronically understaffed and underfunded. 

The report, which alleged animal neglect and insufficient staffing as well as a reported failure to walk dogs and keep kennels clean, called for “much more personnel and a drastic increase of its funding,” according to news reports. 

The Los Angeles Times formerly reported that key factors leading to the shelters’ circumstances included pet overpopulation, staffing issues, and increased owner surrenders of companion animals resulting from COVID-19 repercussions.

Lady Freethinker encourages city leadership to prioritize and conduct this nationwide search in as comprehensive and timely a manner as possible and also to provide funding for any services that could improve conditions for L.A.’s animals — including for an official audit of the shelters’ most pressing needs or the hiring of additional, professionally trained staff. 

We’d also like to remind everyone the importance of spaying and neutering companion animals to help prevent animal homelessness and to free up space in shelters.

We’ve reached out to Los Angeles Animal Services for comment.