This story has been updated with a comment from Ryan Drabeck, deputy director of the L.A. County Department of Animal Care and Control. His comments appear at the end of this article.
DOWNEY – Laura Jones has seen her share of rundown kennels, but even she admits she was "disturbed" after visiting the L.A. County animal shelter in Downey last week.
“I have been to some of the very worst high-kill shelters in Southern California and the conditions at Downey shelter were by far the most abhorrent I’ve seen,” said Jones. ”I felt physically ill at the sight and smell of the poor animals being forced to lie on floors covered with feces. It was heartbreaking.”
Jones, co-founder of All About The Animals, a grass-roots network that helps save animals from high-skill shelters throughout the United States, says she captured images of dogs suffering from skin infections and wallowing in their own excrement at the Downey Animal Care Center on Aug. 5.
Jones said she felt compelled to take action, and has drafted a petition calling on the Downey shelter to clean up its act. More than 2,800 signatures have been gained so far, Jones said.
The petition, available online here, will be presented to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors on Aug. 25.
In the petition, Jones notes that in one building containing 42 kennels with dogs available for adoption, just over half of these kennels were "overflowing with feces," which in many cases "appeared days old and encrusted to the floor."
Jones warned that the unsanitary conditions are having a detrimental effect on the health of the dogs housed at the Downey shelter.
“I adopted a Chihuahua mix named Jelly Bean that day. It turned out she had both kennel cough and also a bacterial skin infection which the vet thinks is a direct result of her feces-lined kennel at Downey shelter,” said Jones. “These conditions at the Downey shelter are not acceptable, and it is time for the public to stand up and fight for the humane treatment of homeless pets within LA County. If we don't speak up for these voiceless creatures, then who will?”
The petition urges the LA County Board of Supervisors to commission an independent investigation of their shelters.
“L.A. County taxpayers’ funds are being used ineffectively on the operation of mismanaged, dilapidated and filthy shelters like Downey,” said Jones. “The LA County Department of Animal Care and Control should be held accountable for these dire conditions; the animals deserve better.”
The Downey shelter was built in 1946 and houses about 400 dogs and 120 cats. A report issued by the L.A. County Department of Animal Care and Control in March said the facilities kennels were constructed with built-in dog beds "that are difficult to clean and difficult to maintain."
The shelter suffers from a host of other problems, the report states, including a faulty HVAC system; a dead animal freezer that leaks; a euthanasia room that is not properly ventilated, allowing odors and fluids to permeate; an inadequate spay and neuter clinic; and old fencing that poses a security risk.
"This is an extremely dated facility and sanitation is extremely difficult to maintain," says the report.
Ryan Drabeck, deputy director of the L.A. County Department of Animal Care and Control, said he and his staff take the allegations in the petition seriously, and employees work incredibly hard to ensure cleanliness within our care centers.
“Our staff cleans the kennels throughout the day, doing routine spot cleaning throughout as they also provide adoption visits, move animals for veterinary exams and spay/neuter surgeries, assist with intake of new animals coming to the facility, and assisting with owner redemptions,” Drabeck said.
“We also have a veterinary team onsite to ensure the health and care of our animals,” he added. “Each animal is vaccinated and provided a veterinary exam upon intake as it is important to be proactive against the spread of disease in an animal shelter.”