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Brenda Barnette: Battleground for Another Animal Rights War — The Unanswered Questions

Would Bruno, LA’s Watchdog, be alive today if Brenda Barnette, nominated to run the embattled city Animal Services Department, had gotten her hands on him?

Probably not.
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According to several animal rights advocates and rescue workers, Barnette — head of the Seattle Humane Society Shelter, AKC leader and sometimes lobbyist for dog breeders — has a thing about pit bulls, pit bull mixes and suspected pit bull mixes. She doesn’t like their temperament.

Frankly, I don’t like Bruno’s temperament much either a lot of the time. Being a mix of pit bull and Chinese Shar Pei, both fighting dogs, Bruno was dumped on the streets and wandered around until my wife adopted him and spent a fortune cleaning him up and trying to teach him self-control. He still goes berserk from time to time and needs to be managed closely.

Barnett’s view of animals like Bruno is very dark indeed, according to many in the animal rights community who have been excluded from meeting and questioning Barnette by the mayor’s team and pro-Barnette animal lovers.

Here’s the way one activist who questions Barnette’s credentials and the process put it:

“What’s wrong with asking how a dog breeder and dog breeding supporter can be in charge of a department that is supposed to save lives and enforce spay/neuter laws? 

“How will Ms. Barnette save LAAS’ (LA Animal Services) 6,500 pit bulls a year (and thousands more pit bull mixes) when she has a policy of rejecting many pit bulls, pit bull mixes and possible pit bulls, and then killing many others for failing her temperament test? 

“How can Ms. Barnette correct L.A.’s animal cruelty, Santee Alley, pit and cock fighting, and other endemic problems when she doesn’t have any background in any of those things?”

The heart of the controversy over Barnette’s appointment is how running a tiny shelter in Seattle where she boasts a 90 percent record of finding new homes for stray dogs and unwanted dogs that dropped off with the owner paying a $200 fee qualifies her to run the nation’s largest animal shelter program with thousands of unwanted dogs.

In Seattle, Barnette could be selective about which dogs she took in and which she sought to place in new homes so she didn’t have to face the euthanasia problem that exists in LA where a third or more of dogs aren’t even registered. The same is true of spaying-neutering — a massive issue in LA — a problem exacerbated by Barnette’s personal and professional roles as a dog breeder and advocate.

The people I’ve connected to are not writing Barnette off entirely, just asking a lot of questions.

Others like the Animal Defense League-LA have been able to meet with Barnette and speak extensively with people who worked with her. The group is gushing in its praise.

“We have basically put Brenda Barnette under our microscope,” says a post on their website.

“So with all the humility we can muster, we have to say that even though ADL-LA members personally scorn (Deputy Mayor) Jim Bickhart, the Mayor, (Deputy Mayor) Jimmy Blackman and others who have for years been complicit in the slaughter of animal inside LAAS, we must now give credit where credit is due. They were absolutely correct in their choice for the new General Manager and their choice seems to imply that they are ready and willing for major positive change and a new vision, a LIFE SAVING VISION, for the homeless and lost animals of Los Angeles.”

Last weekend, Barnette met with some segment of the upper crust of the animal rights world at what was described as a wine-and-cheese event in Beverly Hills, one of several meetings she has held with supporters in a carefully stage-managed presentation of her.

Critics won’t get the chance to ask her questions until July 11, the day before her nomination goes before a City Council committee.

Given the ugly decade-long controversies that have engulfed Animal Services, sharp divisions in the animal rights community and the Council’s new policy of getting all the facts before making decisions, it’s in the interest of all of us that Barnette address the questions of everyone from rescue volunteers, activists, shelter workers.

Ed Boks, whose appointment as general manager was bought for him by a billionaire’s handsome donation to the mayor’s political causes, proved to be a disaster in all regards in no small part because so little attention was paid to his past record.

Given the high sensitivity and the intense passions involved in animal issues, a full and complete vetting of Barnette in public is needed.

The questions about Barnette range from her personal finances to her limited experience
as the head of an animal rescue service that operates by appointment only and cherry picks dogs for rescue, even importing dogs from LA and elsewhere to meet the demand in Seattle.

The most serious questions revolve around her roles as legislative liaison for the American Kennel Club and with a political action committee funded by breeders who waged a vigorous fight against mandatory spay/neuter laws in California — information she has taken down from her Facebook page since her nomination.

The animal rights community has been engaged in a furious debate over this nomination. But we all have a stake in not repeating the mistakes of the past, in getting all dogs registered, in reducing the number of animals euthanized, in stopping puppy mills and getting more dogs and cats spayed or neutered to reduce the unwanted pet population.

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15 Responses to Brenda Barnette: Battleground for Another Animal Rights War — The Unanswered Questions

  1. Honestyhelps says:

    Plenty on Barnette at this site which is exposing her and her schemes.
    http://www.workingtohelpanimalstodaytomorrow.blogspot.com
    It explains why Barnette may be here in LA. Seems her scheming to take over animal control in Seattle fell through just a few days before the announcement. It has been coming for awhile but just two days before her announcement, the word become official. Barnette would not be getting taxpayer money to expand her shelter. She resigned her commission seat after a lawsuit was filed that would provide the proof of her scheme. There’s so much more that will be coming out on this woman. She is worse than Boks in many ways.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Is this going to be another one of those examples when the Council demands “more time” to make an informed decision or not? Clearly, this candidate needs to be carefully vetted before she is allowed to make a decision that sends any animal to its death.
    I agree – running a shelter that receives funding sources from pet owners is very different than dealing in the LA animal community. But will the Council consider that? Or will they just see her as being qualified to do a job most people in their right mind couldn’t tolerate?
    I am not defending the woman – but, working for the AKC as a lobbyist is not something that should be slammed without carefully looking at both sides of the issue – breeders vs. backyard breeders. Without the AKC working to maintain that breed standards are maintained (i.e., for health and temperament), many of the qualities that people long for in a pet would be lost. It is the backyard breeders that are causing the problem with pet over-population. When they breed, they don’t care about the standards required by the AKC…they want the quick money and we pay for those litters in many ways.

  3. anonymous says:

    Thanks for providing this forum Ron.
    I have no idea if this woman will work out or not. It does seem like the some of the people criticizing her lack of large shelter experience are the same people who want someone else as GM who has no shelter experience.
    Go figure.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Has anyone noticed that two other LA GM’s are leaving within a month? Planning Director Gail Goldberg made her announcement Wednesday that she’s leaving in July, according to the Daily News; and Treasurer Joye De Foor is leaving this week.
    Anyone thinking of coming in and risking a future career might want to note that others are abandoning the sinking ship.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The mistake being repeated here, Ron, is that you are buying into a bunch of hyperbole, rumors and questionably motivated half-truths, exaggerations and outright lies that a minority in the animal activist community is circulating. You’re doing so because you like to tweak City Hall, but you’re also a respected journalist (or should I say “former journalist turned activist”) who should have some respect for the truth instead of just repeating innuendo and giving it the undeserved imprimatur of your credibility.
    Brenda Barnette is a respected animal welfare professional who is NOT a breeder, NOT an AKC lobbyist, NOT a pit bull-hater and actually knows what she is doing when it comes to running animal adoption organizations and animal shelters. I contrast that to the people leading the charge against her, one of whom is a frustrated unsuccessful candidate for the job who is ill-qualified to even comment upon Barnette’s credentials, let alone presume to have the job itself, and ALL of whom wouldn’t be able to manage LA Animal Services to save themselves (let alone any animals).
    We’ll make sure Ms. Barnette sees your post and maybe she’ll take a minute to set you straight. Somebody needs to.

  6. Anonymous says:

    It’s gonna take some real houdini to remove all the cached stuff on Brenda Barnette’s breeding records and her daughters and her AKC legislation job and her breed club memberships going waaaaay back, and her Petpac crush, but we’re all waiting for her to take a minute to tell us the plans that landed her a reported $190,000+ job when the peons are being fired. Speak to us, Brenda…

  7. Anonymous says:

    I am a retired Animal Control Employee & Shelter Volunteer of 30 years. It’s very painful working with the condemned. Especially painful back in the 70′s & 80′s, when our City Shelter was run by the Chief of Police, who saw the AC as a place to dispose of garbage. Back then they would spend money on Euthinsia machines, but never a cent to help get a pet adopted. The only expense was for new Freezers to hold the bodies before the Rendering Plant truck came. IT WAS HELL FOR THE ANIMALS AND WE HUMANS. However some of us kept hope and were encouraged by Rescue Groups like the Tony LaRussa Organizations. Back then we didn’t have computers and had to call for help, spay/neuter were ugly words and most people used the shelter to dump unwanted pets, but not adopt. One day I called The LaRussa group and spoke with Brenda Barnette. I asked if they could help with one of our sweet little dogs. Brenda arrived almost immediately & not only helped with one dog, she and her daughter came to our shelter and rescued a van load of them! They came almost on a regular basis. Having worked with dogs all my life, I thought I knew alot, but Brenda taught me quite a few things I wasn’t aware of. Some of her “testing”techniques were new to me..AND they helped me to see potential in dogs that we had previously thought would not be adoptable. These tests helped save the lives of tiny Chihuahuas, and also Pit Bulls. It was always a pleasure working with her and I hope the people in LA will give her a chance to help the animals in your shelter.

  8. AKC clarity says:

    To understand why the affiliation with AKC is problematic, you have to understand what the AKC does. Yes, they develop standards for dog breeds, and yes that is fine.
    The problem is that the AKC mostly makes its money from the rampant backyard breeders and puppy mills who can charge higher prices on thier dogs by paying a per animal registration fee to AKC so that the dog has “papers”. AKC makes TENS of millions of dollars a year doing this and they do almost no inspections or verification of the standards from these sources. Without puppy mills and amature backyard breeders, AKC would be little more than an association of dog fanciers. Instead, they thrive financially by directly encouraging (and profiting from) an industry that is filling the shelters with dogs – or the offspring of those dogs.

  9. Anonymous says:

    There is an ongoing lawsuit in King County/Seattle. Barnette was threatened with legal actions for not cooperating with this lawsuit. In other words, she got the hell outta Dodge before the s**t hit the fan. She waited until she was sure that she was out of the picture as far as her scheme to destroy animal control for personal gain, that is why the Mayor was late in his announcement about her appointment. She never “rescued” dogs from LA, she cherry picked the shelters for the cute adoptable dogs, not taking the pit bulls, the old, the injured, the big black dogs. She got these dogs already altered at LA taxpayer expense and has stated she will continue to do this and ship them to Seattle Humane. Taking homes away from the local shelter animals only means they die. She was selling animals from LA, yes, selling. That’s not rescuing. There is a lot of evil in this woman’s background, open your eyes and see it.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Anon:38, are you not going to all those links provided that show that yes indeed, Barnette is a breeder, an AKC lobbyist and never once rescued any pits from LA or Kern county. Did you not see the email concerning the intake of pits to SHS under Barnette? You are in denial of the truth and the truth is that Barnette is the last person you want to take over animal control in LA. She ain’t fit to be a dog catcher, as they say.

  11. What THe says:

    Being an AKC lobbyist means she lobbies for puppy mills and puppy mill cruelty. http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=American_Kennel_Club The AKC cannot survive without puppy mill registration money. They support animal abuse in the name of profits so Brenda and her friends can have dog shows and sell dogs. They oppose any kind of puppy mill regulations. They think breeders should be able to do what they want, like torture animals for profit.
    Yes, it is the show breeders that call themselves responsible that lobby for the puppy mills and support them. They lobby right with the puppy mill owners and groups. The show breeders profit too from the puppy mill money, and even AKC judges are getting busted for running puppy mills. They all want no laws so they can torture and profit freely.
    Brenda is involved with NAIA http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=National_Animal_Interest_Alliance and Patti Strand http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Patti_Strand who is an AKC board member who handles the puppy mill business, and supports every kind of animal abuse you can imagine as long as she and her friends make money at it.
    This is what AKC and Brenda Barnette support.
    This is animal abuse support and corruption at its worst.
    AKC breeders even share advice on how to hide their breeding businesses and eascape animal control laws. THey want no anti-cruelty laws at all.
    And Rick Berman is involved with NAIA and AKC. This man is the Animal Cruelty Support Lobbyist. http://bermanexposed.org/ and http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Rick_Berman His clients include Petland, puppy mills, dog fighters, research labs, and Nathan Winograd is involved with him. He opposes anti-cruelty legislation and laws for his animal-abusing clients.
    This is how the ADL-LA got hoodwinked, by Rick Berman and his breeder and other worker bees. Berman and friends want a breeder lobbyist in there to let the mills and hoarders do whatever they want to animals so profits soar, all tax free of course.

  12. WhatThe says:

    I think it is also time for the breeders to stop the deception.
    The AKC has stated directly that Brenda Barnette works for them as a legislative lobbyist, doing what Patti Strand does.
    Trying to hide her activities and support for animal abuse only proves the lengths that the animal profiteers will go to to support their interests and get someone hired who will help them make more money. It’s a crime.

  13. Ty says:

    Just one example. Brenda Barnette lobbying with her AKC puppy mill breeder friends to oppose regulation and keep the cruelty happening (as well as the tax fraud) and all this while heading an animal shelter!
    http://www.kirotv.com/news/18677601/detail.html
    Also, after the Petland puppy mill expose hit the media, Brenda Barnette wrote a letter to the editor where she failed to disclose her AKC’s business arrangement with Petland and puppy mills, and encouraged people to buy from breeders like her! And she signed it CEO of Seattle Humane Society!
    This is true, real, actual corruption. Brenda Barnette will protect the breeders and puppy millers, even the dog fighters that lobby with the AKC and NAIA, in LA.

  14. Truthfully, I don’t know what she can or will do here where (and Council has warned her) there is NO MONEY. Without money, the only way she can reduce the killing is by only killing “unadoptable” animals–which, to me, means dog who look like or who are pit bulls or mixes. If she brings in temperament testing for dogs in the already stressful environment of the “shelter” there will be war…and we don’t need the rolled-on-her-back Pam Ferdin to make that so.
    I’ve written to the Board of Commissioners for the Department to make them aware that their ban on temperament testing must stand as it has stood for years and years.
    http://laanimalservicesboardwatch.blogspot.com/2010/07/dear-commissioners-and-brenda-barnette.html
    To make her promised numbers, she is going to have to find homes for these animals and reduce the numbers of those coming in to this truly “open door” shelter system–not by labeling thousands of innocent creatures to death.

  15. Catching Up says:

    Very good this is up for the public to access and think over, Ron. I don’t know anything about this woman. I got something in my inbox from Best Friends about how we should support her … which naturally made me think, “Why?”

    From what I see … she is a breeder. And in my professional opinion … we should round all breeders up and ship em’ off to North Korea. See how they like having the humane tables flipped on them.

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