Los Angeles

New L.A. animal shelter manager lays out plan to address overcrowding, understaffing

The plan describes hiring dozens of new staff members and considerations to pause handing out breeding licenses

Photo of two dogs in a kennel barking

Activists have been criticizing the six L.A. city animal shelters for being overcrowded and understaffed, which has affected the way shelters can care for animals that come through their doors.

But now, the new general manager is looking to take the first steps to address some of these issues and increase the quality of their care.

Staycee Dains, who was appointed to the position in June, spoke at the shelter’s board of commissioners meeting last Tuesday about how she is looking to fix some of these issues.

“Animals are suffering in our shelters, and so are those who care for them,” Dains said in a statement released Sept. 12. “We keep animals in crates in hallways for days, weeks, or months at a time. Staff and volunteers are injured by animals subject to fear, anxiety, and stress. Our caregivers know that the animals receive substandard care, which harms their mental well-being. We cannot allow the suffering to continue.”

Plans include hiring dozens of new animal care technicians within the next couple of months. Dains also discussed potentially pausing handing out any new breeding permits to lessen the number of animals coming into the shelter.

Photo of a brown dog in a kennel

There are six L.A. city-run animal shelters. The closest to USC is the South L.A. shelter on West 60th Street off South Western Avenue.

Jennifer Primo, a visitor at the South L.A. facility on Sept. 13, came to the shelter looking to adopt a dog and was disappointed to see the state of overcrowding in the shelter.

“I [was] actually just here for the first time in years, and it was so sad seeing the dogs in cages with their own feces,” Primo said. “It was really heartbreaking. I got really emotional.”

Photo of two kittens in a kennel

Some activists argue these plans aren’t going far enough and won’t make any real change to the issues prevalent in the shelter.

Michelle Cornelius, who has been volunteering at the West Valley shelter since 2007, said the announcement doesn’t make it clear what is actually going to be done to fix critical issues.

“When you really reflect back on it, you realize [Dains] didn’t say anything of substance,” Cornelius said. “I still don’t know what her plan is to actually save lives.”

She also said the most concrete parts of the plan — the hiring of new workers — shouldn’t deserve applause.

“She announced plans to fill dozens of vacant positions. Well, okay. That’s when the city council gives you authorization to hire people,” Cornelius said. “Literally, that is your job. I don’t know why you would get a pat on the back for hiring people to fill vacant positions.”

Photo of a white cat with a pink collar in a kennel

Dozens of the kennels across the city’s shelters have dogs and cats doubled up in spaces meant for one animal, and there are pop-up kennels in rooms not meant for animals. These are the problems Cornelius said need to be addressed immediately.

“We need to get like 600 dogs out of the shelter right now,” Cornelius said. “We have a lot of dogs who are paired up to get two in a kennel. These kennels are meant for one large dog. When you put two dogs in a kennel, I think the public thinks, ‘Oh, that’s cute. They have a friend.’ But it’s not that way because the environment is so incredibly stressful.”

Photo of two dogs in a kennel