In 2011, the city of Los Angeles gave the $19 million Mission Hills animal shelter to Best Friends Animal Society without allowing any other non-profit group the chance to bid on operating the facility. Best Friends launched an initiative aimed at making Los Angeles a no kill city by 2017. Critics have cried foul from the outset, contending that the BFAS “No Kill L.A.” initiative is little more than a publicity campaign designed to pad the BFAS bank account with donations from compassionate pet lovers.
One week ago, several readers sent me a link to an article which asked the question: Did Best Friends Animal Society dump an old poodle at a high kill shelter? The short answer appears to be yes, BFAS took a 15 year old dog to the East Valley pound in Los Angeles after someone left him at the BFAS shelter in Mission Hills. The larger issue, based upon Best Friends’ initial response to the public outcry over the betrayal of this dog, is that apparently the group does this regularly.
From the initial response by BFAS:
Per the contract with the city, we are legally required to direct the public to take these [surrendered] animals directly to the East Valley Shelter, or in the instance an animal appears at our center, we must do this as well. This is so the city can do their legally required procedures. Best Friends and other qualified rescues are able to pull animals after the legally required hold time has passed, giving the public the first chance to adopt.
Just like most rescues and shelters, the Best Friends sanctuary in Utah has limits and there is not always room. We do the very best we can to save every animal that we can.
When pet lovers continued to express their anger over the situation, BFAS issued a new boilerplate response which begins:
Dear [angry pet lover’s name here], the comments floating around regarding senior dog Grandpa are disappointing and hurtful (and in some cases simply not true) and will do nothing to further the no-kill movement in Los Angeles.
In other words, questioning the ethics of Best Friends = killing animals, you ignorant slut.
Despite the claim made by BFAS that the organization is “just like most rescues”, Best Friends is not your typical rescue organization operating on a shoestring budget out of a handful of foster homes. Charity Navigator lists BFAS 2011 net assets as $47,266,990. This is a national organization garnering major donations (which I’ve questioned in the past). To my mind, you don’t get to maintain a bank account with that many zeroes without being held to a higher standard. That includes both the hands-on work of actually rescuing animals and the need for transparency and accountability.
In an effort to address the larger issues more thoroughly, I wrote to BFAS seeking information:
Subject: Questions Regarding BFAS in L.A.
Date: Mon, September 02, 2013 7:31 am
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com,
I write a shelter related blog and have some questions regarding operations at the Mission Hills facility in L.A.:
How many animals has BFAS taken to the East Valley facility since taking over at Mission Hills?
What has happened to each of the animals taken to the city pound by BFAS?
When taking an animal to the city pound, does BFAS always perform documentation and networking of the pet in order to help get the pet reunited with his owner (if there is one) or get seen by rescues and adopters?
When taking an animal to the city pound, does BFAS always place a “hold” on the pet so that, if the animal goes unclaimed/unadopted and ends up on the kill list at the pound, BFAS will be notified to pick up the pet?
How many pets has BFAS brought to the city pound and then later rescued via the previously described process?
Regarding the animals BFAS has pulled from the city shelter, what fee has BFAS paid to the city per animal? What has happened to these pulled pets? Have any of them been transported to rescues or adopters in states other than CA?
Thank you for you time.
After receiving no response, I re-sent the message and received an auto-reply. The auto-reply contained just general information (“LIKE us on Facebook”, etc.) and a non-personal statement that I would receive a response in a few days. As of this posting, I have received nothing from Best Friends in response to my e-mail aside from the auto-reply.
My questions still stand.
What are your thoughts?