City Shelter Refuses to Take In Homeless Dog, Threatens Resident, and Advises Illegal Abandonment; PETA Calls For Investigation

For Immediate Release:
January 29, 2024

Sara Groves 202-483-7382

Los Angeles

PETA rushed a letter to Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto on Friday, asking them to investigate the apparent illegal actions of Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS) after receiving a report that a resident who had found a stray, unneutered dog and brought him to the LAAS North Central Animal Shelter was turned away by staff, instructed to abandon the dog where she had found him, and threatened that she would be charged with animal abandonment if she left the dog at the shelter.

LAAS is required by law to accept stray and abandoned animals when they’re brought into its shelters. After the resident pushed back, it agreed to make an “exception” and take in the dog the next day, although several employees complained about the exception being made.

Stray dog turned away by LAAS North Central. Credit: PETA

“LAAS is dumping gasoline onto the fire of the homeless-animal crisis by instructing caring residents to abandon animals outdoors, where they’ll continue to breed, and threatening those who turn to it for the help it’s legally required to provide,” says PETA Senior Vice President Lisa Lange. “PETA is calling on city leaders to investigate and take swift action to ensure that LAAS stops turning its back on the animals it’s duty-bound to protect.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—points out that Every Animal Is Someone and offers free Empathy Kits for people who need a lesson in kindness. For more information, please visit or follow the group on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Bass and Feldstein Soto follows.

January 26, 2024

Via Email

Karen Bass
Los Angeles Mayor

Hydee Feldstein Soto
Los Angeles City Attorney

Re: Request for Investigation into and Correction of Los Angeles Animal Services’ Unlawful Actions Turning Away Stray Animals

Dear Mayor Bass and Ms. Feldstein Soto,

I am writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to request that your office investigate and correct the apparently ongoing illegal actions of Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS), which has reportedly been turning away people bringing in abandoned and stray animals in need of care and directing them to put the animals back on the street.

On January 22, 2024, PETA received a report from a concerned resident who found a stray dog and brought the dog to the LAAS North Central shelter. After first arriving at the shelter, LAAS staff informed her that the shelter was full and stated that her only options were to make an appointment to surrender the dog in March, or to release the unneutered dog back on the street where he was found. They further threatened that she would be charged with animal abandonment if she left the dog at the shelter. Eventually, after the woman pushed back, LAAS told her they would make an “exception” and agreed to take the dog in the next day, though when she returned several employees complained about the exception being made. While the dog at issue was lucky to have been found by a persistent resident who pushed LAAS to comply with its duty, the actions here demonstrate that countless animals and residents are turned away with no recourse.

This is not a new issue or a unique occurrence. In August 2022, a YouTube video showed what appeared to be the South LA shelter refusing to allow two people to drop off a mother cat and kitten found on the side of the road, instead directing them to “leave them where you found them,” and “leave them on the street.” PETA continues to receive reports of people bringing stray and abandoned animals to LAAS shelters and being turned away. Citizens have also made complaints at public meetings of the Board of Animal Service Commissioners about animals being turned away, asking “why cats are being turned away at the shelters,”

stating they had attempted “to drop off dogs” at the South LA shelter “and w[ere] told to take the dogs elsewhere,” reporting that animals “are being dropped off at a residence near the South LA shelter because the shelter is refusing to accept them,” and recounting “an incident where someone was not allowed to drop off kittens at the South Los Angeles shelter.”

State law makes clear that LAAS is required to accept stray and abandoned animals when they are brought into its shelters. California Civil Code section 1816(c) states, “A public agency or shelter with whom an abandoned animal is deposited in the manner described in Section 1815 is bound to take charge of it, as provided in Section 597.1 of the Penal Code.” In turn, section 1815 provides, “An involuntary deposit is made…[b]y the delivery to, or picking up by, and the holding of, a stray live animal by any person or public or private entity.” Penal Code section 597.1 provides, “Any peace officer, humane society officer, or animal control officer shall take possession of [a] stray or abandoned animal and shall provide care and treatment for the animal until the animal is deemed to be in suitable condition to be returned to the owner.Accordingly, LAAS instructing people to return stray and abandoned animals back to the street where they found them is a clear violation of this legal duty.

LAAS’s actions are also inconsistent with the duties imposed on it by city ordinance. Los Angeles Municipal Code section 53.05 states, “It shall be the duty of the General Manager [of LAAS] or his authorized representatives to take up and impound in the City pound…those animals…which are found or kept contrary to the provisions of this article.” The animals at issue here are being found contrary to the city’s prohibition of stray animals—and in this particular instance, clearly were abandoned. Furthermore, LAAS and its employees have “the power and authority, and it is declared to be their duty, to go upon unenclosed lots or lands for the purpose of taking up and impounding any animal found running at large…contrary to the provisions of this article.” Clearly, LAAS is not intended to simply leave known stray animals on the street.

Directing people who bring in stray animals to simply put them back on the street defies reason in light of the extensive regulatory system the city has established for handling stray animals. Any person who finds and “take[s] up” a stray animal is required to notify LAAS within four hours and, within twenty-four hours, take the animal to a city shelter for veterinary care or bring the animal to a veterinarian at the person’s own expense and provide the veterinary information to LAAS. If caring for the animal, the person must also complete a foster care agreement with LAAS and, “[a]fter 30 days, bring the dog or cat into the nearest City animal shelter and either surrender the animal to [LAAS] or complete the process to adopt the animal.” Turning people away who bring in stray and abandoned animals clearly contravenes these obligations.

Importantly, however, not only is LAAS continuing to turn animals away in violation of its state and municipal law duties, but the January 22 reported incident is increasingly alarming because it indicates, in likely more than this single instance, that residents have been or will be threatened with criminal animal abandonment charges for attempting to lawfully surrender stray animals. While it is egregious on its own to threaten such action against law-abiding citizens, it is particularly disconcerting that LAAS’ purported solution is to apparently direct people to actually commit the crime of animal abandonment, Cal. Penal Code § 597s—and possibly animal cruelty—by otherwise leaving the animal back on the street without “necessary sustenance, drink, or shelter,” Cal. Penal Code § 597. It is baffling that LAAS would direct residents to commit these crimes when they lawfully attempt to surrender stray animals to LAAS, which is legally obligated to take those animals into its custody and care.

PETA respectfully requests that your office investigate this matter thoroughly and rectify the situation immediately. Thank you for your time and consideration of this important matter.

Very truly yours,

Mary Maerz
Counsel, PETA Foundation

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