Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Boks' Unedited Response to LA Daily News Op-Ed

A recent Daily News op-ed piece asked, “Where was Boks during fire crisis?” The short answer is that I was on a prescheduled vacation with my children in Mexico that began before the fires broke out.

The General Manager of Animal Services has many responsibilities and is expected – rightly or wrongly - to know the details concerning every aspect of the department’s operations, as well as all the details surrounding every animal in each of the City’s seven shelters at any given moment. So it seems the question, “Where was Boks during the fire crisis?” was inevitable.

For more than a decade this department could do little right in the view of its vociferous, media-savvy critics, and the fault for every shortcoming was always attributed to one person, whichever General Manager was presiding at the time.

So it should be no surprise when the department performs brilliantly as it did in response to the fires (expertly rescuing, sheltering and eventually reuniting over 450 animals with their grateful guardians) the attention of an old school critic is not on the heroic actions of the staff as it should be, but rather on my absence.

I am proud of the employees and volunteers of LA Animal Services who performed so admirably during this crisis. They earned well-deserved plaudits from both the public and their colleagues on the City’s emergency response team, and I am pleased to add my voice to the chorus. That someone feels my temporary unavailability mattered diminishes the expertise of staff and fails to give credit where credit is due: to the chain of command we worked so hard to establish so the department would function as the public expected it to.

It has not been easy and there is much work yet to be done. It has taken over two years to assemble an executive management team capable of responding to the department’s many challenges in a methodical and professional manner. The bringing together of performance-based managers with knowledgeable, experienced long-time employees signals a certain coming of age; for the first time in recent memory LA Animal Services can begin to focus on better meeting the needs of the animals and the demands of our human constituency.

The finger-wagging of the earlier article misses the point that the successful response to the Sesnon/Marek fires exemplifies what our experienced staff is capable of doing and that where I was at that particular moment was irrelevant.

Distractions will no doubt continue and resistance to progressive change may increase before it decreases. But I am confident that LA is on its way to becoming the most humane city in the United States and LA Animal Services is playing a leadership role in accomplishing that.