Sunland’s Shelter Overcrowding Discussed

By Michael J. ARVIZU

The monthly meeting of the Sunland Tujunga Neighborhood Council on May 14 ended up going to the dogs – and cats.

Puppies and kittens from the East Valley Animal Shelter in Van Nuys were brought in by Jan Selder, L.A. Animal Services director of Operations, as part of a series of presentations at the neighborhood council meeting held at North Valley City Hall in Sunland.

Selder’s goal was to promote the shelter to raise community awareness that shelters are a better place for prospective pet parents to go for a new dog or cat than pet stores, and to talk about the shelter’s foster care and volunteer programs, among other programs.

“Come in and take a look before you go to a breeder or a pet store,” Selder said of her shelter. “You never need to go [to a pet store]. We have so many [pets].”

For example, between March and September, Selder said the shelter will take in about 9,000 kittens. Of those 9,000, about 60% are euthanized because they are too small or too sick. Most are only one or two weeks old.

“We’re very overcrowded this time of year,” Selder said.

The rest are put in the hands of volunteers in the shelter’s foster care program until the animals are eight weeks old. Only then are they old enough to be put up for adoption.

The community was also introduced to Los Angeles Police Dept. officer Becky Smalling, recently appointed as the area’s senior lead officer.

In her remarks to community stakeholders and neighborhood council board members, Smalling attempted to alleviate residents’ concerns, in particular issues surrounding the area’s burgeoning homeless population such as trespassing.

Within the last few weeks, Smalling has met with Sunland and Tujunga business owners, allowing them to sign a no trespassing letter. This letter gives LAPD officers the power to immediately arrest loiterers and aggressive panhandlers who refuse to leave a property after being asked to do so by business managers or staff. If the incident occurs after hours, police can arrest loiterers after receiving confirmation from the property owners that they have not given the individuals permission to be on the property.

The letter is valid for one year and contains the business owner’s contact information should a trespassing incident take place after business hours.

“If we make an arrest, we want to make sure that we have a good prosecution for the city attorney,” Smallng said. “You are going to be subject to arrest, because there is a signed letter giving me power to arrest you. If you come back, you’ll be arrested again.”

The letter applies to vacant lots and residential and commercial properties, Smalling said, that already have posted no trespassing signs. For businesses without a no trespassing letter, contacting the owner after hours may prove difficult. LAPD would only issue a warning in that case, said Smalling.

The arrest powers also give LAPD officers the opportunity to run parole checks on individuals.

“I love to run people; I want to see if they’re parolees,” Smalling said. “I want to get them back into jail way, way, far, far away from here.”