The Los Angeles Jungle
Protest! Smoke bombs! Euthanasia videos! Resistance to L.A. Animal
Services chief Guerdon Stuckey has inspired a citywide discussion of
what it means to be an activist, and thrown the department into
A year is a long time in city politics, where whole careers can flash
by in only a couple of years. So, it's hard to figure why Guerdon
Stuckey is still stuck in a tight spot with the humane community. Even
the people who felt he could turn things around when he first took the
job are now shaking their heads. If anything, his conflict with animal
advocates has gotten worse. A lot of animal folks who didn't
originally oppose Stuckey's 2004 appointment as general manager of Los
Angeles Animal Services (LAAS) by former Mayor James Hahn have joined
the other side. If there was ever a moment for Stuckey to win over his
critics, it appears to have passed.
"I saw him the other night at the Singita event," said wildlife
rescuer Mary Cummins, founder of volunteer group Animal Advocates. "He
went up to the ticket table looking for a ticket. They didn't have one
for him. I got a free ticket, others did, but it was a fundraiser so,
of course, some had to pay. He had to pay. He then walked around, and
no one spoke to him. I walked over and introduced him to Leon Seidman
of Cosmic Pet Products."
Singita is a charity created to establish a feral-cat sanctuary
outside the city.
Worse, these critics wanted to know what happened to the campaign
promise of Antonio Villaraigosa himself, who insisted, "When I am
mayor, [Guerdon] Stuckey will not be head of Animal Services."
Over the last few months, the mayor threw that question back to L.A.'s
animal-advocacy community. As pickets at city officials' homes grew
more contentious, and smoke bombs wafted through Stuckey's house,
Villaraigosa felt liberated from any campaign promises. Even though
the illegal smoke bombs were claimed by the underground network Animal
Liberation Front (ALF), and had no connection whatsoever to legal
humane-community activists, the mayor said he wasn't going to be
"bullied" into firing anyone.
Instead, it became open season on activism. A commissioner was fired
and said two others would be next, allegedly for being animal
"advocates." A shelter doctor was fired for similar reasons, without
the mayor's knowledge.
Of course, you can't be ADLLA founder Pam Ferdin if you're worried
about alienating people. She has a bullhorn, picket signs that say
"puppy killer," and a high tolerance for legally disturbing the
The ADLLA people are very thick-skinned: At a demonstration on the
block of LAAS Commander David Diliberto, neighbors called Ferdin
"cunt" and "bitch" and squirted the protesters with garden hoses. At
the home of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 347
leader Julie Butcher, her son chased protesters with a golf club. "I
did secretly think it an appropriate response," Butcher wrote in an
e-mail to SEIU members.
But it must be reiterated at least once each article that the ADLLA is
not the Animal Liberation Front. It doesn't smoke-bomb or send
"suspicious devices." And if the city council – or even the mayor's
staff – is still under the impression that targeting ADLLA will
effectively separate it from the moderates, no way it's happening now.
The department's a mess, ADLLA says, and a whole lot of moderates now
want Stuckey out.