As many of you well know, Lucky Puppy Rescue in Studio City as well as the home of its owner was raided on Friday, May 6th. This was reported on numerous television stations after Los Angeles Animal Services confiscated over 60 of her dogs from both locations. On the surface it sounds bad, it sounds neglectful, it sounds irresponsibly insane. Not so fast.
I had immediately taken interest in this story because after watching the different news packages it didn’t make any sense whatsoever. Even the television anchors were kind of perplexed when attempting to explain the justification behind such a move. There was no neglect or abuse claims, this was simply a permitting issue. Add to that, animal control departments are oftentimes known for their selective enforcement of laws, meaning they’ll take down one person for something that they’ll let 20 others slide on. It stunk of either retaliation or being a manufactured show raid. For what reason? I have no idea.
The media coverage, which has only given you a glimpse into this story, has been pretty fair thus far. However Los Angeles Animal Services is going to use this quick and vague coverage to their full advantage while they craft a public narrative that makes them look good and Rachel bad. I’m going to cut them off at the path and try to break this down a little further before LAAS can pollute people’s minds with half-truths.
Make no mistake, what happened here is a total travesty. Rachel was used by the department and then burned in a blindsided manner that I would never wish upon my worst enemy. As someone who actually cares about both people and dogs, I’m highly offended that this happened and I want answers to the obvious questions. I’ve never personally met Rachel but I spoke with her today and I will certainly defend her against what is being done to her by this department and certain members of the animal “welfare” community. Someone needs held accountable for this completely immoral and disgraceful decision by the department and Los Angeles as a community should not tolerate such a thing being swept under the rug.
This is what you should know before anything else:
Rachel Kennedy has spent upwards of $186,000 on shelter fees alone in the last calendar year. Her non-profit Lucky Puppy Rescue was trying to get New Hope rescue pull rights with the city, which allows you a greatly reduced rescue rate when pulling an animal, for years but was never given this allocation until roughly 2 months ago. In the meantime, she had simply been publicly adopting each animal at full price and with her own money as they needed rescued. The staff at the East Valley city shelter was fully aware of this. They even encouraged it and would suggest to her that she take countless other animals as their need grew greater.
For example, 2 ½ weeks ago Rachel rescued 10 dogs from the East Valley shelter. One mother and her 4 babies, and then 5 other little dogs. Days before that she rescued a dog named Dalton that had been hit by a car and was missing an eye from the accident. Again, this dog came from East Valley.
Rachel told me that there were many instances (more than 5 times) within the last calendar year where she would outright adopt between 10-20 dogs from East Valley in a single visit. This was done while working with Veronica Perry, the rescue coordinator at the shelter.
Now I’d note that unless you have a kennel permit, you can only have 3 dogs and 3 cats within the city of Los Angeles. This is the law for everyone. The Los Angeles Animal Services department raided Rachel Kennedy by complete surprise on Friday, May 6th, 2016. It was due to this exact permitting reason.
Take a step back. Any dog that leaves any shelter goes out with paperwork. This is rescue or adoption paperwork, this is medical history paperwork, this is licensing and spay/neuter and microchipping paperwork. As a New Hope partnered rescue or an off-the-books rescue you are further required to show paperwork back to the city when those rescued animals are eventually adopted out from your organization. Rachel Kennedy had been doing this for years. She was providing the city with the appropriate paperwork back, but more importantly they were providing her with individualized paperwork every single time that she saved a dog from a city facility. They cannot claim ignorance. They cannot claim uninvolvement. They knew and they allowed this to go on, even encouraged its going on. This is an indisputable fact.
So let’s look at Friday specifically. Animal control officer Tamralyn Shepphird along with others came to Rachel’s residence at around noon and let themselves onto her property by opening and advancing through the gate that is at the front of her yard. This is trespassing, especially knowing what followed. This visit came by complete surprise to Rachel which is why she let them in her home to begin with. She knew that she was far over the legal limit and she knew that they knew that she was far over the legal limit. This wasn’t initially threatening. She viewed these officers as friendly extensions of the very shelter that she had been working hand-in-hand with for years.
There was no warrant written or served.
At the same time they were advancing onto Rachel’s home, they timed it so that others would be showing up at her retail facility in Studio City.
Just for further context, Rachel generally keeps around 25 dogs at her rescue facility/retail store at any given time. They are watched by a staff that is there 24 hours a day. The rest of the dogs, who were either serious medical cases or hospice dogs, stayed within her 5 bedroom house. Why did they stay at her home? Because staff with LAAS (including animal control officer Tamralyn Shepphird and rescue coordinator Veronica Perry) have told her that she cannot publicly display dogs who have ongoing medical issues or are sick. To that same point, the hospice cases were being lovingly normalized to her home environment because that is what Rachel wanted to give them in the end. The staff and thus the department clearly knew this. This was not a secret. This was a well-known fact.
Pissed yet? Or just confused?
That morning Rachel had brought 10 of the dogs from the rescue facility to her home to give them bubble baths. The floor was a little wet and she had towels placed down in different spots to counter the water trails. Her house is separated by 5 rooms that are setup to accommodate different groups of dogs, mostly smaller dogs. None of these dogs are crated and they go outside to play and relieve themselves in her huge backyard that is fenced.
Once animal control entered the property it soon became apparent that they weren’t there for a friendly visit. As imagined, many of the dogs were scared. Just try to envision it. Rachel put the few dogs that she knew to be more dominant towards strangers outside in her backyard so they’d avoid the officers.
For the next nearly 6 hours animal control were in her home and the majority of the dogs were locked inside as they did their “investigation.” As the animals peed and defecated it was photographed for evidence. This will likely be used against Rachel if the department dares to publicly suggest the dogs were being neglected. One dog, a blind and deaf cocker spaniel named Magic Mike, wore a diaper which fell off amidst this chaos. Officer Shepphird immediately took photographs of the poop that fell out of Mike’s diaper. She snapped pictures of him stepping in it and then of his paws with poop on them.
Do you see where this is going?
Along with the 60+ dogs that were taken, Rachel’s 3 personal dogs were also taken as well as her roommate’s 3 elderly cats. As you can imagine, Rachel is totally devastated and feeling equally confused and betrayed.
Over the weekend she attempted to go to the East Valley shelter to visit the impounded dogs, not to mention her own personal dogs. She brought them food and their medication. Officer Shepphird told her that she could not see them, wouldn’t even tell her which shelter they were at (they’ve been spread out), and wouldn’t confirm or deny that the dogs were receiving their proper individualized care. Some of the dogs needed insulin shots, some of the dogs are dying from cancer, etc. Rachel’s food was also refused. Veronica Perry and other staff members who had worked hand and hand with Rachel for years would no longer even speak to her. This is the same Veronica Perry that would send Rachel emails about dogs in need and sign off on the adoptions of dogs in bunches.
Rachel estimated that from the hundreds of dogs that she has rescued within the last few years alone, that 80% of them have come from the East Valley city shelter in Van Nuys.
And here’s a little legal note. You cannot seize someone’s dogs if there is no clear abuse going on. If so it would allow for an emergency seizure. Otherwise, there needs to be a pre-seizure hearing that takes place first. This is all part of that tricky little thing called due process. Something that both the city and county of Los Angeles routinely avoids in numerous differing forms.
So that is what you need to know before you look at this through whatever prism you choose.
Was Rachel Kennedy technically over the city limit? Hell yes, way over. Did the city department, certain shelter employees and their animal control officers know about this for years? Hell yes. Did LAAS continue giving her dogs while knowing this fact? Hell yes. Does the paper trail prove this fact? Hell yes.
It seems like a total setup. Why? I don’t know! Don’t ask me to justify the cruelty behind these actions that were taken against Rachel. The irony in all of this is that they’re likely to blame Rachel for cruelty, while her dogs sit in concrete cells away from any sense of normalcy that they had prior. Dogs that were majority hospice cases and battling medical issues, pulled from the very same shelter/department that raided her. Included in the raid was a brand new mother with 20-day-old puppies. Included in the raid were Rachel’s 3 personal dogs and Rachel’s friend’s 3 personal cats. The level of unbelievable here cannot be described properly.
So it begs the questions… Why was Rachel Kennedy raided? Why would any city shelter give her more than 3 dogs if they knew that she was already at her limit and not properly permitted to add more? Why did staff look the other way when certainly having to file all of the appropriate paperwork that is involved in these transactions? Why is the same staff now ignoring Rachel, acting as if they are void of empathy or decency? Why is the department dead set on demonizing Rachel while ignoring all accountability and responsibility in regards to helping create this situation? Who is calling the shots on this weaponized selective enforcement? Finally, why does the city continue to ignore due process of law?
I’m well aware that I’m likely to be disparaged by people who may need to blindly defend a system, shelter or person from what they feel like is a personal attack. I don’t know how it could be framed that way, especially after what you just read, but it’s inevitably going to end up that way coming from the perspective of some. That is fine. I simply can’t watch this happen and not say something. Silence perpetuates the ills that we all can recognize in our own heart of hearts. Rachel clearly got in over her head. That is apparent. She is a bleeding heart. That is apparent. But they burned the fuck out of her and that is an absolute fact. This cannot be defended. Please try. Critics of what I wrote here likely won’t respond to anything that actually happened and instead seek to character-defend. That’s one of the problems within the animal “welfare” community, too much focus on personalities and not enough on consistency or principle, but I don’t want to get sidetracked here.
For the record, I actually like many of the people at East Valley. They have a hardworking base that is dedicated to trying to save lives. I know this because I know some of them, including Veronica! I don’t know why this happened. But what can’t be justified, even a shred, is the aftermath and the attempt to dismiss accountability that is very likely to come. No way, no how will that happen.
I’ll end responding to the notion that Rachel abused or neglected these dogs. Look at any amount of evidence already in the public domain. It seems like a lie and people in the know shouldn’t be able to espouse such a concept on the fly and after the fact.