New chief installed at LA Animal Services Dept.

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Brian Watt/KPCC

Brenda Barnette, the new chief of Los Angeles's Animal Services Department, speaks on June 17, 2010.

The city of Los Angeles’ troubled Department of Animal Services has a new chief. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appointed Brenda Barnette today after a nationwide search that ended in Seattle, Wash.

For four years, Brenda Barnette has run the Humane Society of Seattle-King County in Washington state. In that time, the agency has found homes for or turned over to rescue groups 90 percent of the animals it’s taken in. But Barnette says she’s not arriving within L.A. with a list of quick solutions.

"It would be really arrogant for me to tell you ‘this is what you have to do to make it better.’ I think what I can do is listen and help figure out what we have to do together," Barnette said

She said she’ll spend her first weeks listening to local animal welfare advocates, pet owners, and her new staff.

On her first day, L.A.’s budget problems took a bite out of that staff. Cuts in the department budget meant eight Animal Services canvassers got layoff notices. Veteran animal care technician Jacob Miller didn’t see the logic in that.

"These licensed canvassers go out and they collect the dough for this department. In addition to that, and what people don’t seem to pay attention to, is all the humane education that they provide to this city," Miller said.

That’s just one of Brenda Barnette’s challenge in a city that’s trying to rein in spending.

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