Animal Activists Toughen Tactics
Some have moved beyond protesting to vandalism
and threats against city officials
In recent weeks, one neighborhood in the Larchmont Village
section of Los Angeles has been under siege: graffiti scrawlings,
stink bombs, menacing midnight phone calls and, in July, a bomb
scare that forced an evacuation.
Police and political leaders say it's a part of an escalation by
animal rights activists in Los Angeles, whom critics charge are
turning away from legitimate protest and embracing illegal
harassment tactics and vandalism.
The protesters' target is David Diliberto, a high-ranking
official in the Los Angeles Animal Services Department, whom
activists blame for failing to stop the city from euthanizing
thousands of stray dogs it picks up each year.
The campaign against Diliberto is part of an ongoing effort by
activists to stop the euthanizing of animals in city shelters by
targeting department officials. Unlike most disputes over city
policy, however, this one has been marked by activists'
willingness to take their battle to residential streets.
No arrests have been made in the bomb threat, which took place
in late July at Diliberto's home. Police have taken nine reports
related to animal activists at the home since January 2004,
including five in July alone.
Last month, Diliberto told police his family was awakened at 3
a.m. by two people dressed as mortuary workers who said they
were trying to pick up a dead body at his home.
"Unfortunately, the only thing they are accomplishing is
terrorizing my kids," Diliberto said. "I have a daughter who
asked me if she should be wearing a bulletproof vest while
walking to the school bus stop. As a father, that's disturbing."
A judge in June issued a temporary restraining order to stop
protesters from assaulting, stalking or following Diliberto
around during working hours. Activists also were ordered to stay
100 feet away from his residence and his children's schools.
The protesters have affiliations with various groups, among them
the Animal Defense League, which advocates against killing or
experimenting on animals. Pamelyn Ferdin, the spokeswoman for
the league, argues that the group has not violated the law and
has forced change by getting key officials of the city's Animal
Services Department to resign.
Although her organization does not use illegal tactics, Ferdin
said she supports those who do — including the Animal Liberation
Front, a secretive international group on the U.S. Justice
Department's list of domestic terror organizations — and
believes their help will help win the battle.
"We support those brave warriors out there who take it to the
next level," Ferdin said.
Ferdin and her husband, Jerry Vlasak, are facing a criminal
trespass charge for refusing to leave Diliberto's property
during a protest. Ferdin insists that she was only distributing
leaflets in the neighborhood.
The number of dogs euthanized in city shelters has dropped from
39,086 in fiscal 2001-02 to 29,624 in fiscal 2003-04, according
to city officials. The Animal Services Department says it has
pursued an aggressive campaign to get more dogs adopted and to
persuade owners to spay or neuter their pets. There are also
privately run shelters in the county that have no-kill policies.
Activists, however, are not satisfied with the changes. They
picketed the home of the agency's former chief, Jerry Greenwalt,
until he quit, and also protested in the street in front of the
home of former Mayor James K. Hahn.
Greenwalt was replaced by Guerdon Stuckey, who has also drawn
the wrath of animal rights advocates. Ferdin said that the only
reason activists haven't protested at Stuckey's home is because
they haven't yet figured out his address.
And if Stuckey doesn't go?
The Animal Defense League will take its protest to Mayor Antonio
Villaraigosa, Ferdin said. "You need to understand our
constituents are not the people. Our constituents are the
animals and we believe if the animals could do what we're doing
they would. We're standing up on their behalf. We need to expose
Police say they have tried to enforce a city law forbidding
protests within 100 feet of private residences.
Otherwise, many city officials say they are powerless to stop
That may soon change.
ADL-LA Disclaimer: Nothing
contained in this publication is intended to encourage or incite
illegal acts. Many of the reports contained in our Action Alerts
and on our web site at
have been received anonymously and the Campaign cannot make any
guarantees for the accuracy of these reports. Any views or
comments stated in reports, Action Alerts or on the web site are
not necessarily the views of STK or ADL-LA.
Posted on Friday,
September 09, 2005 @ 18:30 CDT