Get Garcia: City Grapples With Illegal-Animal Trafficking

Los Angeles City leaders have been under pressure to do something about the illegal sale of animals in Santee Alley since the NBC4 Get Garcia Team exposed the problem in August. On Thursday, the city announced it is going after the buyers but that doesn’t seem to be working either.

Judging by the turnout of police, prosecutors, and politicians in the heart of the Fashion District one would think the City of Los Angeles is throwing a lot of resources at the problem of illegal animal sales.

The latest weapon: signs warning shoppers that selling and buying animals on the street is illegal. The written warnings went up more than a month ago and have had no effect on the animal trafficking, so LAPD has started passing out some 7,000 fliers in the area.

LAPD and Animal Services say they are now targeting shoppers. Since the police can’t put the street sellers out of business, they’re going after the people who buy the animals.

“It’s awful tough to catch the sellers,” said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith.

When the Get Garcia Team tried to confront a bunny trafficker last month, the man took off in a sprint from the questions and cameras.

The new law targeting shoppers carries up to a $1,000 fine and went into effect last January. Nine months later, there has not been a single arrest.

As for the sellers, Juan Mena has been arrested several times and even has a stay-away order for all of Santee Alley, yet the Get Garcia team found him there, recently, selling rabbits and counting his cash. Around the corner, there were birds and bunnies for sale.

Council woman Jan Perry says the city can’t just give up.

“You basically have to wear people out,” she said.

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