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Palo Alto to review plan for new animal shelter

Original post made on Jun 17, 2014

A proposal to rebuild and greatly expand Palo Alto's aged animal-services center got off to a promising start Monday night when the City Council quickly and unanimously forwarded the idea to its Finance Committee for review.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 1:55 AM

Comments (30)

Posted by Retired Staffer, a resident of another community
on Jun 17, 2014 at 8:46 am

Great proposal! Now just do it!

Posted by Bunny Wunny, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 17, 2014 at 10:19 am

Bunny Wunny is a registered user.

I was greatly disappointed that the council moved this agenda item up on the schedule without notice. I had planned to be there at the scheduled time, 10:30pm, to listen to the discussion and make a statement.

Apparently some people were notified of the schedule change, or perhaps the process is that one must come at the beginning of the council meeting as agenda items can be moved around in the timing of the discussion.

Cynthia Typaldos

Posted by Barbara, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 17, 2014 at 10:31 am

YES! Let's do it!

Posted by Bunny Wunny, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 17, 2014 at 10:35 am

Bunny Wunny is a registered user.

I just re-read the agenda. It's clearly stated that the council can move agenda items around. So I should have been there are the beginning of the meeting. Below in quotes is from the agenda. I hope this is/was not the only opportunity for members of the community to provide input.

"Time estimates are provided as part of the Council's effort to manage its time at Council meetings. Listed times are estimates only and are subject to change at any time, including while the meeting is in progress. The Council reserves the right to use more or less time on any item, to change the order of items and/or to continue items to another meeting. Particular items may be heard before or after the time estimated on the agenda. This may occur in order to best manage the time at a meeting or to adapt to the participation of the public. To ensure participation in a particular item, we suggest arriving at the beginning of the meeting and remaining until the item is called."

Cynthia Typaldos

Posted by Cur Mudgeon, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 17, 2014 at 11:49 am

What will happen to the existing staff who are city employees? Will they be offered a "retirement package?"

Posted by Marroll, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 17, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Outsource these services!

Posted by Scottie Zimmerman, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 17, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Hi, Cur Mudgeon. I don't think anyone has the answer to this question. I can say that the proposal to build a new shelter is not motivated by lack of respect for the current staff at PAAS.

During the past year--which was unusually difficult--a very small staff has kept the shelter open for business and has made creative improvements in the ambiance for the animals.

Under Connie Urbanski's leadership, and with financial support from Friends of the Palo Alto Animal Shelter, Heavenly Greens Pet Turf was installed in the dogs' play area. The dogs love it!

In the case of Cat Room 2 (where adoptable cats are available for interviews), ACO Jeannette Washington put into practice a policy of letting compatible cats roam in the hallway areas creating a palpable sense of calm and contentment among the cats. They feel at home, and it shows. (And they love Jeannette!)

Between July 1, 2013 and June 10, 2014, the total staff count was down by three people (two veterinary technicians and one Animal Control Officer). The remaining staff of eight has carried responsibilities that had kept 11 or 12 people busy in prior years!

The new shelter won't be up and running for several years. We're just beginning the planning and fund raising required. It is part of the plan that shelter employees would not be paid as members of a union, which is currently the case at PAAS. I don't know how much impact this may have on the choices the present shelter staff make for themselves. We all have time to consider the options, I guess.

Full Disclosure: I am a member of Friends of the Palo Alto Animal Shelter (FoPAAS) a non-profit, volunteer led corporation.

Posted by Scottie Zimmerman, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 17, 2014 at 2:49 pm

P.S. The Animal Control Officers at PAAS (William Warrior, Cody Macartney, Jeannette Washington, and Ken Cunningham) will retain their status as employees of the Palo Alto Police Department. A feature of the partnership planned between the new shelter and the city.

Posted by Sorkin, a resident of Monroe Park
on Jun 17, 2014 at 7:48 pm

This all looks good on paper, but please remember that the Humane Society is a euthanizing facility, and animals will be put to death if not claimed promptly enough.

A few years ago, when we lived in SJ, our Labrador Retriever dug out of our back yard while I was in hospital. He was hit by a truck not far from our home. Animal Control picked him up and delivered him to the Humane Society, where a vet was supposed to be on duty. Except that no vet was on duty that day or the next. No one even cleaned up or bandaged our dog, who had three fractures in his hind leg, one of which was a compound fracture, along with dozens of abrasions.

Apparently his tags were lost in the accident, and when we found our dog on the second day of his internment, there was a card on his cage stating that he was scheduled for euthanization the following day! We called our vet IMMEDIATELY when we found him and described his injuries. Our vet said to tell the staff to load him into our car on a stretcher. not to make him walk under any circumstances whatsoever.

Well, we communicated this to the staff, who, after forcing us to re-register our dog in order to get him released, brought him out to us by walking him on a rope-leash.

Their lack of care and lack of caring caused our dog to develop an horrific bone infection in the injured leg, as well as further damaging the leg. It took two years and four surgeries, as well as countless antibiotics, to save his leg, which was then crooked for the rest of his life. Six years later, ( the dog was now 9), arthritis set into the leg, and the pain killers required to keep him comfortable eventually ruined his liver.....we had to put him down.

We accept responsibility for the fact the dog was able to dig his way out of our yard, but the Humane Society treated him very inhumanely, even violating their own rule about a vet always being on duty. And after only two days scheduling him to be euthanized!

Why would anyone want a killing facility in Palo Alto?????

Posted by Just don't get it, a resident of Southgate
on Jun 18, 2014 at 9:55 am

First, to Sorkin: To bad you lived in SJ. Palo Alto Animal Services is a no-kill shelter!! They keep all animals until adopted including an elderly cat that was there over a year and finally found a wonderful home! They take care of ailing animals and gave one dog cataract surgery so he could see and he was then adopted!

They do an amazing job and they do it with love and respect for all the animals! If you are interested, they currently have a beautiful white duck looking for a home!

Posted by Scottie Zimmerman, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 18, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Hi to Just Don't Get It--I am familiar with several of the animals who spent six months to more than a year at PAAS before being adopted. Most recently, cats Carol and Titus were adopted after 8 or 9 months at the shelter. I'm a member of Friends of the Palo Alto Animal Shelter, and we contributed $$ to help pay for the cataract surgery for Frankie (a dog found abandoned & dirty on New Year's Day). I love all these happy stories!

FYI, I saw on PetHarbor that Ludwig the duck and Luca the dove have been adopted! Not sure if they went to the same home or separate homes.

To SORKIN, hearing of the suffering your Lab endured, I certainly sympathize with you. No excuse for such neglect. Part of the problem at the time was that the shelter in San Jose (used to be on Lafayette; moved to Monterey Road) is required to accept any animals found in Santa Clara County! That is a huge area for finding strays, abandoned, injured animals--while also accepting owner-surrendered animals. So they get overcrowded and make decisions based on numbers.

The GOOD news is that all the shelters in Santa Clara County have joined together in "Shelters First" (formerly "WeCARE"). As a group the shelters communicate and cooperate to achieve positive results for animals needing new homes. [Maddie's Fund is an enthusiastic supporter of such cooperation among shelters.] An example of how this can work: Last year PAAS took in three small dogs from the overcrowded San Jose shelter, and all were quickly adopted in Palo Alto. Our shelters in Santa Clara County see each other as parts of a team, a network. And the leaders of "Shelters First" want Palo Alto Animal Services to continue as an active member of the team.

To learn about "Shelters First," here's a link to an article in Bay Woof, Web Link

Posted by Sorkin, a resident of Monroe Park
on Jun 18, 2014 at 1:45 pm

If the PAAS partners with the Humane Society, won't the Humane Society turn them into a killing facility, or would they keep a separate killing facility here in Palo Alto? I object to ANY such thing here in PA!

Posted by Bunny Wunny, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 18, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Bunny Wunny is a registered user.

Shelters and rescue groups that belong to Maddie's Fund must report their animal welfare statistics.

Maddie's Fund Animal Welfare Reports for PAAS
Web Link

PAAS reported a 78% live release rate in 2013. Many other cities, such as Reno and Austin, have much higher live release rates, above 90%

According to CA GOVERNMENT CODE SECTION 6250-6270 all municipal data requested must be made available in a prompt fashion, with very few exceptions. The actual PAAS data should be accessible to anyone who wants to look at the numbers.
Web Link

Here is where you can request the PAAS data.
Web Link

OpenGov/OpenData is a powerful tool for enabling residents to directly access data and do their own analysis.


Web Link

6250. In enacting this chapter, the Legislature, mindful of the right of individuals to privacy, finds and declares that access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state.

6251. This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the California Public Records Act.

6253. (c) Each agency, upon a request for a copy of records, shall, within 10 days from receipt of the request, determine whether the request, in whole or in part, seeks copies of disclosable public records in the possession of the agency and shall promptly notify the person making the request of the determination and the reasons therefor.


When the agency dispatches the determination, and if the agency determines that the request seeks disclosable public records, the agency shall state the estimated date and time when the records will be made available.

Posted by Bunny Wunny, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 18, 2014 at 10:42 pm

Bunny Wunny is a registered user.

UPDATE Re: Request for Palo Alto Animal Services data.

Here is the response from the Palo Alto Police Department.
Web Link

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 19, 2014 at 12:27 am

Hmmm is a registered user.

Sorkin - you know that PAAS already kills animals, right? And you know that there's no real such thing as "no kill", right?

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 19, 2014 at 12:38 am

Hmmm is a registered user.

PAAS has a rep for euthanizing adoptable animals that have become inconvenient. I've heard this specifically with regard to dogs. I think that some of the staff are past their "best by xyz date" and are stuck in their ways.

But I have to ask...why does Palo Alto need a fancy new shelter? It't not a big city, nor does it have a big POP problem, nor does it have a stray dog problem. Sure, there's wildlife, but there's already a wildlife center. Sure, there are more feral cats than most people realize, but PAAS administration doesn't give a hoot about feral cats. So why the big plans for a fancy shelter?

Posted by Bunny Wunny, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 19, 2014 at 9:09 am

Bunny Wunny is a registered user.

SFGate Story:
Oakland council approves animal shelter overhaul
Carolyn Jones
Updated 4:50 pm, Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Web Link


The council agreed to split off the shelter from the Police Department and allow it to operate as an independent agency with more staffing, a citizen oversight committee, and other improvements intended to help more dogs and cats find homes.

"My hope is that this will improve public safety and help us move toward our goal of having a no-kill shelter," said City Councilwoman Libby Schaaf, who worked on the overhaul with council members Rebecca Kaplan and Noel Gallo. "We've been working on these changes for more than a year, and it's great that we finally have the political will to make this move."

Gallo called the change "long overdue." "Oakland has neglected its shelter for too long," he said. "We're making these changes to improve animal welfare, and this time we're going to hold the administration more accountable than we have in the past."

"The people who run the shelter will be people who love animals," Gallo said. "The police officers love animals, too, but it's different when the people in charge are real experts on animal welfare."

Posted by Sorkin, a resident of Monroe Park
on Jun 19, 2014 at 6:54 pm

Hmmmm: Surely they don't routinely kill pets after only 2-3 days, like the Humane Society does, do they? Do they keep a vet on duty or injured animals that are brought in? Do they treat sick or injured animals before putting them up for adoption, or do they just set them up for euthanasia straight away, untreated, like the Humane Society does?

Posted by Bunny Wunny, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 19, 2014 at 7:24 pm

Bunny Wunny is a registered user.


Please point to the data you are referring to.

Everyone else,

You can find the live release rates of the various Santa Clara County animal shelters in their Maddie's Fund reports on their websites.

PAAS had a live release rate of 78% in 2013 according to their Maddie's Fund report.
Web Link

That means that they euthanized (killed) 22% of the live animals that came into their facility (not including owner requested euthanasia).

The actual numbers, from their report, are:

DOGS - 95
CATS - 234

Actual data is essential to understanding the performance of any operation.

Posted by Bunny Wunny, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 19, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Bunny Wunny is a registered user.


Numbers above are 2007 PAAS Maddie's Fund. My mistake. I accidentally quoted the top report in the list (2007 oldest) instead of bottom report in the list (2013 newest).

Here are 2013 numbers.

The live release rate for 2013 is as quoted above - 78%

That means that they euthanized (killed) 22% of the live animals that came into their facility (not including owner requested euthanasia).

The actual numbers, from the 2013 report, are:

DOGS - 43
CATS - 119

Actual data is essential to understanding the performance of any operation.

Posted by Sorkin, a resident of Monroe Park
on Jun 20, 2014 at 9:33 am

Bunny....the data I refer to was told to me by a veterinary technician friend who used to work for my veterinarian. She went to work for the Humane Society for better pay, but has told our vet that she has euthanized more animals in one week than he has in his whole 20-year career ( hopefully an exaggeration). We were also given this information verbally by an employee on duty at the Humane Society in 2005 when we went there to reclaim our lost dog.

BTW, we have I friended the aforementioned vet technician.

Posted by Adopter, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 20, 2014 at 11:56 am

Why does Sorkin insist on equivocating the term "Humane Society" with death?
Humane society is a generic term.
The Palo Alto Humane Society does NOT have a shelter.
Some of the "Inland Empire" shelters give the dogs 2-3 days, (NOT Palo Alto), and lots of them do not have the Humane Society monicker.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 20, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Sorkin- to which Humane Society are you referring?

Posted by Scottie Zimmerman, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2014 at 12:22 pm

I don't understand what you mean when you say "the Humane Society." That phrase is a kind of generic term that is often misused to refer to any animal shelter anywhere.

There are specific organizations that use the phrase as part of their full, formal name: Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA (PHS) in Burlingame and Humane Society of Silicon Valley (HSSV) in Milpitas, are two local examples. Both are privately operated nonprofit corporations, and both are deeply committed to reducing euthanasia rates in cooperation with Maddie's Fund and the Asilomar accords.

The national nonprofit organization known as the Humane Society of the United States does not operate shelters as far as I know. They raise money and use it to investigate animal cruelty in puppy mills, factory farms for chickens & hogs, and slaughterhouses. They do good work, but they don't play a role in euthanizing homeless dogs & cats.

In the Bay Area we have some of the most successful and respected animal shelters you can find anywhere. SF SPCA, PHS, and HSSV are standouts! And all the shelters, including Berkeley and Oakland, San Jose, SVACA, San Martin, and Palo Alto Animal Services participate in Maddie's Fund events and apply Maddie's Fund standards.

The bottom line for all our shelters is not to euthanize any healthy or injured/unhealthy-but-treatable animals. That's the standard at Maddie's Fund. The definitions of healthy, injured and treatable, unhealthy and treatable, unhealthy and untreatable are part of the Maddie's Fund guidelines. It's a balancing act, I suppose, and we're all learning as we adapt to the standards. But NOBODY in the Bay Area can get away with euthanizing "inconvenient" animals. Maddie's Fund and Shelters First work to provide the mutual support needed to prevent such a waste of vulnerable lives.

In the messages above from Bunny, you can see that Palo Alto Animal Services reduced the numbers of dogs & cats euthanized between 2007 (total = 329) and 2013 (total = 162). And I've been told that the live release rate so far for 2014 is better than 2013. Improving year by year is the goal.

Posted by Oregon Ave, a resident of Ohlone School
on Jun 24, 2014 at 9:28 pm

I agree; Palo Alto needs to have a much better, nicer, animal shelter with expanded facilities and staff.
I do not agree however, with the rabbits at the PAAS shelter housed in hutches outdoors. This is very outdated and not optimum for the rabbits. They should never be kept on wire flooring. I do think the staff is attentive to the bunnies, but why are the rabbits kept outdoors by the dogs? Very stressful for the rabbits and not a good example to a potential adopter.

Posted by Bunny Wunny, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Bunny Wunny is a registered user.

My Analysis of PAAS Maddie's Fund Asilomar Data

I met with a Senior Research Social Scientist at SRI on Saturday June 14, 2014. This person has approx 25 years of work experience and his educational background is:
Stanford University: PhD, Education
Stanford University: MS, Statistics
Dartmouth College: BA, Computer Science

My education is science and business undergraduate and graduate degrees from UC Berkeley and MIT. I have 30 years of work experience in high tech.

Together we reviewed the 2013 Maddie's Fund Asilomar Reports of PAAS and Oakland.

Maddie's Fund Animal Welfare Reports for PAAS
Web Link

2013 Maddie's Fund Statistics Oakland
Web Link

We concluded the following:

29% of homeless dogs are categorized as "unhealthy and untreatable" or "lost" at PAAS, vs. 13% of homeless dogs at Oakland
Proportionately regarding homeless dogs, twice as many at PAAS are categorized as "unhealthy and untreatable" or "lost" and subsequently killed by the shelter, vs. Oakland

Homeless dogs refers to those that are not reclaimed by owners
Oakland euthanizes more dogs percentage-wise, however they have an issue with overcrowding, which is not a problem at PAAS


homeless dogs in Palo Alto/Los Altos/Los Altos Hills are more than 2 times as likely to be "unhealthy and untreatable" than homeless dogs in Oakland (seems unlikely)
homeless dogs are being miscategorized by PAAS, possibly to cover up euthanasias of dogs that other shelters without an overcrowding problem would have been able to save
some of the homeless dogs that end up being categorized as "unhealthy and untreatable" (and most are euthanized) came in with a better scenario, but suffered so much in the shelter such that they exited in the "unhealthy and untreatable" category

Posted by Bunny Wunny, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Bunny Wunny is a registered user.


While improving year by year is a worthy goal, other cities have improved much more and faster than Palo Alto. Austin now has a live release rate of 94% vs. Palo Alto at 78%. Surely Palo Alto, the second wealthiest small town in America, can do as well as Austin.

Austin is not unique either. Many other cities have 90% live release rates.

We, the residents of Palo Alto, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, should demand a more humane outcome for our homeless pets.

One first step is to analyze the PAAS data to figure out why so many animals are not making it out of the shelter alive.

Posted by Scottie Zimmerman, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Oregon Ave --
About care and housing of adoptable rabbits at PAAS. The current shelter was constructed 42 years ago, if I've got the dates right. In the early days (1972 forward), rabbits were not commonly adopted as indoor "house pets." In the past 20 years, rabbit lovers have been encouraged to keep their bunnies in the house. Experts talk about how easy it is to train a rabbit to use a litter box, as an indoor cat does. So the recommended conditions for adopted rabbits have evolved. But PAAS has a 42-year-old building with no indoor space for rabbits. A "small-animal" space is one of the features shelter staff have been hoping to add, but the city budget and other factors have made it unlikely.

Bottom line: I suspect most people at PAAS would prefer to keep shelter rabbits in their own indoor "room," but no such room exists. In the campaign to raise funds and build an improved shelter for Palo Alto, space indoors for rabbits is sure to be one of the selling points.

On a visit to Peninsula Humane Society (PHS) in Burlingame (also known as the Lantos shelter), I noticed rabbits and guinea pigs housed inside the main building in appropriate cages, and sharing space in a large sunny room with cats in cat condos! At PAAS we don't have room for rabbits in Cat Room 1, but the idea of having these animals share indoor space in a NEW shelter building adds some appealing flexibility. All of which is me daydreaming at this point. I mainly wanted to let you know that many PAAS staff and volunteers agree that rabbits would be better kept indoors.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 30, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

The real explanation (in my cynical opinion) is that the staff at PAAS don't have the bandwidth, knowledge and/or desire to have any real type of rehabilitation or "second chance" program that more progressive shelters do. Also, a lot of locals are enamored of buying dogs from breeders, vs. adopting from the shelter.

As I've said before, unfortunately, PAAS has gotten the rep of euthing animals that were totally salvageable. They used to not do it as much, but it seems to be happening in the past decade with them.

Posted by Bunny Wunny, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Bunny Wunny is a registered user.

@Hmmmm - please contact me cynthiatypaldos AT gmail.

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