Palo Alto Humane Society eyes new animal shelter

Proposal would create new, 'state-of-the-art' facility

After two years of uncertainty and a brush with closure, Palo Alto's aged animal shelter could undergo a radical expansion and transformation under a new plan proposed by the Palo Alto Humane Society.

The existing facility has been a source of community anxiety since 2012, when Mountain View decided to opt out of its partnership in the facility, leaving a $470,000 funding gap. The decision prompted a proposal from City Manager James Keene to consider outsourcing animal services, which have been a local fixture since 1908. The City Council ultimately backed away from this proposal after a flurry of community opposition and a pledge from local animal lovers to help raise funds for the facility.

Now, rather than scrapping animal services, the city is considering enhancing them. The Palo Alto Humane Society, which started the first animal shelter in 1927 and managed it until 1972, has put together a proposal for a new, state-of-the-art animal services center that would cost between $10 million and $12 million. The organization would fund the center's construction and help the city manage it once it's built. The city would provide about 2 acres of land for the facility and continue to provide some animal services.

In the proposal, which will be considered by the City Council Monday, Humane Society Executive Director Carole Hyde wrote that the plan is "built on the precept that animal sheltering and animal control services must remain located in Palo Alto to best serve the community." She noted that animal services in many other communities are based on private-public partnerships.

"Dog training, dog parks, behaviorists, education programs, and modern sheltering facilities all add value to the life of a community and promote the well being of a community's animals," Hyde's proposal states. "The Palo Alto Humane Society is interested in offering these proven added value aspects to the Palo Alto Community.

"PAHS wants to create an exciting place in Palo Alto that parallels centers in other communities and shines as a civic centerpiece for the City. The residents have shown their passion for animal welfare and would welcome a new and exciting vision for the shelter."

While the City Council has yet to review the proposal, it is already off to a promising start. Four council members -- Marc Berman, Karen Holman, Larry Klein and Greg Schmid -- have penned a memo urging that the Humane Society proposal go to council committees for "prompt review." The council will consider this memo at its June 16 meeting.

The four council members cited the animal shelter's brush with closure in 2012, noting the community response.

"The community has made its desire to keep animal services in Palo Alto known by crowding Council Chambers with supporters," the memo states.

The city's existing animal shelter also serves Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. In their memo, the council members write that the new facility and added services could be "a means to attract adjacent communities who now contract as far away as San Martin, a distance creating real challenges to reunited owner and pet."

The Humane Society has offered to provide various community services and outreach associated with the new facility, though the city would continue to "fund and manage mandated animal control services." A major benefit of this, Hyde wrote, is that the organization can "run the sheltering function at a lower cost, as PAHS is not subject to the City's salary structure." The cost, she said, would be "predictable," with a contracted fee that will make budgeting much easier for the city.

"Another advantage to the City is that this partnership would play on each organization's areas of strength," Hyde's proposal states. "PAHS is better able to handle sheltering and animal care, while the City is better able to perform the animal control function, given its strength in law and code enforcement."


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Posted by janet
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 12, 2014 at 10:23 am

This is fantastic news. For many years I have used them to neuter and spay animals and they always did a great job. The people are caring and efficient and given the limited facilities they have they already do a wonderful job.

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Posted by Not so great
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 12, 2014 at 11:55 am

I have used the PAHS for spay and neuter for years. One dog caught some kind of mite infestation after being spayed there ( verified by vet ). Another was overdosed with anesthesia and required two days to fully wake up ( also verified by vet ).

My past two vets have always sent me there for spay/ neuter, because they say they cannot perform it an I expensively as PAHS.

When I bought my current dog, my new vet referred me there as well. When I objected, he told me that the past problems were such a long time ago that surely none of those vets and assistants even work there any longer. I caved and now I am paying for it. When they spayed my dog, they damaged her bladder irreparably and she has been incontinent ever since. Medication helps, but does not work 100%, especially as the poor dog ages. I actually have to diaper her at night!

They may be a great place to adopt a pet or buy pet products, but do NOT have a spay/ neuter performed here!

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Posted by nat
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 12, 2014 at 1:50 pm

I'm confused. Will PAHC let go the current staff at the animal services
and replace them with their own staff? It almost sounds that way when the article has the spokesperson say the cost will be lower.

How much control, if any, will Palo Alto have over animal services, including neuturing, if this "partnership" happens?

Where will animal services operate while the new facility is being built?

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Posted by Carole Hyde
a resident of another community
on Jun 12, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Hello, "Not So Great." I'd like to clarify that PAHS (Palo Alto Humane Society) does not run the spay/neuter clinic that you took your animals to. That organization is called Palo Alto Animal Services and is run by the City of Palo Alto's Police Department. Palo Alto Humane Society runs a voucher program for homeless animals and low-income pets to be spayed at various low-cost clinics, including Animal Services. --Carole Hyde, Director, Palo Alto Humane Society

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Posted by glad
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 12, 2014 at 2:29 pm

this is ultimately good news for palo alto

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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 12, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

This sounds like wonderful news. In a city of such wealth it is shameful that this has not happened ages ago.

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Posted by Leave it alone
a resident of another community
on Jun 12, 2014 at 4:56 pm

I have the greatest respect for the work the EXISTING Palo Alto Spay and Neuter Clinic has done. They have always done a great job spaying and neutering our pets, including exotic ones.

The old expression, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," applies here. This city can afford to keep and enhance its premier service. Hats off to DVM Bonnie Yoffe, animal control officer Wiliam Warrior and the City of Palo Alto Animal Services staff.

The city should seriously look at what they will be buying if they go with Palo Alto Humane Society. Cheaper is not necesarily better, and you may get what you pay for.

The Peninsula Humane Society in San Mateo County made many detrimental cuts to field services while paying their top brass big bucks. When I lived there, residents were not better off for it. The field services were nearly nonexistent for things like picking up stray animals and investigating dangerous animal reports. Their spay and neuter services traumatized our pets, and we vowed to never return there.

Yes, Palo Alto Humane Society is different from Peninsula, one might say. But these groups have agendas that are not neutral, and they support feeding and keeping feral cat colonies, something that is being debated in this city.

Palo Alto City Council will be considering banning feeding feral cats, and the timing of the Palo Alto Humane Society's "offer" should be suspect. Palo Alto Humane Society members have stated publicly their opposition to a feral cat feeding ban. Director Carole Hyde has stated her fear that Palo Alto would extend its feeding ban throughout the city.

It would not be in the best interest of Palo Alto residents to have this advocacy group in charge of city services where they would solidify their power with city funding. Better to stick with the city's tried and true staff who care deeply for the animals and are neutral.

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Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Jun 12, 2014 at 6:44 pm

Get some donors. Put there names where they can be seen. Burlingame and Milpitas pet shelters are nicer buildings than was 3/4 of bay area people live in...all donor money.

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Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2014 at 5:05 am

Dear Carol Hyde,

"Low-income pets"?
Mine are NO-income.
It would be nice if my rescues could pay for their kibble, but I'm not a catpimp. Or maybe you were talking trust funds?

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Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 13, 2014 at 6:47 am

Several years ago the head of the San Mateo Humane Society was fired and a new one was hired at 50% increase in salary plus a house allowance. That was and is a huge amount of money not available for animal services. Just expand or improve the current Palo Alto Animal Services organization and hire back the employees terminated when Palo Alto City Council took away 270K from their budget last year.

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Posted by CuckooBird
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 13, 2014 at 8:18 am

Out of the frying pan and into the fire?
Palo Alto Animal Services has some strengths and some big problems. Many of the problems likely stem from being part of City Government: a bureaucratic/ municipal employee mindset and management. Example: the spay/neuter clinic was supposed to generate more funds for animal services in the last year. But when I called for an appointment, it was closed. Tried again and again, for months. Finally asked and was told they didn't have the staff to keep the clinic open. What??? In this economy they couldn't find staff to provide services supposedly key to the shelters survival? At salaries that are higher than those being paid in the private sector? This is a big management problem. And the reason most municipalities have non-profit entities-- like HSSV--provide animal services under contract. Services are better, and costs are lower and better managed.

But has anyone looked at whether Palo Alto Humane has the capability to provide better services? They haven't run a shelter in more than 40 years. Their website says it all: their mission is to keep animals out of shelters. They don't have any experience providing animal care or doing adoptions. Or managing a veterinary clinic. Looks like a good organization, but very very small and with very limited experience. Building and running a shelter is a big undertaking. So there is no assurance that Palo Alto Humane could run the shelter any better, or at lower cost, than the City does. They don't have the track record for doing something like this, not even close.

North and south of Palo Alto there are large humane societies and animal shelters that are doing exactly what the city needs, right now. Why do we think that we need to start from scratch here? Humane Societies nearby have a track record and trained employees and management. Wouldn't it make more sense to see if one of those organizations can run the shelter and provide animal services? Even build a local facility that could be part of a larger network? Why not look at all the options?

Palo Alto doesn't need more years of fumbling around trying to show it can do its own thing. Yeah, it's cool to fund start-ups. Sometimes you win big, sometimes you lose. But unlike investing in the next hot start-up there is no big pay-off on the upside with an animal shelter. Just risk to the City if there are problems.

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Posted by Bunny Wunny
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 13, 2014 at 11:42 am

Bunny Wunny is a registered user.

Volunteer Statistician sought for 2 hour project re: animal welfare in Palo Alto

I am doing an analysis of the Palo Alto Animal Services (PAAS) animal welfare report in preparation for the upcoming City Council discussion Mon June 16 evening about the future of the PAAS shelter.

I would like to confer with a statistician about the report, and do a quick comparison to some of the reports from other animal shelters around the area and country.

According to the report, the 2013 PAAS live release rate was 78%. On Wednesday I spoke with the Chief Animal Services Officer of Austin Animal Services, and was told they have a live release rate of 94%. Austin improved their live release rate by intensively studying the animal welfare statistics and using these numbers to focus their efforts on the right services and efforts to improve animal welfare and save lives of their homeless pets. My expectation is that PAAS could do the same and have a similar positive outcome.

Please contact me if you can spend a few hours to discuss this issue.

Cynthia Typaldos
650 215-8406 cell


June 16, 2014 - REVISED - City Council Agenda and Full Packet
Web Link

Maddie's Fund Animal Welfare Reports for PAAS
Web Link

Maddie's Fund Animal Welfare Reports overall
Web Link

Using Data to Make Austin a No-Kill City
By Dr. Ellen Jefferson, Executive Director, Austin Pets Alive, March 2012
Web Link

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 13, 2014 at 8:12 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

once again, jerry99 doesn't know what he's typing about. He writes about the myths of Ken White's hiring, instead of the facts. Compare PHS/SPCA now to what it used to be, and White's hiring is completely justified. That never was money for animal services, the house was not owned by White. Again, look at what PHS/SPCA has done - amazingly good stuff. PAAS? Not so much. The biggest mistake was keeping it under police services. That is almost NEVER the best option for the animals.

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Posted by Bunny Wunny
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 13, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Bunny Wunny is a registered user.

Dear Hmmm,

I would very much like to make contact with you. I have read a previous comment by you about PAAS that indicates to me you are well aware of the issues.

Thank you.

Cynthia Typaldos
650 215-8406 cell

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Posted by No Humane Society
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 13, 2014 at 8:46 pm

They s/b called the Inhumane Society--just visit any of them. We do not want them here in Palo Alto, nor do we need them. This town has plenty of funds to expand and improve the current PAAS facility.

My brother-in-law was the former financial manager for this town, and he says any pleas of lack of funds are nothing but lies. Palo Alto was rolling in cash even during the Great Recession. plenty of money for PAAS , schools, infrastructure!

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 13, 2014 at 11:12 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Hi Cynthia, you can email me if you'd like: iamhmmm (at) yahoo. I am not a Palo Alto resident, though, so I may not be very helpful.

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Posted by No Humane Society
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2014 at 9:50 am

Does everyone realize that the Humane Society also euthanizes animals that do not get adopted or lost pets that are not claimed soon enough? It has happened before, particularly in San Jose, but imagine the scenario where a pet owner is away on vacation and the pet sitter loses the pet. The Humane Society will not allow the pet sitter to claim the animal, and the owners return home to find their pet has been euthanized needlessly.

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Posted by Bunny Wunny
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Bunny Wunny is a registered user.

A few weeks ago I received a hardcopy of the Palo Alto Animal Services (PAAS) Policies and Procedures covering animal care from Connie Urbanski, the shelter supervisor.

I posted this information online:
PAAS Policies and Procedures for Animal Care 2014 (4 pages)
Web Link

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Posted by Scottie Zimmerman
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Yow! Here we go again.... Appallingly inaccurate and inflammatory comments from people who don't want to use their real names.

To No Humane Society: Palo Alto Animal Services has a long history of KEEPING animals in their care for months and even years! They have an especially good record with adult cats. Max cat came into the shelter, age 9, in March 2012. He stayed at the shelter for 15 months, and was adopted, age 10, in June of 2013. Decker, a 4-month old black youngster, grew up at the shelter for a year before being adopted. More recently, Titus, age 10, was at the shelter for 8 or 9 months until his recent adoption. These cats hold onto their healthy mental state thanks to the attention they get from dedicated staff and volunteers at PAAS.

It is a rule of thumb that cats do not do well at a shelter for longer than 3 months. The stress gets to them. They get depressed. They become hostile and may attack a person who wants only to pet them. This is rarely the case at PAAS, though it does happen, and if repeated can result in euthanasia.

Full Disclosure: I am a member of Friends of the Palo Alto Animal Shelter (FoPAAS) and one of the SOS group that campaigned mightily for a year to keep PAAS in Palo Alto and open for business. I support the proposal from Carole Hyde of PAHS. I look forward to working on the project with PAHS, the Palo Alto Police Department, and the City Council. We intend to replace or upgrade our aging shelter with a new state-of-the-art shelter that provides improved services to our community and to the animals we love. Sounds good to me.

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Posted by Adopter
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 19, 2014 at 1:49 pm

There is some confusion here.

Palo Alto Humane Society, (PAHS):
animal advocacy, spay and neuter vouchers, humane education, aid for low-income pet owners.

Palo Alto Animal Services, (PAAS):
animal control officers, shelter with dogs, cats, rabbits, and other homeless animals, veterinary services (spay, neuter, immunization).

(I'm sure some things are left out, but this is the general picture.)

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Posted by Mary
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 20, 2014 at 8:37 am

Close it down and contract SVACA. They are doing a great job in Mountain View.

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Posted by Bunny Wunny
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 20, 2014 at 8:53 am

Bunny Wunny is a registered user.

This discussion is continuing on a later story written after the council meeting.
Web Link

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Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2014 at 8:41 am

This is a complicated issue.

The one thing I am sure of: Shyloh is a lovely lass and would bring joy to the home of any suitable Palo Alto family. Come meet her.

Also: kudos for Bonnie Yoffe for her public service to we humans and her DVM work for friends like Shyloh and Frankie.

So how do we go from not having the budget to retain traditional levels of service then we want to build infrastructure for this? Smacks of: we don't have money to pay public safety what we were, but we want a new building for them.

Generally I am for maintaining in the public sector services we are accustomed to, and not privatizing.

Will have to bone up on the facts here.

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