New partner proposed for Palo Alto animal shelter

Nonprofit Pets in Need considers managing facility, turning it into no-kill shelter

Palo Alto's cramped but popular animal shelter would be preserved, renovated and turned into a "no kill" zone under a proposed partnership between the city and the nonprofit group Pets in Need, which would manage the facility.

The nonprofit, which was established in 1965 as the first no-kill shelter in Northern California, has emerged as a leading contender for taking over Palo Alto Animal Services, a program that has been in limbo since 2012, when Mountain View opted out of its partnership in the facility. The East Bayshore Road shelter continues to serve Palo Alto, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

The departure of Mountain View has proved costly. Since the move, Palo Alto has been spending about $900,000 annually to keep the services running. An April 2015 audit of animal services by City Auditor Harriet Richardson concluded that the facility's challenges are "unlikely to be resolved if it continues operating as solely a city-managed function without a significant increase in general fund subsidy, donations, and/or revenue-generating contracts." The audit also deemed the facility "outdated and inadequate to meet modern animal-care standards."

To address these deficiencies, Palo Alto began last fall to look for a nonprofit partner that would manage the facility and work with the city to improve it. The city's initial request for proposals received only one proposal, from Pets in Need. Seeking to get more proposals, Palo Alto issued another proposal in January. Pets in Need again submitted a proposal, while the County of Santa Clara sent in a letter expressing interest in submitting a bid. The Humane Society Silicon Valley, which worked with the city on developing the request for proposals, opted not to submit an offer because it did not want to collaborate on a new full-service animal shelter.

In a letter explaining the nonprofit's decision, Humane Society Silicon Valley President Carol Novello, wrote that moving ahead with a new facility "takes away from resources that could be garnered and deployed to save the lives of animal still at risk today in Santa Clara County."

Pets in Need, on the other hand, appears willing to move ahead with the new facility. The proposed term sheet between the nonprofit and the city calls for Pets in Need to engage an architect to assess repairs and improvements that the facility requires. While immediate improvements are being made, Pets in Need and the city will also confer about "more comprehensive facility improvements."

"It is the intent of the parties that, either through remodeling of the current building or construction of a new building the shelter will meet industry and community standards," the term sheet states.

The terms, which the City Council is scheduled to review and possibly approve on Sept. 9, also call for Pets in Need to meet with current animal-shelter employees, though it does not oblige the nonprofit to retain existing staff. The city's budget currently includes staffing for 10.66 full-time equivalent positions, four of which are dedicated to animal control. Two of these positions are currently vacated.

Under the agreement, the nonprofit would take care of the shelter's animals and provide veterinary care, spaying/neutering services and vaccinations. It would also be in charge of adoptions, foster care, marketing, community education and on-going work with local stakeholders' groups.

The city would remain responsible for animal-control services, which are currently a function of the Palo Alto Police Department and would likely remain so.

The cost of services, according to the term sheet, would be based on a fee structure built on the number and duration of animals brought into the shelter, according to the term sheet.

The potential partnership would also represent a philosophical shift for the shelter. Pets in Need operates its facilities as no-kill shelters, which reserve euthanasia only for animals that are terminally ill or dangerous to the public, according to a letter from the nonprofit's Executive Director Al Mollica.

In the March letter to the city, Mollica wrote that the nonprofit's staff is "excited about the opportunity to integrate our shelter management practices into the Palo Alto operation."

"Through aggressive adoption and spay/neuter programs, we can ultimately reduce costs, end the euthanizing of adoptable animals and transform the PAAS shelter into an important community asset," Mollica wrote.

He also predicted that operating the facility as a no-kill facility will "be well-received by residents, will enhance fundraising efforts, and will distinguish the City of Palo Alto as progressive and humane in its treatment of animals."

"We believe Palo Alto should join the ranks of other cities that successfully operate no kill shelters," Mollica wrote.

In recommending that Palo Alto partner with Pets in Need, staff from the office of City Manager James Keene pointed to the low number of responses and acknowledged that "there is not a robust marketplace of providers bidding for this service as defined."

Pets in Need, a report from Keene's office states, "was selected as providing the most advantageous proposal due to their commitment to retain the shelter in Palo Alto, to lead a fundraising campaign to remodel or build a new shelter, to work closely with the Friends of Animal Shelter and the Palo Alto Humane Society, and to provide the services in a cost effective manner."

If the council approves the terms, the partnership would represent a significant shift for the popular shelter, which was built in 1972 (an isolation building and a euthanasia room were added in 1985) and was facing the prospect of closure in 2012.

A staff proposal in 2012 to close the shelter and contract out animal services attracted significant resident opposition and was summarily rejected by the council, [Changes eyed for Palo Alto's animal shelter prompting a more recent search for an agency that would manage and potentially invest in the existing shelter.

Related content:

Animal shelter is not closing, Palo Alto officials say

Changes eyed for Palo Alto's animal shelter


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16 people like this
Posted by vmshadle
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 26, 2016 at 11:15 am

Pets In Need is a wonderful organization. I really hope that this collaboration will make everyone happy.

8 people like this
Posted by Animal lover
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 26, 2016 at 11:38 am

I am an animal lover, but I think Palo Alto should get out of the business of housing an animal shelter. If we consolidate our animal services with others in the region, far more animals would be saved. The cost to run a small shelter is too high and dogs and cats are far better off in a bigger shelter that attracts more people looking to adopt animals. Housing a small shelter with few animals means fewer prospective parents are going to visit. Consolidating resources means more volunteers, lower overhead and more animals getting adopted. It's time to do this on behalf of the animals!!

5 people like this
Posted by Cynthia
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2016 at 12:35 pm

This is wonderful news. Thanks to everyone who worked so hard, over the last several years, to make this change happen. Special kudos to Cash Alaee, the Palo Alto City executive who managed the process.

I (and others) received this email from Cash yesterday:


Good afternoon. Attached is a copy of the staff report which will be discussed at City Council on September 6, 2016, Additionally you can view the staff report here: Web Link

Please contact me if you have any questions.

Khashayar “Cash” Alaee | Sr. Management Analyst
City Manager’s Office
250 Hamilton Avenue | Palo Alto, CA 94301
D: 650.329.2230 | E:

29 people like this
Posted by Animal Activist
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2016 at 12:45 pm

Animal Activist is a registered user.

Pets in Need is a fantastic organization, very good at fostering and finding homes for pets.

I am relieved that this will become a no-kill shelter. Too many "rescue" organizations misuse the word " shelter" by having it as a part of their name, when in fact they euthanize many animals. The word implies safety from harm.

Now the Palo Alto Animal Services can honestly call itself a shelter!

5 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 26, 2016 at 9:11 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Will Pets in Need still accept pets surrendered by Palo Alto residents at the Palo Alto shelter? That was I believe a problem with combining with other shelters which do not accept surrenders unconditionally. For families who can no longer keep pets, it can be very difficult to find placements.

Kudos on becoming a no-kill shelter but I hope that does not limit the acceptance of pets from people who can no longer keep them because of economics or allergies or whatever.

I do not think surrendering a pet is the best option. I have never done so and have always been fortunate to be able to place animals I could not keep in good homes. But I have had friends who for financial reasons had to move and could not find anywhere that would accept pets. It can be very difficult.

5 people like this
Posted by Cur Mudgeon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 27, 2016 at 2:11 pm

I am pleased to see this. The Mid Peninsula does not have an animal shelter if PAAS closes. HSSV does great work, but they are in Milpitas. There is a shelter in Santa Clara, off 101. There is a shelter in San Jose by the FG. Pets In Need and 9 Lives in Redwood City are the only other nearby private non-profit shelters between Palo Alto and Burlingame. (PHS)
Pets In Need has dog obedience classes in Redwood City which have been helpful to my family over the years.

27 people like this
Posted by Robert
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2016 at 7:53 pm

I have had multiple interactions with the animal shelter over many years (adopted pets, spay and neuter, getting my lost dog back when he got out one day) and find the staff to be very professional, helpful, and informative. I find myself annoyed with the claims that with Pets In Need running the shelter it will become a "no kill" shelter, which is a very misleading term. The shelter is ALREADY a "no kill" shelter, since animals are only euthanized for severe behavior or medical reasons. Much more appropriate and accurate terminology is "open door" and "limited admissions". Palo Alto's shelter is an "open door" shelter, which means it takes in ANY animal from Palo Alto, no matter how old or sick or injured or aggressive, etc. Obviously not all of these are adoptable. Pets In Need is a "limited admissions" (or "closed door") shelter which means it takes in only adoptable animals. This does not take away from their good work in placing pets into new homes. But to compare the two organizations is like comparing apples and oranges. They serve very different functions.

18 people like this
Posted by Just don''t get it
a resident of Southgate
on Aug 28, 2016 at 3:33 pm

As a volunteer at the PAAS for the past several years I can tell you that the Palo Alto facility has always been a "no-kill" shelter unless the animal was terminally ill or a threat to others and not retrainable. They work very hard with dogs to train them with large success! One recent accusation is very biased and unfounded..... They do a terrific service to this area and offer what the large Humane Society services don't offer. The Humane Society solicits money and most goes to administration and administrators or mailing return address labels!!! Do some research!!

That said, Pets in Need is an excellent operation but don't under rate PAAS and know they are a No Kill shelter.

19 people like this
Posted by I Get It
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 28, 2016 at 5:58 pm

I Get It is a registered user.

Hasn't anyone read about the young chihuahua who was needlessly, stupidly euthanized a few months ago?

The owner was stuck moving to an apartment that didn't allow pets after her husband left her.

She asked the "shelter" several times to call her if they could not find a home for her dog. She called several times herself, but the last time she called she said she would come on a Saturday when she didn't have to work.

When she got there, she found out that PAAS has euthanized her little dog!

9 people like this
Posted by Caitlin
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 29, 2016 at 1:19 pm

This is excellent news. Pets in Need is a wonderful service to our Bay Area and I'm so pleased the shelter will be "no kill" soon.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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