Pets in Need, the troubled nonprofit animal shelter weathering upheaval after the deaths of seven puppies in its care, has a new interim executive director, the organization has announced in a statement on its website.
Board member and animal welfare expert Valerie McCarthy will immediately replace outgoing Executive Director Al Mollica, who resigned from his position in November after the puppies' deaths and the overheating of 21 other dogs in a hot transport van in August.
McCarthy has served on the nonprofit's board of directors for the past year and a half. She is the research editor for the Animal Law and Public Policy Program at Harvard Law School and did graduate work at New York University in animal welfare, according to the statement. She worked on animal welfare issues that included pit bull rescues in some of New York's poorest neighborhoods and finding homes for cats in Stockholm, Sweden. She has also earned the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' highest volunteer certification in behavioral training. She cares for two male rescue cats at her home.
Pets in Need is the animal shelter contractor for the city of Palo Alto and runs a no-kill shelter in Redwood City. The 55-year-old organization came under a firestorm of criticism after three staff managers were charged with animal cruelty in late October by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office. A police report noted that the seven puppies likely died from heat stroke after being transported for hours in a van that lacked efficient cooling. The compartment where the puppies and 21 other dogs had been confined in cages lacked adequate ventilation in the nearly 100-degree heat. All of the dogs exhibited symptoms of heat distress, a police investigation found.
Staff members wrote a highly critical letter to the nonprofit's board about management's handling of the animals and the aftermath.
Mollica abruptly announced on Nov. 15 that Pets in Need would terminate its contract with the city and would only run the shelter through the end of 2022. He blamed the city of Palo Alto, which he claimed had not provided funding and repairs to the aging facilities in a timely manner. The city refuted that characterization and some critics considered Pets in Need's assertion a red herring to deflect from the crisis.
Three days later on Nov. 18, the Pets in Need's board confirmed that Mollica had given notice he would resign. A date for his departure was not given at that time.
Mollica's replacement would, hopefully, help the organization to regain the public's and donors' confidence in the nonprofit's services, the board said.
"Valerie will provide much-needed stability at this time and ensure PIN continues to provide the very best, most compassionate care for the animals in our charge. She has agreed to serve in this interim capacity for up to six months," the organization said in the statement. McCarthy and the board plan to soon begin a nationwide search for a permanent executive director, the announcement said.