Plan to close Palo Alto animal shelter fizzles | May 18, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 18, 2012

Plan to close Palo Alto animal shelter fizzles

Council members recommend keeping Animal Services Center in place, cutting costs

by Gennady Sheyner

Palo Alto's Animal Services Center may soon become a major financial drain, but a City Council committee agreed at an emotional hearing last Thursday night, May 10, that the aged but popular shelter is far too important to the community to shutter.

The council's Policy and Services Committee unanimously voted Thursday to reject the city staff's proposal to close the bustling animal shelter on East Bayshore Road and outsource animal services to another agency. Instead, council members directed staff to come up with other ways to raise revenues and cut costs at the facility.

On Tuesday, the council's Finance Committee also signaled its desire to preserve the shelter, but requested staff return with a plan to reduce costs by $500,000.

The proposal to close the shelter was prompted by Mountain View's decision to end its partnership with the Animal Services Center, going instead with the Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority. Mountain View had been contributing $470,000 annually to the Palo Alto facility. David Ramberg, assistant director of Palo Alto's Administrative Services Department, told the policy committee last week that Mountain View's withdrawal "essentially created a $470,000 hole in the General Fund bottom line."

But the city's animal lovers rallied to save the shelter, with online petitions and hundreds of letters to the council. More than 100 animal advocates and volunteers poured into the Council Chambers for the policy-committee meeting. Many in attendance carried signs or wore yellow T-Shirts with the initials "S.O.S," signifying their affiliation with the newly formed grassroots group, "Save Our Shelter."

Perhaps the most influential speakers were members of the Palo Alto Humane Society, a nonprofit group that released its own proposal for cutting costs and raising revenue. The organization offered an alternative that would eliminate 4.25 positions, saving about $430,300 in employee costs. It would include cutting two animal-control positions and reducing administrative staffing. Its other ideas include staffing the shop at Animal Services Center with volunteers and boosting revenues by keeping the spay-and-neuter clinic and the vaccination clinic open on Saturdays.

The nonprofit group has also recommended reaching out to other cities to replace Mountain View (options include Portola Valley, Woodside, Menlo Park and Atherton, all of which get their services from the Peninsula Humane Society through a contract with San Mateo County) and starting a working group that could work with the city staff to address the animal shelter's long-term future.

Carole Hyde, executive director of the Palo Alto Humane Society, said her group does not believe that "trucking animals out of the area to crowded facilities and uncertain fates" constitutes good stewardship. Leanor Delgado, an educator at the organization, also lamented the loss of educational opportunities Palo Alto would experience if the shelter were shuttered.

"Given Palo Alto's often stated strong commitment to quality education, why would the city want to toss aside a locally based, humane education curriculum shared by Palo Alto Animal Services and the Palo Alto Humane Society?" Delgado asked.

The committee sided with the speakers and agreed to put the brakes on the staff recommendation. Members unanimously agreed that the city shouldn't rush into outsourcing animal services. Councilman Greg Schmid called the shelter's budget problems "a tough situation" and said more time is needed to find a solution.

Councilman Larry Klein agreed with those speakers who said eliminating animal services would create other problems, including more stray and feral animals. Many people, he said, would refuse to drive to Milpitas or San Jose to surrender their pets. Outsourcing may work for some city functions, he said, but in this case, the service reduction would be too severe.

"I think our animals are a key part of our community," said Klein, owner of two rescued dogs. "I'm not at all impressed with the idea of outsourcing."

Committee Chair Karen Holman, owner of a dog and a cat, agreed. The animal-services operation, she said, has been an important part of the Palo Alto community for more than 100 years.

"I think we are a healthier, happier community if we can keep the services here," Holman said.

The committee unanimously backed a proposal from Klein, which calls for keeping the shelter open but finding ways to raise about $100,000 in revenues and to cut about $200,000 in expenditures in fiscal year 2013, which begins July 1. The proposal also directs Keene to create a task force that would make further recommendations for raising revenues and cutting costs with the goal of completely closing the budget gap by fiscal year 2016.

The committee's recommendation pleased the audience, prompting applause from the crowded City Hall room. But City Manager James Keene warned that this just means other programs or services would have to be impacted.

"This is democracy at work. It is like a little town meeting," Keene said. "The problem is, we have a different town that shows up each week, depending on what the issue is. We'll have another group with concerns about cuts in police and fire and whatever we do."

At the meeting's conclusion, Councilman Sid Espinosa lauded the Palo Alto Humane Society's proposal.

"Rarely, in my years of service, have I seen an organization come forward with a comprehensive set of ideas like that," Espinosa said. "It was very helpful and I think set us on a very good course of discussion."

Hyde said after the meeting that her group began working on its proposal immediately after staff first floated the idea of outsourcing animal services about six weeks ago. Like many in the audience, she said she was pleased with the committee's decision.

"It just opens a whole new dialogue about finding a creative solution," Hyde told the Weekly.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at


Posted by Bambi, a resident of Downtown North
on May 11, 2012 at 3:46 am

In one of the wealthiest cities in the USA I can not believe we were considering closing this facility. Sad to see the city in such a situation to even have to consider. Why would community members come up with a comprehensive plan our own city did not or could not? Homes in Palo Alto costs are staggering. Let's not lose what makes us a sought after community to live in by allowing nothing but cuts in important and valuable services. It should not just be the weather that makes us so special.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 11, 2012 at 7:05 am

Oh Good Grief. Did those letters contain checks? If Palo Alto outsources, another such service will do the same function.

Posted by paloaltotreewatch, a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on May 11, 2012 at 7:09 am

Riddle me this: why is this current city management not good for the city of Palo Alto?
Cause when the axes fall in this city it is always on the worker bees - those city folks who are actually dealing with the public and providing services.

Previous outsourcing has taken out
1) recycling services
2) parks management.
3) others?

And now they wanted to do the same for animal services. But the real motives are just beneath the surface - they want to build a car dealership on that spot.

I have a new idea: lets outsource the management of the city management services. We can't possibly need SO many managers for a city of this size. Time to man/woman/person up city management and eat some of your own dog food and show you know how to spread the pain around. You folks are basically sponging off this city meanwhile the real quality of life in this city goes down as the overbuild progress.

Posted by Toady, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 11, 2012 at 7:23 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by car dealership again, a resident of Community Center
on May 11, 2012 at 7:39 am

staff that continue to push for a car dealership are not needed in my opinion, easy savings right there, i don't want people that out of touch influencing decisions that impact my community

Posted by Roxy, a resident of Community Center
on May 11, 2012 at 8:22 am

Define "major financial drain."

Posted by brave new world, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 11, 2012 at 8:43 am

"In one of the wealthiest cities in the USA I can not believe we were considering closing this facility. Sad to see the city in such a situation to even have to consider."

Unfortunately, the unions have chosen pensions and benefits over jobs and services. This is the result.
It shouldn't be surprising. This is the new status quo. As each year goes by more and more jobs and services need to be cut to pay for it. Until we get down to one employee simply to manage the pensions/benefits.

Posted by So glad the shelter stays!, a resident of College Terrace
on May 11, 2012 at 8:45 am

I love the idea of outsourcing city management services. No to car dealerships!!! Just look at El Camino in Menlo Park where all the car dealerships were... a huge eyesore taking up space for years. No to cars, yes to animals, Palo Alto!

Posted by TooManyAnimals, a resident of Midtown
on May 11, 2012 at 8:47 am

I say we discourage pet ownership rather than promote it. I'm sick of cleaning up after other peoples' dogs (cats too!) on my property. It's disgusting when my kids come home from the park and school with dog excrement on their shoes, clothing, and sports equipment. Why are we subsidizing pet ownership? Can't people afford to pay for their own animals' upkeep? Why house unwanted animals in some of the most expensive real estate in the country? Food, not pets!

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 11, 2012 at 8:54 am

This is not a case of whether we like animals or not.

It is a case of good housekeeping and budget. I have nothing against animals, or theatre, or bicycles, or whatever goes on the chopping block next. But, there is a cost to everything. If we want these things, fine, but we must remember that they have to be paid for.

I want to see basic infrastructure prioritized because we all have to use it. If we want animal services, theatre, bike paths, then let's charge realistically for them by those that use them, and not expect their continuation means that we have poor infrastructure or a bond measure to fund what we should already be paying for.

We can't eat cake when there's no money for bread!

Posted by moi, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 11, 2012 at 9:14 am

>>>> "trucking animals out of the area to crowded facilities and uncertain faiths" <<<<

Crowded facilities are bad enough, but sending our companion animals to "uncertain faiths" is over the top.

This, alone, is an outstanding argument for saving Palo Alto's animal services.

(P.A. Online, you may want to correct your quote.)

Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of Stanford
on May 11, 2012 at 9:16 am

TooManyAnimals - people are subsidizing your kids- does that mean they should stop paying their share of taxes toward schools, especially if they have no kids? It's not that let's equal kids, it's that your argument is ridiculous. Fixing a budget shortfall of 500k in a city this size can be done without too much sacrifice.

Posted by pricing, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 11, 2012 at 9:17 am

Can't the city set prices on animal services so that this facility pays for itself? It doesn't have to make a profit; just break even. Seems unfair to use money that could go for children and schools and use it for pets.

Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 11, 2012 at 10:30 am

Some of the pro outsourcing people would have you believe that the shelter provides services for free at the tax payer's expense. Every service it provides, with the exception of animal surrendering, which is beneficial to city because it prevents strays, is fee based. Many of the shelter foes, some of them people who admit they don't like animals, use various city services that are subsidized by the tax payers, and unlike the animal shelter, don't charge fees for their use:city parks, athletic fields, for example. How about Palo Alto tax payers who don't have children in the PAUSD, but their taxes still subsidize the children of the animal shelter foes?

Posted by Iris Lubitz, a resident of Mountain View
on May 11, 2012 at 10:37 am

I'm hopeful that means will be found to continue the excellent services provided by the Palo Alto Shelter. With help from the Palo Alto Humane Society and possibly from Best Friends, it may be possible to do some of the needed renovations as well. As the coordinator of a local rescue group and concerned animal rights activist, I've referred many people to the shelter and have received prompt caring responses from all the animal control officers. I'm seriously concerned that the decision made by the Mountain View City Council may result in more animals being abandoned in Mountain View. If Palo Alto is willing to charge a low fee for taking in pets from Mountain View, this may be avoided.

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 11, 2012 at 10:41 am

I will always support and respect the process that is democracy. With that said, and in hindsight of the council's decision last night, I must say that our serious financial problems will never be solved as long as our city leaders and elected officials fail to demonstrate the courage it takes to make these tough choices. On one hand they acknowledge that PAAS may become a major financial drain, and then opt to keep it operating it anyway. Never mind the sound financial logic that motivated them to outsource the service to begin with, no, let's just buckle once again to a vocal group.

Just the same, and having to accept this fate, I sincerely hope the end result will be the elimination of several positions at the shelter in order to reduce costs. Hopefully they can generate more revenue through the operation, and even add a community or two to help offset the city expenses.

With this decision made I ask where are the cost reductions and sacrifices going to be made? Our city is still strapped financially. We still face annual budget deficits with no reasonable end in sight. What got us into this mess, at least in part, is funding non-revenue generating operations on the tax payer's dime. We need to eliminate or significantly reduce these city funded programs and services. The solution is to spend less and generate revenue. This will never be done as long as our city leaders fail to have the courage to say no. They enjoy a feel-good hour last night by keeping the shelter open, but wake up again today to a serious budget deficit and complete inability to fun our vital civic needs in public safety and infrastructure. This problem will not go away. It only gets worse.

Posted by Jim H., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 11, 2012 at 10:52 am

Interesting how it wasn't until the threat of closure that a plan came out to reduce expenses and raise revenues. The city should do this with all of it's departments and see how much they can shake out.

Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 11, 2012 at 10:52 am

A city is not a corporation. If the only goal is profit or a balanced budget, cities, states and the federal government would cease to function, the quality of life would severely deteriorate and other problems, much more intractable, dangerous and expensive would surface. Not everything can be evaluated by a balance sheet.

Posted by Scottie Zimmerman, a resident of Midtown
on May 11, 2012 at 10:59 am

I was at the meeting, and one impression I came away with is this: The City Manager, James Keene, and Asst. City Manager, Pam Antil (and others on "staff") are actually pretty reasonable. Egad! Did I just say that!

Yes, it's true. They do in fact have appreciation for all sides in this discussion, and there are no easy choices.

Those of us on the Save Our Shelter team cannot ignore the budget pressures the city is facing. Carole Hyde, Leonor Delgado, and others from the Palo Alto Humane Society, delivered to the Policy & Services Committee a detailed proposal that includes possible cuts in staff at PAAS, increased services, and suggests creation of a task force to work on new sources of revenue for the shelter. Carole impressed the Committee with her thoughtful presentation of a multi-layered approach to solving the problem of the shelter's survival.

In truth, I think everybody won last night. The discussion/debate is not over. We all have a lot of work to do to devise ways to cut costs and improve earnings -- enough to guarantee that the shelter is self-sufficient, not a drain on Palo Alto's budget. What we "won" at the Committee meeting was the expectation (still to be approved by the entire City Council) of more TIME to work out a solution that satisfies everybody.

Posted by tanstaafl, a resident of Palo Verde
on May 11, 2012 at 11:05 am

Marrol has made excellent points.
So, too, did the City Maneger when he said:
"This is democracy at work. It is like a little town meeting. The problem is, we have a different town that shows up each week, depending on what the issue is. We'll have another group with concerns about cuts in police and fire and whatever we do."

I am an Animal Shelter fan. But a half-million dollar per year deficit is serious money. When we look at one project at a time, each of us can rationalize that there must be a way to find the money. But we have to look at the City expenditures (and income) as a whole. That is why this is such an agonizing problem. But that is what our elected officials (and staff) are supposed to do!

I applaud the Humane Society's approach - they argued retention *and* provided suggestion as to how to mitigate if not cover the costs. We need such action is all cases in which some portion of the City wants to retain a project or avoid cuts - whether it is (for example) fire/police, roadways, tennis courts, dog pards, or community gardens.

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 11, 2012 at 11:05 am

A city is not a corporation, but it does have an inherent responsibility to its tax payers. If we fail to balance the budget, and continue to be mired in financial instability, some cities have ceased to function. Just ask the good people up in Vallejo.

We are in a civic financial crisis. These are the words of our city leaders and elected officials, not mine. We have severe and vital needs in public safety and infrastructure that have been neglected and remain unfunded. One solution our city leaders suggested recently was to sponsor a bond measure and tax increase in order to pay for these cornerstone civic needs. Vital needs that should have always been on the very top of the priority list. This foundation work should have been funded and completed a long time ago. And why hasn't it been? Because these same city leaders buckle to to the niche groups, special interests, and are more concerned about feel good projects than the essential brick and mortar work that needs to be done.

I might add that I never considered the city providing animal services to be among the list of niche groups and special interests. I do believe that providing this service is indeed a civic responsibility we must all share. It's just disappointing that the city could not follow through in seeing the value and cost savings of outsourcing this service.

Posted by Raymond Lucas, a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 11, 2012 at 11:13 am

Seems to me that the BIGGEST financial drain on PA is ridiculous pensions promised to people that future generations have to pay for!

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 11, 2012 at 11:27 am

True East Palo Alto Raymond, but there is rarely if ever one quick fix solution or equation to solving financial/budget issues. A big part of the upside to outsourcing our animal services, as you suggest, was that it would allow us to eliminate paying the salaries and benefits of several employees. Those cost savings in part would save Palo Alto tax payers an estimated 2.5 million dollars in the first five years alone.

In addition to pension reform, we must also demonstrate a willingness to take a long, hard look at current services and programs that can be outsourced, eliminated entirely, or have funds significantly reduced.

Posted by Bruce, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 11, 2012 at 11:38 am

Pensions and subsidized medical benefits are killing the ability to provide city services, which are the "business" or service or "product" of the service business known as government. The private sector gave up pensions years ago, and people (taxpayers and voters) just have 401(k)s.

There is a conflict of interest problem. The city managers who "negotiate" with the unions also have the same type of Cadillac benefits themselves, so they are unlikely push going to 401(k)s, and we will all suffer until some neutral party does the negotiating, with an eye to benefit the taxpayers who pay for all this, rather than the pampered government employees.

Posted by Nancy, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 11, 2012 at 11:42 am

I attended the hearing last evening but was unable to stay till the end. While there, I was tremendously impressed by the thoughtful questions the Council members asked of staff. I am glad that the council members made what I consider to be the right decision. The one positive about the proposed closure is that it galvanized a community that cares. Congrats and thanks to PAHS and SOS for their leadership on the issue. In closing, I agree with Larry Klein: Now it is up to us to help make the Shelter financially viable and to have a promising future.

Posted by Scottie Zimmerman, a resident of Midtown
on May 11, 2012 at 12:02 pm

At the meeting last night, City Manager James Keene encouraged us to attend the Finance Committee meetings:

* Tuesday evening, May 15th, 6 p.m. Council Chambers; Police Budget and Fire Budget

* Thursday, May 17th, General Fund, Utilities Budget

I think this link gets you to the committee agendas available online (downloaded as PDFs): Web Link

Mr. Keene said it would be helpful for us all to witness the juggling that goes on and the varied sources (I think he called them "buckets") from which Palo Alto draws funds.

Posted by Roxy, a resident of Community Center
on May 11, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Dear Marrol,
Elect someone else next time, if you think that our council members lack the "courage" to act on your behalf.
At least these elected individuals are answerable to the citizens who elected them, and are not stuck in the "good cop/bad cop" roles of the (appointed) staff.

Posted by Roxy, a resident of Community Center
on May 11, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Dear Marrol,
Elect someone else next time, if you think that our council members lack the "courage" to act on your behalf.
At least these elected individuals are answerable to the citizens who elected them, and are not stuck in the "good cop/bad cop" roles of the (appointed) staff.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm

It saddens me that as the debacle of 2008 made itself felt that staff didn't look at ways to make depts leaner and that aspect isn't just about Palo Alto. Since animal services are always tied into public safety/public health (animals aren't just pets, people - PAAS deals w/all sorts of animals & intersects regularly w/your Wildlife Rescue), it's important that *whoever* manages it is responsive on all levels, incl accepting surrendered animals at an affordable price, picks up strays & dead animals.

Note that PHS takes animal surrenders from out of county. But in so doing, they can get crowded & they do a bang up job of rehoming animals. But when animals in shelters get highly stressed, they are more likely euthanized. So there's a real price that gets paid by society that *can* be avoided.

So here are my questions:

-Are the brains behind the ideas to save PAAS looking at bring EPA into their fold, since we're so south county? Or is that too much for a small service agency.

-Is removing PAAS out from under police control an option? If not, why not?

And for those who think PAAS's future isn't relevant to a nonresident, think again. I often find animals in distress in PAAS jurisdiction.

Posted by Whoof, whoof, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 11, 2012 at 12:12 pm

The problem with our Finance Committee and our City Council as a whole is they've got no guts. What they need is a dose of Dr. Newman Walker who closed schools against huge protests and consequently saved the School District millions in excess facilities and staff.

But now, you've only got to cry: "Don't touch me or my dog" and this Council capitulates. Whose going to pay for a much needed new animal shelter? Come on City Council use some backbone, and do the right thing, close that antiquated, deteriorating, old animal shelter, save some money and move on!!!!

Posted by litebug, a resident of another community
on May 11, 2012 at 12:19 pm

(former resident and long time user of the P.A. Shelter services)

It would seem to me that one approach might be to build an active, dedicated volunteer support organization that could assume many/most of the duties at the shelter, establish relationships with other shelters and similar groups in the area for mutual benefit and, perhaps, some sharing of facilities, etc. This group could also organize and promote a variety of fund-raising events and programs to benefit the shelter by helping to compensate for loss of other revenues. I'm not seeing much imagination being applied to this problem.

I volunteer with a local private non-profit organization that exists without any taxpayer support, as far as I know. They run a no-kill shelter which is supported by a thrift shop and many benefit events throughout the year. These range from "Dog & Car Wash" events to a benefit showing of "Puss & Boots", and a presence at all major events in town. There are always fund-raising events of one kind or another going on here. Some benefit just one organization and some several.

There are only 2 paid positions: the director who is over both the shelter and the thrift shop and the shelter manager. All other work is done by volunteers. It takes quite a few people to keep both the shelter and the store going full time plus participating in many fund-raising events throughout the year.

Adoptions are encouraged by keeping a few cats in a special "condo" at the thrift store so that customers can interact with them. Twice a month animals are taken to the local Petco store for adoption "fairs". During summer months animals will also be taken to the outdoor Saturday Market. Since the shelter is no kill, it is vitally important to have animals adopted so that more can be taken in.

The supporting thrift store is housed in rooms at the back of a business with the space being contributed by the business owner, who benefits with a tax write-off. The shop with the cat condo is in town. The shelter itself is outside of town and is a very simple and humble place housed in old farm buildings. Fund-raising to build a new shelter has begun.

The organization also works with others to try to manage the local feral cat problem and regularly transports cats to another town for neutering. These are both captured feral cats, which will be released, and cats being neutered at low cost for pet owners. The vet who volunteers at the shelter cannot handle all the neutering so this is done by partnering with other organization(s).

It's a pity that every time a situation arises there are those whose knee-jerk reactions are always to first blame others, most often unfairly and inaccurately, and to promote their political ideology rather than to offer any ideas or solutions. It is indeed disgusting that a city so wealthy and highly educated as Palo Alto can't seem to work together on anything in recent times. This is certainly not the way the town used to be. Now there is no "can do" cooperative spirit, there is only "it's THEIR fault" finger-pointing and whining.

The contrast between Palo Alto, where I lived for 38 years, and where I live now, in terms of cooperative attitude and dedication to the community, is so stark as to be breath-taking. This is a smaller city without the wealth and prestige of Palo Alto but it is twice as livable, comfortable and pleasant. It is also a more conservative place than Palo Alto. There is a strong sense of community and the volunteerism and support of local organizations is amazing, whether it be feeding the poor, housing abused women and children, supporting the animal shelter or a host of other worthy causes. Shame on Palo Alto if the animal lovers can't get together and assume responsibility for helping to make the shelter viable. Get some skin in the game and use your noodles!

Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 11, 2012 at 12:47 pm

The shelter supporters actually came up with various ideas on how to ease the financial burden on the budget and in my opinion it's possible to even make the shelter profitable if we manage to co-opt some neighboring towns and have significant and creative volunteer based involvement.
what keeps me amazed is that we have in our a midst a huge white elephant and boondoggle, a classic case of the public subsidizing the indulgence of a privileged few in the form of the Palo Alto airport, and yet the tax payers behave as if it doesn't exit and there is no pressure on the city council to even consider doing something about it.

Posted by Tau, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on May 11, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Well, I guess the City will keep PAAS. The bad thing is that the City will forget about the complaints that were posted here. Complaints regarding bad customers services, disrespectful employees and probable no one will care about it.

Posted by Ken, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 11, 2012 at 1:10 pm


Posted by Laura, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 11, 2012 at 1:14 pm

I support Palo Alto Animal Services and I am happy that the City will keep it open, but I will wait to see if the SHELTER'S MANAGER OR THE CHIEF OF POLICE WILL DO SOMETHING ABOUT ALL THOSE COMPLAINTS before I come back to my business with them again.

Posted by Humm, a resident of another community
on May 11, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Laura, I hope you are not in a hurry because I think nothing will change.

Posted by Larry, a resident of College Terrace
on May 11, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Well guys if nothing gets changed about those complaints, we should blame on the Manager. Because we stood up for PAAS now is time for Manager do something for US. Starting with cleaning the Shelter's bad employees. Lets wait to see if the Manager has what it takes to do the right thing now. And I hopefully that all those people that were at the meeting last night and support PAAS" like I do" talk to Sandra Stadler and let her know that she has to do something about this big issue which are bad customer services, rude employee and disrespectful employee etc, etc.

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm

To Community Center Roxy, it has nothing to do with the city council acting on my behalf. By them failing to take a courageous step and outsourcing animal services, it effects everyone by leaving us no closer to resolving a multi-million dollar budget deficit.

This should never be about the needs of any one person or group. It's about making a decision that will benefit the greater good. They could have saved tax payers 2.5 million dollars in the next five years and still have provided a very reputable and adequate animal service. I'm afraid their lack of decisiveness and courage will never allow them to say no to any special interest. That is precisely what got us into this financial mess to begin with.

People don't seem to get it. The fact is the city is still very much in the midst of a financial crisis. There are absolutely vital needs in public safety and infrastructure that need to be funded. We will never have the money to fund these needs if we don't stop spending and cut certain services and programs. I resent the fact that our city leaders and elected officials have continued to fund many of these desired, but non-essential services and projects at the expense of our cornerstone civic needs. I resent it even more when they have the audacity of suggesting another tax increase to pay for these needs after decades or irresponsible and frivolous spending. Set some financial priorities and see it through. This is just another example of them bending to another short term, feel good decision that leaves us mired in financial instability. Enough is enough.

Posted by businessdecision, a resident of another community
on May 11, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Time for you to say what those absolutely vital needs in public safety and infrastructure are.

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 11, 2012 at 2:34 pm

The police department continues to cut many positions not only in management, but also in specialty assignments including traffic safety, investigations, and special enforcement teams that attempt to stay one step ahead of crime trends like the recent rash of house burglaries we experiences as well as robberies. The police department is operating with approximately 15-20% less personnel than they had a decade ago both in officer as well as civilian support staff. The traffic team for example, which appears to be set for elimination, have been instrumental in providing traffic safety at our public schools for many years. They were also the fall back people if a crossing guard cancelled or called in sick. At one time there was a specialized downtown team that monitored crime and issues involving everything from street crime, homeless problems, drunken behavior, and other quality of life issues. That has also been eliminated. Bottom line, they have been expected to do much more with less.

Additionally, they have been working out of an outdated, antiquated facility. A Blue Ribbon Task Force and even the current city council have recommended the construction of a new public safety building. Sadly the city is no closer to achieving that goal despite it being cited as a priority item over a decade ago.

In terms of infrastructure, there is a huge funding gap (estimates have ranged in the 30-50 million dollar territory) of the required funds to even begin to address vital sidewalk and street repair, city tree management, upgrades to sewage and water systems, and flood control to name a few.

We as Palo Alto citizens need to look at the city budget much in the same way a homeowner would look at their own. If the roof leaks, the driveway is cracked, and the pipes are broken, that is probably not the time to go out and install a pool, and build a new addition on the house. Especially if they're already coping with a household budget deficit. No, of course not. That's the time to cut non-essential spending, make some sacrifices, and save some money until you can afford to pay for the necessary repairs. Then, if there's money leftover, that's the time to consider some desired expenses and purchases. All I'm asking for is that our city leaders and elected officials use some of the same logic that most reasonable people apply to their own lives.

Posted by Old Steve, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on May 11, 2012 at 3:05 pm

If Palo Alto had taken this approach to PAAS first, perhaps Mountain View would not have voted to switch. Palo Alto expected Mtn Vw to help fund upgrades. Now those upgrades won't get done anyway. The level of service in Mtn Vw will go down, but the animal community is much less vocal. It may make financial sense for Mtn Vw, but they acted in a vacuum. Because they had a choice on a specialized service, they made it. I would recommend raising the rates paid by Mountain View residents for treatment plant and airport services. Palo Alto has been successful in excluding neighbors from Foothill Park. Perhaps now is the time to consider charging neighbors for weekday use of Foothill as well as adjusting Sewer and Airport rates to subsidize residents. That is what UC is doing by admitting more out of state students who pay much more than California students.

Posted by Roxy, a resident of Community Center
on May 11, 2012 at 3:07 pm

No courage was needed to find the gaping holes in the shoddy outsourcing presentation we saw last night.
It was a bad idea that deserved all the questioning it got. All the non-answers in world could not gloss over the flaws in this plan.
I am glad of the unanimous vote to keep the shelter open, and I'll agree to disagree.

Posted by businessdecision, a resident of another community
on May 11, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Thank you for the response re the police and infrastructure. Obviously competing needs. You could put or try to put a group together.

Many people think that the police would have more work to do if animal services were outsourced, by the way.

Living with less - the people robbing the citizens are also living with less - all part of the dreary picture.

I did find myself reluctantly having the thoughts Old Steve has - that much that is free or cheap has to start costing or costing more, even considerably more. The might be the first step to living without. Unlike him, I thought Palo Alto residents would also be asked to pay or pay more, not just non-PA people.

Posted by businessdecision, a resident of another community
on May 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm

correction - That might be the first step to living without.

That's probably what will happen. We still have stuff in our lives that are part of the old world that got left behind when the market crashed (without any of the perpetrators paying any price). We'll gradually shed a lot. How gradually?

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 11, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Said very respectfully of course, we can indeed agree to disagree Roxy. Although I have to say that the only thing that remains "gaping" as you put it is our budget deficit. I only hope there will be this level of civic engagement when it comes to identifying ways to balancing the budget and paying for essential needs without another tax increase.

Posted by Tom, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 11, 2012 at 4:44 pm

To Marrol. Marrol I can see that you don't the Animal Services at all. I know that Palo Alto Police is short in officers, but many departments in the Bay Area are in the same situation. Why does not Palo Alto Police hire more Reserve Officers like other departments have been doing for years? That way the City could save a good money, cause Reserve Officers don't get pay and they go through the same training as non-reserve Officers go. I also heard that when Palo Alto Police opens a position for a reserve officer, they make it so difficult and hard that people give up. Now it is a VOLUNTEER JOB. Other thing Palo Alto Officers are making at $100k a year some other departments not even half. The Police Unit is in bad shape, cause they want to be.

Posted by barking mad, a resident of Midtown
on May 11, 2012 at 4:45 pm

guess i'm not barking mad anymore, but howlin' happy!

BRAVO city of palo alto! it took some real courage to stand up to the cut, cut, cut meme the has pervaded the country. there ARE ways to make up the animal services deficit - enforcing dog licenses is one, minimally raising prices for retail services is another...and could quite easily bring in $300,000 or more...

Posted by howlin' happy, a resident of Midtown
on May 11, 2012 at 5:51 pm

hey marrol,
just a couple of you live in palo alto? do you have a dog? if yes, is YOUR dog licensed? mine are. if you live in palo alto, have a dog and it is not licensed you really don't have a lot of room to talk about funding PAAS...

in fact, i challenge any and all palo alto dog owners whose dogs aren't licensed to go to animal services here's the form:

(note: you can also ID your cat though it is not a legal issue)

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 11, 2012 at 6:24 pm

To Tom, not entirely true with your facts. First of all, our officers in Palo Alto are not among the highest paid agencies in the bay area by any stretch. They are currently among the lower third in terms of pay and compensation compared to the 16 other benchmark cities that both the city and police union use for contract negotiations.

As for reserve officer training and hiring requirements, it is not the police department that sets those standards, it is the state. Hiring reserve officers has become more challenging due to these state requirements. It's very difficult to find people who can place the rest of their lives own hold to attend a six month long basic police academy, followed by an intensive 16-18 week long field training program. Additionally, due to the part-time nature of their work, they do not establish the expertise, knowledge, and skill level of a full-time officer. To suggest that reserves could readily replace or even fill in for a full-time officer is a rather short-sighted perspective.

For Midtown Howlin' Happy, yes to all of your questions. Although we don't currently own a pet, in the past all of our domestic animals were properly licensed. I hope that will suffice for you. Good screen name by the way.

Posted by Lets cut cops instead, a resident of Community Center
on May 11, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Well im so glad everyone feels better now that animal services isn't being cut.

Lets wait until a couple weeks from now where they will cut 6 police officers and there wont even be a peep. Of course now they may have to cut even more officers to make up the difference.

How cool is this.

Posted by Facts Only, a resident of another community
on May 11, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Posted by Ken, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, 6 hours ago


>>>> Totally agree with you Ken!!! Vet's working hours should be looked in to seriously! This is stealing taxpayer's money!!! Vet is there all day but works half a day! Please write to City Council !!

Posted by Tyrone, a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 12, 2012 at 6:44 am

Maybe instead of looking at the rich cities in San Mateo County, maybe you might offer better services to East Palo Alto!!!! EPA is closer to you and also your shelter is closer to our community! This is discrimination!!!!

Posted by Mike, a resident of Nixon School
on May 12, 2012 at 8:44 am

Marrol, I am a cop up North and before I became a full time officer i worked as a reserve officer for three years. I can tell ya that Reserve Officers and Full time officers have the same duties nothing different. I took the reserve academy for One year and 5 month because it is longer and I took the full time academy for 6 months. Both, full time and reserve academy are the same thing. And regarding the pay Palo Alto Officers are making much more money comparing to other departments. A new hired in Palo Alto will start with $75Thusand to $85Thusand a year and in my department $45Thusand. Now you do the math. I don't want to buy your fight regading Animal Services, I just to let you know the facts about Police pay in PAPD and other Departments.

Posted by Mike, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 12, 2012 at 9:25 am

Mike, with all due respect, you'll notice that the salaries I cited were those compared to the 16-18 other benchmark cities within the bay area. These cities were selected because of their comparable size and geographic location. Not sure how up north you are, but salaries in many professions are driven by regional cost of living. I'm not surprised on the variance one bit. With that said, compared to these other bay area police agencies, Palo Alto has typically been in the lower third and remains there.

Again, I cannot claim first hand knowledge of your police experience, and certainly do respect your service. It was also my understanding that the academy and field training of newly hired officers is the same for both regulars and reservists. I have to wonder though, if a reservist is only working part-time, like on weekends for example, how do they develop the same level of expertise as someone who is doing it full-time? Would it be a normal practice to let a reserve officer take a lead role in a case, or would they be there more for support in more basic duties? Also, would they typically allow a reservist to move into a specialized position like detective, drugs, traffic, or research & development? I would think that a reservist would not be eligible for promotions either. I can't imagine they would allow a reservist to supervise and have command over a group of regular officers. It seems that all of this experience would definitely provide a regular officer much more responsibility, means of growth, and personal development. I have to believe that the level of expectation, as well as the scope of responsibility for a reservist has to be considerably less than a regular officer. It stands to reason since the vast majority of reservists are doing the work voluntarily or for much lower pay, while still holding down another career.

With that said I would be very interested to hear about your perspective. I could be way off base. Again, all of my respect for the work you do.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Los Altos
on May 12, 2012 at 10:33 am

I am very pleased the shelter has had a reprieve. The ACOs and the vet staff do an amazing job. I hate the idea of ACOs being cut, but am very supportive of admin staff being cut. The administrative staff needs a major shake up, and new blood with new ideas, and a more proactive attitude.

Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 12, 2012 at 11:13 am

Palo Alto animal service should definitely offer their services to neighboring communities, EPA, Los Altos Hills, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Portola Valley and Woodside. Despite the old facility, our services and philosophy are superior and more comprehensive than the other shelters on the Peninsula and south bay, and if we get more neighboring towns to join we can even make a profit, remodel the facility and eventually hire more ACO.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 12, 2012 at 12:05 pm

daniel, I wish you were correct the philosophy of your shelter & services were superior & comprehensive compared to PHS, but it's just not true. What people are too loyal to say about PAAS, because they want it to survive, is that PAAS isn't a very busy shelter, compared to the other locals. It's not backwards by any means, but it's not cutting edge, either. Much of the admin staff don't want to do the work that is necessary w/a busy shelter. There is a lot of room for improvement w/admin. The police dept. is to blame in many ways - their leadership of PAAS has a mediocre track record, at best. It hasn't been expected to be innovative & I'm sure innovative ideas, if any, get shot down. I'd say it's more even keel than superior - even keel for the local area. They're not inspired to hustle - & that's a shame, because they could be a true jewel.

PAAS also has little experience w/true animal welfare crises that occur w/larger shelters. While that's not their fault, it was evident w/the handling of the mountain lion. It's also evident when they ask residents to take the found feral cats to rescue themselves. That's just lazy and stupid.

Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 12, 2012 at 3:01 pm

I disagree. They accept any surrendered animal unlike other shelters. They don't kill animals who aren't adopted within a short period of time. I agree that one of the main problems was that it's part of the police department which it should never have been. In the case of the mountain lion back in 2004 the police department had only two shells so they decided to kill the cougar instead of stunning and then saving it, not the shelter's fault. I have visited all the other shelters between San Jose and San Francisco and pretty much hated all of them-better facilities but the animals seemed tense, unhappy and caged. Of course they can improve, but it's by far the best shelter in this area.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 13, 2012 at 2:27 am

No really, it's not the best shelter in the area. Hands down, PHS does a better job & accepts animal surrenders from outside the county & they're also an SPCA, which means of course they don't kill animals just because their time is up.

They have a thriving thrift store, effective fundraisers, a solid board of directors, a mobile spay neuter van that has its own fundraisers & does free surgeries in struggling counties in the state, a successful mobile adoption program, many volunteers & they even take some of the shelter dogs on long hikes. Their Hope Program to give special needs animals is a dogsend for animals w/health &/or behavior issues. Their animal care program w/the inmates is going well, which is a nice surprise.

There's a good reason they took over your wildlife center & their new one is phenomenal. Their successful capital campaign to fund their additional location was well done. The ACOs have dart guns & are trained in their use, unlike PAAS - which is a problem. Frankly, I think your ACOs do an excellent job & it's the administration/operations that need a big shift. Stadler knows her stuff but it'd be great to see what could happen if they're allowed to be innovative.

Touring shelters doesn't give you the real story so it's really the industry gossip, knowing the players, how the laws work & the comQbination of operational innovation & efficiency that are the important factors. We're lucky that most of the area shelters are progressive, thoughtful & much better at balancing public safety w/saving animals. In the work I do, I've happily seen the big changes that have come about in the last decade. Some of it's the trickle down from the innovations in Canada & New York & SF's SPCA - Winograd's influence. PHS's director was an influence on some of your ACOs - that's what's also great about this area - shared innovation in animal welfare.

Posted by Mendes, a resident of another community
on May 14, 2012 at 4:00 pm

I agreed PAAS ACOs are way behind. I lived in San Diego County and the ACOs over there are carrying dart guns and gun tasers for animals. ACOs from other departments are looking more and more official, cause they also enforce the Law. Now, Sandra Stadler is still living in the 90's and she keeps PAAS in the 90's. PAAS Acos are doing a great job but need to do an update. I mean the whole shelter needs to be up-dated...

Posted by Str. Madly, a resident of another community
on May 29, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Wow. Wouldn't it be nice if reporters accurately reported the news? It was the entire Animal Services Department that was in jeopardy of being shut down, not just the shelter part. Animal Services, INCLUDING the shelter is no longer in jeopardy of being outsourced, at least not in fiscal 2013.

Posted by Str. Madly, a resident of another community
on May 29, 2012 at 9:42 pm

@ hmm. PHS only takes surrenders from San Mateo county residents.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 29, 2012 at 10:28 pm

No, Str. Madly, they don't just take in county pets. They take out of county animals. If they're filling up on the animal that you're surrendering, and/or the animal's behavior is sketchy, they're honest that it may be euthanized & you sign paperwork stating your acknowledgement of that possibility.

The also do low cost spay/neuter for out of county pets & they do free spay/neuters on pit bulls (I think that's still the case).