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Pets in Need terminates contract with Palo Alto, alleging city's 'egregious failure'

Original post made on Nov 15, 2021

Pets in Need, the city of Palo Alto's animal services contractor, announced in a fiery letter on Monday that it is ending its contract with the city of Palo Alto, alleging the city has breached its contract with the nonprofit.


Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, November 15, 2021, 10:54 PM

Comments (19)

Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 15, 2021 at 11:28 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

Neither side is looking good right now. PIN has valid complaints that Palo Alto failed to provide repairs it was contractually obligated to perform. Palo Alto's contractual breaches did not justify PIN's criminally negligent behavior in killing seven puppies, however.

As has become increasingly evident in recent years, Palo Alto City Council needs to get its act together and diversify its revenue streams. Currently Palo Alto is the only city in the state, if not country, that fails to tax its businesses at all. With the preponderance of companies with more than a billion dollars of revenue located here, all Palo Alto needs to do is tax companies with revenues above a billion dollars a year, and our city would have ample funding to restore all of the terminated community services, and to build a pet rescue facility that reflects the values of our animal-loving community. But Palo Alto City Council lacks integrity or courage to do the easy, right thing.

Who is the worse offender here? They both behave badly. Our community deserves much, much better.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 16, 2021 at 4:30 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Yes, our city deserves better. It's time for city hall and city managers to remember that the community values its animal services probably a lot more than most things the city does -- like clog up traffic with road furniture, like destroy the President Hotel and the lives of residents and waste resources publishing weekly recipes in the city manager's blog.

Time for Mr. Shikada and staff to Mr. Keene's destruction and return our Animal Services to its previous level and hours of services.


Posted by Doofydog
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2021 at 5:54 am

Doofydog is a registered user.

Funny how there were no egregious failures until PIN killed seven puppies. [Portion removed.]

The shelter is old and while communities around us built new shelters, CPA insisted they couldn’t afford it so co reacted with this horrible retail rescue even after being told every way to Sunday something like this would happen. However the shelter run by city employees ran efficiently, cleanly and without killing puppies due to neglect and cruelty. I hope everyone sees this for what it is, a blatant and pitiful attempt at deflection by Al Mollica.


Posted by Heckity
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 16, 2021 at 7:24 am

Heckity is a registered user.

Sadly, this is precisely the behavior I expect from Al Mollica. Angry, controlling, deflective, and impulsive, a pattern displayed ever since negotiations to take over the shelter began. Coupled with Jim Keene's obsession with getting the shelter off the city books, what could go wrong?

Egregious by definition: shocking, appalling, horrific, horrifying, horrible, terrible, awful, dreadful, grievous, gross, ghastly, hideous, horrendous. All apply to the seven dead puppies and the other 20 overheated dogs.

In addition, Mollica fails to disclose the building of new spay/neuter clinic while focusing on the "dangerous" old dog kennels - yes, they are not state of the art, and no, they are not dangerous.

Both the City of Palo Alto and Al Mollica have failed the residents of their covered areas - an area so wealthy it would take a .01% contribution from ten or so tech companies and billionaires to fund a solid animal shelter. And the remaining Animal Control Officers, still reporting to PAPD, are saddled with an inordinate amount of responsibility over these jurisdictions, and doing an outstanding job, while the city and PIN play the fiddle while idly watching Rome burn. Appalling.

Palo Alto, are you listening? Al Mollica, good day.


Posted by rita vrhel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 16, 2021 at 11:01 am

rita vrhel is a registered user.

Well another mess occurring under Ed Shikida's rule.

Surely funds could have been found for the Animal Shelter's rehabilitation. Funds were found for: a Public Safety Building, another garage, an ugly bridge, the Junior Museum, a Rinconada park re-do, (could have been delayed a few years) and the salaries of senior staff working under Mr. Shikada.

[Portion removed.]

Mr. Mollica should resign. Mr Shikada should let go of some of his senior staff (hired by Mr. Keene).

Then PIN and the City could make a community appeal for the required funds.

Let's not depend on large donations from a few; we can ALL donate. The Animal shelter, long supported by residents, could be built and serve our animals in a kind and humane manner.

Money can usually be found for what you really want. Thank you.


Posted by MBoots
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2021 at 11:03 am

MBoots is a registered user.

Pets in Need has no response that can exonerate them in the deaths of 7 puppies and the mistreatment of the other 20 dogs in that transport. Sources inside PIN have alleged this was not the first time animals died during their transport by PIN, although Mollica denied this in statements to employees. So time to change the subject! Apparently the shelter had more than enough kennels to provide care for animals taken in from Palo Alto, Los Altos, and LAHills...so much capacity that PIN could regularly import dogs from out of the area. So big RED HERRING Al Mollica! The City's renovation of the shelter was aimed at providing space needed for the animals from the PA/LA/LAH-contracted service area, not to support Pets In Needs broader activities as a non-profit. But instead PIN saw this contract as a way to get Palo Alto taxpayers to support PINs other goals.
Mollica doesn't mention that the City renovated the veterinary space at the shelter, ostensibly so PiN could offer low-cost spay-neuter services to residents. But PiN has only very recently offered a few--so few it is absurd-- appointments to residents, on one day a week only. The rest of the time the vet is busy with animals that are imported by PIN. Not saying PIN as a separate non-profit is wrong to do this. But they are ignoring and denying the services they are required to provide, by contract, and using the City's tax dollars to support their other non-profit activities.


Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 16, 2021 at 11:42 am

eileen is a registered user.

Rebecca Eisenberg, I totally agree with you! So many of our services are
being outsourced! Not good for Palo Alto.


Posted by Jazzy*
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2021 at 11:58 am

Jazzy* is a registered user.

All my opinions here... I think PIN should dissolve, and I think not be allowed to go into business again. No matter the circumstances, they were grossly negligent, intentionally and criminally so, as they knew what was going on with the defenseless pets in their care. As a lawyer I'd want more information before a conclusion. As a lawyer I'd want more information re which employees, and if the company itself, should be formally charged. One might think I am biased: I love animals, have a 7 year old rescued german shepherd from San Mateo Humane Society for a year now, other rescues in the past. But animal cruelty is cruelty, no matter my love for them. As for the City, certainly blame there also... they should have investigated occasionally, shut down PIN earlier, sought another group to take care of the animals, made public the dire need for help, and as last resort spent the animals to another adequately staffed facility. Lack of funding is absolutely NO excuse for what PIN did. Had I known, I would have taken one more of those poor dogs they let die. In that heat, no water, no attention for hours, that is intentional. We would arrest, try and probably imprison anyone who left a child in that circumstance...


Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 16, 2021 at 1:32 pm

Green Gables is a registered user.

At least by outsourcing, the City of Palo Alto does not have to pay into CALPERS.


Posted by William
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 16, 2021 at 7:17 pm

William is a registered user.

In the long and storied history of our animal shelter there exist repeated controversies about the management of our animal communities in Palo Alto. Dating back to before incorporation, Palo Alto wrestled with the issue of how to house the strays and manage the administration of animal care and control, to the ultimate dissatisfaction of of all sides, and the repeated reinvention of who should be in charge, from the Town Marshall in 1894, to a contract poundmaster in 1901 (who would within six months would be arrested and charged with cruelty to animals), to the founding of the Palo Alto SPCA in 1908, to the contracting of animal shelter services from 1924 through 1972 with the Palo Alto Humane Society, to the City assuming responsibility for animal care and control with the creation and administration of Animal Services from 1972 to 2019, to the City contracting out animal care to Pets In Need in 2019, while retaining oversight of animal control. I observed the changes to the service from 1974 while employed inside the building as animal attendant, and then out on the streets while a field officer for animal control from 1979 to 2020. When I retired eighteen months ago, I had the pleasure of working with dedicated staff and volunteers of Pets In Need for the first year of their tenure. I was genuinely impressed with the improvements initiated by PIN in what I hoped would be a progressive relationship with the City. The announcements this week from Pets In Need and the City leave me heartbroken and lamenting what from my outsider’s view is yet another loss of direction.
"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"


Posted by RDR
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2021 at 7:18 pm

RDR is a registered user.

Palo Alto City == Cheapskates


Posted by PattiP.
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 16, 2021 at 9:47 pm

PattiP. is a registered user.

The City gave Pets in Need the use of the shelter and agreed to renovate parts of the shelter so that PIN could care for animals from Palo Alto under the contractual--and paid-- agreement. Clearly PIN has more than enough kennels to house the dogs rescued from Palo Alto, because they had enough room to run frequent trips to bring in large numbers of dogs from outside the area. I was told (by one of the many people who left the organization in disgust and distress at the poor management there) that PIN also transferred animals from their Redwood City shelter (which is not part of the City contract) to Palo Alto; again proving that there are more than enough usable kennels in Palo Alto. It also means that Palo Alto taxpayers were subsidizing Pets In Needs general operations.
Actions speak louder than words, and PINs actions (using the shelter to house dogs from the Redwood City shelter, or dogs imported from other areas) shows the claims in this letter to the City are misleading (at a minimum) or worse. Ending the contract with the City is just an attempt to deflect attention from PIN's management failures and inhumane treatment of these dogs.


Posted by Local Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 17, 2021 at 1:53 pm

Local Resident is a registered user.

So they had enough room to bring in dogs from Redwood City and Central valley (substantial expansion of their mission, which the city should not be funding). Furthermore, the slow facility renovation in no way absolves PIN of the deaths of the puppies which could have been avoided with better care during transportation. More importantly, their mission should never involve importing animals from far away. This is so clearly an attempt by Mollica to deflect blame and change the subject. Its clear Mollica needs to go along with PIN. Even the city can do a much better job.


Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 17, 2021 at 2:08 pm

mjh is a registered user.

It was heartbreaking to watch our then city manager James Keene instructing staff, including our now city manager Al Shikada, to do their best to shut down our city run animal services shelter. Getting rid of the expert and dedicated animal services staff while watching the then majority of council members go along this goal.


Posted by Serg
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 25, 2022 at 8:54 pm

Serg is a registered user.

Well said William! I think bad management is a big the issue with the shelter. I witnessed at least two times at foothill preserve the need for an animal control to come and rescue an injured squirrel and an injured small owl. Animal officer who came up for the squirrel could not do much about it, the officer said that he had an issue with his back and was hurting and that he shouldn't be working that day and that he wouldn't even try to capture the poor thing. The officer who came for the owl said, well it will fly way soon. But she didn't even wanna take a close look at it.The animals could have had a slow death if it wasn't for one of the park's employee Santus who I got to know a little about. He took over the issue and capture the both injured animals. I love animals and I am glad that Santus was there and able get the job done. We had a conversation he mentioned perhaps He should be working as an Animal Officer. I said I agreed. He said yeah right; Palo Alto would never hire someone like him, he is not White enough and as a foreigner he would not be welcome. I asked him why he helped the officer. He said that he didn't do it for the officer, he did it for the animals. I don't know who is in charge or supervising animal services, but He/She should hire people like Santus. People who really wanna work.


Posted by Heckity
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2022 at 2:18 am

Heckity is a registered user.

Sadly, two of the PIN employees responsible for cooking the puppies to death are STILL EMPLOYED at PIN. Their hearing is coming up, I think on the 28th. The point being, these were supposed experienced animal SHELTER people. Why are they still employed? This was not an accident - it was careless, callous, and completely avoidable. They chose to take a small van that had seating for the three women rather that the larger fully air conditioned one that accommodated only two. And all the animals who lived were suffering from heat exhaustion. Once again, why are they still employed?


Posted by Optimist Pessimist Realist
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2022 at 11:36 am

Optimist Pessimist Realist is a registered user.

Heckity, one of those two remaining employees isn’t a seasoned animal shelter professional. She has a Human Resources background. Your questioning why they’re still employed is an important one. Can you imagine having to work with them, knowing what they did? Aren’t they a liability?


Posted by Heckity
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 28, 2022 at 12:36 pm

Heckity is a registered user.

O/P Realist
Thank you for the correction. The HR person, whether or not a seasoned shelter worker, should be doubly accountable here - shouldn't they know the policies & procedures governing animal care at the shelter? And wasn't that the person who was the third wheel?

I cannot imagine why they'd keep this person, but I think we all pretty much know that HR really stands for -- Human Remains. Terrible that either of them are still drawing a paycheck, and so weak of both PIN and the city to allow it.


Posted by Optimist Pessimist Realist
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 10, 2022 at 7:34 pm

Optimist Pessimist Realist is a registered user.

Editor, is there an update on the court hearings of the PIN employees involved in the deaths of all these puppies?


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