Tensions go beyond puppy deaths – Palo Alto Daily Post

This is part three in a series of articles published by The Post on the City of Palo Alto’s relationship with the non-profit Pets In Need, which is contracted to provide animal services. . Read parts 1 and 2. On Monday, after this series was printed, Pets In Need announced that it was canceling its contract with the city.

Daily Post Writer

Tensions between the town of Palo Alto and its operator of animal shelter Pets In Need extend beyond a criminal investigation into the deaths of seven puppies in August, and cast doubt on the contract between the two parties.

Pets In Need executive director Al Mollica has a list of “systemic issues that must be addressed” before agreeing to a new contract beyond 2024, he told the community services director. city, Kristen O’Kane, in a September 29 memo obtained by the Daily Post through a public record request.

Mollica lists several issues that need to be addressed, including the police investigation into the fatal Pets In Need rescue run on August 2, when seven dogs reportedly died in the back of a hot van without water or air conditioning. Beyond that, Mollica said the city is expected to honor a contract signed in 2019 that says the city must build 16 new kennels at the shelter by July 30, 2020.

If they only renovate the kennels as has been discussed, then the city should pay Pets In Need, he said.

City manager Ed Shikada did not respond for two days to questions and a request for an interview on why the city did not replace the kennels.

Mollica has a strained relationship with Cody Macartney, the police department’s animal control manager. He said he wanted Pets In Need to hire its own animal control officers instead.

The day after police opened an investigation into three Pets In Need employees for neglecting a van full of dogs, Macartney told a kennel manager that a dog named Oreo, who bit someone, didn’t should not be allowed in the playground.

State law states that a dog that bites a person must be “isolated in strict confinement” for at least 10 days, and the city’s animal control officer is responsible for overseeing these conditions.

Mollica was defiant.

“This was clearly written by someone who does not understand how physically and mentally debilitating it can be for a dog to have to be confined in a dangerous enclosed environment with no room for exercise,” he wrote. . “Given the condition of the existing kennels and the city’s failure to meet our agreement to renovate the kennels to a safe condition, I envision the enclosed playground as part of ‘isolation’ for Oreo. and any other bite quarantine dog that we take care of for. “

He told Macartney that animal control officers do not have the level of training that vets or behavior specialists have, and Pets In Need will continue to rely on the judgment of its own employees regarding behavioral treatments.

Undisclosed Covid exposures

Macartney also told Mollica that he had heard of potential Covid exposure from workers at the shelter and had previously asked Pets In Need to notify the city of any potential exposure or positive cases. Mollica has said he will keep the city informed moving forward.

It’s not just the dogs. Another problem with Mollica is the transport of wild animals, such as snakes and raccoons.

The shelter moves them to the Peninsula Humane Society in Burlingame, but the costs of those trips are not covered by the city, Mollica said. Going forward, the animal control officer is expected to handle these trips or Pets In Need will charge the city, Mollica said.

The shelter moved 157 animals in 90 trips from May to September, according to a report from Pets In Need.

The contract cannot be extended

Mollica appeared to be considering the idea of ​​ending Pets In Need’s relationship with the city after the five-year, $ 3.4 million contract expired on June 30, 2024.

“We’ve saved a lot of lives that we wouldn’t have saved without our connection to the PA shelter, which is exactly our goal,” he said on September 29. ” On another side. , we have had, and continue to have, communication and operational difficulties between our respective organizations, which has damaged credibility and resulted in a less than ideal work environment for all parties.

However, the city can terminate the contract within 60 days if Pets In Need breaks the law, according to the contract. However, it is not known whether this termination clause would come into play if Pets In Need employees were to receive criminal convictions.

As for the three workers, Mollica told the Post that Maggie Evans has left Pets in Need, while Patty Santana and Ingrid Hartmann are still employees. Pets In Need provides them with avocados, he said.

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Jennifer R. Strohm