Pets, Political Animal

DogVacay won’t detail vetting process; Governor Brown signs ‘hot car’ legislation; Bay Area Pet Fair Oct. 15-16; Second Chance German Shepherd fundraising gala Oct. 22

Tessa is one of the many beautiful dogs waiting for a forever home with Second Chance German Shepherd Rescue.

Last month I told you about a disturbing incident involving DogVacay, a “sharing economy” app that allows you to find a pet sitter through its network of “vetted” contractors. Oakland couple Emily and Christian Pelipada lost their 6-year-old dog, Pippen, when he died after being left with another dog in a hot car outside a dog park by pet sitters they found using the app.

As promised, I reached out to DogVacay for comment, and I got one from a spokesperson named Mary Langford. It was about what I expected from a dotcom boom 2.0 company, where twentysomething “executives” come and go like the San Francisco fog. “We are heartbroken by this news,” Langford responded via e-mail. “We are doing everything we can to support the owners during this incredibly difficult time … This negligence does not represent our community, and the host has been banned from the service.” She went on to explain that DogVacay’s vetting process includes “a comprehensive application that is individually reviewed by our team, free of charge third-party background checks, web seminars on pet care, and community reviews. Only 15%-20% of applicants are approved.” I wrote back and asked her to be more specific. For example, could I see a copy of the application? Do they require previous pet sitting experience? What if (as I do) someone has a breed that requires experience? What kind of background checks do they use? How do they know whether the applicants have watched the “web seminars” on pet care? And if only 15 to 20 percent are approved, how did a sitter that thought it was OK to leave two dogs in a hot car until one of them died pass their review?

I never heard back from DogVacay. As I said last month, if you need to find a pet sitter, use word of mouth and personal recommendations. There may be an app for that, but your dog may wind up dead …


Speaking of dogs left in hot cars, thank you to Gov. Jerry Brown for signing AB 797 into law, allowing Californians to break into a vehicle to rescue animals in distress from excessive heat — and an even bigger thank you to Assemblymen Marc Steinorth (R-Rancho Cucamonga) and Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), who crafted the bipartisan bill after a series of incidents where dogs died just like Pippen. On a 70-degree day, your car’s interior temperature can rise 20 degrees or more above that. In fact, it’s not uncommon for interior temperatures to hit 120 degrees, even with the windows “cracked.” If your pets can’t come with you when you get out of the car, please leave them at home …


Save the weekend of Oct. 15–16, 2016 for the Pet Food Express Bay Area Pet Fair (Marin Center Fairgrounds, 10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael, 415-924-3398, The largest pet adoption fair in California, the annual event will feature more than 70 pet rescues and shelters in attendance, with more than 1,000 adoptable dogs, cats, and small animals. Admission and parking are free, and there will be free live shows, free activities for kids and dogs, food trucks, giveaways, and pet-related vendors. (A little birdy also tipped off Political Animal that Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan will be at the fair filming with one of my favorite groups, Rocket Dog Rescue).

In just the first five years, the Bay Area Pet Fair has had some amazing results: 3,722 homeless pets adopted (including 1,158 in 2015) and more than $180,000 donated back to local rescues and shelters. Pet Food Express’s director of community outreach, Mike Murray, says the fair is an “opportunity to educate people about the importance of rescue and adoption, find hundreds of homeless pets forever homes, and provide a fun weekend of activities for the whole family.”


Murray is one of my favorite people in the pet rescue industry. When he’s not working to save animals through his job at Pet Food Express, he’s running Second Chance German Shepherd Rescue, a nonprofit, all-volunteer, foster-based organization saving German shepherds throughout the greater Bay Area from life threatening situations in overcrowded shelters. Their annual fundraising gala will take place Saturday Oct. 22 at the Blackhawk Country Club in Danville from 5 to 9 p.m. It includes a sit-down dinner and a live auction with former NBC Bay Area news anchor Diane Dwyer. It’s a great way to socialize with other dog lovers, watch police K-9 demonstrations, and meet some of the rescues (you might even meet your new best friend). To register, visit or call 888-815-6222 for more information (registration closes Friday, Oct. 14, at midnight).

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