Political Animal

New shelter for SFACC; dog grooming lawsuit; GGNRA dog management plan

Skylar takes to the beach at Nick’s Cove in Marshall. Photo: susan dyer reynolds

The contractual relationship to provide animal care and control services between San Francisco and the San Francisco SPCA ended in 1989, when San Francisco Animal Care and Control was then created. With no time or money to build a new facility, ACC moved into an old warehouse and cobbled together a shelter. On the first day, they transferred around 400 animals from the SFSPCA and have continued to take any and every animal in the city since.

The private SFSPCA is now one of the wealthiest animal “nonprofits” in the country and a veritable P.R. machine, filling Macy’s windows with adorable, adoptable puppies and kittens at Christmas, choosing the animals they want to bring into their state-of-the-art multimillion-dollar facility, and never dealing with cases of abuse, neglect, or abandonment.

During her six years as ACC’s executive director, Rebecca Katz was a tireless advocate for getting a new shelter built. If you’ve been to ACC, you know it’s a stark, depressing place not conducive to treating animals and not up to seismic standards, which is reason alone to build a new shelter — after the next major earthquake, this is where animals left homeless will go for temporary care.

When Katz began advocating for a new shelter, she put herself in political peril. Mayor Ed Lee, her boss when she worked as a city attorney, was none too pleased that Katz was pushing for money and making his administration look bad. Undeterred, Katz turned to then-District 8 Supervisor Scott Weiner, who took up the cause at City Hall. Despite attempts by the SFSPCA to dissuade the city from building a new shelter for ACC and to take over ACC’s adoption services (they went so far as to hire renowned lobbyist Alex Clemens), the city approved the additional funds.

Rather than commend Katz for her hard work, in 2014, with ACC at its most critical moment, city administrator Naomi Kelly abruptly fired her. Sadly, the mayor let her go. San Francisco’s loss was Oakland’s gain — Katz is now the executive director of animal care and control there, where she reduced euthanasia rates by an astounding 85 percent in her first year on the job.

Kelly may have fired Katz, but Katz got the last laugh: On Nov. 29, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a plan to fund ACC’s new shelter at 1419 Bryant Street, scheduled to open in 2020. None of this would have happened without Katz, Weiner, and District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang, who kept the project on track when it was removed from a bond earlier in 2016. With Weiner now representing District 11 in the California State Senate, it’s good to know that we still have animal lover Tang (who hosts adoptable cats from ACC at City Hall with the “12 Days of Kittens” during the holidays) to speak for the voiceless. …

With Weiner, we now have an animal lover in Sacramento as well. I’m hoping he will join us in reviving Lucy’s Law (Senate Bill 969), which would have required vocational licenses for California pet groomers but was struck down in 2012. Since then, thousands of dogs have been injured or killed during routine grooming sessions, mostly at behemoth pet chains like Petco and Petsmart. In June 2016, I wrote about the case of Juan Zarate, a groomer at a PetSmart in San Mateo who is accused of killing Henry, a 1-year-old Dachshund. A necropsy showed Henry was strangled and suffered two broken ribs and a punctured lung. San Mateo County prosecutors say Zarate became frustrated with Henry when he was uncooperative during the service. Henry’s owners, Stafan Zire and Terrie Peacock, are suing PetSmart and want to hold the company accountable for previously ignoring hundreds of pet injuries and deaths.

I hope lawmakers will add protection for future clients by resurrecting and enacting Lucy’s Law. …

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which includes nearly all beaches and coastal land in Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties, is pushing to finalize their unpopular “dog management plan” this month. Currently, dogs are allowed on just 1 percent of GGNRA land, which will be reduced by 90 percent. The San Francisco Dog Owners Group has lined up pro bono legal representation with attorney Christopher J. Carr, a partner at Morrison and Foerster who is preparing a lawsuit to block the plan. …

Congratulations to Muttville Senior Dog Rescue for being a top 10 finalist for 2016 CNN Hero of the Year. Even though they didn’t win the big prize, they brought tons of awareness to their amazing organization and introduced millions of people to the joys of adopting senior pets. For more information on volunteering, donating, or adopting, visit

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