In mid-November the City of Stockton entered into an agreement with the San Francisco SPCA, the stated purpose of which was to improve humane outcomes for animals impounded in Stockton and to promote effectiveness and efficiency at the Stockton shelter. Part 1 of this post will look at the terms of that agreement and Part 2 will examine the results after five months of implementation.
The entire text of the agreement is available for anyone to read on the Stockton government website. Here we will excerpt parts of it.
We’ll start by looking at duties that Stockton and the SF SPCA share under the agreement.
Stockton and SF SPCA Mutual Duties
Among the prospective collaborative efforts are the implementation of protocols for disease control and cleanliness and the use of electronic records. There are no proposed efforts specifically and unambiguously targeted at life-saving or at improving the live-release rate of the shelter or at improving the overall capacity and success of rescue groups local to Stockton and San Joaquin County.
Next we’ll look at the duties of the SF SPCA under the agreement.
SF SPCA Duties
The SF SPCA is obligated to provide some consultation and support. However, they do not agree to any specific consultation or support, and they retain the absolute right to provide support as they see fit and not necessarily in response to problems the Stockton shelter is experiencing.
Before looking at the listed duties of the Stockton Shelter under the agreement, we’ll touch on the shelter’s obligations that might arise out of publicity.
Stockton Duties Regarding Publicity
When it comes to talking about the partnership, the Stockton shelter and the City of Stockton are apparently on a very short leash. In our view, the obligation for Stockton to keep quiet is rather extreme, going so far as to prohibit even casual Facebook and Twitter comments and to forbid answering questions from members of the public, including residents of Stockton, who we think are entitled to a lot more transparency than this since they are the taxpayers footing the bill for Animal Services.
Finally we’ll look at the duties of the Stockton Shelter under the agreement.
Some of the shelter’s duties call for an effort and not an outcome, and are qualified with “as time permits,” or “as other business activities permit.” One unqualified duty, though, and one that ties in with Stockton’s other obligations around publicity, is to notify the SF SPCA promptly of any consumer complaints or media attention.
Another unqualified duty, and though it appears last in the list we think it is by far the most significant one, is the duty to transfer animals to the SF SPCA and to follow specific animal handling procedures established solely by the SF SPCA. This duty is mandatory and is not at the discretion of the Stockton shelter.
While Stockton has the duty to transfer animals, there is no corresponding duty for the SF SPCA to pay an adoption fee for any animal it takes. In fact, there is no mention of possible remuneration at all. Furthermore, the SF SPCA has sole authority over transfers. The Stockton shelter and its supervisor have no designated power under the agreement to refuse a transfer. Despite the stated goal to “maximize opportunities for pet adoption,” apparently the SF SPCA has first claim even when a local rescue group could take and adopt out an animal.
We encourage you to read all the lists of responsibilities from the agreement and weigh them for yourself. In our estimation, the commitment to transfer animals to SF SPCA on demand constitutes the heart of the agreement, and other aspects of the agreement, like the duty to follow specific protocols and the encouragement to maintain electronic records, are in support of this core commitment.
The SF SPCA operates a large and modern adoption center in San Francisco. The adoption fees charged by the center are advertised on their website and are currently $100 for dogs, $250 for puppies, $50 for cats, and $100 for kittens.
According to a San Francisco watchdog group that has compiled publicly available data, the SF SPCA adoption center acquires 61% of its dogs and cats from places outside San Francisco, while treatable and adoptable animals languish and are killed in the custody of San Francisco Animal Control.
Chart courtesy of FixSanFrancisco.org.
If the SF SPCA is taking desirable animals out of Stockton, not paying transfer fees, and then collecting $100 or $250 for each, is that fair and reasonable? Consider that some of the animals impounded in Stockton belong to owners who want them back but cannot afford the numerous and excessive fees levied by Animal Services, which commonly add up to $300 or more. Is it right for a person in Stockton to lose their pet because they don’t have $300, and then for that same animal to be adopted out in San Francisco for $100?
At CCPA, we are concerned that this agreement is short-sighted and does not cultivate programs that will actually help the shelter in the long run to save more animals from pointless and unnecessary death. Regrettably, for the Stockton shelter, this agreement is a lot like being given fish in lieu of being taught how to fish. Transferring animals to a far-flung adoption center on the instruction of a remote master is no substitute for learning how to implement your own local high-volume adoption program.
SF SPCA Mission Statement
Written in the preamble of the agreement is the mission statement of the SF SPCA: “to save and protect animals.” With that noble mission, and with an obvious opportunity to pursue it in earnest, we expect a lot more from the SF SPCA than this agreement delivers. With their great resources they could really make a difference in Stockton.
The agreement between Stockton and the SF SPCA will expire on June 30th, unless it is renewed. We think the City should not renew the agreement as is. We would like to see changes that would give local rescue groups preferred access to adoptable animals, ask the SF SPCA to help animals that require rehabilitation or that are hard to place with local rescue groups, and call on the SF SPCA to use their donor-supported animal-welfare resources to help implement local programs – like high-volume adoption, fundraising, and a foster-home network – that will actually and sustainably save and protect animals in Stockton.
We hope the City of Stockton will renegotiate a better agreement before June 30th, in the interest of the animals and the people of Stockton, and that the SF SPCA will respond positively, in accord with its mission statement.