Sleight of hand by Stockton and the San Francisco SPCA

There’s a growing group of informed animal lovers advocating for real, lifesaving reform at Stockton Animal Services. We have taken the time to learn what works to end the killing of healthy and treatable animals, and it is a set of programs and practices led by a compassionate and competent director and is called the No Kill Equation. We have investigated and documented what’s going on at Animal Services and contacted Stockton and San Joaquin elected officials repeatedly. They never reply, they never seek information, they put up unlawful barriers so they don’t have to hear what they don’t want to hear, and they consistently choose the illusion of progress presented by their cronies at Animal Protection League rather than any real progress. And they’ve done it again. There are no good guys in this story, but the behavior of each of the swindlers and gullible marks lacks subtlety, so at least it’s easy to spot. Stockton, San Joaquin, and San Francisco animal lovers, please read through to the end of this post, look at the documents and draw your own conclusions. We hope you will publicly hold Stockton and SF SPCA officials accountable for their actions here.

On Tuesday night, with no notice and therefore no one present to speak against it, Stockton’s lame duck Mayor and City Council approved moving forward with a Memorandum of Understanding between the city and San Francisco SPCA. This MOU is clearly not in the best interests of Stockton and is not about saving animals’ lives. It is about giving the SF SPCA unrestricted access to the Stockton animals of its choosing. It is about keeping those primo money-making animals healthy, and it is about giving the SF SPCA absolute control over media and public relations. It’s an imperialist treaty that allows the SF SPCA to extract the valuable resources from its underdeveloped little colony while leaving that colony in squalor.

It seems the Mayor, City Council, Police Chief and Animal Services supervisor Claerbout like this arrangement because it gives them yet another illusory “we love the animals” effort to trot out to the public, which yearns for real lifesaving but depends on its elected officials to do the in-depth research and make good decisions–something Stockton’s elected officials have consistently failed to do. And the consultants of Animal Protection League like it because it lets them hang around with the rich kids of the SF SPCA, never mind that the SF SPCA, with its $25 million in revenue last year, only saved 4,344 animals.

So let’s take a look at this agreement. Page 1.

First, the purpose is to “explore” and “promote”–there is nothing in the purpose that indicates any clear goals or actions. The purpose is just fluff.

Next, the term. It’s only for six months, and either party can back out at any time with just two weeks’ notice. This is good. Given the rest of the provisions in the agreement, it probably means that the SF SPCA is afraid Stockton’s going to make it look bad. That’s a reasonable fear, but the SF SPCA looks pretty bad even without Stockton’s help, in my opinion.

The purpose of the agreement is just fluff.

The purpose of the agreement is just fluff.

On to page 2. The “Responsibilities” section is where it gets meaningful, and that meaning is buried in more fluff. An example of fluff is 4.1.H, which says that the city has the responsibility to, “Implement desirable programs and procedures as mutually agreed upon by the parties, to the extent permitted by its approved budget and applicable laws.” Basically, that means that Stockton doesn’t have to implement any new programs or procedures under that clause, because it only agrees to do so if the programs are “mutually agreed upon.” Imagine the SF SPCA says, “You should implement a pit bull adoption program.” All Claerbout has to do is say, “No, I don’t agree to do that” and that’s the end of it. So that clause is just fluff, filler, legalese that distracts from the real meaning of this agreement. That real meaning is here:

“4.1 City Responsibilities. During the Term, and subject to the terms of this MOU, City agrees to perform the following:

“D. Promptly provide historical intake, output, and related data; budget data and other relevant animal welfare statistics and confidential information as is reasonably requested by the SF SPCA in connection with this MOU, and remain responsive in answering questions from the SF SPCA.”


“I. At the request of the SF SPCA (i) make available for transfer certain impounded or abandoned animals in its possession …and (ii) abide by certain intake and/or quarantine procedures, as set forth by the SF SPCA…”

The real purpose and meaning of this agreement is to give San Francisco SPCA access to Stockton information and adoptable animals. Stockton is required to let the SF SPCA see what animals it has and to make those animals available for transfer at the request of the SF SPCA. There is nothing in that agreement that gives Stockton the right to adopt those animals out or release them to other rescues. Essentially, if the SF SPCA wants an animal, Stockton has to hand it over, and until it does hand it over, it’s required to “abide by certain intake and/or quarantine procedures, as set forth by the SF SPCA” to keep the money-makers healthy for sale in San Francisco.

There is nothing in this MOU about the SF SPCA paying what are called “pull fees,” that is, the fee shelters can charge to rescue organizations and that Stockton sometimes charges rescues for animals that are already altered and considered highly adoptable. It looks as if SF SPCA, with its $25 million in revenue and $7 million surplus last year, will get free boarding and then get the animals of its choosing for free, while Stockton will continue to kill the vast majority. Instead of bringing in adoption fees, Stockton will keep on paying hazardous waste disposal fees to get rid of the bodies of the many animals it kills.

The City has the responsibility to give the SF SPCA access to its database and to give the SF SPCA any animal that the SF SPCA requests. THIS is the real purpose of the agreement.

The City has the responsibility to give the SF SPCA access to its database and to give the SF SPCA any animal that the SF SPCA requests. THIS is the real purpose of the agreement.

Notice at the bottom of page two, where the SF SPCA’s responsibilities start, that the provision is vague. Then look at page three, where the SF SPCA’s responsibilities continue. Everything the SF SPCA does is “advisory,” “non-binding” and the “SF SPCA will at all times retain the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to determine the method and manner in which it provides such support to Animal Services.”

Even the section on the San Francisco SPCA’s responsibilities is not really about responsibilities but about power and control.

Finally, notice the Mutual Responsibilities on page three. They are all pure fluff. Strive, work toward, develop, explore, seek, cooperate… There’s not a word in there that actually requires any clear actions or results. There’s nothing measurable. The one animal-related provision in these responsibilities is Stockton’s responsibility to give animals to the SF SPCA to be sold in San Francisco.

The SF SPCA's "responsibilities" outline even more power for that agency, and the "Mutual Responsibilities" are pure b.s.

The SF SPCA’s “responsibilities” outline even more power for that agency, and the “Mutual Responsibilities” are pure b.s.

There are several more pages, which you can see in an album on the Central California Pets Alive Facebook page:

One meaningful provision says that the SF SPCA has total control over media and public relations, and others require Stockton to comply with the law. Everyone is obligated to comply with the law, so those provisions are only there because SF SPCA knows Stockton does not comply with the law and wants to be able to act shocked and appalled if Stockton’s unlawful behavior is outed during the term of the MOU. A final provision that has some meaning is one that says that the SF SPCA can use this example to set up similar arrangements elsewhere–the colony does not get to object to the empire’s expanding imperialism.

Who thought this was a good deal for Stockton and its stray animals?

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