Stockton, the place that change forgot…

The kill rate at Stockton Animal Services has been a problem for a long, long time. When Pat Claerbout was hired, things went from bad to worse. The first formal complaint was filed before we had a set of records, but even then, there were worrying signs. In the Jan. 19, 2012 complaint that resulted in an investigation of Animal Services, Pups Rescue director Marilyn Williams made the following charges against the agency and its controversial new director, Pat Claerbout:

1. Stockton Animal Services’ prejudicial practices in dealing with rescues resulted in unnecessary killing. For example, Stockton Animal Services refused to release dogs on which Pups Rescue had placed a rescue hold, continued to kill other animals for “time/space” while holding those dogs, and later released them to another rescue, with the net effect that dogs that could have gone to rescue and freed up space instead stayed in the pound while other dogs were killed for lack of space.

2. Stockton Animal Services used ineffective cleaning protocols, including a cleaning agent that does not kill Parvovirus, with the result that animals are unnecessarily exposed to disease.

3. Stockton Police Department refused to investigate complaints.

On April 23, 2012, I (Eileen McFall) sent a letter to Chief of Police Eric Jones lodging a formal complaint and making the following charges:

1. Stockton Animal Services unlawfully withheld veterinary care from injured animals, and

2. The City of Stockton and Animal Services obstructed my request for records, filed January 7, 2012 under the California Public Records Act, refused to provide the requested records, and did not keep records as required by law. I received partial records on April 5, almost three months after filing the initial request. Those records accounted for fewer than 50% of the requested records.


Gracie and Speranza were my first encounters with Stockton Animal Services’ practice of withholding veterinary care from sick and injured animals. Both prompted my complaint to Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones, a complaint that got no response until television news began covering the story.

After several television news stories critical of Stockton Animal Services, the police department re-activated the investigation it had supposedly begun in winter or spring of 2012 and in July, I met with Sgt. Grant Bedford of the Professional Standards Division. By then, we had analyzed the data contained in the records and had more dealings with Stockton Animal Services and Pat Claerbout. With that new information, I brought additional unlawful and problematic practices to the attention of Sgt. Bedford, including the common practices of killing animals on intake and before the end of their required hold period; killing animals labeled as sick, injured, aggressive or feral with no veterinary diagnosis and no protocol for temperament or feral cat testing; and failure to provide veterinary care to sick and injured animals.

Even as the investigation was concluded and the findings were being formulated, Stockton Animal Services illegally killed at least three dogs with rescue holds. A189082 and A189083 were dead by the time I placed a rescue hold, A189170 was logged in as injured, received no veterinary care, and was also killed early, before a rescue hold that was placed during his legal hold period. These killings all occurred even as Pat Claerbout knew she’d been under investigation for just such charges. I can only conclude she knew that these practices were okay with the Police Chief and city officials.

A189082 (not pictured) and A189083 were killed two days before the end of their legal hold period. By the time I placed a rescue hold on what should have been the last day of their holds, they were already dead.

A189082 (not pictured) and A189083 were killed two days before the end of their legal hold period. By the time I placed a rescue hold on what should have been the last day of their holds, they were already dead.

When the investigation findings were finally released on October 16, 2012, the entirety of what was communicated was this:

“With regard to your complaint, IA 12-05, the investigation determined the allegations to be EXONERATED, NOT SUSTAINED, and SUSTAINED.” See the letter posted below. Marilyn Williams of Pups Rescue received exactly the same letter.


Considering that there were two formal complaints and numerous additional charges and evidence brought forward in the course of the investigation, this letter is incomprehensible. Furthermore, the press release concerning the investigation announced two changes to Stockton Animal Services’ operations, neither of which addressed the complaints. One was an upgrade to the computer system that should have taken about two hours and could have been done at any time. The other was to keep the pound open an additional half hour on Saturday. This was presented as a way to increase adoptions but really allows Stockton to count Saturday as a business day and therefore decrease the required hold period. The real implication of that half hour is that animals can be killed sooner.

Nothing that Stockton Animal Services, Police Chief Eric Jones, City Manager Bob Deis, Mayor Ann Johnston, Vice Mayor Kathy Miller, and Council Members Elbert Holman, Paul Canepa, Susan Eggman, and Dale Fritchen have done has improved animal welfare or lifesaving. Stockton has shown again and again that it does not care about following the law, protecting the rights of its own citizens, or behaving compassionately. We hope but are not counting on the next local administration to behave with more intelligence, integrity, fiscal responsibility, effectiveness and compassion.

For the cats and dogs held in cages or behind locked doors for a few days and then killed, with no attempt by Animal Services to save them, change cannot come soon enough.

Some of the few possible pit bull mixes available for adoption at Stockton Animal Services. Most, if they are given hold times, are held behind a locked steel door during their hold time and then killed as soon as the hold is up--which will now be one day sooner.

Crying out for change.

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