America’s Second Richest City Can’t Afford an Animal Shelter


2 year old American Pit Bull Terrier “Wendy” is up for adoption at Palo Alto Animal Services.

Palo Alto is America’s “second wealthiest small city,” with an annual median household income of $164,857 and a median home value of $3.15 million.[1]

The city recently spent over $4.5 million dollars to outfit the foyer of City Hall with fancy interactive machines. But despite the heavy cash flow, Palo Alto is somehow struggling to run a decent animal services shelter for their community.

At Palo Alto’s September 7 City Council meeting, multiple SEIU members voiced their dissatisfaction with the City’s handling of the shelter. Registered Veterinary Technician Joann Dixon pointed out that “The City of Palo Alto is not facing a budget crisis, but a crisis of priorities.”

Sachi Hwango, Volunteer Coordinator and Administrative Specialist for Animal Services informed the council that, “since Animal Services started facing budget issues in 2012, our volunteers have stepped up to keep the shelter running. We have seen unprecedented support in the last four years; in addition to helping with the day-to-day functions of the shelter, our volunteers are engaged in strategic programs that make the shelter more sustainable.”


SEIU 521 members attended Palo Alto’s City Council Meeting on 9/7/16.


Registered Veterinary Technician Joann Dixon addresses the Palo Alto City Council on Sept. 7, 2016


Hwango added that “City Council [needs to] work with our dedicated community of employees and volunteers to fully explore and improve upon the fund development practices that are already in place. It would be a disservice to our community to ignore and abandon the hard work of our devoted volunteers.”

Palo Alto would only save $100K by contracting out services; additionally, through the proposed transition, the City plans to budget for its four animal control officers, while the remaining Animal Services employees have been encouraged to start looking for employment elsewhere. The proposal has yet to be ratified, but the City of Palo Alto’s Human Resources department is already hinting that current employees should pack it in.

“The poorly planned transition presents obvious execution issues, but the less obvious effects pose an even greater threat,” stated Chapter Vice Chair Joe Durant. “The City’s treatment of the Animal Services employees sets a bad precedent and weakens moral in other departments.”

The City of Palo Alto has a habit of contracting out when the going gets tough; they have a history of poorly managing their many contracts, and despite their status as one of the wealthiest cities in the nation, they prioritize fancy remodeling projects over basic community services.

If we stand strong together, we can hold The City of Palo Alto accountable to manage funds responsibly. At the very least, we can pressure City Council to set up a policy for contracting out. Please sign the petition to Save the Shelter!

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