Despite community protest, the City of Palo Alto is pushing ahead with its campaign to close the local animal shelter and outsource vital services. At Palo Alto’s October 17 City Council meeting, SEIU 521 members were joined by several community members, including Animal Shelter volunteers, to stand up for the crucial services the Animal Shelter provides.
Sachi Hwango, Volunteer Coordinator and Administrative Specialist for Animal Services reminded the council of the technical and professional expertise that Animal Services employees bring to their work:
“We all went through the hiring procedure of Palo Alto Police Department, the background checking and fingerprinting. We were all required to attend the city’s Ethics Training Program and Cybersecurity course. We are trained to be stewards of public trust. An outside provider does not have such accountability and should not handle the sensitive information of Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Los Altos Hills residents.”
Sachi also pointed out that Animal Services workers are trained to handle Rabies cases, while Pets In Need has not been responsible for dealing with rabid animals. Just 10 days before the October 17 council meeting, a rabid bat was discovered across the street from the council chambers; Sachi and the rest of the team at Palo Alto Animal Services handled the issue with care and professional expertise. Rabid animals pose a serious public health concern – by outsourcing such a crucial service to an unqualified nonprofit, the City is putting the health and safety of Palo Alto residents at risk.
Shelter volunteer Townsend Brady also addressed the City Council, raising concerns with Pets In Need’s capacity to handle more than just small cats and dogs:
“Pets In Need does not have the experience necessary to handle the challenges of managing a full-service municipal animal shelter. A full-service animal shelter needs to accept animals that are surrendered by their owners. Pets In Need currently does not accept surrendered animals. If they duplicated this policy in Palo Alto, unwanted animals would be dumped on our streets to be killed in traffic accidents or left to breed indiscriminately.
A full service animal shelter does not restrict its dog rescues only to small dogs the way Pets In Need currently does. When I asked one of the managers at Pets in Need why she did not have a selection of larger dogs, in a moment of candor she admitted that it was (and I quote): “out of concern for the sensitivities of our corporate donors.” If corporate donors can exert that much control over Pets In Need in Redwood City, they will likely exert the same level of control over a Palo Alto facility as well.”
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.
SHOW YOUR SUPPORT!
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! If you’d like to get involved with the Save Our Shelter effort, join the team of Animal Shelter workers and volunteers at their next coordination meeting on Wednesday, October 26, 4:30 – 5:30pm at the shelter, 3281 E Bayshore Road in Palo Alto.
Watch video of the October 17 City Council meeting: