Is the Customer Ever Right at SF Animal Care and Control?

Another agency Doing It Wrong:

I live in San Francisco, where I’ve worked for two nonprofit shelters. People in my circles come to me with their animal questions. Most of my experience is in the sheltering, rehabilitation, and adoption side of things rather than redemption. So, when asked, I repeat the instructions that I’ve learned: lose your pet - report it to SF Animal Care and Control and go down to look at the strays in their kennels; find an animal - call SF Animal Care and Control, who can assist in getting the animal redeemed or rehomed.

This morning, a friend told me this story: Driving into the neighborhood at 1am, he saw a cat strolling the periphery of the dog park. When he stopped to check on it, the cat approached right away and jumped into his car. He called the number written on the animal’s tag but got only a message machine. He couldn’t take the cat into his apartment because he has a cat of his own and didn’t think it was a good idea to put them together. So, he followed up with ACC.

Textbook bad customer service ensued:

ACC: “It’s not our policy to pick up stray cats.”

Concerned Citizen: “I’m willing to drive him down there.”

ACC: “We’re closed. And we have no room right now.”


My friend knocked on a neighbor’s door for help, but this person had a dog and wasn’t prepared to take in a cat. So, my friend put the cat in his back yard and hoped for the best.

In so many ways, this exchange was a gross failure - not the least of those ways being simple manners.

As it turns out, I know this cat. Tito lives in a home across the street from the dog park and just around the corner from the neighbor who found him. The occupants are members of a big, intergenerational family and have lots of people coming and going. I have frequently seen Tito sitting in the small garden right outside the front door. I hope he found his way home. It is a shame that I do not have the option of ringing my neighbor’s door bell and telling them he is safe and sound, waiting for them at SF Animal Care and Control.

We have much work to do in reforming animal control.

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7 Responses to “Is the Customer Ever Right at SF Animal Care and Control?”

  1. Rosemary says:

    I think my sympathies are with Animal Control this time, unless Tito was sitting in a place where he was hugely at risk of being struck by traffic. From the description of the situation he was within the normal home range of an indoor/outdoor cat and so not “stray” in the sense of not knowing how to get home. Unless they have a really good success rate in rehoming cats, they might well be concerned about the possibility of taking a healthy cat with a home and killing him.

    Whether or not cats should be allowed outside is another question, of course.

  2. My primary complaint is not that they did not pick up Tito. It is that they failed to give minimal customer service: ACC’s own Web site tells people to call or visit there to report lost pets and to look for lost pets. If that’s what they tell people, then the response when people do it can’t be, “You’re on your own.”

    If nothing else, they could put up a Web page that says,

    “If you find a cat, here’s how to contain it with minimal risk to your own animals.”

    “Here’s a Web site where you can post the cat’s description.”

    “If you’re going to release the cat, do this …”

  3. I agree, Barbara. The customer service at most shelters for people that lose pets is horrible. Recently, I found a puppy that I posted in every place there is in town to file a lost report, including our shelter. When the owner went to the shelter, they didn’t even talk to her about the various steps she could take to find her puppy. They give a stray tour, and that is that. They don’t even point people to the Lost and Found books on their own counters, much less do they explain that the owner should put lost ads in all the papers, post flyers and posters, and much less do they point them to tips out of the Missing Pet Parnership, one of the best resources around for this issue.

    • My housemate’s cat fell out of a third story window, crawled into a neighbor’s yard, and died. The neighbor had ACC pick up the cat. Since Dali was microchipped, my friend got a call, a message on her cell phone that her cat had been found dead.

      She called back to see if she could get the body and was told, brusquely, “We’ve already gotten rid of it.”

      They told her she could come and retrieve the cat’s collar. When she got down there, another person told her the cat’s body was still there. She said she wanted to take the body for burial and was escorted into an exam room. A worker came in with a garbage bag, dumped her frozen cat on the steel table, and said, “Is this her?”

      I wouldn’t even call that a “customer service” matter. Plain, old human compassion calls for better.

  4. Joni says:

    One of the reasons so many pets die in our shelters is because the people at the shelters do such a lossy job in most areas of costumer service from the hours they are open to the info they fail to give out. Leadership and training are lacking, but most of all caring for people and animals is just not there.

    Yes, there are some good, hard working people in animal control, but they seems to be so few and far apart.

  5. I can’t understand why someone who has such a HUGE lack of empathy would even CONSIDER working in an animal shelter. My heart goes out to Tito AND to the woman whose cat fell out the window and died.

    It also doesn’t sound like that intergenerational home has any thoughts about Tito’s safety in mind.

    I hope someone takes pity on Tito’s precarious outdoor lifestyle and rehomes him indoors into a loving home.

  6. Matt says:

    Dear Friends,

    I have been watching the No Kill Animal Shelter situation very closely recently.New York City has some serious issues as well…consider the following:

    I have discovered something very strange. It’ll make you scratch your head in wonder. It, potentially, is a very dangerous situation for cats and dogs…..indeed it is a matter of life or death.

    Please consider the following information:

    In the current July/August edition of Best Friends Magazine (on news stands now) Best Friends salutes NYC and provides the following information:

    “New York City animal lovers have a reason to celebrate: The percentage of dogs and cats euthanized in the city’s shelters hit an all-time low last year-33 percent, down from 69 percent in 2003. During the same period, the adoption rate for shelter pets increased to 66 percent, up from 26 percent. The numbers were cited as the mayor announced a $1 million grant from the ASPCA to the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, a colaition of more than 160 animal rescue groups and shelters that work with animal care and control in New York. The money will be used to increase the number of adoptions and transfers, and to provide low - and no - cost spay/neuter services to low-income people with pets.

    According to figures from the alliance, 13,620 animals were euthanized at Animal Care & Control of New York City shelters in 2009, out of 41,712 pets taken in. A total of 8,192 pets were adopted and 17,641 were transferred to rescue organizations and other shelters”

    Now, for the other side of the story:

    Nathan Winograd, No Kill Pioneer and creator of the No Kill Advocacy Center, posted the following information to his blog just a day or two ago:

    “New York City in Chaos

    July 14, 2010 by Nathan J. Winograd

    Less than a month after the ASPCA and the Mayor’s Alliance succeeded in killing Oreo’s Law, New York City Animal Care & Control (ACC) has announced that it will not allow any new rescue groups to save the lives of animals until a new rescue policy is finalized at the end of August. Oreo’s Law sought to make such conduct illegal. According to rescue groups in New York City, the city pound “has suspended all new rescues that were recently approved.” These allegations were confirmed by e-mails obtained from ACC’s rescue coordinator.

    The refusal to work with these groups is already costing the animals their lives. While groups like the ASPCA and Mayor’s Alliance claim that New York City is saving all healthy animals, the pound has contradicted those false assertions, killing hundreds in the process while stating “an overpopulation of adoptable animals requires us to humanely euthanize animals,” even as they are turning away rescue groups for the next two months.

    On top of that, the pound has decided to renovate their kennels during the busiest time of year, cutting capacity, resulting in even more deaths. According to a July 1 e-mail obtained from ACC’s rescue coordinator:

    The contractors are going to start work shortly on the final phase on the project, which involves replacing the floors in a significant portion of the building. We are excited for the many improvements that help make the shelter a better place, although the final phases of construction will pose challenges in addition those normally brought on by kitten season. Work on the floors is set to start Tuesday July 6th, and will be done in phases that have been carefully considered to have the least impact on our operations as possible. However, we will have to make adjustments for housing the dogs and cats and our housing capacity will be temporarily reduced until the project is complete. The work plan will initially impact our dog housing capacity, following by cat housing capacity, until the project is finished…

    And it gets worse. In addition to claiming they do not have enough food to feed the animals right down the street from the nation’s wealthiest SPCA (the ASPCA takes in over $120,000,000 per year), the shelter is withholding pain medications from injured animals.

    An e-mail obtained from ACC’s rescue coordinator says the above cat is in pain from an injury, but there are “No pain meds available to give the cat.” If rescue groups do not act within one day, the cat will be killed.

    New York City is killing healthy animals, turning away rescue groups, running out of food to feed the animals, refusing to give pain medications to injured animals, and is doing construction during the height of the busy summer season, causing them to kill even more.

    This is the model program touted by the Mayor’s Alliance, which will be featured at the Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Conference in Las Vegas this October by Jane Hoffman. This is the model program that Laura Allen of the Animal Law Coalition said NYS should follow in her opposition to Oreo’s Law.

    Thanks to the ASPCA, Mayor’s Alliance, and Animal Law Coalition, New York City’s regressive pound has a license to turn away rescue groups and kill the animals they are willing to save. And thanks to Best Friends, Alley Cat Allies, and others who refused to support Oreo’s Law in deference to their relationships with these groups, that license is not being revoked anytime soon.”

    WHAT THE &@$# IS GOING ON????????????????

    ASPCA has the money for a $1 Million grant, and takes in $120 million a year, but they “cant afford to feed the shelter animals”?????? What kind of bullpoop is that? They are ‘working towards becoming No-Kill’ (Ed Sayres, Money Maker, Politician, and ASPCA head, promised the same to Los Angeles……never happened) yet they are going to kill healthy animals?

    That’s like trying to make ice cubes by putting the tray of water in the microwave and using the “High” setting.

    You are going about it in a “bass ackwards” way.

    This is a very disturbing and serious discrepancy on the part of the ASPCA/Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals that must be cleared up.

    IF both Best Friends and Nathan Winograd have reported their info correctly, and I dont doubt that they have, then we have a serious problem.

    Because it would mean that the politicians in the Animal Sheltering system/business in NYC have their heads where the sun doesnt shine.

    Let me explain something, and I’m not a Harvard graduate, I’ll be the first to admit it, and I’m not a preacher, but I have to say what needs to be said: The real truth: You dont have to have graduated NASA’s Rocket Science program to see the problem: If what Both Best Friends and Nathan Winograd said are true, then, can there be any OTHER explanation for this, other than that the ASPCA/NYC Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals are mere politicians and businessmen/women wearing ‘Animal Rescue’ T-shirts?

    You are either no kill or you arent. There isnt any middle ground.

    Saying that you are a “No-Kill Supporter” while sending healthy, precious souls to their deaths is like saying that you are “Anti-Prostitution” while visiting the whorehouse once a week to take advantage of “The Weekly Special”.

    Politics. Hypocrisy. B.S.

    This would mean that Ed Sayres and the ASPCA, and the Mayor and the other half-butted politicians in NYC are holding their cell phones in one hand, telling others about their decrease of euthanasia (murder) rates, while holding a recently killed four legged victim (a shelter cat or dog) in their other hand, as they walk towards the pile of other dead innocent individuals who they have murdered that day.

    This is NOT the behavior of true, caring humans who view their fellow souls as equally deserving of life and love as themselves. It is NOT, I repeat NOT the behavior of No-Kill supporters. It is, in fact, the behavior of politicians, playing “both sides” of the same coin in order to:

    A: Satisfy the No-Kill Groups that they are ‘working towards no-kill’, to get them off their backs, while they’re just spinning their wheels.

    B: Continue their money making, and or political goals.

    I think an investigation should be made into exactly what NYC is up to.

    I also think that Best Friends Animal Society and Nathan Winograd, along with the HSUS, ASPCA should all get together to hold a No-Kill Summit Meeting, to clear the air, and clarify each other’s true stance on the No-Kill issue, so that everyone knows where everyone else stands. It’s important that Best Friends and Nathan Winograd stay on the same team…together they are a powerful No-Kill force. It’s obvious that PETA murders 97% of cats and dogs and are murderers. They admit it, with a smile. (Homicidal maniacs). The HSUS, via their ultra-white toothed, nice smiling President, Wayne Pacelle, who admits to never “Sharing a bond with any animal” says one thing, and then does another…more politics. One day they are ‘No-Kill’, the next they say: “We think that feral cats or pitbulls, like the Vick dogs should be killed”.

    These groups “waffle” more than (Leggo My) Eggo Inc.

    I’ll say it again:

    You are either No-Kill
    Or you are Anti- No-Kill.

    There is no middle ground. Pick a stance, take it, dig your shoes 2 feet deep into the dirt beneath you, stand tall and strong, and stick to your guns…… no excuses, no semantics, no politics, no leaning towards another direction, no tolerating the killers, no condoning the killers’ actions, no looking the other way as the killers kill, no neutrality, no distracting from your mission……keep working towards No-Kill…until ‘euthanasia’ (murder) rates are 0 Percent. Nothing less is acceptable. No surrender.

    We owe Cats and Dogs who give us unconditional love more than we could ever give it back to them in return, nothing less.

    Remember the mission.


    It wont get done by playing games or by tolerating games being played. This is serious. It’s life or death.

    Make believe that the next cat or dog on death row is your child (Cats and Dogs are equally as precious, and equally deserving of life and love, as any of us human animals). Now, act on behalf of that cat or dog as you would on behalf of your child.

    Would the NYC situation be overlooked, tolerated, or ignored if your child was there in the middle of it, and were the next in line to be added to “the pile” of dead victims? Neither should the situation involving the beautiful four legged Children of God in shelters (Cats and Dogs) be overlooked, tolerated or ignored.

    THAT is the way a true No Kill group SHOULD view their fellow living souls, and as we have seen, NYC’s ASPCA/Mayor’s Alliance doesnt know “shinola” from that “other stuff” when it comes to treating every cat and dog as an individual person…an individual soul. And it is the same in kill shelters and pounds all across the nation and the world….politics…. “Sing a lullaby of lies to those who care about animals until they seem satisfied (though the killing continues which is UNSATISFACTORY) and those who dont care, we dont have to worry about them…meanwhile, the dough keeps rolling in and our status quo, which we have become very comfortable with, remains unchanged” is the attitude of these groups, and they pose a clear and present danger to every four legged soul in every shelter across the nation and the world.

    We cant ignore these indifferent, ignorant, arrogant, speciesist human elitist murderers anymore….. It is time to take a stand against them… you would if your child was a member of a children’s kill shelter, who is giving you the runaround, while murdering children behind the scenes.

    After all, we are ALL Children of the same God.

    One life. One soul.

    Dont forget it.

    On Behalf of Shelter Cats and Dogs, I am,


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