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Political Animal
SF/SPCA vice president steps down, a shake-up on the board –
but interim co-president is bad news
By Susan Dyer Reynolds

On May 25, 2010 the San Francisco SPCA announced a shake-up on its board (a new chair and several new board members) and also that controversial vice president Dori Villalon was resigning. In my May column, I wrote that Villalon was a leftover from former president Jan McHugh-Smith’s failed regime, and that keeping her on would be a huge mistake. I also reiterated what I wrote in my September 2009 cover story, “How the San Francisco SPCA let us down” – if the organization has any hope of returning to its former glory as America’s most respected private shelter, they need to distance themselves from McHugh-Smith’s cronies and bring in someone with a fresh approach.
Unfortunately I am not encouraged by the appointment of Jennifer Scarlett, DVM, as interim co-president in charge of medical and adoption services. The other co-president, Jason Walthall, has served as chief financial officer since 2009 and will oversee financial and operation matters, which tells me the SF/SPCA is not confident in Dr. Scarlett’s ability to run a business. Let’s hope when the board says “interim” they mean it, and they will continue their nationwide search for the right president. It’s definitely not Dr. Scarlett, who is almost as controversial as Villalon (more on that in a future column). I had heard disturbing stories about her when she was in private practice at Mission Pet Hospital, and I was actually shocked when the SF/SPCA brought her onboard. Obviously they do their vetting about as well as John McCain: Dr. Scarlett is known in the animal welfare community as “Dr. Death” for her anti-no-kill stance, and she is yet another remnant from McHugh-Smith’s destructive reign.

In my September 2009 cover story, I exposed that it was Dr. Scarlett who, while volunteering with Rural Area Vet Services, brought 45 animals back from an American Indian reservation in Arizona. Some arrived sick and one was a pit bull puppy — a breed the SF/SPCA would normally reject from S.F. Animal Care and Control and leave to be taken by the already overwhelmed grassroots rescue groups.

At a recent meeting of the Commission on Animal Control and Welfare, Dr. Scarlett basically said the SF/SPCA would continue business as usual by opposing No Kill legislation, taking most of its animals from out of county, and expecting the grassroots rescue groups to continue taking the majority of animals from ACC. She even had the audacity to suggest that the small rescue groups could work a little harder to take animals the SF/SPCA didn’t want from ACC (like her predecessors, Dr. Scarlett likes to ignore the adoption pact requiring the SF/SPCA to take all healthy animals from the city pound). Asking the small rescues to do more is completely absurd considering that last year these groups, many with operating budgets smaller than Dr. Scarlett’s salary, saved more dogs and cats from ACC than the SF/SPCA did with it’s multimillion-dollar budget. The bottom line: Dr. Scarlett, like her former buddies McHugh-Smith and Villalon, wants to continue taking “cute and fluffies” from other counties to ensure the SF/SPCA’s live release rate looks good to donors.

As no-kill advocate Nathan Winograd pointed out in a recent article, San Francisco has the lowest intake rate of any major city in the nation – five times less than the per capita rate of Reno, Nev. San Francisco takes in roughly half the animals that Reno does, despite having more than twice the population. Yet Reno saves and adopts out a higher percentage of animals than all three San Francisco shelters (SF/SPCA, ACC and Pets Unlimited) combined.

The SF/SPCA press release detailing the change in leadership said that Walthall and Dr. Scarlett would be responsible for “building and strengthening relationships with the local animal welfare community.” Just the interim appointment of Dr. Scarlett tells me that won’t be happening any time soon. ...

After a recent raid on a Mission District pet shop, ACC has 23 baby bunnies looking for new homes. The bunnies are all healthy, but it’s illegal in San Francisco to sell bunnies or chicks (to prevent impulse buying at Easter). If you’d like to adopt a bunny, call ACC at 415-554-6364, or visit them at 1200 15th Street (at Harrison). ...

And finally, a big congratulations to Grateful Dogs Rescue – on June 19, they celebrated 20 years of saving dogs in San Francisco.


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