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SF/SPCA rejects input from rescue groups on new president search; Supreme Court overturns animal cruelty law; Italian cat tour search in October
By Susan Dyer Reynolds

I obtained a letter from one of San Francisco’s rescue groups written by Catherine Brown, chair of the San Francisco SPCA board, in response to the groups’ request for a meeting regarding the selection of a new SF/SPCA president. In the letter, Brown thanks the group for their offer but declines their request. Other rescue groups received the same generic letter. While the board originally agreed to meet with rescue groups regarding a replacement for Jan McHugh-Smith, who stepped down in March, to date they have met with only one – an advocacy group, not a rescue – and the meeting lasted just 30 minutes.

Also troubling is the fact that both vice president Dori Villalon and public relations manager Tina Ahn are rumored to be in the running. Promoting Villalon or Ahn, leftovers from McHugh-Smith’s failed regime, would be a huge mistake. If the SF/SPCA has any hope of regaining its reputation 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, two recent horror stories tell me that keeping those adoption numbers high is still Villalon’s number one priority. Whereas the SF/SPCA was once known for being almost too tough, they now seem willing to send animals home with almost anybody: A cat they adopted out was found with a leash wrapped several times around its neck and it’s canine teeth knocked out. The animal control officer called to the scene by police revived the cat, and Pets Unlimited has agreed to nurse it back to health and find it a home; the adopter was sent to the psych ward. Another SF/SPCA adopter is accused of beating his new dog to death – felony animal cruelty charges are pending in that case.

Villalon certainly hasn’t curbed her controversial behavior in her quest for the presidency – I received a tip from someone who witnessed one of her famous f-bomb-dropping tirades, this time in the lobby of San Francisco Veterinary Specialists. Villalon brought in a dog suffering from severe vomiting and diarrhea for after-hours emergency care, and when the staff informed her that she would have to wait while they attended to a critical case, she became loud and abusive. The staff reiterated that they were trying to stabilize a very sick dog, and, according to my source, Villalon said, “If you can’t stabilize it, why don’t you put it down?” If that’s not bad enough, Villalon made the comment in front of the sick dog’s owner. I’d like to know how the vice president of the SF/SPCA, which has a $30 million hospital, allowed a dog to get so sick that it required after-hours emergency care at another facility. ...

The Supreme Court has overturned an animal cruelty law aimed at makers of “crush videos” depicting animals, including dogs, cats, monkeys, and hamsters, being stomped to death by women in stiletto heels and sold to people with sick fetishes who actually enjoy watching this garbage. According to the Humane Society of the United States, production of crush videos went down significantly after the law preventing them passed in 1999. The case before the court, however, involved Robert Stevens of Pittville, Va., who was sentenced to three years in prison for making and selling videos of pit bulls fighting to the death. It’s interesting to me that Stevens is from the same state where Michael Vick ran his pit bull fighting ring. Obviously, Virginia is badly in need of some humane education. Stevens complained that he got more prison time than Vick who actually fought dogs – as if videotaping the event and selling it is somehow less reprehensible. The Supreme Court saw it as a free speech issue – so would they also see snuff films, where women are killed on camera, as free speech? As a journalist I am certainly all for the First Amendment, but I think this ruling sends a dangerous message that if you are caught videotaping something heinous, you can cry free speech and get away with murder. …

On a lighter note, Friends of Roman Cats, a San Francisco nonprofit working with feral felines in the United States and Italy, will be holding its fourth annual “Cats and Culture” Italian tour Oct. 7 through Oct. 19. Participants will visit Italy’s renowned cat sanctuaries along with some of the country’s most famous cultural sites. All proceeds from the tour benefit Friends of Roman Cats. I hear the tour is great fun, but space is limited so sign up today at
It’s interesting that Italy passed a law banning the euthanasia of homeless pets more than 10 years ago, while all our Board of Supervisors can manage is a resolution encouraging people not to eat meat on Mondays. With nearly 15 percent of San Francisco’s homeless pets still dying needlessly, it’s not OK to eat a hot dog on Monday, but it’s OK to kill dogs and cats seven days a week.


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