Shelter Reform Group Goes All Advocacy on City Council

California – Five volunteers who say they were fired from the Rancho Cucamonga Animal Care and Adoption Center in retaliation for speaking out against the shelter are part of a local advocacy group working to bring about reform.  Several members of the group spoke out at a recent city council meeting.  They would like to be reinstated and to put an end to the killing:

“The city needs to have a director who is supposed to be doing what the city said they would do in 2005,” said Susan Keithly, a shelter volunteer who was dismissed in November. “We are saying they need a confident, committed director who can achieve “no kill” now.”

The city manager, John Gillison, supports the current shelter director, both of whom are sailing aboard the S.S. We’re Doing the Best We Can with weekend excursions to the port of We All Want the Same Thing.

The city is apparently bragging about an 80% adoption rate but attorney Marla Tauscher, also a group member, set the record straight at the meeting:

She projected the animal shelter document she was given by the city on the view screen at the council meeting.
“The adoptions for dogs were actually 47 percent and for cats it was 31 percent for a combined average of 39 percent, which is about half of 80 percent,” Tauscher said.

Oops.  Nothing like having your lies exposed by your own records.

Shelter employee Jesse Kreider spoke to the council about a sign for a local political candidate, endorsed by shelter reformers, being used for target practice by management at the shelter.  Mr. Gillison didn’t want to talk much about that.  And despite saying at one point during the meeting, “There may be a disagreement about the current administration of the center and how the programs are being run, and that’s a fair topic for public conversation,” Mr. Gillson later “said he would not engage in a point, counter-point debate with the issues raised by the speakers, nor could he not speak to personnel matters related to the dismissals, or the issues raised by Kreider.”

So much for fair topics of conversation.  And so much for fair in general, as Mr. Gillison complained about the reform advocates:

“They have made these allegations to anyone who will listen.”

Yeah, what kind of decent advocacy group goes around spreading their message whenever they can?  That’s just annoying.  They should have quietly written down their complaints and stored them “in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”  I mean, be reasonable.

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19 Comments

  1. anne davis

     /  February 9, 2013

    What is it about animal shelter board members?? Why do they think they can do whatever they want and ignore the people standing feet away from them asking them to explain?? Board members in NYC don’t even look up from their iPhones when those of us try to appeal to them to do the right thing. Every 2 mins. they say “your 2 mins. are up, next.” FUCK THEM!

    Reply
    • Karen

       /  February 9, 2013

      But once you’re diagnosed terminal? I know who my targets are and then it’s just a matter of hardware.
      Good job, Shirley. For now you keep me sane…ish.

      Reply
      • Karen

         /  February 9, 2013

        This went in the wrong place, I was referring to the ledge and clocktower.

    • Ann Davis- oh how true your words are!!

      Reply
  2. Arlene

     /  February 9, 2013

    Shirley, you have a wonderful way of telling it like it is humor. I’m still chuckling.

    Reply
  3. Dana Keithly

     /  February 10, 2013

    Shirley- Thank you so much for this article. I am one of the “dismissed” volunteers, and our group appreciates you sharing our plight in such an honest and humorous way. The “S.S. We are doing the best we can”. I nearly died of laughter when I read that. Something that the original Daily Bulletin article didn’t mention, was that there were over 70 members in attendance who shared the same concern of those who presented to the council. Our group is called “THAT Group” Which stands for Together Helping Animals Thrive. Our name actually came from the shelter Director. When we first approached council in June 2012 with a group of volunteers to address concerns, the Director cornered a volunteer at the shelter after the meeting and said to them, “I can’t believe you were there with that group”. So we decided to take this negative and turned it into a positive. And we are not making “allegations”, everything we are saying, we can back up with concrete proof.

    Here is the video link to the council meeting on 1/16/13, which shows each of the speakers. Note, the guy in the red shirt who is talking about his dog Crunch, is not a shelter volunteer or with THAT Group, he attends every meeting to talk about how is dog is always getting out and ending up at the shelter.

    Thank you again YesBiscuit!

    Reply
  4. Marla Tauscher

     /  February 10, 2013

    I’m always impressed with the ability of city officials to completely discount their own facts and figures when challenged. They create fancy looking documents with all kinds of numbers and creative categories, but when I point out that their numbers don’t say what they say they do, these same people don’t want to talk about it. I keep thinking that one of these days I might find one person in one city who is willing to look at their own records and acknowledge that there is a problem. Instead, what I encounter is government officials with an almost pathological ability to ignore reality and dismiss anyone who questions them.

    Rancho Cucamonga city officials have proven to be no different. It’s mind-boggling that they can actually even try to dispute the very statistics that they produce! Below is the document that city officials sent me in response to City Manager John Gillison’s claim in e-mails to city residents that, “to date, we are still averaging an 80% plus adoption rate, which is considerably higher than most other comparable municipal shelters.”

    You don’t have to be a statistician to figure out the real adoption rates. They’re nowhere near 80%. But, like city officials do when attempting to explain the numbers from badly run public pounds (sounds redundant, doesn’t it?), what they really mean to say is that if you consider all of the other categories we’ve had to fabricate to manipulate the data, we have concocted some bogus adoption rates.

    The document I got from Rancho Cucamonga (below) is quite fancy looking. But, when you look beyond the cute logo with fuzzy animals, and really analyze it, it’s not nearly as impressive. It has one of my favorite categories created especially by, and for, directors of bad pounds – Live Release Rate. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But, think about what it includes. There are numbers for animals sent to “Rescue Partners”. Does that mean those animals were subsequently adopted? NO! Does it mean that the staff at the pound actually made any effort to facilitate transfers to rescue groups? NO! In fact, staff and management very often do their best to limit access by rescue group. More often, animals are taken by rescues in spite of, not because of, staff at pounds. But management is always happy to take the credit for another “live release”.

    The numbers for animals sent to foster care and returned from foster care are also of interest. It looks like the animals are just being shuttled back and forth between the pound and some unspecified “foster care” situation. But, with some creative accounting, Veronica Fincher, the director of this particular pound gets to add some numbers to the fictitious Live Release Rate. Gee, that’s swell. But it doesn’t tell us the ultimate fate of the animals involved in the shell game. Do they end up in the kill column later?

    I find it very interesting that Ms. Fincher apparently thinks nothing of admitting that she routinely violates state law. According to their own document, they killed 49 dogs and cats at the request of the purported owner between January and September of 2012. I don’t think it’s too much to ask of directors of public pounds (and other city officials) to know the basic state and local laws governing animal “shelters”. If Ms. Fincher did bother to read the codes (hint: this one is in the California Food & Agricultural Code), she would know that it is illegal to kill animals just because someone brings them to a pound, claiming to be the owner, and requests that they be killed. What other industries require zero knowledge of applicable law?

    I couldn’t get much in the way of detailed shelter records. After multiple written public records requests, and much back and forth with a city clerk, Deborah McNey, it’s very clear that the last thing that city officials want in Rancho Cucamonga is transparency. I exchanged numerous letters and e-mails with Ms. McNey who pretended not to understand what I wanted. Ultimately, she told me that I could have the records I requested if I would just give the city a $720 deposit in advance and that they would try to get the records within about 2 months. Typical for a city/county that brags about how well its “shelter” is doing. They won’t back up any of their claims with facts. We should just believe them.

    Reply
  5. Marla Tauscher

     /  February 10, 2013

    There doesn’t seem to be an easy way to post the document from Rancho Cucamonga…..any ideas for how to do it?

    Reply
  6. Lynn Wiese

     /  February 10, 2013

    Thank you so much Marla for all your help. I was a volunteer at the Rancho facility from 2007 to about mid year 2012. I was so hopeful when they hired the present director that things would move in a progressive and positive direction but I have never been more frustrated and disappointed by what has happened! The city manager, director Veronica Fincher and the Rancho Cucamonga City Council seem completely unmotivated to improve the lives of the animals that come to their facility. Before Ms Fincher was hired we had a very valuable offer from another city Animal Services director who is known nationally for his progressive and innovative animal control programs. He offered to come before or after the hiring process to lend his expertise at no cost to the city except his travel and per diem expenses and it was turned down by the city manager, John Gillison. The volunteers offered to pay the expenses out of their own pockets and it was still refused both before and after the new director was hired. The company I worked for has donated countless dollars worth of services and made very generous contributions, I myself have adopted 15 senior dogs from this facility and helped fund raise for others to proviide dental and medical help so dogs could be more adoptable and I have never felt so unwelcome both by the director and city manager. It got to the point where I could no longer be a part of the center because of the direction she and the city manager have taken it. I do not understand why the city council can’t see what is happening and we will keep fighting for the animals until their lives are improved!

    Reply
  7. Marla Tauscher

     /  February 10, 2013

    But wait, there’s more….

    City officials have no reservations about soliciting donations for animals that the Rancho Cucamonga Animal Center (aka pound). The City’s website has a special section for donations and the City sponsors and promotes fundraising events that it claims will benefit the animals. A person could very reasonably conclude that their donations really would go toward improving the lives of the animals at the pound.

    What city officials don’t tell the donors is that their money actually goes to the Rancho Cucamonga Community Foundation whose mission, according to its non-profit federal tax return form is “To generously support arts programming at the Victoria Gardens Cultural Center and throughout and beyond the Rancho Cucamonga Community by annually raising substantial funding and effectively managing our resources.”

    Why the subterfuge? Where is the money for the animals? Who decides how much the animals actually get? Would people donate money if they knew that the city has such a strange financial arrangement with a quasi-governmental non-profit entity? How do people know if they’re buying dog beds or tutus for a dance recital?

    More fun with public records requests…….I have lots of pages on that. Too many to post here.

    Reply
  8. ezbuddy

     /  February 11, 2013

    This sounds exactly like MAS board meetings; in one ear, out the other, and nothing changes. Until new “management” is put in place, I fear nothing is going to get better. It’s time to push for new personell because what we have, all over the country, isn’t working. …Not working for saving lives, not working for better changes, not working for more adoptions, and certainly not working for us – the one’s who pay their wages through taxes.

    Reply

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