The first in a three-part daily post series
Editor's note: Post reporter Braden Cartwright has been investigating pets in need because the district attorney decided to charge three employees for the death of seven puppies. The series is based on documents he obtained from the city through a California public record request, letters and interviews from Pets In Need staff. Part 1 appeared in the "Post" on Thursday. Select today's part 2 post. Part 3 will be printed on Saturday.
Author: BRADEN CARTWRIGHT Special Writer for Daily Mail
According to a letter written by staff at the Palo Alto Animal Shelter, seven puppies in the care of Pets In Need were placed in a small crate when they died on a day of 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and they were covered with towels More than four hours.
"The seven puppies died terribly, painfully, and slowly," the employee said in the letter. "There is no air, no space to move, and no way to escape. Before they finally succumb, they have to witness the suffering and death of their brothers and sisters."
The puppies were transferred with 20 other dogs from a shelter in the Central Valley to Palo Alto on August 2, where they were at risk of being euthanized.
The letter stated that the three employees who took them used a van, which had limited space and poor air conditioning, so human resources manager Ingrid Hartmann could keep up.
Pets In Need did not respond to any questions about the allegations by the shelter staff. These allegations contradict some statements made by executive director Al Mollica.
The city manager is reviewing letters from employees
Pets In Need has been operating the Palo Alto Animal Shelter since 2019, charging the city about $700,000 annually. City manager Ed Shikada stated that he is "reviewing the letter and determining the next steps."
On August 9, a week after the fatal journey, a group of employees wrote to the Pets In Need board of directors. Resident Kristen Andersen (Kristen Andersen) sent it to the Palo Alto City Council last week, and he opposed Pets In Need's handling of the issue of wild cats around Crescent Park.
Employees say that Pets In Need has two trucks to transport animals to Palo Alto and Redwood City. One of the vans is smaller, with space for about 15 crates, and the air conditioner is only used to cool the front of the vehicle. Larger trucks can carry about 25 crates, including oversized crates, and have special climate control in the front and cargo area.
Human resources manager Hartmann, shelter manager Patty Santana, and behavior manager Maggie Evans chose the smaller van because it has two rows of seats, while the larger van can only accommodate one driver and one passenger.
"This is the first of many avoidable mistakes of the day," the employee said.
When the transport team first encountered these puppies at a shelter in Madeira, they were already sick.
The employees said they were full of vomit and diarrhea after being transported from another place.
The shelter’s acceptance policy stipulated that veterinarians must approve medical cases for dogs, but the transportation team took them away without contacting Palo Alto’s medical director, employees said.
The dead garbage was a large breed, 10-week-old Labrador Bulldog, weighing between 10 and 15 pounds. The employees wrote that all seven were packed in a crate 30 inches long, 18 inches wide, and 23 inches high.
Their letter said: "It didn't let the puppies lie down or even turn around without stepping on each other's space."
The employees said that the crates were also wrapped in towels to protect other animals from disease, leaving them with little ventilation.
The police said the suspects told the police that they stopped in Los Banos to check the animals and they were fine.
But when the transport truck arrived in Palo Alto, the 20 surviving animals were dehydrated and showed signs of heat stroke, and the seven puppies that died were stiff but still hot, employees said.
After a 12-week investigation by the Palo Alto Police Department, Hartman, Santana, and Evans were charged with animal cruelty and negligence on October 25. They are scheduled to be subpoenaed on November 30.
Pets In Need Change Statement
Chairman Rob Kalman and executive director Al Mollica said in a statement that they are conducting their own investigation. In their first statement, they said that the police's statement that the rear cargo compartment did not have air conditioning was wrong.
They said last week: “We are working hard to ensure that we hear the stories of the employees cited and communicate to the authorities a fair and complete account of their role.”
Since then, the statement has been replaced on its website with a downplayed version that does not defend employees.
Katerina Adamos-Jardine, marketing manager at Pets In Need, declined to say whether employees still have jobs.
In 2019, Pets In Need signed a contract to operate the Palo Alto Animal Shelter for five years, saving the city about $200,000 annually. The shelter provides animal care services to residents of Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Los Altos Mountains, and introduces animals at risk of euthanasia from across the state.
Since 1986, the non-profit organization has been operating an animal shelter in Redwood City.
Since signing the Palo Alto contract, the bottom line of Pets In Need has soared. The non-profit organization's revenue in fiscal year 2015 was US$1.7 million, in 2017 it was US$2.2 million, and in 2019 it was US$8.1 million. This is the most recent fiscal year for which data is available. Most of the money comes from donations.
Mollica was the highest paid employee in 2019, with an income of $213,259.
Thursday: The leader of Pets in Need expressed dissatisfaction with the police investigation and told employees to reduce cooperation with the city government.
After printing, Morika’s lawyer contacted the Post and arranged for his client to send answers to the newspaper’s questions via email. Morika continued to refuse the Post's request for a face-to-face interview.
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Al Mollica's refusal to accept interviews and not cooperate with the city government will do no good to himself or Pets in Needs. Without his story, I can only believe what I read. I am a long-time supporter of PIN, but I was shocked by this episode. If the allegations are true, unless the three employees are fired, I will no longer support PIN.
This is terrible... the city council needs to cut the city from the pets in need, immediately!
Thanks to the employees who raised their concerns in the letter to Codepad and the city. And thank the "Daily Mail" for reporting this matter. Hope this will bring some positive changes.
I think the puppy death is a symptom of poor PIN management and poor city supervision. It would not be surprised if the city cut off from PIN and found another non-profit organization to run the shelter on the grounds of this incident. Morika's refusal to talk to the Post indicated that he had something to hide and was covering up.
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