I was a volunteer at PHS for the last four years and the described below happened with two of my shelter friends.
After 4 years volunteering was, still is, painful to me to see that PHS has a lot more flaws than I believed it had. No entity is perfect, but I always jumped in its defense when I heard people talking bad things about it, and I think we can always improve, get better, as human beings or as an organization.
I’m no ingenuous person, of course I know that PHS euthanizes dogs and I agree that in some cases it’s the best option, for the dog or for the community, since the dog could be a treat to someone’s life.
In the light of what happened, I just didn’t feel like I could still be a volunteer at PHS. I’m not the kind of person that will take lightly *do not question* our decisions or that like the *because I said so* kind of answer. I really respect all their work and knowledge, but questioning is normal and healthy, and learning from it makes us better people and better professionals. I couldn’t be in a place where I’d fear asking questions, because they could kick me out.
I understand that it’s a privilege being a volunteer and I could just keep going, for the dogs sake, as I know many people do: head down, mouth shut, broken heart, but If I did that, I’d just be doing more harm than good. Being a volunteer comes with responsibility, and I believe the responsible thing to do when we see wrong is to do something about, if we don’t, we’re merely accomplices.
So I “terminated myself”, and gave them my badge and keys at the end of our meeting with PHS staff and the San Mateo’s county representative.
So, this is our story:
We are a group of long-term PHS volunteers in need of your advice and help. We are writing because I was recently fired from volunteering at PHS when staff came to pull a dog, for immediate euthanasia (due to a medical condition), from a play group a fellow volunteer and I were running. I asked for time to discuss options for this beautiful dog because I volunteer for another organization I was sure would rescue her, despite her medical condition. That request, interpreted as insubordination, got me fired. Sadly, Lola was removed from the yard and led to her death. DESPITE THERE BEING A RESCUE OPTION FOR HER.
I was summarily fired, after 15 years of service, without even so much as a conversation. PHS management didn’t bother to speak to me or my fellow volunteer about our experience. When I elevated this to Ken White, PHS’s president, Ken unequivocally condoned his staff’s mishandling of the situation.
This matters because Lola did not need to die in the shelter and PHS dogs rely on volunteers as their primary respite from the highly stressful environment. Despite PHS’s claim to have 1400 volunteers, there are at best 20-25 dog volunteers at the Coyote Point shelter showing up off and on throughout the week, which houses roughly 100-120 dogs at any given time. Dogs are regularly euthanized at Coyote Point for shelter/stress induced behavior. Getting them out of the kennels to play isn’t only the humane thing to do, it is the best mechanism for ensuring they make it out of PHS alive.
PHS has punitively retaliated against other Coyote Point volunteers who had nothing to do with this incident – suddenly holding them to tight schedules, limiting the number of days they can be at the shelter, limiting the dogs they can now work with, and requiring *new* weekly reports on their activities with the dogs. The timing of these “policy changes” is lost on NO ONE.
We filed a complaint with the county (the county holds PHS’s contract, which expires in 2020) and were heartened that the county took our complaint seriously, and, agreeing we should at least be heard, convened a meeting between all parties. That meeting revealed several misunderstandings and breakdowns in communication, in spite of which, Ken White and his staff remain adamant they did everything right, even though they failed to follow their own investigative protocol.
If any of the above concerns you, we both welcome your advice and your voice.
Please consider any/all of the following actions, or other ideas you may have:
* Forward this post via your social media outlets to alert the community to Lola’s fate and PHS’s mishandling of the situation
* Email the county ([email protected]) thanking them for reassurance that in 2020 the Animal Care & Control contract will be opened to competition ensuring PHS is no longer entitled to this role and will have to compete
* Email Ken White ([email protected]) asking these or other questions you may have:
– Why didn’t PHS have the courtesy and respect to at least talk to the volunteers before firing one, and completely disregarding the other?
– What rule did the volunteer break by asking for time to discuss options for Lola now that she was on the euthanasia list? Isn’t there a law that requires shelters to release dogs if a rescue is willing to take them?
– If PHS has 1400 volunteers, why are there so few at Coyote Point where the majority of dogs are?
– Why is PHS still euthanizing dogs for shelter induced behaviors when volunteers report those behaviors don’t manifest outside of the shelter?
– Why is PHS retaliating against volunteers who were in no way involved in this incident making a bad situation worse for the dogs?
To be clear fostering and/or adopting from PHS is still the greatest thing you can do for the dogs! But we know many of you are already at your dog-capacity. You can still use your voice to hold PHS accountable for Lola’s death, the poor treatment of its volunteers and most importantly, the quality of care for the dogs at Coyote Point.
Thank you for any support you are willing to provide.
Contacts: Kit O’Doherty, (650) 274-5236 c, [email protected]; Beth Kabala, [email protected]; Ana Carolina Comandulli, (650) 739-9804 c, [email protected]; Pam Manuel, (650) 455-3103 c, [email protected]