Why Shelter Animals Need Your Voice
The stories below are common examples of the kinds of dogs and cats that don't make it out of the Coyote Point shelter (managed by Peninsula Humane Society) alive. Many community members have no idea animals like the ones below are euthanized on a regular basis. PACC Board Members understand the need to euthanize overtly aggressive and/or irremediably suffering animals. We do NOT, however, accept applying euthanasia to dogs and cats with minor behavioral issues, that often do not manifest in a home environment, or can be easily managed when they do.
Sierra - Slated for Euthanasia
2005 - Sierra was trapped off the Sierra Point Parkway landfill as a ~6 month old stray puppy. She was terrified at the Coyote Point shelter, shaking and growling from the back of the kennel. Happily a foster home was arranged, and Sierra blossomed under the tutelage of Ursa, the resident dog.
Unfortunately, each time Sierra was evaluated back at the shelter, she would growl at the staff, despite never growling in the home environment. At the time it was not well known that the “shelter dog” is little to no indication of the “real dog” and Sierra was slated for euthanasia.
Today it is well understood, with research to support it, that many shelter behavioral evaluations are no better than “flipping a coin” (see research & references pg). Yet sadly, dogs at San Mateo County’s Coyote Point shelter are still regularly euthanized for failing the outdated shelter evaluation as Sierra did. Sierra’s foster home, became her forever home where she spent 15 years being an impeccable canine citizen.
Xena - Slated for Euthanasia
2015 - Xena entered the Coyote Point shelter as a young pup with one of the worst cases of mange we’d seen, and the extremely stressful environment wasn’t helping. A PACC Board Member was asked to foster her and true to her tough spirit she blossomed quickly with the right medication and calm home environment where she could romp with the resident pack.
When it was time for Xena to be adopted, despite the recommendation she be adopted to experienced dog owners (because little Xena needed a leader or she was going to take on that role herself, as warrior princesses tend to do), Xena was adopted to first time dog owners with a special needs child, who became obsessed with her. When the family returned Xena to Coyote Point she was slated for euthanasia for being too pushy with the child. Xena returned to her “forever” pack and is an impeccable canine citizen.
Mindy - Slated for Euthanasia
2016 - Mindy (pointy ears, center) was dropped in the Coyote Point shelter night box because conceivably her owners hoped their local humane society could help. Unfortunately Mindy failed the outdated behavioral evaluation because she exhibited common shelter stress induced behaviors including food guarding (being given a pig's ear and growling at the fake hand that was trying to take it away) and reacting badly to other dogs on leash (extremely common in stressed out shelter dogs). Mindy was also inaccurately labeled not good with dogs and was slated for euthanasia.
Companions in Waiting, a local rescue, took her in. Mindy’s stress related shelter behaviors vanished in her foster home and she was adopted to a couple who completely adore her. Mindy is an integral part of her humans dog walking / dog sitting business and is known for working as a mentor with difficult dogs. See a glimpse into Mindy’s life at Coach Mindy Dog
Kona - Slated for Euthanasia
2016 - Kona, through an unfortunate set of circumstances, was surrendered to the Coyote Point shelter along with his best friend Luna, an older female version of his handsome self. Kona’s struggling human had suddenly become homeless when his siblings sold the family home where he was living with his two dogs and a cat.
Luna was euthanized absent her human's consent shortly after being surrendered. Based on his breed and size Kona was labeled "vicious to humans and other animals" despite never being evaluated outside of the kennel and the transportation-less and homeless owner given 48 hours to retrieve Kona lest he also be euthanized. Kona is great with people, kids, dogs and cats. He is a poster child for why the animals in San Mateo County’s care need our voice. Kona is enjoying life with a PACC Board Member alongside several other dogs. He also takes care of the households used tennis balls.
Animal #A841679 - Euthanized
2017 - This lovely young male dog who's fate was determined so quickly he was never given a name, was found wandering by a good samaritan family who held on to him as long as they could before taking him to Peninsula Humane Society in hopes he would be reunited with his family, or put up for adoption. The family posted the dog on Nextdoor describing him as friendly, and good with dogs. The post resulted in interested fosters/adopters. Despite shaking in fear, he would sit bravely, and gently take treats when we walked by his kennel. PHS records, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, confirm that the one and only evaluation he was given, concurred with vet tech staff handling of him that he was NOT aggressive.
Staff who did NOT see this dog outside of the kennel proceeded to label him aggressive based on his fearful kennel behavior. In 2017, it was and remains well known that the animal in the kennel tells you nothing about the animal other than how s/he reacts to extreme fear and stress.
Despite heroic attempts on the part of community members who lined up not one, but two rescues (Kate's and Rocket Dog Rescue) in the 24 hours PHS gave them before the dog was to be euthanized - staff proceeded to describe the dog as so dangerous and aggressive that both rescues opted not to take him. PACC is all too familiar with these colorful descriptions of "vicious and dangerous dogs". We have adopted many dogs described this way, to avoid them being euthanized, and they have been anything but. This dog was euthanized on Jan 4, 2018. While a photo is not available (the one in the records is indiscernible), his memory lives on in our hearts. Like too many others, he died a premature death under Peninsula Humane Society's "care".
Sandy - Euthanized
2017 - Sandy had the unfortunate experience of failing the outdated and largely invalid behavior tests currently in use at the Coyote Point shelter, and sadly was euthanized. This fabulous boy, like virtually all of the dogs at Coyote Point was terrified in the shelter environment. He initially exhibited the extremely common, largely shelter induced, behaviors of being reactive to dogs on leash and food guarding. In just one week's time of volunteers working with Sandy (totaling only a few hours) he showed astronomical improvement. But just as he was beginning to adjust to shelter life, that life was ended. Sandy never got the chance to show what he's like when not terrified, meeting a fate that too many Coyote Point dogs meet under Peninsula Humane Society's outdated sheltering model.
Luna - Slated for Euthanasia
2018 - Luna came to the Coyote Point shelter as a stray but it was suspected she was surrendered by her owner because she did not get along well with the owner’s other dogs. Luna was determined to be unadoptable because she exhibited the extremely common behavior of acting badly on leash (despite being a model dog on leash, outside of Coyote Point).
While Luna demonstrated an ability to get along great with big male dogs she was not great with some female dogs, hence was slated for euthanasia. Companions in Waiting, a local rescue, took her in understanding not every dog needs to get along with every other dog, and that in the modern age, this is no longer grounds for ending an otherwise incredible dog’s life. CIW found Luna a fabulous home where she is the cherished “one and only” dog in the family.
Tyson - Slated for Euthanasia
2021 - Sandra Spurlock, prior to becoming a PACC Board Member, came upon Tyson wandering through traffic on Airport Blvd in SSF. She opened her door and he jumped right in. He was very well behaved, sweet and well cared for so she was sure he belonged to someone.
Being a previous volunteer, Sandra took Tyson to PHS, hoping to reunite him with his owner. Tyson went up for behavioral evaluation on a Friday. Sandra was told that same day that Tyson would be euthanized because he showed aggression towards other dogs. Sandra offered to take Tyson but PHS refused. She was told to find a rescue who would take him or he would be euthanized on Monday. The reason given for the rush job being "space" when in fact PACC Board members knew first hand there was plenty of space at Coyote Point as we had recently toured the building and witnessed rows of empty kennels.
Three rescues expressed interest in taking Tyson. However, when PHS staff described how "vicious and dangerous" he was, two out of the three rescues declined. Happily CARES rescue, familiar with PHS "evaluations" agreed to save his life. When CARES asked for Tyson's behavioral assessment they were told it couldn't be found. They then asked to have their behaviorist see him and they were told no. We understand both of those responses to be illegal under Hayden's Law that requires shelters to cooperate with rescues to reduce euthanasia. Tyson recently found his forever home thanks to the amazing work of Miranda's Rescue who adopted him into a loving home where he is the one and only cherished animal companion.
Peninsula Humane Society staff, making life and death decisions about the animals, are stuck in a past when every dog had to get along with other dogs to be determined "adoptable". Dogs that do not do well with other dogs are extremely common, and this is no longer grounds for a death sentence. Rescues regularly safely place animals that need to be "the only pet in the home" with responsible families who love them and receive untold amounts of love back.
Smokey - Slated for Euthanasia
2021 - Smokey had the unfortunate experience of landing at the Coyote Point shelter multiple times as his human consistently fell on hard times he couldn't get out from under. PACC had the pleasure of meeting Smokey at another shelter we volunteer at where he received excellent care despite struggling with shelter stress and we ultimately came to know and want to support his person. When we learned Smokey was at Peninsula Humane Society we immediately feared for his life and were not surprised to learn Smokey's euthanasia date had been set if the owner could not retrieve him, which sadly he was unable to do. Smokey's human gave PHS permission to release Smokey into PACC's care.
When we arrived to pick Smokey up, and asked the reason for euthanasia, we were given vague information with no paperwork to back it up, that Smokey had a "bite record". Given that PHS could provide zero context, and zero proof surrounding the purported bite, and knowing Smokey as well as we did, we elected to take him into our rescue. PHS refused to provide his records which a fellow animal advocate ultimately secured through the Freedom of Information Act. PACC remains highly skeptical of the purported "bite" given the records reveal that the individual claiming the bite, seemingly in a passing comment in the records, was doing everything she could to take Smokey from his original owner and keep him for her own. Not surprising as he is a fantastic, easy going, people and dog friendly dog. Predictably, PHS staff proceeded to describe Smokey as too dangerous to get out of the kennel without an elaborate plan to force him into a crate and deliver him to us that way (highly stressful and inhumane). We offered to get Smokey out of the kennel ourselves, and he sat quietly for a treat as we leashed him up and uneventfully exited the building.
Smokey's history was shared with the 4 families vying to adopt him, and none were concerned about what was shared in the records. To err on the side of caution, he was adopted to an adult only household, and has a new bestie in the form of Princess the resident dogess.
When will PHS staff, responsible for making life and death decisions, accept that their behavioral evaluation methods are outdated, invalid and inhumane? How many more family friendly dogs (and cats) have to die in PHS's care, for there to be change?
Kemba - Slated for Euthanasia
Kemba after 4 days at PHS
Kemba recovering from PHS
2022 - Kemba's human surrendered him to Peninsula Humane Society hoping for a better life for the dog she loves but didn't feel like she could adequately care for. Using the Freedom of Information Act she obtained Kemba's records, which along with her experience and PACCs interventions, are summarized below:
1/20/22, 11:21 Kemba was described as friendly on intake. The kind staff member behind the desk, and the nice new Coyote Point shelter gave his human confidence Kemba's future was bright. The records describe Kemba in the lobby, greeting multiple people, including a woman with a stroller, politely with no jumping.
1/21/22, 13:03 ~24 hours later Kemba was noted as acting aggressively [low growling and lunging] in the kennel.
1/22/22, 08:59 less than 48 hours total, the notes indicate "this dog is not safe to take out of the kennel and will be PTS [put to sleep] at the end of his hold".
Kemba was given no time to acclimate to the terrifying environment, nor was he ever evaluated outside of the kennel (it is well known in the animal welfare world that the dog in the kennel tells you nothing about the dog other than how s/he reacts to extreme fear and stress).
Kemba's human, on the advice of community members familiar with PHS practices, regularly called to check on his well being. When she learned PHS planned to euthanize Kemba she demanded him back. Kemba was neutered and reclaimed on 1/24/22 14:16 - in terrible condition. In just 4 days, he had lost considerable weight, was despondent, would not eat or drink, and was vomiting, coughing and drooling. Hoping this was just kennel cough and the effects of the neuter, she and PACC watched his condition closely, which deteriorated over the next several hours. PACC recommended she take Kemba to an Emergency Vet, provided her a referral, and allayed her fears about money assuring we would pay the bill (for those of you who have adopted from or donated to PACC, know you contributed to Kemba's well being).
The ER vet and staff handled Kemba absent sedation as they did not find him aggressive. He was diagnosed with kennel cough and aspiration pneumonia. She was told that had she waited any longer to bring Kemba in, he would likely have had to be hospitalized.
Kemba arrived at PHS a slightly pudgy, playful and yes, rambunctious, 1 yr old puppy. Notes of his friendliness in the lobby were lost on staff who immediately labeled him unadoptable and unsafe to get out of the kennel (PACC is familiar with these colorful descriptions of kennel behavior - see Smokey's story for a recent example and Kona's story for a less recent example - this has been going on for a long time).
Had Kemba been killed, he would not be counted in PHS's "100% of healthy and adoptable animals are rehomed" since he was deemed "unadoptable". Kemba's human confirmed verbally with PHS staff that to be neutered, he was removed from the kennel prior to sedation. In other words, staff safely removed him from the kennel to escort him to surgery. He was again safely removed from the kennel, as witnessed by his human, when she came to reclaim him - only this staff member added a pat to his head for being such a good boy.
PACC met Kemba the day after he came home. He was a shivering, shaking, clearly unwell, shy but friendly dog.
Kemba's tail remained firmly tucked between his legs for several days.
Concerns about the inhumane treatment and premature death of animals in PHS's care have been raised extensively with the County Manager (Mike Callagy), San Mateo County Staff (Lori Morton-Faezell who happens to be a former PHS employee, now tasked with providing oversight), the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors (Warren Slocum, Dave Pine, Carole Groom, David Canepa and Don Horsley), City managers who oversee each city's contributions to the county contract (too many to list here but we have reached out to all 20), PHS Leadership (previously Ken White, presently Anthony Tansimore) and the PHS Board, who staff assure us have no interest in meeting with us - and attempts to reach them directly thus far prove that to be true (Ian Parker, Carter Beim, Vanessa Getty, Nicole Lacob, Ross Berman, Amanda Brown Chang, Ken Goldman, Hillary Thomas).
That is A LOT OF DEAF EARS. None among these individuals have shown the magnitude of concern warranted, yet that many of you share alongside us. What is it going to take to put the HUMANE back in Peninsula Humane Society?
Fluffy - Euthanized
2022 - Fluffy will sound familiar to the NextDoor animal advocates who raised alarms about this abandoned dog in Redwood City (4/30/22) as they rightfully worried about his fate should he land at PHS. A community member, deeply disturbed by the speed of Fluffy's death, used the Public Records Act to obtain PHS records which community members are encouraged to read and come to your own conclusions about whether Fluffy received the care and outcome you would hope for from the local "shelter," we as taxpayers pay $6.6M a year to operate.
The records reveal: PHS "rescued" this abandoned, malnourished, FRIENDLY dog, chained to a tree. 7 days later, the same staff who's evaluations have proven over and over again to be wildly inaccurate, issued a death sentence; and a total of 9 days later Fluffy was killed. Why? For reacting badly to some, but not all, of the dogs he was introduced to while afflicted with what the vet records describe as a "grossly swollen muzzle" and for guarding his food.
It might be obvious to you, that a highly stressed dog with a grossly swollen muzzle, might react badly to meeting unknown dogs shortly after entering a terrifying, high-security prison environment; and it might be equally obvious that a dog chained to a tree for an indeterminate amount of time and in a malnourished and underweight state, might be protective of the meal in front of him.
What might be less obvious, is that this would result in immediate death (Mothers Day, 5/8/22) - despite community members rallying support being told Fluffy had until Monday, 5/9 and the records indicating a FRIENDLY dog, tolerant of invasive handling and able to sniff puppies and small reactive dogs uneventfully.
Questions you might be asking alongside us: Why not give vet staff time to treat his ailing muzzle before insisting he meet other dogs, which the records indicate he was reluctant to do, but was forced nonetheless. Why not compassionately assure him food is no longer scarce before overgeneralizing that he is a serial food guarder? Why not, once the stray-hold is up, get Fluffy out of the kennel to destress through play and fun to begin to assess his true temperament? Why not reach out to rescues? And ultimately, if you stand by your outdated and invalid behavior assessment methods, why not give Fluffy a chance at finding an adult only, single pet home as most other shelters and rescues do?
Fluffly's death will not be counted in PHS's routine claim that "100% of healthy and adoptable animals are rehomed" because PHS simply deems animals unadoptable thus does not include them in this misleading marketing tactic.
Link to Fluffy's Records
Rhett - 8 mos old puppy sentenced to death
2022 - At the risk of repeating a very similar story, over and over and over, PACC received a call from a good samaritan who found two wildly friendly (and starving) husky puppies wandering on Montara Mountain. Given the pups were emaciated and had no identification, this person did what any kind and compassionate human would do - he took them home and began the search for who they might belong to. He held them for 48 hours (personal circumstances not allowing him to hold them any longer) and then took them to our local humane society, trusting PHS's tagline that "100% of healthy and adoptable animals are rehomed". The good samaritan happened to cross paths with Companions in Waiting rescue and was warned the puppies were NOT safe at PHS. CIW urged the good samaritan to keep calling PHS about the pups and to contact PACC.
Those of you familiar with this story know all too well, even the most family friendly dogs (and cats) are NOT safe at PHS. The same staff who's evaluations are deeply disturbing in the degree to which they are off - deemed this super friendly puppy "unadoptable".
Why? Because he reacted badly to dogs he was "tested with", and showed signs of food guarding.
It might be obvious to you that dogs (or in this case 8 month old puppies️) having had to fend for themselves for what appears to be a considerable amount of time, might instinctively demonstrate they can take care of themselves around other strange dogs in the high security prison environment perpetuated by PHS at the Coyote Point shelter - and it might be equally obvious that having been stray for long enough to become emaciated, they might initially be protective of food. What is less obvious is this would result in a death sentence.
PACC asked to be notified if for any reason these pups were going to be killed. We were informed that Rhett would be put down (his sister did better on the "tests" and went up for adoption). Our own Holly Smallie immediately posted for fosters and thankfully Norma and Tim stepped up. As fosters, they report a lot of fun and laughs with Rhett. Rhett is essentially a puppy, doing puppy-like things.
PACC continues to call for the individuals conducting PHS evaluations to be reassigned (some would say let go). Had it not been for the interventions outlined above, Rhett would have been quietly killed at the Coyote Point shelter...and would not be reflected in PHS's "100%".
As one community member said on meeting Rhett, while he romped with their dog - "It takes a certain kind of sick to kill a dog like this".
Grizzly - Slated for Euthanasia
Grizzly was brought to the Coyote Point shelter by a concerned citizen at just a few days old - he weighed only a few ounces and his eyes were not yet open. He had been found trying to nurse on his dead mother. Word in the neighborhood was that someone had been trying to poison cats, and his mom had succumbed. Due to his young age and low risk of survival, he was slated for euthanasia.
A local rescue group, working hard to further the no-kill movement in the Bay Area, stepped in. Grizzly was small but latched onto the bottle immediately and luckily, after being kept warm and fed every 2-4 hours through the night, began to grow. As he got older, volunteers noticed he would shake when he walked. The vet informed the volunteers that there was nothing they could do - he was trying to walk, putting on weight, and able to feed himself. Just wait and see.
Grizzly was fostered by a dedicated family who nurtured him every day, making sure he was encouraged to do everything a growing kitten should do: play, sleep and eat! As he grew stronger, the shaking began to lessen, finally to the point that now you'd never know he'd had such a rough start at life. While we'll never know if his shaking was residual poison or just a developmental delay, he is a happy and healthy young cat who was adopted into a loving family.
Tulip - Slated for Euthanasia
Tulip was a senior girl who lived by her own rules. Cantankerous when she felt like it, she could be equally loving to those who took the time to get to know her. So, when a local rescue organization was contacted by the Coyote Point shelter and told her time was up, they knew they had to act quickly.
Tulip had a long and rough life on the streets before being picked up by Animal Control, underweight and grumpy, she never warmed up in the stressed shelter environment. Once the rescue took her in, she had extensive dental work. Her poor teeth, and the fact that they discovered several old bullets in her body, may have contributed to her grumpiness. But once Tulip realized she was in her forever home where she could be herself, she thrived. Tulip has since passed on due to old age, but she did so with a loving adopter by her side.
Momma & 5 Kittens - Slated for Euthanasia
Momma was brought to the Coyote Point shelter along with her five newborn kittens. The person who brought them in had to bring Momma in a humane trap, since they were not able to handle her. The shelter quickly realized that she was feral, and per Peninsula Humane Society policy, Momma and her five babies were slated for euthanasia. A local rescue organization stepped in and took all six cats.
Momma was given a safe space to nurse her kittens, and once they were weaned, she was given her shots, spayed, micro-chipped, ear-tipped, and released back to her neighborhood to live out her natural life, healthy and with no more pregnancies. The five babies went to foster families, and were all adopted into forever homes.
Joey & Middy - Slated for Euthanasia
Joey and Middy were brothers. They were with their caretaker in her mobile home in Half Moon Bay from the time they were puppies until she passed away when they were 10 years old. It was a very quiet home. The boys were by themselves in the home for several days with their deceased caretaker before being taken to the Coyote Point Shelter. Coyote Point is a very noisy, stressful shelter. The brothers were older and each had a significant heart murmur which had not affected them. The boys were deemed unadoptable and aggressive and were set to be euthanized. Some of their caretakers' neighbors learned what the shelter planned to do and worked to rescue them. One of the neighbors adopted Middy and in due time Companions In Waiting found the perfect family for Joey. The boys have passed away now but both had 2+ wonderful years in loving homes.