September 27, 2010

About Sunday's Call for Truth & Transparency

We believe it is not only our right but our responsiblity to ask for Truth &Transparency from the top officials of the San Diego Humane Society.

Yet -- we are also aware that many concerned folks who would like to join us are also afraid their participation could trigger repercussions for them or their group.

Therefore, we suggest participants wear dog (or other animal) masks to represent all the dogs who have no voice to defend themselves or tell their stories.

The wearing of masks also symbolizes the risk in speaking out to this SDHS adminstration.

Anonymous participation is most definitely encouraged. Our individual identities don't matter. What does matter is our collective courage to ask questions.

We ask questions to advocate change. If we chose to remain silent while animals die change will not occur. Animals live in our world, we do not live in their world; it is up to us-

(Please note: although they are next door to each other, this gathering does not apply to the Animal Shelter in any way. We are strong supporters of the Department of Animal Services, who try to work miracles on limited funding and space.)

September 25, 2010


We are calling for answers to questions that have been raised by the investigative news coverage (10 News and the San Diego Union-Tribune) of the San Diego Humane Society as well as in a letter signed by 11 former members of the Board of Trustees.

We acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the employees and volunteers of the SD Humane Society. We acknowledge the Society's important and long-standing place in the San Diego animal welfare community.

However the San Diego Humane Society is a private, non-profit organization, which has no affiliation with any other local or national humane society or SPCA. It is not connected in any way to the Humane Society of the United States or the ASPCA. It answers to no one but the San Diego public who maintains it with donations and the groups who fund it with grants. The San Diego Humane Society received approximately $10 million  in donations in 2009 -- more than all the other private groups combined (see letter from Board posted on this site). If this money is not going to save our animals, then where is it?

We believe it is important that no one is above public disclosure and scrutiny, especially a non-profit that exists through the generosity of our citizens and that deals with the lives of our animal companions. When the Society responds that it is a private matter that a sexual harassment and discrimination suit was settled with Society funds -- when the Society says it is a private matter what the executives are being paid, we disagree.

On behalf of the animal community, we ask for answers to the troubling questions raised in these investigations.

September 22, 2010

In response to the investigations of the San Diego Humane Society by Channel 10 News and the SD Union-Tribune and the courage of rescues, volunteers and former SDHS Board Members for speaking out, we issue:


1 PM - 3 PM

on the sidewalk in front of the
San Diego Humane Society
5500 Gaines St., San Diego

Please forward to all who care about San Diego County's animal community.
Dogs welcome. Masks welcome.
Bring signs, water and umbrellas for shade.
Sign suggestions:

Why was euthanasia not ended by 2005, as promised?

Why are most of your animals not on public view?

Where is your low-cost spay and neuter program?

Why do behavior tests sentence so many dogs to death?

Where do the millions in donations go?

What are executives paid?

Did SDHS donations pay for the 
sexual harassment/discrimination suit ?

Please don't park in the Humane Society parking lot. There is street parking available nearby. The Morena/Linda Vista Green Line trolley stop is about 2 1/2 blocks away. It is only 3 minutes from the Old Town Trolley Center.

SDHS Accused of Unnecessary Euthanisia

Ex-Volunteers: Humane Society Euthanizes Treatable Animals

SD Humane Society Says All Animals Go Through Behavioral Assessment

POSTED: 6:09 pm PDT September 21, 2010 UPDATED: 7:34 pm PDT September 21, 2010

SAN DIEGO -- Former volunteers at the San Diego Humane Society said the organization has been euthanizing treatable animals. The volunteers claimed the Humane Society is killing adoptable animals while taking money on the promise of saving them.

"I can tell you without a doubt, I've never done one where it didn't hurt, but it didn't mean it wasn't right," San Diego Humane President Dr. Mark Goldstein said when asked about the allegations.  Last year, Goldstein signed off on 510 cases of euthanasia. He said every one of those animals went through a behavioral assessment. "Its probably one of the most controversial parts of what we do," Goldstein said. "The question becomes can you predict what you see here to the future of going home."

San Diego Humane said it does not euthanize any treatable or adoptable animals at its facilities. The organization once had the goal of eliminating all euthanizing of treatable and adoptable animals in the county by 2005. That goal has now been pushed back to 2020.
Goldstein said San Diego Humane will continue using behavioral assessments to determine which animals are treatable and adoptable.

"Is it an art? Absolutely," Goldstein said. "Are we going to be doing it differently in 10 years then we do today? No doubt."
"Do you ever get it wrong?" investigative reporter Mitch Blacher asked.
"I don't think anything in life is always perfect," Goldstein answered.

Former Humane Society volunteers told 10News the behavioral assessment is far from perfect.
"Are there any animals you can think of that didn't deserve to die?" Blacher asked former volunteer Elizabeth Willes.

"Oh, yes, a number of them," Willes said. "We cannot figure out what they are doing to these dogs, whether they're lying or the dog is just so scared of the environment, but clearly there is something wrong there."

Since leaving the Humane Society, Willes joined a group called Saving Pets One at A Time, or SPOT. The group rescues dogs set to die in county shelters, including animals from the Humane Society.

Six months ago, SPOT saved a black lab named Hank.

"He failed his behavioral assessment," Willes said. "The person doing it found his behavior threatening."

The San Diego Humane Society said Hank was "unsafe to hug because of threatening behavior." They also said he "is subtle in his threats and that those threats are unrecognizable by the average public."
Hank is one of more than 100 animals who now have a home because of SPOT.

"None of these dogs have attacked anybody?" Blacher asked

"No," Willes said.

San Diego Humane found homes for 2,332 animals last year and said it served more than 38,000 animals.
"I don't believe I've ever taken the life of an animal, even here, that wasn't necessary," Goldstein said.

Goldstein said his first priority is protecting the public from dangerous animals.

The following is a statement from San Diego Humane Society regarding Behavioral Assessment Policy:

Every dog that comes to SDHS is given a behavior assessment as one part of an overall understanding of the dog's background and nature. Detailed owner history, medical history, staff and volunteer interaction notes, along with many other variables, are all taken into consideration. From a behavior assessment standpoint, we have trained staff who has been conducting these assessments for many years. The field of behavior assessment continues to mature as we all learn more. As an example, our organization recently hosted a behavior summit where we brought together some of the leading experts in the field. We hosted board-certified veterinary behavior experts including both American and European Diplomats, to share knowledge in a think-tank environment. These discussions are continuing this week in Germany, and continue to keep our organization on the leading edge of this practice.

As has been conveyed regarding the complex issues of behavior assessment, dogs are not categorized as "pass" or "fail," but rather observations gathered around this process help our staff put dogs into a category of definitions defined collectively by the San Diego Animal Welfare Coalition. These categories include "Healthy" "Treatable/Manageable," "Treatable/Rehabilitatable" or "Unhealthy."

Following the assessment and accumulation of observations and additional information, some dogs may fall into the "unhealthy" category. There are several options for dogs that fall into this category:
1) They can be returned to their owner, should the owner be interested in reclaiming the animal, with a suggested plan for behavioral follow-up;
2) We may solicit the assistance of one of our many adoption partners who we feel would benefit the animal or provide beneficial assistance in this process;
3) Depending on individual situations, other options may be considered that may benefit the animal and will still support this organization's goals of ensuring public safety and the animal's quality of life;
4) If the Hayden Act applies to the dog's situation, it can be released to a 501(c)3 if this 501(c)3 is interested in receiving the animal;
5) Or, if none of the above is a viable alternative or appropriate, the animal is further evaluated for possible euthanasia, which includes the gathering of several signatures before a final decision is made and any action taken.

In all instances where "Unhealthy/Untreatable" animals are involved, these cases are handled in a manner which ensures public safety, considers the animal's well being, and follows the law.

September 21, 2010

Letter to SDHS From 11 Former Trustees

September 17, 2010

Board of Trustees-San Diego Humane Society and SPCA

Dear Board of Trustees:

The purpose of this letter is to remind the Board of Trustees that the SDHS has accepted

donations from members of the public, promising to end suffering, and promote the adoption of pets

taken into their care. The signatories to this letter are all former members of the Board of Trustees of the

SDHS, who have all made significant contributions and donations to this organization over the last 25

years. Each has resigned due to frustration encountered when urging the Board and current management

to focus on the commitments made to the public and to the animals of this community. The Board of

Trustees must fulfill its fiduciary duty to address these issues and must do so publicly in an open and

transparent manner. More specifically, the following issues and questions must be answered:

􀂾 What Happened To The Goal of Ending Euthanasia by 2005?: : Why did SDHS fail to meet its

commitment of taking responsibility to meet the County Board of Supervisor’s goal to end

unnecessary animal euthanasia throughout the county within five years (i.e. by 2005) when millions

of dollars was solicited from the public to build the Gaines St. complex with that very goal in mind?

• In 2000, the SDHS distributed Partners for Life as part of a $21 million fundraising campaign for

the new San Diego Animal Welfare Complex in which it promised to meet this goal by 2005.

However in 2007, according to the only data made available to the public, approximately 2,500

animals were unnecessarily euthanized in San Diego County and by 2009 this number had

doubled to more than 5,000.

􀂾 SDHS’s Role in saving animals: Why does the SDHS play such a small role in helping save

animals in San Diego County while it takes in the majority of the funds donated to private animal

welfare organizations? What is the SDHS doing with the donor’s money?

• In 2009, the SDHS handled less than 10% of animal intake and adoptions in San Diego County

notwithstanding the fact it received more than $10 million in donated money-- which we believe

is an amount that is significantly more than the money donated to all of the other private animal

welfare organizations in San Diego County combined. The public deserves to know what the

money they give is being spent on.

• Adoptions at the SDHS in 2009 (2,332) were less than in 2002 (2,633) and in 1999 (3,529),

before the new Animal Welfare Complex was built, and notwithstanding an annual operating

budget that increased from under $3.7 million to more than $10 million during that time. During

this same period, the SDHS’s endowment almost doubled to $24 million. Other organizations do

significantly more with significantly less. For example, Lab Rescuers, found homes for 600 dogs

in 2009 on a budget of about $300,000. In 2009, the SDHS found homes for just over 1,000


􀂾 Unnecessary Euthanasia: Overpopulation is the principal challenge to eliminate unnecessary killing

of animals in this county. What is the SDHS doing to address this issue? Why doesn’t the SDHS

offer a low cost spay/neuter program for low-income families?

• Virtually every Humane Society in the United States offers spay/neuter programs to help reduce

the number of unwanted animals.

• In October 2007, the SDHS and certain other animal welfare organizations announced the

formation of the San Diego Animal Welfare Coalition. The goal was to eliminate the euthanasia

of healthy, treatable and manageable animals in San Diego County. However, two years later

(2009), the number of unwanted animals increased to about 50,000 animals, and the euthanasia of

manageable and treatable animals more than doubled to more than 5,000.

􀂾 Why isn’t SDHS Helping Eliminate Unnecessary Euthanasia on The Campus they Share with

DAS-Central?: The SDHS claims it hasn’t euthanized a healthy, treatable or manageable pet in its

facility in more than nine years. However, since 2003, DAS-Central (which shares the San Diego

Animal Welfare Complex on Gaines Street with the SDHS) has had to unnecessarily euthanize

approximately 5,000 treatable and manageable animals.

It's very telling that more than 10 people have recently resigned from the SDHS’s Board of

Trustees, because of their frustration with the organizations' unwillingness to meet its goals and end the

suffering of the animals in San Diego County. We collectively have chosen to support nonprofit

organizations that truly care about ending the suffering of our homeless pet population.

What the SDHS does best is to raise money by tugging at the heartstrings of the public. When

one compares its promises to its success, it is clear that the SDHS is only interested in securing public

donations; the necessary programs have not been implemented to achieve the goals promised. It’s a sad

refrain from what many considered to be a fine organization. The current Board of Trustees of the

SDHS has a fiduciary duty to address these issues, and we ask that you do so publicly, in an open and

transparent manner.


Marilyn Anderson

Elizabeth Davidson

Ron Goldman

Betsy Hilyer (Life Member)

Suzanne Koch

Bonnie Kutch

Michael Luther

Jeff Lyle

Gail McDonnell

Nancy Vaughan

Lori M Walton

Investigation of SD Humane Society

From the Union-Tribune Monday, Sept. 20, 2010
Critics say shelter broke vow to put down fewer animals

Former board members say the focus should be on more adoptions

By Tanya Sierra

When soliciting money to build a $21 million animal shelter in Mission Valley, fundraisers touted an ambitious goal for donors — to end euthanasia of treatable pets in the county by 2005.

Not only was that goal not met, but the number of treatable animals put down since 2004 has more than tripled.

The issue is one of many causing a rift among supporters of the San Diego Humane Society, as 11 former board members sent a letter last week to the current management calling the failure a broken promise and demanding more animals be saved.

Mark Goldstein, the veterinarian in charge of the humane society, said there is a new goal to end euthanasia of adoptable and treatable pets by 2020. He said the 2005 goal was admirable, but was set by a broader coalition of county and other officials and was not something his society had control over.

“The document was a compilation of an assortment of dreams, visions and aspirations,” he said of the primary fundraising prospectus. “We all had an opportunity to have our say.”

The shelter built thanks to the fundraising campaign is undoubtedly pleasant for the pets who end up there. They live in custom-decorated rooms with art on the walls, furniture to seem homey and soothing ambient sounds. The design is feng shui, with fountains.

Although the facility is larger than the old one, it fits the same number of pets because each one has more spacious accommodations.
Disaffected former board members say the atmosphere hides unpleasant facts about the society’s practices — in particular, that an unforgiving test is used to determine animals’ fates. More fail than necessary, resulting in higher euthanasia rates, they claim.

They say not enough animals are saved through adoption — a charge humane society officials reject, saying their efforts are based on quality more than quantity.
Jeff Lyle, who was on the board from 2002 to 2008, said the humane society is a powerful influence in the county and should not mislead the public about its impact.

“If the humane society wants to run a relatively small organization, that’s fine,” Lyle said. “They should tell the public this is what our role is: ‘We’re running the Four Seasons of animal welfare.’”

The humane society is not the main driver behind euthanasia statistics, as the neighboring county Animal Services facility takes more animals and puts more down. The county handles about 27,000 animals a year, eight times as many as the humane society. However, critics say the humane society should save more from the county process.

They say they county’s euthanasia trends are disturbing given that the humane shelter was built on the promise of putting fewer to sleep.
Donor Nancy Vaughn, who spent 25 years working with or on the humane society board, said she is stunned Goldstein would deny responsibility for the 2005 goal promoted during fundraising.
“He personally met with big donors and utilized the literature in soliciting millions of dollars,” she said.

Mike Luther, who served on the board from 2004 to 2008, said the humane society was supposed to reach the 2005 goal through low-cost adoption, its new larger facility, and through spaying and neutering.

In their letter on Friday, the former board members expressed concern that the Humane Society has taken in millions in donations to promote pet adoption but plays a small role in helping save animals.

They complain other organizations do more with a smaller budget and staff.
Humane society statistics show the facility took in 3,273 animals last year. Of those, 2,332 were adopted and 510 unhealthy and untreatable animals were put down. Remaining animals were sent to other shelters, died on their own or are still at the society.
Former board members say they don’t understand how an organization with such a large budget, with 148 staff including seven veterinarians and 853 volunteers can only adopt out 2,332 animals.

One reason the humane society deals with so few animals compared to the county is because they don’t take in strays. They strictly deal with owner-relinquished-pets.

“It’s about quality, not quantity,” Goldstein said. “We are role modeling.”
Goldstein and current board President Fred Baranowski say their organization does not simply focus on adopting out pets.

“It’s not bang them in and bang them out,” Baranowski said “The education component is big here.”

The humane society offers a number of classes and community outreach programs that aim to strengthen the human-animal bond and teach children that pets feel pain and require food, water, attention and love.

Test questioned

Every dog and cat that goes through the shelter is subjected to a battery of behavior assessment tests in which their temperament is gauged. Dogs are poked with a dummy hand while eating food, to test reaction. An infant doll is introduced to it as well, and behavior is analyzed around cats.

Critics say the test is outdated, and that puppies and docile breeds don’t need the assessment.

“They do the behavior assessment in a manner that causes the animal to fail the assessment,” said Elaine Godzak, a former humane society volunteer. “They fail the animal for bogus reasons so they can euthanize an animal that is ‘untreatable.’ The public would rather see pretty lies like that, rather than the ugly truth.”

Goldstein says the accusations are hurtful and untrue. He says the tests are necessary and are done to protect the public. He scoffs at the idea that he should not test every animal, saying he has a responsibility for the safety of the families who adopt his dogs.

“How would you feel if a dog you adopted was not tested?” he asked.

Goldstein admits the humane society is an expensive and luxurious operation, but he says it is run in good conscience with high standard to create an environment that will produce good pets as well as good owners.

“Measuring ourselves just by output is selling ourselves short,” he said.

September 14, 2010

Breaking News on SD Humane Society

San Diego Humane Society to cancel contract with Oceanside

By The Associated Press,
Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 7:07 a.m.

OCEANSIDE, Calif. — The San Diego Humane Society said it will not renew its animal control contract with the city of Oceanside next month because the agency has been criticized for euthanizing animals that could be saved.

The Humane Society's contract expires at the end of October, leaving the city with no way to pick up and care for stray animals.

The agency on Monday notified city officials of the decision via e-mail. Humane Society President Mark Goldstein said the criticism from some former volunteers about its actions was a distraction.

Goldstein said he's willing to work with Oceanside during a six-month transition period if needed.

Information from: North County Times,

Humane Society Won't Renew Oceanside Contract

POSTED: 4:53 pm PDT September 14, 2010
UPDATED: 9:12 pm PDT September 14, 2010

OCEANSIDE, Calif. -- Thousands of stray animals from Oceanside will no longer be welcome at the San Diego Humane Society's north campus because Oceanside's contract for animal control services has been canceled.

The canceling of the contract by the San Diego Humane Society came as a shock to Oceanside city leaders. Since the 1960s, the city's stray animals have been brought to the shelter.

The San Diego Humane Society took over shelter operations in January and with that took over the contract negotiations for Oceanside's animal control services.

"We thought the negotiations were going fine," said Oceanside city real estate manager Douglas Eddow until he received an e-mail from San Diego Humane Society Director Dr. Mark Goldstein.

"They indicated that they wanted to pursue what they normally do as a humane society and they thought it would be a little more difficult if they continue the animal control animal sheltering services for Oceanside," said Eddow.

In recent months, the San Diego Humane Society has been under fire by animal rescue groups who have called into question the nonprofit's policies, especially how many animals they euthanize.

Kris Nelson, a former volunteer, has since formed an Oceanside-based rescue group.

"Was the money coming in from the $700,000 dollars contract enough to put up with the disruption? People asking questions about his operation? He's not used to that," said Nelson.

The director of San Diego’s Humane Society was unavailable for an interview but in a written statement to 10News, the human society said the change is an effort to focus on their "core services and education programs" and that "we believe we can have an even greater positive impact on the animals and Oceanside community."

The contract is set to expire October 31 but the animals' future remains uncertain.

"It means that the strays will be running in the streets," said Nelson.

The humane society has promised a transition period.

"We need to negotiate the terms of that six-month extension to transition," said Eddow.

Nelson has already been out searching for a new shelter facility alternative and said she remains hopeful.
"There are lots of things we can do that San Diego Humane refuses to because it does not bring in money," said Nelson. "We want to do things to help the animals. We want to be a true humane society and we can do it."
The San Diego Humane Society also contracts with the city of Vista for its animal control services, which they plan to continue


September 09, 2010

Another Dead Orca at San Diego SeaWorld

Another orca just died at SeaWorld San Diego—this time a young orca named Sumar. I'm hoping that you can take some time this Saturday to join the nationwide day of action to stop SeaWorld's cruelty to animals.

Believe it or not, Sumar was the son of Taima, who died at SeaWorld this summer, and he was fathered by Tilikum, who killed a SeaWorld trainer earlier this year! How many people and animals must die before SeaWorld stops holding animals captive?

We're coordinating protests outside SeaWorld locations across the country this Saturday, and it would mean so much if you could join your local community members in speaking up for captive animals. We must send a clear message to SeaWorld that these tragedies need to end and that life in a concrete tank is no life at all for these wild animals!
What: Day of Action Against SeaWorld
When: Saturday, September 11, 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Where: Outside SeaWorld, 500 SeaWorld Dr., San Diego (Please meet at the corner of SeaWorld Drive and Sea World Way.   Park in the first dirt parking lot on the right hand side of Mission Bay Parkway off of SeaWorld Drive here.)

All materials will be provided, so just bring yourself and anyone you can recruit to join you! For questions or to RSVP, contact me at and be sure to include in your e-mail the name of the city where the protest that you will be attending will be held. You can also RSVP on Facebook and help recruit more people to come out by inviting them to the event, cross-posting this message on Facebook and Twitter, and e-mailing everyone you know!