City and County of San Francisco

January 12, 2012

1. Call to Order and Roll Call
5:30 PM

Present Commissioners; Jack Aldridge DVM, Rebecca Katz -ACC, Philip Gerrie, Sally Stephens, Ryan Young, Susanna Russo, John Denny- SFPD, Pam Hemphill

Absent Commissioners; Geneva Page, Lisa Wayne – Rec & Park

2. General Public Comment

James Yorck – In June of 2010, four current Commissioners stood before the Rules Committee with a fact sheet that said there were 4 pet stores in SF that sell dogs. That was a lie. In a meeting in July of 2009, attended by Commissioners, Stephens, Hemphill, and Gerrie, Mr Gerrie stated that only one store in SF still sells dogs and that one store sells 60 to 70 dogs annually. So, the Commissioners knew the truth. Not four just one. That lie went from the Board to this Commission, next month printed along with copies of the minutes and agenda. No one mentioned the lie. Finally it hit the Examiner and was published becoming the truth. Why lie to the Supervisors and to the public? I have been coming here for a year and half. It appears most Commissioners care more about their political agenda than lowering the euthanasia rate. This Commission does not care about the truth. They care about getting what they want. If they continue they will be hypocrites and letting down the people of SF.

Public comment closed

3. Approval of Draft Minutes from the Nov. 10, 2011 Meeting

Public Comment

Richard Fong – Liked Comr. Denny’s comments about limiting how many times one can breed an animal in SF rather than focusing on puppy mill breeding outside of SF.
Breeding limits in SF would be enforceable by ACC.

James Yorck – Wants the number of pet stores in SF that sell dogs changed from four to one.

Public comment closed

Comr. Gerrie – Makes a motion to approve Minutes with change from the public.
Seconded by Comr. Aldridge

Comr. Young –The Minutes should reflect what is said rather than revising things. There should be a notation that there was a comment from the public that was an incorrect fact.

Comr. Aldridge – Tonight’s commentary will go into the Minutes and will serve as a correction for the misstatement.

Comr. Young – Rather than correcting it put a note in that there was a comment to correct it?

Comr. Gerrie – That is how I normally do it.

Comr. Stephens – Then let us vote to approve the minutes with notation of the correction from the audience.
Approved unanimously

4. Chairperson’s report and opening remarks

Comr. Stephens – The next Joint Zoo meeting will be Jan 26th at 5PM at the zoo.

No public comment

5. Old Business

A) Discussion and possible action to recommend to the Board that SF fund the development of a database of people who have abused, neglected, or mistreated an animal. This database could be used by shelters and rescue groups to screen potential adopters.

Comr. Stephens – We have talked about this before. We felt there was a need for a lot more information. A group of people have been working on this including Sandra Bernal who will give us a presentation on work that has been done.

Sandra – The database will be for rescue groups, non-profits, and city shelters. Anyone convicted of a felony misdemeanor of animal cruelty would automatically be included in the database. Owners of animals seized by ACC officers under California Penal Code section 597.1, due to abuse, neglect, or inadequate care. ACC can determine other 597.1 cases such as hoarders. Whether such cases are fully prosecuted or not. It can take up to a year for a prosecution, so, for the well being of the animal, we ask the person to surrender to us. Spoke with the rep. of the Animal Legal Defense fund, Stephan Otto, suggested legal issues should go through the City Attorney. Would like a Commissioner to approach a Supervisor to sponsor this so it could then go to the City Attorney. From then on, we can work on a budget. The database would include convictions as well as those already in ACC’s non-adopt database. Those convicted would be public, if the City approves, with their full name, their picture, the case number, description, and year of conviction. The non-public part would be for those not convicted. Their information would be limited to their full name, reason for being in the database, and year of the incident. Rescue groups could contact ACC for more info. If a person wants to protest being in the database, in some cases they can go through a program – such as when a person surrenders an animal multiple times. They could prove that they will no longer do that then be removed.

Comr. Stephens – The public part of the database would be for just those convicted?
And the non-public part would be of those where there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute or a hoarding situation? There would be some sort of filter for rescues to access?

Sandra – Yes. They would designate one person from each rescue. They would have to sign a form that they would only use that information in adopting out an animal.

Comr. Gerrie- Can you refresh my memory of what specific issues needed further study when you introduced this issue to us several months ago?

Sandra – The biggest issue was the concern for privacy. That is why Animal Legal Defense Fund suggested we go to the City Attorney since privacy laws vary from city to city.

Comr. Aldridge – Is any of this information available to the public right now?

Comr. Katz – A conviction is public record but not always easy to find. The problem is with those not convicted for whatever reason. Sometimes we don’t realize there is a problem until after the animal has been surrendered. We get calls from SPCA and rescues when they feel uneasy about a specific adopter. We will provide information. We don’t disclose our entire non-adopt list.

Comr. Aldridge – Has a disclosure ever been legally challenged by anyone?

Comr. Katz – No. Our non-adopt list is our own private list. It could use some cleaning up since we don’t always remove names of people that should no longer be on that list. For example the SPCA could call us about an individual and if we had any concerns about him. Our records might show that in 1995 there were 16 dogs in his house. The information is about him but only from notes from routine business documentation. We haven’t been challenged on that.

Comr. Aldridge – No one has accused you of slander so far?

Comr. Katz – No. We have had requests for names and addresses of all licensed dog owners in SF. We won’t provide that. We would provide info if someone asked if your dog was licensed.

Comr. Aldridge – Can you foresee crafting a procedure or a regulation that would be defensible that would include this group of people for disclosure? That gets into public versus semi-private.

Comr. Katz – That gets into need–to-know–right-to-know question. Whether rescue groups should have that right. Who should maintain that list? Should just a name be on that list? That might pass. What privacy rights people have gets complicated with how people feel about it, political will, as well as legal issues. On the other hand, studies show a link between animal abuse and other types of violence so there is a strong justification for it as far as convictions go.

Comr. Young – As to cost, could it be self-funded by those convicted?’

Sandra – A company is potentially ready to fund it as long as there are no legal questions about the database. That is why we need a City Attorney to draft it. The public one would be paid by convicted people. I will also be approaching private financing through the City with support from this Commission.

Comr. Katz – I have a different answer. The public convicted-funded part would potentially be for just part of this program. The database would include those not convicted. That ACC database would need to be sorted through as well as other databases from the SPCA and rescues. The task could become onerous. All that would need oversight within ACC.

Comr. Stephens – From a legal stand point, could you get private funding for a staff person’s job?

Comr. Katz – There’s lots of ways to get grant-funded positions in the City. The problem is if the grant is ongoing and sufficient. It is easier to get donors for rescuing and rehoming animals than maintaining a database.

Comr. Stephens – A few other places in the country have this type of database. Do you know how they were funded?

Sandra – They database only those who are convicted and the convicted pay for it.
The Supervisors would hopefully grant that budget to ACC.

Comr. Katz – If a Supervisor is willing to take this on, he will do a cost analysis as well as legal.

Comr. Young – Do you have any sense of what the cost is?

Sandra – No, this is larger than existing programs.

Comr. Gerrie – Are we asking the Supervisors for an ordinance to add to the Health Code?

Comr. Katz – A resolution would be non-binding and would not come with funding. The only way to get funding is with an ordinance.

Comr. Gerrie – So we are being asked if we are willing to find a sponsor on the Board?

Comr. Katz – Yes, we would be asking the Supervisors to create and fund a position at ACC to oversee and control a database of persons who would be on a non-adopt list which would be, in some form, available to rescue groups, and licensed breeders.

Comr. Gerrie – This job would be less than one full time position?

Comr. Katz – There would be more time needed to get it up and running but not as much to keep it going. It would be an as-needed position.

Comr. Gerrie – An as-needed position would cost how much?

Comr. Katz - Less than $25,000 annually.

Comr. Stephens – The point you are bringing to us is the need to resolve the legal issue for SF. We can’t determine that only the City Attorney can. If a Supervisor takes it on then they can ask the City Attorney to look into these issues which are about including persons that have not been convicted. You are asking our support to get that done.

Comr. Aldrdige – Is there something new about this proposal concerning those already convicted that doesn’t already exist? Is this information hard to find now that ought to be easier to find? The other part of this is including those not convicted.

Comr. Katz – There would be value to easily knowing who has already been convicted. The Board could direct the District Attorney’s office to maintain a list of animal abuse cases and convictions because it is hard for even ACC to know if a conviction has occurred. Having a place where that information is accessible would be helpful to rescues and breeders as well. Having a more detailed list would also be helpful but gets more complicated by where, who, and what.

Comr. Young – What percentage of cases are convictions?

Comr. Katz – Less than 25%. We haven’t even factored in cases from the vicious and dangerous dogs hearings.

Sandra – Also rescue groups know of individuals that treat an animal horribly. They don’t have a way to tell anyone else about these people.

Comr. Katz – Rescue groups do a lot of outreach and it is hard to expect them to call ACC for every adoption. An accessible database might make their work easier.

Comr. Stephens – It is simpler to access a password-protected web page than having to call ACC.

Comr. Katz -It also would be overwhelming to get a call for every animal adopted out from a rescue group.

Comr. Hemphill – What percentage come from out of rescue groups and SPCA rather than just appear – coming from out of the City or backyard breeders?

Comr. Katz – I don’t understand the question

Comr. Hemphill – Some animals don’t come through these channels that you can check on.

Comr. Katz – If there is a will to get an animal one can get one. All we can do is try and make sure it doesn’t happen through a rescue or a shelter. Officer Denny has authority to place an order on a person with a criminal conviction that he shall not own an animal yet there is no place to publically access that.

Comr. Denny – When I make that decision I type it into the database of ACC. Four things will show up under the person’s name. An incident occurred, a hearing was
requested and held, and a decision was made, all four will show up.

Comr. Stephens – The only ones that can look at it is you and ACC?

Comr. Katz – Yes. We can supply that information if requested.

Comr. Denny – I send the Statement of Decision, with proof-of-service, to the affected individual and to the person who brought the complaint and to the witnesses. If they are in violation, they are the ones who will contact us. The people directly involved will do the policing of that.

Comr. Katz – An outside group will not even think of checking unless you get a weird vibe from them. If you had a database, with easy access, you might key it up.

Comr. Aldridge – It would be a lot easier as a routine thing.

Comr. Stephens – That especially applies to rescue groups that are well established but not well staffed, especially at adoption fairs where there are a lot of people. SPCA is big enough and well staffed enough to take the time. It would benefit rescues to be able to pull up the data on their laptop and check.

Comr. Aldridge – Possibly someone that is not convicted would sign a disclaimer that their info would be public knowledge for the database. That is if that is legal as determined by the City Attorney.

Comr. Denny – What troubles me is if, for example, an unhappy wife calls ACC accusing her husband of beating the family dog. An investigation follows and the husband’s name goes on the non-adopt list. He then proceeds to sue the City.

Comr. Katz – There have been cases like that. We are hoping to only consider cases where there is enough evidence to cease and hold an animal.

Comr. Denny – That is not always clear. It is a noble endeavor but fraught with traps.

Comr. Young – Could there be an appeal process to get your name off of the list?

Comr. Katz – If you want to protest being on the list there is an administrative process. There is also a concern for clear criteria to be placed on the list. Not just an accusation of abuse but reliable evidence.

Comr. Gerrie - I was thinking of existing databases that the police or the TSA have when they can run a name or license #. This is on a different level but a similar need or right to know. A red flag could pop up if there was an accusation clouding a person’s right to an animal.

Comr. Stephens – Is there an advantage to not put specific information in the non-convicted database?

Sandra – One reason is that a person that is on the list can see why and can possibly contest it. Or they might participate in a yet-to-be program for animal abusers. Serious cases would definitely stay.

Comr. Hemphill – Are there existing rehab programs for domestic abusers?

Comr. Katz – There are programs in and outside the jails for those convicted of crimes of violence. Some animal abusers have entered the Stop the Violence Program. There are non-violence programs but not specifically for animal abusers.

Comr. Hemphill – Since violence against animals often leads to violence against humans it would be a good place to start.

Comr. Katz – Those convicted of violence are mandated to these programs. It would be impossible to mandate those not convicted. Our 597.1 process allows us to do a fair amount of humane education, in certain circumstances, before returning an animal to them. For example, we might cease animals in a hoarding or neglect case and place certain requirements before they can keep animals again.

Comr. Gerrie – This is an action item. Do we have a recommendation to act on?

Comr. Stephens – I make a motion that we recommend to the Board that they investigate setting up a two-tiered database. One for those convicted and the other for those with probable cause but not a conviction. The sponsoring Supervisor would probably have to talk to the City Attorney about including those not convicted.
Seconded by Comr. Gerrie

Comr. Hemphill – Is there a human equivalent to this database – someone that looks like they might commit a crime but hasn’t done so yet?

Comr. Katz – The TSA list or lists kept by Homeland Security.

Comr. Aldridge – Homeland Security can do what they want. In the human field anything else takes the risk of profiling. There are probably informal lists in police jurisdictions. In terms of lists available to the public, I doubt it.

Comr. Hemphill – The word ‘profiling’ is important. Is this profiling?

Comr. Young – The fact that we are including a City agency, ACC, that brings out the privacy issue.

Comr. Stephens – The reason to bring ACC into it is they have access to the information.

5 A) Public comment

Richard Fong – Would this database hinder the adoption process or promote profiling? What about cases where the information is sealed? Not in favor of the public having access to a citizen’s privacy.

James Yorck – Can the rescues put someone on the list?

Comr. Katz - Since they don’t do 597’s, probably not. Only ACC, DA’s office, or the police department.

James Yorck – So rescues are not empowered to place people on the list?

Comr. Katz – That’s right. They should call us.

James Yorck – What about pet stores also being notified? Since a year and half ago, pet stores are now communicating to each other.

Public comment closed

Comr. Stephens – Concern that the word profiling was used. This is not nor should be not about profiling. Only about people found guilty of or suspected of animal abuse.

Comr. Gerrie – I had assumed this was about dogs and cats. What about other animal life? Wildlife? Zoo animals? If one does something to one species does that bar him or her from adopting a dog or cat? Also, if there is a conviction out-of-county does that prevent that person from just driving into the City and adopting? It seems better if this was on the State level.

Comr. Katz – Our cases are not limited to dogs and cats. People convicted out-of-county can come into the City to adopt. That is a problem. There have been attempts to do this database on a State level.

Comr. Stephens – Do your concerns make you not want to vote for it?

Comr. Gerrie – I would still vote for it but a State level ban would be much more effective.

Comr. Hemphill – It does seem like a good thing but in addition education would be helpful especially on treating wildlife respectfully.

Comr. Katz – There is not much education about many things that are against the law.

Comr. Hemphill – We are making headway in some areas, particularly about rape being recently redefined on the Federal level and domestic violence. As to animal violence, we are lagging.

Comr. Stephens – The motion is that we recommend to the Board that they investigate setting up a two-tiered database. One for those convicted and the other for those with probable cause but not a conviction. The sponsoring Supervisor would probably have to talk to the City Attorney about if it is doable to include those not convicted.
Motion passes unanimously. Motion carries.

Comr. Stephens – When I talk with Board members I will make clear that there could be issues with the second-tier database.

6. New Business

A) Discussion and possible action to send a quarterly report for fall 2011 to the Supervisors

Comr. Stephens – We did not have action items for the third quarter of 2011 so this is covering the last six months of 2011. Any comments? Changes? Deletions?

Comr. Young – Does this get emailed to the Supervisors or staff? How does it get delivered?

Comr. Stephens – I make twelve copies and give them to the Clerk of the Board. She distributes it to the 11 Supervisors and keeps one copy.

No public comment

Comr. Aldridge - Move to submit quarterly report to the Board as written.
Seconded by Comr. Hemphill
Motion passes unanimously. Motion carries.

7. General Public Comment

Richard Fong – Thanks Comr. Stephens for her work on the Otterman case. What can the Commission do to protect the bison in GG Park? The recent bison death may not have been due solely to off-leash dogs. Is the cause-of-death findings available to the public? Can not find out.

Public comment closed

Comr. Stephens – This will probably be a topic at the Joint Zoo meeting on January 26th. That would be the time to talk about it. I do give periodic updates on what is happening at JZ meetings.

8 & 9 Calendar items and task allotments

Comr. Young -Would like to report on Humane Pet Store Program and a website for links about data for animals in SF next month.

Public Comment

James Yorck – Can that be put on line with the regular stuff?

Comr. Stephens - Yes

Public Comment closed

Adjournment 6:50 PM

Respectfully submitted by Philip Gerrie
Commission Secretary
Last updated: 3/7/2012 10:53:43 AM