City and County of San Francisco

March 8, 2012

Call to Order and Roll Call
5:30 PM

Present Commissioners: Jack Aldridge DVM, Pam Hemphill, Ryan Young, Sally Stephens, Philip Gerrie, Geneva Page, Susanna Russo, John Denny – SFPD, Lisa Wayne – Rec & Park, Vicki Guldbech – ACC

Comr. Stephens – We will take two items out of order from the printed agenda, 5 A will be first then item 5 B.

5. New Business

A) Discussion and possible action to recommend to the Board that SF develop a Coyote Management Plan to help coyotes co-exist in our urban environment.

Comr. Stephens – I decided to bring the issue up due to recent early-morning sighting of a coyote walking down the street in an area where coyotes are not normally seen. She didn’t know what to do. There has not been much outreach since the 2007 killings of two coyotes in GG Park. Would like to make sure we can do all we can so that such incidents don’t happen again. We want to coexist with the coyotes and avoid problems with them. I had been recommended to Project Coyote for assistance. I wanted to know what other cities are doing and have done pro-actively. Some things I’ve seen are online coyotes-sighting forms. That helps people that have fear when first sighting a coyote. An online database can be helpful but also can be problematic to notify disturbed people where they may find and want to harm coyotes. Another issue is funding for sustained programs of coyote awareness. ACC cannot do it without additional funding. A coalition of groups may be more doable. I’ve invited Camilla Fox, executive director of Project Coyote, and Gina Farr, communications specialist to speak to us.

Gina Farr – Coyotes are fairly new on the urban scene so we don’t know what to think when we see one. Some of us are fearful. Fear can be avoided by education to avoid conflict. It’s easy to change human behavior. Coyotes can make excellent neighbors. Some cities have already adopted co-existence plans. Camilla Fox will talk about the components of co-existence plans she has worked on with other cities.

Camilla Fox – Co-existence plans call for additional outreach. SF has already done a lot of outreach through ACC, the Presidio, and the GGNRA. Outreach has included inserts into water bills, signage, and brochures. SF is already doing a very good job. The question is how can we improve on our efforts? The first step is to identify and list all the public and private agencies and groups that are already working on this. Next is for all the groups to meet and see what is being done and how to improve on that. ACC did this in 2007. We still must reach those that are not educated. Education and outreach has been done in other cities without a lot of money through brochures, inserts, newspaper articles, airing our coyote film, “Wild at Heart”, on public access TV. We can assist in signage and developing a co-existence plan. The signage, brochures, etc already exist. It just a matter of taking them and tailoring them to SF’s needs. We want to do this now to avoid reacting to conflicts where people or pets are hurt. Project Coyote has a two page conflict avoidance fact sheet. We also have a tip-card of simple advise points. We have beware-of-coyote signs that remind people that there is an ordinance against feeding wildlife so people can be aware that they can be cited for intentionally feeding wildlife. Project Coyote is a resource to help in whatever way we can.

Gina Farr -SF has the opportunity to be a leader in co-existence. A lot of other cities would follow your example.

Camilla Fox – The basic components are to identify the agencies involved; sheriff departments, Humane Societies, Parks and Open Space, conservation advocacy organizations. Have them come together and agree that they all want to coexist with coyotes through greater education. How can we present a consistent message? How can we be persistent in our out reach? Developing and implementing a plan with those goals.

Comr. Hemphill – How many coyotes do we have in SF?

Camilla Fox – Without collaring and monitoring it is hard to know. Chicago has a program and found coyotes in every green space with hardly any negative human interactions. They estimated apx. 2000 coyotes living in the 9-county metropolitan area. The task is to mitigate attractants which are the base of conflicts.

Comr. Hemphill – I estimate there is a small number in SF. Seven or eight. Coyotes establish stable territories. Coyote eradication disrupts those territories and creates conflicts. Each territory is the biological carrying capacity for each animal.

Comr. Guldbech – ACC estimates about 10 animals not counting the Presidio.

Comr. Aldridge – Does Project Coyote only deal with the one species? I saw a fox last year in the inner Sunset.

Camilla Fox – We focus on coyotes but do work on predator protection and conservation in different capacities. Coexistence gets into sociology and biology as well.

Comr. Hemphill -Do you address wildlife feeding? That would include raccoons. We have an ordinance against feeding but it is not enforced.

Comr. Guldbech – That ordinance is not enforced due to the volume of calls we get.

Camilla Fox – The agencies in Marin, when they got together, decided to enforce the ban against feeding primarily through education, informing people that their actions were causing problems for the entire community. They were told that they would be cited if they continued. That worked well.

Comr. Stephens - There is also unintentional feeding. Feeding bird seed to birds or food left outside for dogs or cats. It never occurred to them that their actions might be attracting other animals.

Comr. Guldbech – We get a lot of calls about raccoons coming into people’s yards due to feeding birds and pets outdoors. People don’t realize they are causing a bigger problem. We try to educate them on living with wildlife.

Camilla Fox – Fruit, in season, constitutes a big portion of a coyotes diet. People don’t know that they should clean up fallen fruit to avoid attracting coyotes. They don’t know to bring in a pet’s water and food bowls at night. It comes down to more education.

Comr. Gerrie – After the coyote shooting in 2007, an insert about living with coyotes was placed in neighbors water bills. That was very effective in raising awareness. Has that been done since then?

Kat Brown – Yes it has. It also has been in the voter pamphlet. We encourage cities to do this since it doesn’t cost any additional money. The plan is to insert it into the water bill twice a year.

Comr. Guldbech – People are coming around a lot more now. At first it was fear.

Camilla Fox – The number one problem around coyotes is the intentional and unintentional feeding. Many people have never dealt with a predator the size of a dog. Understanding coyotes better can mitigate fear and conflicts.

Gina Farr – What is helpful is immediate access to information when encountering a coyote such as through a smart phone.

Camilla Fox – It would be helpful to have a way for people to notify ACC when sighting a coyote so that that information can be gathered, not for public use, but for awareness of where they are. We are constantly looking for new ways to do this.

Comr. Guldbech – One can also call 311.

Comr. Stephens – Does 311 have information to educate a caller if they are freaked out?

Comr. Guldbech - They usually just refer them to us.

Comr. Hemphill – Do you ever try to educate as to relative risk. Fear of snakes, spiders. Coyotes are low on the list. In 2010, dogs had 35 human fatalities yet people are not fearful of dogs.

Camilla Fox – The media feeds into this. Part of the plan should be that the media message educates as well. Tips, proactively given, can control the media message such as during puppy season. That is critical. The media can be our worst enemy.

Comr. Gerrie – Glen Canyon is a coyote habitat as well as an off-leash area although signs tell dog walkers that this is coyote and on-leash habitat. I’ve personally seen an off-leash dog chasing a coyote. I don’t see that practice changing.

Camilla Fox – That is a concern. Hopefully ACC could have a presence out there and issue citations.

Comr. Gerrie – This has been going on for years. On-leash advocates have been complaining for years.

Comr. Stephens – Part of being a responsible dog owner is to not let your dog off-leash and chase wildlife. On March 27, SF Dog is having a general membership meeting. Gina is coming to speak about dogs and coyotes coexisting. The responsible thing to do is to leash your dog if you see or hear a coyote.

Gina Farr – Raising coyote awareness includes the time of day and coyote behavior in different seasons. Education is the way to go. Then neighbors can educate neighbors.

Comr. Guldbech – We prefer compliance rather than going in and writing citations. That can have a real negative impact. People get angry and spiteful and not work together. It’s better to promote education.

Comr. Gerrie – It is great to promote responsible dog ownership but you will still have irresponsible dog owners.

Camilla Fox – Larger sandwich-board signs have been effective in other cities.

Comnr. Hemphill – Do you have a way to check your efforts? Off-leash dog interactions are evident at any park. I’ve also seen dogs chasing coyotes.

Camilla Fox – There has been anecdotal surveys done after a proactive management plan is in place. There has been reduction in reported conflicts in such areas. That is different in numbers of citations for off-leash violations that we don’t handle.

Comr. Gerrie – Another concern is feeding of feral cats that also attract other wildlife. That is a taboo area but is ongoing in the City.

Camilla Fox – That is a sensitive issue. We have worked with other cities that have adopted laws against feeding wildlife. Some cities require that feral cat caretakers feed up on platforms or other ways to avoid feeding other wildlife. Ways can be found to mitigate conflict.

Comr. Stephens – We should focus on co-existence to minimize conflict between people, their pets, and wildlife. We shouldn’t be trying to keep out any one group. This could be a win-win situation. Education is the answer. If people understand why they should change their behavior they will be more apt to comply versus hitting them with a citation.

Camilla Fox – The plan developed in the city of Calabasis CA was a win-win. They are now a trend-setter. It is about individual responsibility and community responsibility.

Comr. Gerrie – One more factor, that is a disconnect for me, is that the
Federal government kills 80,000 coyotes in this country every year yet we are concerned about the 10 we have in the city. It costs the Feds $13 million in wildlife eradication yet the coyote population is stable.

Gina Farr – A lot of the killing is done because communities call in the Feds to kill, poison, and snare. By working with communities to take a different path, we hope for a domino effect. A lot of good PR has come their way. Change happens incrementally and at the grassroots level. We don’t like to have to say that a coyote is killed every minute of every day and has been for the last 200 years. Change happens person to person. These movements can grow. SF can help lead the way.

Camilla Fox – I’ve been working to change the predator control issue for most of my life. Showing alternative solutions and how we can co-exist is the antidote to that. We go into communities and show that they don’t need to call a government or private trapper and they can coexist.

Comr. Gerrie -I appreciate your efforts.

Comr. Wayne – If we are to build off what we have, I would like to hear from ACC what pieces they already have for a coyote management plan and how much more we have to go. In areas, such as Glen Park, a bumped up effort might be for a docent to be there.

Comr. Guldbech – We put flyers out and inserts in mailings. We put door hangers during puppy season. We document and track our calls. We have done some educational talks at schools and community meetings. I think we have a good handle on this. During puppy season, when officers respond to calls, they take the door hangers with them and canvas the neighborhood they respond to. Have seen a significant positive change from a few years ago. We will stay in contact with Camilla to keep up on new ways to communicate.

Camilla Fox – Some people will always respond with fear. Question is finding ways to bump awareness up. A docent was mentioned for example. Groups, meeting together, can brain storm and come up with new ideas. SF can keep bettering what is already being done.

Comr. Guldbech – This was new to us when they first came. We had to learn about the coyotes as well. Now, we are more comfortable with them and the public hears that in our voices. Education for us has been important.

Comr. Stephens – Would ACC be willing to host a brain-storming session to talk about new things going on? Or, maybe through another group?

Comr. Guldbech – We can talk about that. We are open to being, at least, part of a discussion.

Camilla Fox – We are brought in to assist but rely on the lead agency to decide the next approach.

Comr. Guldbech – Quarterly meetings to talk about coyotes would be a doable place to start.

Camilla Fox – In Boulder, Colorado, they issue regular new releases, at certain times of the year when conflicts might increase, with logos of supporting groups to show it is a coordinated effort. They also committed to public forums, two or three times a year, to reach as many people as possible.

Gina Farr – We are a North American non-profit. We can take what SF does, to co-exist with coyotes, and promote it to cities across the country.

Comr. Guldbech – We did a wonderful PSA with Doug McConnell a while back.

Comr. Stephens – I suggest getting a City official behind a management plan to brain storm different ideas such as online reporting.

Comr. Hemphill – Question the purpose of online reporting. We only have ten coyotes that are in natural areas that frequent visitors know individually.

Comr. Stephens – They actually travel all over the City.

Comr. Hemphill – They do but they stay in specific places.

Comr. Stephens - The value in online reporting would be to report sightings on city streets to alert neighborhoods or send educational material to those areas.

Comr. Hemphill – That can also be considered as fear-mongering. Reporting every time we see one of those. That bothers me.

Comr. Guldbech – 311 already has an on-line reporting capability. We just want to know what the activity level is. Whether increasing or decreasing. Or, if there is an unusual sighting, possibly an attractant to investigate.

Comr. Gerrie – Has the population stabilized? It seems the number has been about 10 for several years.

Comr. Guldbech – Yes it has.

Comr. Hemphill – There are people that buy bags of dog food and feed wildlife, raccoons, and foxes in the parks. We need to be able to report that kind of activity.

Comr. Guldbech – If you don’t report it, we can’t do anything about it. We can take complaints anonymously to protect the complainant.

Comr. Hemphill - To report wildlife feeding in the parks?

Comr. Wayne – Call 311. I haven’t received complaints of people feeding in the parks. We work with the feral cat feeders. Most of our complaints are about dogs but we don’t get that many complaints about dogs considering how many dogs are in the parks. My question about this Coyote Management Plan, that the Supervisors might ask, is what is the issue you are responding to? Identify a need before asking for more funding to bump up programs.

Comr. Hemphill – As to wildlife feeding, do you have to witness it to do anything about it?

Comr. Wayne – Yes, the Park Patrol can witness it.

Comr. Hemphill – Are they there at 6 AM?

Comr. Wayne – Yes they are roaming around all over the city. Day and night.

Comr. Aldridge – I just Googled “Coyotes in SF”. It came up with a restaurant and the 2007 shooting incident. I would like that search to come up with current status and information about coyotes. We are discussing tonight the best way to do that. What is currently available? Do we involve the Board of Supervisors? Do we find someone on the Board willing to take a proactive stance?

Comr. Stephens – Do we need a resolution to look into that? Or, do we support bringing together a working group as suggested by the Project Coyote people.

Comr. Gerrie – That would be a first step, to take what is recommended by a working group, if needed, to the Supervisors.

Comr. Young – What extent does Rec & Park and ACC currently hear from the Supervisors about coyote issues? Constituents call their Supervisors and they call Rec & Park or ACC?

Comr. Wayne – There has been complaints about food being left out by the dumpster up at the Diamond Heights Safeway through Supervisor Weiner’s office. We hear from him the most.

Comr. Young – It would be good if the Supervisors direct their staff to educate callers about coyotes.

Comr. Stephens – That is one way we are looking at. Supervisors, community groups, police captains, etc. send newsletters out to get information out.

Comr. Aldridge – We could talk with some Supervisors, this next month, to see if they receptive to a proposal from us then craft something next month if it seems desirable.

Comr. Wayne – I like the idea to brainstorm. Interns and others could help with details such as designing a website and doing research. First come up with ideas before approaching the Supervisors.

Comr. Stephens – One concern about that is public access to meetings. If done through ACC or Rec & Park , the Sunshine rules apply. If done through a non-profit it doesn’t. I hesitate to ask for staff time through ACC or Rec & park for a brain storming session. I would hope a non-profit would be willing to host that instead.

5 A) Public comment

Renee Pittin – Walks in Glen Canyon. Concerned about online issue by which people would know about specific sightings. Also concerned that brush-habitat for coyotes is being removed in favor of native plants by Natural Areas Program. When coyotes are spotted, tell other dog-walkers to leash their dogs and stay away.

Lisa Vittori – Not clear if any legislation is needed. Let’s work together before anything formal takes place.

Janet Kessler – Concerned about habitat removal. They need thickets to hide in. Contacting 311 to report sightings is fine. Not good to go through other groups. Also concerned about hazing of coyotes.

James Yorck – Instead of having meetings, just write an article in the Chronicle about how the coyotes in SF are doing. A positive article would generate sympathy.

Public comment closed

Comr. Stephens – The sense is not to go forward but to have some brain-storming sessions with interested involved parties. Will also talk with some Supervisors and see what their sense of the issue is as well.

B) Discussion only of how SF may be supporting the puppy mill industry. Dr. Scarlett, Co-President of the SF/SPCA will report on results of a city-wide survey on pet acquisition and how to fight the national problem of puppy mills through local activism.

Comr. Young – Reporting on this survey came as a result of a meeting I had with her a couple of months ago.

Dr. Scarlett – Survey came as a result of how to improve our adoption rates in SF. A quote from Franklin McMillan, from Best Friends, states that puppy mill dogs, which have been rescued, have a degree of fear and unsociability due to how they were raised. Is SF contributing to this problem? There are no puppy mills in SF, although there are some backyard breeders. At the spay/neuter clinic we ask clients where did they get their dog or cat. They said they got it online from a farm in the mid-west. The impact of puppy mills on pet stores is widely known. 99% of dogs sold through pet stores come from puppy mills. Most are sick. About a million dogs are kept in these facilities. Four million are euthanized every year. And four million come from puppy mills. Through various sources we estimate that 5.8 million puppies are purchased or adopted each year. Four million of those come from puppy mills. About 25% of dogs coming into shelters are purebreds. We think a lot of those are coming from puppy mills. National stats to, ‘where do people get their dogs?’ 38% say from friends and neighbors. 7% through pet stores. 10% come through shelters and adoptions agencies. 45% are sold on line. The industry has great marketing and is highly lucrative. America’s top breeders made $20 million last year. Celebrities also do cameos for these groups hopefully not knowing they are supporting puppy mills. They won’t put prices but rather “adoption fee”. The $20 million is made by the brokers. A lot of puppies are coming from Korea now. The buyer thinks they came from a farm in Missouri. Youtube is a major driver as well. If you search “tea cup puppies” you get 2700 results. You get a tremendous amount of views. The videos link directly to the breeder. Shows case study of a group in Folsom CA, called “Once upon a tea pup”. Prices range from $2500 to $6000. It came to the attention of local officials due to an increase of deadly Parvo virus. Youtube has lots of cute pictures and testimonials and celebrity endorsements. When you go online, you’ll be directed to these websites for puppy mills. The SF/SPCA is not against responsible breeders. We recommend you meet the breeder. A responsible breeder will take the puppy back if asked.
What is SF’s role in this? In a survey of 426 dog owners in SF: 18% bought on line, 15% were bought from a breeder, however in half of those, the breeder was not interviewed, only 7% came from a pet store. The rest come from shelters, friends or family. When asked if the dog was delivered to them: 28% said yes which means they came from puppy mills. The conclusion was about 30% of SF dog-buyers are acquiring their dogs through puppy mills. Roughly SF residents acquire 8 to 10,000 dogs a year. The SPCA adopts out about a tenth of that. Combining with all the rescues, we don’t come close to the total number of dogs entering SF each year. Of the people that bought on line, we asked if they would knowingly support a puppy mill. About half said they would not. People are being duped into believing their dog came from a farm in Missouri. They have seen pictures of farms where the dogs have actually come from puppy mills. 20% said they didn’t know what a puppy mill was. More people knew about puppies coming from puppy mills being sold in pet stores rather than from online. This presentation was meant to be informative. The survey shows the need to educate people that it is not OK to buy your dog online. Also, to educate people what a puppy mill is. That could be done in one campaign. The next step is the perception, from a survey done by Purina, that shelter dogs are somehow defective. Another step is how to support responsible breeders if you want a purebred dog. Two groups that we would not be able to reach is someone that wants a specific breed and doesn’t care where it comes from or its behavioral fit and those that knowingly would buy from a puppy mill. We should have the educational campaign ready in a couple months.

Comr. Hemphill – Is there anything that would come up on Youtube warning about buying dogs on line?

Dr. Scarlett – Currently, no. That would be a great way to generate awareness since there are an incredible number of views for these puppies. A mock video showing the real side of this business could do much to educate. Another online way to acquire pets is through Craigslist.

Comr. Hemphill – You can flag pets for sale on Craigslist to get rid of those ads.

Dr. Scarlett – Yes but it is a huge effort to continually monitor and flag the puppies listed. I wonder if Craig, himself, could be asked to ban the sale of puppies or at least have a surcharge that would go to ACC?

Comr. Young – Have you sought out pet stores to help educate dog-food buyers about where they obtain their pets from?

Dr. Scarlett – We have been targeting the online part of the campaign first. We will take your idea under consideration.

Comr. Stephens – What does the campaign include?

Dr. Scarlett – Online trafficking is much more difficult to address than brick and mortar stores. We are looking at ways we can impact SF through media and education events. We don’t want to villainize the puppy or guardian but villainize the company running the puppy mill. We want people to know that buying online supports the puppy mills.

Comr. Gerrie – Buying online doesn’t stop with puppies. You can buy anything, any animal, online. We have been stumped on trying to deal with this problem.

Dr. Scarlett – Yes, I agree. We have focused in on puppies because it immediately affects us. The tag line could be, ‘Don’t buy anything that lives and breathes online.’

Public Comment

Lisa Vittori – Why isn’t the AKC involved in this? Most dogs online are advertised as purebred. There is an overabundance of purebred dogs. This is a brick and mortar problem in that puppies are bred in backyards locally and often not reported.

Public comment closed

2. General Public Comment

Anonymous male – Brother bit by off-leash dog while in GG Park. He had to have rabies shots. There was no follow up and doesn’t know what to do.

Comr. Stephens – Anytime there is a dogbite, you should report it to the police and ACC.

Comr. Denny – Every dogbite is investigated. A description of the dog helps the police to get things rolling to find the dog owner and what happened. The hospital reports the incident but their report is often sketchy.

Public comment closed

3. Approval of draft Minutes from February 9, 2012 Meeting

Comr. Russo – Two words misspelled.

No public comment

Minutes with spelling corrections approved unanimously.

4. Chairperson’s report and opening remarks

Comr. Stephens – Webmaster has put the quarterly reports on line.

Comr. Hemphill – The other issue was for all Commissioners get a copy of the report.

Comr. Stephens – I understood that putting it online was what was needed.

Comr. Aldridge – Was tasked to look into what was necessary to put things online for the resource list. Contacted former Commissioner Laurie Routhier. She said one person was responsible for putting up information and making sure it was accurate. She was unclear if the Commission actually voted on what was put up.

Comr. Hemphill – Would like to see it reviewed. The issue of advocacy was raised.

Comr. Stephens – We can’t talk about this further as it wasn’t an agenda item.

No public comment

6. Old Business

A) Discussion and possible action to recommend that the Board change the way the Commission communicates the quarterly report.

Comr. Gerrie – Comr. Young and I met with the Supervisor’s aides to discuss this and other issues. Visiting was very helpful. Main question asked was if they read our quarterly report. They almost all said they would rather have it sent via email versus a paper copy. A single page report gets lost amongst their other papers. Suggest that the SF Health Code Article 1, sec 41.3 be changed from “render a written report to the Board’. The original ordinance was drafted in 1973. Before email. I don’t know if we need to change the language or just change how we actually deliver our report. I would also recommend that all of us visit their offices. They were happy to see and talk with us. It was good to hear back from them as people call their offices about animal complaints. Visiting them builds a good working relationship.

Comr. Stephens – Did you talk to the Supervisors or the aides?

Comr. Gerrie – We talked with their aides.

Comr. Young – They also suggested that we follow up with an email or phone call after we send the report out to Supervisors. We have the names of the aides we contacted so we can follow up. One person could follow up after the report is sent out.

Comr. Aldridge – Changing the Health Code could be a long process. However nothing precludes us from how we send out the report. Would it be OK if we just did that?

Comr. Young – That would be fine. They would prefer it just via email and not do both.

Comr. Hemphill – I don’t understand the problem.

Comr. Gerrie – We were taking it literally. We were making a paper copy. Was that working? No. We were interpreting written as a paper copy.

Comr. Stephens – The purpose of the ordinance was to keep the Supervisors informed. If it is written in an email versus a paper form, it is still getting information to them. After the next quarterly report, one Commissioner could volunteer to do the follow up?

Comr. Gerrie – I like to visit them in twos versus just one person. Its more official if two people show up.

Public comment

Lisa Vittori – You mentioned two things. The email version and the visiting. People respond to people. When visiting, you could point out some high points, some bullet points that they would remember.

Public comment closed

Comr. Stephens – The action is to take no action as regards to the ordinance but to change the format it is written in.

General Public Comment

No Public comment

Calendar items and task allotments

Comr. Stephens – Will pursue action about coyotes. Will come back to report.

Comr. Gerrie – To review what is on our website to update it.

No public comment

Adjournment 7:05 PM

Respectfully Submitted by Philip Gerrie
Commission Secretary
Last updated: 2/3/2014 2:17:45 PM