City and County of San Francisco

April 12, 2012

1. Call to Order and Roll Call
5:35 PM

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

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

2. General Public Comment

James Yorck – Impressed by size and scope of the survey by Dr. Scarlett. Getting 465 San Franciscan’s to respond to a phone survey must have meant 1000’s of attempts and 100’s of hours of work. What was of particular interest was the disparity from national surveys and the SPCA’s in almost every category of question. Except in the category of dogs from pets stores which locally and nationally is 7%. People here acquire dogs from shelters at a much higher rate than the national average. Dr. Scarlett supported the ACWC’s pet ban based on stated statistics. She said SF’s acquire 8 to 10,000 new dogs every year. That would put the 7% number at 560 to 700 dogs sold through pet stores a year. Personally checked actual number of dogs sold through pet stores. The total was 130. That would come to about 2%. Why was this number inflated to 7%? Saddened by level of dishonesty of this Commission and animal rights activists in SF. It starting three years ago when ACC’s Ms. Katz said they took in 300 birds a year when actual number was 109 birds. Dr. Scarlett is fabricating statistics to help support her cause.

L’Danyielle Yacabucci – Listened to last month’s ACWC meeting about coyotes. Didn’t think the idea of putting notices in water bills was a good idea because renters don’t receive water bills. Nor putting notices in the ballot. Think a monthly check in is a good idea. Reporting is problematic because people don’t know how to report or that they should report. There was no notice of coyotes in Laguna Honda where I feed a feral cat colony. Coyotes killed the last two cats. ACC had no record of sightings at that location. None. The sheriff knew of the sightings. ACC didn’t. Had no way to find out. Talked with member of the staff at Laguna Honda. She said she was afraid of coyotes. Told her to call ACC and they would send someone out to educate the staff. Hope something can be done before another coyote or dog is killed. Would like to be on any committee that works on this issue. Laguna Honda colony was 65 cats and is now down to zero. TNR works. The feral caretaker watches the colony and traps newcomers. Problem will start again when new cats come into the territory. Thanks Commission for their work.

Comr. Hemphill – What would you have done differently?

L’Danyielle – We feed the cats differently when coyotes are around. Less food for shorter amounts of time. No wet food.

Comr. Hemphill – Does the food or the cat bodies attract the coyotes?

L’Danyielle – Probably both. We were feeding cautiously but one feeder would not go along with the plan.

Martha Hoffman – Rec & Park is getting rid of wildlife habitat. Issue was heard at the Nov. 2010 meeting of ACWC about habitat loss at the children’s playground. Without any notification they came in and destroyed a big area of mature habitat. We learned if we had talked with the architects ahead of time they would have done things quite differently. The Commission took a position to contact Rec & Park to ask them to communicate differently. Let the Commission know, and SPCA know, when there was going to be that kind of landscaping. It is happening again by the south windmill. I have fed a feral colony there for ten years. A sensitive tunnel-like area next to the windmill was recently removed. Rec & Park higher ups met at the millwright house about what they were going to do with the area and had it cut to the ground the same day. Rec & Park really needs to contact the Commission.

Susan Wheeler – Was with Martha when we met with Rec & Park in 2010 about the habitat issue. We were assured there would be communication. There hasn’t been. We hope this Commission will carry more weight in just feral cats but all wildlife in GG Park.

Public comment closed

3. Approval of Draft Minutes from the March 8, 2012 Meeting

Comr. Stephens – Request my statement “Part of being a responsible dog owner is to not let your dog off-leash and chase wildlife.” Be changed to, “Not let your dog chase wildlife when off-leash.” I want this changed because the statement could be taken out of context to say, “Part of being a responsible dog owner is to not let your dog off-leash.”

Comr. Gerrie – The problem is you did say that. I am being asked to change something you meant to say.

Comr. Stephens – You can just put that I clarified my statement at the next meeting.

Comr. Russo – What about writing the word, “not”, in caps? Emphasizing the word, “not”.

Comr. Aldridge – You are concerned that it will be seen as two different statements?

Comr. Stephens – I’m concerned that my statement will appear on someone’s website saying. “Part of being a responsible dog owner is to not let your dog off leash.”

Comr. Hemphill – You are concerned about that because you are an off-leash advocate?

Comr. Stephens – I’ve been accused of a lot of things that were way wrong. I am concerned that it will be misused.

Public Comment

James Yorck – Ms Scarlett’s statement that the SFSPCA adopts 10% of the total of 8 to 10,000 dogs acquired in SF is incorrect. They adopt out apx. 1,500 dogs so that would make it 15% to 20%.

Comr. Gerrie – Whether to change that is a good question. She said 10% even though the math is not right.

Comr. Aldridge – There is no reason to go back and change what was said in the Minutes. We can record what was said now about those statements however. If it can be shown someone was misquoted, that is different story.

Comr. Katz – The statement may be accurate assuming that they do adoptions to out-of-county residents.

Public Comment closed

Minutes approved unanimously with today’s comments added.

4. Chairperson’s report and opening remarks

Comr. Stephens – Three Commissioner’s terms are up soon. Comrs., Page, Russo, and Aldridge. Information will be posted on our website. There is a city-run website for just Commission vacancies and appointments. Applications can be made online.

No Commission or public comment

5. Old Business

A) Discussion and possible action to designate a Commissioner to review current resource listings on our website, critique them, then present a summary of their findings to the Commission for review.

Comr. Aldridge – This issue arose because discussions brought up the question of what resources were on our website and how they got approved. I’ve learned that one Commissioner had added the links. It was agreed that a review was needed to see if the information was relevant and appropriate. That designated Commissioner/s could also seek out new resources to add as well. I move that we take that action to assign one or more of us to that job.

Comr. Hemphill - I wonder if we need resources on our website? We can just refer queries to ACC’s website. People don’t go to our website that often.

Comr. Aldridge – That wasn’t on the agenda however the process of review might recommend that action be taken.

Comr. Hemphill – How do we decide who will do it? Several people reviewing it will generate a more lively discussion.

Comr. Russo – I’m willing to be one of those people to look at those resources.

Comr. Young – I’d also be willing to help as part of my page on animal-related statistics.

Comr. Gerrie – There is nothing to stop a Commissioner from reviewing our website without an action item.

Comr. Aldridge – It just makes it a little nicer to have more of a process and to agendize it for the next meeting.

Comr. Hemphill – We have two volunteers and anyone can look at it and contribute the next time we discuss it.

No public comment

Motion approved unanimously

6. New Business

A) Discussion and possible action to send a letter to the Board urging them to publicize National Dog Bite Prevention Week, May 20-26, 2012.

Comr. Stephens – I turn over the Chairing of this agenda item to the Vice-Chair so I can be a more active participant.

Comr. Hemphill - Became aware of potential dog bite issues in my own neighborhood of Noe Valley. Once aware, when almost being bit, saw many other possible biting potentials between tethered dogs and, especially, children. Realized education was needed to prevent people from being bit. There is a lot of dog training but not much training of people to avoid dog bites. Wrote an editorial for the Noe Valley Voice. Researched, for that article, dog bite statistics and prevention resources. Contacted Dept of Public Health who were supportive of helping spread educational information. The draft letter to the Supervisors includes informational links to the AVMA and the ASPCA. The draft letter also has simple dog-bite-prevention rules. Which are:
  • Stay calm around dogs. Don’t yell or run away.
  • Ask before you pet. Don’t pet a dog whose owner is not around.
  • Approach a dog slowly and carefully.
  • Let the dog sniff your hand before you pet it.
  • Even if a dog is wagging its tail, it might not be friendly.
  • Don’t let dogs get close to your face.
  • Never chase or tease a dog. Never try to take away a toy from a dog.
  • Never try to pet a dog through a fence or a car window.
  • Let a dog alone while sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.

Even if we don’t pass this I will contact my Supervisor to have him put it in his newsletter

Comr. Stephens – Supports principles of dog bite prevention. Question sources and accuracy of dog bite statistics. Some statistics are controversial. Humane Society estimates about 78 million dogs in the US now. An AVMA article from 2001 states the number than was 53 million. Yet emergency room visits remain the same at about 340,000. Also look not just at number of bites but the severity of bites. On the CDC’s website is WISQARS, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System, The % of emergency room visits that were treated and released were 97%. In a wonderful book by Janice Bradley, ‘Dogs Bite’, she ranks injury severity score which ranks injuries as to threat to life, from 1 to 6. On that scale dog bite injury severity score for 92% is zero. 7.5% is a score or one. The vast percentage of dog bites are not serious. Even though one dog bite is one too many. I don’t want people to be afraid of being bitten. The number of 800,000 dog bites a year is challenged in Janice’s book so I would not want to include a controversial statistic. There are other dog bite statistics. One is called “Chirp” Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention, it says dog bites are 1% of all emergency room visits. The CDC says the same thing.

Most dog bites are known to the person who was bitten - from the family dog, a neighbor’s or a friend’s dog. Most dog bites resulted from the person interacting with the dog in some way. The vast majority of dog bites occur in or around the home. Only 3% happen in a park. Only 10 to 20 people die from dog bites each year. That number has stayed constant in spite of the huge increase in dog numbers. For perspective, there is a group called Safe Kids USA. On their website they say they are dedicated to safety at home, at play, and on the way. They don’t even list dog bites as a cause of concern. Their website said that in 2008 the same number of kids died from dogs bites, 16, as from toy-related accidents. 94 died from poisoning. 91 from falls, etc. There are about 150,000 dogs in SF. If that number is multiplied by days in the year, that comes to 54 million potential bites per year. The last date I have of SF reported dog bites, in 2004, is 384. That is about 60% less dog bites than the national average. Sandy Hazanow, former head of SF Veterinary Association, spoke last year at the Board hearings of dogs in the GGNRA. She asked me to read one paragraph of what she had said. “ In the 20 years as a local vet, I have noticed that SF dogs have to be muzzled far fewer times than dogs in surrounding communities. That means SF dogs are better socialized, more trusting of people and less aggressive.” That is why we have fewer dog bites than the national average. Additional resources to the excellent ones in your letter include the SPCA’s program called “Dog Talk”. The SPCA goes into schools and teach kids how to act around dogs. The SPCA also has a wonderful poster with dog tips. It would be great if the poster and program could be in every classroom in the City. I would like to see the Dog Talk program mandatory versus teacher-requested, as it is now. SF Dog has booths in fairs and events with educational materials. We did a workshop recently with Rec & Park on understanding dog body language. The most interesting fact from that was that a dog wagging his tail does not always mean it is friendly.

Comr. Aldridge – How does what you been saying effect the motion on the table to support dog-bite awareness and education? Up or down?

Comr. Stephens – This is all background information, context, and perspective that education is the key. Support telling the Sups about National Dog Bite Prevention Week. We should be careful against inciting any kind of hysteria against dogs. I would suggest not including the statistics that were cited. Only because they are controversial and not necessarily relevant to SF. Support including sites for more information and help.

Comr. Young – What organization is sponsoring the Dog Bite Prevention Week?

Comr. Hemphill – It comes out of the AVMA. The CDC has supported it in the past. The statistics are not controversial. Dog bite statistics are reportable in the ER. These aren’t fatal dog bites but from crying, screaming, in-pain children, dog bites.

Comr. Stephens – What is controversial is the 800,000 number. Emergency rooms report 340,000 to 360,000.

Comr. Hemphill – The 800,000 is a CDC number. Its on every single website.

Comr. Stephens – Its based on two studies which have problems, then get referenced by everyone else. Quibbling about numbers isn’t really the point but I don’t want to put out incorrect information that can cause more fear or hysteria. There are very clear ways to prevent dog bites.

Comr. Hemphill – When we buy a car they don’t talk about the 37,000 people that die in car accidents every year. They do talk about seat belts and air bags. This is no different.

Comr. Gerrie – I see this is simply about education rather than raising any fear about the numbers. I hear that you are supportive of the letter….

Comr. Stephens - ….Without the statistics.

Comr. Hemphill – The statistics are on every website because they are government statistics. It is not fear mongering but recognizing a reality.

Comr. Katz – One thing about dog bites is they have to be reported when seen in the ER because of rabies. Any breakage of skin, by a dog, must be reported. We can always use more education about this issue. We have a very competent Vicious and Dangerous Dog hearing officer. People are sometimes afraid to report dog bites because they are afraid their dog will be put down. Reporting only helps to make sure more people don’t get hurt. There’s a lot of room for more education. I read your editorial in the Noe Valley Voice. One thing that struck me is it only takes one incidence for a person to be afraid forever. Those stories in the news raises fear when most dogs interactions are positive. We want to encourage positive interactions through education.

Comr. Russo – Would like to hear from officer Denny on including the data.

Comr. Denny – No comment either way. If this prevents one bite it is worthwhile.

Comr. Katz – Officer Denny teaches a course at the police academy on dealing with dog bites.

Comr. Denny – I teach officers how to make a police report on dog bites as well as menacing and aggressive behavior especially when kids are involved. I teach there are non-lethal ways to handle an aggressive dog besides shooting it. We start with stern voice commands.

Comr. Stephens – Studies have shown that even though a person is bit by a dog they don’t necessarily develop a fear of dogs rather fear is taught. Information should be included about reporting dog bites. Do you recommend reporting to ACC, the police dept., or both?

Comr. Denny – Any dog bite should be reported to the police. They are first responders and in charge of securing the scene. They document the incident and take action if needed. I support keeping this letter positive and informative. Nervous tied-up dogs in front of Starbuck’s are a concern. Dogs have two basic instincts. Fight or flight. Tied up, they can only fight.

Comr. Aldridge – We appear to have consensus on sending the letter possibly in a simpler form. Should make a motion to send a simpler version and would that make a difference on how we vote on it?

Comr. Hemphill – I’m concerned about risk. The dog bite number works out to about 1 1/2% of the US population. I like statistics to put things in context. I don’t think it is as effective to say this is Dog Bite Prevention Week without seeing numbers. Any website on dog bites includes numbers. I understand Sally is concerned about it giving dogs a bad rap but the more we know about dogs and how to train dogs the better it is.

Comr. Gerrie – We can make a motion to pass it as written. If it passes it passes. If it doesn’t we make a motion to pass is amended.

Comr. Stephens – If that is the case, I’ll make a motion to take those statistics out.

Comr. Aldridge – We already have a motion to pass it as written.

Comr. Stephens – I am concerned about accurate statistics. I also think the simple rules should be first. If the letter starts out with URL’s and statistics, people aren’t going to get to the simple rules.

Comr. Denny – Support doing the simple rules first.

Comr. Hemphill – You would keep the statistics?

Comr. Denny – Don’t want to get into that.

Comr. Hemphill – The statistics are not controversial.

Comr. Stephens – Dr Scarlett could speak to the part being controversial which is the “800,000 Americans seek medical attention for dog bites” where is that statistic coming from? One study, from Janice Bradley’s book, asked 5,000 people if they had been bitten by a dog in the past year. Going back more than a couple of weeks was shown to be unreliable. I don’t have a problem with the 386,000 emergency room visits.

Comr. Katz – Is the part of half of all dogs bites being to children accurate?

Comr. Stephens – Yes, about 70% for children.

Comr. Hemphill – That is true for fatalities as well.

Comr. Katz – The last two lines of that paragraph concern children. That information is the most important - to educate children.

Comr. Hemphill – I could just remove the 800,000 number.

Comr. Gerrie – Or, just add the word ‘estimated’ to that number.

Comr. Stephens – The most recent emergency room visit year is 2010 which had 342,000 reported dog bites.

Comr. Hemphill – OK, I’ll reword that paragraph. I make a motion to place the simple rules first. Change the statistics as requested.

Comr. Young – I would like to add a couple of things to ask the Supervisors to do. In addition to publishing the notice in their newsletter, I would like them to contact the school district.

Comr. Hemphill – I support asking them to do that.

6 A) Public Comment

Laurie Routhier – Director of the Adoptions Dept. SF/SPCA – Was director of the Youth Dept. Reach about 3,000 school children through that the Dog Talk Safety program every year. That program works when a teacher calls and requests it. It is free. Encourage mentioning the program in your letter. I understand. Comr. Hemphill, you were motivated to do this upon seeing a tied up dog snap at a child on 24th St. It’s not about stats. I have looked at stats for years. I have different stats than both Comr. Hemphill and Comr. Stephens. Keep the message positive.

Richard Fong – Would like to see information about first aid procedures. How do you treat a dog bite? How do you calm down after a dog bite? Does saying words like, “Let go!” help?

Public comment closed

Comr. Aldridge – Motion is to submit the letter as amended and without certain statistics.
Motion passes unanimously
Gavel is passed back to Comr. Stephens

7. General Public Comment

Richard Fong – Concerned about the black rhino death at the SF Zoo. Other animal deaths have occurred in the same area. Maybe the terrain and the water supply need to be looked at in that area?

8 & 9 Calendar items and task allotments

Comr. Stephens - Comr. Russo & Young will look at the ACWC website and come back with recommendations.

No Public Comment

10. Adjournment 7:00PM

Respectfully submitted by Philip Gerrie
Commission Secretary

Last updated: 1/10/2014 10:57:05 AM