Frequently Asked Questions
If you don't find an answer to your question here, please contact us, and we may post it on this page.
1. Why should I support ACC? Doesn't it already get enough money from city taxes?
Answer: ACC must compete for city/county funds with about 75 other city agencies. Although its basic operational needs are normally met from year to year, only a small percentage of the capital improvements, upgrades or enhancements in the capacity of ACC to improve the treatment of animals, requested annually by ACC's director, is typically approved. Some years, the city permits no increases at all or even requires cuts. This leaves a big gap in what the animals need and what the city is willing to allocate for it. FSFACC is working to help bridge that gap
2. Isn't ACC the same as the SPCA or the Humane Society?
Answer: No. The San Francisco SPCA, the American SPCA, the Humane Society of the United States, and San Francisco Animal Care and Control are each separate, independent organizations (though in ACC's case it is an agency within the San Francisco City/County government).
3. How do I make a suggestion to the Friends on changes I'd like to see at ACC?
Answer: Although you are free to submit a suggestion, inquiry, question or any other correspondence on animal-related matters through this Web site's Contact Us page, we can only forward ACC-related business to the appropriate parties at ACC. We cannot follow through on such suggestions ourselves, since we are an independent organization with no direct control or authority within ACC. We act as the virtual, informal development (fundraising) arm of ACC only and do not offer or duplicate any of its services. We recommend that you contact ACC directly through its own Web site or by calling (415) 554-6364.
4. Can I adopt an animal through the Friends?
Answer: No. See previous answer. Besides adopting an animal from ACC (all currently viewable or listed on Petharbor.com) we also recommend that you check out animals offered by ACC's many nonprofit rescue partners.
5. Can I donate a car to the Friends?
Answer: Yes. Click here.
6. How do I volunteer for the Friends?
Answer: Simply let us know what you'd like to do by contacting us by phone, 415-822-5566, or e-mail, HelpAnimals@FSFACC.org, and we will get in touch with you. We do need help:
* Running our table and other tasks at public events and microchipping clinics
* Updating our mailing list (using MS Excel)
* Designing flyers (using Quark XPress)
* Writing for the newsletter
* Applying for grants
* Soliciting items and services as auction prizes
* Soliciting kennel sponsorships
* Soliciting advertising for the annual Pet Pride Day program
* Planning and organizing events
* Other fundraising activities, from arranging calendar sales to applying to online fundraising sites
* Becoming a candidate for active board membership
7. How do I let you know of others who might be interested in your organization?
Answer: Please send us (or have them send us) their contact information (see previous answer).
8. I don't live in San Francisco. Why should I support San Francisco Animal Care and Control?
Answer: Animals do not observe such boundaries. We encourage and admire any help you might give to any animals anywhere. However, shelters in many smaller or rural communities look to San Francisco Animal Care and Control as a model of operations and to get ideas for their own treatment of animals. If we can develop an effective program or service for animal welfare in San Francisco, word gets around, and similar agencies tend to follow suit. We also offer free advice to other communities looking to start their own shelter support nonprofit, and we subsidize low-cost microchipping clinics for pet owners throughout the Bay Area and Northern California.
9. I already contribute to The SF/SPCA. Why should I contribute to the Friends?
Answer: We strongly urge you to continue your support for The SF/SPCA. If you can appreciate the needs and unique programs ACC offers or, with the Friends' help, will offer in the future, we hope you will support the Friends as well.
10. Is there any difference between the the Friends and ACC itself?
11. I've heard ACC kills animals. Is that true?
Answer: First of all, just to clarify the term "no-kill." Many shelters and humane societies claim it, but virtually none are 100% no-kill. Almost everyone would agree that it is ultimately merciful and kind to euthanize animals who are in irreversible and fatal pain. Some would add permanently vicious and dangerous to that list. Controversy arises when different people define the terms "irreversible," "fatal," "permanently," "vicious" and "dangerous." Even more heated controversy surrounds the terms "adoptable" and "unadoptable," which most shelters also use to determine which animals live and which must die. If even professional veterinarians and animal behaviorists disagree on these terms, especially when applied to specific cases, the public is bound to suspect the worst. On the other hand, almost everyone would agree that lack of kennel space is a weak argument for euthanasia, particularly with so many shelters and rescue groups ready to help in a crisis.
Here is a relatively lengthy article that addresses and, hopefully, clarifies this common and important question:
Behind the Scenes at Animal Care and Control
What Happens to Animals During Their Stay at ACC?
One of the most important jobs at Animal Care and Control is deciding which animals can live and which must die. It is surely the most difficult, sensitive and closely scrutinized decision in humane shelter management. Several factors affect the ultimate decision at ACC:
* State law
* Medical and behavioral standards
* The SF/SPCA
* Partnering organizations
The California law popularly known as the Hayden Bill (California SB 1785) became effective on July 1, 1999, was suspended for the 2003-2004 fiscal year and was reinstated by Governor Schwarzenegger for 2004-2005. It includes the stipulation that all strays, i.e., lost or abandoned animals, brought into public shelters, whether by members of the public or animal control officers, must be held for four days, plus the day they are impounded, for a total of five days (longer for part-time shelters), to include at least one weekday evening until 7 p.m. or one weekend day. This holding period is to allow time for an animal's caretaker to claim the animal. During that period, ACC must (and does) provide food, water, a place to sleep and, if warranted, emergency veterinary care.
Medical and Behavioral Standards
When the five days are up, and the animal's caretaker has not claimed her, ACC's veterinary staff conducts a thorough health check of the animal, and the behavior evaluation staff runs a series of behavior tests (sometimes less accurately called temperament tests). If the animal passes both exams without problems she is put up for adoption at ACC. If there are minor isolated medical problems, like a low-level heart murmur, ACC may still put the animal up for adoption as a "special" adoption, meaning ACC will make potential adopters aware of the condition, and they must be willing to get proper veterinary care and be able to accommodate the animal's special needs at home.
The cat and dog behavior tests at ACC have gone through a thorough approval process, with input from trainers, behaviorists, vets, staff and volunteers. Any ACC employee trained and entrusted with testing the animals uses the same tests. If an animal exhibits minor behavioral flaws, such as guarding his food too aggressively, the training staff may work with the animal to try to alter his behavior, depending on the time they have available. ACC may still put the animal up for adoption, again as a special adoption, with appropriate directives to adopters, such as "must go into a home with no children," "must not come into contact with other pets," or "must be taken to obedience classes." ACC will flag her kennel as such, and, with the required qualifications in mind, ACC staff will screen any interested potential adopters. The medical and behavioral tests are the most controversial stage of an animal's stay at ACC because of cases in which an animal failed one or more tests, was rescued by a partnering rescue group and placed in a good home, and exhibited little or no evidence of why the animal failed the tests. This may happen because an animal's behavior is never 100% predictable. She may snap, hiss or growl at another animal at ACC and get along fine with the eventual adopter's other animals at home. The shelter situation is almost always stressful for the animal, who may not test at her best, especially if she's been there a long time. Also, ACC staff members need to test animals in a way that imitates possibly extreme situations after adoption, situations that may never actually materialize in the animal's new home. ACC's primary mission as a city/county government agency is public health as it relates to animals, and straying from that mission even slightly puts ACC at risk of litigation. The shelter's staff, management and volunteers love animals and want to get as many as possible adopted, but that goal can't deter them from doing what's ultimately best for the animal, the potential adopter, and others with whom the animal may come in contact.
Obviously, if an animal comes into ACC severely injured or wounded or gravely ill, without any ID, such as tags or a microchip, and no quick medical fix will work, euthanasia is the most humane course for ACC - or any shelter - to follow. But suppose a medical condition is not so obvious at first? Or suppose a dog is fine with women but turns vicious every time he sees a man? These circumstances usually require long-term care or training, expensive propositions for a shelter on a limited budget. It boils down to 'Do we spend $700 on eye surgery for this cat, or use that money to care for 25 healthy cats for a month?'
ACC has only one vet and one veterinary technician, all that the agency can currently afford. The animal care attendants and animal control officers, all of whom have received special training, can perform some nonspecialist health care tasks, like administering medications and common vaccinations, but ACC cannot afford 24-hour veterinarians or vet assistants, not to mention high-priced diagnostic and therapy equipment.
Likewise, the shelter has one full-time and one or two part-time dog trainers, independent contractors, who cannot lavish weeks and months of intensive one-on-one behavior modification on a vicious dog. This is where the The SF/SPCA comes in.
Of all the animals who are not claimed by their previous owners, ACC gets first choice on those it wants to put up for adoption. If an unclaimed animal raises borderline physical or behavioral questions, ACC asks The SF/SPCA to make their own assessment. The SF/SPCA may have the capacity to treat or work with such dogs or cats and thus may take the animal. In fact, The SF/SPCA gets most of its dogs and cats from ACC.
If the animal's behavior at ACC changes after his initial evaluation, or the animal has been at ACC without being adopted for a long time, like two months, ACC may also ask The SF/SPCA to take him, though The SF/SPCA is not obligated to do so if it considers the animal unadoptable.
However, because of a 1994 Adoption Pact between the two agencies, if ACC offers an adoptable dog or cat to The SF/SPCA, perhaps because of lack of kennel space at ACC or an overabundance of a particular breed, The SF/SPCA has obligated itself to take the animal. The only exception is pit bull dogs, whom The SF/SPCA does not take unless they have a documented history (known owners, no fight-training background, licensed, microchip registration, up-to-date-vaccinations, vet bills, receipts from dog trainers, etc.). In fact, other than pit bulls, The SF/SPCA may "pass" on only three of ACC's adoptable dogs and cats a month, but this rarely happens.
If The SF/SPCA declines an animal for cause, ACC may conduct further behavioral tests, go ahead and treat the animal for a minor problem, see if an interested party has asked to be notified of the animal's outcome (such as a former owner or the person who brought the animal in as a stray), monitor the animal a little longer to see if her condition changes, or ask a partnering rescue organization if it can take the animal. In fact, the Hayden Bill mandates that nonprofit animal rescue and adoption groups be allowed to obtain shelter animals who are about to be killed, if a group requests the animal at any time before the killing.
ACC's animal care supervisor contacts the appropriate rescuers who are able to adopt the animal, pay for her medical treatment or training and, when the animal becomes adoptable, find a foster home or permanent adopter for her. There are close to 20 such organizations rescuing animals who are at risk of euthanasia at ACC. Most of these groups are species-specific, rescuing only cats, dogs, rabbits, rats, etc., and some are breed-specific, rescuing only greyhounds or Persian cats, for instance. All are nonprofit and 100% volunteer. They play a major part in keeping ACC ahead of every other municipal shelter in the country in its "live-release" or "save rate," the percentage of animals who come out of ACC alive, compared with those who come in. The 2003-2004 live-release rate was 79%. Sadly, many other shelters are in the 40-50% range.
Occasionally, the third major shelter in San Francisco, Pets Unlimited, will accept a sick or injured animal from ACC, since it has a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital and adoption program.
If no group or person can take the animal, and ACC has exhausted all the aforementioned safeguards and possibilities, only then will the agency euthanize an unadoptable or untreatable dog or cat.
Small animals present a different problem because of the high numbers who come into ACC. They include chickens (yes, it is legal to raise chickens as pets in San Francisco), doves, parakeets, cockatiels, snakes, chameleons, iguanas, turtles, hamsters, guinea pigs, rabbits, mice and rats. About one out of five adoptable small animals must be euthanized for lack of space, which is usually not an issue for dogs and cats. (However, the San Francisco/Marin chapter of the House Rabbit Society, "Save a Bunny," rescues almost all of ACC's rabbits who don't get adopted from ACC.) Neither The SF/SPCA nor Pets Unlimited offer small animals for adoption.
The people who buy small animals from pet stores, neighbors or breeders, whether for themselves or their children, often tire of them and may consider them as disposable as an unwanted gift. They'll dump their small animals on ACC or release them outside, where they often die, unless they are brought to ACC by a neighbor or "Good Samaritan" passerby. Businesses and individuals who sell animals are also at fault, since they market animals as merchandise, often without proper screening and training of buyers and their own staff. Most of the public is still not aware that such pets are available for adoption at ACC (most for only $10). If they were, more of them would get adopted, and fewer animals would have to be euthanized.
* * *
That comprises the usual route an animal follows through Animal Care and Control. Over the past 16 years it has proven to be the best system for the public and the animals.
It is the job of the Friends of San Francisco Animal Care and Control to help ACC maintain or improve upon that system, where possible. Although a 100% live-release rate is impossible, we will constantly strive to push that statistic up and to maintain San Francisco's reputation as the most animal-loving city in the nation.
12. Does ACC offer vet services and classes to the public?
Answer: The San Francisco Veterinary Medical Association (SFVMA) offers quarterly rabies vaccination clinics, and the Friends of San Francisco Animal Care and Control (FSFACC) offers microchipping clinics to the public at ACC, but the primary mission of ACC itself is to help ensure general public health as it relates to animals. ACC does not compete with the numerous other professional organizations and individuals who provide vet and training services. You can get referrals to many such service providers from ACC.