Mon, Mar

Pasadena Humane Society Accused of Ignoring Animal Cruelty and Public Safety


ANIMAL WATCH-Pasadena Humane Society has historically been one of the most acclaimed animal-law enforcement and protection agencies in California -- providing compassionate sheltering for lost, stray, abandoned, unwanted, neglected or abused animals and responsive animal control and field services to assure safety for animals and humans since 1903.

That reputation is now under question by many of those it serves. 

Retired-President and Executive Director Steven McNall, who provided the Pasadena Humane Society/SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) with world-renown leadership for 36 years, told Pasadena Magazine in 2016 that he attributed much of his success in running a successful shelter and humane society to the perspective he gained by beginning his career as an animal control officer. 

But, apparently, under current management, that perspective has changed. 

In just one week, over 600 concerned individuals have expressed their disappointment, anger and alarm by signing a Change.Org petition claiming that Pasadena Humane Society is not providing effective investigation and law enforcement in reported and documented animal abuse or neglect situations, nor is it responding to calls for public and animal safety concerns under its contract with eleven cities in northeast Los Angeles County. 



The community of Pasadena was willing to donate $20 Million dollars to Pasadena Humane Society to recently enhance their facility.  However, ANIMAL-LAW ENFORCEMENT IS BEING IGNORED BY PHS.  

Although they are providing satisfactory sheltering of animals, it is becoming painfully and unbearably clear that PHS does not want to do the law-enforcement and field services which are part of its contract and is willing to ignore or risk unbearable fear and/or suffering by animals and humans, in the areas they are paid to serve.  


(Following is just an overview of issues cited in the petition.  See the entire document here.) 

You are urged to sign the petition now to void or revise their current contract. Allow another agency to be considered to provide the badly needed response to calls for injured animals, dog bites/attacks, animal cruelty or neglect and other often life-threatening situations (endangering either people or animals) before we have a major tragedy or threat in our community—and Pasadena Humane Society again refuses to take action. 

In addition, an informed 3rd party oversight is imperative to administer some level of accountability, for which at present there is none. . . PLEASE SIGN NOW TO HELP US START THIS CONVERSATION WITH THE MAYOR, CITY COUNCIL, CITY MANAGER AND CITY ATTORNEY:


The undersigned are therefore asking that -- at the least -- the City take action to bifurcate the recently renewed contract with PHS to provide Pasadena and the surrounding cities (Altadena, Arcadia, Bradbury, Glendale, La Canada-Flintridge, La Crescenta-Montrose, Monrovia, San Marino, Sierra Madre, South Pasadena) with the public & animal safety response, as well as enforcement of field & law-enforcement services Pasadena Humane Society is being paid to perform. 

Following are just a few recent examples. Many residents/stakeholders in the jurisdiction of PHS can undoubtedly add their own frustrating experience with PHS not providing prompt and competent service -- and WE ARE ALL PAYING FOR THIS 

Recently, when a PHS officer was asked why she didn't impound a clearly abused, neglected and traumatized boxer puppy in exigent circumstances, she replied multiple times "we don't want to get sued," when asked by a neighbor "what if the dog dies?"  

Six days later, after daily reports were made by surrounding neighbors of a dog whimpering, crying and barking for help, multiple days of standing tied so tight to the side of her crate she could not lay down and was forced to stand in her own feces and urine, with no food or water, a bleeding tail and collar so tight it was pinching her neck, still nothing was done by PHS. 

Reports of animals that PHS declines to pick up. One neighbor was told when she called in a stray cat she had found, "just let it go, we aren't going to pick it up, and if we do, it will just be put down." 

When a small chihuahua was killed by 2 large shepherds and the owner left the scene, PHS officers told the reporting party, " just hire a lawyer there's nothing we can do." 

That same recommendation was made by PHS officers when neighbors continually called PHS for months about the noise, smell, illegal setback and the criminal violation of possessing 11 roosters living on a property that by code was only allowed to have 4, based on the size and location in Altadena. 

Glendale had a series of attacks by a Vicious Pit Bull in which a small family dog was killed while the owner and her small child and a neighbor watched. The dog soon after attacked two adults -- one a jogger and the other a potential business associate of the dog owner -- and again PHS ignored its obligation to take action. 

And then there was the dead bear on New York Drive -- obstructing traffic and endangering motorists -- but PHS refused to handle the removal of the body, or at least move it to a safer area and contact the CA Wildlife Department, or other able agency.  It's clear PHS does not want to do their job so let's find some other humane or animal control service that does.  


The petition is not the only indication of dissatisfaction with Pasadena Humane Society’s current law-enforcement services: 

On June 23, 2020, the Pasadena Star announced, “Begrudgingly, Pasadena renews Humane Society contract another year,”  explaining that, the one-year contract  (shortened from the traditional three-to-five year contracts of the past) could be “the last renewal after more than a century of partnership.” 

“Pasadena officials were already studying ways to potentially divorce the City from the region’s preeminent animal shelter and control provider,” the Star reported, explaining that “some of the new proposed contract prices for cities were double what the Pasadena Humane Society previously had been charging.” 

For the city of Pasadena, alone, the new contract represented an increase to $1.63 million over the previous year’s $1.25 million cost—which was a negotiation down from the PHS original estimate of about $1.97 million. And some other cities experienced up to a nearly 500% increase. 

Pasadena Humane’s Chief Executive Dia DuVernet told the Star, “While city contracts have only increased by (inflation) in decades, animal control and care have evolved exponentially. They’ve been getting a really nice deal for quite a while.” 

Pasadena Humane’s IRS Form 990 for 2019 shows it additionally received $5,881,116 in donations and grants. 

Pasadena Councilman Victor Gordo proposed at that meeting the City consider a “split model,” with the City providing animal control officers and Pasadena Humane Society providing sheltering services. 

You can read the community-generated petition that supports this effort and discussion here.


(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of Los Angeles employee and contributing writer to CityWatch.)

Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


Tags: Phyllis M. Daugherty, Animal Watch, Pasadena Humane Society, animal cruelty, dangerous dogs