In addition to the ACWC meeting, a petition was signed and delivered to Naomi Kelly, the San Francisco City Administrator who has oversight over the City of San Francisco’s Animal Care & Control shelter, which is paid for with our tax dollars.

The petition was signed with 491 unique signatures: 73% San Francisco residents along with others from all over the US (and even Paris!).

UPDATE 7/11/2019 : click here to read the follow up letter.

This is the petition, followed by comments submitted by the signers, sent on 6/27/2019:

To: Naomi Kelly, San Francisco City Administrator 
From: SF Animals Voice

Dear Ms. Kelly,

Without notification, both SF ACC and SF SPCA have officially rolled back programs that have been in place for 20 years in San Francisco.

Some of our most vulnerable San Francisco residents are at risk: free-roaming (homeless and/or feral) mom cats and the tiny kittens they are nursing. Volunteer trappers, foster parents and various concerned rescue groups were NOT consulted, even though they are the people most knowledgeable of how things really work at the grass roots level. 

Rumors have swirled around who or what is driving the new policies, but getting actual information regarding these huge steps backward is extremely difficult. Volunteers and rescue groups are 100% opposed to the cruel new policy.

An opinion piece worth reading is at "Has the SF SPCA Lost its Way?"

What we members of the San Francisco volunteer and rescue community ask is that you direct Virginia Donohue at SF ACC to reverse this policy at once, before any more kittens perish in the wild. Kitten season has been raging since April, and we need to do the right thing for both our human and feline populations.

Specifically, SF ACC should IMMEDIATELY connect volunteer trappers with residents who report discovering kittens, regardless of whether with or without the mother. The trapper will make an on-site assessment of the situation and coordinate appropriate action with SF ACC. Although you have no authority over SF SPCA, we are hopeful that they will follow suit once SF ACC has corrected their policy.

We also hope they will keep detailed records on reports of mom cats and kittens and any future actions taken, so that there is meaningful data, relevant to San Francisco, on which to base policies going forward.

Thank you, very much, for your help Ms. Kelly.

Further info :

Following are many of the comments written by those who signed the petition:

This regressive policy removes the protections of the most vulnerable cat population in city, the moms and their nursing kittens. They are left outside to fend for themselves and formerly SF ACC provide care for them by sending out a volunteer trapper. We have been progressive city and should continue to do so to care for the well-being of these cats and kittens while reducing our community cat (feral) population.

The policy changes, that SF ACC and SPCA are forcing through, are counter-productive and not appropriate for SF's feral cat situation. These changes are for cities that are inundated with feral cats and do not have the skilled volunteer trapping, fostering and socializing community that SF has had in place for over 20 years. If anything, SF should make efforts to increase the efforts in place. These changes have been made secretively, based on misleading statistics, and data not applicable to SF's situation.

Seems they just don’t feel like dealing with the feral moms and kittens anymore. Scarlett and Donohue might be letting themselves be unduly influenced by their staff.

ACC and SPCA should work together with other groups who deal with the feral cat population in order to come up with the best solution. It takes a village and TNR is one of the reasons SF has a good handle on these.

Please say NO to this irresponsible and inhumane proposal. TNR works! But leaving kittens and their moms unprotected for months is putting them all in danger. As a feral feeder, I know first hand the dangers these innocent little creatures face daily. Indigenous predators, fast cars with distracted drivers, unleashed wandering dogs, and of course, mean, hateful people.

We all know that, at four months old, it is much more difficult to socialize a feral kitten, which is exactly WHY that age was chosen in this proposal. Isn't it? Kittens brought in after that age will be summarily rejected for adoption and left to the heartless streets.

One of the employees of Community Cares has been overheard to say that maybe the local coyotes " will take care of the problem". REALLY? This is now the kind of personnel in charge? Why has the ACC and the SFSPCA become such cat haters? I implore Dr. Scarlett at SFSPCA and the ACC to reconsider their cruel and heartless anti-feline proposal.

MYTHS perpetrated by those ignorant individuals that blame feral cats for reductions in avian populations have been proven wrong. It is other predators like ravens, hawks and owls, habitat destruction, the widespread use of pesticides, and climate change which are the driving factors, not a well maintained feline clowder. This new heartless proposal is unacceptable for the city of St. Francis.

Please allow the folks who are on the front lines daily, the feeders and the trappers, to help mitigate the situation.

Under Richard Avanzino the SF SPCA led the nation with innovative programs to get stray cats spayed / neutered, socialized and adopted when possible, or returned to their colonies where they were fed and monitored. We had a Cat Assistance Team which divided feral cat work by neighborhoods. One group in this program were the trappers. It was accepted that the sooner you could trap a mother cat with kittens (sometimes feral, sometimes not) after someone had reported them to ACC or the SPCA, the better. Certain other people in our group specialized in fostering the moms and nursing kittens till they were old enough to be given their vaccinations, socialized and put up for adoptions. The earlier the kittens were in foster care, the better their chance of being socialized. From what I saw when I visited friends who did this wonderful work, the mom cats were happy to be fed. They were given their own space and could spend time hiding if they so desired.

That program was so successful, the SPCA started their own matching program, “Moms from the Streets”. I hope you can understand why we are so shocked and upset that the SPCA and ACC are now calling for a complete reversal of a program that worked so well for so long.

As a SF native who has been trapping feral cats and kittens for 20 years, I can assure you that it is NOT a good idea to wait when people call in who have found mothers and kittens. It is imperative that volunteer Trappers immediately be contacted to, at the very least, go out and assess the situation right away to see what the best strategy is and how and when to trap the mom and kittens to get them into a foster home.

Last year I trapped a mom and six-week old kittens in Noe Valley. We were notified too late. We got the mom and two of the kittens but one of the kittens had already died, and one managed to escape under a car and we never found her. At 6 weeks the kittens were already on the street running around very fast and it is problematic to catch them, not to mention traumatizing for both mom and kittens. Volunteer trappers need to be notified immediately!!

This "leave 'em out there" policy is cruel. How can any rational person believe it's more humane to ignore the calls to rescue Moms and kittens instead of providing food, shelter and safety ?
I'm a 25 year volunteer with SF ACC and SF SPCA.

I fully support this petition. I want to add that these policy changes were implemented under the radar, with neither formal nor informal explanations nor announcements. The lack of transparency destroys trust and confidence in an agency. But that can be repaired, by doing the right thing.

I'm a 26 year veteran of TNR, and a foster for feral mothers and kittens. It is a life saver getting them off of the streets. They thrive and go back out spayed and healthier than when they came in. Their kittens are socialized and adopted. I'm at a loss as to why SPCA and ACC decided to try to fix something that wasn't broken.

This outrageous idea is just another opportunity to dump the responsibility of catching these kitties (when they are far more mobile and likely to escape) on the already overworked over committed and under appreciated volunteers.

This change would be a disaster. More kittens in the wild, more birds killed by cats looking for food and more cats/kittens dying unnecessarily.

The studies I've seen sited refer to the stress of feral mom cats in the shelter, not in foster homes. And not in the cat nursery at SF SPCA.

Leaving a homeless mom cat (not all homeless cats are feral) outside exposes them to hazards such as predators, disease, and impatient residents. Feeding the homeless mom cat can attract the predators. Many residents don't have the knowledge or time to care for the homeless cats and their kittens - and they certainly won't know how old they are. I know kittens have been found in trash cans, so that is how some residents deal with it.

Apparently, those that call to report kittens are not being given any instruction nor assistance whatsoever.

Who is making these autocratic changes? Why is the SF community being shut out?

This change of policies is a major step back! Before that, results on feral cats were speaking for themselves and putting SF as a beautiful example for the whole country. but similar to the world wide actual trend, here is again a regression, we should stand against it!

For the last 12 years we have been taking care of feral cats in our back garden. We feed them and provide shelter for them.

We have also adopted 2 feral kitties that were 5 months old and it was very difficult to socialize them, they need to be exposed to people at a very early age. Tiny Kittens in Canada deals with feral cats, they have had incredible success trapping the mothers when they are pregnant . At 8 weeks the kittens get adopted and the mother goes back to their usual location. They are some cases were even the mothers were socialized and adopted.

If you wait for the kittens to be born most of them will be dying a painful death due to poor nutrition and predators. Why subject the kitties to this cruel situation. The system worked

and it should be continued.

I donate monthly to the SFSPCA to ensure that the animals in this city are being taken care of - including the feral cats at risk of being harmed by wild animals or city life in general.

I'm a regular charitable contributer to SF ACC but this is absolutely not okay. Please rethink this.

It is cruel to do this, most of the work was done by the volunteer trappers and the volunteer fosters.

As a 25+ year resident of the Inner Sunset neighborhood, which borders GG Park, my area is directly impacted by animal activity in and around the park, including the feral cat community. The feral cat population used to be out of control, but now is now little more than an occasional nuisance.

When this program has been noticeably working so well, why would SF SPCA change it?

Please drop this policy change and return to the successful practice of trapping and providing safe haven to feral momma cats and their kittens until they are ready for adoption and or release. Your neighbors - and karma in general - will thank you.

SF used to set the gold standard for compassionate and sensible care for their homeless animals (TNR, etc). I am sorely disappointed to see this downward trend.

KEEP THIS PROGRAM! I trapped 5 cats in total with the help of the SPCA and volunteers. Two kittens went to loving homes. Their parents lived in my yard for almost years, dying within 5 weeks of each other and the 5th showed up recovered from fighting scars after being neutered never to be seen again but healthy. You cannot dismiss the benefits of this program. Joey and Goldie were not mine but they WERE mine and I happily took care of them till they died and with assistance from SPCA. We are many and we can be loud and we know what is right.

Why was this stopped? Don’t you know that this will only serve to increase feral cat population in

our parks & neighborhoods?

Mom cats and their kittens need to be trapped as soon as they are seen, and not wait for 8 weeks! The kittens will be too difficult to be trapped st that age. I know this through doing trapping mom cats and kittens myself. So please go back to your old policy for their sakes!

By getting the kittens and mom as soon as possible and after kittens are weaned it would be so much easier in regards to the kittens

behavior would be able to get them socialized much sooner than later where they may never be a social cat if caught later .

I will pull my support of SPCA and tell my clients of over 40yrs in SF to do the same

This policy seems to be based on a study of overburdened shelters that does not take into consideration the successful kitten fostering programs offered at SFACC. This program is working and should be allowed to continue.

Please keep in place the policy of the TNR for all homeless cats with nursing kittens. Now 84 and unfortunately unable to to give much physical help, when younger and stronger I've had much experience trying, with other caring people, to help homeless cats and their kittens of various ages and situations and I know for a fact that the kittens still being nursed by their mothers are the easiest to catch, care for and later TO BE ADOPTED, whereas older ones are much harder to catch and to get adopted. A change in the former good policy will definitely lead to many more homeless cats/kittens and their cruel deaths. Why change a policy that SF, the City of Saint Francis, should be proud of?!

KEEP THE SHELTER for feral mom's & kittens. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand that leaving newborn feral kittens & their mom's outside is not to the benefit of either. Cruel punishment for being born "on the wrong side of the tracks!"

The proposed policy change is not supported by the data. Do not change the policy

More power to homeless mom cats with nursing kittens! They are part of our community and they need support!

I am a local veterinarian and support the policy of TNR and protection for feral mothers of nursing kittens.

Ms. Kelly, Please help save SF's feral cats and kittens. ACC must return to the previous successful policy of TNR for homeless mother cats and their kittens!

Come on SPCA!!! Do the right thing. I’m wondering if I should be donating money consistently every month. Give me a reason to continue supporting SPACA. Don’t abandon feral cats and kittens!

Please restore the previous policy, which has been successful in reducing the feral cat population as well as reduced unnecessary and painful cat deaths in the streets. The new policy is horrible and will undo 30 years of work within months as the feral population will explode.

We've fostered feral moms with kittens for many years. The moms are NOT stressed. The kittens socialize themselves. The previous policy worked well. Please do not change.

I have two cats, adopted from the SPCA, and am appalled that my veterinary facility, the SPCA, would support this policy. A much better, though probably not as short-term financially attractive, policy is to step up the trapping and sterilizing then release program. Shame on you and the ACC. Humane Society? Or, have you forgotten what all those donations have been for??

It makes zero biological sense to believe that a un-homed, food-insecure cat can raise healthier kittens that that same cat, sheltered from the elements and fed well.

I'm shocked at you SPCA! Have you gotten too big for your breeches? I'm very, very disappointed in your new policy about not taking care of feral cats and kittens in our city. Shame on you. I'm rethinking my monthly (automatic) donation to you.

As a volunteer trapper I can tell you that a feral mom and her kittens are easier to trap when the kittens are younger and less agile. Let's reduce the community cat population as much as possible!

I am a volunteer at SF ACC and 100% agree that-- with SF's capacity and experienced volunteer network-- the humane policy, and the best public health policy, is the one that SF followed through 2018.

My daughter has been taking care of feral cats for years .She is a good person and works hard to help. Please don’t make it harder for her.

I rescue cats for the past 25 years, it is crucial to get the families as soon is possible out of the streets, is a very vulnerable situation with the queens and their kittens, safety is a must , the risk of losing the kittens is great, due to predators of uncaring humans. The resources are out there, we have to use it. Restore the program.

This change has not been thought through, has no long term plan in place, and is admittedly a work in progress. There currently exists an infrastructure at ACc to foster these moms with their kittens which was offered but turned down by ACc.

I am a former volunteer at the SFSPCA. I worked with feral kittens, feeding them and taming them. After they "graduated" they were very adoptable to people willing to continue their socialization. It was a win win situation. The queens were spayed and returned to colonies were people continued to feed them. So many lives were saved.

Why would the powers that be not even have a meeting with their volunteers before implementing such a drastic and deadly change in policy? What were they thinking? Or maybe they didn't want this to get out to the volunteers beforehand. This is absurd and Virginia Donohue should be held to account for the decision firstly and secondly why she would not have thought to get input from those volunteers who have seen first hand the success of what they have been doing for years? Something smells fishy here. Just like any other public agency involved in scandal- follow the money- that's where you'll find the answers.