Volunteers Shelter in Place with SFACC Animals

During the shelter-in-place order as a result of COVID-19, SFACC mobilized shelter volunteers to foster adoptable animals. As of April 3, there are 62 animals in foster care, which gives the staff a break and makes more space available if needed for people who become ill and cannot care for their pet. Our sincere and deep gratitude for all the volunteer fosters giving these animals the field trip of their dreams!

 “Smallz is 14yo and Bam Bam is 9 years old, acting like he’s 5 until he realizes he’s tired. Smallz has arthritis so his walks are short and sweet. Bam Bam has been exploring Russian Hill, Aquatic Park and the Palace of Fine arts. He’s enjoying the highlights of the area without the crowds.
Bam Bam has been getting in plenty of steps every day keeping his foster mom active an away from the fridge. (Lol). Mostly the fridge is barricaded by Smallz when he lays down in the kitchen. It works great for all of us. Brushing sessions are requested daily now by Smallz. One of his admirers on the street asked if he’d been to the salon as he looked so dapper and fresh! Bam Bam is just a constant head turner by other people and dogs so he’s feeling good about himself too. They love both the brushing and hanging outside to see people walk by. They’re really good at cuddling and letting you know when they are still in need of more lovin’…These two are a treat to have around.”

Good boy Dermot is enjoying his foster time! Looks like he’s perfected chilling indoors, as well as the one ear up and one ear down look.

We have our first foster win! Guinea pig cuties Pigglesworth and Pygmalion will be adopted by their foster as soon as we resume adoptions!

Playful Lady is loving foster life and her foster feels likewise! “Lady has been a dream to have. She is such a sweet cat with tons of love to give. Thank you again for allowing me to foster her, it’s been a pleasure.”

Foster dog Hans is clearly an expert at cuddling in place! Who wouldn’t mind staying indoors if you get to snuggle up with a big handsome German Shepherd?

Guinea pig foster update! “Here is our little foster girl, her name was piggy but we call her Gwendolyn! She is so pretty and sweet! Great eater and makes the loveliest sounds

Lop eared buns Nala and Bella are enjoying their foster home, with lots of tasty treats, a bun house and lots of love!

“Travis is loving his life and getting as many snuggles as possible. We love having this little man.”

Beautiful Miss Moey is making the most out of sheltering in place in her foster home. She looks pretty comfy cozy!

Fluffy foster gent Evante is doing great in his foster home. He was understandably nervous at first but now he’s out and about! “He loves being pet, makes muffins and purrs when I’m nearby.”

“Pecan Sandy loves garden views and dozing off in the sun after a long walk around the neighborhood.”

It’s a pigeon party! Foster birds Sabah, Marzipan and Fondant enjoy a sunny breakfast.

Foster cat Sammy has elegance and flair as well as a stellar view of the city.

Pretty girl Minna is thriving in her foster home, recovering from her spay surgery in loving surroundings.”Overall she’s doing great! So full of energy and cuddles. She’s such a sweet, good girl.”

“We just brought Louisa to her foster home today. She is super sweet and was exploring immediately. We let her have some time alone to settle in and she immediately found the bed we set up by the window. She played with a feather toy for a bit and then settled on my lap while I ate dinner. I think the only time she isn’t talking is when she’s settled on a lap”

Advice from cat behaviorist GoCatGo (SF)…”Louisa started off her first days home in a chatty mood. It was hard to leave her alone without her singing her favorite tune. We’ve redirected her attention to food puzzles, giving her a job to do each day while #shelterinplace . (Hey, you can repurpose those #toiletpaper rolls! ) She’s quieted down some, but she’s probably always going to be that quirky and chatty kind of cat. Big Thanks to resourceful and creative foster parents that want to make the best of these challenging times.”

“Prince Harry is an active, kittenish teen. …Cuddly too and likes head scratches and belly rubs. He’s sweet and very gentle. He figured out the lay of the land very quickly and is curious about whatever I’m doing. He’s super playful and loves chasing the fishing pole toy. Happy lounging by himself too, watching DogTV.”

Wee pup Pinnocchio is now with Grateful Dogs Rescue. Check out how cute he is with his foster siblings!

Michael Hernandez – Shelter Service Representative

[caption id="attachment_4440" align="alignnone" width="600"]Man sitting next to black and white dog. Michael with his beloved Simon[/caption]

by Lisa Stanziano
Newsletter Editor

“I go by Hernandez most of the time.” Michael H. told me when we sat down to talk on a sunny afternoon in front of SFACC. His enthusiasm is as warm as his smile as he told me how much he enjoys talking with people and helping them. He’s the first person folks see as they walk into the lobby and the first impression from (Michael) Hernandez is a friendly one. “I’ve been working at SFACC almost a year. I started last May. I love people. And I love to talk. So, as a Service Representative I get to do what I love all day. The team works together in an amazing way. Sometimes the situations are very difficult. But for every bad thing, are good things happen. The staff has a huge amount of collective knowledge. Mara has been my mentor and I’ve learned so much from her. …I literally wake up and cannot wait to go to work.”

Originally from Manteca, California, Hernandez graduated from Fresno State, and then joined the Army. He served 8 years and was able to travel widely, spending time in 14 countries, and 21 states, including a 6-month tour in Afghanistan. Settling in the Bay Area, he wanted a job that would engage with the public and his love of animals drew him to volunteering for 5 years with the SF SPCA’s Macy’s holiday windows adoptathon. This last December was like a dream for him—working at Macy’s windows again but this time as an SFACC staff member. He was on site at Macy’s Union Square site at least half of the program days (mid-Nov. 2019 to Jan. 1, 2020), helping with the adoptions of 60 SFACC animals.

Hernandez tells me that his favorite conversations are with veterans. “One of the special adoption programs at SFACC is that adoption fees are waived for veterans, and many folks don’t know that. And SFACC works with ARF (Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Organization), which has a special program, Pets and Vets, that places service dogs with veterans. …It makes me happy to share this information with veterans. They can relate to me because I’ve served.”

When he’s not on duty, Hernandez spends time outdoors and with family. He recently lost his beloved dog Simon, who was with him every day for many years. They went everywhere together and the adjustment has been hard. “He was a great dog who outlived all the predictions by the vet (he had a congenital heart condition).” Most of us know that loss, and how being at SFACC, surrounded by like-minded animal lovers, can help us grieve. For Hernandez, joining the SFACC community feels like his destiny. “I’m meant to be here and I hope to be at SFACC until I retire.” …We hope so too!

Donor Salute – Rachel Krall & Belarus

Adoption is always in style! Our hats are off, and our t-shirts and sweatshirts are ON in salute to SFACC grad cat Belarus and his amazing mom, Rachel Krall, who contributed $4,000 to SFACC in 2019 from fundraising projects and her own corporate matching gift. Her idea for a Belarus t-shirt fundraising drive came to her in July, 2019 after she adopted lovable, cross-eyed Belarus from the shelter the year before. She teamed with a company called Bonfire to create t-shirts with Belarus’s adorable face and and the tag-line “Love isn’t blind; it’s cross-eyed” and sold them online, with the proceeds going to Friends of SFACC. The shirts were so popular that Rachel decided to expand to winter wear—a delightful sweatshirt with Belarus’s adorable face on the front and the message “Adoption: The Best Pedigree” on the back. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the sweatshirt drive were split between SFACC and Cat Town in Oakland.









…On a roll, Rachel also initiated a donation to SFACC of needed supplies from litterbox.com, which she hand-delivered to the shelter in December. We’re so grateful to her for channeling her love of beloved furry companion, Belarus, into a creative way to share that love and help the shelter too!

More about Belarus and Rachel…
Belarus was rescued from San Francisco Animal Care & Control in June 2018, when his googly eyes and winning personality caught the attention of many and won Rachel’s heart. This furry gray boy was surrendered to SFACC by his previous family because of landlord issues. He was at the shelter for about a month before a series of his photos by Josh Norem (@furrtographer) went viral after being posted on SFACC’s Instagram account. Rachel saw them and immediately knew she had to meet him. She is a big-time animal lover and had been following shelter pages for three years, hoping to find the perfect companion to offer a loving home. When she saw Belarus and heard more about him and that he needed a quiet and loving home, she knew it was meant to be.

Rachel rearranged her schedule and made a special trip to the shelter to meet Belarus. She was informed later that evening that she could take him home! “He’s now the king of his 1-bedroom castle in San Francisco. Belarus has continued to catch the eyes of many admirers on his new Instagram account @My_Boy_Belarus. He is a very active and oh so curious cat. He loves to play with balls and can even give high-fives for treats! He seems highly intelligent and doesn’t let his wonky eyes slow him down, in fact, he seems to see just fine minus a few quirks (like pawing at his water).”

Many mews and thanks to fundraising superhero Rachel Krall! Her passion for animals and her creative efforts in helping SFACC go far beyond adoption and inspire us all.

Belarus’s now has an Official Merchandise Store where you can order two shirt designs in a variety of fabrics and colors. Both designs donate 50% of proceeds to SFACC. Check them out HERE!


John Skeel – Deputy Director

John with a shelter dog at an adoption event in Windsor.

Q & A with John Skeel, SFACC’s new Deputy Director

Where were you born/raised and were you interested in animals growing up?
Originally from Brighton, England, I grew up about an hour north of London in the city of Peterborough. I have always had an interest in animals and there were animals around me as I was growing up, including dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, birds and fish. An uncle of mine worked as a manager on a farm, so I was around farm animals too.

What is your past experience?
I moved to the United States 31 years ago and received my Bachelor’s Degree from Central Michigan University in Therapeutic Recreation/Psychology, and my Master’s Degree from Michigan State University in Park, Recreation and Tourism Resources/Urban Studies.  Most of my career I’ve worked as a director or manager for a variety of municipalities, special districts, and non-profit organizations in administration.

My early career work involved developing therapeutic programs involving treatments for people recovering from various physical, mental, or emotional conditions where animals—such as dogs, cats, and horses—were part of the therapeutic treatment.  For example, working with horses in hippotherapy programs where horseback riding is used as a therapeutic or rehabilitative treatment for improving a person’s coordination, balance, and strength. Even in the park and recreation field I was responsible for the creation and management of dog parks, equestrian trails, and farms.

During the last five years I was the Director of Animal Services for Sonoma County, where I managed animal services for the County and ran a shelter operation very similar to the one here at SFACC. In Sonoma my work focused on improving the life of animals at the shelter to increase our live release rate and adoptions. These efforts included making various innovative shelter improvements, increasing efficiency and effectiveness of operations, expanding and improving community outreach efforts, reorganizing the overall operation, managing a rebranding effort and overseeing an awareness campaign designed to reposition the organization to maximize support for funding and other resources. Oh, and then there were the annual fires and floods, which helped to give me an unforgettable first-hand education on disaster and emergency response and preparedness.

When did you start working at ACC and what do you do?
I serve as deputy director here at ACC, a position I have held since September 3rd of this year. My responsibilities include the development and implementation of policies and procedures that determine which animals will be made available to the public, which will require alternative placement, and which will be humanely euthanized. I ensure that the shelter meets the highest animal care standards as determined by national humane organizations, federal and state law, and public perception. I’m responsible for managing all aspects of field operations, including patrols, investigations, and enforcement of animal neglect and abuse cases. I manage front counter operations, including licensing, permitting, and other regulatory programs. I also manage volunteer and outreach programs, and supervise a staff responsible for the care of 10,000 animals each year, including domestic, wild and exotic species. I must also work effectively with the department’s adoption partners, volunteers and other animal control agencies, who play a key role in maintaining and improving the City’s live release rate. I also work with other law enforcement agencies within and outside of San Francisco to improve compliance.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
After three months on the job, I’m still learning and understanding my responsibilities and how best I’m going to be able to assist ACC, however, I am really enjoying getting to know the staff, volunteers, and the community we serve.

So far, what is the most memorable case/situation/adoption at ACC?
Every day has been memorable so far. I don’t think there have been two days that are the same, which helps to keep things very interesting.

Do you have pets of your own? If so, how many and what are their
names? What do you do when not at work (hobbies, interests)?
We have two pets, both rescues from local shelters: Max our dog (6), and Kitten our cat (3).  Over the years we have also had fish, hamsters, rabbits and lizards. My home is actually in El Dorado Hills, but I have a room in the Mission District where I stay at during the week. I usually take the Amtrak to go back home on weekends. I enjoy running, hiking, movies, concerts, and gardening all as ways to relax and rejuvenate. Travel is another passion, whether it’s overseas or just something local, simply getting out and doing something different and meeting new people is what I enjoy.

Do you have any ideas, aspirations for the shelter’s future?
Obviously, I’m really excited for the opening of the new shelter, which is one of the reasons I was so interested in this position. I think the new shelter will not only be unique and state of the art, it will be an incredible opportunity for SFACC to mature into an organization that can set itself apart from other similar organizations, and in doing so be able to create an environment and a presence where we can become the leading edge for innovation, compassion, and leadership in animal care, not just in our community, but also in the state and across the U.S.

Kitten as a kitten (now three years old)

Loretta Kelley on Volunteering with Small Animals

A partygoer experiences the joy of a bunny cuddle. Thank you to SFACC staff and volunteers who brought our small animals to the Oct. 24 celebration: Kirby Counts, Mandy Covey, Loretta Kelley, Perry Matlock, Diane Pignari, Michael Reed, and Sofi Sylve. The block party with SFSPCA honored the 30th anniversary of working together as partners.

by Lisa Stanziano and Loretta Kelley

Loretta Kelly first learned that the shelter had small animals for adoption when she came to ACC and saw them; she left with two guinea pigs. She made a New Year’s resolution in 2004 to volunteer with the smalls it and has been volunteering ever since. I asked her to describe what it’s like to be a small animal volunteer at ACC…

“Our training program for small animals is less formal than those for dogs and cats. Several of us are trainers. Katheryne (ACC staff) gives our contact information to new volunteers. We schedule an initial training session and send them a copy of our small animal handbook. Then new volunteers work with an experienced volunteer until they feel confident coming in on their own. Our newbies range from “never touched a rabbit but would like to learn” to very experienced. All of our socialization takes place in Room 225, except for yard time on Thursday and Saturday afternoons. We have a variety of animals and volunteers choose which ones they want to work with. The rabbits and rodents generally get lap time or they can run around in pens we set up on the floor. Some of the volunteers work with the birds or reptiles. Mainly we give the animals exercise, enrichment, and socialization both to make their lives better and to improve their chances for adoption.

We also make them “burritos” which is a flat lettuce leaf wrapped around some herbs such as cilantro or parsley and a small piece of carrot. We stuff this into a toilet paper roll so the animals face a challenging task which entertains them and improves their problem-solving skills. Best of all they get to eat some fresh veggies. They love it!”

Loretta has a flexible schedule and started volunteering with the small animals on Friday afternoons “to start my weekend a few hours early. Most of the time I was the only volunteer in room 225. I would set up the pens and hold one of the animals in my lap. I found that whatever was going on in my personal or professional life was left outside the door. I belonged completely to the little ones. It was a quiet and restorative interlude in an otherwise hectic life. Coming here became an important part of my life.”

Now Loretta usually comes in on Thursday afternoons because that’s when volunteers have the dibs on the shelter yard for the rabbits. (Note: the new SFACC shelter will have a dedicated small animal yard—no sharing with dogs!) “The yard time is fun for them and for us. We have a great Thursday team and I enjoy spending time with them. I always say that working with wonderful animals is the second-best thing about volunteering at ACC. Meeting with and bonding with the other volunteers is the best thing.”

After years of volunteering with the small animals, Loretta has been surprised that so many people are willing to surrender such wonderful animals. “I know sometimes there are good reasons for this, but far too many people consider animals expendable.” Loretta grew up around animals and they were always considered family. She often told her mother that if she had pampered Loretta the way she did her dogs, she never would have left home. “We always had at least one dog, rabbits, fish, even a gerbil which is legal in my home state of Texas. When I lived on my own in apartments, I had four cats, although not all at one time. My grandmother always had a lot of animals, everything from dogs and cats to a duck and a fish pond. She was forever adopting strays. She lived near a university and once someone told her about a student there who wasn’t treating his dog right. Grandma found out where he lived, knocked on his door, walked inside, scooped up the dog, and took it home with her. I guess she was running her own rescue group.

For Loretta, the most memorable adoptions are the animals she has adopted herself. “When I first started volunteering someone had brought in a hamster who they said bit all the time. She was so sweet and I adopted her. I have adopted many small rodents since then but I don’t have anyone at the moment. I’m always open to someone who needs a home.”

When she began working with the smalls, Loretta was trained by someone who left shortly thereafter.  “Some weeks I would be the only volunteer who came in; at most there were one or two others. I was traveling a lot on business then and I felt so guilty when I had to miss a week. Now we have volunteers in every day so the animals never miss being exercised. Right now, every small animal volunteer was trained by me, or trained by someone who was trained by me, and so on. You get the picture. …Seeing this change has been rewarding.”

Thank you, Loretta, for your 15 years of dedication and love you’ve given to SFACC’s small animals!