Pets in Need, Palo Alto’s contracted animal services agency, is a deathless shelter, but three of its employees have now been cited and are charged with animal cruelty and neglect in the deaths of seven puppies, a Palo Alto Police press release said Tuesday.
The puppies died during transport from the Central Valley on August 2. The three employees had taken a Pets in Need van, a 2019 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, to the Central Valley to pick up additional animals that could not be accommodated in other shelters or were not successfully adopted. Transport trips are a routine activity for pets in need, who brings the animals to their local facilities for adoption, police said.
The employees had left for several hours on the August 2 trip and had picked up 27 dogs, including the puppies. The young mixed Labrador / Pitbull dogs were siblings aged 3-4 months and weighed around 9 pounds each.
The van lacked air conditioning in the rear cargo area and employees did not provide water to the dogs during transport. The temperature in the central valley that afternoon was in the 90 to 100 degree range, police said.
Employees reported that none of the animals appeared to be in distress when they checked them during a gas stop in Los Banos on the return trip to Palo Alto. However, when they arrived at the Palo Alto shelter at 3281 E. Bayshore Road, Pets In Need staff discovered that seven puppies were unresponsive. Employees immediately called in veterinary staff, who unsuccessfully attempted to resuscitate the puppies. All of the other dogs in the van survived, police said.
Following a police investigation, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office elected to file two misdemeanor charges – animal cruelty and neglect – against each of the three employees. A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge signed arrest warrants on October 25, detectives summoned and released the employees on October 26, in accordance with standard protocol for non-violent arrest warrants, a the police announced.
The employees are Patricia Santana Valencia, 40, of East Palo Alto, Margaret C. Evans, 36, of Fremont and Ingrid Anne Hartmann, 45, of San Carlos. As they have been cited and have not been jailed, no booking photos are available, police said.
Pets In Need has been operating the Palo Alto Animal Shelter since 2019 under a contract with the city of Palo Alto. The employees work for Pets In Need and not for the city of Palo Alto, police noted.
Pets in Need posted a statement on their website: “Pets In Need have been saving animals and running rescue races for over 50 years.
“It was a tragic incident that saddened the entire Pets In Need family.”
The city was not immediately available for comment.