Animal shelter employees charged in puppy deaths

PALO ALTO – Prosecutors have charged three employees at the Palo Alto Animal Shelter with animal cruelty and neglect in connection with the deaths of seven puppies earlier this year.

Employees of Pets In Need Palo Alto Animal Shelter – identified by police as a 36-year-old woman from Fremont, a 40-year-old woman from East Palo Alto, and a 45-year-old woman from San Carlos – drove into Central Valley on August 2, to retrieve additional animals, other shelters were unable or failed to adopt them, Acting Palo Alto Police Captain James Reifschneider said in a statement from hurry.

Reifschneider said these trips were routine and his employees picked up a total of 27 dogs, including seven Labrador-pitbull puppies. The puppies were the same litter, around three to four months old and weighing around nine pounds each.

The animal shelter’s 2019 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van lacked air conditioning in the cargo hold and employees did not provide water to the dogs during transport, Reifschneider said. Temperatures that afternoon in the central valley, he added, exceeded 100 degrees.

According to employees, none of the dogs appeared to be in distress when they checked them in during a gas stop in Los Banos, Reifschneider said. However, the puppies were unresponsive when they arrived at the Palo Alto Animal Shelter.

“The employees immediately sought help from the veterinary staff, who attempted to resuscitate the puppies without success,” said Reifschneider, adding that the other dogs survived.

Reifschneider said detectives took the case to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, which filed two misdemeanor charges – animal cruelty and neglect – against each of the employees. On Monday, a judge signed arrest warrants against the employees and detectives cited Tuesday and released the employees.

Pets In Need has operated the Palo Alto Animal Shelter under contract with the City of Palo Alto since 2019. The employees in this case work for Pets In Need, not the city.

“Pets In Need has been saving animals and running rescue races for over 50 years,” the nonprofit organization said in a statement to this news agency. “It was a tragic incident that saddened the entire Pets In Need family. We recognize the trust placed in Pets In Need by our donors, staff, volunteers and supporters, and appreciate the support of the community during this very difficult time.

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