• photos of two dogs

      Bartok and Donatella

      Bartok, a beautiful Shepard Husky, had been at the San Gabriel Valley Humane Society (SGVHS) for approximately 18 months; he was put down after being claimed for adoption.

      By Cheryl Cabot

      When Diane Jordan heard Bartok was to be euthanized on Sunday, November 19, at 5:00 pm, she put out the word that a foster family was needed urgently to save the dog. She contacted her neighbor and friend, Linda Perea, who decided to adopt him. Linda is an experienced big dog owner and had adopted her dog Dexter and cats from SGVHS.

      When Diane called SGVHS about Bartok she was told, “Oh, nobody wants him.”

      Linda Perea wanted him.

      Linda made an appointment to pick up Bartok at the SGVHS on Sunday at 2:00 pm. On Saturday, she decided to stop at SGVHS to see the dog, and since there were no cars in the parking lot, she thought they would let her in to see him. (The SGVHS is open by appointment, there are no open viewing times, and the doors are always locked.  This is unusual since all the surrounding shelters now have stated visiting hours and open doors.)

      Linda knocked on the door and was allowed to enter, but when she asked if she could see Bartok, since she was going to pick him up the following day, the gentleman behind the counter got rather nervous and said, “I’ll have to get my boss.”

      His boss and director of SGVHS, Cindy Rigney, came out to the lobby and told Linda, “That dog is not available for viewing.” Linda protested that she was to pick him up the next day and just wanted to see him. Rigney aggressively repeated that Bartok was unavailable even when Linda asked if he already had been put down. Linda went to her car and cried knowing this was the case.

      The SGVHS contract with the City of San Gabriel, states “Humane Society agents and employees shall treat the public with courtesy and respect at all times in performing all duties and obligations under this Agreement.” Article VII, D.

      That stipulation was obviously ignored in Linda Perea’s case.

      At the same time that Bartok was euthanized, another dog, Donatella was also put down. According to long-time volunteer, Cynthia Talavera, Donatella was a shelter favorite. “She was a very sweet girl. I have pictures of her kissing the groomers. She was very cooperative and looked forward to her baths every week and would run up the ramp to the sink. She was a beloved favorite of the dog walkers, groomers and all the volunteers that interacted with her.”

      After the two euthanasians, some of the volunteers called a meeting, wanting explanations. Director Rigney said that “Bartok was aggressive and Donatella had medical issues.” If that was the case, why was Bartok listed on the SGVHS Facebook post as a loving dog, needing a foster or adopter, and Donatella’s medical issue was being treated with weekly medicinal baths and improving?

      More importantly, if these dogs were in the shelter for 18 months and just days away from being rescued, why put them down now?

      A building with a parking lt

      The San Gabriel Valley Humane Society (Photo – Cheryl Cabot)

      Volunteers Resign

      Following this meeting, and Rigney’s excuses for the euthanasia of the two dogs, Cynthia Talavera and other good volunteers resigned. Rachel Conger and the volunteer coordinator have also resigned.

      Rachel Conger said, “If the dog was vicious, it should never have been posted on social media. Bartok and Donatella were still posted after they were put down.”

      “The volunteers always, always knew more about what was going on than Cindy (Rigney). She never bothered to get to know the animals or their names. As volunteers we all knew the names and behaviors of the animals. She has an office but is rarely there.”

      According to Rachel, the volunteers were meticulous about the notes they took on dogs’ behavior when they were taken out for walks. “The rescue team’s goal is to make them adoptable.  They’re getting a home and that is supposed to be the ultimate goal.”

      However, Rigney seemed to be at odds with that goal. She told the staff, and the kennel manager, not to talk to the volunteers.

      Loss of Insurance

      Another issue developed on February 1, 2024. Suddenly, an announcement was posted on the SGVHS Facebook page stating that “Due to an operational issue the shelter was closed to the public today. But all is well, and we are back to full operation.”

      The operational issue was loss of insurance. According to Cynthia Talavera during a December meeting, Rigney expressed concern about losing their insurance. She said, “If we don’t get our insurance renewed, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

       In February, SGVHS did lose their insurance and had to close. Sixty small animals, including dogs and cats were transported to the Inland Valley Humane Society.

      According to the Facebook posting, “We want to thank the folks at Inland Valley Humane Society and the County of Los Angeles who helped us out today. We are most grateful for their support and kindness. IVHS was also extremely generous and took over 60 of our animals.”

      By midnight of February 1, Rigney got new insurance. She explained the loss of insurance to San Gabriel City Manager Mark Lazaretta as the fault of the insurance broker, saying he had failed to renew their contract.

      The fate of the small animals moved is not known and the Inland Valley Humane Society is not answering the phone.

      SGVHS Not Owned by the City of San Gabriel

      Although it is located in the City of San Gabriel, the city does not own the San Gabriel Valley Humane Society. On privately owned land, it was founded 100 years ago by Mrs. Fannie Thompson Kessler as the Alhambra-San Gabriel Humane Society. The original shelter doubled in size when the neighbor’s property was donated in recognition of Fannie’s humanitarian work.

      It is still privately owned and run as a non-profit. It is not a city or county department. According to San Gabriel City Manager Mark Lazaretto, “The cities involved are San Gabriel and Temple City, full customers, which includes animal control. Duarte uses the shelter but has its own animal control. We are customers because we pay a fee for their services just like any other service provider. We don’t have any control over the Humane Society, we don’t have any regulations. It’s an ‘arms-length contract’.”

      “They don’t answer to the City at all.”  Lazaretto said.

      a sign that says: Celebrating 100th Anniversary"

      A sign celebrating its 100th anniversary (Photo – Cheryl Cabot)

      The Contract

      “The only involvement we (the city) have with them (SGVHS) is with respect to the contract,” Community Development Director Aldo Cervantes said. “So every year we go through this practice of asking for renewal with basic information and a contract amount. Last year they requested a multi-year agreement and our Council approved a one-year agreement, which is where we are at now until June, of this year, 2024.”

      The current contract for services provided is $410,000.

      “We have a contract for services and that’s what we pay for. Animal control and housing of stray or unwanted animals, as well as licensing,” Cervantes said.

      “My job,” Cervantes continued, “is to work with them on the contract, discuss deliverables, if there are any switches to the deliverables, that kind of thing. We’ve only had communication with Cindy Rigney. We talk with her about what can be done to create a more transparent process so that so that we can understand how they operate.”

      “I’ve toured the site and there is definitely a need for improvement. A new roof is needed. We requested an Architectural Review Process (ARP), which Rigney submitted, listing the improvements she wanted to do on the site. Our staff gave her comments in the hope she can either improve the project or have some direction moving forward with the project.”

      “The reason there is discussion about the ARS,” Cervantes said, “is because we wanted to find out whether the contracts coincided with helping the development project. That’s unclear.

      The contract with the City of San Gabriel is up for renewal in June, 2024.

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      1. John Doe says:

        Nonprofits are not privately owned.

        • Cheryl Cabot says:

          First, John Doe, I am not impressed by anyone not using their real name, but hiding behind a fake one. If you read the article carefully, it says the property is owned privately, and the SGVHS is a non-profit. There is a difference.

        • Brian Talbot says:

          That’s a real waste of comment space, John.

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