Critics say San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer — beset by legions of the downtown homeless and a bitter controversy over the future of Mission Valley’s Qualcomm Stadium — couldn’t get elected dog catcher these days. Enter the San Diego Humane Society in a well-greased attempt to show how to successfully seize the city’s capturing of canines, not to mention snakes, cats, raccoons, and other forms of animal life. The nonprofit animal-welfare organization, which according to its federal 2015 financial disclosure report hauled in about $20 million a year, including roughly $5.2 million in so-called program service revenue from local municipalities, wants to take over the county’s troubled 128-employee Department of Animal Services.
The privatization has emerged as a pivotal issue in a nasty dispute between Service Employees International Union Local 221, which represents the county’s animal workers, and the county board of supervisors, seeking a spinoff. In addition to patrolling the county’s unincorporated areas, the county department has dog-catcher contracts with San Diego, Carlsbad, Del Mar, Encinitas, Santee, and Solana Beach, all of which expire next year. The cities of Escondido, Imperial Beach, Oceanside, Poway, San Marcos, and Vista already have outsourcing deals with the Humane Society, per the group’s website.
The big dog of animal control is the City of San Diego, which according to county documents, accounted for 64.2 percent of service calls last year, with unincorporated areas a distant second at 26 percent. To snag that most lucrative of contracts, the Humane Society has retained the services of a newly formed lobbying outfit calling itself Civic Alliance Solutions, according to a September 1 disclosure filing with the city clerk’s office. The company is run by Julianna Chick Tetlow, a former aide to GOP city councilman Chris Cate and ex-Republican operative. She is married to Barrett Tetlow, chief of staff for Republican city councilman Scott Sherman. “Her leadership resulted in one of the most successful election cycles in the Party’s recent history,” said Tetlow’s now-removed bio on the website of California Strategies, the big-money Sacramento-based lobbying outfit where she worked as an influence peddler before her current gig. Tetlow’s payment hasn’t yet been reported. According to the society’s 2015 federal disclosure report, chief executive Gary Weitzman, a veterinarian, pulled down total compensation of $235,020, with chief operating officer Kim Shannon picking up $152,013. Enforcement chief Stephen McKinnon, who has the keys to the paddy wagons, got just $106,684.