PLEASANTON, California––The long-awaited state-of-the-art Maddie’s Fund teaching and training shelter turns out to be no shelter at all.
Whether this reflects a change in the Maddie’s Fund thinking about how best to transition the U.S. to no-kill animal control is unclear, but the decision to scrap the notion of building a teaching-and-training shelter comes about a year after Maddie’s Fund in January 2013 questioned whether outdoor cats believed to be feral should be admitted to shelters at all.
“We’ll be combining the latest developments in lifesaving with advances in technology to create a new concept in animal sheltering,” Maddie’s Fund founder and computer software magnate Dave Duffield pledged on November 22, 2010.
Duffield and Maddie’s Fund founding president Richard Avanzino said they anticipated opening the new shelter “before 2014.”
Money appeared to be of no concern in their planning.
Incorporated as the Duffield Family Foundation, Maddie’s Fund has been endowed since 1998 with more than $300 million from Dave and his wife Cheryl Duffield’s earnings as the founders of PeopleSoft, acquired by Oracle in 2005, and Workday, begun in 2005. Making more than $136 million in grants and other investments in support of transitioning communities to no-kill animal control, the foundation operates as Maddie’s Fund in honor of Maddie, a schnauzer who was for 10 years a Duffield family pet.
Maddie’s Fund in 2012 paid $17 million for a vacant 141,000-square-foot office building in Pleasanton, an outlying suburb of San Francisco and Oakland.
“The plan was to use part of the building for an animal shelter, research center, and headquarters for Maddie’s Fund that was expected to open this year,” reported Blanca Torres of the San Francisco Business Timeson April 15, 2014.
Renovating the building was expected to cost about $45 million, Avanzino estimated. The shelter alone was to occupy about 90,000 square feet.
But the plan has been dropped, Torres wrote.
“Spending a lot of money on a model facility did not align with the best way to spend money on animal welfare,” Avanzino told Torres. “Cost was not the factor,” Avanzino added. “It was really coming up with creative and innovative ideas to create the best shelter that would become a model for the nation.”
Originally headquartered in Alameda, Maddie’s Fund now occupies a 3,000-square-foot office in the Stoneridge Corporate Plaza in Pleasanton. The Duffields bought the Stoneridge Corporate Plaza to house Workday.
Maddie’s Fund plans to increase staffing from 12 employees to 25 during 2014, Avanzino said, and expects to double its office space, but “has not made any definitive decisions,” Torres wrote.
What will be done with the building that was to become the state-of-the-art shelter has yet to be determined. The Duffield and Maddie’s Fund real estate assets are managed by Nevada Pacific Holdings. “The foundation’s board is still deciding whether to hold onto the building to occupy part of it later on or sell it,” Nevada Pacific spokesperson Steve Hill told Torres.
Maddie’s Fund has been advised since circa 2003 by Kate Hurley, director of the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and Julie Levy, director of Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville.
“Is it a good idea to stop admitting community cats into shelters?” the Maddie’s Fund electronic newsletter The No-Kill Nation asked on January 16, 2013. “Yes, if admission equals death,” attributing that perspective to Levy and Hurley.
Elaborated Hurley, “In the United States, we have been accustomed to the idea that the best thing for an unwanted cat is to be surrendered to a shelter. When the shelter is reasonably sure of finding the cat an adoptive home or providing it with lifelong humane care, this is certainly the case. However, we now recognize that admitting more healthy cats than can be released alive over time does not necessarily serve cats, communities or shelters well.”
ANIMALS 24-7 learned subsequently that Hurley was unaware that the nuisance wildlife control industry may now be killing almost as many cats per year as animal shelters, with no reporting requirements or public oversight whatever.
Regardless of the future role of animal shelters, the Maddie’s Fund shelter project raised skepticism from the beginning. Pleasanton, a city of about 73,000 people, already has the Valley Humane Society shelter, opened in 1987. Animal control shelter service is provided by the East County Animal Shelter in nearby Dublin, opened in 1996. Both, while no longer new, remain well-regarded.
Many other San Francisco Bay area animal shelters are considered state-of-the-art or close to it, including Maddie’s Adoption Center at the San Francisco SPCA, the project that initiated the long partnership between the Duffields and Avanzino, who from 1976 to the end of 1998 headed the SF/SPCA.
Completed in 1996, Maddie’s Adoption Center incorporates most of the design elements that are still seen as state-of-the-art, operating in combination with the Leanne B. Roberts Animal Care Center, opened in January 2009.