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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Detractors Rejoice After SPCA President Jan McHugh-Smith Announces Departure

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2009 at 6:11 PM

click to enlarge Jan McHugh-Smith
  • Jan McHugh-Smith
The brief and controversial reign of San Francisco SPCA President Jan McHugh-Smith will end in March of 2010. At that point she'll pack up and move back to Colorado and begin a job with Humane Society Pike's Peak Region, the largest animal shelter in southern and western Colorado.

A sizable group of animal-loving San Franciscans couldn't be more delighted.

"It's fantastic that her contract is not being renewed," said Hope Johnson, an SPCA volunteer-turned-outspoken critic. "I think she didn't realize what she was getting into."

"Great news!" echoed Kathleen McGarr, another ex-volunteer who is now a member of FixSanFrancisco.org, a grassroots campaign aiming to end the killing of animals in shelters. "I'm very excited."

McGarr and other like-minded former volunteers have been complaining for months about how McHugh-Smith trampled on the vision of the organization and prioritized the finances of humans over the welfare of animals.

Under McHugh-Smith, the well-regarded Hearing Dog program was eliminated, and fifteen percent of the staff was recently laid off. An SF Weekly cover feature detailed how, with McHugh-Smith at the helm, the SPCA was seemingly killing more animals to save money and directing the savings toward a for-profit hospital. The construction of the controversial $30 million hospital reportedly led to financial shortfalls exceeding $1 million a year.

"There were a lot of things that she initiated that I think are unfortunate," said Glenn Martyn, director of the Hearing Dog Program, the nonprofit formed after the SPCA's hearing dog program was discontinued last year. "It was hard for me to watch all this being dismantled. There were some very drastic changes that really undercut what to me was essential to the SPCA."

A press release announcing McHugh-Smith's decision also listed her accomplishments as the first female president in the S.F. SPCA's history. Those included a 20-percent increase in animal adoptions and the opening of the the for-profit hospital, the Leanne B. Roberts Animal Care Center.

"Jan's time as head of the SF SPCA has been marked by outstanding achievement and we thank her for her contributions," said Board Chair Catherine B. Brown. "Our staff, volunteers and supporters throughout the Bay Area will continue to build on this record of success."

According to McHugh-Smith, it was family concerns that drove the decision. "Ultimately, I couldn't pass up an opportunity for my husband and me to be closer to our children and grandchildren while continuing my work on behalf of animals in my home state of Colorado."

McGarr said she hopes the board will choose a new president who is interested in working with the rest of the animal welfare community.   

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Ashley Harrell

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