Breaking: Judge Sides With SPCA in S.F. Legal Dogfight

A glum Glenn Martyn and Tom Oliver just phoned from the San Mateo County Courthouse where they've lost their court case against the San Francisco SPCA.

The  Executive Director and Program Director at the San Francisco's Hearing Dog Program had hoped to lay claim to a $500,000 bequest earmarked for the SPCA's hearing dog program — the argument being that the SPCA doesn't have a hearing dog program (the 29-year-old program was ostensibly discontinued abruptly last year).

This afternoon, however, Judge Rosemary Pfeiffer of the San Mateo County Probate Court ruled that the San Francisco SPCA met the definition of having “a program” and awarded the money sought by the Hearing Dog Program — whose staff used to work for the SPCA — and Canine Companions for Independence.

“What the judge said at the end was that the bar is set low in terms of what she felt the SPCA had to prove and they had some sort of a program,” said Martyn. Added Oliver, “We believe the intent of the bequest was to help the deaf and hard-of-hearing community receive dogs. The SPCA is not providing that service. All they're doing is follow-up.”

Tina Ahn, the SPCA's director of development and communications, acknowledged that the SPCA is no longer accepting applicants. But she added they “continue to do what we do:Dog trainings and refresher sessions provided by a professional hearing dog trainer, annual wellness checks, emergency vet care, and replacement of equipment.” She added that the SPCA was “delighted” by the outcome of the case.

The plaintiffs are unsure whether or not they will appeal the verdict.  


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