Pets in Need, the troubled nonprofit animal shelter weathering upheaval after the deaths of seven puppies in its care, has a new interim executive director, the organization has announced in a statement on its website.
Board member and animal welfare expert Valerie McCarthy will immediately replace outgoing Executive Director Al Mollica, who resigned from his position in November after the puppies’ deaths and the overheating of 21 other dogs in a hot transport van in August.
McCarthy has served on the nonprofit’s board of directors for the past year and a half. She is the research editor for the Animal Law and Public Policy Program at Harvard Law School and did graduate work at New York University in animal welfare, according to the statement. She worked on animal welfare issues that included pit bull rescues in some of New York’s poorest neighborhoods and finding homes for cats in Stockholm, Sweden. She has also earned the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ highest volunteer certification in behavioral training. She cares for two male rescue cats at her home.
Pets in Need is the animal shelter contractor for the city of Palo Alto and runs a no-kill shelter in Redwood City. The 55-year-old organization came under a firestorm of criticism after three staff managers were charged with animal cruelty in late October by the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. A police report noted that the seven puppies likely died from heat stroke after being transported for hours in a van that lacked efficient cooling. The compartment where the puppies and 21 other dogs had been confined in cages lacked adequate ventilation in the nearly 100-degree heat. All of the dogs exhibited symptoms of heat distress, a police investigation found.
Staff members wrote a highly critical letter to the nonprofit’s board about management’s handling of the animals and the aftermath.