To the surprise and disappointment of some, Rebecca Katz, who has served as director of San Francisco’s Animal Care and Control since 2008, has been relieved of her duties.
The news came Friday afternoon when City Administrator Naomi Kelly, who oversees the Department of Animal Care and Control, emailed the department’s staff announcing that Katz was out and Eric Zuercher, the department’s animal care supervisor, was in as acting director.
Katz, who has been employed by The City for nearly 14 years, cleaned out her office Friday. Hours later, she said, “I really care about the ACC. I really care about our mission; I was extremely dedicated.”
She additionally heaped praise on her now former staff. “I wish there’d be a way for me to stay and continue to work with them.”
While politics concerning the care of animals is often a very contentious affair in San Francisco, those who spoke with The San Francisco Examiner couldn’t point to any single issue that might have landed Katz in the dog house. Katz called it a “parting of ways” and added that “I wasn’t entirely informed of what the issues were.”
The internal email from Kelly, who was appointed as city administrator by Mayor Ed Lee in July 2012, noted that “we are also working to improve our relationships with volunteers and external stakeholders.”
There may have been strained relations between Katz and the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The nonprofit retained well-known lobbyist Alex Clemens several months ago when requesting to take over The City’s animal shelter from Animal Care and Control.
Sally Stephens, a dog advocate and chair of the Commission of Animal Control and Welfare, said historically the two groups “have not got along with each other,” even before Katz’s tenure.
“This comes as a surprise to us,” said SF SPCA spokeswoman Cynthia Kopec of Katz’s departure. When asked if the group’s proposal might have factored into the department head change, Kopec responded, “to make the connection doesn’t seem fair to me since it’s been several months.”
Stephens praised Katz for her work, including trying to convince The City to invest more in the department, which some considered underfunded. “She was very vocal in asking for support. Whether that had anything to do with it, I don’t know,” Stephens said.
Last year, Katz received some criticism for publicly supporting the opening of a Pet Food Express chain pet store in the Marina neighborhood, which involved a contentious battle that had dragged on for years.
Supervisor Scott Wiener worked with Katz on his legislation that created permits for dog walkers and recently helped increase city funding for the department. “I’m very disappointed to see Rebecca go,” Wiener said. “She’s done a very good job.”