Wild-animal rescue group seeks merger

A financially strapped wildlife rescue in Palo Alto is seeking to merge with the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA, officials at both organizations confirmed.

Wildlife Rescue Inc. members will vote on the merger Nov. 7, said WRI Board Vice President Michelle Johnson Cobb. A simple majority of at least 5 percent of voting members would approve the merger.

The 33-year-old WRI has been in dire financial straights since 2005 when state budget cuts caused city governments to slash their funding for nonessential services.

Mountain View pulled its funding to WRI entirely, and Los Altos Hills cut its support by 75 percent, to $3,000 a year. Palo Alto also pulled the majority of its funding, but continues to pay the lease on WRI’s small wildlife rehabilitation clinic at the site of the former Cubberley High School.

With an operating budget of $200,000 and only two paid staff members, several dozen volunteers care for sick and injured wildlife in home care facilities.

Cobb said that since announcing the organizations plans to its members in two letters earlier this month, she has received both positive and negative feedback about the move. Some longtime volunteers have urged WRI to explore other options, she said.

Last year,WRI admitted nearly 1,800 injured or orphaned animals in Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View. The organization also provides education programs to about 4,000 children and adults each year.

Merging with PHS/SPCA is essential for continuing the mission, Cobb said. It was also a natural choice as the two organizations have worked well together over the years, and PHS/SPCA is one of the few humane societies that’s mission includes the care of wildlife as well as domesticated animals, she said.

The merger would change WRI’s name slightly to Wildlife Rescue: A program of the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA. It would be up to PHS/SPCA to offer jobs to WRI’s two employees.

“It hasn’t been decided yet, but that’s something we’re open to,” said Scott Delucchi, spokesman for PHS/SPCA.

PHS/SPCA boasts an annual operating budget of nearly $9 million, 90 paid staff members and about 900 volunteers. It receives all of San Mateo County’s and many of San Francisco’s injured, sick and orphaned wildlife.

“Since our traditional boundary is East Palo Alto to the south, (merging with WRI) would really be an extension of what we already do,” Delucchi said.

tbarak@examiner.com

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