October 2012: The Humane Society is mysteriously called in and Director Fincher uses that as an excuse to kill all the crated dogs and many cats and staff blames the very volunteers who have been trying to save them. No report is ever written up and a phone call made to them says Rancho was not cited and is allowed to kill the animals after a the legal 3-day hold.
November 2012: Four long-term volunteers with over 3,000 hours of volunteer service, and who made over 100 adoption videos, and personally helped save over 50 at risk animals from euthanasia, are dismissed with no warning and for essentially being whistleblowers. Two of the volunteers notice a “Marc Steinorth for Mayor” Sign shot up in the field officer’s quarters. They take photos of the sign. Human Resource manager Chris Paxton is there for the firing and had to have seen the sign which is against the RC employee manual. Veronica and other members of the leadership would also have seen this sign. It remained in the field office for almost a week, until newly elected councilman Marc Steinorth came to the shelter on Nov. 15th for a guided tour. The shelter wanted Chuck Buquet to be elected and did not want Marc Steinorth for City Council, who THAT Group volunteers wanted. There is no recourse for the sign being allowed in the office.
January 16, 2013: Jesse Kreider, 6-year shelter employee (Field Officer) in good standing and Iraq War Veteran speaks out about the inappropriate acts at the shelter and the Marc Steinorth sign. He is put on administrative leave weeks later and then fired under ludicrous allegations.
June 5, 2013: Veronica Fincher overreacts to a comment made on the THAT Group Facebook page, from a woman in Mississippi in reaction to Veronica’s awful statement that, “EUTHANASIA IS THE FINAL ACT OF KINDNESS THAT
CAN BE SHOWN TO AN ANIMAL.” Veronica had armed security at the council meeting that day, extra police and supposedly security at her home, all at the City's expense. She has had the shelter on lock down keeping the back gates closed making it inconvenient for what few dog walkers are left. She is trying to make herself the victim rather than the poor animals she kills. This is absolutely not a death threat.
June 28th, 2013: The San Bernardino Grand Jury Report is released. There are many red flags to be noted that the City does not point out in their PR announcement. The Grand Jury thanked the RC City Manager, who hired Veronica Fincher and supports her. The shelter was aware of the visits, and notes by kennel manager Erika Gamez indicate they are anticipating “surprise” visits from the Grand Jury. The first visit is during the shelter’s Open House event. The second visit is a guided tour give by Veronica Fincher. The Grand Jury admitted there were allegations not in their purview, but they do not indicate what they were, and no interviews were conducted by those that witnessed poor conditions at the RCAC. Also, the investigation is supposed to be confidential until the official report is filed, yet Councilman Sam Spagnolo made a comment regarding the Grand Jury investigation in the April 20th, 2013 edition of the Daily Bulletin, indicating they were made aware of the investigation.
From January 2013-February 2016, we attended nearly every council meeting with the goal of getting the shelter back to the original no kill goal and to be reinstated as volunteers. Most of the council members are digging their heels in, refusing to acknowledge any problems at the RCAC. They buy into everything the City Manager and the Director tells them, even though Public Records requests tells a very different story. With little change to the council, their has been no change at the RC shelter. THAT Group is putting its efforts into finding new council representatives in place, who will put transparency and accountability and the lives of all animals first.
Late 2009 and early 2010: Volunteers begin to notice kennels being kept in filthy condition and hostility towards dog-walking volunteers questioning this and inability to retain new dog walking volunteers. April 2010: We reach out to the Director Joe Pulcinella’s boss who is Deputy City Manager John Gillison.
May 2010: We meet at city hall with John Gillison and Ray Patchett, a city facilitator who will eventually be paid $35,000 for services in 2009 and 2012 working with staff and volunteer issues.
September 2010: Shelter management tries to run out an out-spoken volunteer about conditions of kennels and Susan Keithly writes a letter of support for her.
October 2010: The RC Shelter is awarded a one-year grant by Best Friends Animal Society, to help establish programs and training for volunteers and staff to help address the high killing of pit bull type dogs. The shelter is one of five in the country to get this grant, and it was done so with a former shelter employee and the volunteers. Adoption promotions, Training classes, Kennel enrichment, Playgroups, and off-site Adoption events are all established through the grant program.
November 2010: Still frustrated once again a group of volunteers meets and we send our notes off to John Gillison in hopes of working together for the good of the animals. Kennel conditions are still filthy and staff/volunteer issues unresolved.
January 2011: Suzanne Buquet (wife of a current city council member at the time) emails out an Overview of Concerns. Before Director Fincher came on board and pandered to Suzanne, she was highly critical of shelter and the leadership team.
February 2011: Suzanne Buquet organizes a trip to the Pasadena Humane Shelter, the group is not impressed. We all come away with a greater appreciation for programs being done at Rancho. Unbeknown to us, Veronica Fincher was working there as Director of Operations, which is being in charge of euthanasia decisions and would be bringing her kill mentality to Rancho. Rancho is now very much like Pasadena!
May 4, 2011: Suzanne Buquet sends out an email regarding the April 27, 2011 Shelter Report. Councilman Bill Alexander later comments the report was “full of fluff” and we all agree.
June 13, 2011: Staff – Volunteer workshop, things are nice for a very short period but then back to same resistance by leadership team in particular Erika Gamez, Animal Care Supervisor and veterinary Dr.Toomoth. Ray Patchett is hired by City to facilitate.
July 2011: It is announced that Director Joe Pulcinella is set to retire. It is addressed in the Daily Bulletin that there have been a number of issues regarding communication between staff and volunteers. As well as addressing the hope to continue to work towards no kill. Councilman Sam Spagnolo is quoted as saying they want to bring in a Director who will bridge the gap between staff and volunteers.
December 2011: Director Fincher is hired and we have high hopes she can make things better for the animals; pretty quickly we can see that is not the case:
1. She stops naming incoming animals citing that she needs to clean up records and owners will not be able to recognize their animals if it has a different name. Also said it is easier for staff to euthanize an animal with no name.
2. States Rancho will not be keeping animals as long as they used to.
3. Does not allow volunteers to have any promotions as we did in the past.
4. No longer allows volunteers to set-up and run off-site adoptions events.
5. Does not allow training for the dogs, even though Dana Keithly who was the Best Friends Grant Pit Bull Coordinator had the funds, trainer, dogs and volunteers in place and ready to go.
6. Makes playgroup time very difficult and citing it conflicts with crate cleaning even though we offered to walk the crated dogs and help the staff.
7. Dogs are crated for up to 8 weeks with only two-10 minute breaks and then killed for behavior reasons.
8. Staff becoming increasingly more hostile. We are informed by multiple sources that staff were encouraged by the Leadership Team to be hostile toward certain volunteers and report on everything they do while at the shelter.
January-May 2012: Veronica and the Leadership Team begin to target animals and put deadlines on them. Volunteers are forced to scramble to save these dogs, while rescues have been cut by Veronica. She has ripped up all the rescue contracts and makes all rescues re-apply for her approval.
June 7, 2012: A group of 7 volunteers meets with Veronica to plead with her to work together for the animals. We feel we are ambushed. She has the following in the meeting with her Linda Wieczorek, Field Officer; Barbara Hanson, Volunteer Coordinator; Sherry Rennie and Teri Jacobs, Volunteer Liaisons. They basically say if we don’t like it there we should just leave and we will never be allowed to do the things we did so wonderfully in the past for the dogs. Field Officer Wieczorek tells us that Rancho is not so bad with euthanizing, when she worked in Moreno Valley she said, “I euthanized 30 to 40 dogs a day either by injection or shooting.” We are horrified and very worried that someone who could do that is now working in Rancho and seems to be Veronica’s right hand person. We actually cannot understand why she was even in the meeting. We later hear that she has spread rumors about us that we cussed Veronica out in the meeting.
June 20, 2012: We address city council to ask them for help to work together to address growing concerns. We discuss many of the contributions made by these volunteers to the RCAC. Veronica corners a volunteer at the shelter and makes a snide remark referring to some of the volunteers who attended the council meeting as "that group". Hence, an advocacy group is born.
July 9, 2012: We learn City Manager John Gillison has sent out a false report about our 6/7/12 meeting with Director Fincher to city council and I email him stating we know and he denies. Director Fincher and City Manager Gillison concocted this story to discredit us. It is completely untrue.
July 19, 2012: email to Gillison about the “Sad State of Affairs” of the RCAC and to once again ask for help. Gillison continues to say he will not "micromanage".
August 27, 2012: Story of 6/7/12 meeting is getting out of hand. Suzanne Buquet is spreading rumors to other volunteers. She once had the same concerns we did but has now done a 180.
September 4, 2012: City Manager Gillison supposedly sets actual event of 6/7/12 meeting to city council straight and does a mea culpa for the email, but still refuses to acknowledge any problems at the RCAC.
September-October 2012: More animals continue to die, even ones that volunteers are able to work with. Members of THAT Group scramble to continue to save at risk dogs, as the list to network grows from 2 to 3 to 4 to 5 to 12 dogs at a time. THAT Group has a near perfect record for saving the dogs on these lists, with the exception of two, who are killed without notice. The shelter does nothing to help save these "kill list" dogs.
September 23, 2012, Sunday 10:00 am: Susan Keithly arrives for playgroup and gives a crated dog Rosalinda a biscuit and tells her she will be back for her to introduce her to playgroup. When she returns around 11:30 Rosalinda has been killed. We have never had a dog killed right under us in this way. Staff saw us working with her all week and we feel it is a vindictive act to break us down and drive us out.
September 26, 2012: A video of "Rosalinda’s Story" is put on YouTube.
September 30, 2012: Volunteer Liaison Terri Jacobs sends out an inappropriate email to all volunteers, with Veronica’s approval regarding Rosalinda’s video. In the email, she alludes to what would happen to the dogs if the "over capacity crates" are seen by the Humane Society or OSHA.