New Pasadena Humane Society Executive Director Defends Rate Hikes Despite Pushback by 8 Area Cities

Contracts with 11 local cities for animal control and welfare services provide for only 25% of the Pasadena Humane Society’s operating budget, new Chief said

Published : Tuesday, September 17, 2019 | 5:34 AM

President and Chief Executive Officer of the Pasadena Humane Society and SPCA Dia DuVernet

[Updated] The new President and Chief Executive Officer of the Pasadena Humane Society on Monday defended price increases for her organization’s animal control and welfare services condemned in a Sept. 11 letter by city managers of eight local municipalities, including Pasadena.

The city managers complained their efforts to get answers about recent cost increases of up to 500% “have not been fruitful” and accused the Society of avoiding transparency.

But the Society’s new chief, Dia DuVernet, rebutted the letter, saying not only did she meet with some cities whose contracts were up for renegotiation, but there was a cost analysis performed that justifies the rate hikes.

DuVernet pointed out there haven’t been price increases by the Society in as long as 30 years for some cities.

Now, on the verge of a dire financial situation, Dia DuVernet, whose first day as CEO was June 10, said she met with at least two of the cities that the Pasadena Humane Society serves and put it in plain language that for most of the cities under contract, there would be rate increases.

The Humane Society engaged an outside accounting firm to provide guidance and the cost analysis was completed in April, 2019, DuVernet said.

“We spend almost all of our $13 million budget providing services to the cities we are contracted to serve. However, under the current contracts, the fees cover less than 25 percent of our budget,” DuVernet said in a written statement.

The analysis motivated the rate hikes, she indicated.

Arcadia has been asked to pay $525,000 annually, up from $90,000. La Cañada-Flintridge absorbed a smaller, but still significant, increase from $40,000 to $146,00. Bradbury’s bill for animal-related services went from $4,700 to $20,415.

Pasadena’s bill will be higher, although it is not yet known by how much. The City has depended upon the Humane Society as its de facto City animal control department since 1903.

The Pasadena contracts have typically been for three-year terms, but the last was extended to five in recognition of the long relationship between the City and the Society. It was for $1.14 million per year.

DuVernet added that some cities won’t see increases, identifying Glendale, unincorporated Altadena/La Crescenta and unincorporated Pasadena as already in alignment with the new fee structure.

“I was a little surprised” by the joint letter from the city managers, DuVernet said.

“I think I’ve tried to be as transparent as possible and tried to reach out to the contract cities,” DuVernet said. “I think since the contracts are all different and all being evaluated independently that it’s best to have these conversations one on one with different cities.

DuVernet responded emphatically to a statement in the city managers’ letter which said several local cities “have been given to understand that PHS may no longer consider these animal control and related animal welfare services as a part of its mission.”

“Please let me assure all of you,” DuVernet said, “that PHS absolutely wants to continue providing high-quality animal control and care to our contract localities. Compassion and care have been at the heart of our mission since 1903.”

In recent years, the Pasadena Humane Society’s responsibilities and accountability have changed dramatically. Euthanasia has gone down and adoptions are up, but with the process of finding a good home for stray animals, come many additional expenses, DuVernet explained.

“Concerned citizens, as well as our own commitment to compassion and humane care, have demanded that we move beyond impoundment and euthanasia of animals. Our mandate now is to prevent animals from entering the shelter when possible, and to provide life-saving care and rehoming for those that end up under our protection,” she said in a separate statement.

“With the support of the community, we have reached a point at this moment where we are not euthanizing for any reason other than irremediable suffering or public safety risk.”

“We’re very fortunate to have the support of the community, we actively seek contributions from people who want to provide the very best care possible,” DuVernet said. “We’ve been fortunate to receive bequests but that’s not income we can count on an annual basis so it puts us at risk to not bring our contract and fees for service in line with what it costs to provide the service.”

“From here we’re continuing to reach out,” she said.”We’re happy to reach out to any and all cities individually or collectively, we try to answer any questions they may have and that’s our approach at this point.”