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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dog Day Afternoon: Battle Over $500K Bequest For Hearing Dog Program Continues Today

Posted By on Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 8:30 AM

click to enlarge Which organization will be top dog?
  • Which organization will be top dog?

Throw a pile of food on the ground, and all but the most beatific dogs will scramble for what's theirs. Turns out, if you do the same thing with a pile of money, hearing dog programs don't share well, either.

When a $500,000 bequest was recently awarded to the San Francisco SPCA's hearing dog program -- despite the fact said program was very publicly curtailed last year -- the SPCA claimed that, yes, of course it still had a program. Meanwhile, the staff of the former SPCA program, now reincarnated as the independent nonprofit "Hearing Dog Program," and Canine Companions for Independence -- which took referrals after the SPCA nixed its program -- also threw their dog bowls in the ring and claimed the money is rightfully theirs.

The matter went to court last month in San Mateo and, after a lengthy hearing, was continued until today. At the time of the last hearing, Tom Oliver, the program director for the Hearing Dog Program, was pessimistic:  "The judge asked them to prove they have a program and they proved they

have a program," Oliver said in March. "Our contention is the program they're providing is so skeletal they don't even have a staff. But, no, it's not looking good."

Having reviewed a pile of documents submitted by the SPCA, Oliver is feeling better about his chances:

"The group Assistance Dogs International says that, in order to be defined as having a program, you have to take applicants and you have to train the dogs. They do not do that," Oliver says of the SPCA. "If they have any program at all, it's a referral program. What they're doing is accepting calls and referring people to other agencies."

The SPCA maintains it never truly curtailed its hearing dog program. SPCA Development Director told  SF Weekly,

"We support our graduates. We do have a hearing dog program. It's to support our graduates." Ahn confirmed that the SPCA is not training nor selecting dogs nor taking applicants for the program. In aiding hearing program graduates, Ahn stated the SPCA is "seeing a small number of folks" -- but wouldn't elaborate how many people (and dogs) that entailed.

A ruling could come as early as today.

Photo   |   Yomanimus

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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