Highly respected, frustrated director at Oakland Animal Shelter announces resignation

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Rebecca Katz, the highly respected director of animal services at the Oakland Animal Shelter, says she is resigning in frustration effective June 15.

In a recent letter to volunteers Katz wrote in part:

"…I simply cannot work at an agency that does not get the resources and support from the city needed to fulfill its mission."

"...As such, I feel I have no option left but to resign my post."

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf responded, expressing sadness by the news and hope that Katz changes her mind.

Katz, who is currently out of town and did not respond to messages, has said she told the city the shelter is understaffed, with some positions going unfilled for more than two years. 

She lobbied for more funding and support in the budget and also left open the possibility of stating if the city met the shelter's needs.

"I do recognize her frustration, shared by many departments, [with] the slowness in filling vacancies. The city is in good company with businesses trying to recruit talent in a highly competitive market," said Schaaf. 

One woman who has been a volunteer at the shelter for the past 18 years says she has seen the understaffing first hand.

"We are only open 21 hours a week. That's half of Berkeley and San Francisco’s open hours. We were closed to the public one day because a person called in sick. That level of lean staffing affects everyone," said Willow Liroff.

Since Katz took over in late 2014, the number of adoptions at the shelter has increased significantly while the euthanasia rate has dropped.

Many at the shelter are concerned that if Katz does go, several top managers also may leave with her.

"I don't know how we can expect anyone to stay under those work conditions, especially people who care about serving Oakland and serving the animals," said Liroff.

Schaaf says if Katz does resign, the City will begin a nationwide search to find her replacement.