Animal refuge accuses Sacramento SPCA of straying from vegan food policy CEO says never existed

Grass Valley nonprofit’s online petition demanding vegan menu at SPCA events has collected 8,300 signatures

This is an extended version of a story that ran in the April 6, 2017, issue.

Two Sacramento area nonprofit organizations are butting heads over a policy that apparently never existed.

Kim Sturla claims that Sacramento SPCA CEO Kenn Altine reversed a menu policy that ensured meals at events would be entirely vegan shortly after he took over the open-admission animal shelter in 2016.

Sturla is co-founder and executive director of Animal Place, a Grass Valley refuge for mistreated farm animals. She and her team started an online petition in hopes of pressuring the SPCA to return to a vegan menu, a move that stunned Altine. The petition was launched February 10 and now has approximately 8,300 signatures.

Altine and his staff reviewed board meeting records with the intention of finding and clarifying the policy that called for a vegan menu, but what they instead found was that the policy never existed. “We did not have an official policy,” Altine said. “My predecessor had a [no-meat] policy at SPCA official events, unless they were sponsored. Well, all of our events are sponsored, so it was just a paper policy that was not board approved.”

Altine clarified that what Animal Place believed to be a formal, board-approved policy was merely former SPCA CEO Rick Johnson’s way of diverting attention from the issue. “Official events” would be those open to the public, excluding volunteer appreciation and staff-only events. However, in reality, all official events are sponsored, and therefore, nothing actually would have been affected by this rule.

Johnson was unavailable for comment.

Sturla was unable to say when this supposed policy was enacted, only that she learned it was not being honored in September after pepperoni pizza was brought in for the staff and chicken was an option at a volunteer appreciation event, neither of which were official SPCA events.

Altine confirmed that both food selections were made available, along with the same vegetarian options that his predecessor had served. The reaction from SPCA staff and volunteers was overwhelmingly positive, according to Altine.

Yet even after Altine explained to Sturla that there had never been an official policy, she continues to maintain that a formal vegan meal policy was put in place. The Animal Place website still pushes a petition that criticizes Altine. “My biggest concern is that when one nonprofit attacks another, everybody loses,” Altine said.

Sturla insisted that this was not her goal.

“I encourage Sacramento residents to support the SPCA,” she said. “At the same time I would encourage them to respectfully ask the SPCA to please adopt a vegan menu policy or to at least go back to what they had.”

Sturla insists that eating meat at SPCA events sends mixed messages and asks the SPCA to move toward an “ethically constant mission.” Animal Place also conducts outreach and education on animal farming and veganism, according to its mission statement.

While the general consensus of the public is that this is less of an issue that it is being made out to be, there are some, like Valerie Duran, who agree with Sturla. “It’s hard to please everyone,” said Duran, a longtime volunteer at Sacramento County Animal Care. “I say animals should be the priority at any animal care facility, even over volunteers.”

Interactions between members of the SPCA and Animal Place have been cordial, but Altine expressed confusion why this continues to be an issue when the two are already moving forward and collaborating on other projects.

“Animal Place does a lot of phenomenal work,” Altine said. “Their mission is important, but it’s not our mission. And we don’t all have to have the same mission.”