Gracie’s Story: a Rescue Tail and an Exposé of Animal Suffering at the Stockton Animal Shelter

Posted by Jenni James, ALDF Litigation Fellow on January 16, 2014

When local government fails to enforce laws that protect animals from suffering, turning to the courts is often the only remaining option—and that is why ALDF is monitoring the situation at the Stockton, California animal shelter closely. When Eileen McFall first visited Stockton Animal Services on March 2, 2012, she thought she knew what to expect. Having heard media accounts of nearly a thousand animals destroyed under the newest supervisor, Eileen had also heard disturbing stories from current and former shelter employees. Still, what she found shocked her.


Gracie at Stockton Shelter with a large abscess.

She saw animals with obvious injuries who showed no sign of having received veterinary treatment. Most disturbing was a pit bull with a large, untreated swelling on her face. With her camera, Eileen documented what she witnessed and asked to see the records of sick and injured animals, but shelter staff refused.  City council member Dale Fritchen was allowed to see the shelter’s records, which defused the situation, but Eileen was still prevented from seeing these public records.

Outraged, Eileen posted the images of the wounded dogs on Central California Pets Alive, a Facebook page she organized to advocate for shelter reform in Stockton. When concerned citizens called Stockton Animal Services, they were told the dog with the swollen face had been taken to a local veterinarian and diagnosed with tumor they were told would be too expensive to treat. Working with a local rescue, Eileen used the provisions of the California state law “the Hayden Act,” to place “rescue holds” on several dogs, including the one with the swollen face, now named Gracie.

Eileen fostered Gracie, who turned out to have an abscess and ear infections. A local veterinarian drained the abscess and put in stitches, gave her antibiotics for the ear infections, and spayed her, once she was healthy. For less than $500 retail, a higher price than Stockton Animal Services would pay if it had simply employed a veterinarian, Gracie was treated. Within a month, Gracie was adopted by a local family—and she is now a beloved family member.


Gracie in her adoptive home.

Since then, Eileen has helped rescue dozens more dogs and cats in urgent need, mostly pit bulls, who are killed at alarmingly higher rates than all other breeds, and many of whom are sick or injured with treatable conditions. These loving, adoptable animals are listed on Central California Pets Alive.

Eileen says “for every animal I save or help, I know there are hundreds killed, and many of them could be saved if Stockton followed the law, used taxpayer funding effectively, and demonstrated a commitment to the policy goal of the State of California to end the killing of healthy and treatable animals by comprehensively implementing lifesaving programs.”

Almost two years after Gracie’s rescue, and many fruitless attempts to bring about reform, Stockton Animal Services still blocks access to public records—and continues to deny treatment to sick and injured animals. ALDF will not stand for the neglect of innocent animals, and we encourage citizens to report their concerns to local law enforcement. Remember to “adopt, not shop”—by adopting animals from shelters rather than purchasing them from breeders and pet stores.  Hundreds of thousands of cats, dogs, and other animals are in shelters waiting for their forever-homes, before it’s too late. ALDF is strongly considering legal action to protect the animals at this facility.

17 thoughts on “Gracie’s Story: a Rescue Tail and an Exposé of Animal Suffering at the Stockton Animal Shelter

  1. frances bell says:

    when are these people going to understand that shelters was created to rescue animals from cruelty or homelessness not to let them suffer or to be killed these people should be ashamed of themselves

  2. Deanne Alcala says:

    Please stop this cruel treatment of animals and put someone in charge that really does care.

  3. Shadow says:

    Why are has nothing been done yet, if u know what’s going on and do nothing that’s just as bad as u doing it urself. Thank u Eileen for what u did!

  4. Leigh says:

    I left a message with the Stockton animal services asking them to explain themselves. People are posting their dislikes of the place for example:
    I live in Stockton, and sadly, everything about the shelter is true. When My cat Miley went missing, I went there several times a week and was treated rudely. The conditions are disgusting, and sad. I saw a handler throw a cat into a cage because he said it was feral. He hurt her, and did not care. I hope someday things will be different. I never did find my cat, and fear what happened to her.
    When you look at their facebook page it’s all sweetness and light.

  5. AnimalLvr says:

    I think this needs some fact-checking. This shelter is in turnaround mode.

    1. J says:

      Agreed. The only date stated in this article is “2012”

  6. Janet in Cambridge MA says:

    It depends so much on the culture of the shelter. There are many, many shelters that work hard in the face of financial and other difficulties, but they care about the animals. That doesn’t seem to be the case in Stockton. Keep up the pressure. Thanks to everyone who puts the spotlight on a shelter like this, so everyone can help out.

    1. AnimalLvr says:

      You’re right on. Search for a more recent article on Recordnet about what the shelter is up to in 2013 and 2014. March 2012 was 2 years ago.

      1. Mellie says:

        2 years ago or not, this shelter is resposible for the deplorable conditions & inhumane acts committed. If you’re suggesting we should forgive & forget you’re nuts! So many animals have passed through their doors w untreated injuries/health conditions that were very treatable & instead of helping them they let them suffer or killed them. Its going to take a lot longer than 2 years for them to make what they did right. If they believe they did everything they could & provided all medical treatment to suffering animals in their care; why are they refusing to show their records? It could all be cleared up as simple as that but they know they were wrong & are hiding the truth. Bottom line.

  7. stefanie evans says:

    What exactly is this “shelter” protecting these animals from?? Sounds like they are what animals need to be protected from. What is the facebook page name for this “shelter”? I would LOVE to make a few comments

  8. Shell says:

    Bless your heart, Eileen McFall:-) :-) :-) .
    ….You are, indeed, an angel!! As for the so-called shelter…SHAME ON YOU!!

  9. Hazel says:

    I have toured the Stockton Shelter it’s nasty, I lost my cat went there twice called nothing no cats find there homes ever again…I insisted to look my self there…he was in a pink carrier in the corner heard my voice cried out loud….I asked for a Russian blue with a blue collor a boy cat…none here they said….there he was in the corner….Lazy mean STAFF…and it. Cost me fifty bucks….we should pick it this joint!

  10. Grammydeer says:

    We went to the Stockton Animal “Shelter” to adopt a cat. We were told that when we went into the cat area, the ones on the right were not ready for adoption and the ones on the left were available unless marked ‘not available’. EVERY cage on the left was marked ‘not available’. We adopted two cats from a no kill shelter instead but felt so sorry for the ones we couldn’t adopt because there is no effort to find homes for the animals they pick up or that are brought to them.

  11. Judy Budge says:

    There seems to be other shelters like this one. They should be shut down as they are not rescuing/protecting these animals.

  12. NKSC says:

    I am so happy to see that you are helping Stockton. At least , ALDF helps a nonlocal Shelter while it ignores the Shelter in it’s own backyard. It breaks my heart to know that ALDF requested 15 months of records on Sonoma County’s Animal Shelter and did absolutely nothing with them. Except to use them for what?

    The dogs in the “Stray Area” are still not getting any consistent exercise. The rescues are still not being told of dogs that need help (we were told to figure it out ourselves who needs help). Dogs are still witnessing each other getting that first lethal dose of Ketamine and dumped of carts with trash bags. Shall I go on? This is in your own backyard. And to top it off a 16 year old dog was killed with a rabies vaccination in November by another uncertified employee giving shots that was not legally allowed too. But you ALDF have left it to the citizens to keep fighting the corrupt system here. Thank you for all your help??? Who gave you a big fat check to stop looking at the Shelter????

  13. EYG says:

    It is unacceptable for ANY shelter or pound refuse public access to records and site visits. The community needs to fire the City Council members that let this nefarious covering-up continue.

  14. Barbaralynne Miller says:

    These Shelters Have All The Wrong People Working There Fire Them And Hire People That Truly Want To Help These Poor Animals… This Makes Me Sick…..

Be a Partner in Protection!

Donate monthly to help animals.

or make a one-time gift »

ALDF's Online Store

Help fund our lifesaving work!


Stay Connected

Sign up for Action Alerts.

Join Us

Follow ALDF on these networks:

Stay Connected

Sign up for Action Alerts.