Al Mollica, the executive director of beleaguered animal advocacy organization Pets in Need, will resign, the nonprofit confirmed Thursday.
His decision to leave comes three weeks after a tumultuous period for the 55-year-old animal rescue organization, which was rocked three months ago after seven puppies died in an overheated, poorly ventilated van. Twenty other dogs survived but required treatment for heat exhaustion after a transport rescue from the Central Valley on Aug. 2. A lone guinea pig, which was kept in the passenger compartment with three staff members in air conditioning, was not affected.
Palo Alto police announced on Oct. 26 that the three managers who brought the dogs to the Palo Alto Animal Shelter at 3281 E. Bayshore Road were being charged with failing to give proper care and attention to an animal and animal cruelty, inhuman transportation of an animal by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office. Since then, Pets in Need (PIN) has come under intense public scrutiny.
The organization's public responses, often attributed to Mollica, have been notably resentful of the Police Department's involvement and scathingly critical of the city of Palo Alto, which hired Pets in Need in 2018 to take over operations at the city-owned shelter. On Nov. 15, Mollica informed the city that Pets in Need would terminate its contract and cease services at the Palo Alto shelter at the end of 2022, blaming the city for failing in its contractual agreements to upgrade the facility.
The city has denied those allegations, saying it spent $1.5 million to upgrade the medical suites and has added multiple improvements to the kennels. The city has completed the new kennel building design and is in the process of purchasing the new kennels, the city said in a Nov. 16 statement.
Another bombshell dropped on Thursday morning after word came out that Mollica would leave.
He "has informed the organization of his intention to resign. PIN's board and Al are currently working out details including the exact date of his departure. The board will be meeting over the next few days to determine an interim management structure, plans for the recruitment of a new executive director, and other important transitional items," the organization said in an email statement.
"The organization will have more information to share early next week. As always, Pets in Need appreciates the continuing support we continue to receive from the community for our important work," the organization said.
Redwood City-based Pets in Need began its relationship with the city after the City Council unanimously approved a deal with the organization in late November 2018 to take over animal services, including management of the city's shelter.
Under a five-year contract, the city agreed to pay $3.7 million to Pets In Need, which took over operations in January 2019. Palo Alto also agreed to pay $3.4 million for capital improvements, including an expanded medical suite, 16 new dog kennels and a modular office and classroom. The improvements were designed to keep the aged shelter functional while Pets In Need worked to secure funding through a multiyear campaign to build a new facility. The city completed construction of the shelter's medical suite in September 2020 but rebuilding the new kennels faced a funding gap of about $500,000, according to city staff.
In March 2020, Pets in Need closed its shelter due to shelter-in-place orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. It transformed to a remote operation with a paired-down staff to continue providing shelter and medical services.
The shelter reopened to the public in June 2021 as Santa Clara County relaxed public health restrictions on businesses.
Mollica has been Pets in Need's executive director since 2014, according to his LinkedIn page. His responsibilities include planning and implementing the organization's strategic plan; budget preparation and oversight; fundraising and communications management; achievement of financial objectives; and adherence to existing policies and procedures. He is also principal of Mollica Consulting Group, which offers professional consultation services to nonprofit organizations.
Prior to Pets in Need, he was the executive director of the Delaware SPCA for one year and chief interim officer and CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Philadelphia for five years.
Mollica could not immediately be reached for comment.