San Francisco sure is in the doghouse with PETA.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has piled on The City over the past few weeks with complaints from the animal-rights group about our track record when it comes to all manner of beasties.
There is AT&T Park, which PETA dropped from its annual list of the top 10 vegetarian-friendly ballparks; even the Oakland Coliseum made the list.
The owners of the Presidio Social Club also had to go ahead and irk PETA by declaring that they would continue to serve foie gras despite the new state ban on the item. Since the restaurant is technically on federal land, the staff insisted they don’t have to comply with the law.
And there is former Supervisor Bevan Dufty’s plan to have chronic panhandlers raise puppies for a stipend.
Dufty, who serves as Mayor Ed Lee’s homelessness chief, has conceived a plan to solve two nagging problems at once: the flood of unwanted dogs into The City’s animal shelters, and the proliferation of panhandling.
Dubbed Wonderful Opportunities for Occupants and Fidos, or WOOF, the proposal is simple. Homeless people who live in supportive housing and do not have a history of violence, mental illness or addiction can temporarily take in one of the puppies languishing at a city shelter — in effect becoming doggie foster parents.
In return, The City will give them a stipend of up to $75 a week, sessions on how to train the animal and all the dog food they need.
But for PETA’s leaders, this is yet another step in San Francisco’s recent backsliding on compassion. The organization has denounced the proposal as experimenting with the lives of puppies; in fact, PETA has called WOOF nothing more than a game of “Russian roulette.”
And PETA’s leaders have done more than criticize the program on their website and in the media. They’ve sent the mayor … a sharply-worded letter.
“Most former panhandlers are financially destitute because of struggles with substance and mental health issues of their own,” PETA’s leaders wrote, apparently doubting whether The City can adequately screen its new foster parents. “Placing any animal with them is risky at best.”
In addition, PETA has offered San Francisco $10,000 — the initial cost of the pilot program — to hire the homeless to do something else with their time, such as handing out leaflets urging people to spay and neuter their pets.
Dufty’s pilot program is just that — a test ride to see if it could work. It’s an innovative idea, and should be given a chance.
But fair warning, Bevan. Beware the wrath of PETA. If you’re not careful, San Francisco could face an army of half-naked models walking the streets and staging elaborate street theater protests against you. And that would be terrible. Really, we might even have to stop and watch.