August 29, 2019

Assemblymember Bill Quirk, Senate Business & Profession Committee Chief Consultant, Bill Gage, Judie Mancuso, Dr. Allan Drusy testify yesterday before the California State Joint Legislative Audit Committee.
Social Compassion in Legislation calls for Audit of CDFA and Pet Lover's Plate Fund.

Joint Legislative Audit Committee approves request to investigate the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA)

SACRAMENTO – August 28, 2019, An audit request by Assemblymember Bill Quirk, (D-Hayward), to provide accountability and oversight of the Pet Lover’s License Plate program, passed its key policy committee earlier this morning.

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee approved the request for the California State Auditor to formally review how the specialize plate program is being administered and accountability of funds. Passed with a unanimous bipartisan support from the Assembly and Senate committee members, this audit seeks to assure the public that their money is being well spent.

Assemblymember Quirk (D- Hayward), himself a pet lover and sponsor of pet adoption awareness events in his district, commended the JLAC members for their thoughtful consideration. “This program has been years in the making and comes with a public trust that the funds will be spent wisely. Today’s call for an audit will provide sunshine to how these funds are awarded, and I look forward to reading the report and continuing work on this subject.”

On behalf of the sponsoring organization of the program itself, Judie Mancuso testified in support of the audit. “On behalf of everyone who has put their confidence and money into the Pet Lover’s License Plate, shelter workers, taxpayers, local government, and those of us who have spent years on this private/public program, we applaud Assemblymember Quirk and the JLAC membership for their support today.”

Dr. Allan Drusys, Director and Chief Veterinarian for Riverside County Animal Services, was also present at the hearing in support. “I view this as a very positive move. What we all need is more money directly utilized on the surgical tables for spayed and neutering.”
With today’s action, the California State Auditor is authorized to begin work immediately and the complete investigation is expected to take a matter of months.

For those of you who have been with me since 2007 when I founded my nonprofit groups, Social Compassion (501c3), and Social Compassion in Legislation (501c4), you might remember that we were solely focused on reducing euthanasia rates in our shelters. 

California was bringing in nearly one million dogs and cats into our shelters and euthanizing over half of them on an annual basis. One of the major contributors to pet overpopulation is over breeding. There was no large-scale funding to help people to get spay and neuter surgeries done for their pets. 

I did my research and found that specialty plates on the road in California were generating up to four million dollars per year for special projects. So, I set out to create the first and only one of its kind in our state – a “spay and neuter plate.” The proceeds from the plate would subsidize spay and neuter surgeries for those that wanted to do the right thing by their pets and society, but couldn’t afford to.

Below is a timeline of how the Plate was created:

2008-2009 – Approached Senator Padilla’s office on doing a specialty license plate for subsidizing spay and neuter surgeries. We were told we needed a “sponsoring agency.” We approached the Veterinary Medical Board (VMB) and they were interested in participating. 
We worked with VMB and Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) on determining what was the criteria for establishing a specialty plate program. 
First, it entailed creating yet another nonprofit that would be dedicated to the plate. Second, getting artwork approved by the CHP. And, third, getting 7500 preorders. No new plate had been on the road since 1999 due to a lawsuit against the state regarding free speech, thus this was new territory for all involved. DMV was feeling their way through it.

2010 – Kick off at City of Los Angeles to begin taking preorders for Pet Lover’s License Plate Program – actor and friend, Pierce Brosnan donated the artwork.
Dr. Gary Michelson creates our new group, the California Spay and Neuter License Plate Fund Inc. (CSNLPF). Dr. Michelson puts the weight of his Found Animals Foundation behind the project, providing legal and financial resources, marketing and more. He has been co-pilot in the project ever since. 
We were off and running gathering the 7500 preorders needed for the DMV to create the specialty plate.

2012 – Press conference with Governor Brown and first dog Sutter to extend preorder time-frame by one year. We had 5000 preorders, but needed 2500 more. The bill to extend timeline was AB 610 (Solorio). 

2013 – January 2013, we had 7600 preorders! We sent preorder list and wired $487,000 from CSNLPF non profit to the DMV to create the program.

2014 – Plates finally on the road! VMB submitted a regulatory package for the plate program. The Office of Administrative Law rejects package saying VMB does not have authority to administer the program.

2015 – AB 192 (Allen) – We then run another bill to get funds distributed from the plate fund. The Bill passes, but ultimately doesn't execute as planned due to more bureaucratic conflicting legal opinions by various state departments.

2017 - SB 673 (Newman) – We run yet another bill to move plate program from VMB to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). CDFA already had grant programs and the state bureaucracy felt if was better suited there. 

2018 – No movement while CDFA just gets program and budget for grants and hires a “grant administrator.” Things start to go quiet. They are not including our CSNLPF nonprofit in decision making process as stated in SB 673.

2019 – CDFA determines they will grant out $330,000 dollars despite us being told the fund had over one million dollars in it.

Here’s where things go sideways and why we asked for the audit yesterday.

  • We have been asking for a full accounting of the fund and have not been provided with it by CDFA. CDFA responded to Assemblymember Quirk once they heard he was moving forward with an audit and provided a number of over 1.6 million dollars generated by the plate.

  • CDFA was to collaborate with our nonprofit on determining the grant criteria and awarding the grant money. They did not.

  • CDFA decided to have a “secret panel” of reviewers and a “secret process” on the criteria they used to award the grants. Click the link below to see CalAnimals (represented by lobbyist Karen Lange) confirming their involvement in and endorsement of the closed door process.
  • We do not condone any closed door policies, and are determined to get the plate administered as it was intended - full transparency to the public and no hidden agendas.

Assemblymember Quirk's Testimony Begins at TimeStamp 38hr:00min
Public Comment (Karen Lange) at 1hr:10 minutes.

  • We wonder why only $330K awarded. If there is over 1.6 million dollars in the account, we want to see it all go out for spay and neuter as it is intended.

Please do not panic and cancel your plate. On one hand, the Plate Program is a big success. We dreamed of bringing in a large amount of money for spaying and neutering that would never otherwise be there and we accomplished that. But when you chart new territory a lot of obstacles can get in the way. We have been faced with many obstacles through this process. We are determined to see this through to the dream we all had via a completely transparent process and with full accountability of funds to mitigate euthanasia in our shelters. Thank you all for buying the plate and supporting us through this long laborious process.
Photo above: 2010 City of Los Angeles hosted Press Conference Kick Off - Justin Chambers, Mayor Villaraigosa, Judie Mancuso, Pierce Brosnan, Los Angeles Councilmember Alarcon

Photo below: 2012 Petco hosted our Governor & Sutter Brown Press Conference, along with our CA Spay & Neuter License Plate Fund, Inc boardmembers, Governor Brown signed AB 610 (Solorio) to extend time period one year.

L-R Boardmembers Lisa Avery, Dr. Gary Michelson, VMB President at the time Tom Kendall, boardmember Dr. Richard Johnson, Assemblymember Jose Solorio, Pierce Brosnan, Judie Mancuso, Cesar Millan, now Congressman Tony Cardenas, boardmember Linda Starr and Dr. Stephanie Ferguson.

Last photo: Pierce Brosnan, Judie Mancuso, Governor Brown, Sutter and Cesar Millan at 2012 event.
Keeping them honest...

Judie Mancuso, Founder/CEO/President
Social Compassion In Legislation
Social Compassion
California Pet Lovers License Plate Fund Inc.
Social Compassion in Legislation