Criminal charges against Pets In Need workers dropped

Daily Post Staff Writer

A judge today (Aug. 9) decided three Pets In Need employees won’t have to face criminal charges for taking a van full of dogs to the Palo Alto Animal Shelter without water or air conditioning, resulting in the deaths of seven puppies. 

Instead, Shelter Manager Patty Santana and former Behavior Manager Maggie Evans must do 50 hours of community service. 

Former HR Manager Ingrid Hartmann doesn’t have to do any community service because she was just along for the ride, the judge ruled. 

“Was it avoidable? Maybe. Was it negligent? Definitely not,” Judge Brian Buckelew said at the Palo Alto Courthouse.

If the women go six months without breaking the law, then the case will be dismissed. 

Santana was the only defendant at the courthouse, along with three supporters. They cried and she hugged them after the ruling. 

Buckelew’s decision came a year after the Aug. 2, 2021 incident, which led to the executive director of Pets In Need resigning and a dispute between the nonprofit and the city of Palo Alto. 

Deputy District Attorney Adrian Ferrari objected to the judge’s decision, called a “diversion” in courthouse jargon. The employees should face criminal charges for animal cruelty and neglect, he said.

More details in today’s print edition of the Daily Post.


  1. This is unbelievable that they won’t face criminal charges, those pups died a horrific death, mean while the people that were suppose to be there caretakers had water. The justice system is truly blind! It’s a wonder pets are abused since there are no consequences.

    • They were saving puppies who had been out in the 100* heat for hours. Their van had AC and it was running. They had hours to drive. They chose to try to save them instead of leaving them to die. This was not their fault. Get your facts straight.

  2. Let’s cut through the crap. The workers weren’t paying proper attention to the puppies, and they’ve made every excuse possible to save their skin. Then they found a rogue judge who threw out the charges.

  3. So the judge was convinced by letters of recommendation — from veterinarians who get business from Pets In Need. How cozy. One hand washes the other. What a naive judge!

  4. Why should donors to PIN pay for the lawyers to get these women off? The legal fees ought to come out of their paychecks and that of the executive director! i’ll donate to help animals but i won’t donate to keep lawyers well fed.

  5. You are all completely misinformed. As someone who has kept up with this case in depth since the beginning I can tell you that these employees did not intentionally harm those puppies. They drove two hours in 90+ degree weather to save dogs and a guinea pig who would’ve ended up at a kill shelter. As for those puppies, they originally were with a foster that kept them outside in the heat, drove them to the pickup destination and waited an hour, yet again in the heat, for them to be picked up.

    The pets in need employees arrived then loaded up the pups into the van and placed them in an elevated shelf where the AC could reach. Even if there was only AC in the front, it’s common sense that it circulates, why then would this van be used countless times for long distance rescues? The necropsy said it had inconclusive results but just from these facts which I heard in the courtroom, those puppies had a slim chance of survival and these workers went all the way over there to give these pups a fighting chance.

    This is the first time where I have seen grossly misleading reporting from writers like Braden Cartwright and Sue Dremann looking for their 5 minutes of fame. The woman with 20+ years never had an incident like this and someone like that doesn’t stay in that field for that long if they didn’t have a passion for what they do. Not only did these articles affect the lives of these three employees, but they committed a disservice to the animal communities. Because of this ridiculous case, all of the fees used in court could have gone to help the animals in need and the time spent on defending this could have gone to implementing different policies to benefit all animals.

    [Portion deleted — use of profanity.]

    • Thank you for the information. The staff, I know, are all very passionate and protective of the animals. I’ve known them for few years now and watched them work. Most of them have pets themselves so they know first hand the responsibilities of owning a pet. They regularly send out notices every year during heat waves about warnings, how to check for signs, how to stay safe. It really takes a whole team of individuals to run the shelter. I’ve never seen anything like it.

    • Hazel lashing out at reporter’s shows how in denial she is. The 3 employees ARE criminals due to their criminal act and we all know it. Hopefully they will suffer for their actions for years to come. The lack of remorse from one of the three that I personally know is disturbing.

  6. Pets in Need folks can’t even admit they’re to blame for these deaths. No donations to them until they apologize.

    • Pets in Need is blaming the media — as if the arrest of these three should be kept secret. I don’t think these puppies died because of news reporters. LOL!

  7. Absolutely amazing that the city continues to contract with Pets In Need. The City is going to end up paying for the new animal shelter. The City might as well run animal services again. Let Pets In Need sink or swim.

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