Animal Rescue Foundation co-founder Elaine LaRussa posted the statement above on social media Saturday April 17 saying her family has pulled out of the Walnut Creek-based animal welfare rescue foundation it started three decades ago.

“It is with the utmost sadness that we decided to join with Tony, and formally resign from the Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation Board of Directors,” Elaine LaRussa wrote, in a Facebook post. “The LaRussa family has collectively concluded that we cannot support or participate in ARF’s current leadership.”

“We hope that our withdrawal from the board and organization will prompt renewed focus on careful stewardship of the foundation and its mission. Until we see significant change, we are stepping away from ARF and will dedicate our passion, time and resources to aid other animal welfare organizations. We remain hopeful that with meaningful changes, ARF can return to the mission and ideas upon which our family founded it thirty years ago.”

The statement, which didn’t name any specific changes that were needed, was signed by LaRussa and her daughter, Bianca LaRussa.

However, on Wednesday April 21, Tony LaRussa offered this statement on his social media accounts.

“While I am seriously concerned with the issues challenging ARF’s environment, I will continue to support ARF’s animal care and people connect programs.

For 30 years, I have joined with ARF’s wonderful volunteers to support the mission as best we can.

ARF’s success relied on a team that also included it’s staff, leadership at all levels, and the individual and organizational donors that had faith in ARF and have seen it justified.

I believe it is a mistake for the LaRussa Family to remove ourselves from this team when we are most needed.

I hope Elaine, Bianca, Jordan, Devon, and Ryan will reconsider their decisions.

Finally, I believe the horric effects of COVID virus on the personal and professional lives should be considered. ARF was not spared on the painful decisions affecting our staff and programs. The havoc it wreaked has resulted in atypical actions.

Reasoned accountability is a must.

Sincerely, Tony”

The LaRussas founded ARF after Tony famously corralled a stray cat from the field at the Oakland Coliseum during a game in 1990. He discovered afterward there were a lack of no-kill animal shelters in the Bay Area, so he and wife Elaine started one in Walnut Creek. ARF now resides in a large shelter and community center in Shadelands Business Park and has given homes to more than 44,000 dogs and cats, according to its website.