Castro Residents Put 'VetPronto' In The Doghouse Over Unwanted Flyers

Castro Residents Put 'VetPronto' In The Doghouse Over Unwanted FlyersA VetPronto ad on the side of the building at Market and Castro streets. | Photo: Bob Burnside/Facebook
Saul Sugarman
Published on July 31, 2017

A local veterinary clinic is in the doghouse after a contractor pasted its ads on the exteriors of prominent Castro buildings late last week.

After residents and merchants complained, the company's CEO replied on Facebook with a humorous apology, but not all were amused.

On Friday night, large ads for VetPronto—which offers house calls for ailing pets in San Francisco—appeared at Soulcycle (400 Castro St.) and at the Bank of America (501 Castro St.).

The action sparked outrage among some locals who took to Facebook and deemed the ads vandalism. They also pointed out that the Bank of America branch is often home to memorials, not corporate advertising.

"Don't patronize this company!" wrote local handyman Bob Burnside, who took the photo above. "They wall papered [sic] this HUGE graphic on an uneven surface so can't be scraped."

Burnside said he and others in the Castro Community Benefits District spent hours working to get the ads off. Burnside said that he was "disgusted" by the ads and thought VetPronto should take responsibility. He called the company, but did not receive a call back. 

In response to the angry Facebook posts, VetPronto CEO Joe Waltman responded with casual humor.

“I was trying to have a little fun with something," he told Hoodline in a phone interview. "Obviously that wasn’t a good idea,” he said, noting that his messages were “inappropriately misinterpreted.”

When Charlie Evans, an owner of the Lone Star Saloon and a native of Australia, objected to the ads, Waltman responded, “We were expecting more empathy and humor from somebody that comes from the same country as Mel Gibson and Rupert Murdoch.”

In another instance, Waltman responded to a complainant named Shaun, saying his parents had misspelled his name. Shaun replied saying he had lost a parent. (Waltman later confirmed this story.) 

"They took a haughty attitude toward it," said Burnside, "and completely did not take responsibility for it, as far as I could tell."

In a telephone interview, Waltman said he meant his responses to be more tongue-in-cheek. “I don’t think I said anything horrible in those posts,” he said.

Evans disagreed.

“[His] response is unfathomable to me,” Evans said. “I thought, ‘Maybe because I’m older, I’m not getting this new way of marketing.’ But no, they’re just dickheads.”

During the last few years, high-profile cases of guerrilla marketing—including Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga sidewalk graffiti—have enraged city residents, leading the District Attorney's office to crack down on the practice.

Waltman apologized for the ads and the social media melee and told Hoodline that VetPronto is paying for the cleanup, which also includes ads on “a couple other” buildings in the Civic Center and downtown neighborhoods. 

He couldn’t say for certain where the ads were because, he told us, he hired another company to place them. He declined to say which company was behind the ads.

“We’re sorry. It was a mistake. I made a miscalculation,” said Waltman. “Ultimately, this is our responsibility, and we’re taking responsibility for it.”