Duffield has established Maddie's Fund, a $200 million foundation devoted to rescuing dogs and cats, named for a miniature schnauzer that helped get him through some rough times. CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports for Eye on America in the second part of a series on Americans' relationships with their pets.
Maddie offered unconditional love during the tough years for David Duffield and his wife, Cheryl.
It was around the time that Duffield, a one-time IBM systems engineer, left a top job at Integral Systems to found PeopleSoft in 1987.
"I remember picking her up one day, just looking directly into her eyes; she was looking at me, and I said, "You know, Maddie, if I ever make any money I'm going to give it back to you and your kind," Duffield says.
Now, Maddie's Fund is making good on Duffield's promise, spending $200 million to help animal shelters around the U.S. find homes for every adoptable dog and cat. The foundation's stated aim is "to build a no-kill nation."
"We are helping animals have a better life," Duffield says.
Not that Duffield doesn't care about people, too. He gave $20 million to his alma mater, Cornell University. And he points out that his contribution to animals represents a fraction of all the money donated to charities for people. "99.3 percent of that money is going to human causes, and I think less that 1 percent is kind of a fair contribution" for pets, he says.
To run the Alameda, Calif.-based foundation, Duffield chose Richard Avenzino, who transformed the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals into a model animal welfare organization.
The first big project is in Utah, where the foundation has awarded $8 million for an aggressive animal adoption program that aims to eliminate the killing of adoptable pets throughout the state. All of the state's 126 animal rescue organizations and veterinary hospitals will be involved in the program, led by the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab. Based on 1999 figures, that would mean approximately 15,000 dogs and cats saved a year in Utah.
It's a lot of money but, says Avenzino, the organization demands results, and quickly. "You get millions of dollars but the kicker is...you have to increase adoptions, you have to decrease deaths community wide, and you have to spay and neuter a lot of animals."
Some shelter officials say there are too many animals with too many problems, and too few good homes for them to go to, to make a true "no kill" policy work.
But Avenzino believes Maddie's Fund could save three million lives a year, using his gift of gab and David Duffield's gift of millions to find new homes for pets.
Maddie died of cancer in 1997. Three other pets have found a home with the Sheffields. They include Sadie, a German Shepherd; Lucy, a Brussels Griffon and, of course, a miniature schnauzer named Abigail.