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Where corporate welfare is alive and well

 

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The mission of Move to ACT is to heighten community awareness of animal welfare issues and to advocate for improved policies and practices. MtA seeks truth and responsibility and is guided by principles of respect, accountability and integrity.  
#1. Educating the public — How do you choose a charity you can trust?

Here’s how you can evaluate charitable organizations that receive more than $500,000 in the most recent fiscal year.

Options for evaluating local organizations:

  • Better Business Bureau – People have relied on the BBB for decades, but mtA has recently discovered that the BBB may not research the organizations it recommends. Find details here
  • Indiana Secretary of State – https://secure.in.gov/sos/bus_service/online_corps/name_search.aspx
    Confirm that the organization is registered and current with the Indiana Secretary of State.
  • Guide Star — www.guidestar.org
    You will have to register, but that will gain you access to all 501(c)(3) organizations registered with the IRS. Most information is searchable at no charge, although some of the data is written by the organization. Still, you have access to 990 tax forms, and this can give you a rough idea of where the money goes (i.e. administration, fund raising, animal care, etc.) Numerous options are available, but some are free.
  • Ask!
    Personally ask the organization for their annual report or a copy of their 990 tax form. A non-profit organization that has nothing to hide will show you where they spend their donor dollars.
  • Understand
    Make sure you understand if the group is a registered non-profit or not. Many are, but not all. If they are not a registered non-profit, they may still certainly be worth supporting; just be aware that your donation will not qualify as a tax deduction.
  • Make sure you're truly rewarding the conduct you wish to encourage. http://www.animalpeoplenews.org/96/1/editorial.html
#2. Promoting open disclosure of Indianapolis Animal Care and Control

On October 5, 2009, Doug Rae, the first experienced municipal shelter director (and non-political appointee) to take the helm at Indianapolis Animal Care and Control (IACC), was dismissed from his duties, just nine months after being hired, by Acting Public Safety Director Mark Renner. The management staff — customer service manager, community programs manager and kennel manager — positions Rae had created and recently filled, were subsequently fired within 48 hours. Reportedly, this team was referred to by the interim IACC Administrator Teri Kendrick, appointed by Renner, as "Rae's cronies" in a meeting with IACC staff after they were fired.

Rae was hired to clean up a dysfunctional agency found to be wallowing in practices of neglect and abuse after citizens filed a grievance against IACC that was substantiated by an independent investigation.

Rae’s unfounded dismissal occurred following a secret meeting at the Humane Society of Indianapolis on Saturday, July 25, attended by local groups Indy Feral (IF) Indy Pit Crew, and FIDO, as well as City-County Councilor Angela Mansfield (an IF volunteer) and select other city-county councilors.

Except for HSI Director John Aleshire, at least six meeting attendees were not bold enough to go on record when interviewed about Rae by NUVO for a cover story on their complaints. That story, from September 29, can be found here.

Out of the gate, an uphill battle

Rae labored against opposition from the beginning of his tenure in January. In his first few weeks, his car was vandalized and he received threats. He faced a strapped budget, union-protected/under-performing workers, and animal welfare elitists who felt entitled to the preferential treatment they enjoyed under previous administrations. Adding fuel to this fire was the malicious misinformation from the IndyFeral camp that IACC was killing ear-tipped cats. In fact, 19 cats have been returned to IF between January 1 and October 6 of this year. On one occasion, an IF volunteer was observed not taking an ear-tipped cat about whom they were notified.

Rae was subject to micromanagement and harassment from his superiors. The IACC workplace was randomly interrupted by the Acting Public Safety Director’s administrative secretary, Erin Pratt, who at one point openly distributed her contact information/business cards to union employees and simulated an unannounced controlled substance audit with a public safety officer, neither of whom have pharmaceutical inventory or Drug Enforcement Agency qualifications.

Renner himself came to the facility looking in the managers’ offices to make sure they weren’t harboring forbidden animals (which managers often did if the animal had special medical needs).  These are just some of the annoyances Rae was up against.

Why was Rae let go? Did he care too much because he insisted on better conditions for the animals? Did he really not protect the public as was claimed by the administration? Or was the decision politically motivated? See more information here.

At the October 5th news conference announcing Rae’s dismissal, Renner presented data that 1,800 fewer animals were impounded, there were more than 2,000 additional animal calls received by the city, and that response time had increased by more than 9 hours. None of these figures translates to an increased risk to public safety of which Rae has been accused.

The positive numbers

What Mr. Renner didn’t cite was additional data for January 12 to September 28, 2009:

• Decreased euthanasia 17% (6501 vs. 7827)
• Increased adoptions 23% (1746 vs. 1424)
• Dog bites were down 5% (55 fewer reported bites)
• Responded to 9% more field service calls (24,631 vs. 22,613) with 29% fewer animal control officers to perform field duties (15 vs. 21)*
• Increased active volunteer base 99% (229 vs. 115)
• Increased volunteer hours 79% (12,094 vs. 6768), (09 vs. 08)

*This was achieved with 29% fewer ACOs: 21 minus 2 reassigned to other duties; at least 4 of the remaining 19 on light duty, FMLA, or union work for the day or the week. This leaves 15, not counting any temporary absences.

Six Sigma, which the Mayor’s office has cited as a guideline, says doing more with less is a good thing.

Other positive numbers that would have been reported by Rae’s now-fired managers had the last two IACC board meetings not been cancelled:
• 65 animals in foster care who were adopted this year
• 5 animals returned-to-owner (RTO) from foster care
• 55 animals in foster care who went to rescues

Rae’s staff had been working diligently to reconcile hopelessly botched record-keeping under previous administrations. Rescue numbers had been exaggerated by having animals “rescued” to employees, foster parents, and to rescue groups that were not held to any standard. Some of the improperly "rescued" animals had to be re-impounded by the shelter when the animals were found wandering astray or being kept in poor conditions.

Under Rae, rescues were required to provide their 501(c)3 letter of recommendations from a vet and to interact with staff when pulling an animal from the shelter. Animals who were placed in foster under Rae were no longer “rescued” out to inflate those numbers, but entered appropriately as fosters in the IACC computer system.

The September 9 board meeting was cancelled by Ms Pratt, who also serves as IACC board secretary, as was the rescheduled meeting on September 23, when Rae and his administrative team were slated to report on the latest and upcoming improvements (see September 27, 2009, post here).

At the 13-minute news conference announcing Rae’s termination and introducing the interim replacement, prosecutor Teri Kendrick, were supporters of Rae’s dismissal. Positioned behind Renner and Kendrick was IndyFeral president Lisa Tudor, Humane Society of Indianapolis Director John Aleshire, and David Horth, who is on the board of both HSI and IACC.

It should be noted that not Tudor, Aleshire nor Kendrick stepped foot in IACC to visit with Rae during his tenure to experience firsthand the challenges of an open admission shelter that must take every animal brought to its doors. Consequently, they witnessed none of the improvements being made.

It would appear that city government has redirected the municipal shelter backward in time at the manipulation and influence of the local union and a small — but noisy — number of self-interested animal organizations that, together with HSI, supported and were integral to Rae’s ousting. 

We will never know the number of letters written to, or actually delivered to, the mayor with concern about the political shenanigans that have transpired, but one letter that especially expresses the concerns all citizens should have is here.

And those who lost the most, of course, are the animals.

#3. Promoting open disclosure of the Humane Society of Indianapolis
* An Open Letter to the Nina Pulliam Trust Board of Trustees *

Is this organization cursed?  Or is it somehow dooming itself?

On July 31, 2008, the Humane Society of Indianapolis (HSI) announced the appointment of John Aleshire to replace Martha Boden as Director. HSI’s performance under Boden’s leadership was pockmarked with scandal and obfuscation:

  • HSI awarded Boden a salary that sucked more than $100,000 a year from the budget
  • An entire pavilion of asymptomatic cats was killed when simply practicing isolation protocols could have saved them. HSI sold the slaughter to the public with the euphemism  “depopulating” Read here
  • HSI used (as the trustee) a $3.4M Public Charitable Trust as collateral for a $1.7M loan to itself as the borrower
  • Why does a board member/attorney, who petitioned the probate court to HAVE THE PUBLIC CHARITABLE TRUST reimburse his legal service fees for representing HSI against local animal service organizations that sued to protect the trust from being put at risk for a loan to the agency still sit on the HSI board?! That effort can be viewed here
  • Animals were imported from outside of Marion County for adoption at steep fees, while hundreds of homeless animals within the county were being killed for space
  • A citizen’s dog was killed at HSI while staff denied his plea for access to the kennels to search for his lost dog

More about these and other occurrences can be viewed in a letter to the Better Business Bureau questioning an “Ethics Award” bestowed on the agency. 

It was hoped that more noble behavior would characterize the “new” HSI. The new HSI has a new director, new friends, an attractive website that boasts “Love Awaits,” and the ever-present fund-raising emphasis. Sadly, we see that the community is being hoodwinked yet again.

A dangerous precedent was set on July 25, 2009, when HSI hosted a clandestine meeting with a few, select animal welfare “partners:” Indy Feral (IF), Indy Pit Crew,  FIDO, and City County Councilor Angela Mansfield (an IF volunteer) as well as other city-county councilors and city representatives to discuss IACC and its new administrator Doug Rae.  No one directly connected with IACC was invited, yet IACC was the topic.

From that secret meeting came a rapid sequence of annoyances and new rules for the newly appointed administrator Rae, barely seven months on the job. Rae was given a 60-day probationary period and "improvement plan" of union-mandated bullet points by which he had to abide. These included such things as returning to the union their break room, which was being used to kennel sick but treatable animals, and requiring updates and meetings with a union representative and Acting Public Safety Director Mark Renner, neither of whom would make themselves available for Rae to hold such required meetings. 

At the end of that 60-day probationary period, Rae was dismissed on October 5th and his management team of four soon followed; five committed individuals who were just beginning to making a difference for the animals at the municipal shelter. 

A sad consequence of HSI hosting this meeting is the embarrassment it brings to local animal welfare efforts and the loss of respect for an agency that had been working itself out of a self-destructive identity.  As a local animal welfare observer noted, “The thought of the animals suffering is bad enough, but what REALLY burns me is the elbow-rubbing and the back-scratching WITHOUT REGARD FOR THE ANIMALS!  Why does ‘power’ lure consciences away from doing the right thing?  Those that succumb to it and feign concern are worse than those who neglect outright!” 

It appears that HSI continues to be about HSI, manipulating image and public perception.

Actions don’t match the words

From Indiana Business Journal, February, 4, 2009:

“Aleshire is trying to reassure donors that HSI is fulfilling its mission, and hoping the money will follow. ‘We are the Humane Society of Indianapolis… We must take seriously our role as the leader in animal welfare issues.’ ”

“Aleshire’s plan is heavy on public relations.”

“In the meantime, the Humane Society on January 1, 2009, will begin to spay and neuter animals from Indianapolis Animal Care and Control.  ‘We can do it faster, and we can do it cheaper,’ declared HSI board chair David Horth.”

“The city’s shelter has a higher kill rate, and animal welfare activists have alleged maltreatment and mismanagement.  Aleshire took the relationship a step further, announcing on October 28, 2008 that the Humane Society would no longer go to shelters outside Marion County to stock its adoption floor. Instead, he would look to Harding Street to fill the gaps.”  

But what really happened?

 “We must take seriously our role as the leader in animal welfare issues.”

David Horth is the HSI board chairman and also sits on the IACC advisory board. For HSI to host a private meeting to discuss Rae’s performance presents a potential conflict of interest when Mr. Horth should have been supporting the IACC administrator as an IACC board member.  Since he seemed unwilling to do that, Mr. Horth could have resigned from the IACC board. At the very least, this meeting should not have been hosted at the HSI facility.   

Has Mr. Aleshire attended an IACC advisory board meeting prior to Rae’s premeditated dismissal?  No.

The last scheduled IACC board meeting before Rae’s dismissal (Sept. 9) was an opportunity for Rae and his management team to share the progress that was being made at the agency.  Instead, according to IACC board secretary Erin Pratt, Horth announced that he would not attend, and the meeting was cancelled due to lack of a quorum. The rescheduled board meeting Sept. 23 was again cancelled because Horth declared he would not be present.

Coincidence? 

A press conference was held on October 5th to announce Rae’s dismissal. Standing behind Acting Public Safety Director Mark Renner, who spoke for 13 minutes about reasons for Rae’s termination, were David Horth, HSI director John Aleshire, and Lisa Tudor of Indy Feral, who all supported the termination.  Media coverage can be viewed here and here.

This is how agents behave who, “…must take seriously our role as the leader in animal welfare issues?”

“Aleshire’s plan is heavy on public relations.”

Public relations have always been a heavy focus of HSI. Public relations are not a bad thing, but it must be backed with honest, noble actions or it will backfire.

“In the meantime, the Humane Society on Jan. 1, 2009, will begin to spay and neuter animals from Indianapolis Animal Care and Control.  ‘We can do it faster, and we can do it cheaper,’ declared HSI board chair David Horth.’

The number of animal sterilized and returned to the IACC adoption floor according to Doug Rae?”  “ZERO.”

“The city’s shelter has a higher kill rate, and animal welfare activists have alleged maltreatment and mismanagement.  Aleshire took the relationship a step further, announcing October 28, 2008 that the Humane Society would no longer go to shelters outside Marion County to stock its adoption floor. Instead, he would look to Harding Street to fill the gaps.”  

Last year, approximately 100 animals a month were pulled by HSI from IACC.  According to the community relations manager (also terminated promptly after Rae’s dismissal), the number of animals pulled from HSI had dropped to as low as 6 to 8 per month. One of the points used to illustrate Rae’s performance was the decrease in animals getting out of the shelter compared to last year. When a sister agency (HSI) has decided to again import animals from outside the county (Tipton, IN) - contrary to what it had indicated - instead of helping the animals at the overwhelmed municipal shelter in its own community where six out of ten are being killed, what else would be the consequence? 

Coincidence?

Under the previous IACC administration, all rescue groups entered through the back door, selected the animals of their choosing and were gone. Record keeping was poor, and reconciliation of animals’ numbers and their disposition was a disaster.  To correct this, Rae’s administration asked that these rescue organizations follow a simple procedure of calling IACC prior to arrival and checking in at the front desk—a procedure that was welcomed by the majority of the organizations but HSI chose to disregard.  Repeated requests to comply by the community relations manager were ignored. HSI agents’ visits to IACC became less frequent and when they did arrive, shelter workers experienced an attitude of arrogance and ownership.

Also used to discredit Rae was the claim that the agency was killing ear-tipped cats, an accusation driven by HSI partner Indy Feral. These claims were never substantiated, just said to be so. Although Rae repeatedly asked for confirmation of kennel numbers and dates, such information was never provided by those making the accusations. But the accusations continued from the HSI “partner.”

Sadly, the effort to oust Rae and four others was successful. All indications point to an orchestrated campaign of HSI partners and individuals who could not tolerate being unable to dictate to the new IACC administration what to do and how to do it.  Once again, IACC is under the control of a political appointee, and within 24 hours it was back to business as usual. That is the status quo — a sorry setback for the animals and those who truly care for their welfare.

What is about to happen with IACC?  Privatization?  When the question of privatization was posed at the October 14th IACC advisory board meeting, Mr. Horth claimed he knew nothing about privatization. One week later on October 21st, WTHR-TV is reporting about IACC privatization. Story is here.

Who will be awarded an IACC contract?  Follow the money.

And once again, open disclosure of the Humane Society of Indianapolis has become an issue.

 
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