Shelters and rescues — are you driving away adopters and supporters?

January 24th, 2018

Time and again, people who tried to adopt from a shelter or rescue have told mtA that they were turned away for bizarre reasons. These are both disturbing and counter-productive to the mission of finding good homes for animals. For example:

• A family is denied a dog because they have a child (or children) with special needs. Their previous dog lived a good long life and died of cancer. This was a potential good home. A call from the rescue to this family’s veterinarian would confirm this.

• An older woman and her daughter visit an adoption center east of Indianapolis, wanting to meet a dog in full view that attracts their attention. They are denied because “The dog’s napping now and we can’t wake it up.” When the daughter asked, “When will it not be napping?” she is told, “I don’t know, you’ll just have to come back when it’s not.” This was a potential good home.

• This same woman and daughter visit another local shelter that has many dogs and cats, but are allowed to look at only one dog. They leave. This was a potential good home for an animal in need.

• A family is denied a dog because they don’t have a fenced-in yard. Their previous dog, who had died of old age, was always leashed when outside and was taken for daily walks and/or runs. This was a potential good home. A call to this family’s DVM would confirm this.

• A family visits a local humane society and enters the area of puppies and small dogs who are available for adoption. When inquiring about a particular dog, they are told that none of these dogs are available for adoption. This was a potential good home.

Where do these people turn? To a breeder or pet store, often spending $3,000 – $5,000 for a dog who may well be the product of a puppy mill, while dogs in need die in shelters. Hello? Is anybody home?

Shelters and rescues MUST have guidelines to protect animals from unscrupulous people, and we acknowledge (and applaud!) legitimate concern for the animal’s welfare and safety. But individual circumstances must also be taken into account. Has the child interacted well with other pets? Has the adopter demonstrated responsibility in protecting a dog without a fenced yard? Rules cannot be so rigid that they defeat the purpose.

Volunteers are also rejected

This may be the saddest tale of all.

A woman is drawn to a fearful dog on a humane organization’s website. She would like to visit and read to the dog in her cage. When she comes to the facility and offers her help, she is refused access to the dog…but before she leaves, she is asked for a donation. Here is her account:

One dog in particular had caught my attention: a young female Mastiff mix, “Lola”, was in desperate need of socialization. Her interactions with humans had been few, and she was described as “terrified” and hiding in her kennel. (Doesn’t that description pull at your heart?)

My daughter had adopted a German Shepherd mix who had previously been labeled as “fearful”. A woman who specializes in fearful dogs had fostered her for almost a year before placing her with our daughter. I remember that “Allie” came into our family with a myriad of issues, but after a LONG time, she has acclimated to being a wonderful, and smart, family pet. I shudder to think what would have happened to Allie if someone hadn’t taken the time with her…..

So, armed with a bag of treats and a novel to read, I approached the “Society”. My intent was to volunteer to spend time with Lola 4-5 times weekly for 6 weeks, if she hadn’t yet been adopted. A very low-key attempt to socialize a terrified dog.

I approached the receptionist at the desk and explained why I was there. She looked up Lola on her computer and stated, “That dog is in our Canine Treatment Center, and is unavailable to the public.” I knew that Lola had returned from a one-week foster situation, so I inquired what was the issue? I was told she had a respiratory problem, and again, that she was “not available to the public”.

At that, a very awkward pause ensued. I was not asked if I would be willing to help elsewhere, or if I wanted to see another dog, or if there was anything else I could do. I stammered out that I would leave the bag of treats as a contribution, and made my exit. I definitely felt unwelcome, and that I was an intruder. Silly me, I had thought that the “Society” would welcome any help, and that there was always a need for volunteers.

So, was it me? Did I approach it wrong? Should I have done something differently? I know that the Society wants my money, just maybe not ME, as my mailbox has received several solicitations from them for money.

Occurrences like these leave animals who need homes held hostage by myopic policies and practices that drive supporters and adopters away.

Is your rescue, shelter or humane society failing to project a fundamental spirit of customer service and hospitality? Is there a lack of urgency to make a match that will move a homeless animal into a good home and make room for another? If you answer “yes” to either of these questions, it’s time to ask what the TRUE purpose is. Is turning away a potentially good adopter what that animal wants? Or is it what your organization wants?

Do you want to support pet stores, puppy mills and breeders? Or do you want to support the animals in your care who desperately need a forever home?

Celebrating six years of Rescue Rally successes; please continue to support all-volunteer rescues!

December 9th, 2016

Over the past six years, participants in mtA’s Rescue Rally have saved more than 1,270 animals and earned over $23,000 to support their life-saving work. mtA is retiring Rescue Rally in 2016 but we will continue to support the animals at high risk by way of the mtA Moore Life Medical Fund and the Last Chance Fund.

We also encourage you to keep them in mind at this gift-giving time.

In 2010, only about half of the animals coming into the Indianapolis city shelter were getting out alive. Animal welfare organizations with paid development and advertising staff commanded public attention, media presence, and donor dollars, while the few small, all-volunteer rescue organizations had little name recognition and less support.

mtA introduced Rescue Rally to acknowledge, celebrate and reward these small rescues. The goal was to heighten public awareness and support for their commitment and hard work in saving animals facing an untimely death. Donors like you stepped up, awareness grew, and Rescue Rally served its purpose.

In 2016, approximately 85% of the animals coming into the Indianapolis city shelter got out alive. There are more small rescues than ever, and they are finally being recognized. Here’s a partial list of those that have participated with mtA initiatives:
Every Dog Counts
Casa Del Toro
Mended Hearts Indy
Lucky Dog Retreat
Love of Labs Indy
Heart for Dog
Chihuahua Rescue
Indy Claw
Beagle Buddies
All About Dogs
IN Siamese Rescue
Indy Great Pyrenees Rescue
Tails & Trails
A Critter’s Chance
Helping Paws
Ruts Rescue
Waldo’s Muttley Crew
Indianapolis Poodle Rescue
Cat’s Haven

If we’ve missed yours, please let us know! Every rescue counts, and we salute you all.

The work is not done until every healthy adoptable animal has a home. As you consider your year-end charitable giving, please keep these hard-working groups and their shoestring budgets in mind. Your gift to them directly helps animals in need!

The mission of move to ACT (mtA) 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.

Who’s there for the English Bulldogs?

November 22nd, 2016

Butler University’s mascot “Blue” is one lucky dog. He has the fame and fortune of having a loving home and great care. Not so for many of his brothers and sisters. Who’s there for them?

Central Indiana has many small, all volunteer rescues that are challenged attracting the public’s attention and support. One that has escaped our attention until recently is Dixie’s Voice Bulldog Rescue.

We asked Dixie’s Voice to tell their story in their own words:

About Dixie’s Voice Bulldog Rescue Inc. We are a not-for-profit organization that was founded on the idea of helping Bulldogs in need of rescue.

We are a small group of volunteers who love and care about the welfare of Bulldogs. Our goal is to rehabilitate and re-home Bulldogs who come to us from animal shelters, families, puppy mills, breeders and other less than ideal situations.

We are a breed specific rescue, and only take English Bulldogs . We place them in foster homes, where they are cared for and loved until a suitable home is found. We all have fulltime jobs, families and other commitments, but we continue to make room in our hearts and homes for unwanted and neglected Bulldogs in need of rescue. We take great pride educating the public about this fun loving breed, to adopt and never shop. The breed that we love is compromised daily for profit not confirmation, all of our bulldogs are spayed and neutered before adoption. All of us dream of a world where rescue is no longer needed. We are especially happy to find new volunteers who share our commitment to the breed. We run on donations and volunteers and are always low on both.

Please visit our website to see our adoptabull’s and to read Dixie’s Story. Dixie passed in July of 2016 of a brain tumor, she was rescued in 2010.


If you know someone with a passion for English Bulldogs, please share and let them know about this live saving organization. Blue?

Donations? Always welcome. Visit here to learn more.

Boden’s Path of Destruction Continues

October 6th, 2016

A recent article in the IBJ announced the retirement of Humane Society of Indianapolis CEO John Aleshire. Mr. Aleshire is to be commended for turning around an agency that had been brought to its knees both morally and financially by its previous CEO, Martha Boden.

The organization was operating at a deficit and saddled with $3.1 million in debt—a considerable amount considering that its annual budget was $3 million.
Internal morale and public perception were poor. The organization’s animal shelter euthanized 40 to 50 percent of the animals it took in, sometimes for reasons as fixable as kennel cough or a broken bone. Its previous CEO had been asked to resign.

“It was just not a place that was well thought of,” Aleshire said.

Sadly, directors at the SPCA Tamp Bay have allowed Ms Boden to continue her journey of self-enrichment at the expense of an agency whose founding was to serve animals in need, not people of greed.

A Pinellas County resident recently reviewed the last 2015 tax return and the findings are telling:

SPCA Tampa Bay Fiscal Irresponsibility Continues

Under the continuing misdirection of SPCA Tampa Bay Executive Director Martha Boden, the agency that is supposed to be a community leader in animal safety has failed the public and the welfare of the animals that they are supposed to save.

FACTS from their recently published 2015 IRS Tax Return (7/1/2014-6/30/2015):

Contributions down $517,722 from last reporting year (7/1/2013-6/30/2014) with total revenue down $1,779,180

– Yet Expenses remained about the same ($4,014,880) for a reported loss of -$1,283,452

– And their Fund Balance is down $1,435,507, Assets down $500,261, Liabilities up $935,246

– Yet the Executive Director received a 1.5% raise, which increased her salary to $119,738

– Yet the number of Volunteers is down while paid employees are up by 18% (19 employees)

– Yet $650,833 was paid for Fundraising purposes, with $162,220 going to a marketing firm and $38,944 spent on fundraising events that only netted $113,347 (that doesn’t even pay the Director’s salary)

– With reported Advertising and Promotion costs of $183,898

– Yet they continue to maintain a Management Team of 14 individuals

– And how much went to food, supplies and medicine for the animals? A paltry $285,001 – less than half the total spent on fundraising!

So what did they do with the $2,731,428 of contributions they received?

Who knows? They once again reduced their transparency by foregoing an independent audit, a gauge by Guidestar of transparency and of course a standard for ensuring sound fiscal operations. No reduction in Upper Management, no salaries reported other that Martha Boden’s. Even the veterinarian’s salary is not reported, although it was in 2013 and before.

And what is the new Limited Liability Company established 1/31/2013?

What is STB Ventures, LLC #46-2185547
, doing under the SPCA with Martha Boden as the Registered Agent and Board members listed as interested investing partners?

Is there a shell game going on? Are public donations being diverted to the development of a For-Profit clinic in St. Petersburg that only takes business away from already-established veterinarians?

SPCA Animal Statistics for 2015 – Of 2302 Canines – 418 either died in care or were euthanized; a Live Release Rate of 75%. For YTD 8/31/2016 – Of 1,521 Canines, 208 either died in care or were euthanized; a Live Release Rate of 83%. 36 felines died in care, with 515 euthanized – a Live Release Rate of 68%.

LEARN MORE at our Facebook page: SPCA Tampa Bay Behind the Kennel Doors

NOT walking to support the animals

September 27th, 2016

The email began —

“Hello Fellow Friend of the Animals,

The SPCA Tampa Bay’s 26th Annual Pet Walk is just 15 days away! On behalf of the 1,000 Bitches, I am asking you to consider walking and joining our team or making a donation to us….”

Below is the courageous response sent by a former volunteer.

“Please join you at an event for an organization that has abandoned the needs of the animals in Pinellas County who need the most help? I will not!

“Join you at an event for an organization that pays its director a six-figure salary while positions have been eliminated that provided help to animals in need? I will not!

“Join you at an event that supports an organization that has ended the lives of many animals who would have made perfect pets in the homes of Pinellas County residents? I will not!

“Join you at a fundraiser for an organization that fired volunteers who provided animal care equating to over a half a million dollars annually? I will not!

“I can only pray that a rain pours all day on St Petersburg on October 8th and this event is cancelled.

“Yes, I am a friend of the animals of Pinellas County. I have four rescue dogs, two having come from SPCA Tampa Bay. Because of my commitment to the animals, it is impossible for me to join you at an event supporting an organization that would rather raise money to pay salaries than use the funds where they are needed most — TO HELP THE ANIMALS IN NEED!

“I am not able to support you in memory of Flash. Did you attend the 1,000 Bitches meeting at SPCA Tampa Bay in May 2013? Flash was the cute little corgi mix who was used in a training demonstration. He was able to sit on a towel with just 2 minutes of clicker training. Ask Martha Boden what happened to Flash; he was euthanized by SPCA Tampa Bay because he was there too long.

“I am not able to support you in memory of Santana. Ask Martha Boden about Santana; she arrived at SPCA Tampa Bay late in 2013, pregnant. SPCA Tampa Bay allowed her to carry her puppies almost full term, then spayed her, aborted the puppies and euthanized them. Santana was put up for adoption the day after her spaying, was adopted the next day — and passed away three weeks later.

“I am not able to support you in memory of Buddy. Buddy was a gorgeous yellow lab that arrived at SPCA Tampa Bay in the spring of 2013 to find his forever home. He spent the entire summer there, and as a canine volunteer, I walked him first each day I was there and last before I left. My husband and I lost a dog to cancer in July 2013 before we were leaving on vacation. I took my husband over to meet Buddy before we left, but did not think if would be fair to Buddy to adopt him and then leave on an extended vacation. My husband and I told Buddy if he was still there when we got back, we would be his forever family. I regret this decision every day…. Buddy was euthanized when we were gone because he had been there all summer. Ask Martha Boden how she sleeps at night knowing a pet has been killed just because……….

“I am not able to support you because of the hundreds if not thousands of other animals that have lost their lives at the hands of SPCA Tampa Bay — an organization that should be saving rather than killing. Ask Martha Boden about the kill statistics at SPCA Tampa Bay and how they compare to other animal welfare organizations.

“How many major donors have you lost due to the changes made at SPCA Tampa Bay by Martha Boden, CEO? I remember the Pet Walk when Rogan and Associates was the presenting sponsor and we counted the money in their motor home. Ask Martha Boden why you no longer see the Rogan and Associates motor home at the Pet Walk.

“An organization of 1,000 females, and only 10 have signed up to support this event? Ask yourself why you are not able to get women to support this event and organization.

“When will the Board of Directors, employees and groups like the 1,000 Bitches (of which I was previously a member) take a stand for the animals of Pinellas County and demand a change of leadership at SPCA Tampa Bay? THAT IS WHEN I WILL JOIN YOU AT THE PET WALK, AND NOT ONE DAY EARLIER!

“I’m just one person, but many together can make a difference. If you truly want to make a difference in the lives of the animals of Pinellas County, check out the Facebook page for SPCA Tampa Bay Behind The Kennel Doors.”

Amy Ulrich

Again, mtA asks….When will they get the message?

# # #

Below is the full email:

Date: September 26, 2016 at 2:05:35 PM EDT
Subject: Please join me for the SPCA Tampa Bay Pet Walk–Saturday, October 8, 2016
Hello Fellow Friend of the Animals,

The SPCA Tampa Bay’s 26th Annual Pet Walk is just 15 days away! On behalf of the 1,000 Bitches, I am asking you to consider walking and joining our team or making a donation to us. We need 15 more team members to reach our goal of 25 and to help us exceed our team fundraising goal of $3,000.

This year’s Pet Walk will be held in the beautiful Vinoy Park in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday, October 8th. The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and the walk starts at 10:00 a.m.

It’s easy to register! Just go to and click on the Register tab. Select Join a team and choose 1,000 Bitches.

I look forward to seeing everyone there!


Maria Walkiewicz

Charity Navigator’s new tool helps donors compare charities; SPCA/TB 7th among 8

August 9th, 2016

sheep in wolf

Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest and most-used evaluator of charities, has helped millions of donors determine whether the organizations to which they give are using their donations responsibly. CN recently introduced a feature called “Sector Analyzer,” which allows you to compare charities within a particular category, region, state or financial strata. Here’s how it works.

Go to Charity Navigator

At the top of the home page, right side, click on “Tips for Donors.” A heading called “Tips and Resources” appears on the upper left.

Scroll to the bottom of that menu bar at the left of the page under “Tips & Resources” and click on “Sector Analyzer.”

You may filter your search by category, region, state, and more. For example, we entered:
Category: Animals
Cause: Animal rights, welfare, & services
Region: South
State: Florida
Total expenses: All

Click “submit.” When the page refreshes scroll down.

The results that appear provide the average score for all rated charities fitting those criteria (in this case, 8 charities.) Fifteen categories are scored, including overall “financial,” “accountability and transparency,” “CEO salary,” “administrative expenses,” and “fundraising efficiency.”

Below that, you’ll see the top five and the bottom five charities. SPCA Tampa Bay is next to last, with 2 out of 4 stars.

Donors have a right to know

You can click on the charity’s name to see how the score was determined. The key categories are “financial performance” and “accountability/transparency.” In the case of SPCA/TB, three red flags strongly affected the “Accountability & Transparency” score:

• Failure to have audited financials prepared by an independent accountant
• No donor privacy policy
• Audited financials from the most recently filed Form 990 not present on the organization’s website

CN notes that “It is important for donors to have easy access to this financial report [audited financials] to help determine if the organization is managing its financial resources well.”

We suspect that longtime donors to SPCA/TB, who knew the organization in its pre-Martha Boden days when its reputation was respectable, are appalled by what’s happening there now.

(Incidentally, only charities with an annual income above $50,000 are rated by Charity Navigator. move to ACT is not rated because, as a smaller charity, we file the abbreviated 990 form as required by the IRS.)

There’s hope for making Indianapolis a No Kill city

August 1st, 2016

In November of 2007, when mtA hosted Nathan Winograd for a well-attended workshop, Winograd shared with us the inspiration and tools for bringing a community to “No Kill.”

At that time, many in the sheltering community rejected the term “no kill” and/or denied that it was possible. The political agendas of some organizations were oppositional and obstructive.

But progress has been made. Today, we witness organizations advertising their efforts to “help all Indiana animal shelters become ‘no kill’”. Commitments are made to “…put Indianapolis on a sustainable path to becoming a ‘no kill’ city. … where no healthy or treatable dogs or cats are ever euthanized.”

Kara Kenney of RTV6 posted an article on IACC’s new deputy director, Katie Trennepohl, on July 25. Headlined “New IACC head wants Indy to be ‘no kill’ shelter”, the article reports the current save rate at IACC as 85 percent, up from 49 percent in 2011. “Trennepohl said to be considered ‘no kill,’ the agency needs to get to 90 percent,” the article states.

We celebrate that the no kill discipline has been embraced by the Indianapolis animal welfare community. This is important progress!

Can we do better than 90 percent?

But can a shelter or community really be considered “no kill” if 10 percent of treatable/adoptable animals are still being killed? Are the animals who fall into that 10 percent less important than the 90 percent who got out alive? Maybe we need to rethink the criteria that define “no kill”.

The goal of the No Kill movement is not to reduce killing to some pre-determined level. It is to end the killing of ALL animals who are not irremediably suffering.

“A shelter or community achieves No Kill when it ends the killing of all animals, except those who are physically suffering irremediably. Irremediable physical suffering means an animal who has a poor or grave prognosis for being able to live without severe, unremitting pain even with prompt, necessary, and comprehensive veterinary care, such as an animal in fulminant organ system failure.”

Per the home page of Target Zero, an organization that is providing guidance to Indianapolis, “zero euthanasia of all adoptable shelter animals” is the goal.

That old hobgoblin word…

No discussion of “no kill” can be complete without recognizing the difference between “euthanasia” and “killing”. We must be honest and respect the dignity of those treatable/adoptable animals whose lives are ended for convenience or space.

Euthanasia: the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering.
— Wikipedia

Irremediably suffering animals are euthanized. Animals are not euthanized for convenience or space. They are killed.

The goal: 100 percent of treatable/adoptable animals — ALL — leave our animal care facilities alive. Euthanasia frees those whose suffering cannot be alleviated.

Euthanasia is compassionate. Killing is not.

Q: What kind of nonprofit can operate without volunteers?

July 11th, 2016


A: One whose true agenda differs from its stated mission. Or one that has no mission statement at all.

SPCA Tampa Bay’s website shows no mission statement. It lists 12 “volunteer opportunities”, such as Behavior Enrichment Assistant, Pet Photographer, Dog Walker, Canine/Feline Adoption Counselor. Each describes exciting ways in which the volunteer can help advance the welfare of shelter pets.

And except for two, each description ends with
Currently, we are not accepting any volunteer applications.

There’s a category entitled Junior Volunteer Opportunities. It’s not accepting volunteers.

Special Events Volunteer says “volunteer opportunities coming soon”.

Those court-ordered to community service can still fulfill their obligation at SPCA/TB, so long as their charges don’t involve a felony, assault, domestic violence, theft, or controlled substances. Charges related to animal abuse or neglect aren’t mentioned.

No volunteers means no one’s watching

Caring volunteers have been a thorn in the side of CEO Martha Boden’s agenda for SPCA/TB from the start. Many have bravely tried to alert the public to the killing and mistreatment happening at SPCA/TB, and were dismissed for their efforts. Now, according to the Facebook page SPCA Tampa Bay Behind the Kennel Doors, the organization is phasing out its volunteers and plans to use them only for special events.

Such events, of course, are designed to generate donations and build SPCA/TB’s brand. They have nothing to do with caring for the animals.

Without volunteers, how does a shelter socialize frightened animals and prepare them for adoption? How does it help people choose a new pet? How does it reunite lost pets with their families? How does it train dogs to be good canine citizens?

Obviously, it doesn’t. Obviously, accomplishing these goals is not an SPCA/TB priority.

Martha Boden’s chamber of horrors

July 4th, 2016

It seems death follows Martha Boden wherever she goes. The latest horror stories to emerge from SPCA Tampa Bay, where Boden reigns as CEO, involve a lost and injured 10-year-old Chihuahua and a healthy 2-year-old cat who died from a botched operation.

RIP, Prince

Ten-year-old Prince was playing with his family in a Clearwater park when he wandered off. When she was unable to locate him, Lakkia Hobbs, who’s had Prince since he was 8 weeks old, submitted a missing pet report to all the area shelters. A representative from SPCA/TB found Prince soon after. He had apparently been hit by a car.

SPCA’s vet, whose medical prowess has been previously questioned, determined the dog was too badly injured and ended his life. No attempt was made to contact Hobbs.

Prince had no tags or microchip. “We didn’t have any information about the animal’s owner at that time,” Boden said.

Why did no one bother to check the lost pet information they were given by Hobbs?

It’s not the first time

The night Prince died, SPCA/TB posted his picture on their website. Hobbs saw it and called. She says she was told her dog was still there, but when she went to get Prince, she was told he was dead.

“That’s my baby,” a tearful Hobbs said. “I would have done whatever I needed to do to save his life.”

Martha Boden told a reporter for WFLA News that the dog was too severely injured to be treated. Yet a photo from SPCA/TB’s website shows him being carried without the support that would be essential for a critically injured animal.
A similar tragedy occurred in 2006, when Boden was Executive Director of the Humane Society of Indianapolis.

RIP, Smokey

A beautiful, healthy 2-year-old cat, Smokey had delivered a litter of healthy kittens. When enough time had passed, her foster mom took her to SPCA/TB to be spayed. Shortly thereafter, Smokey was adopted.

Her new family soon noticed that Smokey was dehydrated and in severe pain. They rushed her to an emergency vet and learned she was suffering from a severe infection and apparent neglect in the surgical process. They consulted a total of three vets, two specializing in emergencies.

In discussing Smokey’s spay surgery, the term “butchered” was used more than once. Evidence suggested a foreign object might have been left inside her body.

Smokey died soon after. Her adopters and her foster mom want to know why a simple surgery was so badly mishandled that it cost the life of this sweet, smart cat. But of course, they can’t get a straight answer.

What power does Martha Boden have — and over whom — that she can maintain her own personal chamber of horrors while NO ONE investigates?

Follow the horror story here.

Martha Boden, SPCA/TB CEO, appointed to Board of Governors

March 3rd, 2016

An Open Letter to the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce

LYNN CISSNA, Admin Rockstar
LINDA HART PUNZAK, VP Finance/Operations
IVORY BLACKWOOD, Finance & Administrative Coordinator
TRAVIS NORTON, Advocacy Manager
SEAN KENNEDY, Economic Development Manager
CARLY HELLIESEN, Greenhouse Coordinator
ANNIE POLING, Membership Concierge
MICHELE STONE, Membership Development Manager
BRITTANY WALSH, Member Program Manager
MORGAN BROCHETTI, Marketing Coordinator
NATALIE FISHER, Event Coordinator
KRISTINA ALSPAW, Visitors Experience Manager

The animal welfare communities, donors, and pet care providers of Indianapolis, IN and Pinellas County, FL were shocked and saddened to learn that Martha Boden, CEO of SPCA Tampa Bay, has been appointed to your Board of Governors. As you are obviously unaware, Boden left behind excessive debt, poor medical practices, and a seriously damaged program when she was relieved of her duties as CEO of the Humane Society of Indianapolis in 2008.

Her successor at HSI noted that the organization’s debt had increased by more than $3 million, staff training was severely lacking, no one on staff was effectively trained to assess a dog’s behavior, and entire rooms full of kennels were empty and being used for storage.

During Boden’s tenure at the Humane Society of Indianapolis, HSI
• Instituted an appointment-only surrender policy
• Dismissed longtime, dedicated volunteers and staff members, having some escorted off the property to sheriff’s cars
• Stopped accepting strays and began importing more desirable dogs from other sources, even out of state
• Increased adoption fees, especially for highly adoptable puppies and small dogs
• Borrowed excessively against the shelter’s endowment, resulting in increased debt of more than $3 million
• Redesigned its website and corporate identity
• Told a man whose elderly lost dog had been taken to HSI that the dog was not there while, in fact, the dog had been killed with no effort made to contact the owner at either number engraved on the dog’s collar
• Left dozens of kennels empty while homeless animals were routinely being killed for space at the overcrowded municipal shelter

That pattern has continued. During Boden’s tenure, SPCA/TB has
• Instituted an appointment-only surrender policy, enabling SPCA/TB to selectively choose animals it will accept
• Told longtime, dedicated volunteers not to return
• Fired a qualified behaviorist with 20 years of experience and hired one with no experience who obtained certification through an online course
• Increased staff salaries, added staff positions, and decreased revenue
allocated to animal care
• Eliminated extremely popular community programs such as Family Dog Training and Canine Good Citizen training
• Charged a family $400 to reclaim its lost dog, stating in front of the family’s children that if the fee wasn’t paid, the dog would be probably be killed
• Charged a woman $200 to reclaim a lost cat who was at SPCA/TB for 10 days before the owner was notified, threatening that the cat would be killed unless she paid up
• Coldly informed a grieving pet owner that his beloved dog’s ashes had been dumped in the landfill
• Spent more than $259,000 in donor dollars to hire a high-profile ad agency to create new branding, a revised website, and a new logo that looks deceptively similar to that of the highly respected Best Friends Animal Society
• Found no conflict of interest in the fact that the organization’s pro bono attorney is a trophy hunter who says he finds shooting animals “incredibly fun”
• Left rows of kennels empty while Pinellas County Animal Services is constantly full

You will find details about these and other actions on our blog,

In this position, Martha Boden’s past performance will be defining the character of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce. Is this acceptable to the current members? Is this fair to the reputation of the community? Please reconsider this appointment