An Open Letter to the Nina Pulliam Trust Board of Trustees

Nina Pulliam Charitable Trust
135 North Pennsylvania Street
Suite 2000
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204

Dear Trustees of the Nina Pulliam Charitable Trust,

It was a privilege to meet and visit with two of your board’s representatives, Maureen C. West and Kent E. Agness, at the announcement of the Pulliam Charitable Trust $1.25M grant to the Indianapolis Animal Welfare Alliance “Love me. Fix me” initiative on January 8.

On behalf of the many organizations, large and small, in central Indiana that work toward a better life for animals, I want to thank the Pulliam Trust, its Trustees, Lilly Endowment and The Tony Stewart Foundation for the generosity being shown to the animals with this gift. We are all excited about the difference this can make in the lives of so many animals.

Because I am sure you want this gift to be used responsibly and solely for the welfare of the animals, I feel obligated to share with you some concerns that have come to our attention at move to ACT.

Fiduciary responsibility
The first concern is that of fiduciary responsibility. I have received several emails expressing concern for the responsible handling of this generous gift. move to ACT, aware of the money-management history and current financial challenges of the lead agency, Humane Society of Indianapolis, shares this apprehension.

I am sure you have done your research and know that HSI has experienced profound debt. Our organization became acutely aware of this in 2004, when we learned that HSI had put the Mary Powell Crume Public Charitable Trust for animals (worth approximately $3.4M) at risk as collateral for a $1.7M line of credit. Ms. Crume presumably thought her Trust would be safe in the hands of its Trustee, HSI, which was also the income recipient of the Trust. This summary prepared by our attorney gives the details.

Restructuring debt is certainly a wise decision for any agency struggling in our economy, but our concern is for responsible oversight to prevent Ms. Pulliam’s gift from being used to pay for service on the lead agency’s debt as well.

Because move to ACT is committed to heightening community awareness about responsible use of charitable donations, we’ve reviewed some information in these two posts, which may be of interest to you.

Animal Philanthropy ~ Where Does the Money go?

Where does the money go? Some history. Part II

Organizational structure
Our second concern is with the Indianapolis Animal Welfare Alliance’s organizational structure. After two and a half years in existence, such an organization should

• Be registered with the Indiana Secretary of State
• Be approved for not-for-profit status
• Have established written bylaws, which would define the terms of its officers
• Have a treasurer

As of January 8, 2013 when Ms. Pulliam’s gift for this initiative was announced to the public, the IAWA had none of these.

Public interaction
Our third concern involves actions unbecoming an agency leading such a charitable organization.

Certainly HSI provides many wonderful services for the animals of Indianapolis and beyond. There is no doubt that many dedicated volunteers and employees care deeply about the animals. But leadership goes beyond social media images. It is demonstrated in the actions of agency representatives, which should, at the very least, reflect a spirit of kindness, tolerance and understanding. Such values were sadly lacking in the experience of this dog owner.

I did not have the privilege of meeting Nina Pulliam, but I would guess that she would have been disturbed by an animal organization, especially one enjoying the benefits and privileges of the Humane Society brand, treating people in this manner.

We also wonder if Ms. Pulliam would have reservations about a lead agency whose representative uses social media to condemn local participation in “Just One Day”, a nationwide initiative to rescue animals from death in municipal shelters.

Would one criticize the Mozelle Sanders Foundation for feeding the hungry on “just one day”?

Central Indiana is blessed with a number of caring organizations, including many small all-volunteer rescues, which may not have strong name recognition but which work tirelessly on behalf of the animals. Donor dollars invested in them produce a high return.

Since its founding, Southside Animal Shelter (SSAS) has demonstrated its leadership and values in caring for at-risk animals, treating those with extensive medical challenges and never giving up on them. HSI defines major medical concerns a bit differently.

Spay Neuter Services of Indiana (SNSI) led the initiative to provide financial support for pet owners who couldn’t afford to spay or neuter their pets.

FACE (Foundation Against Companion Animal Euthanasia), without support from either HSI or the city, took the lead in providing high volume, low cost spay/neuter procedures.

HSI certainly has the most high-profile marketing campaign of all the city’s animal welfare organizations, with a corresponding high level of costs incurred for promotion.

Out of respect for Nina Pulliam’s spirit of great charity and genuine caring, I am hopeful that the Pulliam Trust’s Board of Trustees will take steps to assure that this generous financial gift is used entirely for its intended purpose and to benefit those it was meant to serve: the animals.

Thank you for your service to the Pulliam Trust.


Warren G. Patitz
move to ACT

cc: Tony Stewart Foundation
Lilly Endowment, Inc.

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.

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