Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page

Where does the money go? Some history. Part II

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Indianapolis Star reporter Alex Campbell penned an article in the Indianapolis STAR July 25, 2011 on the Humane Society of Indianapolis, headlined “Is limited admission improving the mission?”

The gist of the article was that HSI is operating within its means. But the article also reports:

“In June, the Humane Society (of Indianapolis) made its first big debt payment, to the tune of $200,000.”

The article barely touches on the financial misadventures of previous administrations that led to that debt and have hobbled the agency’s ability to operate at full potential.

It is honorable that Humane Society officials are taking the responsible action to address the debt that is no fault of the current officers. What’s regrettable is that the story never explains how the situation got this way.

Many in the community have witnessed the unfortunate behavior surrounding the HSI treasury since the 1970s. Otto Ray was an animal advocate who not only worked at the Humane Society, but sold the property on which HSI now stands to the Mary Powell Crume Trust. Older people in the community personally remember Mr. Ray.

Mr. Ray attempted to expose the Humane Society’s mismanagement of the Crume Trust 40 years ago. This note was left by Mr. Ray in the Crume Trust probate court folder:

“I have been a humane officer and investigator for 65 years and have lived in Indianapolis all my life; was 84 years old on March 6, 1972. I am writing this under a terrific handicap. I feel pretty helpless sitting here with a fractured hip, fractured neck, half blind, using a magnifying glass to see, have an impediment in my speech, and am compelled to use a walker when I move about.

I started exposing the humane society trustee’s bureaucracy in 1968 but at no time did I publicize the humane society’s embarrassing large assets; however because of the fact that conditions have become so bad and no one is attempting to help or speak for the poor defenseless animals who cannot speak for themselves, I am writing this article while hoping and praying that the public will demand a change of…. bureaucracy, because even the operators of any business or ball club would be removed under similar conditions. Instead of doing something for the animals they have been spending their time juggling facts, words, figures, numbers and everything else.”

— Otto Ray, July 20, 1972

The genesis of Move to ACT

Many people on the periphery of local animal welfare, or new to it, are not familiar with the origin of mtA. Move to ACT grew from the spirit of Otto Ray’s recognition that donors’ dollars do not always arrive at their intended destination — the animals. Mr. Campbell’s Indianpolis STAR article has revived this reminder. If the agency has just made its first big debt payment, one can only wonder how much of each donation “for the animals” is going to pay for service on debt?

Donors need to think about what they actually want their money to be doing.

In 2004, several local animal service providers rallied to protect the $3,400,000 public charitable trust (The Mary Powell Crume Trust) that provided more than $100,000/year in perpetual income to HSI to subsidize the care of animals in central Indiana. Challenged with a history of fiduciary misadventures, the trustee (HSI) wanted to put the trust at risk by using it as collateral for a $1,700,000 loan to make payment on its debt.

Move to ACT and other service providers opposed this action because animals in need were the assigned beneficiaries of this public trust. The trust money was intended to serve animals, not to pay service on debt.

To better understand the history and outcome of this concern and appreciate why mtA encourages heightened discretion in donating to an animal organization, we urge you to read a review of the Crume Public Charitable Trust violation by the trustee. This review comes from the attorney who represented the animal service providers. It can be viewed here.

The Humane Society of Indianapolis is fortunate now to have someone with the fundraising acumen of John Aleshire. If the “first big debt payment (is) to the tune of $200,000” …one can only imagine the profound financial impoverishment that exists and how much money needs to be raised to erase that debt. Until that time, the agency will remain limited in its financial outreach to animals beyond its walls.

Things have changed —haven’t they?

Fortunately the bureaucracy at HSI has changed. But now that HSI is rebuilding financial stability, wouldn’t this be a good time to start building stability with the “facts, words, figures, numbers and everything else” to which Otto Ray referred in 1972?

The announcment in 2009 to build an animal welfare center near Fountain Square was trumpeted with much fanfare and was exciting news. We learn from the Indianapolis STAR article that the location is yet to be determined, but HSI’s website advertises the clinic as “coming soon” and seeks donations with that appeal.

So will donations go to the clinic, or to paying debt?

HSI’s promotional materials tell us “Nearly 10,000 unwanted dogs and cats were put down in Indianapolis last year. With your support, we’ll put an end to unnecessary euthanasia in Indy — once and for all.” The familiar euphemisms are there: “put down”, “unnecessary euthanasia”, “once and for all”.

But does “with your support” mean donations will go to solving the problem…or to paying debt?

HSI’s operations manager now “makes sure pet owners know that if their pets go to the city shelter, there’s a 50-50 chance they’ll make it out alive.” From the HSI website: “Note: the city shelter, IACC, is also overwhelmed and has to put animals down for space at times.” “…at times?” Documentation actually identifies that the chance of an animal coming out alive is closer to 45% and an animal is destroyed at the municipal shelter at about the rate of 1/hour. “…at times?”

And many more resources exist for the public in addition to those listed in the Animal Welfare Alliance flyer that HSI offers. HSI is welcome to point people with an animal in need to the Rescue Rally Directory

HSI’s Mutt Strut was named “Best Charitable Event” by readers of NUVO Newsweekly for the third year in a row. A yearly “Best Charitable Event” will be needed for years to come to raise enough money to make payment on debt service. Until that balance is paid, at-risk animals in the community will continue to be mostly served by the small and efficient animal rescue organizations that don’t get the public attention or the big donations, but rely on mindful and discretionary donors.

In the meantime, a plea from one of themARPO

URGENT NEWS: ARPO has had to make the heartbreaking decision to halt intake of homeless and abandoned animals due to a shortage of funds. Simply put, vet expenses have been kicking our butts! While we work on long-term strategies, please consider donating what we need most … cash! Visit our website to donate via PayPal or mail a check, payable to ARPO, P. O. Box 6385, Fishers, IN 46038. Thank You!