A recent CNN report raises questions about Operation Baghdad Pups, and the charity that oversees the program, SPCA International.
CNN, whose sister network presented a positive and heartwarming portrayal of the program last year, found that SPCA International spent nearly all $27 million it received in donations to raise more money through a direct mail company.
The report also said SPCA International “misrepresented” Baghdad Pups on its tax filings, and that it hired an officer for that program with a “questionable background.”
Two immediate thoughts:
One, in an ideal world, which of course we’re not in, it would have been nice of CNN, or even its less probing sister network, HLN, to do its digging before tugging at our heartstrings to the extent we cough up money.
Two, with animal charities becoming big business, where should the line be drawn when it comes to how much of the money they rake in actually goes to helping animals?
A charity needs to spend money to raise money, of course, but Bob Ottenhoff, president of the charity watchdog group GuideStar, told CNN that the SPCA International’s tax records raise “a number of red flags.”
“No. 1, there is an enormous amount of money going into fund-raising,” Ottenhoff said. “It’s not unusual for a nonprofit to fund-raise. In fact they need to fund-raise. But this organization has an enormous amount of fund-raising costs, certainly relative to the amount of money being spent.”
Of the $14 million raised in 2010, SPCA International reported it spent about $60,000, less than 0.5%, on cash grants to animal shelters across the United States. About $450,000 — about 3% of the total raised in 2010 — went to bring back animals from Iraq and Afghanistan as part of its “Baghdad Pups” program.
The CNN report seems to make much of the fact that most of those animals weren’t actual members of the armed services — but, from our coverage of the organization, it never seemed to making the claim that they were.
Baghdad Pups is a program that “helps U.S. troops safely transport home the companion animals they befriend in the war zone,” it states on the website.
As CNN put it, “the charity admitted that only 26 of the nearly 500 animals transported to the United States from Iraq and Afghanistan were actually service animals. The rest were stray animals … And those 26 service animals were not attached to military K-9 units but belonged to Reed Inc., a private contractor that built roads in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
While dogs abandoned by contracting companies have been a concern of the program, stray animals, as I understood it, were what the program was all about — seeing that, in cases where they bonded with soldiers, they had a chance to come home with them.
While the CNN report may have been barking up the wrong tree in that regard, it was on the money in other ways — namely, in looking at what happens to the money.
SPCA International funneled nearly all the donations to Quadriga Art, one of the world’s largest direct-mail providers to charities and nonprofits. The payments to Quadriga Art and its affiliated company, Brickmill Marketing Services, were for publicizing the organization and helping it raise more funds.
It is the same company hired by two veterans charities that spent tens of millions of dollars for its services, triggering a Senate investigation last month. One of the charities,Washington-based Disabled Veterans National Foundation, collected nearly $56 million in donations over the past three years yet paid Quadriga Art more than $60 million in fees, raising questions about whether it should retain its tax-exempt status.
SPCA International is still $8 million in debt to Quadriga Art, according to a spokeswoman for the direct-mail firm.
Lat week’s CNN report also brought up previous problems Operation Baghdad spokeswoman Terri Crisp encountered while working on behalf of animals.
Crisp, who appeared on CNN’s sister network, HLN, last year with two dogs rescued from Iraq, is the former head of a California-based animal rescue charity called Noah’s Wish. It took in $8 million in contributions to support its work “rescuing and caring for the animal victims of Hurricane Katrina.” An investigation by the California attorney general was looking into whether that money was being used for that purpose when a settlement was reached in 2007.
Crisp, while not admitting to any wrongdoing, agreed to return $4 million in donations, and to not ”serve as an officer, director or trustee or in any position having the duties or responsibilities of an officer, director or trustee, with any non-profit organization” for five years.
Posted by jwoestendiek July 18th, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: afghanistan, animal welfare, animals, armed service, baghdad, bringing, charities, cnn, contractors, direct mail, dogs, finances, fund raising, fundraising, guide star, hln, home, investigation, iraq, K-9, k9, noahs wish, non profits, nonprofits, operation baghdad pups, organizations, pets, pups, quadriga art, reed inc, rehoming, report, rescue, saving, shelter, soldiers, spca international, stray, strays, terri crisp, troops
This could get ugly, if it hasn’t already.
This week, a newly formed national organization called The Humane Society for Shelter Pets (HSSP) began making itself known, with full-page ads in national newspapers aimed at discouraging people from contributing to the Humane Society of the United States.
The new organization’s point: HSUS, despite public service ads that seem to indicate it helps dogs and cats in shelters, provides little direct funding to local shelters, which need help more than ever.
While polls show 71 percent of Americans believe HSUS is affiliated, represents or helps fund local humane societies, HSSP says “the reality is that just 1 percent of HSUS’s $126 million budget goes to needy hands-on pet shelters.”
“The Humane Society of the United States continues to fundraise on the perception that they give millions of dollars every year to local pet shelters with misleading advertising campaigns. Unfortunately for the dogs and cats in our local pet shelters, that is not the case,” said Diana Culp, HSSP co-director. (Culp is a former director of education for HSUS and former supervisor of animal control in Frederick County, Maryland.)
HSSP, while noting on its website that it doesn’t contribute directly to shelters, either, does provide a database enabling visitors to obtain all the information they need to donate to local shelters.
However philanthropic that may be, and whether or not you agree with HSSP that HSUS is misleading the public in its fundraising approach, HSSP may not be the angelic organization it makes itself out to be.
For one thing, it has ties to Richard Berman, who, through his Center for Consumer Freedom, has been a long-time, highly vocal critic of HSUS. Berman has raised millions from industries that, at least in the view of HSUS, are cruel and abusive to animals.
In response to the HSSP ads — they’ve appeared this week in USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and New York Times – HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle fired back earlier this week.
On his blog, A Humane Nation, Pacelle, called Berman a “king of charity fraud,” and went so far as to show a photo of Berman’s mansion in McLean, Virginia.
“He sets up phony front groups to do the dirty work of bad actors in industry. He takes their money and then takes on their critics. He runs ‘charitable’ organizations, like the Center for Consumer Freedom (which fights The HSUS), the American Beverage Institute (which fights Mothers Against Drunk Driving), and the Center for Union Facts (which attacks public employees and unions), yet his groups don’t feed one animal, shelter one homeless person, or provide any other tangible social service.
“They are charitable organizations in name only, and Berman and his for-profit public relations company pocket a large share or even a majority of the total revenue. It’s a personal enrichment scam of the highest order, and he’s the architect of the con job. He’s got the mansion in McLean, Va., and the Bentley in the driveway as the spoils, with his accountant wife standing by to tally the profits.”
Pacelle said the HSUS has never presented itself as an umbrella agency that funds local shelters, and he points out that HSUS television ads include a small-print disclaimer: “Local humane societies are independent from HSUS.”
While the HSSP ad states that HSUS gave just 1 percent of the $131 million in donations it received last year to local shelters, Pacelle says that figure doesn’t include the campaigns HSUS has conducted nationally and globally to fight such things as puppy mills, dogfighting, animal cruelty laws and pet overpopulation.
Pacelle says about 20 percent of the Humane Society’s efforts involve companion animal issues, and that, in the last five years, HSUS has given more than $43 million in grants to other animal organizations.
Berman, while not listed as an official of HSSP, has been hired to do its public relations work and to help bring HSSP “to fruition,” said HSSP Co-Director Jeffrey Douglas.
“… HSSP is a product of the efforts of a group of individuals with deep ties to the animal welfare community and dedicated to improving the well-being of shelter animals across the country,” he added. “Who we hired as our PR firm should be immaterial to the project.”
As Pacelle sees it, though, Berman is its backbone: “Now, this Beltway con artist — who has probably spent as much time as anyone in recent years fighting against animal welfare — has formed a new supposed animal welfare charity … He’s the man behind the curtain … He’s reached a new level of fraud and deception.”
Pacelle said that between CCF and HSSP, Berman’s outfits have taken out 25 full page “attack” ads in national newspapers, at an estimated cost of $2 million.
Berman, meanwhile — whose full response to Pacelle’s comments can be found here — says HSSP has been welcomed “warmly” by the shelter community.
The question the HSSP ad raises is not entirely illegitimate: Are those heartstring-tugging HSUS ads, even with disclaimers, contributing to the misperception that the national organization helps foot the bill for all local shelters that call themself by that name?
But a question can also be asked of the HSSP: If you really care about animals, why not, instead of those full page ads, send that $2 million to animal shelters?
Posted by jwoestendiek December 2nd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ads, advertisements, animal cruelty, animals, attack, campaigns, causes, center for consumer freedom, charities, chicago tribune, con man, diana culp, dogs, donate, donations, fight, formed, full page ads, fund raising, funding, hssp, hsus, humane society for shelter pets, humane society of the united states, industries, jeffrey douglas, lobbyist, local, local shelters, logo, los angeles times, misleading, misperceptions, money, national, new york times, newly, non profits, perceptions, pets, politics, polls, psas, public, public service announcements, richard berman, shelters, wayne pacelle
If Leona Helmsley was betrayed as much in life as she is being betrayed in death, it’s easy to understand why she might have become the bitch — and we’re not talking female dog — she was so often portrayed as.
In the latest development with the wealth she left behind, a second judge has ruled, in effect, that the foundation divvying up her fortune among charitable groups need not follow her express wish that much of that money be spent on the care of dogs.
The judge denied a bid by the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States and other animal groups to get a larger share of Helmsley’s billions.
Although Helmsley directed a share of her massive fortune go to “the care of dogs” — that being in addition to the $12 million she asked be left to her own dog — the Helmsley Foundation’s trustees have seen fit to dispense most of the foundation money among organizations that have little or nothing to do with canines.
According to the animal welfare groups, only about $100,000 of the $450 million the foundation has given away has gone to dog causes.
The dog charities argued they should have standing to challenge how the foundation gives away its money in light of Helmsley’s written statements and last wishes. Wayne Pacelle, president of HSUS, called the $100,000 received so far ”a trifling amount, and contrary to Helmsley’s intentions.”
Surrogate’s Court Judge Nora Anderson in Manhattan rejected the bid by the animal welfare organizations to intervene in the case, agreeing with a judge who ruled earlier that the trustees have sole discretion in how to distribute the money, the New York Post reported yesterday.
She said she feared the groups’ challenge could open the floodgates to countless lawsuits from dog organizations around the world.
It’s hardly the first time Helmsley’s last wishes have been overruled since her death: Of that $12 million she left in her will for the care of her Maltese, named Trouble, a judge reduced the amount to $2 million.
Beyond what she intended to leave for the care and feeding of Trouble, Helmsley had another $5 to $8 billion, according to estimates of the trust’s worth.
Helmsley, who died in 2007, wrote in a 2004 mission statement for the trust that she wanted that money used for “1) purposes related to the provision or care of dogs and 2) such other charitable activities as the Trustees shall determine.”
In 2009, though, the Surrogate’s Court found that the mission statement did not place any legal restrictions on what donations could be made from the trust.
Later that year, the ASPCA, the Humane Society and Maddie’s Fund, filed a motion asking the court to vacate its earlier order and allow them to intervene. The primary interest of those groups was not, of course, in seeing solely that Helmsley’s wishes were honored, but neither, it seems, are the foundation’s. The animal welfare groups’ goals seem more aligned with her wishes, though.
By all descriptions, the so-called ”queen of mean” was a hard-hearted woman, with one soft spot — dogs.
The foundation doling out her fortune doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of respect for dogs, or for Helmsley.
I’m no legal expert, just a dog lover, and I’m not asking for Trouble. But if I arranged to leave my fortune – non-existent though it may currently be — to my dog Ace, or anywhere else, and you didn’t carry out my wishes, you can be sure I’d be back to haunt you.
I’d show you mean.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 9th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal welfare, animals, aspca, bequeath, bequest, billions, bitch, charities, death, dogs, editorial, fortune, groups, helmsley foundation, hsus, humane society of the united states, inheritance, intervene, judge, leona helmsley, mean, organizations, pets, queen of mean, ruling, trouble, wayne pacelle, will
Surf Dog Ricochet continues his amazing work in California, where he recently hit the waves with Ian McFarland, a 6-year-old boy who suffered a brain injury in a car accident that claimed the lives of his parents.
Ricochet, who we first showed you last year, was a service dog reject — he was just too prone to chasing birds — who went on to become a “surf-ice” dog, raising money for charities through surfing demonstrations and assisting people with disabilities in other ways.
Most recently, he helped Ian, who used to surf with his dad, overcome his fears and get back in the ocean.
On top of the individuals he has helped, Ricochet’s website says he has raised more than $30,000 in an 8-month period.
Posted by jwoestendiek July 3rd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adaptive, animals, california, charities, demonstrations, disabilities, disability, disabled, dog, dogs, ian mcfarland, pets, ricochet, service, surf, surf-ice, surfer, surfing, therapy, video
Authorities seized about 500 dogs being housed in wire crates and pens in Montague County, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
The Montague County Sheriff’s Department served warrants Tuesday morning at the 1,200-acre property near Bowie after complaints about the animals’ living conditions, said Sandy Grambort, a supervisor with the Humane Society of North Texas.
Grambort said the operation has been the subject of complaints for as long as 10 years, but in the past none of them have been able to be verified.
The property owners sold puppies to the public on the Internet and through newspaper ads.
Grambort said there were at least 25 different breeds on the site, but most were small breeds.
Some of the dogs were kept in wire crates that were double stacked in a series of outbuildings. Dogs were also kept in outdoor pens and kennels. Some of the animals had sores, open wounds and skin conditions in need of treatment, she said.
Chesapeake Energy donated use of a 4,000-square-foot warehouse in the Fort Worth stockyards to temporarily house the animals, and PetSmart Charities donated several hundred dog crates, dog food and water bowls. Volunteers with United Animal Nations will help care for the dogs.
Posted by jwoestendiek July 8th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: Bowie, charities, chesapeake energy, crates, double stacked, human society of north texas, internet, montague county, news, newspaper ads, petsmart, puppy mill, skin conditions, sores, texas, united animal nations, wire, wounds
I don’t begin to understand the intricacies of estate law, or the intricacies of Leona Helmsley — but I do believe this: A person, even if they are certifiably insane, deserves to have their last request honored.
With the distribution of the first $136 million from Helmsley’s multibillion-dollar estate, its trustees have shown — like judges before them — they don’t give a squat about Helmsley’s wishes, or the nation’s dogs.
The bulk of the money went to medical centers; only $1 million of the estate was donated to the care of dogs, which Helmsley had designated as primary beneficiary of her $5 billion.
“This is a trifling and embarrassingly small amount,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States. “Mrs. Helmsley’s wishes are clearly being subverted.”
Pacelle added, “We are extremely disappointed that less than 1 percent of the allocation announced is going to animal-related organizations, and only one-tenth of 1 percent is going to animal welfare organizations … We are in touch with the interested parties and are hoping to have a satisfactory resolution — a much larger percentage than 1 percent.”
After Helmsley’s 2007 death, it was revealed that she had drafted a statement four years earlier listing poor people and dogs as the causes to which she wanted her money donated. She crossed out the poor a year later. In February, though, a Manhattan judge ruled that the trustees had sole discretion in disbursing her assets and that the entire estate did not have to go to the dogs.
Helmsley also left $12 million to her Maltese, Trouble, but a judge reduced Trouble’s trust fund to $2 million in negotiating a $6 million settlement with two of Mrs. Helmsley’s grandchildren who were left out of her will.
Tuesday’s grants went to a digestive diseases center at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center ($40 million) and Mount Sinai Medical Center ($35 million). The Mount Sinai money is to be used to create a center to study the electrical properties of cells and tissues and to establish a Helmsley Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, according to the New York Times. The $1 million for animal welfare was divided among 10 charities, including the ASPCA and Guide Dogs for the Blind.
I’m not sure even the honor of having a “bowel disease center” named after her would make up for the total disregard for her wishes. The trustees have shown that they are not to be trusted — at least when it comes to doling out the dough in a manner that comes anywhere close to what she wanted.
It shouldn’t be up to relatives, judges or anyone else to reinterpret the instructions one leaves upon one’s death — even if the deceased is mentally incompetent, as some might argue leaving $5 billion to dogs indicates. I’m not one of them. Who’s to say probing the mysteries of human bowels is more important than animal welfare? The trustees, apparently, in a decision that shouldn’t even be their’s to make in the first place. A person’s last wishes — if they’re not harming anyone — should be carried out, doggone it, even if they are stark raving mad.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 23rd, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal welfare, assets, blind, charities, dogs, estate, fund, grant, guide dogs, helmsley, hsus, humane society, judge, leona, maltese, settlement, trouble, trust, trustees, will
Trustees of real estate baroness Leona Helmsley’s estate say they’re giving $136 million to charity — and only $1 million of that is going to the dogs.
Animal rights groups rejoiced last year at reports that Helmsley, who died in 2007 at age 87, wanted her entire multibillion-dollar fortune to go to dog-related charities
But a court ruled in February that the trustees had authority to decide which charities could receive funds. Apparently dogs — and Helmsley’s wishes — rated pretty low in the decision-making process. The judge’s decision did not affect the $12 million Helmsley bequeathed to her Maltese, Trouble.
Helmsley’s estate yesterday announced its first round of charitable grants. The largest, $40 million, went to New York’s Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Most of the money went to health care systems across the country, Newsday reported today.
Helmsley’s estate distributed $1 million to 10 animal rights groups, including $100,000 to the ASPCA.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 21st, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal rights, animal welfare, aspca, benficiaries, charities, dogs, estate, fortune, leona helmsley, millions, trustees, will
The judge overseeing the probate of Helmsley’s will has ruled that the billions of dollars that will flow into the charitable trust she created do not have to be spent solely for the care and welfare of dogs.
The judge’s decision does not affect the $12 million Helmsley bequeathed to her Maltese, Trouble (above), who was the biggest named beneficiary in her will.
The judge, Troy K. Webber, said that the trustees who control the trust may distribute the money as they see fit. The ruling, dated last Thursday, was reported in today’s New York Times.
“The court finds that the trustees may apply trust funds for such charitable purposes and in such amounts as they may, in their sole discretion, determine,” Judge Webber wrote.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 26th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: Add new tag, animals, bequeath, bequest, billions, charitable, charities, dogs, fortune, helmsley, judge, leona helmsley, pets, trouble, trust, trustees, will