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
Best Friends Animal Society is the most trusted U.S. animal welfare organization, and the one the public says it’s most likely to donate to, according to a Harris Poll EquiTrend study
Harris Interactive’s 2012 study named Best Friends a “Brand of the Year” for the second year in a row.
Each year, Harris Interactive measures consumer sentiment toward for-profit and non-profit brands and evaluates both on factors including familiarity, quality, trust, leadership, emotional connectedness, likelihood to recommend and performance.
Best Friends Animal Society was named a category winner along with such organizations as the American Red Cross, Goodwill, Girls Scouts USA, Stand Up to Cancer and Food for the Poor.
The 2011 Harris EquiTrend poll named Best Friends as the nonprofit “Brand of the Year” when all nonprofits were grouped in one category. In 2012 the study created categories for nonprofits: animal, environmental, health, international, social services, disability and youth interest.
“We are extremely honored that for the second year in a row Harris Interactive and the people that participated in the poll pointed to Best Friends Animal Society as the nonprofit animal welfare organization with the highest brand equity,” said Gregory Castle, chief executive officer of Best Friends Animal Society.
Established in 1984, Best Friends Animal Society operates the nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 2nd, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animal welfare, animals, best friends, dogs, donations, harris interactive, non profits, nonprofits, organizations, pets, poll, trust
Cats ended up in animal shelters in the United States less often and were euthanized less often in 2011, according to a report by PetHealth, Inc., a company that aggregates data from animal welfare organizations.
The report, to be published annually, noted a 6% decline over 2010 in overall cat intakes, including a 5 percent decline in owner surrenders and a 9 percent decline in strays.
Euthanasia of cats declined 11 percent in 2011.
For dogs, the report notes little change in 2010′s intake and surrender numbers. Dog adoptions increased 2 percent, while euthanasia of dogs declined 3 percent over the same period.
The 2011 year-end report aggregates data from 795 animal welfare organizations. Findings were based on 1,537,961 intakes and 1,508,754 outcomes for dogs and cats that entered or left animal welfare organizations in 2011.
“We are very excited to be able to offer the first annualized PetPoint Report to our network and the interested public,” Brad Grucelski, a company vice president, said in a press release. “From this larger pool of aggregate data we can see beyond monthly fluctuations in intake and outcome types and measure the widespread impact of animal welfare efforts in the United States.
“Based on the information disclosed here, 2011 was a good year for animal welfare,” he said, “and all key indicators point to continued success in 2012.”
Posted by jwoestendiek January 20th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adoptions, animal shelters, animal welfare, animals, cats, dogs, euthanasia, intakes, organizations, outcomes, pet health, pet point, pethealth, pets, population, report, shelters, strays, surrenders
Eva LaRue and Omar Miller, stars of TV’s “CSI: Miami” are teaming with Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Pet Foods, PETCO™ and independent pet stores to celebrate National Guide Dog Month in September.
The goal is to raise money and awareness for guide dog organizations across the country.
“We want people to realize that this is more than just a fundraiser for a good cause,” said Miller. “This is really about empowering the visually impaired with the life-changing gift of a guide dog. Guide dogs and training are provided at no cost to qualified applicants who are blind or visually impaired. With 10 million visually impaired people in the U.S., the demand for guide dogs continues to grow.”
“Every seven minutes someone in America becomes blind or visually impaired,” said LaRue. “Guide dogs are heroes, providing safe mobility, loving companionship and restoring confidence to their handlers.”
You can see the public service announcement they made here.
Throughout September, pet owners can visit any of PETCO’s locations as well as select independent retailers of Natural Balance to help support National Guide Dog Month.
Shoppers can purchase specially marked bags of Natural Balance to donate $1 of the purchase price to participating guide dog schools.
Petco shoppers can also “round up” their purchases at the register or make donations directly online at www.petco.com.
Recipients of the money raised will include: Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc., Guide Dogs of the Desert, Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, Inc., Southeastern Guide Dogs, Leader Dogs for the Blind, The Seeing Eye, Inc., Freedom Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc., Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Guiding Eyes for the Blind and Guide Dogs of Texas, Inc.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 12th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, blind, csi, csi miami, dick van patten, dogs, donate, eva larue, fidelco guide dog foundation, freedom guide dogs for the blind, guide dog foundation for the blind, guide dog organizations, guide dogs, guide dogs for the blind, guide dogs of texas, guide dogs of the desert, guiding eyes for the blind, leader dogs for the blind, national guide dog month, natural balance, omar miller, organizations, petco, pets, psa, southeastern guide dogs, the seeing eye, visually impaired
Van Dusen, 59, is a former family-law attorney who lives alone (not counting the cats) in Oakland, Calif., where she’s a volunteer and foster care provider for an organization called Fix Our Ferals, which traps, neuters and cares for stray and feral cats.
In her 2004 tax return, Van Dusen deducted $12,068 in expenses related to caring for foster cats in her modest home – food, veterinarian bills, cat litter, paper towels, garbage bags, and a portion of her utility bills.
The IRS, as you might guess, said no, declaring the costs she incurred caring for strays as “nondeductible personal expenses,” as opposed to charitable contributions.
Van Dusen — and we’re sure all 70 cats agreed — didn’t think that was right and contested the IRS decision.
In 2009, the case wound up in Tax Court, where Van Dusen represented herself because she couldn’t afford a lawyer.
“If it came down to helping a cat with a medical problem or saving for retirement, I would spend on the cat’s care—as will a lot of rescue workers,” she told the Wall Street Journal, which carried a story Saturday about her victory.
According to the Journal, it was also a victory for animal rescue volunteers across the country, and volunteers in general. There are more than 1.5 million IRS-recognized charities, the article said, and the ruling makes clear that unreimbursed expenses incurred by volunteers working for them are deductible.
Van Dusen learned she had won her case earlier this month. “I was stunned,” she said. “It feels great to have established this precedent.”
She said her pretrial dealings with the IRS were “intimidating.” Once in court, she said, the agency’s lawyers “tried to portray me as a crazy cat lady.” The judge, Richard Morrsion, patiently allowed her to state her case.
“He had to go through all these receipts from Costco and ask questions like, ‘What were these paper towels used for?’ ”
Under his ruling, Van Dusen was allowed to deduct most of some bills and half of others for care of the feral cats. The judge stopped short of granting her total deduction because she didn’t have a valid letter from the charity acknowledging her volunteer work.
The IRS declined to comment on the case. It has 90 days to contest the ruling in federal appeals court.
(Photo: By Michael Mullady; source: Wall Street Journal)
Posted by jwoestendiek June 16th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal rescue, animal welfare, california, cat lady, cats, crazy cat lady, deduct, deductions, feral, fix our ferals, foster, foster care, internal revenue service, irs, jan van dusen, judge, law, neuter, non-profit, nonprofits, oakland, organizations, ruling, spay, stray cats, strays, tax court, trap
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
Animal rights groups met with Philadelphia Eagles management this week for a two-hour discussion described as spirited, cordial and candid.
For the Eagles, it was an attempt at damage control — soothing the ire of animal lovers upset with the team signing convicted dogfighter Michael Vick.
For animal welfare activists, it was a chance to urge the Eagles to play a role in fighting animal abuse.
Vick wasn’t in attendance at Monday’s meeting, NBC in Philadelphia reported.
“I thought it was a good first step in making the best of what we all think is kind of a horrific starting situation,” said Rich Britton, with Chester County’s SPCA.
The team extended the invitations, reaching out to representatives of the area’s animal welfare groups.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 26th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal welfare, animals, cruelty, district attorney, dogs, eagles, groups, hiring, humane, lynne abraham, meeting, michael vick, organizations, pennsylvania, philadelphia, philadelphia eagles, rescue, shelter, signing, society, spca, vick
Tom McPhee and his award-winning documentary about pets during Hurricane Katrina — “An American Opera: The Greatest Pet Rescue Ever!” — are hitting the road on a year-long 80-city tour.
“The Rescue Party Tour” starts this month and will highlight local animal organizations in each city it visits (Baltimore’s not on the list yet).
The documentary is described as a “visceral, operatic vision of what happened to the pet owners of New Orleans who were forced to evacuate after Hurricane Katrina without their beloved pets, and the volunteers who came from all over the world to help.
“America suffered its worst domestic animal crisis in history when tens of thousands of animals were left to perish in neighborhoods all across the gulf. This heartfelt story follows the pets, vets, owners, officials, rescuers, and adopters of animals as they work through the chaos to do what is right, only to discover not everyone is working toward the same goal.”
For more information about the movie, visit its website.
For more information about the tour, see www.RescuePartyTour.com.
Local animal groups interested in showcasing the movie and their work in the community, can email email@example.com
Posted by jwoestendiek May 24th, 2009 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: an american opera, animal welfare, documentary, greatest pet rescue, hurricane, katrina, movie, organizations, owners, party, pet, rescue, shelters, tom mcphee, tour, trailer, volunteers