In early December 2020, several Facebook posts were shared online in regards to allegations against the Highland County Humane Society. Several posts mentioned improper euthanasia of animals and stated they are no longer a no kill shelter. Allegations were made against their treasurer, who is also the main point of contact for daily operations, that she instructed a staff member to have her grandpa “just shoot a dog.”
Several members banded together to get to the bottom of the issue. We talked with the shelter manager regarding issues and on Monday, Dec. 7 we attended the regularly scheduled monthly board meeting. We addressed maintenance issues including a suspicion of rat infestation, continual clogged drain, low inventory of vaccines, a back gate that needs repaired, continued electrical issues including exposed wires to the cat house, and a defective dryer.
The plumbing was repaired, a new dryer was installed, and vaccines were ordered. The rest of the items remain unaddressed.
During this meeting we also asked more specifics regarding the treasurer/secretary and her position, as the community had raised concerns that she mishandled funds and was not keeping accurate records. We submitted a request in writing for the following (the members have not received it, but it is due Jan. 6):
● 2019 Form 990 as provided to the IRS;
● Meeting minutes from January 2020 to October 2020;
● Annual treasurer report provided in October 2020 per the bylaws;
● Check register or similar ledger showing all income and expenditures for year-to-date.
After several weeks of conversation from both sides via email, as well as continued communication with the shelter manager, we, as the members, requested a special meeting which was held Monday, Dec. 21 with concern over the treasurer/aecretary. We presented the following:
● Recent allegation that she instructed the shelter manager to have her grandpa shoot a dog. Whether she actually did shoot a dog or just instructed someone to do this, this is a serious allegation. The shelter manager claims that she has this conversation recorded, but it has not been presented to the members. We were told an attorney will be involved at the cost of the shelter.
● Concern that she is not keeping accurate financial records as specific requests have been made for donation records in the past and have not been fulfilled to date. The board stated that there was no way to discern which donations belonged to which cause. This is completely unacceptable.
In this specific instance, a local veterinarian had passed away and his obituary requested donations be made directly to the shelter. When his widow requested a ledger of who had donated, she was not provided such documentation. This was over a year ago and as of one week prior to our emergency meeting, she still did not have proper documentation to send thank you cards in her husband’s honor. A copy of the obituary and a copy of messages to the widow were provided to the board.
● Review of secretarial duties as she is currently serving as both positions, which is not permitted per the bylaws – only assistant treasurer and assistant secretary may be filled by the same person. The board advised they were unaware that she could not hold more than one title. What kind of a board doesn’t read and fully understand its own bylaws?
● Concern that she is not accurately providing necessary correspondence for the organization in her role as secretary, specifically in regards to 501c(3) donation receipt forms that are required for any donations received in excess of $250. Only paper receipts are being provided. The board stated they were not aware of this additional requirement for 501(c)3.
● Concern that she is not supporting the financial needs of the shelter in a timely manner. We were informed that utilities have been shut off in the past including electric/water, items were requested for care and never received or ordered in a timely manner and donors requested their funds to be used for specific purpose and items were never purchased for the shelter. An individual in September 2020 donated $2,000 cash and requested that a cat tree be purchased for the cat house. The shelter manager requested and the item was never purchased or provided by the treasurer/secretary. Emails were provided to the members showing proof that utilities had been shutoff in the past. We were told vaccines had been ordered the morning of the December meeting, when in fact they were ordered at 10 p.m. that evening after the meeting and the treasurer/secretary had lied about her actions.
● Proof that she lied to the board regarding weekly activities. We were made aware that she does not pick up the weekly receipts herself nor drop off the payroll checks. She has been allowing the shelter manager to do so.
● Allegations that she has instructed the shelter manager to have animals euthanized without proper documentation from a vet, dog warden, or the Highland County Health Department. Several members placed calls to the above mentioned organizations, and most do not have any record regarding vicious dogs who we were told by the board had to have proper authorization to be euthanized. We were told the board does not make that decision. If that is the case, then where are the records? Why can they not be produced? No vet records are available showing proof of medical necessity, no health department records were able to be obtained for the shelter address, and the dog warden was never contacted in any of the cases. In the monthly meeting it was noted that five dogs were euthanized in 2020 and names were provided. We believe several more dogs and cats were authorized by the treasurer/secretary to be euthanized and that she did not have proper authority to do so.
● Concern that members do not trust her financial judgement.
● Concern that animal medical requests must be approved by the board when funds were donated for recent surgeries (Thomas the cat). This is against the mission statement. Care for the animals is top priority. Since when is a $125 charge required to get full board approval? When the last financial statement was approved at the monthly meeting, it was stated you have over $15,000 currently in your account?
We are extremely disappointed that this board unanimously voted to keep the treasurer/secretary in her position after all of the evidence against her was provided in black and white. They did; however, separate the positions and nominated a new secretary and assistant treasurer from those already on the board. Such a huge help (insert sarcasm).
It’s time that this entire board of directors step down. The bylaws provide too much power and instead of doing the proper thing for the organization and the mission statement, this board chose to back an individual that has no regard for animals and should not be in a position that determines life or death of an animal. Not to mention she isn’t doing her job as treasurer/secretary.
Shame on all of you for choosing to back your friend, whom you nominated two years ago, instead of doing what’s best for the animals left in your care. This is neglectful and as a community we should be outraged at your actions, or lack thereof. You are part of the problem by allowing this individual to stay, and your vote shows us exactly where you stand when it comes to the shelter. Guilty by association.
We demand that you step down from your positions effective immediately as you have shown you no longer have regard for the job you were nominated to do.
The animals are the real victims in all of this and we demand that action be taken. You are a disgrace and we will continue to speak for the animals who cannot speak for themselves.
The Highland County Humane Society board will continue to put down healthy dogs and cats, they will continue to neglect the care of sick dogs and cats unless we as a community take a stand.
Are you an animal lover? Does this information upset you as much as it did the members? Be a part of the change. Become a member. Your votes will be needed soon. Memberships are available at the shelter Tuesday through Saturday noon to 5 p.m. — $15 for individual and $25 for family (all members over 18 in the household are able to vote).
Julie Vanover; Elizabeth and Matt Bowls; Penny Miller; Sarah Roe; Sara and David Carter; Skylar Castilaw; Alyssa, Joe and Mason Hunick; Pam Kelley; Kayla Sloan; and Amy Rhoden — concerned members of the Highland County Humane Society