Dogs are barking over Humane Society award

Dateline: Thu 21 Dec 2006

The days are long gone when agencies that purport to serve the common good can act at will, without public scrutiny. But you knew that.

Case in point: The Humane Society of Indianapolis is being dogged by Move to ACT, a central Indiana not-for-profit that puts a priority on animal welfare and not money. Move to ACT is setting up a storm about a recent award the Humane Society received from the Better Business Bureau, which cited the organization for "high ethical practices, public accountability, effectiveness, use of funds, governance and oversight of fund-raising practices and finances."

Move to ACT says giving that award to the HSI is like presenting Col. Sanders with a medal for kindness to chickens. Here's the beef:

"Endorsement by the Better Business Bureau has the potential to influence the direction of millions of donor dollars and unless such an endorsement is thoroughly investigated, it is a disservice to the public, "says Warren Patitz, President and co founder of Move to ACT.

So what's the problem with the Humane Society, which after all has such a sweet-sounding name? The organization, a private foundation that once was one of the wealthiest of its kind in the country, has an ugly history of killing thousands of animals and mismanaging its financial resources. All this was documented in "Destined to Die," a series in the Indianapolis Star a few years ago. The issues were bad enough that the former executive director resigned (amidst a nasty credit-card scandal).

Animal rights people were hopeful the exposure would cause the agency to clean up its act, but that hasn't happened, says Patitz. So he and others founded their own Move to ACT, which has kept a meticulous account of the Humane Society's activities and is especially critical at how a private trust set up for animals' welfare has been misused over and over.

You can read the gory details for yourself on Move to ACT's website:

http://www.movetoact.org/

In the interest of full disclosure, I consider Warren Patitz a friend and a trusted source. He is also a tireless champion of animals and formerly worked with the Humane Society as a volunteer and an instructor in animal behavior.

Warren says he asked the Better Business Bureau to explain why the Humane Society could have received an award for ethics, given its troubles. He received a letter that explained the process, he says. Basically, the Humane Society nominated itself. It submitted an audit by its own accountant, which the BBB saw no reason to question. It also sent in "the best-written application," said Linda Carmondy, president and CEO of the BBB.

The award is obviously good PR for the Humane Society at some levels. In the old days, PR worked; nobody would have questioned the process. No more.

comments: ruth@ruthholladay.com

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