POLL: What Would You Do To Fix Healdsburg Animal Shelter?

Let's share our constructive ideas (i.e. no personal attacks) for finishing the new shelter building, improving transparency and rebuilding trust in the shelter's governance.


As Healdsburg Patch readers know, one of our most bitter and controversial topics in this community is the

-- not to mention a lawsuit -- have rocked the shelter, its staff, volunteers, donors and Healdsburg animal lovers en masse.

-- while demands for specific financials on how the money contributed has been spent are still pending.

In 2011, six board members resigned from the shelter's board of directors,   Behind the scenes, many people are incensed about why so many board members left -- some pointing angry fingers at shelter management.

Although Healdsburg city government pays for animal control services at the shelter, it does not have authority over its operations.  Therefore, the city cannot run oversight on what seems to be a - and also on the part of shelter management, who say they are well-intended and doing the best they can to run the operation for the good of our local dogs and cats.

What are your ideas to solve this crisis? Take the poll below, or add your own ideas in the comments (please, no personal attacks).

Our pets are waiting...


Brenda February 04, 2012 at 06:07 AM
I know Jill Brady personally, THAT IS her real name. How idiotic to suggest she is posting under a fictitious one. So stupid, does it run in the family?
Jill Brady February 04, 2012 at 06:18 AM
Delana, thank you so much for eloquently expressing how so many of us feel but cannot put into words. It's rather difficult to discuss this issue honestly without bringing in some facts which may be judged as character assassination or "mud slinging." But you manage to do so thoughtfully and with diplomacy. There is so much to say here which cannot be said and it is frustrating. And yes, Carrie, one can pay attention to what is occurring nationally while still keeping an eye on what is happening locally--one does not negate the other.
Carol (Kiki) Noack February 04, 2012 at 06:31 PM
I'd install a board who would take the following actions: 1) open meetings to the public. This is required under the Brown Act, at least as long as the shelter provides public services (animal control) to our city. 2) Reinstitute term limits for officers. 3) Remove the ED from the board, thereby eliminating a potential conflict of interest or undue influence over board decisions. 4) Actually perform fundraising activities rather than farm them out to contractors or the ED. 2010 was a red year for HAS because the board held no significant fundraising event. 2011 could not have moved into the black had it not been for the fundraiser at MacMurray Ranch, which was overseen by three non-boardmembers who have since severed ties with the shelter. 4) Encourage the ED to once again allow volunteers to work with the more challenging animal cases, potentially reducing the number of euthanasias (another dog was put down last week - yet another dog from Healdsburg). 5) Value the views of every single board member, whether or not they agree with the president and encourage healthy discourse. 6) Take complaints and questions seriously, checking with multiple sources beyond the ED.
Carol (Kiki) Noack February 04, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Carrie, you're right that we are in much better shape than most shelters. But that doesn't mean we should allow ourselves to backslide. In the three years from '07 to 09, we put down 2 Hbg dogs. Last year alone HAS put down 7 from Hbg. And the shelter put down the first of 2012 just a few days ago. We should hold ourselves to the higher standards of our own history.
George Dutton February 04, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Financial disclosure-Healdsburg Animal Shelter (HAS) for the period July 2009 through November 2011. I served as the Board Treasurer as well as the Project Manager for the Healdsburg Animal Shelter during the above period. During that time frame, separate internal accounting as well as separate bank accounts were maintained by HAS for operations and capital accounts. The Treasurer and Project Manager had no authority to sign checks on the capital account. All checks issued from the Capital Account were signed by an Executive Officer other than the Treasurer. Monthly financial reports were prepared by the HAS bookkeeper and distributed to the Executive Committee and the HAS Board of Directors. Monthly reconciliation of all HAS bank accounts was completed by an independent Certified Public Accountant (CPA) employed by HAS. Strict internal financial controls were in place to safeguard funds and separate duties relating to opening mail, approving payment of invoices, issuing checks, signing checks and reconciling of monthly statements. A year end consolidated financial statement and required nonprofit tax returns were prepared at year end 2009 and 2010. George Dutton
Keri Brenner (Editor) February 04, 2012 at 07:16 PM
@George Dutton: Thank you for this information. Specific disclosures such as these, as well as the many ideas, suggestions, commendations and critiques mentioned in this discussion by different commenters, should be helpful in moving forward as a community. Thank you.
Carol (Kiki) Noack February 04, 2012 at 07:20 PM
It certainly seams that your work made it possible for HAS to offer transparency over this issue. Instead, on their posted Q&A, they replied "As it is the beginning of a new year, we are working with accounting professionals on our financial statements, both operational and for the new shelter. Once these statements are finalized we will move forward with making information on the financial statements available to interested members of the public."
George Dutton February 04, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Financial information is currently available as of December 1st when I resigned from the board. This is under the supervision and control of the Board Treasurer and the office of the bookkeeper at HAS.. George Dutton
Addison DeWitt February 05, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Step back? Brilliant advice! Brilliant I tell ya (applauding loudly)
Addison DeWitt February 05, 2012 at 01:07 AM
You can't change the past Tom? Jay Gatsby would rigorously disagree with you.
Addison DeWitt February 05, 2012 at 01:08 AM
You're welcome Maureen. Love, The Quiet Man
Addison DeWitt February 05, 2012 at 01:13 AM
You know what's scary, Carrie? (Hey, that rhymes!). Those Forever Lazy loungers one sees advertised on television. The folks wearing them look like gigantic Panda bears without the spots. And they actually suggest that one wears these atrocities to tail gate party of a football game. So, while i am going to continue to fight the good fight for the sake of the HAS, I will simultaneously fight the horror that is Forever Lazy. One can multitask on such matters.
Addison DeWitt February 05, 2012 at 01:16 AM
I so agree with Delena and Kiki. And speaking of events transpiring in one's own backyard, from my bedroom window I saw my neighbors barbequing in their Forever Lazy loungers. ...the horror....the horror.... The 911 operator actually had the unmitigated gall to hang up on me when I called to report this horror.
Addison DeWitt February 05, 2012 at 01:21 AM
Happens to me all the time Daisy--don't worry about it.
Carrie L Marvin February 05, 2012 at 01:55 AM
So glad many of you are able to multitask. While you are at it - why don't you find out what the euth rates are at our local Sonoma county shelter a mile or so down the road. I haven't checked in awhile but I will bet, unfortunately that it is between 30-40% of all animals coming in. And that is your backyard also, In or out of a Lazyboy! (FYI- when the shelters also say the animals are "sick" and are euthanizing them - it can be, and often is, as simple as Kennel cough - cause enough to euthanize) That is NOT happening at the healdsburg shelter. Euthanizing one dog this year is an unbelievable rate - unheard of, in fact. Many of the central valley shelters euthanize 80-90% of it's animals. Yes the Hburg shelter is old and not what we would like for our animals - I have seen far worse. I have seen shelters where they hose the runs down with the dogs in them in the middle of winter. I have seen them in the central valley with NO blankets, NO beds, exposed to all the elements and these dogs are FREEZING. This is NOT the healdsburg shelter. The people I work with at this shelter care about the animals and do their best. You might not approve of everything - but this is life. I just think everyone should realize there are way bigger fish to fry. So if you all can multitask - then get onboard and lets help shelters with 200-500 dogs coming in a week save some lives instead of the barrels they fill every week with dead animals.
Carrie L Marvin February 05, 2012 at 03:23 AM
Addison- I am responding to Kikis comment of the first dog of the year being euth'd and it's February. I am talking about tens of thousands already euthanized in one month in our fair state vs. 1 from Hburg Or 3. Whatever. When you say Julie only pulls the cute ones, for a fact I know this not to be true. She has taken in senior dogs that would otherwise have been euthed. She has taken in some dogs with one eye - some pits, deaf dogs and some others with some issues that she has been able to adopt out to the right homes. I know this personally because they are dogs I have been involved with in one way or another. Regardless, I cannot tell you how many adorable poodles, maltese - little fluffies are on the euth list every day that I see and cannot even get taken into the rescue groups I work with because they are so full. These dogs get euth'd daily. I tell you, I am sometimes surprised by the dogs she pulls - not just the fluffy adoptable ones, but the ones that need it the most. So this is just untrue. If she gets some cute fluffy ones - fantastic. The more we can pull and get adopted out quickly, the more she can take into the shelter from another one that was set to be euthanized.
Keri Brenner (Editor) February 05, 2012 at 03:54 AM
Readers, let's keep this discussion on topic, with a real forward-looking approach. Some commenters have been deleted for continuing to use personal attacks in this forum. Others are offering very specific ideas and information which can offer some degree of positive movement. Please let's stay in the latter mode. Thank you.
Keri Brenner (Editor) February 07, 2012 at 06:25 PM
@Debbie Siegel: Thanks for your comments. We appreciate having a diversity of points of view in this forum. I'm sure your support of the shelter is very much appreciated.
Mike DeCoss February 07, 2012 at 07:39 PM
I just sent this question to the Animal Shelter and thought I'd share it with this community. In Julie's presentation at the public Board meeting she provided an explanation of the data in the brochure that was distributed and is posted on the HAS website. I've been having a difficult time understanding the comparisons made between 2010 and 2011 in the 'Fundraising Income' category. The brochure states that Fundraising Income increased from $57,000 to $261,000, or 358% in that timeframe. I've been reviewing a copy of your 2010 Tax Return (Form 990) and it raises interesting questions about the Fundraising Income data that you shared.. The Form 990 shows that the shelter enjoyed $241,784 (line 8) in 'grants and contributions' in 2010, of which $56,549 (Sch. G, Part II, Line 11) was from 'fundraising events'. Comparing the total from fundraising events ($57K) in 2010 to the $261,000 total fundraising figure in 2011 appears to be inappropriate. I believe the comparison should have been between 'grants and contributions' for both years or 'fundraising events' from both years? Rough calculations suggest that the increase in grants and contributions was closer to an 8% rather than the 358% that was touted. Can you please clarify this seeming discrepancy? I'm looking forward to comparing the Form 990 for 2011 to that of 2010. -end Since the financials were current as of 12/1, there shouldn't be any delay in the board responding to this question.
Mike DeCoss February 07, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Just a little more..... I'm still awaiting answers to two questions that I had previously submitted regarding data that would be simple for them to gather. -How many dogs were brought to the shelter from other shelters and rescues centers, and - I would like to know 'the exact number of directors' that was established by resolution of the board. What is the most current number authorized by resolution, the date of the resolution and the number previously authorized by resolution. I am awaiting answers.
Keri Brenner (Editor) February 07, 2012 at 08:28 PM
@Mike DeCoss: Thank you for your efforts in checking the financials, and in probing more into the questions raised at the Jan. 11 meeting. Hopefully the shelter management is working on all these questions and the issues you raise, and that managers and board members are intending the best possible results out of this rocky transition and growth period. Community input such as yours enhances the ability of this forum to be a tool to improve that process. Thank you.
Keri Brenner (Editor) February 08, 2012 at 01:47 AM
From Brenda Regan via email: Some of the comments posted by critics of HAS are rather disturbing and seem to be personal attacks rather than constructive ideas for solutions. To give you a bit of history, I have been a supporter of HAS for over 30 years. Ten of those years I generously gave my time and energy serving as a board member and remain very proud of what we accomplished. There were many days and months when it was a struggle just to keep the doors open and MANY MANY animals were euthanized because of illness, lack of space and/or lack of funds. The public awareness was hardly at the level it is today and the funding from the city was about 1/10 of what it is currently. I just wonder if the people who are so critical of HAS are aware of how far this shelter has come over the last several years. When Julie Seal was hired I personally went to the shelter to meet her and came away impressed with her knowledge, animal welfare background, and infectious enthusiasm. The animals were happy, the staff was helpful and courteous, and the old dreary building was very clean. Adoptions are up 300%, expenses are down and fund-raising has been excellent to this point. We've come a long way baby - I hope the community will continue to support the efforts of Julie, office staff, kennel workers, AC officers, and board members for the tireless work they do for our 4-legged friends.
Abigail Ryder February 08, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Many of us who are questioning too have spent years supporting HAS through Board membership, donating, & volunteers. We once again do not question the staff who do an amazing job with so little. We do question why: 1) it appears that Healdsburg dogs are targeted for euthanization at a rate more in line with > 50% & not the "no kill" rate of 4%? 2) why with the "excess" $s raised in 2011 have the kennels & roof not been fixed considering they do not plan to move anytime soon? 3) why have donors dollars not been accurately "accepted" for their monthly donations? some have now ceased because of this 4) Why have they reneged on their promise of transparency & now closed their board mtgs to us the public? 5) Why are there so many concerned with the welfare of the Healdsburg animals if all is so wonderful? I believe the Community wants to support their homeless animals and for 50 years have. But once again that does not mean to blindly more forward and not require accountability! And once again we are talking , yes about the few animals relative to the thousands out there, that BELONG TO HEALDSBURG!!!! Though we feel for all animals, and it was quite apparent at the last Board mtg that the surrounding area shelters & out of area animal activists are quite enthralled with Julie for all she has done for the out of area animals, we would still like to know exactly was is the euthanasia rate for HEALDSBURG DOGS! P.S. With respect to Brenda, not all the animals are "HAPPY".
Keri Brenner (Editor) February 08, 2012 at 06:16 AM
@Abigail Ryder: Thanks for your comments. Let's try to refrain crossing the line into personal attacks on shelter staff or management. While this is a very emotional issue, and many people are concerned, the shelter staff and management are very dedicated to doing the best they can and they do not deserve to be vilified. Personal attacks will get in the way of the community and the shelter working together to resolve the issues at hand. Shining light on the issues is the purpose here, and you have done a good job in that regard. Thank you.
Brenda R February 08, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Abigail - Sorry, I should have said the animals were as happy as could be expected being in a shelter. Of course no animal is ever "Happy" to be there. Might I point out that according to HAS records in 2011 the shelter adopted 216 dogs and euthanized 8, I don't see how the euthansia rate could be 50%.
Carol (Kiki) Noack February 08, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Brenda, the high euthanasia rate applies to dogs from Healdsburg. HAS imports dogs from other shelters and does a great job of placing them. The euthanasia rate on those dogs is extremely low; only 1 ouf the out-of-town dogs was euthanized. But if the shelter shared with the public a breakdown of how many dogs were brought in from other shelters, what percent of those were euthanized, and how many dogs HAS processed are from Healdsburg, and what percent of those were euthanized, you'd find the Healdsburg dogs put down at a much higher rate, even though those were the dogs the shelter was created to save. Those are the dogs Abigail is referring to and concerned about.
Justus February 10, 2012 at 04:40 AM
I have been a long time supporter of the HAS, and still believe in the efforts of the volunteers and some of the staff. I say 'some' because I took the previous advice of Miss Wilson and decided to take a few steps to help me make sense of all this controversy. Instead of getting caught up in the mudslinging, or politicking (is that a word?), and being swayed by one side or the other, (clearly there appears to be 'sides'), I put my fingers to the test and did some research of my own so I can make a sound decision on where I stand based on whatever facts I could find for myself. I recently made a visit to the shelter to see for myself what conditions are current for the animals. My position is to support Miss Wilson suggestion that we open our eyes and do some footwork of our own. I agree with her assessment of the poor, embarrassing and unacceptable conditions that the animals have been living in for the past year. I'm sure those conditions have been in existence long before Ms. Seals arrival, but her responsibility to change those conditions have been hers for the past year and nothing has been done about them. I agree with the general census that the volunteers are incredibly dedicated and tireless in their efforts. I also agree that the performance of the current Board is, at best, suspicious, dysfunctional, and anything but transparent. In an effort to remain free of personal attacks, I must say that my research on Ms. Seals previous endeavors ... to be cont.
Keri Brenner (Editor) February 10, 2012 at 05:44 AM
@ Justus: Thank you for your two posts. In an effort to avoid personal attacks, however, we must delete the second post because it could be interpreted as a personal attack -- although it's clear that you intended to avoid that direction. If you want to discuss it, please feel free to email me at keri.brenner@patch.com, or contact Patch regional director Dan Ross at dan@patch.com.
Justus February 10, 2012 at 04:24 PM
I respect your efforts to maintain this forum's integrity and not allow it to slip into mudslinging and personal attacks. That is precisely why I tried to make sure that my comment only referred to professional actions on the part of those responsible for the care of the animals. Because my deleted comment was one that was fact based, spoke to a professional performance history, and was very careful to not disclose specific information that could incite additional critisism or mudslinging, I will admit that I am terribly disappointed that it was deleted. I fear that, although your intentions to keep this forum clear of personal attacks, and rightfully so, you may be perceived as disallowing truthful conversations revolving around legitimate 'reasons' that can be supported by a little footwork. I assure you my intentions are not to attack anyone, for I do not believe anything positive or productive could come from that approach. That being said, I do feel that sharing fact based information on performance history, be it positive or negative, is equally as legitimate as sharing statistics and financial information. I do believe it starts to become a very "if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all" type of approach. I feel it is only responsible to share discrepencies in statistics and financial statements, in equal measure to misrepresentation of claims to professional skill sets and accomplishments. Just my opinion.
Keri Brenner (Editor) February 11, 2012 at 04:01 AM
@ Justus: Yes, definitely, I know what you're saying. I know you did your research and have the facts to back it up. We respect that as well. However, if there were someone from the public reading the comment -- or the person or persons involved -- it could have been interpreted as making suggestions of impropriety and wrongdoing. We felt it was damaging in that it alluded to vague negative events without the opportunity of a balancing response or objective fact-checking. You wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of anonymous public speculation about your past -- even if it were true and was fact-based. Therefore we felt the comment had the effect of a personal attack even though it was not meant to be. Sorry but this is a small community and we are trying to keep things civil in this forum. If you want to discuss further, please email to me at keri.brenner@patch.com. Thank you.


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