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June 4, 2012
2 people found this review helpful

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Review from CharityNavigator
June 4, 2012
2 people found this review helpful

I'm not sure that I know what "Open Admission" means anymore. This article represents a turning point when employees and volunteers began to notice a shift in focus from helping animals to numbers and money.


Critics: Humane Society goes astray

Fees, limits on dropoffs lead
some to question if organization is losing its focus

John Wisely / The Detroit News

Wednesday April 12, 2006

Has the Michigan Humane Society lost touch with its original animal welfare mission?

ROCHESTER HILLS -- The Michigan Humane Society promotes its mission with pictures of cats and dogs and the slogan "Someone here needs you."

But many critics, including some former staffers and volunteers, say the state's largest animal welfare group is retreating from a mission it has pursued for more than 100 years: caring for stray animals.

"I would ask them what the mission statement is now," said Linda Gardiner of Shelby Township, who worked for four years as an administrative assistant at the Humane Society's Rochester Hills shelter before leaving last year.

The group's leader said the Michigan Humane Society remains committed to homeless animals, but in response to Detroit News questions, he acknowledges it has sent mixed messages and even instituted a fee to people who repeatedly drop off strays. He also reiterated to his staff that they must accept any animal in need.

But questions over the fate of strays loom large in the animal welfare community. More than 240,000 stray animals land in Michigan shelters each year and about 55 percent are euthanized. Some animal advocates say care of strays is best left to government-run shelters. Others say the independent, privately funded humane societies have historically offered strays a second chance and now may be drifting from that work.

Group gives mixed messages

The Michigan Humane Society, the state's largest, operates three shelters in Wayne and Oakland counties on a $12 million annual budget. Officials there insist they still take strays and if any were turned away, it was a staff mistake. But executive director Cal Morgan acknowledged his group has contributed to the confusion.

"That message has been mixed in terms of how we handle people that come up to the counter," Morgan said.

Sue McNeary said the kitten that wandered over to her Pontiac home last fall had matted fur, a famished frame and a case of fleas. But she said the staff at the Humane Society's Rochester Hills shelter turned it away.

"They said it was too sick," said McNeary, who eventually gave the cat to a rescue group. "They suggested I take it to Oakland County."

Morgan clarified the policy for staffers and volunteers in an April 6 memo.

"It is the policy of the Michigan Humane Society to accept any and all animals in need during regular business hours," Morgan wrote. Morgan said the Michigan Humane Society hasn't even discussed closing its doors to strays.

However, since mid-September, it has been urging people to take stray animals to local animal control facilities, to increase the odds of reuniting them with their owners by limiting the places pet owners must search, Morgan said.

Larry Olbrecht, manager of county animal control, said since October, monthly animal intakes to his facility are up 15 percent over the same months a year earlier.

A former Humane Society adoption counselor said the Humane Society previously asked people to take animals to the animal control office only when they had bitten someone.

"They may be saying it's not a change, but that's a change," said Brian Stouffer, 45, of Troy, who volunteered for eight years before quitting in August. He and others worry that forcing animal Samaritans to navigate multiple animal control jurisdictions may make them give up on homeless critters.

"If someone brings in a stray and we tell them put it back in your car and take it over here, that's a real pain," he said.

Under Michigan law, shelter operators who accept strays must keep them at least four business days to allow owners a chance to reclaim them.

In addition to its shelters, the Michigan Humane Society operates clinics, conducts education seminars and cruelty investigations and lobbies for animal rights. Except those under contract, humane societies are not legally obligated to accept strays. Most do, but some have stopped. The Capital Area Humane Society, which serves Ingham, Clinton and Eaton counties, quit taking them four years ago, said chief executive officer Stephen Heaven.

"They are doing the right thing" by referring people to animal control, Heaven said. People who lose pets need a simple way to find them, he said.

Stray fee alienates some

The stray fee adopted last fall irked animal advocates. An internal memo obtained by The News dated Sept. 15, 2005, applies to private individuals who surrender more than three strays in 12 months.

"After an individual has surrendered three animals to MHS, a sliding scale fee in $10 increments will be assessed for subsequent animals surrendered to the MHS," said the memo from Steve Horn, chief administrative officer.

Critics argue the fee discourages people from helping strays.

"I don't think the solution is to charge people $10 per cat," said Chad Gilchrist, 34, of Hazel Park, a former shelter staff supervisor for MHS who quit last year.

Other Humane Society officials said fees could discourage people from dropping off animals.

"We know that people will dump it on the side of the road," said Tanya Hilgendorf, executive director of the Humane Society of Huron Valley in Washtenaw County, which levies no fee. "Our whole job is about giving these animals a second chance."

Morgan himself seemed confused about the fee policy.

"I'm not aware of anything that says there's a fee," Morgan said in an interview last week. But when asked about the September memo, Morgan said the policy was aimed at people who were known to drop dozens of animals at a time, even though another section of the memo addresses "placement groups." He said he doesn't believe the fee has ever been levied.

"We're always going to be committed to animal welfare on every level, strays, owner surrenders, etc," Morgan said.

Some animal welfare advocates disagree.

"I don't think they should be charging people to drop off strays," said Sherry Wozniak, 34, of Livonia, who said she donates about $100 to MHS in a typical year. She said the Humane Society is synonymous with investigating animal cruelty and caring for strays and it risks misleading people if it doesn't accept stray animals.

"With the impression they are giving, if they are changing that policy, they should let people know," she said.

Others are more skeptical.

"They have lost touch with the animals," said former staffer Linda Gardiner. "They have lost sight of what it's supposed to be."

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

No

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Some

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Okay

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2006

June 1, 2012
3 people found this review helpful

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June 1, 2012
3 people found this review helpful

I have been a volunteer with, and a donor to, the Michigan Humane Society for 20 years. I type '20 years' with a smile on my face because I have so much pride in being affiliated with such a wonderful organization. I have had numerous opportunities to volunteer in different areas with MHS; animal care, fostering, fundraising, pet education, animal welfare conferences, numerous special events, and have participated in many training sessions. The Michigan Humane Society is consistent (and constant) about the homeless animals in their care being their Number 1 priority. I am constantly amazed at their willingness to try new ways to help the animals, whether it be with events, training, etc. What is important to remember is that MHS does not turn away any animals that come through their doors and MHS has so many opportunities to give animals the additional opportunities to find a loving home through various pet adoption events, not to mention the many, many foster 'parents' that take the animals in until a loving home is found. People need to remember that it is through donations and fundraising that this is possible.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

...many ways. I have adopted my animals from MHS and had good experiences with the process and the staff. I have volunteered, as previously stated, for 20 years and have had the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of areas. I feel appreciated and excited every time there is another opportunity!

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

I would not make changes - I am very confident and appreciative of MHS and their Mission.

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Life-changing

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

Did your volunteer experience have an effect on you? (teaching you a new skill, or introducing new friends, etc.)

My volunteer experience continues and it has had a major effect on me and how I have become a better person and how to help those that need our voice. I have always been treated with respect by MHS, have learned many new skills and have become a more passionate person. I have met many wonderful friends through MHS and have been involved in many vaccination and sterilization clinics that were above and beyond what I thought I would experience. Love it!

How did this volunteer experience make you feel?

My experiences have made me feel very passionate about MHS and what they do. For example, with the low-cost vaccination and sterilization clinics, it makes your heart feel so good that the 'parents' of the animals feel so much more at ease because their pets could be vaccinated or sterilized where they could afford it and know that their animals would have a better chance at being healthy.

June 1, 2012
1 person found this review helpful

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June 1, 2012
1 person found this review helpful

I think the problems at MHS are a reflection of their leadership. The people in the trenches and even in to lower levels of management are mostly very sincere and hard working. But, this is all about leadership and I speak not of any one person when I say that, but leadership as a whole. It's very hard to get questions like these answered, or even asked, when an organization like MHS has close ties to the media and even elected officials. MHS has quite a PR machine. I don't think anyone is trying to "bash" MHS. I think people want to know answers to questions. And, the public has a right to know. We feel answers to some basic questions are due to the tri-county residents and contributors -not to mention answers and changes are needed so that another 17,000 cats and dogs are not killed again by MHS.

1. Why when it is required by law to report statistics by shelter does MHS combine all three shelters to report their numbers? Combined numbers make it impossible to determine performance of each of the three shelters - suburban Oakland and Wayne County shelters and the city of Detroit shelter.

2. Why did 4 members of the MHS board resign this year?

3. Why did MHS not undertake the complete organization assessment –especially since a donor volunteered to subsidize the cost - with one of the most renowned teams in animal sheltering in the U.S. - to learn how to save more lives?

4. Why has the MHS Board of Directors never adopted an annual policy document called the Asilomar key or matrix which defines what is healthy, treatable and unhealthy/untreatable animals and determines what animals live and which are killed.

5. Why has the largest and most wealthy cat and dog animal welfare organization in Michigan not improved saving lives for the last four years and has consistently killed 7 out of 10 animals that come in the door?

6. Why did MHS refuse to join the Oakland County coalition resulting in the coalition missing out in over a million dollars in Maddies grants - the only requirement was to publish the statistics for the Rochester Hills shelter according to the Asilomar definitions of healthy, treatable, and unhealthy/untreatable?

7. Why would MHS not want to be totally transparent to their donors and the general public?

8. Why does MHS think comparison of MHS and the Humane Society of Huron Valley (HSHV) unreasonable? Both are open admission shelters. MHS has a save rate of less than 30%. HSHV has a save rate of more than 80%. MHS has 14.8% of individuals living in poverty –if their service area is defined as Wayne (including Detroit) and Oakland County (where they have their three shelters) or 12.8 percent of households living in poverty – if their service area is defined as Wayne (including Detroit), Oakland and Macomb County. HSHV has 14.6% of the individuals living in poverty in their service area defined as Washtenaw County. MHS has about 5% of their total intake from outside of Wayne (including Detroit), Oakland and Macomb Counties. HSHV has bout 15% of their intake from outside Washtenaw County. If poverty is not the primary factor that MHS uses as their claim for animals being in "bad shape" in the City of Detroit – what is? How can HSHV do so much better when they have about the same or even a higher percentage of individuals living in poverty?

9. MHS is the wealthiest animal organization in the state of Michigan with an annual budget of $13.9 million dollars, 6 employees who make over $100,000 per year in salary and a CEO with nearly $185,000 in salary alone on an annual basis. Why with such high paid management is improvement not being made?

10. Why is it O.K. to accept a "save rate of less than 30% from MHS when save rates around the U.S. are double or triple this figure - New York City (almost 70%), Denver (over 90%) , Austin (90%), and even poverty stricken Reno, Nevada (Washoe County is 93%).

The homeless cats and dogs in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties need MHS to improve. MHS has provided no definition to what is an adoptable or "healthy" animal. It is unfathomable to us why the status quo of killing 17,000 cats and dogs a year is acceptable to anyone especially any animal lover. Do you think they will do better if we don’t point out their poor performance? Why is MHS not improving and saving more lives? What is to hide by publishing their performance by shelter?

MHS is not a good "representative" of shelters or rescue organizations in the state because of both their performance but also their lack of transparency and unwillingness to post their numbers by shelter (Detroit and two suburban)

Citizens believe that they are the MHS for all humane societies and often support MHS with the expectation that they funnel money to their local humane societies and they do NOTHING to correct this misconception

There are other leaders in the state when it comes to sheltering that the legislature needs to consult but unfortunately they don’t have the resources to be in Lansing but would gladly make themselves available to give front line assessments.

More feedback...

How does this organization compare with others in the same sector?

Somewhat badly

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Some

Will you recommend this organization to others?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2004

June 1, 2012
2 people found this review helpful

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June 1, 2012
2 people found this review helpful

I grew up in Detroit and now live in a near suburb, and I have been familiar with MHS my whole life. I have always known and respected MHS for its untiring work in support of its mission to help animals and people in our community. I have adopted several animals from MHS, and I have been a long-time donor. I was also on staff from 2008-2010. Although I returned to my prior employer for professional reasons, I continue to be involved with MHS as a volunteer. To be honest, before I started working at MHS, I was afraid that working there would be like visiting the kitchen in your favorite restaurant - I might not like what I saw from the inside. It turns out my fears were completely baseless. Based on what I learned through my first-hand experiences with the organization, I know that MHS consists of the most dedicated, selfless, talented, and professional animal welfare people I have met anywhere. I have never known anyone in the organization to engage in bashing another animal welfare group, which I see as grossly unprofessional and a complete waste of time. They keep their eyes on the mission and goal of helping as many animals as possible. To a person and as an organization, they face tremendous challenges with creativity, grace under pressure, and fortitutde. They are constantly challenging themselves and others to do what's best for animals and people. MHS is a leader and an innovator. They have earned my undying support.

More feedback...

Was your donation impactful?

Definitely

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

Definitely

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

May 31, 2012
2 people found this review helpful

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May 31, 2012
2 people found this review helpful

Being of that certain age group that has not only the maturity that comes with a 40+ year work history and all the exposures and experiences that were "fringe benefits" to that, two things stand out in my experience as a long-time volunteer with the Michigan Humane Society: 1. the unbelievable abuse and cruelty that continues to be inflicted on animals by society's underbelly, and 2. the non-stop efforts of the staff and management of MHS to their mission of promoting humane values, care and compassion towards the animals entrusted to their care and ending animal homelessness. MHS is truly a dynamic organization in the animal welfare world - continually evaluating processes and practices to bring the best possible outcomes for every animal that comes through their doors, furred, feathered or otherwise. Their open admissions policy means no animal is turned away, period. Until one actually sees the conditions of so many animals that come through the Detroit shelter's doors on a depressingly regular basis, one should not be so quick to criticize or condemn their work.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

Educating the public on the true work of the organization, how to be a more responsible pet owner.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Work to find a way to have a bigger impact on a wider geographic area.

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A lot

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

Did your volunteer experience have an effect on you? (teaching you a new skill, or introducing new friends, etc.)

The most positive effect I could imagine - being able to work with people who's agenda is the betterment of animal lives, and who truly appreciate my activities - has been mroe satisfying than a lot of my compensated work years!

How did this volunteer experience make you feel?

Like my previous life experiences and current work with the organization is truly appreciated.

May 28, 2012

I would imagine that you are aware of the news headlines about four board members who resigned last year from Michigan Humane Society over high euthanisia rates.

Many animals are still doomed if they enter the wrong organization or facility, even if they are healthy, have a good
temperament, and there is adequate cage space.

What I have learned from studying nonprofits over the last decade is that in many cases, the actions in question are not illegal acts, nor are they perpetrated by those who set out to abuse the system. Rather they are the result of arrogance, sloppy ethical practices or simply inattention to being responsible stewards of resources.

As a former Michigan Humane Society (MHS) employee and volunteer, I am not surprised by the news articles that started with the board members resigning in June 2011, nor the organizations' response since then.

While we have had a response from CEO Cal Morgan and a few others, we've heard very little publicly from the man who in my opinion truly runs the MHS.

By definition, no one person has more of an effect on nor more control over day to day operations than the chief operating officer. I would advise those who want to know what is going on currently at the MHS, those who have questions or concerns about their 70 percent kill rate, to ask the man in charge of day to day operations, COO David Williams.

Mr. Williams, to my understanding, was also influential in putting this current management regime in place. Changes over the last decade or so that have resulted in the current state of MHS are largely a reflection of his influence on the organization. In my opinion, this is the house that David Williams built.

We all know that the MHS, and anyone else who wants to help animals in Detroit, has a very difficult task on their hands. I'm not sure that anyone has the complete answer as to what it will take to save every animal. However, I do think it's a fair statement to say that the MHS could do a lot better.

One MHS response to the controversy over euthanasia rates has been that they face tremendous challenges in a community where poverty and unemployment are amongst the worst in the nation. True, Detroit is America's poorest large city, but has MHS management been a responsible steward of their resources? I was amazed when I saw Mr. Williams drive off in two SUVs in about a year’s time around 2001. Five years since I last asked, no one at MHS has explained why he needed two SUVs in such a short time or who paid for them. More recently, MHS executives have gotten memberships in the Detroit Athletic Club.

Those perks are in addition to substantial pay raises at the top. In a resignation letter, one board member noted that the board may need to look at how the numbers - the save rates - are used to determine performance pay.

Policy changes in recent years include redirecting stray animals to municipal animal control facilities and charging a fee to surrender an animal - both of which have resulted in taking in fewer animals - and calculating save rates in terms of "adoptable" animals, all of which reduces the number of animals needing to be "saved" on paper. Once deemed unadoptable, for whatever reason, those animals don't go against the adoption rate. This whole concept of adoptable animals seems like little more than a marketing strategy to me.

Could it be that the aforementioned policy changes were made not only so leadership could claim they were reaching their goal of becoming a no-kill organization, but so managers could receive their bonuses? For what other reasons would the MHS be so determined not to report their save rate to the public in terms of how many animals enter and how many actually leave alive?

Anyone who studies the history of the MHS will find that problems of accountability and transparency are not something new to the organization. In the late 1980's, the MHS almost went out of business. The executive director at the time left an unexplained deficit of $1.6 million. Historically, things have to get very, very bad before board members will start asking questions. Like many nonprofits, the MHS appears to be once again struggling with a crisis of governance and a lack of credible self-regulation.

Many people - board members, employees and volunteers - have left the MHS in recent years. For whatever reason, management would not or could not stop that exodus of experience and dedication.

I wish MHS the best in this cause that remains so dear to me. But, I certainly won't give them my donation.

More feedback...

How does this organization compare with others in the same sector?

Badly

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

A little

Will you recommend this organization to others?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2006

May 23, 2012
2 people found this review helpful

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May 23, 2012
2 people found this review helpful

For over a decade I have been a donor to MHS. I have also adopted from MHS and am a veterinary client of MHS. As a donor I have every confidence that my donations are used fully in support of an extraordinary and complex mission. I see more community outreach, animal adoptions, preventive care, and family assistance from MHS than any other organization. I know my contributions are having significant impact every day and I trust in the expertise of the MHS staff based on my experience as an adopter and veterinary client. Great job MHS!

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

saving animal lives and showing leadership and innovation.

More feedback...

Was your donation impactful?

Definitely

How likely is it that you would recommend that a friend donate to this group?

Definitely

How likely are you to donate to this group again?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

What specific problem, purpose, priority, or project prompted your gift?

Animal cruelty and abandonment.

Why did you make your donation at this time?

Significant need for animals and families in Detroit. I want to help animals in need and feel that MHS is committed to providing service in a very challenging city that is trying to reinvent itself.

What would you tell others about this organization?

Humans will never be perfect and therefore, organizations will never be perfect. I imagine providing animal welfare and rescue services is far more complex than it seems. My confidence in MHS staff and their delivery of meaningful programs has kept me engaged for over a decade and I am more committed today than ever.

March 28, 2012
1 person found this review helpful

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Review from CharityNavigator
March 28, 2012
1 person found this review helpful

An effective evaluation of an organization is how well are they doing in achieving their mission and that is not reflected in the three stars provided by Charity Navigator. The MHS mission is to: To end companion animal homelessness, to provide the highest quality service and compassion to the animals entrusted to our care, and to be a leader in promoting humane values. Ending homelessness should never be equated with killing those in your care - however MHS kills 7 out of 10 homeless cats and dogs that come in their door according to their 2010 annual statistics reported to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development … over 17,000 cats and dogs that year alone. They provide their contributors and supporters with excuses ....open admission, poor animal condition in Detroit, etc. But they fail to mention that they have three shelters, one in one of the nation’s wealthiest counties, a second in a middle class suburban community and only one in the inner city. MHS is NOT animal control bringing in the worst of the worst; they are the best funded animal welfare organization in Michigan. They refuse to be transparent and publish their animal statistics by shelter - - - hidings under the umbrella called…."things are so bad in Detroit." Other open admission shelters around the county in poor communities are saving 70%, 80%, and even 90% of the animals in their care. There is a proven formula for saving 90% of all shelter homeless cats and dogs but MHS refuses to embrace the formula. Bottom line - - - this organization although well-funded, lacks leadership and is a total failure in meeting their core mission.

More feedback...

How does this organization compare with others in the same sector?

Somewhat badly

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

A little

Will you recommend this organization to others?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

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help adopt cats from our offsite adoption centers; spend time photographing adoptable animals and posting on websites; present humane education to school children Volunteer