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18 Reviews
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October 2, 2012
3 people found this review helpful

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October 2, 2012
3 people found this review helpful

How terrible that so little improvement has been made! One year after losing four board members over its euthanasia rate, the Michigan Humane Society has hired people to evaluate shelter practices and has become more transparent, but its critics said little has changed with regard to saving animals' lives.A clarifying statement to donors identifies MHS as a stand-alone charity, rather than a statewide umbrella organization that funds other humane societies. But not all information is available.The Free Press requested copies of the full reports from the Cornell team and another consultant, as the summaries lack full findings. Last year, the Free Press requested multiple times to view animal records, to better understand euthanasia decisions. All requests were denied.But that statistic belies other numbers: From 2007-11, MHS reported to the state a euthanasia rate between 67% and 70% for dogs and cats, deeming those animals unhealthy and often taken for a fee. Another criticism of the organization is of fund-raising stories of sick and severely injured animals nursed back to health by MHS. The ads are misleading, the critics said, because donors believe such lifesaving measures are standard, even as the euthanasia numbers do not support that message. There's been no improvement."

Such criticisms were the basis of three charity fraud complaints filed in the last year against MHS with the Michigan attorney general, including one that referenced a similar case in Pennsylvania.Yet, MHS has designed its treatment protocol to transfer to other shelters and animal welfare groups those animals that it decides not to treat.Former board member Cheryl Phillips said MHS has the largest veterinary budget of any Michigan shelter, so to transfer animals rather than treat them is shifting the burden to those with fewer resources.

The Michigan Pet Fund Alliance said in a statement that the humane society's decision to disregard the intake recommendation is tantamount to animal cruelty.

"Why would MHS cling to this failed model?" the group asked in a statement. "If individuals or rescue groups were taking in more animals than they could care for, so much so that more than two-thirds of them ended up dead every year, wouldn't we call that animal cruelty?"

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

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?

2011

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

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

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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