The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Verdict still out on Cedar Valley Humane Society shelter; society’s board assures public again

In City Hall, Humane Society, Jerry McGrane, Marion on April 6, 2008 at 4:02 am

With word still out on a Marion police investigation into billing practices at the Cedar Valley Humane Society’s animal shelter, the society’s board of directors on Saturday announced steps to shore up its credibility.

The board said it will:

— Hire an independent consultant to review and provide advice on the operation of the society’s shelter at 7411 Mount Vernon Rd. east of Cedar Rapids.

— Ask Doug Fuller, a Humane Society board member, active shelter volunteer and retired police detective, to take a formal leadership role at the shelter.

— Invite the Iowa Veterinary Board to conduct random inspections to put to rest any allegation of animal mistreatment.

— Ask the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission to investigate the accusations of a former employee critical of the shelter and its work environment.

 In a written statement, Charles Abraham, the society’s board chairman and a veterinarian, said the four steps announced Saturday reflect many of the goals that have been a part of the shelter’s strategic plan.

 At the same time, Abraham denied allegations that either employees or animals at the shelter had been mistreated.

He noted that a national consulting firm, Shelter Planners of America, examined the Humane Society shelter’s performance in recent months and gave the shelter a rating of 7 out of 10. Most shelters score less well on such first reviews, he said.

Several members of the Humane Society’s board spoke to The Gazette on March 26, the day after the evening raid at the shelter by the Marion police. The Marion department, with the help of an Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent, has said it is looking at the shelter’s past billing practices.

On March 26, board member Fuller said he had been working the phone to try to put shelter supporters’ minds at ease.

“And it’s difficult when you don’t have a clue exactly what you’re being accused of,” he said then.

In addition, board member Wilford Stone, a local attorney, said that there is always a possibility of accounting errors and “some things falling through the cracks.” But he said errors were not crimes.

A district court judge has sealed court records related to the search warrant in the Marion police raid of the shelter. Those warrants usually detail who is making allegations and what the allegations are.

The Gazette earlier reported that two former shelter employees, Joy Jager and Sarah Young, have filed lawsuits against the Humane Society in the last few months. Stone said the two are asking for compensation they say is owed them.

In January, the Iowa Employment Appeal Board denied Jager’s claim for jobless benefits. On a 2-1 vote, the board concluded, as an administrative law judge had earlier, that Jager resigned and so was not entitled to jobless benefits. Jager was ordered to return $1,676 in jobless benefits that had been paid her pending the appeal.

According to the appeal board’s ruling, Jager had alleged in her jobless claims appeal that the Humane Society had put sick cats up for adoption, had incomplete medical records and had operated on short staff.

The Cedar Valley Humane Society is a private, non-profit organization that depends on donations and volunteers. Donations and support for the shelter is up since allegations have surfaced against the shelter, board members say.

The Humane Society just six weeks ago launched a public campaign to raise money for a $1.5-million expansion of its shelter.

The shelter has handled about 3,000 animals a year, as does Cedar Rapids animal shelter off Old River Road SW. The Cedar Rapids shelter, which is run by public dollars with the help of volunteers, is looking to upgrade its facility independent of the Humane Society’s shelter.

Just last week, Cedar Rapids City Council member Jerry McGrane noted that both the Humane Society shelter and the city’s shelter were looking to invest in costly improvements, and he suggested the two shelters once again discuss the possibility of merging into one, better operation.

Such a discussion did not lead to anything in recent months, and in recent weeks, the Humane Society has said it isn’t interested and that the metro area is large enough for two facilities.

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  1. It sure looks like another employee has filed a lawsuit. Does anyone really know what is going on over there?

    Leave me out of it. And also, don’t ask me for anymore funds until there is some resolution to this mess.

  2. Nothing seems to be easier than seeing someone whom you can help but not helping.
    I suggest we start giving it a try. Give love to the ones that need it.
    God will appreciate it.

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