Michigan Humane Society Saves a Kitten, Which is Unusual

When the Michigan Humane Society took in a 5 week old kitten who had been rescued from a drain pipe last month, the multi-million dollar organization wanted to make sure everybody knew about it.  There was an article in the Detroit Free Press, the local CBS affiliate covered the story, ABC ran it nationally, MHS posted the news on its website and put a video of the rescue on YouTube.  I have no problem with any of this except for the fact that, while MHS was basking in all the good press – and presumably donations – associated with saving this kitten, nobody mentioned this this kitten being saved is the exception, not the rule, at MHS.  In 2011, MHS killed 67% of the dogs and cats in its care despite the fact that it does not hold an animal control contract.

In a separate article unrelated to the drainpipe kitten, the Detroit Free Press writes:

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.

And as we so often see, a commitment to killing goes hand in hand with a commitment to hiding the truth:

In February, MHS hired Cornell University’s shelter medicine program to evaluate medical assessment, disease containment, caretaking and cleanliness of the shelters.

[…]

The Free Press requested copies of the full reports from the Cornell team and another consultant, as the [publicly available] 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.

Secrecy in the animal shelter business is a hallmark of needless pet killing and related wrongdoings.  As always, remember to perform due diligence in researching any animal group before donating or offering other support.  Donors to MHS are primarily funding pet killing, not milk for fuzzy little drainpipe kittens.

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20 Comments

  1. Karen

     /  September 2, 2012

    This is a reason that local advocates need to spoon feed the media facts. Facts that are regularly invesitfates and published about facilities like this and so many others around us. Change takes constant and consistent advocacy. It takes numbers of people banding together in each city/county on a regular basis. All of us who don’t live in an area are most times viewed as aggitators and outsiders. But this is a Humane Society…gone awry like to many money sucking Humane Societies.

    Reply
  2. I live in MIchigan and have had opportunities to correspond with those folks about their high kill rate (7 out of 10 do not leave alive). Other than the usual excuses for the killing, one of the folks told me (paraphrased) that they will not save animals just to improve their statistics. They do, however, do a lot of glitzy PR to try and convince people what wonderful things they do and they are also located in some of the most prosperous areas of the state. Too bad they can’t do what they were intended to do – save all the kitties (and cats and puppies and dogs), dramatic rescue story or not.
    Shame on you, MHS, for being dishonest about who you are and what you do. I, for one, am not buying what you are selling and will share this at every opportunity.
    Maybe the Free Press needs to do some FOIA . . .

    Reply
    • Since MHS does not hold a contract for AC and is not funded by taxpayer money, they are not subject to FOIA. Freep can only ask, and MHS can deny.

      They won’t save animals just to improve their stats is a new one on me. How about saving animals because it’s nicer than putting them in the dumpster – would they consider that? Don’t answer.

      Reply
      • They’ve had some pretty bad press because several (not sure exactly how many, but more than a couple) have resigned due to issues at MHS.
        They think that they are doing a fine job and actually imply (if not state directly) that they save all “adoptable” animals.
        Too bad the FOIA won’t work for them. (Probably lucky for them, too bad for all the animals – but you know the irresponsible public and Detroit is in bad trouble anyway, yada, yada, yada)

      • My bad – several board members. Wish there was an edit function.

  3. Jennifer

     /  September 2, 2012

    Citizens probably turn over their animals to MHS because they think it is a no kill or low kill shelter and not the public shelter. I do not understand why a private shelter would take in animals only to kill them. If you do not have the room because you are full do not take in any more. Sounds like the locals need to protest with signs stating exactly what the kill rate is!

    Reply
    • If you go by their PR and media presence, you would think they saved almost all of the animals they take in. A lot of people are simply uninformed or misinformed.

      Reply
      • KateH

         /  September 3, 2012

        Animal Planet actually gives them publicity that MHS uses to mislead the public into thinking they are a ‘life-saving’ organization. I’m not sure of how many cities AP does their “Animal Cops” show in, but Houston and Detroit are two of them, and their ‘humane’ societies really are not.

      • Eucritta

         /  September 3, 2012

        ‘Animal Cops’ is also filmed in San Francisco, Phoenix, and Miami, maybe others? Those are the ones I’ve seen.

        Lest anyone be surprised by SF’s inclusion in this mostly very depressing roster, SF hasn’t been the same since Avanzino left the SFSPCA. It’s no longer a no-kill city … not even close, last I checked.

        BTW, Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl has also used kittens and puppies from NYACC and other killing facilities and then they’re given back, not fostered or placed safely. Or, Why I Will Not Be Watching the Puppy Bowl Again Anytime Soon.

      • More people who are not who they would like you to think they are. I’d heard that about the Puppy Bowl, too, and won’t watch for just that reason. Anyone who can support what’s happening in NYC ACC is on my “short list”! That’s why it’s so important that the truth be told!

  4. I have a new definition of these shelters…HOARDERS
    They hoard the money and will not adopt out their kennels. I have been told that HOARDING is a mental illness……

    Reply
  5. Oh, one way you can get some stats, is look at their applications for Grants.
    We found out how many animals are killed at the Central Florida SPCA (don’t let the fact that they built a crematorium) by getting a copy of their grant to the Animal Friendly License Plate.

    Reply
  6. My local( Spartanburg,SC) shelter brags of sending animals to “Shelter Placement Partners “. Yep . MHS is the placement partner.

    Reply
    • I can understand why the Spartanburg pound would outsource their killing (to help their stats) but why would MHS import animals from the south for killing? They appear to have plenty of animals available to satiate their desire to kill right in their own backyard.

      Reply
  7. Cleo

     /  September 3, 2012

    Michigan Humane Society (MHS) Board of Directors: Call for the resignations of Mr. Cal Morgan and Mr. David Williams.
    by Renee L. Miller
    Canton, MI Signedwith 1,175 supporters
    183,761 NEEDED Share on Facebook Tweet | Email | Embed As a past supporter of the MHS and an animal advocate, it came to my attention that the MHS has an alarming and disturbing rate of euthanasia.

    It is my plea that MHS adheres to its mission and stop the needless killing of 66 dogs and cats in your shelters EVERY SINGLE DAY. In 2011, the Michigan Humane Society’s own report to the Michigan Department of Agriculture reveals that the shelter killed 17,265 animals that year / (52 weeks a year * 5 days a week = 260 days) = 66 animals killed per day / 7 hours per day = 9.5 animals killed per hour). Call for the resignations of the two men who are responsible for this: Mr. Cal Morgan, Executive Director, and Mr. David Williams, COO. Animals in their care are being killed at a rate that is among the worst in the nation.

    In 2011, MHS saved only 29% of the animals taken into its shelters showing no improvement for over 8 years. For every ten dogs and cats that are brought into the front door of MHS, seven go out the door in body bags. In comparison, other large, open admissions, urban animal shelters have the following save rates: Austin (90%), Reno (91%), Denver (76%), and New York (73%). Right here in Michigan, the Humane Society of Huron Valley saved 81.5% of their animals in 2011. According to the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance’s Shelter Report on save rates (taken from 2010 statistics that shelters reported to the Michigan Department of Agriculture), the Michigan Humane Society ranked 136th out of 161 Michigan shelters. Because of MHS’s poor performance and practices, four members resigned from the MHS Board of Directors in June of 2011. Tragically, the same management team still sits today—and is the top paid animal sheltering team in Michigan. According to Charity Navigator’s 990 Report, Mr. Cal Morgan made $184,936 in 2010 and Mr. David Williams made $144,504 while their organization continues to kill seven out ten animals that enter the shelter.

    As the largest animal welfare organization in the state, the Michigan Humane Society must do better. Your donors deserve a better animal welfare organization for our charitable contributions! To improve the organization, Mr. Cal Morgan, Executive Director, and Mr. David Williams, COO, must be removed and replaced with a leadership team that will save more animals. The Michigan Pet Fund Alliance stands ready to help the organization improve its save rates by moving to a No-Kill model. It is time for the Michigan Humane Society to become the organization its donors and the community deserve. Acknowledge your past poor performance by demanding Mr. Morgan’s and Mr. Williams’ resignations and embrace your future as a leader in the animal sheltering community. Thank you.

    Petition Letter
    Greetings,

    I just signed the following petition addressed to: Michigan Humane Society (MHS) Board of Directors.

    —————-
    Call for the resignations of Mr. Cal Morgan and Mr. David Williams.

    As a past supporter of the MHS and an animal advocate, it came to my attention that the MHS has an alarming and disturbing rate of euthanasia.

    It is my plea that MHS adheres to its mission and stop the needless killing of 66 dogs and cats in your shelters EVERY SINGLE DAY. In 2011, the Michigan Humane Society’s own report to the Michigan Department of Agriculture reveals that the shelter killed 17,265 animals that year / (52 weeks a year * 5 days a week = 260 days) = 66 animals killed per day / 7 hours per day = 9.5 animals killed per hour). Call for the resignations of the two men who are responsible for this: Mr. Cal Morgan, Executive Director, and Mr. David Williams, COO. Animals in their care are being killed at a rate that is among the worst in the nation.

    In 2011, MHS saved only 29% of the animals taken into its shelters showing no improvement for over 8 years. For every ten dogs and cats that are brought into the front door of MHS, seven go out the door in body bags. In comparison, other large, open admissions, urban animal shelters have the following save rates: Austin (90%), Reno (91%), Denver (76%), and New York (73%). Right here in Michigan, the Humane Society of Huron Valley saved 81.5% of their animals in 2011. According to the Michigan Pet Fund Alliance’s Shelter Report on save rates (taken from 2010 statistics that shelters reported to the Michigan Department of Agriculture), the Michigan Humane Society ranked 136th out of 161 Michigan shelters. Because of MHS’s poor performance and practices, four members resigned from the MHS Board of Directors in June of 2011. Tragically, the same management team still sits today—and is the top paid animal sheltering team in Michigan. According to Charity Navigator’s 990 Report, Mr. Cal Morgan made $184,936 in 2010 and Mr. David Williams made $144,504 while their organization continues to kill seven out ten animals that enter the shelter.

    As the largest animal welfare organization in the state, the Michigan Humane Society must do better. Your donors deserve a better animal welfare organization for our charitable contributions! To improve the organization, Mr. Cal Morgan, Executive Director, and Mr. David Williams, COO, must be removed and replaced with a leadership team that will save more animals. The Michigan Pet Fund Alliance stands ready to help the organization improve its save rates by moving to a No-Kill model. It is time for the Michigan Humane Society to become the organization its donors and the community deserve. Acknowledge your past poor performance by demanding Mr. Morgan’s and Mr. Williams’ resignations and embrace your future as a leader in the animal sheltering community. Thank you.

    —————-

    Sincerely,

    [Your name] nella p. 9h Gauteng, South A

    Reply
  8. Cleo

     /  September 3, 2012

    Go to change.org to sign the petition!
    Michigan Humane Society (MHS) Board of Directors: Call for the resignations of Mr. Cal Morgan and Mr. David Williams.

    Reply
  9. I would imagine that most of 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.

    Reply
  10. Questions to ponder:

    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 last 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?

    Reply
  11. Jessica C

     /  September 11, 2012

    This is sad, but to be honest, Im not that surprised. I used to watch Animal Cops: Detroit and they killed a lot of animals that came through their doors there. A lot of them were pitbulls and instead of doing a proper check first, they just assumed they were dangerous and would just kill them. I didnt see too many other animals making it out alive either.

    Reply

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