C.A.R.E.’s Handling of Animal Shelter Donations ‘Mews’ of Misrepresentation

Documents and public comments about donations have raised questions about animal welfare group's possible misrepresentation of relationship with the Evanston Animal Shelter.

Community Animal Rescue Effort's collection cans scrubbed of any mention of the Evanston Animal Sheler.
Community Animal Rescue Effort's collection cans scrubbed of any mention of the Evanston Animal Sheler.

For years when residents made donations to the Evanston Animal Shelter, they believed their contributions were helping the city's municipal animal shelter. Instead, donors were told to make out new checks payable to the C.A.R.E., the animal welfare group that helps the city run it.

Two aldermen have since recommended that the city end their 27-year partnership with Community Animal Rescue Effort, or C.A.R.E., following a subcommittee meeting on Tuesday to discuss concerns about the group’s management of the shelter.

In addition to its reported mishandling of canine behavioral evaluations, the animal welfare group has had to address other concerns, including C.A.R.E.’s micromanagement of the adoption process, lack of preventative care for "failed" dogs and alienation of volunteers.

'Lack of Delineation'

While the organization has not been accused of mismanaging funds or any wrongdoing, documents and public comments made during meetings with City Council members about donations have raised questions about C.A.R.E.’s possible misrepresentation of its relationship with the Evanston Animal Shelter.

Ald. Judy Fiske addressed the lack of delineation between C.A.R.E and the Evanston Animal Shelter on Tuesday.

“I think there are people donating to C.A.R.E. over the years who thought they were donating to the Evanston Animal Shelter,” Fiske said. “Part of our job on the City Council is to have fiduciary responsibility over how city monies are spent, but we also have a responsibility to our citizens that they are giving money to something they understand. There’s sort of a mess here."

Founded in 1987 as the Friends of the Evanston Animal Shelter, the organization changed its name to Community Animal Rescue Effort/Friends of the Evanston Animal Shelter in 1990. 

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For the past 27 years, C.A.R.E. has worked with the Evanston Police Department to manage the care of the 200 or so stray cats and dogs brought to the shelter annually, of which 150 are eventually claimed by their owners. The remaining animals are adopted out to new homes. 

In 2010, 2011 and 2012, it was revealed that about half of the remaining unclaimed dogs were recommended for euthanasia based on C.A.R.E.'s behavioral evaluations.

The city’s animal wardens manage the shelter during the day, and the city pays for adult dog and cat food, and kitty litter, plus miscellaneous items, such as paper towels and bathroom supplies. Veterinary care, spaying and neutering, immunizations and special food for puppies, kittens, and animals with dietary restrictions, are paid for with funds raised by the volunteer group.

'We Have Hit A Road Bump'

According to the organization’s latest available tax return, C.A.R.E. claimed assets of $1,297,717 at the end of 2012, an increase of $115,248 from 2011.

The 2012 tax return also notes that C.A.R.E. spent $81,837 on program services, marketing and fundraising.

In 2007, C.A.R.E. board members claim they set aside $450,000 for a shelter expansion, to be matched by the city as part of the group’s “We Don’t Need A Mansion, Just An Expansion” building campaign. When the economy started going south, the city put the expansion on hold.

Minutes from the C.A.R.E. board meeting of Aug. 25, 2013 acquired by Patch, reference “all money except for $29,402” to be transferred from the building fund to the non-profit organization’s operating fund. The minutes further note that, “All board members approved this transfer. No opposition.”

C.A.R.E.’s long-time board president, Linda Gelb, confirmed the transfer of funds after concerned volunteers started raising questions about the animal welfare group’s high canine euthanasia rate due to purported faulty behavioral evaluations.

“[The $29,402] was the actual amount raised selling t-shirts and from collection cans for the expansion,” Gelb explained. “We put aside money into an account for a building fund, but we couldn’t nail down the city on an expansion.”

Another C.A.R.E. board member, Gail Lovinger-Goldblatt, further acknowledged that the organization’s auditor reviewed C.A.R.E.’s funds and determined that $29,402 was all the needed to remain in the building fund.

“We have hit a road bump here and its hasn’t been pleasant for anybody,” Lovinger-Goldblatt told the subcommittee. “The question that we are looking at is can we get through and past this road bump? Can we find a way to go on? For many people, C.A.R.E. is the Evanston Animal Shelter and the Evanston Animal Shelter is C.A.R.E. It doesn’t mean that C.A.R.E. doesn’t have other money ready to invest [in an expansion]. You need to back off of that.”

'Changing Bylaws

C.A.R.E. has also been accused of scrubbing its website and collection cans of any mention of the Evanston Animal Shelter. In October 2013, the board  voted to change its bylaws, dropping “Friends of the Evanston Animal Shelter” from its name to “Community Animal Rescue Effort Inc.”

Citing that the "Friends of the Evanston Animal Shelter" was obsolete and hadn't been used in 25 years, while some volunteers protested that the proposed amendment would affect how C.A.R.E. uses its funds and would change the relationship of C.A.R.E. to the City of Evanston

The change is noted in meeting minutes from Oct. 27, 2013 and on the Illinois Secretary of State’s website.

During Tuesday’s subcommittee meeting, Lovinger-Goldblatt denied that the organization had dropped references to the Evanston Animal Shelter from the community collection cans.

Photos of the collection cans -- stuffed with dollar bills and change -- show the cans with and without the “Evanston Animal Shelter” name placed at businesses around the community.

C.A.R.E. has not yet officially been handed its walking papers. The proposed measure to sever ties with C.A.R.E. still needs to go back to the Human Services Committee for more discussion, and then to the Evanston City Council for a full vote.

The question remains what will happen to the $1.3 million should the city and C.A.R.E. part ways.  

“That’s a big question,” City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said after Tuesday’s meeting. “If there’s over a million dollars in their accounts, the City Council is going to have to determine if they wish to have any audits done of their books. I think it’s going to become a significant issue.”

This story has been updated.

Dan February 21, 2014 at 09:34 AM
If I may proceed backwards in this article it is now becoming more transparent to me that care needs to be reformed and ties severed with existing volunteers and management. CARE is a management entity just, for example, many hotel chains have shifted its focus away from owning tangible assets under management and running the day to day operation of the company to greatly diversifying exposure to several locals in an effort to take advantage of economies of scale and create brand recognition.Care must Work with consultants to implement policies that have proven sound and effective. In terms of expansion, it is nonsense unless the animals need more room to move around. First I read they dealt with 100 animals a year then 200. If three quarters are claimed on average in any given year, then they managed to euthanize the remainder over some years. And Gelb takes some home with her to create the impression she is saving them .... Like smuggling children out of nazi occupied Germany? I'm starting to get a little pissed off. Slave ships had better survival percentages. You always need a catalyst to make big things happen. Our trust has been betrayed. CARE needs to be audited, vets and dog trainers invited to address concerns about a completely reformed CARE to be covered by media, town hall meeting format and an official minutes or note taker present. What is Evanston's bond rating?
E. February 21, 2014 at 10:40 AM
Dan, I agree that an audit definitely seems in order, particularly as to the transfer of over $1 million from a building fund (for a structure to be owned by the city of Evanston) to CARE's own operating budget (thereby severing those funds from city ownership). However, you misrepresented the data about euthanization. You stated that all the dogs not returned to original owners were euthanized, when the article clearly said that efforts were made to adopt those remaining dogs to new homes. The previous article reported concerns that close to half of those remaining dogs were not ultimately adopted out and were instead euthanized. Still a concerning rate that should be investigated, including the role of the city's animal warden in approving CARE's actions. But your posts lose credibility when you misrepresent information and start ranting about Nazi Germany and slave ships. IMO. Test. ;)
Beth Wyatt February 21, 2014 at 11:07 AM
Good points, E., except for one important thing. You say "efforts were made to adopt those remaining dogs to new homes". But at the city council meeting they explained that Care didn't try to adopt out ALL the remaining dogs. They only tried to adopt out half. The other half failed Care's now-discredited behavior test and Care asked for them to be euthanized.
jim February 21, 2014 at 11:32 AM
Steven Duke February 21, 2014 at 11:44 AM
First, I have no affiliation with CARE other than that I have adopted animals through them. I don't know the officers or the volunteers beyond my contact through adoptions. It seems to me there is a significant 'piling on' going on. Some people questioned the euthanasia rate, which is a reasonable issue to look at. Now it seems CARE's enemies are looking for anything they can find that might make the organization look 'dirty.' CARE is a registered non-profit. The money that is donated to them (and I have donated) is theirs, not the city's. If the city severs its relationship with CARE, the money still belongs to CARE. It could use it to create a separate, independent shelter, if it desired. It could take its efforts to a different community's shelter. For the city manager, and other observers, to suggest that the money somehow belongs to the city is wrong. If CARE transferred money from an account designated for a new building back into its operating fund when the city put construction of a new building on hold, that seems a perfectly reasonable and businesslike step to take. From my experience with CARE, nobody 'smuggles' animals out of the shelter. Volunteers and members often foster animals in their homes until they can be adopted. That seems humane and compassionate, not evil. From everything I've read, CARE's behavior testing has not been discredited, it has been questioned. Our personal experience with their use of behavior testing has been positive. Over the years we have adopted two dogs from the shelter. One was a badly abused pitbull mix, a dog so mistreated by humans that it would be reasonable to assume it might hold a grudge. CARE, through its behavior testing, determined the dog was adoptable, but would need a home with people experienced with dogs. So they kept her alive for three months until we came along. She remained a loving, gentle member of our family for 10 years. (They also paid for the extensive and expensive veterinary care she needed to overcome the effects of her abuse -- including being stabbed -- during the three months she was with them. That's the kind of thing they use their money for.) The city subcommittee's swift decision to recommend severing its relationship with CARE after 27 years of good service seems a rush to judgment.
Steph Pollini February 21, 2014 at 12:02 PM
Steven, I'm glad you adopted a nice dog (apparently one of the lucky 50%) from CARE, but I disagree with you. All of CARE's communications say "CARE for the EVANSTON ANIMAL SHELTER." For them to take that money and go elsewhere with it is, at the very least, problematic. Never mind the fact that they're represented as no-kill and probably got a lot of donations that way.
Jordan S. Zoot February 21, 2014 at 12:08 PM
Its rather amusing that this article has appeared and now raises a significant number of the questions I posted in a comment on Monday. I won't go back to rehash what I posted. Suffice it to say that where the article says "While the organization has not been accused of mismanaging funds or any wrongdoing"....I DISAGREE. If CARE has raised funds under false pretenses they certainly have mismanaged, and quite possibly committed CRIMINAL acts in the process.Let this get investigated thoroughly before people jump to exonerate them.
Steven Duke February 21, 2014 at 12:13 PM
Steph, we can each have our own opinions about CARE, and you are free to disagree with me about mine, but you can't disagree with the facts. The fact is that CARE is a registered 401(c)3 nonprofit. As long as they haven't violated IRS rules, the money belongs to the nonprofit. I've read their 990, and they seem to exceed expected standards for nonprofit stewardship of donors' money. None of their officers get paid; they spend an extremely small percentage of their total intake on fund-raising; they invest their money in non-taxable, interest-bearing bonds. On the other issue you raise, I have never seen or heard them represent themselves as no-kill. I've adopted from a no-kill shelter, and I've adopted from CARE. In all my conversations with CARE, they have been clear that they are not no-kill. I've never seen any of their literature imply otherwise.
Steph Pollini February 21, 2014 at 12:22 PM
Steven, nonprofits have an obligation to use their donations in accordance with donor intent. If donors think their money was going to something else (like to benefit the Evanston Animal Shelter), it's a problem. As for the no-kill issue, CARE is listed on a dozen websites as being no-kill. Look it up. I've visited the shelter and I HAVE heard them represent themselves as having a "no-kill philosophy". Most people I know were under that impression as well.
Jordan S. Zoot February 21, 2014 at 12:23 PM
Mr. Duke you are absolutely WRONG in your statement. First of all the provision is 501(c)(3) NOT 401(c)(3). Further, in addition to IRS rules, there are numerous additional rules that not for profits are subject to...we can start with the Illinois provisions that the Attorney General's Charities Bureau enforces which relate to fund raising activities. Then we can continue with the contractual obligations that they may have with the City of Evanston. I have been a CPA for > 30 years so I am confident that I understand which rules may apply. The next problem relates to the facts which certainly are far from clear with respect to finances and operating procedure.
Frank Leeza February 21, 2014 at 12:25 PM
See, Zoot? I told you you're always right. Steven, my understanding is that this was not sudden at all but has actually been simmering for a long time at the City level. The City commissioned those reports on the euthanasias months ago, etc.
E. February 21, 2014 at 12:41 PM
@Jordan Z: I agree w/your concern to investigate financial issues. However, you're critiquing the Patch reporting inaccurately. 1) You claim it's ironic that Patch is taking up this issue right after you raised it in response to the prior article. But this article clearly cites all the reader comments to the first article as the very impetus for this second article. You & others who raised these concerns should feel duly credited. 2) You disagree w/the article's statement that CARE hasn't been accused of financial mismanagement, saying they SHOULD be accused. Apples & oranges. Maybe they should & will be accused, but according to the press, that hasn't formally happened as yet. And btw Dan, I'm sorry that you've had to deal with "appalling filth" for your "whole life," but please don't lump me in with the bunch simply for pointing out factual errors in your references to what other people wrote (though admittedly, the two articles seem inconsistentl on the adoption vs. kill numbers). You seem to have misread some of what I wrote as well. I have in no way taken the side of CARE on any issue that's been raised. I am simply requesting that people read (and write) a little more carefully to keep the conversation productive. It seems to me there's not much more to say until the city gathers more information and takes action.
jim February 21, 2014 at 01:15 PM
Steph have you looked up Definition of a "no-kill" shelter
Steph Pollini February 21, 2014 at 01:18 PM
Oh S., not with this nonsense again. Yes, I know the definition of no-kill. If you think a shelter can call itself "no-kill" while killing half its dogs under ANY definition of no-kill, you are seriously deluded.
Rebo February 21, 2014 at 03:39 PM
Let me address the BEHAVIOR testing of the shelter. I am a trainer and have assessed many dogs and cats (and other species) for temperament. I don't know C.A.R.E.'s method or success for testing their animals. There are several animal testing methods but only a few are truly telling. An animal's life hangs in the balance while the tester decides whether or not he is adoptable. That method must be documented and followed precisely. A shelter must have an EXPERT test their animals. This is crucial. Perhaps their methods should be evaluated. This can be done by a third party dog trainer. There are a few nationally known experts who could be contacted to help out. Looks like there are several issues to take a look at. I'm willing to see what I can do to help take the rate of euthanasia down if possible.
Dan February 21, 2014 at 04:39 PM
You my friend need to be evaluated by the shelter in Waukegan. I think many people would be comfortable with their methods and not yours. There is no perhaps for CARE at this point, some may end up in jail. They need a 100% turn over of employees and staff. The gig is up....up.
Beth Wyatt February 21, 2014 at 04:42 PM
No one is going to end up in jail. Sheesh. This is just a legal thing that needs to get worked out between the city and Care. Rebo, you might want to look at the earlier articles linked to above. There were already two reports about Care's evaluation methods.
E. February 21, 2014 at 05:18 PM
Can people please refrain from hurling gratuitous personal insults in these comments? They're very rude and inappropriate, not to mention off-topic. You know who you are. Test.
Dan February 21, 2014 at 05:59 PM
This topic has been explored and all comments at patch /Evanston explored. I should have left this site days ago.
Ben Massen February 21, 2014 at 07:19 PM
There's a lot of weirdness above so let me get this straight. People donated all this money "for the Evanston Animal Shelter." Now the organization wants to use it for something else. It seems pretty obvious that this is a problem.
Rebo February 21, 2014 at 08:51 PM
It would be nice for me, and perhaps others, if you WOULD leave this site so we can have a conversation without your uneducated, boorish interruptions. So, there were two reports of Care's evaluation methods. It would not take much to persuade me that CARE is inept. I mentioned the importance of this in my last post. Meanwhile, animals are lingering without homes in a place where apparently anybody can call themselves an evaluator and euthanize an animal. Side Note: Don't be impressed by certifications. There is not one standard nationwide. Anyone can call themselves a trainer or a behavioralist even if they have a credential. You find out who is good through word of mouth, associations with other trainers and recommendations.
Dan February 22, 2014 at 09:03 AM
Rebo: who would you like to leave this site?


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