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Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010 01:51 pm

Charity says ‘No, thanks’

Animal shelter returns donations, locks out volunteers

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Volunteers and former board members say the Macoupin County Adopt-A-Pet, a no-kill animal shelter, needs improved management to find more dogs new homes.

Not all dogs that find temporary refuge at animal shelters are destined for a new home with space to roam and lots of loving pats to the head. But, volunteer Nancy Hunter says, when a shelter houses more than 30 dogs that have lived there since at least 2006, some nearly their whole lives, it’s a sign that things have gotten out of hand.

It’s the problem Hunter, of Auburn, was trying to fix at Macoupin County Adopt-A-Pet until in October the shelter told her in an e-mail that employees would call “the authorities” if she set foot on shelter premises. In November, the shelter canceled her membership and returned her $15 annual dues. Another volunteer, Kate Hein of Rochester, received similar notices.

Since May, the two visited the shelter, located in Benld, once a week to socialize the dogs to make them more adoptable and reduce the rate of permanent residency. With too many animals to shelter, feed and clean up after, too few get the personal attention that makes them comfortable with people, Hunter says, adding that such an imbalance leads to more and more permanent residents that end up living their lives in cages and becoming aggressive towards strangers.

The shelter also canceled memberships and returned checks ranging from $15 to $500 to former members of the charity’s seven-member board of directors. This year the shelter’s board has seen two major turnovers, something past board members say is a direct result of the shelter’s director and founder, Lorraine Jackson, who also serves on the board.

In a March e-mail sent to board members, including then-president Ellyn Hebden, Jackson accused them of wanting to change the mission of the shelter, which has always been a no-kill facility.

Hebden says that was never the case; the board simply wanted to better manage the facility and find homes for more animals that had become permanent residents. She also cites a mouse infestation that caused the destruction of a washing machine and overcrowding of the animals as problems at the shelter.

Though the shelter passed its Oct. 29 Department of Agriculture inspection, Hebden says there’s more to running a shelter than feeding and cleaning up after the animals. “In order to give those animals a chance at finding a permanent home, you have to do like Nancy Hunter and Kate Hein and come there and spend time with those animals so they get used to people and think people are friendly and good,” Hebden says.

Hunter and four others took over for Hebden and four of her fellow board members in September, hoping a fresh start with Jackson would be beneficial for the shelter. But all of the new board members resigned just more than a month later, after Jackson held a fundraiser sponsored by “Friends of Lorraine” at Lincoln Park in Springfield. None of the new or recently resigned board members were told about the event.

“At that point, I realized that a new board was not going to have the desired effect,” says Sara Mayo, who took over for Hebden on Sept. 15 as board president. “Lorraine was not interested in cooperating to move the shelter forward.”

Mayo, Hunter and the other three new board members all resigned in October, after old board members raised questions about items being auctioned at Jackson’s fundraiser – whether they were donated to the shelter and whether the proceeds were going for Jackson’s personal use or toward the shelter.

Jackson declined to return several messages left for her on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday of last week, and staff members who answered the phone said Illinois Times could not tour the facility beyond the reception room without Jackson present.

Contact Rachel Wells at rwells@illinoistimes.com.

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