COLUMBIA — The Central Missouri Humane Society has cracked the Top 10 in Zootoo.com's pet Shelter Makeover II Contest, which could grant the shelter up to $1 million towards a makeover. But the $1 million prize has recently received greater scrutiny after KSDK, a St. Louis-based NBC affiliate, reported that the contest's 2008 winner, Randy Grim of Stray Rescue in St. Louis, had received only $3,000.
Patty Forister, executive director of the Central Missouri Humane Society, said she is not concerned by the allegations against Zootoo, and although she's sympathetic to Stray Rescue, does not find fault in the timing or funding thus far. Forister said she is more concerned about the possibility that the Humane Society could get the makeover.
"A renovation is not only possible, it could really happen. I'm confident going forward we will work together with Richard Thompson to make it a good experience for CMHS and for the community," Forister said.
Those registered at Zootoo.com can now vote on the 10 finalists. The top finisher will receive the makeover, which Forister said the shelter desperately needs.
The previous winner, Stray Rescue, has complained that Zootoo has not lived up to the shelter's expectations. According to an article by the Associated Press the shelter wired Zootoo $170,000 in grants and donations — which helped pay for some introductory work — with the expectation that the funds would be reimbursed. Grim added that Thompson pressured him into asking subcontractors, suppliers and labor unions for donations to the new shelter, which the makeover's general contractor, Dan Green, said he later learned went into the $1 million pot.
According to the KSDK report, Grim and Stray Rescue have only received $3,000 of the $1 million.
"I am shocked and saddened by the latest information I have just received indirectly regarding Randy and Stray Rescue in St. Louis," Zootoo Founder Richard Thompson said in a journal on Zootoo's Web site. "I've reached out to Randy and plan to meet with Randy and his board to resolve any of these misunderstandings."
It is the "up to" $1 million that may have caused the "misunderstandings" between the two organizations, which Thompson mentioned in his journal Tuesday.
"We love Randy, we love Stray Rescue, and we want to see Randy's dream of his shelter in St. Louis come to life for him. But please keep in mind, Randy's dream was substantially bigger than the 'up to' one million dollar makeover," Thompson wrote.
Grim could not be reached for comment.
The Zootoo Web site provides a document of the rules and regulations of its pet shelter makeover program, which stipulates that participating animal shelters can "receive 'a makeover' worth up to $1 million in cash, service and in-kind benefits." The 'up to' portion was in bold and underlined letters. That document said it was effective March 13, 2009.
"Thompson has been very clear to us that this is not a $1 million check," Forister said. "His mission is to spotlight needs to shelters and their communities. We will work as a team to decide what we will spend on our shelters."
"If you look at the companies that Zootoo is involved in, they are not fly-by companies. They've been around for a long time," she said. "We're pretty confident that we're going to come through with the cash they've promised."