COLUMBIA — The city is looking into whether to ask the Humane Society of the United States to conduct an evaluation of the Central Missouri Humane Society.
The move came during Monday’s City Council meeting at the request of Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill in response to questions about management of the local shelter and its finances. While Thornhill said some of the concern might be hearsay or rumors, “it is enough to suggest that there is something going on.”
Thornhill asked city staff to check with the national Humane Society detailing how its evaluation works, how to request one and what it would cost.
“If the city would offer that as a perk for us, we would take them up on that,” Central Missouri Humane Society Executive Director Patty Forister said on Tuesday.
The Humane Society of the United States is an independent, private agency that is not affiliated with the Central Missouri Humane Society. The national organization's services include sending teams of inspectors to evaluate local animal shelters.
The question of who would pay the expense, Thornhill said, will be answered if the council decides to ask the local shelter to agree to the evaluation.
The potential outside review comes a week after Angie Huhman and Liz Burks publicly announced they would no longer support the local shelter. They are the mothers of Libby Burks and Amanda Huhman, both of whom led the campaign for the Central Missouri Humane Society’s victory in the Zootoo competition earlier this year.
In a statement on Sept. 29, Huhman and Burks called the Humane Society “a self-destructing agency … that lacks leadership to move the shelter forward in a positive manner.”
Huhman and Burks did not name any specific problems; neither of the women could be reached for comment.
"They haven’t spoken directly with me about their concerns," Forister said of Huhman and Burks.
"It could just be that folks aren’t getting along,” Thornhill said, adding that some of the issues that have been raised could be attributed to personality differences or differences in philosophy between Humane Society staff members.
Thornhill said an evaluation would provide the local shelter an opportunity to improve operations and learn how to make the most of its winnings from a national shelter makeover contest sponsored by Zootoo.com.
“It’s just a good idea for us to get it all out on the table,” Thornhill said.
The local shelter has received $25,000 in Zootoo winnings. The Web site also promises up to $1 million in goods and services for a shelter makeover.
The City Council two weeks ago agreed to add $20,000 to the 2010 budget for the local Humane Society as long as the money would go toward the shelter’s spay and neuter program. That amounts brings the city’s total annual support to about $131,606, including the $111,606 for the animal control contract.
Thornhill said he also wants to tie the shelter’s willingness to have an evaluation — and the outcome — to the additional $20,000 in funding.
The Humane Society is inspected annually by the Missouri Department of Agriculture in order to maintain its animal shelter license.
Meanwhile, the shelter has been taking advantage of free resources, Forister said. Last year, the shelter utilized the services of SCORE, a nonprofit organization that operates locally and gives advice to businesses, which helped analyze the humane society’s financial situation and day-to-day operations.
Forister said Humane Society staff also takes advantage of conferences, where they receive education, training and tips for better shelter practices. Forister also noted she was recently certified by the Society of Animal Welfare Administrators.
In response to Thornhill’s initial call last week for an independent financial review, Forister said she sent him a copy of the shelter’s finance for 2005-08.The local accounting firm Gerding, Korte & Chitwood prepares monthly statements for the shelter.
Forister said she also sent Thornhill a copy of a PowerPoint presentation she prepared for Humane Society stakeholders outlining the steps the shelter has taken for improvement, as well as plans for the future.
“Those are the first steps to opening the door of communication,” Forister said.
An audit of the shelter’s 2008 finances is being conducted at the expense of the Humane Society, Forister said, using an accounting firm other than Gerding, Korte & Chitwood.
Forister said she expects Zootoo CEO Richard Thompson to visit later this month to “knock out” details of the shelter renovation.