Councilman requests national evaluation of Central Missouri Humane Society

Wednesday, October 7, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

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  

“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.


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Charles Dudley Jr October 7, 2009 | 4:31 a.m.

If the National Humane Society does visit it needs to be done with ABSOLUTELY NO ADVANCE WARNINGS WHAT SO EVER.

Total surprise inspection just like when the one Councilman showed up there and did a walk through of their own to see how bad things were and made their concerns known to City Council in their meeting.

First though Patty Forister needs to be replaced.

(Report Comment)
Dion Wisniewski October 7, 2009 | 11:18 a.m.

People around the city keep saying the Patty needs to be removed from her position at CMHS but I have yet to see one person say why.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro October 7, 2009 | 12:47 p.m.

In it's entirety, CMHS stands a good chance of going from its current operating budget of about one million dollars to two million dollars in a very short time.
With that kind of stewardship, I hope the powers that be ensure that this nonprofit 501c3 animal shelter manages these millions of dollars to serve the pups and kitties and not mismanage or poorly manage this operation.
(How well have they been managing with their current overall budget of approx $900,000? Their website shows no financial statement concerning salaries, overhead, program expenses, etc.)

COLUMBIA — Representatives from the Central Missouri Humane Society asked for an additional $80,000 in funding from the City of Columbia at a City Council work session Wednesday evening.

CMHS's budget was $876,500 in 2008, and executive director Patty Forister said they are operating currently at "a bottom line."
"We're just barely making ends meet," Forister said.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 7, 2009 | 1:59 p.m.

Dion Wisniewski any so called Humane Society Shelter manager that lets their shelter get as run down,over crowded and as dirty as I saw and smelled it the last time I was there needs to be booted out of that job ASAP!!

Can you just imagine how bad their own home might be?


(Report Comment)
Ben Coe October 9, 2009 | 6:38 a.m.

Charles, What exactly would you suggest be done with the animals that are brought in? You're talking about the main facility for a large part of central Missouri, not just Columbia or even Boone County. Beyond the Animal Control animals which all must be retained for an extended period of time, you also have all the animals that are seized from puppy mills, and dog fighting operation which must be retained until the cases have gone through the court system. I have been in the humane society at all random times of the day and week, and it has never smelled particularly bad, I have always found everyone there to be friendly and helpful. My roommate and I adopted our dog, which is one of the most important things in both of our lives, from CMHS this June, she was in exceptional shape for having been in a shelter for over a month and coming in in bad shape to begin with. I thank God everyday that we have such an exceptional shelter here in Mid-Missouri. I am absolutely in agreement with Dion that if people aren't going to man up and express their reasons for calling for the removal of someone who has been doing an outstanding job of operating a facility on a less than minimal budget then they should shut up and find something worthwhile to do with their time.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 9, 2009 | 9:12 a.m.

Ben Coe it is quite obvious you have not followed any of my commentary or other's commentary on this issue from the very beginning.

Go do some research in the archives here and learn just why I think Patty should be put out on her ear and a more qualified person hired.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz October 9, 2009 | 9:57 a.m.

Chuck, he shouldn't have to follow your esteemed commentary. Tell your story again or post the links for him.

(Report Comment)
Ben Coe October 10, 2009 | 6:26 a.m.

Actually, I had been reading the commentary for quite a long time and completely disagreeing with it as I have spent a lot of time in the shelter and not noticed any of the complaints that you had, most especially not when you so rudely aired them on pieces meant as a congratulatory for two little girls and the amazing job that they had done. I don't know how often you make your way into the Humane Society, but I definitely agree with people that I've seen in past posts that if you'd make it more often and attempt to help alleviate the problems while you are there, instead of just complaining about the situation, like so many other people, maybe things would be better for the animals. After all, isn't the health and well being of the animals the entire point of having a humane society in the first place?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr October 10, 2009 | 9:12 a.m.

Ben Coe do you realize that you and others might not be smelling those smells that were once there because citizens such as myself alerted our City Councilmen who did the visits to the shelter and came into total agreement with mine and others view points that the shelter was a total disaster area and not very humane at all.

If citizens such as myself and others do not stand up and speak up when we see things wrong in this city then nothing might not ever get done to resolve issues that need attention.

The bad part in all of this is that we had to stand up and speak up loud enough for things to actually get done when CMHS has access to hundreds of community volunteers continually plus their "paid staff".

Now if the "Paid Staff" is not doing their jobs then why hasn't CMHS done something to get employees into that facility who will? You want to know why? Because nothing has obviously changed since I was employed there and it is still more of a Social Club than a work environment taking care of animals.

That is the bad part now isn't it that all of those hundreds of volunteers plus the paid staff let that facility sink into what it has become.

I'm glad those two young girls finally started thinking and decided what ever it was they saw and heard was just not right and are now making their stand too.

(Report Comment)

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