Humane Society board optimistic about shelter makeover

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 | 9:00 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Central Missouri Humane Society board members spoke to Zootoo CEO Richard Thompson on the phone Tuesday about details of renovations for the shelter.

At a meeting last week, members received news that their renovation design plans had been rejected. This week, the board members on the conference call said they are optimistic that they will receive a shelter makeover and that they will be able to compromise with Thompson to create a design.

The Humane Society won a shelter makeover competition sponsored by earlier this year, which promises “up to $1 million dollars in goods and services” toward a shelter renovation.

Interim Humane Society executive director Alan Allert said what looked like Thompson’s rejection of the humane society’s renovation plan was “not quite the controversy it appeared to be at the board meeting.”

Allert said the architect, Nick Peckham of Peckham and Wright Architects, Inc. who was hired by Thompson, presented designs to the Humane Society’s board of directors. The board then modified those designs to meet what it thought would be best for the shelter. The original designs the board received were Thompson’s own drawings.

“Richard (Thompson) thought we had rejected his design, and we thought he had rejected our design,” Allert said.

Allert said the board was in a state of “shock and awe” when it got the impression that its designs had been rejected.

Thompson did not return multiple calls seeking comment.

Following a conference call Tuesday between board members and Thompson, Allert said they came up with a tentative plan that combines components of both designs, which he said he thinks “is going to work out really well for the shelter.”

Allert said the board has a few specific ideas for the renovation.

Board members want to separate the dogs from the cats. Currently, staff members have to walk dogs past the cat area in order to get the dogs to and from their cages, which is stressful for the animals, Allert said.

The board wants to put a wall between the dog and cat areas, dividing them completely, and add a separate entrance so that people can go directly to either area, Allert said. Board members also want separate air handling systems for the dog and cat areas.

Allert said Thompson’s design was “pretty minimal in terms of added space, and ours was significant in terms of the added space.”

Allert said the Zootoo winnings are specifically for a renovation, not addition. The board’s plan included an addition to provide more room for cats while keeping space for dogs the same. Allert said Thompson and board members discussed during the conference call how to accomplish this without an addition to the building.

The board’s original plan was expected to cost about $500,000, Allert said. The board does not know how much the new combination plan is expected to cost.

In the midst of the competition last spring, a previous winner of the shelter makeover, Stray Rescue of St. Louis, severed ties with Zootoo after its founder, Randy Grim, said Thompson and Zootoo did not follow through with contest winnings. The two sides reached a settlement, but have not said publicly how much Stray Rescue received.

It is unclear how much money Thompson has actually contributed to the Humane Society, aside from the $25,000 he gave to it as part of competition winnings.

Allert said the most the society will get is $1 million, and said that number is a maximum — it won't necessarily receive exactly $1 million for the renovation. 

Any donation, including services, made to the renovation effort will be subtracted from the $1 million. It is unclear whether this includes donations made without Thompson’s involvement.

Thompson has hired the architect for the project and has pledged to pay for the design and enter the contract for the project. Thompson also said in a previous interview that he plans to purchase new kennels for the shelter and pay for their installation.

“I trust him,” board member John Shrum said. “We’re going to get a wonderful makeover.”

Shrum said the question is “whether we get what we feel like we want.”

“My hunch is that it’s going to be a blending of what our true wish list is and what Mr. Thompson is willing to allow on that list,” Shrum said.

“It’s Mr. Thompson’s money,” board member Jim Loveless said.

“Understandably, we have to be sensitive to what he wants to do, and he will be sensitive to what we want. Both sides will talk back and forth and come up with a plan that we think suits us well,” Loveless said.

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Ayn Rand December 16, 2009 | 8:29 a.m.

I don't get this part:

"Board members want to separate the dogs from the cats. Currently, staff members have to walk dogs past the cat area in order to get the dogs to and from their cages, which is stressful for the animals, Allert said."

First, if that's such a problem, there is another way to get dogs to and from the run that's closest to the cat room that doesn't require walking past the cat room. (In fact, if you're bringing dogs to and from the outside play area, they'll be using that "non-cat" route anyway.) Second, the cat area is behind a door, and the cat cages sit several feet away from that door.

This seems like the least of the problems with that building.

(Report Comment)
dan kordenbrock December 16, 2009 | 6:32 p.m.

As a mizzou grad student, and a 3 yr volunteer at stray rescue of st. louis; as touched on in the article, zootoo and richard thompson are very misleading.
The contest and surrounding hoopla was based on the promise of a $1 million dollar award. I think its important to keep in mind that the contest itself, the awareness created by it does serve to benefit very needy animal shelters. However, in the same sense the contest also benefits the ZOoToo website and Richard Thompson, because it greatly increases their traffic (you must sign up in order to vote for a shelter) and ad revenue.
After reading this article it appears that its very likely a) that the Central Missouri Humane Society will not receive the total $1 million and b) the money they receive oft comes from charitable donations, rather than from Richard THompson- for instance, he will try to negotiate with the construction company who will be building the shelter, to cut their price. He will then qualify this as part of the $1 million donation.
If you don't believe me, go see the "new" Stray Rescue shelter; it still has not been completed as after their settlement with Thompson they have had to rely off of private donations.

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