CO Humane Society Fraud

A lawsuit filed by the Colorado Attorney General alleges that the Colorado Humane Society has lied about being a No Kill shelter and misappropriated donations. Pretty much the two most vile things you could do in the name of a humane animal shelter: kill adoptable animals, steal the money meant to save them, and lie about it.

The CHS is a family affair run by executive director Mary Warren, her husband and development director Robert Warren, and their daughter Stephenie Gardner who is the director of operations. The CHS website fails to list any other personnel and there are no apparent directors or operators outside the Warren family. The filed complaint lists Madeline Duncan, Nancy Miller, and Stephen Hallber as possible present or past members of the board.

The allegations against the Colorado Humane Society & SPCA:

  • Euthanized nearly 30% of animals at their Englewood facility despite advertising themselves as a “No-Kill” shelter with a 92% adoption rate.
  • Falsified reports to the Secretary of State and the Department of Agriculture, distorting the number of animals adopted, returned, transferred, and euthanized to artificially maintain the organization’s claimed euthanasia rate.
  • Regularly killed dogs that were not “gravely ill or injured, of advanced age and inform or aggressive to make room at the shelter for more ‘adoptable’ animals.”
  • Falsely claimed that animals killed at the shelter’s discretion were killed at owner request, exploiting PACFA regulations allowing PTS animals to not be counted toward euthanization rates.
  • Made room for small breeds and puppies by selectively killing larger dogs.
  • Initiated in-transfers of hand picked smaller dogs and puppies from out of state shelters despite having no room for them, necessitating the needless euthanasia of larger dogs who were taking up more space.
  • Improperly disposed of euthanized animals in dumpsters.
  • Ongoing use of expired medications and vaccines.

  • Diverted thousands of donated dollars for personal use and commingled CHS finances with the personal finances of the directors.
  • Gross mismanagement of CHS finances.
  • Failed to register the CHS under the Charitable Solicitations Act, collecting nearly $3 million in donations illegally.
  • Spent $32,000 of the $66,154 collected to aid Katrina rescues on payroll while spending less than $16,000 on Katrina expenses.
  • Spent at least $1,000 of the Katrina money to reimburse travel to Mississippi prior to the hurricane.
  • Used a donated Mercedes Benz as a personal vehicle instead of selling it to raise money for the shelter as intended by the donor and the requirements of the car donation program.
  • Failed to make payroll and bounced salary checks multiple times despite the intake of sufficient donations, incurring over $14,000 in overdraft fees on the payroll account.
  • Failed to fill the Board of Directors to the required seven members, failed to follow the bylaws requiring term limits and failed to have a Chairman for at least the last four years, invalidating the legality of all contracts and agreements of the CHS.

This story makes me sick and hopeful at the same time. Sick, because there is mounting evidence that the Colorado Humane Society is a broken institution corrupt with fraud and deceit. Hopeful because the reason for the deceit suggests that traditional shelters are feeling the pressure to improve their methods and adopt the No Kill philosophy.

While it’s frustrating that many shelters are choosing to lie and cover up their failures instead of adopting the No Kill methods that work, their abandonment of the “we kill because we have to, there is simply no other way” mentality shows that the greater public no longer finds ‘kill to be kind’ strategy an effective or moral means to deal with abandoned pets.

Just compare what the CHS is advertising to the public versus what we now know about their real habits. Even worse, their internal employee manual makes it clear that not only were they never a no-kill shelter, they never intended to be:

Our Englewood Shelter serves the colorado community by housing and helping with one of the largest animal adoption facilities in Colorado. As an open-door shelter, no animal is turned away. With no clock ticking, CHS does not euthanize for money or space considerations.

In most shelters, time is the enemy. Each year in the United States, after a pre-determined time, hundreds of thousands of animals are euthanized for overstaying their welcome. At Colorado Humane, time is the animal’s greatest asset. We provide shelter, food and medical treatment as long as an animal’s health and heart are willing! This can be a day, a week or even months, if necessary. In only the most extreme situations is an animal put to sleep. Grave illness or injury, advanced age with infirmity or aggression are the only criteria considered for euthanasia. Walk through the shelter and look into the eyes of a dog that has been here for months. The eyes twinkle and the tail wags. If he has not given up, how can we?

The longer the animal stays in the shelter suffering the lack of security, purpose and attachment enjoyed by owned companion animals, the less adaptable and adoptable it becomes.

When we have an animal in this condition, or receive an animal whose adoption is so unlikely that its only future is in our shelter, we can only prevent suffering by humane euthanasia.

Now, see if you find the CHS’s response to the initial news story credible in any way.

I personally find it amazing that when people are caught red handed in a disgusting crime they will not only deny reality, evidence, and common sense, but vehemently continue to operate in the same manner for as long as possible. If anyone needs to be put out of their misery, it is the idiots who are running the CHS. They need to be shut down and thrown in jail.

12/17/2008 – UPDATE – The Warrens and their daughter are out and the shelter is under new management. Too bad they can’t just throw the thieves in the dumpster behind the shelter like they did dogs that could have been given homes. I imagine 10 minutes in there with a dead dog would give them a little sense of reality.

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.