Animal Welfare League of Chicago Ridge and Chicago has been the subject of a social media firestorm. Animal activists as well as former employees and volunteers, former staff veterinarians, and even other shelter directors have alleged all sorts of issues. And, many of them suggest downright cruelty, unsanitary and unsafe conditions for people and animals, and inappropriate veterinary care. Also, there’s alleged abuse of employees and volunteers…The list goes on.
At a Chicago Ridge Village Board meeting on February 6, both sides were heard. Trustee Edmund Kowalski articulately explains at the outcome exactly what I have felt and what I have written. There’s a lot to decipher to determine what’s real abuse compared to allegations made by angry individuals as a result of personality conflicts.
I could not attend this meeting as I was presenting at the VMX Veterinary Conference in Orlando, Florida, at the time. However, I watched the events. And, if you couldn’t attend, you can see it all here.
Trustee Kowalski has organized a special panel or task force to further investigate the matter. I’ve spoken to Mr. Kowalski and believe he is exactly right. He’s carefully chosen the individuals who are serving on this panel. And, he clearly cares about what matters most, which is what is best for the animals.
The goal is simply to find out the truth. How can anyone argue with that?
However, I must add that today we do know some truths. I personally, overall, believe the individuals who articulately spoke at this meeting about their experiences at the Animal Welfare League told the truth. However, even if the Animal Welfare League Board of Directors continues to doubt their growing chorus, I don’t understand how they can dismiss the documentation. While Trustee Kowalski’s panel will learn more, and will ultimately make recommendations, at some point in time the Board of Directors must take a stand for what is right. Thus far, from where I sit, they’ve not done that.
Here is a list of the Animal Welfare League Board of Directors. Unfortunately, their email addresses are not listed here.
Many (from around the country) have asked, “What can I do?” What not to do is to continue to threaten staff. Instead, write concise, educated letters with documentation, if you have any, to the board members. I suppose snail mail is the only route, or dropping off the letters and saving on stamps. I only hope they won’t be trashed. To protect yourself, copy Trustee Kowalski. A few weeks ago, I wrote an open letter to the Animal Welfare League Board of Directors, and I still would like to hear from any board member.
I was the only member of an animal welfare Board in Chicago who stepped away, and it turned out it was the right thing to do. As a result of an obstinate Board with an ego which set them on a determined path, that organization has since lost a ton of prestige. And, even more than a ton in donor dollars and bequests were lost as a result, which means their future has been compromised. They also lost many dedicated employees and volunteers along the way.
The number one responsibility of the Board of Directors is the fiduciary protection of the institution. I know first hand that it takes some “guts” to step up away from others if need be. In their hearts they must know some truths, at least by now. Perhaps many board members were unaware. Today I don’t see how they can maintain naivety and continue to be tone deaf to what that chorus of legitimate sources are saying abut the organization and their experiences there.
I strongly suggest we at least offer Trustee Kowalski and his panel the time they need to learn more and to recommend a course of action. But, I will not allow this issue to fade off into an ever-turning news cycle. I have not and will not ignore this issue.