From The Age newspaper today, a blow-by-blow account of the annual general meeting at the Lost Dogs Home;
It was the annual general meeting of a charity – normally a quiet and predictable occasion. Instead, at the recent Lost Dogs Home meeting there was shouting, chaos and several people storming out.
If that seems a little weird to you - that the media is reporting on the AGM of an animal charity - then you'd be right. I can't say in the more than ten years of following animal welfare news in this country, that I've ever seen an AGM given any media attention, whatsoever. So what exactly was happening that was so gosh-darn interesting?
One life member, an 80-year-old retiree, described the scene as "a riot": "People were up in arms. I had a stand-up argument with the finance person."
The elderly man, who asked not to be named, said he had since suspended his regular donations to the home and was considering changing his will to remove a bequest to the animal charity. Two other life members have told Fairfax Media they are planning to cancel bequests to the home.
... The dispute centres on the board's use of several hundred proxy votes to block the election of a new director, and its refusal to answer several questions from the floor.
Supporters of the unsuccessful board candidate, Georgia Murphy, are seeking legal advice over whether the board has breached regulations by quietly reopening membership so soon before the AGM and apparently inviting people to join.
.... Many of those who contacted Fairfax Media claimed that the majority of the new memberships came from the so-called no-kill movement, and a particular charity, Rescued With Love. This is a group that opposes euthanasing unwanted animals in facilities such as the Lost Dogs Home.
... Chair of the board Prue Gillies also used the hundreds of new proxy votes to block a motion to have her removed.
So historical members or 'life-members' of the Lost Dogs Home were upset when "several hundred" new members were invited to, and joined, the organisation.
Life-members then weren't able to elect their preferred board candidate (Georgina Murphy), nor were they able to oust an existing member (Prue Gillies) because of these pesky "no-kill activists" who seem to have materialised in their hundreds after the organisation opened it's doors to public members. Pesky new members who believe shelters that are being paid to save pets, shouldn't be killing them (ie."the so-called no-kill movement").
These now impotent life-members have contacted the media to have their gripes heard.
... The bitter feud at the home dates back to controversy over its removal of Graham Smith in 2013, and a split between supporters and opponents of so-called no-kill activists.
The audience was stunned to learn that the home's membership had been reopened, after being closed for years, and that hundreds of new members had been quietly signed up just two weeks earlier and had given their proxy votes to the board.
Open membership of a publicly funded organisation, holding council animal management contracts, should be encouraged. For literally decades there was no public membership to the Lost Dogs Home. This meant that the General Manager Graeme Smith could pick and choose who was able to vote on organisational matters.
Make no mistake about it, it was the biggest deception in Australian animal rescue history.
A high kill pound that portrayed itself as a sanctuary, who shut out rescue groups and turned the institutionalised killing of homeless pets into a multi-million dollar business. While other animal organisations around the country developed life affirming policies, reached out to their community and slowly worked to increase public affection for companion animals; they doggedly maintained an outdated ‘catch and kill’ mentality, driving merciless campaigns against orphan cats and dogs and condemning pets to death by the thousands in the face of humane alternatives.
Under Graeme Smith's leadership the organisation accidentally killed loved pets. They ran specific campaigns designed to help them impound more cats. They worked hard to drive public hysteria over bull-breed dogs. They tried to co-opt the language of No Kill. They attacked PetRescue trying drive away sponsors. They demonised rescue groups, refusing access to these groups to pets they wanted to save. They pioneered the model of artificially overpopulating animal shelters (the 'mega pound') to maximise revenue. They even slithered over the border and started killing pets interstate.
The organisation drove themselves into a showdown with a community-driven backlash of epic proportions. A long overdue declaration by the community that they would no longer fund or support unnecessary killing.
The life-members now kicking up a fuss that "no-kill activists" have taken over their voting monopoly - where they bloody hell were you when all of this was going on?
Multiple decades of the worse level of animal abuse (the unnecessary killing of saveable pets) were allowed to happen on your watch. Shame on you.
And now you have the gall to step up and step in and call in the media? What kind of asshole stays mum while an organisation is shovelling the corpses of now dead dogs and cats into its incinerator, but gets upset when new members come on board who are working to save lives?
Some members of the animal charity, deeply upset by developments, are considering cancelling bequests.
Good. If you genuinely believe the pets were better off then, than they are now; want your money to be directed into killing needy animals - not saving lives - please for the love of pets, take your money and shove it. Your money and your abhorrent, backwards attitudes to caring for vulnerable animals is neither needed or wanted.
If the hundreds of people joining the Lost Dogs Home membership ranks is anything to go by, it demonstrates that the organsation has a bright future as a compassionate defender of the rights of pets to best practice care.
The community gift more than $16 million dollars annually into the Lost Dogs Home. No Kill advocates aren't the problem here - they are simply community members who want to see their money invested wisely and compassionately. The true culture clash is driven by the rancid echoes of a high-kill past who just refuse to accept they are history.