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Connecticut Humane Society accused of euthanizing some animals instead of providing treatment

March 30, 2010 |  6:26 pm
Connhumane The Connecticut Humane Society has failed to spend most of its money for its central purpose of helping animals, sometimes euthanizing animals rather than providing treatment, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Tuesday.

In a preliminary report, he said the Humane Society designated $46 million of its $52 million assets to a quasi-endowment fund from which a relatively small amount is used for general purposes. Such spending restrictions appear to be excessive and threaten to deprive the society "of resources to adequately conduct its core animal care and protection functions," Blumenthal said.

He said there have been complaints that the society euthanized cats with upper respiratory infections and dogs with heartworm -- both treatable diseases -- to avoid the cost of extended stays and additional treatment, Blumenthal said.

He also said the 129-year-old society had unspecified financial transactions with businesses whose board members have a financial interest. And, he said, the society compromised oversight by allowing Richard Johnston to serve as both president and board chairman. Blumenthal said he received "numerous and, in some instances, credible complaints describing a pervasively dysfunctional culture and serious acts of managerial misconduct."

Johnston resigned this month to pursue other philanthropic pursuits after 24 years with the society.

Christopher White, the new president, said in a statement Tuesday that many of Blumenthal's suggestions are "well under way."

"The society is in the middle of a period of what we hope will be great, positive change and we are looking at the change in management as an opportunity to improve and re-energize the organization," he said.

The society also was accused of interfering with employees' attempt to unionize, Blumenthal said. He said he referred those allegations to the National Labor Relations Board.

The International Association of Machinists won an election in December to represent 35 employees, said Everett Corey, directing business representative for the union. The society fired five employees and contested the election, delaying a decision on whether the union will be certified as the bargaining agent, he said.

Cathy DeMarco, a former employee, said she organized the Coalition for Change, a group of workers and volunteers at the society and members of the public and contacted the Machinists union because many staff members were overworked and poorly trained.

"There are so many animals and so few staff," she said in an interview. "The animals could not get adequate care for a shelter this size."

Animal care workers were upset with what DeMarco called a high number of animals euthanized due to behavioral problems, such as a dog suffering separation anxiety.

"The public who relinquished their animals to the Humane Society in desperate times, very upset about relinquishing animals, think they're giving the animal a chance, not knowing they were put down, sometimes within a day or two," she said.

-- Associated Press

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