Is it time for Helen Jones of ISAR to retire?

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1995:

CLARKS SUMMIT, Pennsylvania–– Dave
Sickles says he moved to northern Pennsylvania, at his own
expense, on the promise of an “executive level position”
starting August 1 with the International Society for Animal
Rights. But when he reported for duty, Sickles says, ISAR
founder and president Helen Jones told him he wouldn’t be
hired, because there was purportedly nothing for him to do.
Yet, Sickles continues, there was plenty for him to
do in the weeks preceding his purported hiring date, when he
fulfilled ISAR assignments as a volunteer. Once in late June,
Sickles avers, he bought a case of white wine on Jones’
instructions at a local liquor store, using an ISAR charge
card. On several occasions, Sickles asserts, he witnessed
Jones having “five glasses of wine for lunch.” As a volunteer,
he says, he shared office space with “sixty or seventy
cats, many of whom were sick and dying.” And Sickles
claims he saw other signs of bizarre behavior by Jones,
including bouts of fear of venturing outside, called agoraphobia,
that were so severe she could scarcely cross the street.


Sickles says he submitted a bill of $1,000 for moving
expenses to Jones, who reimbursed $350. Sickles says he
may sue Jones for the rest––and meanwhile he’s going on the
record with what he saw, he states, because he strongly
believes something should be done about it.
Sickles acknowledges that Jones might in turn sue
him, “but what’s Jones going to sue me for?” he asks. “My
dog? I gave up everything to come to Pennsylvania.”
Sickles’ testimony might be taken as just badmouthing,
except that ANIMAL PEOPLE has received
comparable testimony for years from many other people currently
and formerly associated with ISAR. On May 21, for
example, ANIMAL PEOPLE received a note from an insider
who described a cash flow crunch and added, “ISAR is
much worse than you could ever imagine. Believe me! Helen
Jones is much more than a hard-drinking woman!”
On September 5, this person confirmed Jones’
receipt of questions from ANIMAL PEOPLE c o n c e r n i n g
Sickles’ allegations and the similar allegations of others. We
have received no official response. But we did receive a later
message from a person within ISAR who said, “I know who
your source is. Make sure LM and her followers put documentation
in your hands before you open your mouth.
Otherwise, knowing ISAR’s legal counsel, you will be in for
a long legal battle.”
Figuring out who “LM” might be led to many other
sources, including Lynn Mannheim, an activist associated
with Jones in both New York City and Pennsylvania off and
on for more than 20 years. But Mannheim et al just confirmed
information already received from many others.
The ANIMAL PEOPLE investigation of claims
that Jones may be an alcoholic, an agoraphobic, and an animal
collector actually began on October 10, 1991, when former
ISAR employee Amie Hamlin told both editor Merritt
Clifton and publisher Kim Bartlett that she was fired, after
six and a half months, for insisting that several sick cats in
the ISAR office should receive veterinary care. Hamlin wanted
someone to help the cats. In November 1991, she canvased
the halls at the Decade for the Animals conference in
Washington D.C., approaching Jones’ longtime acquaintances
with a handwritten affidavit, begging them to use their
influence for the cats. Apparently none did. Though Hamlin
seemed sincere, her complaints were apparently taken by
most listeners as sour grapes over job loss. No one wanted to
confront Jones, who was also at the conference.
Our dossier grew as we learned of many others who
had come and gone quickly under similar circumstances,
including several of substantial reputation: Steve Siegel, former
New York director of Trans-Species Unlimited; Susan
Regan, recognized for work with PETA and the Association
of Veterinarians for Animal Rights; and Betsy Swart, now
Washington D.C. director for Friends of Animals.
The most significant departure was probably the
January 1992 resignation of Nancy Anne Payton, Jones’
well-respected assistant since 1981. Previously with the
Massachusetts SPCA, and now with the Florida Wildlife
Federation, Payton initially refused to discuss her reasons for
leaving. But she spoke out to ANIMAL PEOPLE at last in
September 1994, after further allegations reached us from
ISAR staff about large numbers of animals––both cats and
dogs––going without veterinary treatment in Jones’ care.
Animal collector?
“Helen Jones is an animal collector,” Payton stated.
“I left there because I realized I had become an enabler, both
with the animal-collecting and with the drinking.”
Both Payton and Sickles say Jones in their presence
repeatedly rationalized personal use of funds donated to ISAR
by insisting that the money is given to her, to be spent as she
sees fit. Payton particularly objected to Jones’ use of a costly
suite at the Shelburne Murray Hill hotel on trips to New York,
“while I’d stay in a $52-a-night room at a smaller hotel
around the corner.
“I didn’t mind staying in the smaller place,” Payton
continued, “if it was saving money to help animals, but I
didn’t see why she needed the suite.”
The last straw for Payton, she confirmed in a second
interview on September 9, 1995, came when former
ISAR board members Paul Stiga and Mary Leah Weis failed
in an attempt to remove Jones from day-to-day operations,
under terms which would have left her with her title, official
status, and much of her $68,250-a-year salary. Both Stiga
and Weis were ousted from the board, which now includes
Jones; her longtime attorney, Henry Holtzer; his wife,
Ericka Holtzer; Carol Michael Wade, of Jupiter Beach,
Florida; and Alvin Van Pelt Hart, a retired Episcopal priest
from New York City. Holtzer, now living in Santa Fe, New
Mexico, reputedly confers with Jones often by telephone,
but none of the board spend much time in Clarks Summit.
At least one departed ISAR staffer won a judgement
against ISAR. According to a Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Board of Review
decision rendered on May 9, 1994, former ISAR computer
department manager Rosemary Ketchur was unjustly forced
to resign and unfairly denied unemployment benefits in
December 1993. Among the findings of fact in that case:
“On November 29, 1993, claimant returned to work after the
Thanksgiving holiday and discovered her working area was
moved to the upper level. Claimant’s desk was two and a half
feet from a large drafty window. In the office were 20 cats,
two dogs, seven litter boxes for the cats to relieve themselves,
and paper on the floors for the dogs’ feces. On occasion
the cats would urinate on the working area, resulting in
an unsanitary working environment.”
ANIMAL PEOPLE learned that allegations similar
to those of the past five years reached national animal protection
leaders, who did nothing, almost a decade ago, in connection
with the ouster of Jones and her two older sisters from
the board of the Lackawanna County SPCA, which they
helped found and run. According to Lorraine Bernardi, then
the LCSPCA president, shelter manager Margaret Jones, the
middle sister, now deceased, had become “too ill, physically
and emotionally, to continue in her job. Helen thought that
shielding her was doing her a favor.”
Recalls Payton, “They had a shelter in Scranton in
Nay Aug Park, near the now closed Nay Aug Zoo. It was a
questionable operation. I was put on the board, but I quit
soon afterward. The shelter was not hooked up to a sewer.
They were dumping the stuff down an old mine shaft. There
was no telephone, and no adoptions. Eventually it was
closed and bulldozed. The Helen V. Brach Foundation helped
fund the opening of a new shelter in Waverly, and Helen
Jones was finally ousted from the board soon afterward.”
The apparent conspiracy of silence reflects Jones’
stature as one of the grand dames of the animal protection
movement. Now 70, Jones was first identified with animal
protection at the national level in connection with the
American Humane Association. Unhappy with AHA, she in
1954 contributed substantially to the founding of the National
Humane Society, now known as the Humane Society of the
United States. But within five more years, Jones broke with
the NHS to start yet another group, the National Catholic
Society for Animal Welfare. Publishing full-page ads in
nationally circulated newspapers, and staging perhaps the
first protest at the White House on behalf of animals on July
10, 1966, Jones and the NCSAW were instrumental in securing
passage of the 1966 Laboratory Animal Welfare Act,
forerunner of today’s Animal Welfare Act.
Eight years later Jones renamed her organization the
International Society for Animal Rights––the first national
group to identify itself with animal rights.
ISAR in 1992 commenced Homeless Animals Day,
observed each August. Candlelighting ceremonies outside
animal shelters were initially a pretext for shelter-bashing in
many communities, but then shelters themselves became
involved as sponsors. Now, testifies Vicky Crosetti, executive
director of the Knox County Humane Society in
Knoxville, Tennessee, “It’s a boon to our adoption program,
because it makes people aware that we have animals who
need homes.”
Because of Jones’ prominence, a scandal involving
her could have national repercussions.
In the Pennsylvania coal mine country surrounding
Clarks Summit, animal protection people well remember how
the walls fell in on Jones’ longtime friend Ann Millen just
three years ago––and it’s only a matter of time, they say,
before the same thing happens to Jones herself.
In November 1992, Scranton authorities raided
Millen’s Agency for Animal Welfare, finding two dozen dogs
in Millen’s custody at a kennel that had been condemned for
zoning violations under previous ownership several years
before, plus 41 caged cats in the home of Millen’s longtime
associate, Denise Matyewicz.

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *