SPCA International debut raises questions

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2007:

MONTREAL–Complaints about SPCA International promotional
tactics began to reach ANIMAL PEOPLE almost as soon as the SPCA
International web site went up on January 5, 2007.
Proclaimed a media release from Bold New World, the
self-described “Los Angeles-based interactive agency” that produced
the web site, “The mission of SPCA International is to raise the
awareness of the abuse of animals to a global level, and to mount
efforts to enhance animal welfare throughout the world. SPCA
International accomplishes this mission by working both independently
and as an umbrella organization for local SPCA organizations in all
More than 11,000 animal charities working in more than 140
nations might have thought they had already raised “awareness of the
abuse of animals to a global level,” but no one objected to further
“efforts to enhance animal welfare throughout the world.”

Pierre Barnoti

What raised eyebrows and questions was that SPCA
International had existed even on paper for less than a year.
Incorporated in Delaware in 2006 by Montreal SPCA executive director
Pierre Barnoti, SPCA Inter-national had yet to accomplish much
visible mission activity, had yet to complete a fiscal year or file
an IRS Form 990 financial accountability statement, and was not yet
an umbrella organization for any local SPCAs, as Barnoti
acknowledged to ANIMAL PEOPLE more than a month later.
“Bold New World developed a site that leveraged the SPCA’s
rightful position as the premier authority on pet care and no-kill
shelters by offering a free repository of pet care information,” the
media release added.
The SPCA International web site has incorporated links to
various other online information providers, mostly long established.
Original content, as of late November 2007, is still sparse.
Rather than describing SPCA International achievements, the “success
stories” section allows visitors to post stories about their own
rescued pets–few if any of whom appear to have been helped by SPCA
ANIMAL PEOPLE received a second SPCA International mission
statement on February 7, 2007. “SPCA International, Inc.,” it
said, “was created to prevent cruelty to and the abuse of animals,
educate the public about animal welfare, encourage spaying and
neutering, and promote awareness of problems of animal cruelty.
SPCA Inter-national also plans to organize a volunteer program,” the
statement added, “composed of veterinarians and veterinary students
traveling to Third World countries to help implement sterilization as
a method of animal control.”
Barnoti told ANIMAL PEOPLE that he had already led several
expeditions to do veterinary outreach in various parts of Latin
Reported Rene Bruemmer of the Montreal Gazette on February 8,
2007, “Barnoti is seen by some as a savior who turned around an
organization [the Montreal SPCA] once known for mismanagement and
regular flirtations with bankruptcy. Since he took the helm 12 years
ago, the association has paid off its debt of $1.25 million, and
for the last three years has generated a modest profit. Its donor
list has swelled from 700 in 1994 to more than 127,000, Barnoti
But as ANIMAL PEOPLE reported in December 2006, Barnoti’s
aggressive mailings have also drawn public warnings to donors from
the Edmonton SPCA, the Moose Jaw Humane Society, and the Nova
Scotia SPCA. Originally incorporated in 1869 as the Canadian SPCA,
the first humane society in Canada, but operating a shelter only in
Montreal, the Montreal SPCA solicits funds throughout Canada as the
Canadian SPCA, using post office boxes in other provinces to receive
“Type in ‘SPCA’ into Google,” Bruemmer continued, “and the
top hit is SPCA International, a new venture started by the Montreal
SPCA seeking donations from abroad, with a New Hampshire address.”
Barnoti said donations would “go toward international efforts, as
well as the Montreal SPCA,” Bruemmer wrote, noting that “The SPCA
International web site mentions the Canadian SPCA in its history,
but doesn’t include any mention of its Montreal shelters.”
After several quiet months, SPCA International generated a
second flurry of inquiries to ANIMAL PEOPLE in connection with a
“shelter of the month” program run by a short-term executive director
named Michael Zambotti; claims about involvement in disaster relief
and in helping U.S. personnel stationed in Iraq to bring pets home;
and aggressive attempts to absorb other humane organizations through

Terri Crisp

The disaster relief activities, the “Baghdad Buddies”
program, and–since Zambotti’s departure–the “shelter of the month”
program are all coordinated by Terri Crisp, identified as “SPCA
International’s Animal Resource and Rescue Consultant.”
Crisp was disaster relief coordinator for United Animal
Nations from 1991 to 2001. She left to form her own organization,
Noah’s Wish, after controversies surfaced about her work during
Hurricane Floyd and after the terrorist attacks of September 11,
2001. Reportedly receiving $8.4 million in donations after Hurricane
Katrina in 2005, Noah’s Wish came under investigation by the
California Attorney General over how the funds were allocated. Crisp
resigned in March 2007, but soon formed a new organization with
parallel programs called Animal Resources.
“Baghdad Buddies,” as described on the SPCA International
web site, closely resembles the five-year-old Military Mascots
project, coordinated by Bonnie Buckley of Merrimac,
Massachusetts–apparently not just coincidentally.
“Terri Crisp contacted me via e-mail and by telephone about
two weeks ago,” Buckley told ANIMAL PEOPLE on November 13, 2007,
“and I was more than shocked to see this site go up. They are
basically just attempting a spin-off of my already successful
program. I don’t understand why the SPCA International site was put
into action,” Buckley continued. “My small and loyal mascot program
has been active for four years, and has done very well to help those
who needed the assistance.”
Barnoti told ANIMAL PEOPLE that, “The program designed at saving
dogs adopted by military personnel in Iraq stems from a request we
received at SPCA International regarding a dog called Charlie.
Charlie’s case has inspired us to do more and to expand this program
to save as many animals as possible who had been adopted by U.S.
military personnel, who are requested to leave them behind when
returning home.”
Responded Buckley, “The sergeant [who is bringing Charlie
home], Terri Crisp, and at least 10 other folks who have contacted
me about helping Charlie have all been told that Military Mascots
will cover all expenses to get Charlie to the U.S.–and yet, SPCA
International is asking for donations to get him and other pets
SPCA International also posted details of the arrangements
being made on behalf on Charlie, including how he is to be routed
through Kuwait. Buckley, though she has readily explained her
animal transport arrangements to ANIMAL PEOPLE off the record, has
avoided disclosing information which might jeopardize her connections.
“I was appalled,” Buckley told ANIMAL PEOPLE. Buckley said
she had asked Crisp to remove the potentially compromising details
from the SPCA International web site, but two weeks later the
information in question appeared to still be there.
“Quite frankly,” Buckley said, “there is no doubt in my
mind, as well as in the minds of my contacts who assist me for
shipping, that this new website will cause issues for my program.”
One of the biggest issues is that both keeping pets on
military posts in Iraq and bringing them back to the U.S. contradict
U.S. military policy. Any U.S. military personnel found to be in
violation of policy could be charged with disobedience of orders.
“I think their venture is bad news for my program and the
troops,” Buckley said.
Repeatedly checking the “Baghdad Buddies” web page, with a
variety of common browsers, ANIMAL PEOPLE found that with most
browsers, albeit not all, a disclaimer about the use of funds
raised for the program flashes only briefly before receding into
white text against a camouflage background that makes it virtually
“Donations received for this program will be used in three
ways: 1) To cover the costs associated with bringing companion
animals, befriended by United States military while serving in the
Middle East, to their new homes in the United States; 2) To cover
transportation costs for companion animals belonging to active
military personnel who need financial assistance for this purpose
when they are transferred to another military base; 3) To further
the mission of SPCA Inter-national to stop euthanizing adoptable and
healthy animals. The outcomes of this program will be maintaining the
human/animal bond and a reduction in surrendered animals.”
Said Barnoti, “The program is less than a week old, but you
have to start somewhere.” The nearly invisible mentions that
donations might be used for purposes other than bringing animals to
the U.S. from Iraq, Barnoti acknowledged, are requested by the law
firm that we have retained to advise us on this specific program.

Paul Irwin

While looking into “Baghdad Buddies,” ANIMAL PEOPLE became
aware of SPCA International proposals of merger with small but
successful existing organizations. The key correspondence was signed
by Richard Gordon, of Bold New World.
“Richard Gordon is a vendor who has worked extensively with
the Humane Society of the U.S. in creating and organizing their web
site,” Barnoti told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “I was introduced to him by
Paul Irwin, ex-president of HSUS and presently president of the
American Bible Society. Gordon is not representing SPCA
International,” Barnoti said, five days after the date of a letter
in which Gordon made a merger proposal to the president of a smaller
charity, “but has undertaken contractually the creation and
maintenance of SPCA International’s website.”
Indeed, the Bold New World web site includes mentions of
HSUS, the American Bible Society, and SPCA International among a
long list of clients.
The Bold New World web site also included an endorsement from
Paul Irwin’s son, Craig W. Irwin, president of Converg-ence Direct
The SPCA International modus operandi began to look familiar.
As vice president of HSUS 1975-1996, and president 1996-2004, Paul
Irwin became the highest-paid executive to that point in the history
of animal welfare, collecting a peak of $570,325 in 1998, including
deferred compensation. Irwin even cofounded a private bank. Irwin
postponed his scheduled retirement for two years when the HSUS board
repeatedly failed to agree on a successor, but was ushered into
retirement after the election of current HSUS president Wayne Pacelle
in April 2004.
During the next several months ANIMAL PEOPLE heard from a
variety of sources that Irwin appeared to be working on a plan to
create a rival organization to HSUS by merging smaller charities
whose programs when combined could become magnets for donors who
might be alienated if Pacelle took HSUS in a “radical” direction by
promoting vegetarianism and pushing animal rights– exactly as
Pacelle has done, with significant fundraising success.
The rumors stopped after Irwin became president of the
American Bible Society, a charity with at least five times the assets
of HSUS.
Said Barnoti, “I know that Irwin was bitter about the take
over of the HSUS by Pacelle, but I believe that the American Bible
Society has made him an offer he couldn’t refuse! The rest is
“Paul Irwin has no role with SPCA International,” Barnoti added. “I
met with him for advice two years ago. I told him what I wanted to
do. He advised me to meet Rich-ard Gordon, who had gotten him a lot
of positive results from the HSUS web site. My sole interest in Paul
Irwin,” Barnoti insisted, “is his vast experience as president of
the HSUS.”
IRS Form 990 filings don’t break out either the cost of
web-based fundraising, or the returns from it. But according to
figures that HSUS gave to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, their
web-based fundraising during the last three years of Irwin’s tenure
brought in totals of $30,000, $45,000, and $180,000.
“I was under the impression that during Irwin’s tenure the
web fundraising due to Hurricane Katrina went through the roof,”
Barnoti responded.
But Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans sixteen months after
Irwin’s departure. In the interim, revamping the HSUS web site and
web-related fundraising approach had been among Pacelle’s priorities.

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