Saving Animals folds but Humane Alliance model s/n program reaches 31 states
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2008:
(Actual publication date 11-5-08.)
HOUSTON The surgical sterilization service provider Saving Animals Across Borders on October 17, 2008 declared bankruptcy. Saving Animals founder Sean Hawkins pioneered many of the methods now used by nonprofit sterilization providers worldwide. The Saving Animals Fix Houston project was to open five surgical sterilization clinics in Houston by mid-2009, but instead closed the only one that did open.
The Saving Animals assets are to be sold to reimburse creditors.
Chapter 7, the type of bankruptcy protection sought by Saving Animals, doesn t allow an entity to reorganize, explained Bill Murphy of the Houston Chronicle. In an e-mail to the Chronicle, Hawkins said, Unfavorable financial conditions have forced Saving Animals Across Borders to cease operations…No further statement will be given.
[Contact the Humane Alliance c/o 25 Heritage Drive, Asheville, NC 28806; 828-252-8804; <email@example.com>; <www.humanealliance.org>.]
Hawkins did not respond to an ANIMAL PEOPLE request for comment.
The initial Fix Houston goal was to make Houston a no-kill city by 2013. Hawkins more recently estimated that 2018 was a more realistic target. Either target would require Houston to make more rapid progress in reducing the present rate of 22.3 shelter animals killed per 1,000 residents than any city has sustained over 10 years.
PetSmart Charities, after funding many other Hawkins-directed projects over the past 15 years, in November 2007 granted $965,000 to Fix Houston, to be allocated over five years. We at PetSmart Charities are disappointed to learn that Saving Animals has filed for bankruptcy, the foundation said in a prepared statement. We remain committed to the pets and people of Houston. At this time, we cannot comment on any [other] organizations we might consider funding for spay and neuter services in the Houston area.
Hawkins debuted in humane work as a volunteer cage-cleaner and dog-walker for Citizens for Animal Protection in Houston while still in junior high school. He cofounded the Houston Animal Rights Team circa 1983-1984. He founded the Spay/Neuter Assistance Program, as a project of the Fund for Animals in 1993, took it independent in 2000, and built it into a $3 million-a-year operation, sterilizing about 50,000 dogs and cats per year in six southwestern states and northern Mexico.
Ousted from SNAP in 2005, Hawkins formed Saving Animals. Within a year Saving Animals had offered mobile sterilization programs in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and four cities in Texas. In 2006 Saving Animals and the Animal Alliance of Galveston County opened a high-volume dog and cat sterilization clinic in LaMarque, Texas, and in June 2007 conducted a $400,000 sterilization blitz in New Mexico, funded by an unprecedented state government allocation.
A financial dispute with the Animal Alliance of Galveston County appears to have been involved in the Saving Animals collapse.
In its bankruptcy filing, Saving Animals said it owed medical suppliers, banks and others $352,764, wrote Murphy. It said the Animal Alliance owed it $251,000.
Hawkins bankruptcy lawyer, Craig Cavalier, told Murphy that the debt was A precipitating factor.
But Animal Alliance board president Denise Warren said the alliance doesn t owe Saving Animals any money, Murphy wrote. The Animal Alliance board ousted Saving Animals on April 15, 2008 after Hawkins didn t comply with repeated requests for information about the clinic s finances and operations, Warren said.
Earlier, Murphy reported that the Animal Alliance clinic, then struggling, has returned to operating in the black since cutting ties with Saving Animals, said Warren.
The day after the board s action, Murphy added, Hawkins came to the clinic and was ordered off the property, said La Marque police chief Richard Price. He didn t comply, and police led him off in handcuffs, charging him with failing to leave a premises when asked, a misdemeanor.
Continued Murphy, Investigators from the state attorney general s office have sought Animal Alliance records related to Saving Animals, Warren said. Kim Hog-strom, an employee fired by Saving Animals, said she was among those who filed complaints…She said she had questions about the organization s handling of finances. Hogstrom said Hawkins fired her because he said she was using a Saving Animals computer for personal use. She said she was fired because she became suspicious about the organization s finances. Tom Kelley, spokesman for the attorney general s office, said it doesn t reveal when it is conducting an investigation.
SNAP, headed by James Weedon, DVM, after Hawkins departure, and by Stephen Brownlow since January 2008, while Weedon remains as director of operations, continues to sterilize about 50,000 dogs and cats per year in the Houston area.
In recent interviews, current and former SNAP officials said Hawkins lost his post [with SNAP] in part because the non-profit was foundering financially, reported Murphy and Kim Morgan of the Houston Chronicle. Stephen Plumb, chief financial officer during Hawkins final two years, said companies frequently threatened to cut off supplies to SNAP because accounts went unpaid for so long. Payroll for a staff of 50, he said, wasn t met several times until Hawkins used his credit cards.
Sean would spend, spend, spend whether we had money in the bank or not, Plumb told Murphy and Morgan. We took on spending that we couldn t pay for. We had to make the choice of either cutting back programs or going under.
Hawkins was the third U.S. dog and cat surgical sterilization service provider to try to expand a program to multiple states.
The first, Friends of Animals, opened the first low-cost dog and cat sterilization clinic in the U.S. at Neptune, New Jersey, in 1957, and about 20 years later opened a second clinic in Miami, Florida. By 1991 FoA refocused on facilitating surgeries done by a nationwide network of veterinarians, mostly in private practice, who participate in a coupon voucher program.
The second, the Animal Foundation of Nevada, in 1989 opened a clinic in Las Vegas that popularized high-volume sterilization by doing more than 10,000 surgeries per year. The Animal Foundation later operated clinics in Los Angeles and Dallas, but found working at multiple sites unsustainable.
The Humane Alliance of Western North Carolina has expanded across the U.S. even more rapidly than Hawkins attempted, following a different model.
Founded in Asheville by William McKelvy in 1994, the Humane Alliance sterilized 3,000 animals that year, extended services to 22 counties within North Carolina within the next 10 years, then went national.
The Humane Alliance approach is basically franchising, but the franchise holders are not affiliated with the original. Programs modeled on the Humane Alliance now work in 31 states.
We train organizations, using the Humane Alliance Protocol, but they do not adopt our name, executive director Quita Mazzina told ANIMAL PEOPLE. The organizations we mentor actually open, own, and operate their own clinics, she explained, though It is not uncommon for us to train additional staff for the other clinics.
I believe that all of the organizations who have trained implementing the Humane Alliance model, and Humane Alliance, see ourselves as stewards of a vision, Mazzina said. It has developed without direction into a national coalition. Organizations who train with us often reference themselves as Humane Alliance model clinics, but that is a by-product of our sense of connection and commitment to a plan.
The Humane Alliance in June 2008 opened an expanded clinic and training center in Asheville. The $3 million project was funded in part by pledges of $1 million each from PetSmart Charities and the American SPCA.