American Humane Association is sued by former set animal supervisor

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  January/February 2013:

WASHINGTON D.C.––American Humane Association board chair Eric Bruner “is no longer serving on the board,  and we thank him for his six years of service,”  the AHA said in a January 9,  2013 statement.

Bruner’s departure was announced 10 days after the AHA was sued in Los Angeles Superior Court by 13-year employee Barbara Casey for alleged wrongful dismissal.  

Casey until January 3,  2012 was director of production for the AHA film and television unit.  On-set supervision by the AHA,  with no violations of the AHA animal care guidelines,  qualifies screen productions to display a “No animals were harmed” banner among the production credits.

Casey in her lawsuit alleged that Stewart Productions,  makers of the Home Box Office series Luck, “pressured AHA to allow them to violate the AHA’s animal safety standards,  guidelines,  and/or recommendations.”  Four horses died during the year-plus that Luck epsiodes were made––three on set,  one off.

The Casey lawsuit charges that “horses were often drugged to perform,”  that “underweight and sick horses unsuited for work were routinely used,”  and that the “production defendants intentionally misidentified horses so that the humane officers and/or animal safety representative could not track their medical histories,  experience,  and/or suitability for use.”

Continues the lawsuit,  “Plaintiff repeatedly complained to AHA and the production defendants about horses being criminally abused,  neglected,  and/or mistreated on set…Plaintiff urged AHA to get the police,  the district attorney,  and/or the city attorney involved…AHA bowed to political and financial pressure and refused to report the production defendants’ conduct to the authorities.”

Casey was terminated on January 3,  2012,  about two and a half months before the Luck series was cancelled.

HBO in a prepared statement said,  “We took every precaution to ensure that our horses were treated humanely and with the utmost care, exceeding every safeguard of all protocols and guidelines required of production.  Barbara Casey was not an employee of HBO,  and any questions regarding her employment should be directed to the AHA.”

The AHA declined to comment while the case is in litigation.

“The AHA statement did not specify the reasons for Bruner’s departure,”  observed Richard Verrier of the Los Angeles Times. “The AHA paid $233,863 to Bruner’s business partner,  Gregory Dew, to provide unspecified consulting services to the nonprofit organization,”  Verrier reported on October 4,  2012,  “making him the highest paid ‘independent contractor’ for the AHA in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2011,”  according to IRS Form 990.

“Dew was Bruner’s business partner in Spectrum Consulting Group,  a management consulting firm in Austin, Texas,”  Verrier continued.  “Records showed that another board member also had ties to Spectrum.  Former interim AHA chief executive George Casey,”  who was also a former AHA board member,  “had been managing partner and consulting principal in Spectrum since 2009,  according to his LinkedIn site.  He was paid $277,102 by the AHA during the same period that the charity compensated Dew for his services.”

“There was no impropriety,”  AHA chief executive Robin Ganzert told Verrier at the time.  “The board followed its policy for conflicts of interest and everything was disclosed.”   Ganzert,  formerly deputy director of philanthropic services at the Pew Charitable Trusts,  was hired after the AHA retained Dew.

Named interim AHA board chair was Mabel McKinney Browning,  longtime director of the American Bar Association Division for Public Education,  and an AHA board member since March 2008.

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