Thursday, May 20, 2010
A matter of ethics
I want to tell you about an experience I had after writing an article on Examiner, and article you can see here: http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-40353-Milwaukee-Pet-News-Examiner~y2010m4d17-Gentle-Hands-Animal-Rescue-and-Rehabilitation-making-a-difference-in-Cascade
I wrote an article about a local rescue that is above and beyond what a lot of private rescues are. Gentle Hands is that rescue. I say above and beyond because of how clean and orderly I found their property. I say above and beyond because of how much of themselves the owners have truly put into their endeavors. Because they are accepted and called upon by local authorities and trusted by them. You can see the article in the links to other articles listed below. Be sure to note the comment section.
Tanya Andrews-Cudworth, of Sable Bay Therapeutics (Briar Hollow Farm) in Cascade, WI posted the following comment:
“I happen to have first hand knowledge that Kristina Bludau and the Gentle Hands Rescue and Rehabilitation was “DENIED” their 501C3 License. According to the State of Wisconsin’s laws, no rescue or shelter may solicit for donations without the federal 501C3 determination which allows a LEGAL non profit organizations to collect donations. As a former CEO of Animal Intake at Wanekia Wanagi Shelter Inc. I was involved in the transactions of adoption and purchases of four of the horses Kristina and her husband claim as rescue horses at their rescue. Gentle Hands Rescue has never filed any of their non-profit tax forms (WI-990). The public has no recorded knowledge of what their donations are being spent on.
If we are to spend our hard earned dollars on fraudulent charities, the ones that file their taxes, provide proof of registration through licensing and do not buy animals to claim as rescued, are losing out on valuable contributions.”
Since a person can put any name they want in the “name bar” in comments, the writer of this article did an internet search and found Tanya’s name and business. You can see her business’s website (link removed by request). On that page is an email, and I contacted it to verify her identity. In her response she verified that she was the person who left this comment. Now let’s take a closer look at the comment.
Comments like this can be very damaging in small town communities and rural ones. It can damage innocent reputations for years. It can cause loss of business and trust. That’s because the average person just doesn’t do that much fact digging. They trust their friends and word of mouth. In these days of recession and hardship, the idea that anyone of any organization is committing “fraud” or “tax evasion” is enough to steer crucial dollars or other donations away.
Denial of non profit status: Mrs. Andrews claims “first hand knowledge” that Gentle hands was denied a 501c3 status. The first question that comes to mind is; doesn’t that mean you got the knowledge from Gentle Hands themselves? In email correspondence, Tanya stated “a colleague” gave her the information. She neglected to identify that colleague. In articles about Gentle Hands (mine and one at Sheboygan Press), Kristina states clearly that they are in the process of applying for the non profit status. In questions to update, they are nearly finished with the paperwork, so have not sent it in yet. One would submit that you cannot be denied when you haven’t applied yet. Denial comes after an application is filed, not before.
Non filing of non profit taxes: This creates quite a contradiction of terms in the comment. You can’t file non-profit taxes without a non-profit tax status. Any other income is reported via various requirements. Gentle Hands has an accountant in employ taking care such issues and keeping financial records. If they didn’t keep accurate records they would have little chance of obtaining a non profit in the first place.
Not being licensed: Investigation and question of authorities has shown that Gentle Hands has all licensing required for their level of operation.
Not legal to ask for donations: The law that finally got pointed out when certain parties complained about this response article was Wisconsin Statute chapter 440.42 that does say as quoted above about donations. There’s just one problem. They fail to quote the definitions section that shows that, in order for this law to apply to your organization you have to fall within a set of guidelines. One of them included making more than 5000 dollars a year in monetary donations. Gentle Hands (as I found out and they are more than willing to show their paperwork under proper conditions) is lucky to make 25 bucks in a month if anything at all. It also suggests that you have to have a non profit status. See above for the contradiction on that one. So, the law does not apply to Gentle Hands, not yet. So there is nothing illegal about any suggestion that they need some help to care for the animals of their private rescue.
The four horses mentioned, also not identified in email discussion, were found to be purchased two years before Gentle Hands was established. There are several horses on the property today.
So who is the mystery colleague? The only lead given is Wanekia Wanagi Shelter, located in Kiel and run by Sherry Murlasits. You can see the website for this shelter HERE. An email inquiry received no response. When a response did come along, I had written a version of this article (this one is updated) and posted it on Examiner. This made me the new target of the day with those quote complaining and Examiner decided that my article didn’t fit “publishing guidelines” after quite a debate and now it’s here instead.
When asked if Tanya was making a direct accusation she said, “I’m not accusing anyone.” However, looking at the comment, it’s hard not to see it as just that.
Then the question comes to why? Why go out of your way to attack another animal organization? The comment and email correspondence made several references to how unfair it is for money to go to Gentle Hands compared to somewhere else not identified. Is it competition then? Or is it some kind of personal vendetta? Comment from Gentle Hands is that they receive very little in monetary donations, rather they get supplies more often.
Webster’s dictionary defines smearing as attempt to harm a reputation, malign or slander. Slander is use of unfounded or false information to do harm by word of mouth. In writing, it’s called libel.
When any organization or representative (claimed or otherwise) stoops to such behavior, you have to question their ethics and whether or not you would want to do business with such people. The consumer has a right to know the ethical and unethical behaviors of any organization they put their dollar to. That was Mrs. Andrews excuse for her allegations that common sense and the law itself just proved incorrect if not outright false.
The writer of this article is not employed or partnered with Gentle Hands and can only present the facts as they are found and given. The rest is up to you.