Denise Crosby: Animal shelter folks fighting like cats and dogs
By Denise Crosby firstname.lastname@example.org March 21, 2012 11:50AM
Currently "Adopt" is raising four young puppies that are six weeks old and will be up for adoption in two weeks at "Adopt" animal shelter in Naperville on Monday, March 19, 2012. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 22, 2012 8:04AM
This headline was way too easy to write. Unfortunately, it most accurately reflects what’s going on behind the scenes at A.D.O.P.T. Pet Shelter in Naperville: Tensions have escalated to the point there’s a nasty name-calling blog, volunteers are being banned from membership; legal threats are flying; and at the group’s meeting last Thursday, police were even called.
No arrests were made. No lawsuits have been filed — but it might only be a matter of time because neither side seems willing to back down.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think some people are motivated by what’s best for the animals,” says 15-year volunteer Connie McDonald. “It’s a power struggle ... It all boils down to ego.”
Another volunteer, Mary Ann Gada, says in her many years working with animal groups — including two decades with A.D.O.P.T. — she’s “never seen anything this bad.”
While the controversy has been described as a cat versus dog thing, it’s obvious the problem is human. Some say it’s all about old guard versus new. Others have described it as progressive versus grass roots. But there’s no doubt it also involves personality conflicts — with board President Sandra Boston at the epicenter.
Wendy Weis says the problems began a few years ago when, after being elected board treasurer, she determined “the finances were in horrible shape.” But when the Oswego woman, a former controller with a master’s degree in finance, began challenging the way things were run, she fell out of favor with Boston.
Bob Mickolayck, who’s been with A.D.O.P.T. since 1992 — almost from it inception — became upset after Boston accused him of calling the Department of Agriculture on a group of sick pups brought in from Kentucky.
“I was against them bringing them here because we have plenty of local dogs that need care,” he said. “But I never called the authorities and she has no proof I did.”
In the end, there’s a group of about 10 who have become plenty vocal about their belief A.D.O.P.T. is not being run efficiently — from marketing and fundraising to care of animals. Things got decidedly nastier last October after Boston was re-elected president and three former board members were not.
Boston said the board had no choice but to ban some of the antagonists because of their vile campaign to discredit her.
“This group was pushing change in an aggressive, confrontational way,” agreed volunteer Janet Garcia. “They were making a mess, blowing things out of proportion and interrupting meetings. Sandy is trying to stabilize things.”
Former shelter director Rich Glessner said he resigned last fall because the work environment became so hostile, and is now running the clinic for Fox Valley Animal Welfare League in North Aurora. But he, too, is convinced A.D.O.P.T.’s leadership is not forward-thinking in its approach.
“Most groups embrace growth,” he said. “They didn’t seem all that interested in change.”
Weis says they have no choice but to take this dog fight public.
“No one wants to see its demise,” she said of A.D.O.P.T. “But they will be bankrupt in three or four years if something isn’t done.”
Boston, however, staunchly defends the shelter and its finances. Adoptions are up 5 percent, she says, membership is strong and three new sponsors were added to the upcoming walkathon.
There are other numbers equally important: Connie McDonald, who backs Boston, tells me the shelter takes in 800 to 1,000 animals a year and cares for them “as if they were our own.” That includes everyone’s favorite stray, Windy The Wonder Dog, who’s been at A.D.O.P.T. since January when Aurora Animal Control captured her after being on the run for six months with a 5-pound tumor hanging from her belly.
For Windy’s sake alone, I’m hoping A.D.O.P.T. works out all its dog-gone people issues so the shelter can go back to doing what it does best.
“We started out with nothing,” said Gada, a 20-year volunteer who also supports Boston. “It has been a long road, but we’ve built it up to a wonderful shelter. I’m a little bit angry at all of this (drama) ... but mostly I’m just sad.”