Editor’s note: Recently, Idyllwild and Pine Cove residents found in their mailboxes a letter addressed to the Idyllwild Community. Although some content was originally sent as a letter to the editor by Idyllwild resident Matthew Carpenter, we decided that this should be treated as a story since two businesses were named and alleged claims needed to be pursued and verified.
Since its successful “Mayoralty” fundraiser, questions have arisen within the community about how Animal Rescue Friends of Idyllwild, ARF, has used its donations over the past few years. In essence, the questions asked whether and how the organization is fulfilling its mission and commitment to the community.
The Town Crier interviewed ARF volunteers Mary Lou Prosin, Maria Lehman, Debbie Martin, Janice Murasko and Jacqueline Siff. Prosin, ARF treasurer, provided copies of ARF’s financial records from 2009 to 2012. She stressed ARF records are available for review at the ARF house.
In the past two weeks, the Town Crier, in reviewing ARF books, has discovered no financial irregularities and believes the questions regarding mission derive from a misunderstanding of ARF’s purpose and capabilities.
ARF members are volunteers. None are salaried. Lehman, a director, is paid for cleaning services at the ARF house. ARF’s 2011 return and previous returns clearly show cleaning fees of $5,000. ARF records chronicle cleaning services paid from 2009 to 2012. Payment for services as opposed to salaries is authorized in ARF bylaws, under certain conditions. ARF bylaws are also available for review by interested parties.
In 2011, an additional $16,115 went for veterinary services and medication reimbursement. An additional $21,340 was paid for rent, utilities and maintenance. And other enumerated expenses, such as advertising, bank charges, and grooming, totaled $18,097. This represents nearly 90 percent of the total 2011 income of $60,498.
Previous returns are comparable and available for public review.
Other questions addressed how ARF does business and contracts with Mile High Pet Grooming, whose owner Ben Davis, voluntarily spoke about these issues along with his friend, Matt Carpenter.
Key points alleged against ARF in the letter are: the nonprofit turns away dogs, doesn’t properly fulfill its rescue function, and as a result causes MHPG to absorb costs for care of ARF-rejected animals; and it doesn’t properly account for donations totaling $250,000 over the last five years.
Neither Davis nor Carpenter have ever spoken to ARF regarding their concerns. When each was asked what resolution would settle this apparent conflict, Carpenter answered, “I want to see that the money [donated to ARF] is being spent correctly, to be legal about the operation.” Davis answered, “I would prefer that agencies charged with this [dog and cat rescue and adoption] execute their responsibilities appropriately.”
Davis said he is currently housing nine dogs turned away by ARF and has adopted out an additional eight in the last year. Davis could not provide the names of people who claimed they were turned away by ARF. “I’m just taking the word of the people who are dropping the dogs off,” Davis said.
At Davis’ urging, one person, Bonnie Reynolds called the Town Crier about being turned away by ARF. Sherelated three weeks ago her daughter found a golden Lab on Tollgate, called ARF and was asked about the dog’s size and then asked if she could foster it until ARF could find the owner.
Maria Lehman said ARF volunteer Marty had taken the call and suggested taking the animal to Ben to help identify, not to house. Lehman later checked phone messages and found the dog’s owner had just called ARF and they notified the owner.
“We don’t turn animals away,” said Murasko. “We have no kennels. We’re licensed as a rescue and adoption facility. We try to find foster homes for animals until owners are found or animals are adopted.” John Welsh, public information chief for Riverside County Animal Services said that any business that keeps more than four adult dogs overnight or for extended periods requires a kennel permit.
Murasko said ARF volunteers begin by trying to find the owners. They use Facebook, webpage, signs in the area where the dog was found and emails. They also have a chip reader to help identify the pet’s owners.
In the past three years, ARF has been involved in nearly 500 rescues. There were 200 pet rescues in 2010 and directors cited 137 rescues in 2011 and 146 so far in 2012. These records are available to the public for review.
Both Davis and ARF agree that ARF paid him $4,650 in extended care fees for pets, cited in the letter.
There is some dispute regarding $1,157 that Mountain High Pet Grooming spent for “necessary shots and other veterinary care as needed.” Davis noted the money was for food for the two dogs for the time they were boarded (a year and a week for one dog, Duke, and six months for Riley).
Prosin said the agreement with Davis had been to provide full boarding, which included food at a discounted rate of $10 a day for full board, rather than the normal $20 rate. “We were never told that we had to pay additionally for food,” said Prosin. “I paid Ben promptly each month for agreed bills.”
She said ARF had been happy to partner with Mountain High Pet Grooming for boarding, grooming and pet identification. “We don’t understand the upset,” she said. “He has never contacted us on these matters.”
Regarding the letter distributed at the post office, Carpenter stated he was not responsible for disseminating it.
Davis stated that delivery was facilitated by a group of concerned community members. Davis said he would not identify the senders.