Most people stopped donating to Susie’s Fund a long time ago, but the fund keeps giving to the news cycle.
This week, Guilford County responded publicly to a complaint over Susie’s Fund that was lodged last summer with the NC Attorney Generals office.
The complaint was filed by Shawn Henegar, an animal welfare advocate who runs a Facebook page dedicated to keeping watch over the Guilford County Animal Shelter. Susie’s Fund was set up eight years ago with a purpose of paying medical bills for injured and abused animals in the Animal Shelter’s care.
Henegar’s complaint read, “I have been assured the money is being used for the animals, but without the transparency mechanism we were promised, there is concern it is being used for the purposes for which it was intended.”
Henegar, who also included with her complaint a list of guidelines adopted by the county when it took over the fund two years ago, added: “As you can see in the Guidelines, the animals to receive the funds were supposed to be adopted out, with their stories on the Facebook page, etc. I believe we have been very patient with the county as they continue to say they will post an update then never do and also never post on their Facebook page that any animal is receiving help with this money. It is alarming, under that scenario that the account is getting smaller.”
Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne stated in an email to the Rhino Timesthat the county had been following the guidelines that were approved by the Attorney General’s office when the county took over the fund from the now defunct United Animal Coalition (UAC).
Payne wrote, “As you will note, the complaint asserts that the county had not been sufficiently transparent in providing information about expenditures from Susie’s Fund,” and he added that the Attorney General’s office had conditioned its approval on several specific provisions and Payne said that Guilford County is meeting those conditions.
“The complaint implies that we were not providing the info on our website; however, it has been and continues to be available,” he wrote. “The complaint also states Guilford County is not putting animals receiving aid from Susie’s Fund on our Facebook account as suggested by our Guidelines. This is true. The county determined that the use of Facebook as originally discuss[ed] in the Guidelines was not always in the best interest of the animals. The primary goal is to increase adoption rates and the Animal Shelter has been very successful in increasing those numbers for all our animals. Adoption rates at the time of the adoption of the Guidelines were 52 percent and now are 72 percent.”
Payne also pointed out that those guidelines accepted by the Attorney General’s office have been subsequently revised to reflect the county’s current practice. According to Payne, before Henegar’s complaint was filed in late May, Guilford County and the Attorney General’s office discussed the issue in a telephone conference. Payne wrote that in that conference county officials stated Guilford County would continue to be committed to complying with the conditions set forth in the Attorney General’s 2016 letter.
“To date, the AG’s office has taken no further action,” Payne wrote.
Payne added that Guilford County continues to discuss Susie’s Fund with one or more of the fund’s founders to insure compliance with the intent of the fund and he stated that Guilford County had heard no concerns from any of the fund’s founders.
Roberta Wall, a shelter supporter who was instrumental in establishing Susie’s Fund, told the Rhino Timesearlier this month that she believes Guilford county is making big strides in improving animal welfare at the shelter and she said she had no complaints about the county’s actions regarding the fund.
Guilford County now plans on spending down Susie’s Fund and closing it out once the remaining money – now just over $100,000 – is gone. The county also expects to open another fund with a different name to provide a broad range of benefits to the animals at the shelter. Payne stated that the use of Susie’s Fund is restricted to a very limited set of instances such as emergency vet expenses for abused animals.
“This restriction leaves out a significant portion of our animal populations,” Payne wrote. “Our citizens have expressed an interest in various ways to help all of our animals and the Guilford County Animal Shelter is greatly appreciative and supportive of that interest. This is the main reason why the county is contemplating creating a more expansive fund to help all animals and all needs.”