California Correctional Center inmates, Warden Suzanne Peery and Pups on Parole organizers pose during the 10th anniversary celebration in July 2017. According to a letter from Lassen Humane Society President Ken Bunch, the Pups on Parole program has provided both the training and the adoption of more than 700 dogs. File photo

Lassen Humane Society president address resignations: Payment to vet and alleged conflict of interest fractures Humane Society Board of Directors

Ken Bunch, the acting president of the Lassen Humane Society, told Lassen News he didn’t have much to add beyond the letter he had already posted on social media when Lassen News asked him about the recent events at the Lassen Humane Society, especially the recent resignation of five board members that has erupted across local social media sites.

He told Lassen News there are there are no issues regarding the society’s finances, but instead a misunderstanding among several board members who resigned after expressing concerns about an alleged conflict of interest arising from a board member who also operates an independent animal rescue obtaining the services of a veterinarian for a rescued animal.

Bunch said the society’s attorney has addressed the issue, and said the money used for the rescued animal is not a conflict of interest because the money goes to the vet who provides the service, not the animal rescue organization.

According to Bunch’s letter, when an effort to expel that board member failed, those five board members resigned.

Here’s the text of Bunch’s letter
There has been a lot of misunderstanding about the recent unprecedented resignations of Lassen Humane Society board members. Social media has many posts that, as the current and past acting president, I feel obligated to address.

I have been attending LHS public board meetings for five years. On a limited budget, prior boards have spent annually raised funds on some great programs. The Pups on Parole program has adopted out almost 700 dogs from our local shelter. We pay the costs of spay and neutering all dogs and cats adopted out of the Lassen County Animal Shelter. We have financial aid programs for those in need of getting their dog or cat spayed or neutered.

In 2022 we received two inheritances that allowed us to expand the services to Lassen County residents and their pets. Among other things, we increased our contribution to provide financial aid for veterinarian assisted emergency dog and cat care by 50 percent. We increased our spay and neuter contribution from $50 to up to $120 for cats. We created a dog spay and neuter financial aid program. For 2023, we adopted a budget that will outspend our fundraising by $100,000.

The board’s problem started when we voted to expand our feral cat spay and neuter program in October. In March of 2022, before the inheritances, we adopted guidelines for our cat spay and neuter programs. The policy excluded breeders and rescue organizations from receiving financial aid. We were already budgeted to spend more than we would raise for the year.

Because the feral cat population is a major concern to our community, our past treasurer proposed giving financial assistance to the veterinarians. This presentation to the board was made in September. It received a favorable response from the board members in attendance. In October an agenda item was discussed to establish if we had changed our policy.

The vote was unanimous 7 to 0. The current treasurer, current president, past treasurer and current board member all say they voted to allow those payments to be paid to a veterinarian if an individual or group was considered a “rescue” needed a feral cat sterilized. The three other voters say they voted for the opposite outcome.

Regardless, it passed four to three. The board minutes encouraged the new board to consider the program enhancement when they took office. The new board would be seated the next month. If they did not want to expand the feral cat program, they could do so by voting on an agenda item. Financial aid vouchers were offered to a local rescue organization called Grace for the Voiceless and a woman in Westwood that helps feral cats get sterilized.

Without another vote, the new officers refused to honor these vouchers. We had some great new board members. Many had worked to help pets for many years. The five who resigned were very concerned that making a payment of the financial aid to the veterinarian was the same as giving benefits to a member of LHS.

Matters were further complicated that one of the rescuers was voted by our membership to be on the board.

Our LHS attorney is of the opinion that paying a vet is not a gift to a LHS member. Common sense would indicate the payment for vet services to sterilize a feral cat is a benefit to the cat and the community.

The founder of Grace for the Voiceless has been harassed and accused of wrongdoing. Paying for a spay has been called misappropriation of funds by worried board members when it is stated in our bylaws it is what we are supposed to do.

When the five resigned members failed to expel her from the board, the five members then resigned. We wish them well and encourage them in their efforts to help animals.