Just to clear up a couple of things

Published 12:08 am Thursday, June 23, 2011

I’d like to answer some important issues raised by Tony Byrne’s Top of the Morning published May 29.

The Natchez-Adams County Humane Society is a private Mississippi corporation, subject to the laws of this state and the ordinances of the City of Natchez and Adams County. We are not a government entity and are not required to hold public meetings.

We used to have formal membership meetings, but they were poorly attended. Instead, we now have numerous events throughout the year to which the public is invited, and our board members are always present to answer any questions or concerns anyone may have. Also, at least twice a year, we send out informative newsletters to our membership, with a progress report on the new building in every issue.

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Our directors meet at least once a month and anyone is welcome to add their names to our agenda if they have questions about our organization. We’re always open to suggestions for improvement. We have nothing to hide.

We are audited annually by local CPAs and submit an annual IRS Form 990, which is a matter of public record.

Our building fund was established in 2004 with the objective that we would concentrate on raising funds and then work on concrete plans after a sufficient amount was raised. We cannot afford to carry a mortgage, so having the money in hand took precedence over every other consideration. From the beginning, all donations designated for the new building have been kept in separate accounts from our general funds. Not one dime of those donations has gone toward operating the old shelter.

We are not scam artists. NACHS was incorporated almost 40 years ago and most of our directors are long-time or lifelong residents of this area. We do have bylaws, we do elect officers and we do follow local, state, federal and IRS regulations to the best of our ability. For Mr. Byrne to imply otherwise, without any evidence of our wrongdoing, does our organization a terrible disservice.

We do receive allocations from the city and county, which go toward caring for the animals. These allocations are not open-ended donations. Every year we submit detailed budget requests to the aldermen and supervisors, and we manage those public monies as carefully as we do individuals’ donations.

It should be mentioned that these allocations fall far short of the total cost of animal care borne by the NACHS, with city and county amounts combined approaching only 30 percent of total expenses, excluding labor.

I’m sure everyone understands that in the current economic climate, expenses are up and revenues are down. The cost of pet food and vaccines has increased dramatically in the last few years. In fact, our total expenses have doubled in the last decade.

We lose money on every pet that’s adopted. Yes, we have to put down a high percentage of animals, but that won’t change with a new building. We would still have budgetary constraints on how many animals we can maintain, no matter what size the new building is.

Incidentally, more than 90 percent of our general income is spent locally, supporting businesses and jobs right here in our community. That will never change.

Mr. Byrne seems to believe that our current directors are incapable of managing the new building and should be replaced by salaried businessmen. I can tell you that businessmen who focus on the bottom line are not compatible with our organization. We are not selling plastic bags, but rather we are dealing with thinking, feeling, living creatures.

There are daily heartbreaks and hard decisions involving health issues and human cruelty and ignorance. Businessmen have folded in the past, and I predict would not last long in the future.

The $100,000 pledge Mr. Byrne mentioned was contingent on the complete overhaul of our organization, disregarding the almost 100 years of combined experience represented by our current board.

Our board members do not receive monetary compensation, because we are committed to our cause, not because we are gullible idiots.

More than a month ago we posted a statement about the proposed new building on our website, natchezpetadoptions.org. It’s there for all to see and explains our rationale for the direction we’ve chosen. We have not voted on a final plan because we do not have one yet, but that will materialize very soon.

The new building will be first-rate and well planned, and no one wants to see it completed more than we do. But it would be foolhardy for us to construct a building that we could not possibly maintain.

We have knowledgeable people advising us every step of the way, and progress is being made right now.

We are planning for the future while keeping lessons of the past, as well as present trends, firmly in mind.

We are so grateful to the many supporters of NACHS who have contributed to our building fund while generously maintaining their level of giving to allow us to keep our doors open at the shelter.

I have every confidence that the new building will not disappoint them.

Barbara Platte is president of the board of directors of the Natchez-Adams County Humane Society. She can be reached by mail at P.O. Box 549, Natchez, MS 39121.