The Greater Birmingham Humane Society (GBHS) has reportedly sent a threatening cease and desist letter to a No Kill advocate in Alabama because she has complained about the very wealthy organization's declining save rate, among other things. So, we decided to look into it. The complaints include declining performance as well as misrepresentation of outcome statistics, a practice we have seen before.
Our research included an analysis of animal shelter reports for 2016 and 2017 year-to-date reported on the organization's own web site. We compared the Live Release Rates in those reports (many of which are no longer available on the web site) with public statements made by the organization's Executive Director, Allison Black Cornelius.
For example, on March 23, 2017, Cornelius was interviewed on WBHM Public Radio. During that interview, she began by boasting about the rapid growth of her multi-million-dollar operation. She then went on to say:
"The most important thing to me, though is the Live Release Rate is now almost 80%, which, for a shelter our ahh ... our intake numbers are the same as Phoenix and Denver and Chicago, which is crazy..."
You can listen to that portion of the interview below.
Basically, she is claiming to have an almost 80% Live Release Rate. I guess we could get into a semantical debate about what "almost" is. Our assessment, from reviewing their own documents, is that the Greater Birmingham Humane Society had a live release rate that was nowhere near 80% in 2016 and that has been declining in 2017. Monthly breakdowns of the organization's Live Release Rate, based on their own reported raw figures for 2016 and 2017 year-to-date are provided below.
The overall Live Release Rate (LRR) for GBHS was 58% for 2016, which we do not consider to be "near 80%." Furthermore, it is lower than the national average of about 75%. Given the organization's massive budget, the actual LRR for GBHS is nothing to brag about. Even more troubling is the fact that the LRR has been declining rapidly in 2017. After having a better than average month in January, things have gone down hill pretty much every month since, with August showing only a 40% LRR, and with a 4 month period of LRR of less than 50%.
Needlessly killing animals is bad. Lying about it makes it worse. Building a multi-million-dollar empire on that foundation is simply unacceptable, but is not particularly unusual in the animal sheltering industry.
We will continue to follow this story. The reported issues at GBHS are many. On the topic of misrepresenting low and declining save rates, we score this for the advocate. We recommend a full investigation into these misrepresentations by the Board of Directors. It is unacceptable for a CEO to so grossly misstate the outcomes at their shelter.