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SVAS Board responds to community concerns

Submitted Photo These locally rescued cats sit on a window perch at their new home.

The board of the Souris Valley Animal Shelter released a statement responding to a number of questions brought to them by a community member. The 21 questions were raised at a recent board meeting, highlighting concerns with transparency from the board itself, the shelter’s adoption and foster practices, and the actions and practices of past executive leadership.

To view the full SVAS board’s response to the community member’s concerns. The full document is available here.

https://ogden_images.s3.amazonaws.com/www.minotdailynews.com/images/2023/09/27103035/Citizen-Concerns-_-Questions-1.pdf

The current SVAS board members are not known to the public, nor is this information required to be publicly disclosed by state or federal laws governing non-profits. While the SVAS board members had been listed on the shelter’s website in the past, they say they’ve been driven to keep their identities private. According to the statement, the decision came after what was described as “very personal comments and attacks” online directed toward previous board members. The statement says some board members have feared for their safety and the security of their employment due to the social media campaigns.

“The current SVAS Board members have been paying attention to feedback from the public and other rescuers, and as a result hired a new executive director and director of communications and development to fulfill the shelter’s strategic vision,” the statement read, “Several other changes have already been implemented based on community feedback this year, but it will take the board some time to review all concerns and implement any necessary changes.”

The board also fielded a question regarding the response from the previous executive director toward this online activity, which included the mass blocking on social media of critical comments and cease and desist letters to individuals involved in the activity. The board said they were told by their director the action was required as the comments and criticism were “unfounded and untrue” and negatively impacted the shelter’s ability to raise funds from local donors. Since the changeover in executive leadership, there has been the removal of social media blocks, but the board communicated they would still enforce social media guidelines for comments on their social pages.

The board was questioned if they were aware of the previous executive director’s activities over the past three years and if they approved and did nothing or were not aware, therefore not functioning as an effective board. The board responded that although it does appear that previous board members were aware of some of the actions, not all of them were. There has been a high turnover rate on the board of SVAS of the current nine-member board, with only one current board member having served on the previous board. The board provides strategic direction and oversight to the current executive director and director of Communications and Development.

Other concerns were raised regarding SVAS’s practice of transporting out of state animals to their rescue, which critics believe is impacting the local animal population in the winter months. In 2022, the board said their total intake was 835 animals, with 154 out of state transfers. The board stated SVAS had ceased all such transport, a decision that was driven by community feedback. The board defended the transports, saying they targeted animals in high-kill shelters which were quickly given to foster homes or adopters that were lined up before the animal was put on a plane and brought to SVAS. There have been 28 out of state transfers in 2023, and the board says that they may step up to help in the event of a natural disaster like a hurricane elsewhere in the country, citing the aid the Minot community received during the 2011 flood.

The board responded to a number of questions to clarify the status of various grants and contracts that SVAS has with various institutions and entities, and whether SVAS still lives up to the spirit of its stated vision and its status as a non-profit. While the board stated there had been “growing pains and challenges,” the statement pushed back contending it had done its best to address them while upholding its values.

The statement concluded by saying, “Over the last few years, there have been several instances where the board was unfairly portrayed in the media and on social media. We are doing our best going forward to answer any public questions, develop relationships with stakeholders, and help as many animals as possible.”

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