To Tammy and the Board of Directors of The Wildcat Sanctuary,
It’s been over a week since the KSTP report aired. That has given you time to react to the situation and allowed the public a chance to assess your behavior. Instead of getting answers, the week has only inspired more questions. Because I have yet to receive a response to the first letter I sent you, I thought I’d follow up and give you an update on what I think.
Unlike my first letter, I don’t think I’ll have many questions for you here because I think you’ve heard them all. You’ve heard, and chosen to ignore, all of the relevant questions that key supporters have asked. You have told us that all of your time is being spent taking care of the cats, and while I am grateful that there has been “no break in the continuity of their care”, I have to wonder why the board can’t draft a summary of the real situation and answer our questions. The board is not involved in the care of the animals. They are the leadership behind the organization and they are the key decision makers that have brought us to this point.
Since the report aired last week, volunteers and donors have heard nothing but vague references to a "time of transition”, and “a team of professionals” who are dedicating “all time and energy” to the care of the cats. We still don’t know what the “transition” is or why the original staff is gone. We know that allegations have been brought against Tammy which state she has been embezzling funds from the Sanctuary and now it seems she once again has complete control of the TWS as Executive Director. These allegations have been backed by a Dorsey & Whitney report that has not been released to the public. Communications have refuted this claim by saying an undisclosed independent audit was done and it supposedly found nothing. However without the 2012 annual report, which has not been posted as it should be, we have no way of verifying any of these claims.
We know that the board has experienced a 100% turn over in the past year and that dedicated members of the board have removed themselves one by one without explanation for their resignation, or recognition for their service. We also know that internships were terminated early and winter internships have been canceled.
The professionals who have been brought in to care for the cats come from many non-accredited sanctuaries from out of state. We do not know what qualifies these individuals to take care of the cats at the Sanctuary, many of whom have very special needs and do not respond well to high stress situations. It is impossible for us to know whether the standards which were established by the former keepers are being maintained to the level that made TWS so admirable in the first place.
During the initial shock of learning about the report, many volunteers, donors, and supporters had questions about what was happening. They did what is natural to people these days and took to social media to get answers. These questions were not disrespectful, they were honest and concerned. Instead of being treated with dignity and respect, questions were promptly deleted and ignored. By deleting the comments, you not only showed that you would rather maintain the veneer of innocence than get the situation under control but that anyone that cares enough to dig deeper does not matter to you.
There’s nothing like saying “There’s nothing to see here” to inspire curiosity. Hiding so many questions and concerns with such rabid ferocity only makes an already bad situation worse.
Give to the Max Day
Because of the behavior which I have described above, I will not be donating to TWS for Give to the Max day this Thursday. Please know that it pains me to say this because I want the cats to continue receiving the absolute best care and I continue to believe in the stated mission of the Sanctuary. However I must put my money where my mouth is. I cannot support the leadership that has chosen to treat their supporters so poorly. I demand that serious consideration be given to management and that stakeholders (donors and volunteers) be given a chance to evaluate, nominate, and vote for leadership who truly represents the values of the organization. As of now, we still don’t know anything about the board members, other than their names. This is unacceptable given the current situation.
Instead of donating to TWS for Give to the Max day, I will be giving money to Renee Radziwon-Chapman’s memorial fund. She should not have been left alone at Wild Cat Haven and expected to maintain the sanctuary on her own while leadership helped TWS during this self-inflicted crisis.
Since late 2010, I have participated in what is known as the "Tiger Fleet", a group of supporters who promote TWS by having vinyl decals of the tigers Titan and Lilly attached to their car. I have faithfully answered questions and encouraged individuals to learn more about TWS. As this situation continues to unfold, I cannot condone the current leadership by continuing to support an organization that has treated people so poorly and used its mission to rescue animals to justify this behavior. I will be removing the decals from my car within the week.
Finding the Truth
In a recent email from Tammy, she told me “It may be easy to make some assumptions given the silence and receiving only one side of the story…” but I want to take this opportunity to assure her and everyone on the board that my opinions are based not only on the news report, but also on the experiences of many individuals over the past year. My own experience during this crisis is enough to formulate my opinion on the current leadership. Please do not belittle our concerns by weakly deflecting the argument.
I have heard many sides of this story and eagerly await hearing the full truth, be it from you or an investigation made public.
It should be clear to you by now that those who have expressed concern during this crisis do so for the cats. Ultimately we want The Wildcat Sanctuary to succeed, but we question the current management and feel that a different kind of restructuring should be done to help TWS maintain its high standards and sustainability.
P.S. If you have an ounce of humanity in you, you will encourage your network of supporters to consider donating to Renee's family during their time of need... just a suggestion.