The Goathouse, in many ways, is a wonderful alternative model to standard animal shelters. For the most part it does a lot of good. As a weekly volunteer for many years, I've witnessed countless successful adoptions, and that is an amazing feeling. But when poorly managed, it's a slippery slope to ending up in a situation like Caboodle Ranch. Anyone involved in animal rescue knows it takes a village to run a rescue, not just one person. A sign of good leadership is when the founder can step back with confidence knowing the organization will run smoothly and be sustainable without her needing to be involved in every little decision. This does not mean that anyone is trying to push Siglinda out. As many people have attested, Siglinda's strengths include her passion, charisma and inspirational vision. She is highly effective at fundraising, event hosting, advocacy, networking and volunteer recruitment, and of course, the refuge would not exist without the support from her pottery sales. But the refuge needs someone who is better skilled at managing staff and volunteers in a day-to-day setting, as well as a better checks and balances system for the health of the cats and consistently enforced intake and adoption rules. An obvious solution seems to be a tighter restriction on the number of intakes. For years I've seen waves of dedicated longtime volunteers, vet techs and board members take their talents elsewhere after offering constructive criticism only to be met with no changes, empty promises, and sadly, hostility and anger. If different groups of people form the same opinion "over and over again," that doesn't seem like a bunch of jealous, conspiring cat freaks, it seems like the problem lies with management. One of the questions on the adoption application is "Are you prepared to make a 20 year commitment to this cat?" If the founder doesn't trust or instill loyalty in her staff and volunteers, how can the refuge hope to be sustainable? What is the long-term plan for all of these cats when she is no longer able to care for them?
The volunteers (current and former) in this article have not stood by idly, with nothing to do but complain and conspire. They are strong animal advocates who DO foster, transport cats to spay-neuter appointments, donate time, supplies and money, learn how to administer medication, photograph and post cats to the website, spend time getting to know the cats so they can write accurate bios, apply for grants, screen adoption applications, organize paperwork, conduct home visits, raise money, clean cages and everything else they possibly can to help these animals find permanent homes. I am sure it was not an easy decision to speak up about these issues, for fear that bad publicity would make people think the refuge is not a good place to adopt a cat, thereby causing further problems for the cats. This article may seem detrimental to the cats at first, but the point of it is to shed light on the fact that the place needs reform now while there's still a chance - including regulation of and accountability for the cat intake process, the adoption process, and proper management of staff and volunteers, before things get worse and the place gets shut down like Caboodle Ranch. I hope the board, the vets and Siglinda will use this as an opportunity to do that, for the sake of these homeless animals.
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Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
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