By Sara-Megan Walsh
More than a dozen Grateful Paw Cat Shelter volunteers and residents attended the Huntington Town Board meeting Aug. 15 to demand action: Now that the IRS has reinstated its 501(c)(3) charitable status, renew the organization’s contract to care for homeless cats.
In April, the town served the cat shelter, run by the League of Animal Protection of Huntington, with a 90-day notice to evacuate its Deposit Road establishment after learning the organization had lost its not-for-profit status in 2015 but never notified the town. Huntington Attorney Cindy Mangano said the town became aware of this breach of contractual agreement when drawing up a new document, as the previous agreement expired in December 2016.
“You were angry with us, but waiting doesn’t hurt us…it hurts our cats and any future cats we take in.”
— Linda Waslin
At the June 13 town board meeting, members voted to give LAP an extension until Nov. 30 to regain its not-for-profit status.
“I’d like to point out to you that this was not intentional as was insinuated by a few. It was a total mistake. It was an oversight,” said LAP volunteer Donna Fitzhugh. “The bottom line is it was not intentional,and the IRS actions proved it. We never lied to you and to be treated in the manner our organization was, was pretty coldhearted.”
Debbie Larkin, president of LAP, said she was thankful for the actions of the organization’s attorney and accountant in getting the not-for-profit status reinstated within five weeks and retroactively applied to the date it was lost.
“With the assistance of any incoming donations, our volunteers continue to take care of the dumps, the owner turn-ins, the bottle babies, free [trap-and-neuter] certificates and the adopt-out animals in our care,” she said.
Larkin and several other LAP members called on the town board to immediately approve an executive order on the contractual agreement previously drawn up this spring, which would extend the organization’s operation of the cat shelter past Nov. 30.
“You were angry with us, but waiting doesn’t hurt us,” said Linda Waslin, a long-time volunteer of the shelter. “It hurts our cats and any future cats we take in.”
Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said the Town of Huntington cannot renew the nonprofit’s contract as it previously issued a Request For Proposals in the spring, which allowed other organizations to submit proposals to run the shelter. The town board is legally bound to continue the process that’s already in motion or it fears it could run the risk of another interested party taking them into court over the matter, according town spokesperson A.J. Carter.
“With the assistance of any incoming donations, our volunteers continue to take care of the dumps, the owner turn-ins, the bottle babies, free [trap-and-neuter] certificates and the adopt-out animals in our care.”
— Debbie Larkin
The Huntington town attorney’s office is currently reviewing the previous RFP, according to Petrone, and a new one should be issued in October. Petrone encouraged LAP to submit its proposal.
“If you put forth a proposal, and others put forth proposals, whatever’s the best proposal for the residents of Huntington will be selected. If you have all this experience, you will do that,” Petrone said.
Little Animal Shelter was among those who had previously submitted a proposal to take over the town’s cat shelter earlier this spring, according to Dawn Lam.
All proposals received on an RFP will be evaluated by a committee and the town attorney’s office. Unlike bids, which must be awarded to the lowest bidder, Carter said, the committee which reviews the bids can consider subjective criteria such as an organization’s experience. LAP will need to make the case for why it should continue to operate Grateful Paw.
Huntington Town officials said the new contract that is being offered to run the cat shelter wouldn’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2018. Should LAP feel that it is unable or unwilling to run the shelter past the Nov. 30 extension, the town has already stated it is willing to step in and temporarily provide services to ensure the safety and best interests of the cats, Carter said.