On August 13, 2012, the NYPD shot a dog named Star who was trying to protect her homeless owner on the street as he was having a seizure. (Warning: link goes to a Daily News story containing a photo some may find upsetting.)
Miraculously, Star lived and was transported to New York City’s Animal Care and Control (NYCACC) for treatment. They were the first to raise money for Star and eventually (and doubtfully) claimed to have raised $10,000 for her care.
In a display of exactly how caring and detail-oriented they are, here they refer to Star as “he”. Star is, in fact, a “her”.
Star’s owner did not claim her during the holding period and reportedly left the country, and after her holding period she was transferred to the Mayor’s Alliance, an umbrella group that represents a coalition of rescues in New York City. And that’s where things start to get weird.
This was odd for two reasons: number one, the Mayor’s Alliance doesn’t do hands-on rescue. They are an umbrella organization that performs mostly administrative functions. They have no kennel, no animal care facility. The other odd event that cropped up around this time was an organization called the Lexus Project started fundraising for Star’s care – on August 16.
The Lexus Project began to fundraise for Star’s care on August 16th, a full 9 days before NYCACC announced that her ownership would be transferred to the Mayor’s Alliance. They opened a ChipIn and began to collect money.
As you can see, that didn’t go very well, and they really jumped the gun – the Lexus Project was fundraising for a dog they didn’t own.
Still, roughly 9 days later ownership was transferred to the Mayor’s Alliance – hopefully they’d straighten this all out. It quickly became clear what their interest was as THEY began to fundraise for Star’s care, some of which overlapped with the Lexus Project’s fundraising.
Even MORE strangely, while the Mayor’s Alliance was claiming to have ownership and fundraising for her care they endorsed the Lexus Project’s ChipIn!
It’s generally considered bad form to directly fundraise for an animal you do not own or otherwise directly control the destiny of. At best, it’s confusing to the public as to what organization is responsible for the animal. At worst you have situations like The Humane Society of the United States raising money using Fay(e), a dog they did not own, did not control, and had no intention of sharing the donations they received to pay for her care – outright deception and theft. Good and ethical fundraising practice dictates that generally you do not do this; the ethical way for one 501(c)3 to assist another is for one to use their communications to drive donations directly to the organization that is actually directly responsible for the animal.
The Lexus Project is an odd group for the Mayor’s Alliance to partner with in this endeavor. They also do not do direct care or sheltering. From their Facebook page:
They’re a legal advocacy group. Star was not in need of legal representation. She’d been released by her owner to the care of the shelter, a straightforward dog in medical need. She needed time to heal, to rehabilitate, to decompress. The Lexus Project is not in the business of doing this, and they have a poor recent history of animal rehoming, recently admitting in the press to placing a 120lb mastiff from a New York City court case without properly checking the adopter’s credentials, with tragic results for the dog who disappeared into thin air.
The Mayor’s Alliance represents over a hundred animal rescue organizations in NYC. Many of them are great rescues. Some have their own facilities. Some are fully qualified to take on a dog like this, heal and rehabilitate them, and adopt them out. But the Mayor’s Alliance chose not to work with any of the rescues they represent in favor of the Lexus Project, combining their efforts to do two things both organizations do very badly: fundraising and direct animal care.
For the next several weeks it became more clear why the Mayor’s Alliance was interested in Star’s case as they sent out appeal after appeal for donations. Both the Alliance and the Lexus Project send out fundraising appeals and progress updates in this time. The Alliance claimed ownership of Star, the Lexus Project just implied it through their access and their fundraising. Neither would disclose the location of the dog except to say that Star was at a “rehab facility”.
The fundraising by the Mayor’s Alliance reportedly did not go well. The Lexus Project raised only a few hundred dollars. By Mid-October the Mayor’s Alliance was no longer mentioning Star, the dog they had taken ownership of, promised to care for, promised to place with a loving owner when the time was right.
I guess that time has come, but the Mayor’s Alliance no longer seems to be interested now that the fund-raising phase is over.
Star has once again turned up – she’s at a Greyhound rescue in Philadelphia, now renamed “Shiloh”. One assumes that this is also where she was rehabilitated and whom the Lexus Project refers to as “our friends”, as the Lexus Project started with legal advocacy for Greyhounds and has connections in Greyhound rescue. It looks like the Mayor’s Alliance didn’t trust any of their own members with Star, and it looks like she’s not likely to come back to her home in New York, as a fenced yard – a rarity in New York City – is “an absolute requirement” for adoption. Although National Greyhound Adoption Program has listed her for adoption, and the Lexus Project is inviting people to email them directly to apply, the Mayor’s Alliance hasn’t said a word about the dog they once owned (do they still?) and once promised to stick with until placement.
Although I haven’t seen any fundraising done directly by the organization who has Star (and they are likely innocent of any wrongdoing at all) it’s interesting to note that they are now the 4th 501(c)3 receiving donations for Star’s care.
I thought when I started looking into this that there might be something nefarious afoot, and indeed all of the organizations involved fundraised with varying degrees of ethical behavior. But the deeper I’ve researched this the more I come to the conclusion that the actions of the Mayor’s Alliance are simply deeply incompetent, and that is far more depressing.
Animals are not to be passed around for the purpose of fundraising or public image like a bottle of Jack Daniel’s backstage at Motley Crüe. (Whoops, I’m dating myself there!) Let me be clear, there’s nothing wrong with fundraising for specific animals and/or extraordinary cases – but you should only fundraise for animals you actually own and you should do what you say you will do. If you say you’re going to stick with the animal through the end and place them through the resources of your multi-million dollar organization that represents some of the largest rescues in New York City – well, you should do that, and tap their expertise to help you instead of partnering with a fledgling legal effort with a somewhat fly-by-night reputation that ships her out of town.
It’s also astonishing how awful the Mayor’s Alliance is at the basics of rescue. This dog is a New York City hero, locally famous, an icon. This dog did nothing wrong: I’m sure many animal people completely understand and sympathize with a dog, panicking, protecting their fallen owner in medical distress. If you can’t fundraise effectively for such a sympathetic case you need to take a serious look at what the hell is wrong with your fundraising. Similarly, the publicity surrounding the case could have been used to collect a large number of applications and find the best home possible, preferably one right here in New York City. We like to celebrate our heroes. They deserve that.
But the Mayor’s Alliance has moved on. There are other dogs to use in the service of their image and their bank account, even though they still have no animal care facility of their own, no rescue expertise, no fundraising ability, and little public trust. The latest one is named Jazz.
To date, their online fundraising effort has raised $80. I wonder where they’ll ship her off to when they’re done with her.
The Mayor’s Alliance was invited to comment on the details of this story and to explain what happened with the case of Star. They did not answer the inquiry.
The Lexus Project refused to answer this simple question: Who owns Star? They continue to fundraise for her care.