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By Terry Horne
terry.horne@indystar.com
July 3, 2004
 
Humane Society of Indianapolis officials agreed in court Friday to state Attorney General Steve Carter's request for an independent co-trustee to oversee a $3.4 million trust fund vital to the group's financial survival.

The Humane Society has asked Marion Superior Court, Probate Division, for permission to pledge up to 90 percent of the Mary Powell Crume Trust as collateral for a $1.7 million line of credit. Without the line of credit or drastically reducing services, the society will run out of cash in August, said board President Brent A. Bolick.

Carter and five animal welfare groups objected to the financing plan.

Sarah Rittman, a spokeswoman for Carter, said the attorney general might be willing to go along with the plan if it won the approval of an independent, court-appointed trustee. The Humane Society now serves as the only trustee of the fund, which dates to the 1920s.

The five animal welfare groups, which include two "no-kill" animal shelters and a nonprofit group that offers low-cost spaying and neutering services, aren't so sure.

Attorney Veronica Jarnagin said the groups are worried that the Humane Society's financial plan won't work -- and that a large portion of the trust's assets would be lost to creditors.

"We are not responsible for the Humane Society going down," said Warren Patitz, a co-founder of Move to ACT, formed last year to bring change to the Humane Society.

Jarnagin and Patitz said the five groups want to ensure that if the Humane Society collapses, the Crume Trust's assets, which include the Humane Society's land, would be available to the group or groups that take on its mission of caring for the more than 12,000 surrendered, abandoned or stray pets each year. Under the terms of its lease, the Crume Trust would likely get the facility, Jarnagin said.

The pet groups have proposed an alternative -- letting the Humane Society sell the trust other parcels it owns. While such a sale wouldn't bring the Humane Society the money it needs long-term, it could buy a couple of months -- time for other groups to become involved.

Bolick and Humane Society Executive Director Martha Boden said the society has a long-term recovery plan to end its financial bleeding in three years and erase the debt by 2010.

Fund raising is ahead of schedule, but if the Humane Society doesn't receive a line of credit, it will be forced to cut services, and that could spell the end of the 99-year-old organization, Bolick said.

"You create a death spiral that you can't recover from," he said.

Attorney Alan J. Irvin told Probate Judge Charles J. Deiter that the Humane Society's acceptance of a co-trustee was conditional. "It just depends on who that trustee might be," Irvin said.

Deiter scheduled a July 20 conference among attorneys to discuss scheduling and any agreements reached.

Call Star reporter Terry Horne at (317) 444-6082.

   
   
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