Humane society director resigns

Amidst claims of animal overcrowding, insufficient fundraising and questionable internal practices, the Harbor Humane Society's director of operations tendered her resignation.
Marie Havenga
Sep 21, 2013

Veronica Constantine, who was hired into the new position just four months ago, sent her 30-day notice to the local humane society's Board of Directors on Friday morning.

“It's been a short ride,” said Constantine, who also served as manager of the facility from 1996-99.

Constantine said she was hired this go-around to help expand the rescue program and revamp the process to make it more efficient.

“I was told everything was running smoothly and (the board) wanted to make little tweaks,” she said. “It was very apparent early on that things were broken. Things were great back (in the 1990s). It was really disheartening for me to walk in and see how far downhill things had gone.”

Constantine, who worked as program director for the Kent County Animal Shelter for nine years prior to accepting the Harbor Humane Society position in May, said a recent petition filed by a former employee accusing the facility of animal neglect isn't too far off base — although some of the issues have been resolved.

Jessica Swett circulated the petition on the change.org website, accusing the West Olive shelter of gross overcrowding and poor conditions for the animals. She cited alleged incidents from October to December 2012.

The petition — titled, “Stop the animal abuse and make the Board of Directors responsible for their actions” — had received close to 2,700 virtual signatures as of Friday.

“There are situations where animals don't get the care they deserve,” Constantine said. “We are too busy.”

Harbor Humane Society Board President Greg Dziewit called the complaints “meritless” and a “witch hunt” in a Holland Sentinel article about the petition on Aug. 30.

To read more of this story, see Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

Comments

S Karbowski

Veronica Constantine's insinuations against her former employer come as no surprise to me. I questioned the board's choice of this pro-kill, inner city mentality director from day one. Her "expose" to the Grand Haven Tribune on practically the same day she resigned shows this was a carefully planned attempt to slander Harbor Humane Society, for some unexplainable personal reasons that apparently transcend those of the animals she was supposed to be helping.

Ms Constantine's biggest complaint voiced in the print version of her personal diatribe is that Harbor Humane Society, a privately funded non government animal care group, is dedicated to becoming a model for no kill shelters. Their almost 30 year old building houses the cast off animals from a county population that has more than doubled since the date it was built. Apparently Ms Constantine is unaware that the population has grown since her short stint in the "1990's", but those of us who live here are not as naive. Serving a vast county stretching far north of Grand Haven to south of Holland, the employees of Harbor Humane Society do everything within their ability to care for and place out over 3000 sick, discarded and injured dogs, cats and rabbits each year.... turning away none. Sure, they could be killing 90 percent of them as did the Kent County Animal Control under Ms Constantine's direction, but they are doing everything to avoid her horrific record as an animal killer. Sure, they could be withholding medical treatment as she apparently would, but they want to give these neglected suffering animals a chance to live. Perhaps if she had put in a full day at the facility and not left at 2:00 practically every day, they would not have been "too busy" to care for animals.

It shows the poor reporting on the part of the Grand Haven Tribune, that it would choose to rush to publish this person's personal opinion without giving the privately run Harbor Humane Society the same consideration to respond. Giving voice to an individual who is apparently unable to work with other people in a productive manner and wishes to kill as many as possible to save herself the bother of caring for them, does nothing to benefit the discarded, sick and neglected animals in this county. I only hope that the community looks past this ridiculous personal attack and continues to support Harbor Humane Society as it has in the past.

LessThanAmused

I'd be inclined to agree with your opinions based just on that photo of Ms. Constantine and the dog she's holding. Look at that dog, he wants nothing to do with the human holding him and is eyeing her warily like he knows his days are numbered if she has her way....

I've had some experience with these anti-pet organizations. They are quite militant in their view that no one should "own" an animal. That an animal shouldn't be property, they should be free to roam at will and on and on and on. Both PETA and HSUS are dangerous groups that severely misrepresent themselves to the uneducated public. Animal Lovers and pet owners need to educate themselves so they know where the help comes from and who the enemy is....do some research on these outfits, learn more about them than what their fancy, shiny websites tell you. If you want to donate, donate to your local shelter or animal rescue, not to some huge, faceless animal killing organization that's only in it for the money. Ingrid Newkirk is a nut by any rational person's standards and like so many other groups these days, wants to help you run your life the way she thinks you should be doing it. Steer clear and keep your donations local so you can hopefully see the results of your charity.

http://www.peta.org/
http://www.petakillsanimals.com/
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/0...
http://www.theatlantic.com/healt...

http://www.humanesociety.org/
http://www.consumerfreedom.com/2...
http://www.humanewatch.org/the_h...

animaladvocate

Bravo Veronica for standing up for the animals! How sad that yet another employee who could have made a difference in the lives of the animals is chased off by image-obsessed Greg (His number one priority is his image and name in the community. Anyone who threatens that is bullied out of the shelter) Ahhh....what is the point in waiting for the shelter to respond? I think we have their response memorized by now - something like this: we need more donors, volunteers, and fosters, the $800,000 annual budget plus the $75,000 we raised this summer just isn't cutting it. The fact that other shelters manage to provide appropriate care to the animals on much less than this seems to be lost on the current board. If they can't manage to provide humane care to the animals with the money they have, then it is time to find a board that can.

I don't blame the staff and volunteers- they are doing the best they can, but I do blame the board and the veterinarian for making inappropriate decisions that have led to animal care and neglect issues. I don't see how the shelter will ever be able to move forward with board president Greg, along with board member Teresa and the vet, working there. How many people speaking up will it take before there is change? How many people can Greg chase out of the shelter before something improves for the care of the animals?

Sampsonsmom

To say that S Karbowski has no idea what she is talking about would be the understatement of a lifetime. I spent eight years caring for animals and championing them in real life and in court. I was on the front line when it came to animal abuse and neglect. Like all individuals with real life experience I know the painful truth. There are far worse fates for unwanted animals than euthanasia. However it is very easy to sit in an ivory tower of make believe and "save all the animals"! Except for it is not true. I worked under Veronica Constantine and I saw for years her compassion and her dedication to the animals. Shame on you who would judge her. It sounds so wonderful to call for "no-kill" policies, but at what cost? What has been happening at Harbor Humane may be well meaning but it is wrong. Sick and dying animals should not be left to die on their own while people debate how to treat them. Stray and lost animals should not be kept in tiny crates in office areas for months at a time to avoid the inevitable. I can only speak from personal experience with Ms. Constatine, as in I have 8 years of watching her in action. Unlike S Karbowski who has.......NO YEARS....of personally watching her in action. Any shelter would be lucky to have Ms. Constantine. She increased adoptions and pushed for community spay and neuter programs that saved hundreds of lives. She is realistic and humane and fair. She will not tolerate deplorable conditions for animals while people claim to love them. I cleaned out many a cat house by people who "loved their cats" too. Only some of them were dead and all of them were sick. I hope Harbor Humane can raise it's standards to that of the Kent County Animal Shelter, where compassion and common sense prevail and give animals the dignity they deserve.

LessThanAmused

So, I'm curious, you and animaladvocate both join the forum here and post your diatribes within minutes of joining.....are you folks local, or are you from outside the area that the shelter serves? Are you customers of the shelter, or Have you worked there, or are you going on hearsay? How do you know that S Karbowski is female?

Instead of trying to peg blame on people most of us don't know and have never met, why don't you go into some detail as to what the real problems are at the shelter as you see them? To do that of course you'd need to have some first hand experience, like having worked there, NOT hearsay....otherwise your words are just as unsubstantiated as S Karbowski's are at this point. Try shedding some light on the problems instead of providing heat to a debate most won't understand if they even care about it.

I too have experience with animal care and frankly anyone that would use the handle AnimalAdvocate scares me. I've seen people tresspassing on others property, stealing animal(s) that are not theirs, but they deem rescueable and going to lengths that any reasonably rational person would not consider. I don't know what the problems are at the shelter, but I can't tell from these posts if the problems that you're most concerned about are the animals and their care or the politics of those in charge and your, or their, inability to get along with the current policies of the shelter.

How about some facts? More light, less heat.

someonewhocares

I am fairly new on the board at Harbor Humane Society. We brought in new management to resolve past issues. We hired an Operations Director with plenty of experience, gave her the directive to fix the problems. Ultimately she failed to resolve the issues and when it looked like she would be terminated she tried to beat us to the punch and went to the press "to save her reputation".

She forgot to mention in her interview that she has absolutely no documentation to support any of her claims and not only that, she purposely deleted all operations@harbor email correspondences which would have proved our many attempts and concerns that she was not doing her job. She also forgot to mention our worst Dept of Ag report was under her watch. Previous three reports were passing.

Her answer to everything was euthanasia! Our euthanasia rate almost doubled in the short time she was there!! The Board found it difficult to adopt this without pursuing or advancing other options such as fosters / rescues, improved efficiencies, etc. I was copied on ALL correspondences between the board and Veronica. I have it in writing that her plan was to euthanize over 100 animals like a holocaust to bring the shelter to capacity. The board would not approve it.

Anyone demanding the BOD resigns or wants to blame one or two people for any issues, clearly does not know how a BOD works!! We only set and approve the policies by a majority vote...it is the Operations Director's job to enforce and follow them.

Unless you are there....you should not comment on what the board says, does or feels. The board consists of people who donate their time and love animals! We now have an attorney, a trainer, a rescue person and we are bringing on a local vet. Are you telling me that all of us who are in the business to love and protect animals are doing just the opposite?? Are you telling me that we have put ourselves, our reputations and our businesses on the line to make decisions to bully people and cause harm to animals?? The really sad part to me is....we all have the same agenda...to help animals. I have stepped up to do my best and nothing good comes from what is going on here. We have been making amazing improvements to the building, we are working on hiring a rescue/foster coordinator to deal with the crappy hand we have been dealt when double digit animals are brought in every day because of bad animal owners, we sent the staff to a Pet Point conference to significantly upgrade our record keeping system and now we are distracted with all of this. Who suffers? The animals!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Shame I would like to ask that instead of spending all this energy on negativity that you spend it on offering solutions, since you know everything. If you have any ideas....I am all ears.

I think a picture speaks a thousand words...Veronica picked the friendliest dog at the shelter for the photo op and I think his face says it all!!!!

Tina Dee

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woodsandwater

From my perspective, Veronica is steadfastly committed to providing the best care for animals. She has a strong passion for animal welfare that is nicely balanced with pragmatism and a desire to collaborate for the greater good. I wish her well—along with the all those who care for our homeless companion animals.

Letsbefairpeople

I am a veterinarian and I have known Veronica Constantine for over 15 years. Veronica confided in me right after she started working at Harbor Humane that she was shocked at the deterioration of the facility. She sensed from the very beginning that she would not be able to turn things around because it did not seem that the board and some staff shared her philosophy on shelter management. I found it odd that they would have hired her if their philosophies were so far apart. I advised her to try for a short time, but if she could not get support from the board, or find common ground with the professional staff, then it would appear that no one there really wanted a change. I am not criticizing anyone at HHS. It just seems to me that there are just very different philosophies at work here. Veronica followed my advice and the result is her resignation. I can't blame her given the bitter diatribe spewed forth by others who seem to know her and have commented here. I know for a fact that S Karbowski's post has many - how shall I say this - "incorrect statements" in it. How ironic that Ms. Karbowski accuses the Grand Haven Tribune of rushing to publish Veronica's personal opinion without getting the facts from Harbor Humane, when Ms. Karbowski's comments are themselves full of inaccuracies? Veronica is not an animal killer. She is a consummate professional who knows that heart wrenching decisions must be made every day in a shelter situation. She is highly regarded for her leadership both in the shelter community and the veterinary community. Before this episode, if someone had told me that Veronica was being accused of animal cruelty, enjoying the killing of pets, and other such atrocities, I would have laughed out loud. Today, I am just sad about this whole mess. There will never be an agreement between the proponents of no-kill facilities and the people on the other side of the fence who feel that there are sometimes fates worth than death for some truly wretched animals. I have been a vet for 30 years and as much as I hate euthanizing animals, sometimes it is the best and kindest thing to do. This situation comes down to a difference in philosophies. Veronica is gone - she did her best, it sounds like the people there did not like her style - so the haters got what they wanted. Can we just be kind to one another and stop hurling insults?

LessThanAmused

So, are you like the Dr Jack Kevorkian for animals?

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