Molli Van Dorn, the founder of well-known Tri-City pet rescue operation Pet Over Population Prevention, recently resigned from the organization because it is no longer fully volunteer-operated and euthanizes more pets than is necessary, she said.
“I only think it’s fair for the public to know donations aren’t just going to pet adoption,” she told the Herald.
POPP representatives, however, said disagreements about the organization’s direction, not its mission, caused a falling out between Van Dorn and the board of directors.
“There was nothing I would convey as a change of policy,” said attorney Craig Johnson, who has worked with POPP since April. “I know there were some personality conflicts.”
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Van Dorn founded POPP 20 years ago after she rescued a pregnant German shepherd she found abandoned on a snowy night, she said. The puppies, which were delivered via emergency C-section, all died, but she ended up finding a home for the mother.
POPP now handles between 450 and 500 cats and dogs a year, placing them in foster homes until they are adopted. The organization also helps families with the costs of spaying or neutering a pet and other veterinary care. Fees are charged for adoption and veterinary help, but donations pay for its operations and facility at 524 Railroad St. in Richland.
Too many, there’s too many.
POPP founder Molli Van Dorn, talking about the number of pets entrusted to the organization that have been euthanized.
Neither Van Dorn nor Johnson provided exact budget figures, but a statement Van Dorn issued regarding her departure said POPP is now a corporation worth more than $750,000.
Van Dorn emailed Johnson and the secretary of POPP’s board in early November to say she was resigning as president and a member of the board of directors.
The move came after months of conflict within the organization, including mediation between her and the board that led to the development of new bylaws, she said.
POPP is an amazing program but has “evolved,” according to the statement Van Dorn provided to the Herald. Money no longer goes exclusively to rescuing pets, but also to pay for Johnson, an accounting firm and other administrative staff. Her review of the organization’s records found “too many pets entrusted to POPP have been euthanized.”
The organization always euthanized a small number of the animals it received, Van Dorn said, either because of terminal illness or behavioral issues that made them dangerous. But she found many were put down for lack of a proper placement.
“Too many, there’s too many,” she said.
Johnson disputed Van Dorn’s findings, saying he went over the information she found and said it was “a handful of incidents” where she disputed the reasoning for euthanizing the animals. While the organization has had to put down more animals recently, he described it as a statistical aberration.
Volunteers still do the bulk of POPP’s work, and while there are professionals such as Johnson under contract, the organization has paid for those kinds of services in the past, he said.
At the same time, the organization has grown and is changing. The board is looking to hire a part-time executive director to oversee operations.
The organization is financially sound, but the board, designed for nine members, has only four after Van Dorn’s departure. Carol MacInnis is the new board president.
“They have grown to the point where it would be irresponsible to continue on the current ad hoc basis,” Johnson said.
POPP’s board thanked Van Dorn for her service in a statement and said that “going forward POPP will continue to be a volunteer-based organization that is dedicated to ‘no kill’ principles.”