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The No Kill Louisville Scandal(s) Begin To Unravel

March 11th, 2014 by jake · 13 Comments

The first part of our story was released yesterday. Catch up if you haven’t already. It’s a look at the generally poor state of affairs. Specifically, the organization’s current head threatening a longtime volunteer and foster.

No Kill Louisville was for several years an organization dear to many of us. You’ve likely read hundreds of stories about the organization and its past attempts to clean up Metro Animal Services. It was a breath of fresh air in this town filled with nothing but euthanasia story after euthanasia story. Animals were being saved, pets were being fed, owners were being educated, area organizations were being assisted.

Now? The group is a shell of its former self.

During the summer of 2009 the Kentucky Humane Society started a local pet food bank. Food that the bank received was donated by Blue Buffalo and the general public. In December 2010, KHS lost its warehouse space and was forced to close its program down. At that time, No Kill Louisville (then headed by Jessica Reid) stepped in and maintained the bank for the community.

For several years, NKL kept countless pets fed as their owners struggled. The community constantly chipped in and organizations like Dare to Care, KHS and companies like Kroger donated both food and money. Any cash that came in was directly used to buy more food.

Thanks to the generosity of Blue Buffalo, NKL routinely had more food than it needed from 2011 through mid-2013. The organization’s leadership started sharing with area rescues, shelters and animal foster groups in need. And of course helped individuals in need. When an individual or organization was assisted, NKL (based on well-kept documentation) made it a point to let Blue Buffalo know in an effort to give thanks.

If you live in Kentucky, Indiana or Ohio? You likely know an individual or organization that has been helped as a result of NKL’s efforts.

NOTE: In addition to operating its own food bank, NKL partnered with the organization Rescue Bank, selling food from that program to authorized organizations for $0.06 per mound ($0.02/lb profit).


FROM RECORDS

But greed eventually took over. A minority of individuals on NKL’s board of directors at the time wanted to start selling food from their food bank for profit. Rifts developed and this being Louisville, bitterness and jealously reigned supreme.

More on the back story…

In May 2013, NKL’s leadership had had enough and could no longer be involved in bickering, greed-filled power grabs. Everyone from the president and treasurer to the group’s secretary left in protest and frustration. Remaining board members focused on making money held a meeting and determined that they could no longer handle operating the food bank. The decision was made to locate another organization to run the bank. At the time, a departing volunteer was tasked with locating a replacement and were working to secure a deal to ensure the community didn’t suffer. But those few greedy members on the board held a secret meeting and executed a secret deal for a volunteer from another organization to take over… all to continue selling food at a profit. They left the volunteer staffer working to locate legitimate operators in the cold.

By that point, nearly everyone who mattered had resigned and greed had officially taken over.

The following month, No Kill Louisville sent a message to United Rescues of Kentucky indicating that they had pallets upon pallets of pet food for sale at $60-$75 per. They effectively stopped providing food to individuals and focused only on organizations that were 501(c) non-profits. Instead of supporting individuals or organizations that had immediate need, the food was going only to groups that had plenty of money and storage space. Between June and September, NKL sold 5+ trucks of food in that manner.

By the fall, NKL had run out of cat food but no pleas for assistance were immediately made. After months of going without, the splintered group reached out to Blue Buffalo begging for assistance. Those we spoke with at Blue Buffalo said off-the-record that they were shocked to hear that literally tons upon tons of food had disappeared. They confirmed to us that at the time NKL blamed former volunteers for the shortage, never mentioning that the food had been sold for profit.

Throughout those months, hundreds of individuals and organizations that used to depend on NKL were begging for help. Former board members and volunteer staffers were inundated with telephone calls and requests. People were shocked to be left out in the cold.

In December, NKL was again expecting food deliveries and sent out notices offering it for sale.

After all the cash was raked in, NKL didn’t invest in food that was badly needed. It combined those funds with money received from Amazon and purchased a forklift.


FROM FACEBOOK

Which… right. That’s what you do when you don’t have pet food and people are in need. Clearly.

During all of that, though, something major happened. Rescue Bank terminated its partnership with NKL. With cause, according to them, for rampant mismanagement and poor record keeping. Among other things. Individuals we spoke with there refused to go on-the-record for fear of retribution.

In just two seasons, an operation that had helped the community for more than four years had fallen apart.

Rather than attempt to make things right, the organization’s current head, Rebecca Ficklin, has spent countless hours blaming the group’s former leaders for its woes. From accusing individuals of theft and financial mismanagement to general corruption. Despite those woes not beginning until the moment she took over. For the past several months, area shelters and rescue organizations have been given negative stories about those former leaders. All, it appears, in an attempt to deflect blame and any sort of responsibility for NKL’s current poor state of affairs.

Which brings us to today.

The really fun stuff begins when you start to examine the organization’s financial statements. Some documents that did not exist until yesterday — after several weeks of repeated requests from various members of the community.

Beyond their own numbers not adding up, based on documentation we’ve examined, there are potentially tens of thousands of dollars going undocumented and unreported. From $18,980 in carryover funds being misreported as $0 (it’s on their 990s and previous reports), to an entire truck of Blue Buffalo food being sold and not documented, to huge purchases of food from places like Mark’s Feed Store, to ATM cash withdrawals and even a gym membership.

You thought Progress Kentucky was a walking disaster? You ain’t seen nothin yet.

NKL even fabricated their legally required financial reports. You can look at 2012 vs 2013 and see that it’s just a copy and paste job:


2012 — CLICK TO ENLARGE


2013 — CLICK TO ENLARGE

To say that there is a gross lack of responsibility and fiscal stewardship would not be an overstatement. But we’re just scratching the surface here.

We’ve requested No Kill Louisville, as required by federal law, provide us access to their records, filings and documents but have not received an adequate response. Just claims that they don’t have a physical location for records inspection, despite telling the IRS and SOS otherwise. Once that documentation is obtained, we’ll share it here.

At this point, no one in their right mind should be contributing financially to the organization. Since NKL has received tens of thousands of dollars from Metro Government, we can’t see how someone like Kelly Downard isn’t demanding a thorough forensic examination of everything the group has done with taxpayer dollars.

The downfall continues. We’ll be publishing new stories that go beyond what we’ve already explored. We’ll be digging into countless volunteer and foster interviews, emails we’ve received documenting threats, attempts by the group’s leaders to use funds to purchase an automobile for personal use, allegations of animal abuse and neglect, even allowing a little girl to sell bracelets to raise money for the non-existent Hope Fund.

It’s all hitting the fan.

Time for this city to come together to clean up its nightmarish animal care community. It should not be poisoned by government agencies like LMAS or tax-exempt organizations like NKL.

Tags: Bad Behavior · Charity · Dogs · Scandal

13 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Turner // Mar 11, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    So they spent less on 28 Days of Spay in 2013 than in 2012?

  • 2 David // Mar 11, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    Please let us know what agency to contact to demand further investigation. What gov’t organization oversees 501c3s?

  • 3 Sarah Risher // Mar 12, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    This makes me so angry. I tried to contact No Kill Louisville to help me find a foster for a cat I found last month. No one called me back, despite numerous attempts to reach someone. It was so strange compared to how helpful they were back in May 2012 when I fostered one of their cats. This explains why. It’s a shame. They used to be such a blessing to our community, and it’s sickening to hear about how they have truly fallen apart. I hope some good people can get together and rebuild a new and better No Kill Louisville. The animals deserve it, and I would be glad to help.

  • 4 Gail // Mar 12, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    This is very sad. I was once a huge supporter and volunteer of NKL, when the founder was still in charge. It was a great organization then.
    My question now is, where do we start? What do we do? Who do we turn to for guidance? How do we clean it up & turn it around????

  • 5 Dwight Baugh // Mar 12, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    As a volunteer at the NKL Food Bank every Saturday, I can personally attest to the fact that NKL continues to provide free food to individuals that need assistance feeding their pets. We have been running short on cat food lately, due to the large numbers of people that request food for feral cats and we don’t have it. I have never received money for my work, and I donate monthly. Has anyone considered the expense of maintaining a warehouse? This is a monthly expense. As for the purchase of a fork-lift, due to the constraints of the current warehouse, it is a necessity in the unloading of food since a semi can not reach the current building. Rebecca has pulled pregnant animals from LMAS and taken them into her home to deliver puppies, then posted them for adoption. While I don’t have inner knowledge of all things NKL, it does seem like Rebecca works very hard and is concerned about the animals and trying to give them the best life possible. Just putting my 2 cents worth into the conversation.

  • 6 jake // Mar 12, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    You mean the $2,000 per month NKL flushes on rent for a warehouse?

    Businessman Ed Martin offered NKL FREE warehouse space, free forklift usage, free inventory system access. The piss poor management of NKL turned it down.

    The *only* animals Rebecca has pulled are dogs ready to birth puppies. And she uses NKL funds to pay for their care, keeping them until they’re 6-8 MONTHS of age. Months. Not weeks.

    Do you really want to go down this road, folks?

    And working hard? Please. Rebecca couldn’t get off her butt long enough to go pick up a check an area business woman had waiting at a fundraiser she held for NKL that Rebecca knew about.

    I’ve worked hard to keep the worst of the worst quiet in an attempt to allow NKL to clean things up. But I’ll start letting all the shit roll downhill if you’re going to attempt to spin.

    It’s excuse after excuse.

  • 7 vincent vermeulen // Mar 13, 2014 at 9:00 am

    Please Please do not let this series of articles pass without telling US, the community, who or what organizations are left, that we can contribute to or call for help!

  • 8 jake // Mar 13, 2014 at 9:03 am

    The Arrow Fund seems to be legit.

    Kentucky Humane Society.

    Louisville Metro Animal Services.

    Even if you’re angry at LMAS or KHS, they still have animals in need.

    No Kill Louisville does not have animals in need, isn’t pulling rescues and has done next to nothing since May 2013 on the adoption front.

    So your best bet is to go where the need is greatest. Again, even if you dislike LMAS or KHS.

  • 9 jake // Mar 13, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Pro-tip to Jeremy Ficklin: Cover your tracks up a little better.

    Going to people in an attempt to malign my character is a quick way to force me to release all the documents I’ve been given.

    The stash includes thousands of photographs, bank records, audio recordings, video, emails, receipts, notes, letters.

    Tread lightly.

  • 10 terri // Mar 13, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    Dwight: The lack of food at the food bank has nothing to do with the number of patrons or number of cats needing food- it is because of poor management and greed. Look at where love of the almighty $$$ got them – every food source NKL had for the food bank has dumped them like a hot potato. I’m guessing that any possible new source is running in the opposite direction.

  • 11 Karen Dickson // Mar 13, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    Dwight,

    I’m glad you mentioned the pregnant dogs and the puppies that Rebecca seems fixated on. While this may seem a noble endeavor (pulling puppies from the shelter), puppies get adopted quickly and usually aren’t in the biggest danger. In fact, in the rescue world, you can get a negative reputation for focusing exclusively on puppies, they even have a term for it, “puppy peddlers.” These dogs are easy for the rescue to adopt out quickly and are the “no brainers.”

    When I ran the NKL foster/adoption program, I butted heads with Rebecca many times over her desire to focus on puppies. I preferred to focus on saving the dogs that wouldn’t have a chance of getting out alive, the black dogs, the old dogs, the pit bulls, the sick dogs. Not the puppies. So while it sounds noble to save puppies, it’s not what true rescue is about.

    One last point. While she was posting all of these puppies NKL had up for adoption, she never posted my foster pit bull Patch, or the other NKL foster dogs that were adults. Month after month I would see the litters of puppies filling up the FB page and he never got a mention. I was long gone from NKL at that time so I couldn’t post him myself. The puppies have found homes and the adult foster dogs, with the exception of Patch, have been placed in boarding.

  • 12 G-money // Mar 14, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    I really don’t see what’s so noble about pushing puppies. I mean, puppies sell themselves. The dogs that we REALLY need NKL to push are the craploads of bully breed dogs at Metro. They’re getting euth’d while Rebecca’s showcasing dogs that don’t need the exposure. If it weren’t for a tenacious bunch of rescuers in Kentuckiana networking and cross-posting the Pit Bulls at Metro, the Gone But Not Forgotten section would be more full. Thanks for nothing, Rebecca! Now, it’s all crystal clear why when we were begging for NKL to pull dogs, all we heard was ~crickets~!

  • 13 Crystal // Mar 17, 2014 at 11:45 am

    This has been a long time coming. It’s a shame NKL is going to end this way.

    If people are looking to support a local no kill cause, I believe The Animal Care Society on Westport Rd may be a good alternative.

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