By Donald V. Watkins ©Copyrighted and Published on July 9, 2018
Just when you thought the Greater Birmingham Humane Society might try to improve its tarnished image in the aftermath of the controversial role the non-profit organization played in a scandalous “rescue” mission of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels at a 2014 Wheaton, Missouri auction, we learned that GBHS has recently resumed its “unholy” alliance with Birmingham, Alabama attorney/dog “rescuer” Angie Ingram and her Alabama Puppy Mill Project. GBHS and Ingram are apparently joined at the hip in words and misdeeds.
In 2015, Angie Ingram’s “Cavalier Group of Greater Birmingham” (now know as “Cavalier Rescue of Alabama, Inc., d/b/a “The Cavalier Rescue”) teamed with GBHS CEO Allison Black Cornelius and board member Lisa Thompson to persecute fellow rescue partners and financial supporters who raised $268,000 for the Missouri “rescue” operation and who subsequently discovered questionable “insider” dealings, ethical lapses, and abusive conduct involving Ingram and her CGGB companions following the “rescue”. In an effort to silence these “whistleblowers”, Ingram, Thompson and a handful of their minions sued them for defamation.
Freebasing on Ethical Lapses
Court records, corporate documents, donor records, non-profit tax returns, news articles, and related records revealed a laundry list of disturbing conduct between Ingram and Cornelius that detailed the pair’s propensity to freebase on ethical lapses, conflicts of interest, and abusive conduct towards humans and animals. This conduct includes the following:
1. After Angie Ingram and CGGB raised $268,000 in donor money to “rescue” Cavaliers in Missouri, they engaged in “insider” adoption transactions that resulted in Ingram and her friends taking ownership of Gideon and four other Cavaliers that were purchased for a total of $36,750 in donor money. During the funding solicitation campaign headed by "rescuer” Brittney Wilk, Ingram’s group never disclosed that its organizers intended to keep some of the highest price Cavaliers for themselves. They promised donors that the "rescued” Cavaliers would first go into Cavalier Rescue USA’s respectable foster home program. From there, the Cavaliers would be adopted to pre-screened, qualified families who sought them as house pets. Instead, Ingram’s group cherry-picked the expensive Cavaliers they wanted, allocated these dogs among themselves, and adopted them to each other without any approval from Cavalier Rescue USA’s board of directors. The Cavaliers that were left over went into the foster home program. Afterwards, the "rescuers” disassociated themselves from Cavalier Rescue USA and later formed Cavalier Rescue of Alabama. Many observers have called this conduct a “scam”.
2. Allison Black Cornelius and Lisa Thompson aided and abetted Angie Ingram in harassment, bullying, and intimidating the “whistleblowers” who exposed the highly questionable “insider” adoption transactions referenced above.
3. Angie Ingram and her minions orchestrated an intense campaign of harassment that targeted Terri Easterbrooks’ reputable Lineville, Alabama Cavalier breeding business. This harassment subsequently drove Easterbrooks to attempt suicide.
4. Angie Ingram and her cohorts engaged in judicial “forum shopping” for the defamation lawsuit filed by Lisa Thompson and her co-plaintiffs against the “whistleblowers”. Allison Black Cornelius, who strongly encouraged the lawsuit, gave Ingram and Thompson a pro-plaintiff affidavit to assist them in litigating the case. The lawsuit has languished in the Alabama state court system for more than three years.
5. Under Cornelius’s reign as CEO, GBHS has systematically killed hundreds of healthy dogs and cats each year due to “overcrowding” simply because they could do it with impunity. The slaughter of healthy and treatable animals continues. In May alone, GBHS killed a self-reported 87 healthy and treatable dogs and cats.
6. Cornelius used GBHS employees and resources to conduct her private “for profit” Blackfish business on GBHS time. For reasons that are unknown to the public, GBHS's board of directors continues to tolerate this highly questionable business practice.
7. GBHS created and used a deceptive fundraising video that featured adorable little kittens that were killed immediately after the filming ended.
8. Cornelius systematically subjected GBHS employees and non-employee supporters of animal rights to “gaslighting” and other abusive practices.
The New GBHS-Ingram Deal
Last week, Cornelius and Ingram announced that GBHS and the Alabama Puppy Mill Project are teaming up again to push a puppy mill bill in the 2019 session of the Alabama legislature. According to recent posts on the Alabama Puppy Mill Project’s Facebook page, Ingram’s “for profit” organization is raising funds to hire a lobbyist and “will partner again with GBHS so donors can get the tax deduction” for donations that drive the Puppy Mill’s political agenda.
This admitted commingling of "for profit" and non-profit organizational resources and efforts for the purpose of generating donor tax deductions to support a publicly admitted political agenda is highly suspect. If a complaint is filed with the Internal Revenue Service regarding this slick, closely coordinated, politically driven, tax deduction scheme, it will likely bring heighten scrutiny to the Alabama Puppy Mill Project, GBHS, participating donors, and sponsors of the proposed legislation.
In the past, Allison Black Cornelius has allowed Angie Ingram’s Alabama Puppy Mill Project to use GBHS’s Snow Drive address for business purposes. The phone number listed on the Puppy Mill Project's website was registered to Blackfish, which is Cornelius’ private consulting firm. The phone number is also the same number Cornelius uses for GBHS business.
After series of investigative articles about GBHS and Cavalier Rescue of Alabama were published between April 28 and June 20, 2018, the listed address and phone number were removed from the Alabama Puppy Mill Project’s website.
GBHS’s Board of Directors Has Failed the Public
In 2017, GBHS's board of directors issued a formal statement announcing that it had "investigated claims that Allison Black Cornelius improperly directing society funds for her personal use, disposing of new and useable donated goods, and providing extraordinary raises for herself and other top executives." The board said its investigation found no evidence supporting these claims.
The statement also proclaimed that "the Board of Directors continues its full and unequivocal support of Allison Black Cornelius and the staff of the GBHS, and will continue to uphold its duty to the stakeholders of the GBHS by performing its oversight responsibilities with diligence and care."
The board's 2017 statement made no reference to the plethora of internal and external documents relied upon in recent media investigations into Cornelius’s GBHS activities. These documents tell a very different story and rightfully call into question the board's failure to properly exercise its oversight responsibility over CEO Allison Black Cornelius.
PHOTO: The Alabama Puppy Mill and Greater Birmingham Humane Society logos.