Ties That Bind Ingram’s Cavalier “Rescuers" To GBHS
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published on May 8, 2018
On July 21, 2015, Brittney Wilk, Lisa Thompson, and Angie Ingram formed Cavalier Rescue of Alabama, Inc. (“CRAL”). All three women serve as directors of this non-profit corporation, which was established to “rescue/rehab & rehome Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.” Wilk was designated President/Co-Founder, Ingram was named Vice President, and Thompson was listed as CRAL’s Secretary/Co-Founder.
All three women were involved in a November 22, 2014 Cavalier “rescue” mission at a dog auction in Wheaton, Missouri. The Greater Birmingham Humane Society ("GBHS") aided this “rescue” by: (a) providing transportation for 34 of the Cavaliers that were brought back to Birmingham, (b) providing specially trained staff members present at the auction, and (c) having its President and Chief Executive Officer Allison Black Cornelius onsite in Missouri as an observer to the events that unfolded at the auction. At the time, Cavalier Rescue USA was an approved “Rescue Partner” of GBHS.
Prior to, during, and immediately after the Missouri auction, Brittney Wilk and Lisa Thompson were the Alabama coordinators for Cavalier Rescue USA. Angie Ingram was a Cavalier Rescue USA volunteer who purchased the “rescued” Cavaliers in her name. Ingram was reimburse for these purchases by Brittney Wilk from $268,000.000 in donations raised for the Missouri auction through a GoFundMe campaign.
Wilk used photos of 12 adorable Cavalier puppies that Cavalier Rescue USA "was able to save over the past year" as a hook to raise donations for the Missouri auction from 2,250 donors worldwide. After the auction, a “Cavalier Rescue USA: Checklist for Foster Dog Assessment” was completed on the “rescued” Cavaliers.
Five high-price “rescued” Cavaliers were adopted to Angie Ingram, Brittney Wilk, and their friends Jasmine Lawson, Christina Carnes, and Amanda "Mandy" Johnson. Like Ingram, Carnes was also a Cavalier Rescue USA volunteer. She photographed the “rescued” Cavaliers and various scenes at the auction.
Ingram, Wilk, and Thompson took it upon themselves to decide who would get ownership of the five high-dollar Cavaliers allocated between Will, Lawson, Carnes, Johnson, and Ingram. These “insider” transactions were not submitted to Cavalier Rescue USA’s board of directors for input or approval. Ingram and Carnes took ownership of the two Cavaliers that Ingram purchased from other buyers at the Missouri auction for a total of $24,200.00 using GoFundMe money.
The Emergence of Cavalier Rescue of Alabama
After questions were raised by donors and members of Cavalier Rescue USA in December 2014 about the purchases and placement of some of the "saved" Cavaliers, Wilk, Thompson, and Ingram disassociated themselves from Cavalier Rescue USA and announced their plans to form Cavalier Rescue of Alabama.
CRAL’s 2015 tax return described its non-profit mission this way (verbatim): “Medically and emotionally rehabilitate cavalier king Charles spaniels (7 mixes of). 33 dogs rescued. prevent euthanasia and reduced breeding in puppy mills. 4 were pulled from shelters making room for other dogs in need. All were sprayed/neutered.” It is unclear whether the “33 dogs rescued” statement refers to any of the Cavaliers that were purchased at the 2014 auction in Wheaton, Missouri.
CRAL reported $49,019.95 in total revenue from all sources for 2015. The organization reported total expenses of $31,340.97, with a year-end fund balance of $17,678.17. Total revenues for 2016 surged to $171,641.00. Total expenses for this period were reported at $131,182.00. The fund balance at year-end was $58,137.00.
Even though the CRAL founders left Cavalier Rescue USA under questionable circumstances, they remained tied to GBHS and its CEO.
CRAL’s Lasting Ties to GBHS
As reported in my May 6, 2018 article titled, “Was GBHS Complicit in Stonewalling Cavalier ‘Whistleblowers’?,” Allison Black Cornelius encouraged Angie Ingram to “sue the daylights out of this woman.” The woman who drew the ire of Cornelius was “whistleblower”, Heather Halldin.
Ingram dutifully followed Cornelius’s advice. The ensuing lawsuit against Halldin and six other “whistleblowers” has been languishing in an Alabama court for more than three years.
Plaintiff Lisa Thompson is a well-known business owner and influential GBHS board member. Her Birmingham-based marketing and communications company, Flex Digital, designed GBHS’s logo and assists the organization its marketing and printing needs.
On July 10, 2015, Lisa Thompson secured an affidavit from Cornelius in support of her lawsuit against the “whistleblowers” that Cornelius encouraged Attorney Ingram to sue. The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages against the “whistleblowers.” Cornelius vouched for the character of plaintiffs Thompson, Wilk, and Mandy Johnson, which she said was “above repute”.
Cornelius stated in her affidavit that she was able to get a “complete accounting of all donations and how it was spent” at the Missouri auction, even though she did not request one. The accounting provided to Cornelius was “fully transparent as to how the funds were spent.”
When “whistleblower” Heather Halldin requested an “accounting” of the donor funds, she was stonewalled and threatened with a Cease and Desist letter from Angie Ingram. When other “whistleblowers” questioned the adoption of high-price “rescued” Cavaliers to Wilk, Thompson, Lawson, Carnes, and Ingram, they got sued.
GBHS and Ingram's "rescuers" were able to sweep this controversy under the rug with the help of Joey Kennedy, the Pulitzer Prize winning Alabama Media Group reporter who wrote favorable articles about Angie Ingram and her Missouri auction “rescuers''. Kennedy also wrote upbeat stories about Allison Black Cornelius during her rise from Interim Executive Manager to President and CEO of GBHS.
Kennedy departed the Alabama Media Group in February 2015. He was later given the Abe Krawchak Award by GBHS for his efforts to improve the lives and welfare of animals in this state.
Kennedy turned a blind eye to “whistleblower” Karen Pearsall Orange on January 23, 2015 when she sent him an email that raised ethical questions about the Birmingham “rescuers’ ownership of some of the high-price Cavaliers they “saved” at the Missouri auction. “They used other people’s money to purchase themselves dogs,” wrote Orange. That’s not the way rescue works …. ,”she said.
Instead of investigating this matter, Kennedy forwarded this email to Ingram with a message that Orange “is not a friend” and wishing Ingram, “Hugs". Three days later, Kennedy resumed his powder-puff reporting on animal shelters and rescues.
On March 10, 2015, Kennedy formed Animal Advocates of Alabama, Inc., with his wife Veronica, Lucy Thompson Marsh, and two other co-founders. Kennedy was designated as the President/Director. Veronica was listed as the Secretary/Treasurer/Director. Lucy Thompson Marsh was named as a Director. Thompson and the other two shareholders owned 75% of the shares issued in Kennedy’s company.
Lucy Thompson Marsh is a director of the Thompson family’s philanthropic foundation – The Thompson Foundation. She is also a former chairperson of GBHS’s board of directors and the granddaughter of the late Hall Williams Thompson (1923-2010), a legendary and wealthy Birmingham businessman.
Animal Advocates of Alabama is a for-profit, advertiser-supported company that promotes itself as an educational source for “all things animal in Alabama -- companion animals, in particular".
As for Angie Ingram, she maintains her ties to GBHS through her work with the Australian Shepherd Furever Rescue, a GBHS approved Rescue Partner. Ingram is also the founder of the Alabama Puppy Mill Project. The Project’s website showcases its close “Partnership” with GBHS and includes a detailed description of the relationship between Angie Ingram and Allison Black Cornelius, as written and promoted by GBHS in 2017.
Stay tuned for more developments in this unfolding story.
PHOTO: Angie Ingram with her Cavaliers and the Greater Birmingham Humane Society's Logo.