Members of a coalition are raising concerns about animal care at the Connecticut Humane Society and are calling for its president to step down. This comes as the attorney general looks into whether the organization's money is being spent improperly.
Members of Coalition for Change, which includes current and former Humane Society workers, held a news conference on Wednesday, claiming poor leadership has affected animal care. They're calling for Richard Johnston, the president and chairman of the board, to have his power stripped entirely, or scaled back.
"We are very skeptical that any improvement will be possible while Richard Johnston is in power," said Maureen Lord, the group's spokesperson. "We are calling for him to be removed, at the very least, as Chairman of the Board of the Connecticut Humane Society. If he does remain in the position of Executive Director, a new Chairman of the Board should be named."
Problems at the Connecticut Humane Society have escalated for about a year, Lord said. The coalition is concerned that staffing cuts and management decisions are leaving less time for workers to retrain animals with behavior problems. That is causing more animals to be euthanized sooner than before, even animals that do not meet the organization's public guidelines for the practice, according to coalition members.
"The concern is, animals aren't being worked with to rehabilitate them behaviorally so they can be adopted and these are animals that are placeable that are being euthanized," said Bridget Karchere.
The coalition was formed last year as Connecticut Humane Society workers pushed to unionize. Then, in December, three of its members say they were fired, including Lord and Karchere. They say they are not voicing these concerns in retaliation for losing their jobs.
"Our goal is to solve these problems," Lord said.
Johnston did not respond to requests for comment. Leslie White, a spokeswoman for the society's board of directors, provided a written statement.
“The purpose of the Connecticut Humane Society is to promote humanity and kindness and to prevent cruelty to man and animals,” the society said in its statement. “We have every confidence that the conduct of the Society and its President has been forthright, professional and of the utmost integrity at all times, and we regret the unfortunate and generally anonymous charges that have been leveled against it and him. We intend fully to review all of these allegations to reassure ourselves and our community that the Society continues to stand for integrity and fair treatment.”
The coalition's allegations come as Attorney General Richard Blumenthal investigates whether Humane Society officials used the organization's money for personal reasons.
Blumenthal has not said whether Johnston is a target of the probe.
Coalition for Change members said they want a meeting with the society's board of directors to discuss their concerns.