I want to start by telling you my motivation behind the creation of CoS. It's a not a long story. Stay with me...
It all starts with Birdie (pictured), a.k.a., Sasquatch, Birdzilla, Birdasaurus Rex, Be'elzebird, and other terms of endearment. Twenty-five ounces of fire-breathing dragon. He was 4-1/2 years old when he came to live with me in January 2009. He had been through a lot already, and his right leg was saved from amputation only by the stubborn determination of Dr. April Romagnano (it's perfect now...). We didn't have the greatest start. Her staff had named him "Mellow Yellow," but he was (and still sometimes is) anything but mellow with me. His previous "owner" was also male, so that may have had something to do with it. I'm sure much of it was because I had no idea how to care for a parrot (male Yellow Naped Amazons, it turns out, are not exactly beginner's birds), but he was determined to teach me. To this day I'm not sure why I persevered, perhaps it was destiny. But as our bond grew in fits and starts, it became obvious to me that I was going to have to find a way to take care of him for 50 or 60 years, even after it became impossible for me to do so.
So I started looking at what was available, particularly focusing on sanctuaries, where I hoped he wouldn't be faced with a never ending series of new homes throughout his long life. As it turns out, there are a number of very good parrot sanctuaries on the Florida peninsula (and some very shady ones), and I came to know several of them (good and shady), and their founders, quite well. I also came to realize that almost without exception, they were functioning day-to-day, or at best, year-to-year, not exactly an ideal solution to long-term security. I noticed that they were all spending precious donor support on things such as websites, visitor's centers, storage structures, and tools that were not utilized anywhere near capacity. Support dollars that were not exactly wasted, but were not utilized with maximum efficiency either. I discovered that many of these organizations were run primarily by the founders, maybe with a nominal board of directors, and/or some volunteers, but otherwise almost totally dependent on the founders for normal function. Sooner or later, that's bound to be a problem.
In the end, although I met a lot of great people who were giving everything they had to care for their animals (and some who were, well, a little shady...), I didn't find anyone that I thought had a great long-term plan for the care of long-lived animals. So I thought for a long time about what else could be done. The current strategy behind CoS represents a series of tweaks and iterations, several doses of hard reality, and many discussions with people I trust. I believe that our Approach has a number of benefits that address many of the things that can, and often do, go wrong in a traditional sanctuary, rescue, or shelter setting, regardless of how dedicated the staff. What kinds of things?
You might see some other advantages, or have some other ideas, or have a different viewpoint. If so, I'd be pleased to hear from you! My personal email is email@example.com
As the concept of CoS crystallized in my mind, the question became how to implement it, and how to ensure that it would remain functional long after I wasn't there to look after it. Of course, 501(c)(3) public charity status was essential, complete with reliable Officers and a Board of Directors to keep everything in order. The liability with this approach is that there is nothing to prevent a non-profit Board from changing direction (hopefully not THIS Board, but who knows what happens farther down the road). Further, while any "profit" derived from the activities of a non-profit must go back into the organization, there are ways for individuals to tap into this as well (for instance, taking a salary, which is not necessarily bad, as long as it is earned). The point is that there are ways in which this process could go wrong, and no way that I could ensure that CoS would stay true to my vision and my values when I was no longer looking over its shoulder. Enter the private foundation (a.k.a., charitable trust), which is also a 501(c)(3), but not a public charity (I know, it's really very confusing, I still struggle with it sometimes). The thing about charitable trusts is that they can never be changed, except to comply with changes in the IRS code. So by setting up a charitable trust whose sole purpose was to periodically give money to an organization (CoS), as long as that organization fulfills certain criteria, I dangle a carrot in front of the future Directors of CoS that they will hopefully find irresistible. What are these criteria? They are all aimed at encouraging the same types of responsible behavior that I expect from CoS (and our partners like The Farm Dog Rescue and Turtle Rescue USA) right now: a focus on animal care, absolutely no breeding, no exploitation for entertainment or profit, obey the law, and have an active and functional Board in place to ensure continuity. Hopefully, things that all animal rescues, sanctuaries, or shelters strive to achieve anyway.
So I set up the Howard T Petrie Charitable Trust (HTPCT) for this purpose. Before you start thinking that anyone who sets up a charitable trust probably doesn't need public support, let me mention a couple of things. First, every attorney or accountant I've ever spoken to about this has told me that I don't really have enough to make this approach worthwhile. I admit that my net worth is borderline for these purposes, but I can only work with what I have. Second, what I have is what I've been able to save from my salary, and some modest returns on investment. I was not born into a wealthy family, I think they would be described as squarely middle class, at best. I'm not complaining. There was always food on the table, as they say. But there was no lofty inheritance, and I'm not in a position to bankroll everything. If all goes according to plan, there will be enough to do what I have promised. But part of that plan is that CoS must generate the support necessary for its own day-to-day operations: not physical infrastructure (which I will provide), but the costs associated with its daily operations and those of our own animal care arm, Their Place. If I must pay for all of this, as well as for infrastructure (which is part of the plan), my ability to fund a long-term financial plan will be at risk. Finally, but by no means less important, in order to maintain its public charity status, CoS must satisfy what is known as the public support rule, or the "1/3 rule," as defined in the IRS code in sections 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) and 509(a)(2). Go ahead, I dare you. Basically, CoS MUST raise at least 1/3 of its operating revenues from the general public in order to retain its public charity status (other limitations apply as well). So even if I (or the HTPCT) had the finanical resources, we can't be the sole source of funding for CoS without running afoul of IRS rules. And by doing so, violating the criteria defined in the HTPCT, which, as described above, are inviolable. So we could use your help...financially, or physically, or in any other way you'd like to be involved. Let us know on the Contact page.
I won't go on much longer. I just want to say a few more things.
I believe strongly in the concept of CoS. It is not without flaws, but I think that on balance, the benefits dramatically outweigh the liabilities.
I believe that if we build it, they will come.
We have a spectacular piece of property. I looked for six years, all over South Florida, burned through several real estate agents. I was looking for some specific features, and I finally found them. When you see it (and you are invited!), you will understand.
I have finally managed to find several people who are not only qualified to help, but are actually onboard with the concept. They drank the Kool Aid, and wanted more! I can't thank them enough.
And finally, thanks to Birdie. And now Girl, Margo, and Cisco. And others who left me too soon: Mango, Riley, Sunny, Quito, MeowMeow, BigBoy, Moochie, Kitty, and Kitty (OK, I'm not big on fancy names). Thanks for being patient during my education, and for giving me the desire to give everything I have and want nothing in return. Even though sometimes a little peace and quiet would be OK...just sayin'.
Thanks also to you for staying with me. Thanks for your interest and, if you're so inclined, thanks for your support. Most of all, thanks for caring. That's what really matters, to me and to them. Now go give your furry, scaly, or feathered friends a head scratch already. We've got work to do...
Howard Petrie (June 2019)
Copyright © 2019 The Coalition of Sanctuaries. All Rights Reserved. CoS is a designated 501(c)(3) public charity, EIN 46-3986004. A copy of our official registration and financial information may be obtained from the Florida Division of Consumer Services by calling (800) HELP-FLA or online at www.FloridaConsumerHelp.com. Registration does not imply endorsement, approval, or recommendation by the State of Florida. Registration #: CH-40078.