Brighter pastures in Leicester? Brother Wolf’s move triggers controversy

The president of Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, Denise Bitz, yesterday accused a former member of the nonprofit’s board and one-time foster parent of the year of fomenting “a local cesspool on a social media.”  The comment was one of many contentious exchanges taking place this week on Facebook following Brother Wolf’s announcement it will be closing its Asheville adoption center, temporarily stop accepting new animals and, over the next year, move its operations to an 80-acre sanctuary in Leicester.  According to a June 23 letter written by Bitz to Brother Wolf foster parents, Brother Wolf plans to open “a world class facility [in Leicester] that will encompass a veterinary clinic, dogs and cats habitats, a learning center for youth and volunteers, guest cabins, and space for rescued farm animals, a large dog park, hiking trails, a memorial garden, and a welcome center.”

Is the organization taking a natural step to expand the no-kill theme that has always been a part of its work saving dogs and cats or is it changing its mission?

Bitz says, “We are not really changing our mission, our mission for dogs and cats is exactly the same. We are adding to it.”

But some people with past involvement in Brother Wolf are telling Mountain Xpress they are concerned with the changes.

Rick Wilson, Brother Wolf board president from 2010-2013 and local businessman, is one of them. “I am deeply saddened and confused by the news regarding the closing of the Brother Wolf Animal Shelter. The community donated hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars towards making it a place where lives could be rescued,” Wilson says.

Flo Klein, former Brother Wolf foster parent manager from 2012 until this past April, says 20 Brother Wolf foster parents have been dismissed or have quit since Feb. 3 because they were questioning the direction of the organization.

Numerous Facebook posts are criticizing and raising questions about Brother Wolf’s new direction.

Bitz says only the organization’s board of directors and upper management were involved in the decision to close the adoption center, expand the mission and transition to Leicester. When asked about the decision, she replies, “Do I think it is a community decision where we have our operations? I think the community overall supports our move because they have been in our building. Believe me, we have had many complaints about our facility. We kept telling them we’re doing the best we can, were going to get something better, were doing the best with what we have.”

Cindy McMahon, senior consultant at the Asheville-based Nonprofit Pathways, which helps nonprofits stay strong and sustainable, says that in general it is not unusual for nonprofits to change their missions in order to adapt to changes that happen over time in the community. But she cautions that “with any change in an organization, you want to be careful with how you communicate that change to your constituents and … be strategic in how you involve community and how you communicate the change.”

Mountain Xpress is currently investigating the controversy and will publish the findings in the coming weeks.




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About Nicki Glasser
Nicki is a freelance writer, healing facilitator for people and animals, animal communicator, songwriter, and currently at work on a memoir entitled Until I Rise Again.

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13 thoughts on “Brighter pastures in Leicester? Brother Wolf’s move triggers controversy

  1. Shultz!

    It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out. Seems to me that much of the attention BWAR receives vs others in the same arena is due to their city location. While the new digs sound nice and all, moving out there in totality is a gamble by leaves a gap in having a shelter right in town. My bet is that the opening created by this move will be filled by another group of folks wanting to help animals, creating a new city-based shelter/organization and thinning the limited animal-donation pool.

  2. Diane

    I think it’s important to note they are also firing all their employees at the shelter and will let them “reapply” when the sanctuary opens. As to the fosters, BW’s pet fosters spend their own money feeding and housing animals until the animals find permanent owners. Shutting down the adoption center on such short notice and with no input from fosters is insulting to all these animal champions who worked so hard for Brother Wolf. This also leaves the Asheville Humane Society in the lurch. Why did this all have to happen so fast? Why is a “World-class animal sanctuary with guest cabins” more important than the adoption center? How many surrendered pets will be killed at overcrowded shelters while BW pursues this grandiose project?

    • Connie

      Fosters for BW are provided food and medical free to fosters. However it takes special people to foster the animals in their care. They are the answer to animals cared for in their homes. The animals they welcome are not just animals waiting for adoption. Some are mothers of kitten a puppy that would die with out them. I’ve been a volunteer for BW for 7 years. These fosters save lives. They should be regarded as a precious commodity. Treated with respect.

    • Sherri

      Toto many will be kill because of a stupid move i am still waiting on a on a rabbit haven that was. Promise to me a long time ago for rabbits that has not been full fill but sure did like the money they made from it and even said most died so they did not return to the right place and been shoved away for it but like I said made money from them

  3. Charlotte McRanie

    I am confused by the communication I found on the Brother Wolf site about the new Sanctuary. It makes it sound like it is part of a continuation of a multi-prong multi-year mission of which the current shelter is a part with the sanctuary being a next step. There is absolutely no mention that I see that establishment of the Sanctuary means that the shelter will close. Is this common knowledge in the community or something that only those closely associated with Brother Wolf are aware of? It seems to me this will create a HUGE gap in service in the Asheville community!!

  4. dyfed

    It only makes sense they’d want to get out of that location sooner rather than later. They’ve been broken into and robbed at least twice in the past year, the building is in disrepair, and further investment would be chasing bad money with good.

    The social commentary around this seems kind of paranoid. No, BWAR isn’t selling out to the Koch brothers to create a for-profit animal-based hotel chain, or whatever it is people are insinuating. Only a moment’s calm consideration is enough to see that expansion is necessary, smart, and will lead to a decreased dependence on unfortunately unreliable fostering.

    • Big Al

      “… a decreased dependence on unfortunately unreliable fostering.”

      Ouch. Way to poke a stick in the eyes of dedicated foster volunteers.

      • dyfed

        It’s nothing personal. It’s just an unreliable system. Sometimes you can get an animal fostered, sometimes you can’t. You cannot reliably add more capacity because you can’t count on new foster households joining the program on a regular basis. Sometimes foster households have to drop out or refuse animals for reasons beyond their control. That’s life.

    • Diane

      Your not quite on the same page. According to CT, Bitz said she hopes the transition will be smooth and said if they are able to grow their foster network, it could actually mean Brother Wolf is able to increase rather than decrease its intake.”

    • Connie

      Your opinion is yours but don’t call them unreliable. I know many are they are far from that

      • dyfed

        Didn’t call foster households unreliable, called fostering itself unreliable. See above.

  5. Alan Ditmore

    Asheville is too expensive and zoned now for most people; so it obviously has no room for animals. How the zoners didn’t think of this when they passed the UDO is beyond me. Do they think Biltmore Forest is going to get an animal shelter?

  6. Thank you all for sharing your perspectives. We are continuing to look in to the situation. As an animal lover and part time pet care professional — when I am not writing :) — I also care deeply about the welfare of animals in Asheville and all around the world.

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