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.