AG asked to probe Dancing Star animal slaughter
March 23, 2009
By KAREN VELIE
Systematic killing of protected animals at the Dancing Star Foundation’s Cayucos sanctuary and excessive salaries of a husband-wife team of self-proclaimed environmentalists may violate the non-profit corporation’s filings with the state of California.
Lucy Sheldon, with assistance from the Animal Place Sanctuary, applied to California’s Secretary of State for the non-profit corporation’s filings and said she will send them to the Attorney General with a request seeking an investigation.
Sheldon and the Animal Place will join complaints of numerous animal welfare groups from throughout the nation who have asked the Attorney General’s office to determine if Tobias and Morrison’s management of the Dancing Star Foundation violates non-profit corporation and IRS laws.
Dancing Star officials have not responded to requests for comment.
Many healthy animals entrusted to Dancing Star Foundation’s oceanside sanctuary have been euthanized in recent months after being placed on a “kill list” — prepared with the help of a veterinarian and weighted heavily by economic considerations. These factors included individual animals’ costs relating to food and medication needs.
During the past few months, 30 of the sanctuary’s 200 wards were slaughtered.
Sue Stiles started the foundation in 1993 with a focus on providing a refuge for elderly and handicapped horses, cows, and burros. She reportedly endowed the foundation with more than $60 million to keep her dream alive.” Stiles died in 2002 after putting her mission statement on record:
“The purpose of this corporation shall be (1) for the prevention of cruelty and the provisions of care for domestic animals and, (2) to make grants, donations, gifts, and contributions from its net income or assets, exclusively for charitable, scientific, literary, artistic, or educational purposes…” according to amended bylaws Stiles submitted during her illness, on March 11, 1998.
Former and present employees of the Dancing Star Foundation claim that its top officers, Michael Tobias and Jane Gray Morrison, have vacillated between claims that either economic issues or quality of life concerns prompted their kill policy. According to the foundation’s 2007 IRS Form 990 filed Oct. 6, 2008, the group had more than $43 million in assets. Tobias, as president, receives a yearly salary of $285,500; Vice President Morrison, $244,000; and Vice President of Finance Don Cannon, $240,000.
These salaries may conflict with Stiles’ original plans, according to state filings.
“The property of this corporation is irrevocably donated to charitable sources and no part of the net income or assets shall ever inure to the benefit of any director, officer, or member thereof or to the benefit of any private person,” according to Dancing Stars’ 1993 Articles of Corporation and a 1998 version Stiles amended.
Laws prohibit running a nonprofit to advantage an individual. Tax laws passed in the 1990s give the IRS authority to require excessively-compensated executives, compared to median incomes of executives of similar profit entities, to repay a portion of their income, along with a 25 percent penalty.