248 Dogs Face Uncertain Future, and Their Rescue Organization Won't Tell Us Why
Until last December, Hewitt-based Happy Endings Dog Rescue paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to board dogs at the Lavon-based Camp Diggy Bones kennel.
Will these 248 dogs have to be taken out behind the shed?
But word went out among the animal rescue community that Happy Endings, run by a woman named Linda Robinson-Pardo, suddenly lost a major contributor whose donations paid the kennel fees. Now it's unclear what will happen to 248 of the Happy Endings dogs -- mostly pit mixes -- after February 1, and neither Happy Endings nor Camp Diggy Bones will tell us how this happened and what they are doing to save the dogs.
Robinson-Pardo, 52, has not responded to multiple voice mails and online queries, nor have we been able to reach Camp Diggy Bones owner Gene Mason. The kennel's manager, Nathan Hondell, told us he has no idea what will happen to the dogs after February 1.
Neither Happy Endings nor Camp Diggy Bones appears to have reached out to other rescue groups, organized offsite adoption events or facilitated with national animal welfare organizations to address what appears to be an emergency situation.
In fact, the people who seem to be doing the most to get the word out about the dogs are from other rescue groups, which is how we became aware of the situation in the first place. (A shout-out goes to Stacy Lee of Garcia Rottie Rescue, who worked with the American Rottweiler Club Disaster Committee to place 50 rotties, and who's been scrambling to save the rest of the dogs. Yet since she's not part of Happy Endings, she has no authority to make arrangements for the dogs -- she said people would have to contact Happy Endings directly. Yet no one from Happy Endings will even talk about the situation, including giving us information about how to adopt or foster).
According to Happy Ending's 2011 tax returns -- the most recent available -- the organization spent $871,680 on boarding fees, although it does not identify the kennels. According to 2010 tax returns, the rescue paid Cedar Park-based Happy Trails Pet Resort $229,951 for boarding, and paid Camp Diggy Bones $119,438.
Tax returns for 2010 year also show that Robinson-Pardo drew a salary of $185,266 and collected $99,124 in "reportable compensation from related organizations." The rescue's veterinarian, George McKirahan, was paid $125,989.
However, the 2011 return shows that Robinson-Pardo wasn't paid a cent. (McKirahan was paid $121,717.)
The 2010 return also lists Brian Pardo as a director. (He's not listed on the 2011 returns).
Pardo, 71, is the founder of Life Partners, Inc., a pioneer in the "life settlements" market -- the sale of life insurance policies on the secondary market. The publicly traded Waco-based company has for years been embroiled in litigation, both by shareholders who claimed they were not given accurate financial information, and by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has said that life settlements are securities and therefore subject to state securities law. A judge ruled in Life Partners' favor in 2012, and Abbott subsequently sought another injunction, this time alleging that the directors misled investors. (According to SEC filings, the company is currently regulated by the Texas Department of Insurance as a "viatical and life settlement company.")
According to a 2013 Star-Telegram story, a federal judge in Nevada summarily dismissed one of the suits brought by investors. (Shortly afterwards, Life Partners "disclosed in a federal filing that it has given Pardo a $30,000 pay hike, raising his salary to $530,900 in fiscal 2014," according to the story.)
Happy Endings was at one time listed on Life Partners' website as an organization the company contributed to, but it's unclear whether there is still a connection. Pardo did not respond to messages left by the Press.
We asked Katie Jarl, head of the Humane Society of the U.S.'s Texas division, how rescues typically handle sudden loss of funding or other situations where they're forced to close.
"Responsible rescue groups don't take in more animals than they have resources for, in terms of both funding and space, so they can theoretically continue operating as long as there are pets in need," she told us in an email. "However, there are any number of reasons why a group may decide it needs to shut its doors. Ideally, the group will 'wind down' its operations, ceasing intake of new animals and ensuring that every animal already with the group finds placement, which often means holding adoption events and networking with the community to find homes for all the animals. When that's not possible, the burden falls on other animal welfare groups or animal control agencies to take the animals in and make the necessary difficult decisions about their future."
We're at an absolute loss in trying to understand why no one from Happy Endings, and to a lesser extent, Camp Diggy Bones, is talking to us. We hope it's because they're too busy mapping out a solid plan to find homes for these dogs. But sadly, we just don't know.