Safe Harbor Humane Society Merger with Wisconsin Humane Society
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is the Wisconsin Humane Society (WHS)?
The Wisconsin Humane Society is the largest animal sheltering organization in Wisconsin. WHS was founded in Milwaukee in 1879 and has now grown to serve more than 40,000 animals and families each year. WHS’s mission is to make a difference for animals and the people who love them. In addition to our Milwaukee Campus, we operate shelters in Saukville, Racine, Green Bay, Door County, and soon Kenosha, all as the result of independent shelters requesting assistance from WHS. There is truly strength in numbers, and we’ve built a stable, reliable infrastructure as a result of these partnerships over the years. Our Milwaukee Campus is also home to one of the state’s busiest wildlife hospitals, and we operate a public, low-cost spay/neuter clinic in West Allis.
Who is the Safe Harbor Humane Society (SHHS)?
The Safe Harbor Humane Society (aka the Kenosha County Humane Society) is the only open admissions animal shelter in Kenosha. The organization has served the needs of county residents and their animals since 1916. Each year they care for approximately 3,000 cats, dogs, and other small domestic animals. In addition to caring for homeless animals, Safe Harbor has historically offered low-cost public services to keep community animals healthy, and help end pet overpopulation.
Why is Safe Harbor becoming part of the Wisconsin Humane Society?
The Safe Harbor Humane Society (aka Kenosha County Humane Society) was facing economic challenges that threatened the immediate future of their work in the Kenosha community, and approached the Wisconsin Humane Society for support. After a great deal of discussion, research, and planning, it was determined that an acquisition was the only way to reliably sustain their operations into the future.
Both boards unanimously voted to approve the acquisition because of the financial stability, leadership, and innovative programming that WHS can offer. This partnership ensures that vital services for Kenosha’s animals and overall community will continue without interruption, and brings both strength and sustainability to the shelter’s important work.
When will this happen?
We hope and expect to close the transaction as early as June 1, 2023, if all goes smoothly. The boards of each organization have approved the contracts relating to the transactions and we are entering the final stages of due diligence, including agreements with municipalities as well as satisfactory title reports on real estate.
What changes will be made?
Regarding personnel, no layoffs or pay cuts will be made at either organization because of this merger. On the contrary, WHS will be hiring some additional employees to help support this expansion.
In the first few months, WHS will make some basic improvements to the building or processes that need urgent attention, but our biggest focus will be on learning from the Kenosha team and understanding the strengths and opportunities ahead. Safe Harbor’s facility is fully functional and WHS is excited to learn more about the staff, volunteers, and community, as well as the animal sheltering practices of the organization. We imagine that WHS staff will learn as much from Safe Harbor as they’ll learn from us, and we expect to develop new processes and efficiencies as we work more closely together. Most importantly, both organizations will continue their commitment that animals in adoption have as long as it takes, no matter how long it takes to find that animal a home.
How do animals and families benefit from this transaction?
Most clearly, the merger will bring financial strength and sustainability to the work of making a difference for animals and the people who love them. No organization can fully serve animals and families in need if it is struggling with financial instability. Furthermore, donation dollars can be used more efficiently due to reduced overhead costs, making every gift to the Kenosha facility even more impactful.
In addition, WHS has developed innovative approaches that help animals stay in their homes and out of the shelter, progressive people-centric adoption processes that remove barriers and build relationships, and resources for the community like vaccine clinics, pet food banks, low-cost spay/neuter services, and engaging programs for young people.
Did WHS pay for Safe Harbor?
No, not in the sense of a monetary payment. Actual monetary funds are not exchanged in this type of acquisition between non-profit organizations. WHS assumes all assets, deficits, and a limited list of liabilities of Safe Harbor. WHS has estimated the one-time transition costs will be roughly $105,000 and has carefully ensured this will not affect the organization’s ability to provide any existing services to the public.
Who will handle animal control in Kenosha?
WHS expects to continue the stray holding contracts and relationships already in place and looks forward to working with local municipalities in Kenosha County to maintain these partnerships.
Will the Safe Harbor name change?
Yes, Safe Harbor Humane Society (aka Kenosha County Humane Society) will become the Wisconsin Humane Society Kenosha Campus. As we’ve learned through our past mergers in Saukville, Racine, Green Bay, and Door County, changing the name from the prior entity helped to avoid confusion while continuing to inspire strong support for animals and families in each region. We are so eager to welcome Kenosha’s staff, volunteers, and supporters into the WHS family.
What is happening to the staff at Safe Harbor?
WHS is excited to welcome all current staff and volunteers from Safe Harbor. We have no plans to lay off employees nor reduce pay. Staff at Safe Harbor will soon be introduced to the WHS organizational structure, values, and management approach. Those employees will now have access to employer health insurance and other benefits, as well. Organizationally, WHS will be hiring a few new positions across our organization to support the expanded work.
Who will manage Safe Harbor?
The WHS Kenosha Campus will be managed by Amanda Cutler, the current executive director at Safe Harbor. Amanda has been there for 11 years and is looking forward to joining the WHS family, and WHS is equally excited to have her vast knowledge and experience on our team!
What happens to the board members of Safe Harbor?
We’re so grateful to the Safe Harbor board for their partnership, service, and leadership. It is unquestionable that they had the best interests of animals and people in mind as they developed this succession plan for their organization. At this time, we do not anticipate any Safe Harbor board members will join the WHS board.
Are both organizations “no-kill”?
WHS and Safe Harbor share a similar practice and philosophy toward supporting animals who come through our doors. Neither organization euthanizes animals for reasons of space or time. All animals in our adoption programs have as long as it takes to find a new home, whether that’s three hours or three months. This promise will hold true as we move forward together. To learn more about WHS’s outcome decision making policy, please visit www.wihumane.org/about-us/faqs.
If I make a donation to the Kenosha Campus, can I be sure my dollars will stay in that community?
Absolutely. The Wisconsin Humane Society works hard to ensure their funds are utilized with maximum efficiency across the organization and all campuses are truly part of one life-saving team. That being said, we know some donors prefer their gifts to be solely directed to one location and we will gladly make that happen. If you are interested in donating specifically for the Kenosha shelter, simply check that box on the donation form or otherwise indicate that your gift is for that location, and those funds will be allocated to that facility only.
How can the community help?
Support from local animal lovers will always be the lifeblood of our work in helping animals and families in need. The Wisconsin Humane Society receives no general government funding and is not a part of any national groups like the ASPCA, HSUS, or PETA; WHS is an independent nonprofit organization. This transition does require a significant investment from WHS, and we all need your help to make it work as smoothly as possible. Tell us what you are hearing and thinking. We want to make sure you get all the information you need. And if you are interested in supporting WHS with a monetary gift, visit www.wihumane.org/donate or mail your donation to any WHS location, including Kenosha.
Are you planning more transactions like this?
No, we are not currently working on any other transactions like this, nor have we proactively sought out any of our mergers in the past. At WHS, we do believe that animal welfare organizations will continue to combine in the future and that this trend will strengthen the work for animals and families. As Wisconsin’s oldest animal welfare organization founded in 1879, WHS has always worked to identify and respond to the most pressing needs of animals. Many people do not know that every humane society is a local, separate organization, not a chapter of any national organization. This means that every local humane society must raise money to provide all of its own overhead, even though much of that cost is duplicated at each and every humane society down the road. Increasingly, we’ve seen many organizations face financial instability as they struggle to keep up with the ever-changing needs of their community. We are determined to keep improving our capacity to help when local organizations are in need.
Will this change increase overhead expenses?
No. One of the biggest advantages of the merger is that it will eliminate duplicative overhead expenses. For example, Safe Harbor had to pay for an audit report and tax returns, but now their financial results can be included in the reports and returns that WHS already prepares. So, donor dollars that previously had to be spent on separate reporting can now be spent on more direct care for the animals.
Will this acquisition change the intake region for the Wisconsin Humane Society Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Milwaukee?
No. The Wisconsin Humane Society Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Milwaukee currently is able to accept sick, injured, or orphaned wild animal admissions for Milwaukee, Racine, and Ozaukee Counties, with some exceptions made for reptiles and predatory mammals in Kenosha County. Fellow Mortals Wildlife Hospital will continue to be a rehabilitation resource for other wild animal species found in Kenosha County.
How can I stay in touch with the organization along the way?
If you’re already following Safe Harbor Humane Society on Facebook or Instagram, please continue to do so! Those account names will change but the pages aren’t going anywhere; they’ll continue to be a great source of information and updates local to Kenosha.
We also encourage you to follow the Wisconsin Humane Society on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. That’s where you’ll get a great glimpse at the work WHS is doing across all locations and learn the impact your support makes across Eastern Wisconsin and beyond.
Most importantly, be sure to sign up for our e-mail list here. This is where you’ll receive important information, event invitations, adoption updates, breaking news, and more.