Animal House Fund Is a Long Way From Home -- Financially Speaking

click to enlarge An artist's rendering of the $4 million Animal House that's now off the table. -
An artist's rendering of the $4 million Animal House that's now off the table.
The nonprofit agency that has been raising money since at least 2004 for the construction of a new animal shelter in St. Louis is a long way from reaching its goal of $4 million, according to financials obtained by Daily RFT.

The most recent tax filings for Animal House Fund state that the agency had just $107,870 in net assets through calendar year 2008, and in recent years has actually spent more than it has taken in. For example, in 2008 the nonprofit raised just over $40,000 and spent $114,000 in salaries, fees and other expenses, for a net loss of more than $64,000. Ditto 2007, during which the agency recorded a net loss of more than $38,000.

Earlier this week Mayor Francis Slay announced that he could no longer wait for Animal House Fund to complete its fundraising and build its proposed $4 million shelter in a southwest city park recently named after his father, Francis R. Slay Sr.

In addition to the money raised by Animal House Fund, the city has been collecting money for the benefit of the agency. St. Louis residents can check a box on their water, real estate and personal-property tax bills to donate to Animal House Fund. But over half a decade, those contributions have amounted to a mere $245,440.23, according to Tom Vollmer, the city's assistant collector of revenue.

Reached for comment this afternoon, Animal House Fund executive director Brandyn Jones tells Daily RFT that the numbers can be deceiving.

"A lot of our fundraising involves pledges that are not included in the 990 [tax filing]," says Jones. "And a lot of those pledges came to fruition last year."

Jones adds that the financials for 2009 will show a net gain for the agency and that she's not discouraged that the agency's total documentable assets (including the city's collections) tally less than $400,000 -- or less than 10 percent of the the fund's total goal.

"We were marching right along, feeling comfortable about our progress," says Jones.

Mayor Slay now wants to retrofit an existing building to serve as the city's animal shelter and says the city will soon issue a request for proposals for an agency to build and operate the center.

Jones says Animal House Fund plans to compete in that bidding -- even as it has abandoned its plans for a $4 million new structure.

"We're going to pivot with the mayor and continue to work toward a better home for the animals, because that's what this is all about," she says.