WHY ARE WE SPEAKING OUT?
It has come to our attention that there continues to be ongoing gossip and chatter regarding our organization and members. Since two years of ignoring it, and never once been asked directly for any clarifying information the slander has not faded, the following will be a post addressing each of the stories that have been brought to our attention. Please forgive the lengthy response, but we are addressing two years’ worth of ever evolving gossip.
Since the beginning and up until now, Mondo Cane has endured a great deal of opposition and slander. Although we did expect some opposition, since we would not have had a reason for existing in a place without animal welfare issues, we are taken aback by some of the sources of such slander.
We have rarely invested our energy in answering to such things since no one has directly asked, and we did not feel it appropriate to address coffee shop talk, and we did not want to engage into a who said what about whom type of scenario, feeling it would eventually fade away and preferred to focus our energy in helping the animals and achieving our goals instead of wasting it in defending our position in an argument with people who were not particularly active.
However it has now reached a level where the poison being injected is too much to continue to ignore.
MC ADDRESSES TWO YEARS OF SLANDER
A LITTLE BACKGROUND ABOUT MC:
Mondo cane was formed in 2012, following the local vet Michalis Kontrafouris approaching Anna Florentis, Dietha Matthaiou and Karin Auer, suggesting they should take over and resurrect PAL. At this time Dietha and Karen indicated they did not want any official responsibility involving the resurrection of PAL (Patmos Animal Lovers). Anna asked questions about what the organization has done in the past and what it will be doing, other that raising funds for the unlicensed clinic’s rent. (We will explain further down why we called it unlicensed)
She wanted to know:
what services it provides for strays and abused animals
What kind of benefit would the community receive? (Other than the benefit of having a vet in the island)
How it would benefit the community in resolving its animal welfare issues.
The answers she received were unsatisfactory:
There was no plan to assist abandoned and abused animals.
It would be possible, but was not enthusiastically received, to offer small discounts for veterinary cares to members.
There was no offer for education and facilitation of sterilizations, which is the core reason of animal abandonment cases to begin with.
She wanted to know which percentage of the revenue of the animal clinic that was being sponsored by membership and fundraising would go back to the organization, and was told that no percentage would.
Anna was soon after approached again by the vet and Gina (we apologize for not knowing her last name), asking for her to become the spokesperson for PAL, while they would manage it behind the scenes, without wanting any official involvement, but again, for the same reasons explained before, Anna was not interested in becoming involved with an organization which had already created a negative reputation for not resolving community problems (community complaining about having reached out to previous PAL members for affordable sterilizations and unwanted companion animals and received no guidance or assistance, resulting in high numbers of abandonment, litters of puppies in trash bins and the killing and drowning of entire litters).
Patmos does not have a severe animal overpopulation problem, most of its animal abandonment and neglect cases stem from an outdated and uniformed view of animal welfare and a lack of knowledge of the alternative options and resources available to them.
After politely declining the offer/request there were continued conversation with people who were already dealing with situations of abuse and neglect and volunteering with the team of Dutch vets who come here once a year, including Dietha, Karin, Tea Krikri, Marianne Smeding, Anna Florentis and others, conversation about how to join forces to make an improvement for the animals of Patmos without burdening their individual lives, hence Mondo Cane was created.
To the best of our knowledge, when PAL was originally created, they did a lot of good to the animals and the community. They initially partnered with a young veterinarian, fresh out of school, and eager to assist with the needs of the community. There was a time when the work with the vet was harmonious, he was open to assist with sterilization of animals that had no owners and other community needs, however circumstances change, people change, needs change and the new situation was that PAL was being asked for low cost of sterilizations and the handling of stray and unwanted animals, for which, for whatever reason, they were unable to comply.
PAL had lost all it’s members because they offered nothing back to the community, including any discount for services to members (they were originally offering that but chose to discontinue), the public had lost faith in raising money for paying for the veterinarian private’s business, which offered not even a legal receipt in return.
Mondo Cane chose not to have this confrontation with the vet, figuring that it was none of our business how this person chose to conduct his profession, we have a different idea of how we should function and decided that we should not focus on forcing someone to follow suit, since it was not our responsibility in calling anyone out on their business practices.
Anna Florentis did however, upon formation of the organization, make a personal visit to the local veterinarian Mikalis Kontrafouris, with whom she had almost two decades of previous collaboration and great affinity for, to inform him of the group’s decision to form a new non profit organization and of its goals to include a shelter, a clinic, a second hand shop, and boarding services to assist in creating revenue for the organization as modeled after other large and successful organizations such as SPCA, Humane society, Soi Dog, Best Friends, and others.
The goals and plan were discussed out of respect for his friendship, his continued presence on the island and in hopes that he would be interested in joining in a collaboration. The news was not well received and we were informed that it would be a total failure and the only thing we would accomplish was for everyone dumping their animals on us, which of course was not a deterrent since animals were already being dumped at our door steps.
It was not an easy decision (in fact, it was a really difficult one) because all of us had known this person (Michalis Kontrafouris) for many years, but since we (former PAL volunteers) were the ones dealing with dumped animals and we had the conscience to spend our personal time and resources to resolve some of the issues, we decided it would be more efficiently done on neutral ground, which is the land the municipality later gave Mondo Cane, and instead of dealing with the dumped animal issues as individuals, to do so, as an organized united group of people serving a common cause.
So Mondo Cane was created in 2012.
Then several people who like to get a lot of credit for having done very little, started to drop out of MC, stopped offering their assistance, weakening the core group, which later evolved into outright opposing the core group, making their job more difficult. Yet, those of us who remained, still avoided answering the gossip and continued on, just trying to reach the goals we set ourselves out to achieve, determined to succeed.
In the meantime, poison continues to be injected into the artery required to feed the project…
Additional conflict was created due to the fact that the sole remaining member and officer of former PAL, Mr Ypsilantis, donated all of PAL’s remaining items to MC, for which we have a receipt signed by him and he wished us luck on our endeavors.
This incident, and the fact that some of our members volunteered in the spay neuter campaign which occur once a year, caused the veterinarian to claim that these items, which had been donated to us, had to be returned to him, along with some veterinary narcotics of which we have no knowledge, accusing our volunteering team members of having illegally removed them, thus implying we are common thieves.
Following these accusation, it was more than reasonable to be asking for legal advice.
We were advised not to respond to the accusations we were also told not to enter those premises without the veterinarian himself being present, and to enter for business purposes only, in order to avoid any further frictions and the related slander. We have done so.
THE EXISTING VETERINARY CLINIC:
During that same visits of the Dutch vets, we discussed a continued cooperation with team, we were very enthusiastic to continue it and even increase it.
During the following year (2013) and prior to their next visit, we began to research how to open a clinic of our own, were we could host interested veterinarian from around the world, to have a more on going vet presence and increase the number of sterilization campaigns we could perform.
We even called the Greek ministry of veterinary services to ask if the existing Patmos veterinary clinic could be used as comparison with the clinic that we intended to create as far as its technical specifications are concerned (number of rooms, square footage requirements, legal requirements, etc.) this is when we discovered that there is no legal and licensed veterinary clinic registered on Patmos and therefore the apartment currently being used as such, offered no guidance pertaining to the specifications and requirements we needed, which then had to be emailed to us instead.
This is also when we discovered that the bureaucracy and licensing process is a lot more complex than we anticipated, the obstacles of which we are still working to resolve in order to have Mondo Cane’s own veterinary clinic and offer veterinary services to the public.
Based on this criteria, when it was time for the Dutch vets to visit again, we sent them the required written invitation, we made an agreement, arranged for accommodations, found a suitable, comparable work space, equivalent to the apartment where the clinic is located, and looked forward to their visit.
Unfortunately, a week before their arrival and despite our efforts, the Dutch vets canceled in a very rude and disrespectful manner, vague reasons given pointed to slander spread by the same group of people made of individuals who slowly left MC on their own, or never joined to begin with.
The Dutch vets did however request our equipment for the campaign, so they could proceed with the sterilizations at the usual location which is Michali’s place. We replied that we would have been more than happy to let them use such equipment at any location of their choice, except at the clinic where we were legally forbidden any access or have any of our property without the presence of the veterinarian itself. There was no point in wasting time debating on who said what, regardless of the fact that it was made to appear that it was us who lacked the willingness to proceed. Despite this we wished them success, because in the end it is about the animals and the end result, which in this case was over 200 cats sterilized in one week.
We would like to stress that this was not a personal decision of any single individual, but of MC as an entity, an organization under which we function and all have to obey by its statutes.
ADDRESSING THE BUSINESS PLAN RUMORS:
Another setback for which a lot’s been heard and said has been the general business plan which has obviously evolved according to need, sponsorship and circumstances.
Some of the setbacks and changes include:
Original business plan (available to anyone who wishes to review it) included building an island style kennel facility, but due to the expensive cost of building permit alone, has been reduced to using prefabricated structures and modified containers.
2000 sq m plot of land requested and approved by the municipality was to be delivered leveled , roughly fenced and with hook up to water and electricity. Since taking possession in February of 2014 (one year and a half later) less than a quarter of it was leveled at our expense and not by the municipality as requested, no fencing, water or electricity has been provided.
The watering issue was solved for a long period of time by carrying out water in plastic tanks with our own cars. More recently we managed to acquire a water tank that serves the animals needs for a few days. As for the electricity, this remains unsolved so the work at the shelter can occur only with the help of day light while the shelter remains in complete darkness the rest of the time, and also makes the use of necessary tools which require electricity, very difficult, as we have to borrow a generator every time we need to use something electrical.
One of the 2 shipping containers, generously donated by Lynn Goleby has been stolen by Mouzaliotis Containers, having never sent it, which now requires the pro –bono involvement of the attorney Panagiotis Gouskos, whom we are grateful to have.
THE INFAMOUS CAT CAFE ISSUE:
Another setback that comes with slander, is the infamous cat café situation.
Part of the completed original business plan included the structure of stations, based on successfully tested models , already working abroad, known as “Cat Cafés”, to be placed around the island as cat colony feeding stations.
This project was selected for sponsorship by a group yearly island visitors.
Previous PAL’s volunteers had warned us against collaborating with the pair that approached us, specifically Barbara Bonfigli and Marilyn Preston, due to their lack of transparency in their previous fundraising involvement on behalf of PAL.
Unsure if this was just coffee shop gossip and without hiding this information from them, we chose to welcome a potential cooperation in the spirit of new beginnings and common good will.
As mentioned before, this team, led by Barbara Bonfigli and Marilyn Preston, chose to recruit sponsors as well as fundraise by selling pillows for the purpose of giving us money for building the cat cafés (not stocking and operating them), at which time we mentioned that we did not feel it was the right moment to invest our scarce resources and time to properly manage them, and that there were other priorities for other incoming cash (such as basic survival and running of the now populated shelter).
Their enthusiasm for this particular project continued and they even found someone to build them at a third of the cost of the original estimate received. So reluctantly we accepted to initiate the project, assuming they did not give us the funds to do it (to avoid any unforeseen costs or delays that we may be held responsible for), but rather they have them built and donate the completed structure, prior to which we had gained municipal approval for select locations of display.
The cat cafes were finally delivered with a 6 months delay, they arrived at a time where unfortunately, despite our best intentions and effort to plan this correctly, a series of things went wrong.
The initial presentation was met by a local individual throwing one of the cafés in the trash, resulting in the municipality retracting its permission for public display in public property.
This happened during municipal pre-election season (Spring of 2014), followed by the municipal council summer hiatus and coinciding with the beginning of the high paced summer work season (reducing our manpower), but also being the most active time of year to send adopted animals abroad because of the increase in flight escorts available, we chose to not spread our resources thin and revisit this matter at a later time, focused instead on the priority of the summer season, which includes fundraising, since without money the operation of the shelter isn’t possible.
Unfortunately the sponsors of these cat cafes wanted them to be displayed at that time, because that was when they and their friends were visiting the island.
This resulted in an obscene number of emails, and rude tones after which we decided to finally terminate our cooperation with them, on the basis that this is a volunteer organization, it has a governing body which makes decisions, and nor its decisions or the un-paid time invested was being respected.
In resolution we even offered to return the structures, assuming our logo be removed, so that responsibility for them may be taken by the sponsors who insisted on placing them in various locations in which the municipality had not granted permission for. They finally declined this offer and these structures were and continue to be, put to good use regardless, assisting the cats that are at the shelter, so they are helping cats, just at a different location than originally planned.
When there will be volunteers that are able to clean them and maintain them, as well as funds to keep them stocked, once the municipality has given their permission, we will revisit the public display of the cat cafes.
MC remains grateful to Miss Preston and Miss Bonfigli, as well as the other sponsors they have recruited, for the structures.
We do apologize for that miscalculation, through trial and error we have come to learn that public display is the last part to come into place.
WE WELCOME ANYONE WILLING TO INVEST THEIR TIME AND EFFORT:
Despite the combined experience of our governing body, some in animal welfare, some in business management and some in accounting, we do not claim to be infallible, there is always room for new and fresh ideas and new initiatives, in fact we are always welcoming and inviting people willing to participate in the election process and join the governing body, to be elected into a position of decision making as well as sharing responsibility.
We invite and are happy to nominate anyone who feels they have something to contribute both in words as well as actions, in hopes of strengthening our team and improve our shortcomings.
Moving on, questions have been raised about where the money goes and transparency issues; we did issue a “2013 Year at a Glance”, which was meant to be just that: a glance, a short summary for people who did not wish to be bombarded with every single transaction however, at the end of each year, a detailed statement is available for public review and does reflect every single transaction.
We will repeat the “Year at a Glance” for the year 2014.
A detailed transaction report is available, prepared by our accountant Yorgos Mastropetros and MC’s treasurer Karin Auer.
We can account for over 95% of all donations. Each donation is traceable when received through Paypal or wired into the bank account, however there is a small amount of money we can only show as lump sum, for example for the occasional smaller cash amounts handed over to one our volunteers on the street by people who know us, or the money collected through our donation boxes, we have no way of knowing who donated how much in those cases. Unfortunately, although we do record those transactions, this amount needs to be taken in good faith, as we cannot track that in a way that would satisfy anyone anywhere, especially not someone with a trained eye for accounting.
If our integrity is in question, but you still wish to make a donation, please choose to donate through Paypal or directly at the bank, or request a receipt as we do have them available.
Another question has been raised pertaining to weather the money being raised is being used by one or more of the members of MC, particularly in question has been Anna Florentis.
To answer the question to anyone who did not feel the best thing to do was to ask her directly, but felt it appropriate to make it a coffee shop conversation amongst other people who also did not know this person, nor the answer to the question, Anna Florentis is a freelancer, she earns a living by trading forex, does freelance translations on line, and owns a US based company called Ourika, inc which provides customer service subcontractors to US based Fortune 500 companies.
Anna‘s business is set up virtually to allow her to earn an income regardless of her geographical location, or having to rely on Greek economy. Since her involvement with MC, Anna has in fact suffered a loss of income, by having to hire a person to manage some of her responsibilities, since her time is almost entirely consumed by the organization.
All of us who experience the organization from the inside and know Anna personally, are well aware of the fact that she does not make a living from the running of the organization, and that she has sacrificed more than many of us, by donating so much of her personal time to the organization, in addition to money for any urgent need that MC could not afford.
WELCOMING THE REBIRTH OF PAL:
Last but not least, it has been brought to our attention that a group of people, which we are told include Dietha Matthaiou, a few foreign yearly Patmos visitors and several ex-pat residents among others, are resurrecting the PAL organization.
We are sincerely happy if their intention is in fact to concentrate on sharing the burden of animal welfare issues.
We are not sure if the structure of this new/old organization will be to fundraise for some cat feeding stations and pay the business expenses of the veterinary clinic only, or if it will include sharing the burden of the abandoned, neglected and abused animal population. We sincerely hope for the latter as there is certainly enough work for more of us to be involved, and as we are currently operating at maximum capacity, we would be more than happy and relieved to refer any new cases to the new organization, otherwise it would just be reducing the available resources for financing for two organizations while leaving only one with all the burden.
The individuals involved in resurrecting the “new” PAL, so far have not approached us to see how the presence of the two organizations on the island, could partner in the best interest of Patmos’ animals.
So, even though some of the mentioned founders have been involved in slandering MC in the past, we extend our heartfelt and public request that all such draining and derailing behavior seize and that all energies be redirected to what you will soon find is a very busy and essential task of caring for abandoned, neglected and abused animals, and the steady awakening of the Patmian community toward animal welfare.
We wish PAL the best of luck, hope for their cooperation and publicly ask, that PAL’s formation include only work and effort to assist animals in need and not engaging into warfare and slander of our organization, which in less than 2 years of existence has saved over 130 animals, including wildlife, cats, dogs and livestock, we can provide the name and photo of every single animal which has been rehomed or cared for.
If there are any further questions regarding transparency or any other issue whatsoever, we would prefer it would come to us directly, to give us the opportunity to answer in person and present you with all the facts and data. We believe this way is much better, rather than have any issue grow and fester in the background.
Mondo Cane Animal Welfare
Board of directors
* Update 10/24/2014: We were contacted by Dietha Matthaiou following our statement, where she clarified that while she was approached to become president of the resurrected PAL or PAC as it may now be called, she declined the position and is not directly involved with that organization at this time.