Wednesday, August 12, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LANDMARK HELMSLEY LEGAL TRUST CHALLENGE BY AMERICA'S THREE PRE-EMINENT
ANIMAL WELFARE ORGANIZATIONS
HSUS,ASPCA, and Maddie's Fund Charge That Helmsley Trustees Are
Misdirecting Funds Despite Clear Direction from Late Heiress to Help Dogs
NEW YORK (Aug. 11, 2009) -- Three of the country's most prominent
animal welfare organizations -- in what they are terming the most
significant financial litigation in animal welfare history -- have filed
suit in New York's Surrogate Court to intervene in the matter of Leona
Helmsley's $5 billion estate.
The groups are seeking to force the Helmsley Trustees to follow Mrs.
Helmsley's expressed intent to help dogs. According to the groups, less
than $100,000 of the initial $136 million Helmsley grants have gone to dog
"Mrs. Helmsley's Trust Agreement was clear: Help dogs. And the
Trustees have not done this, and instead pursued their own agendas with
Mrs. Helmsley's money," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The
Humane Society of the United States. "Every person with a will or estate,
and every charity that relies on bequest income, should be profoundly
concerned about this misdirection of funds."
The three organizations believe that State Attorneys General have a
responsibility to protect the wishes of any heir or heiress, and also to
protect the entire charitable sector from the whims of trustees who wish
to ignore detailed and unambiguous estate planning instructions. In this
case, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo failed in his charge to
protect these interests.
"Literally hundreds of millions of dollars that have been willed by people
nationally, who cared about dogs, have not gone to provide for dogs as was
intended," said Rich Avanzino, president of Maddie's Fund. "The ignoring
of donor intent in this country has become an unspoken national shame.
With $5 billion at stake this is a game changer. We want to work with the
Helmsley trustees to arrive at a figure that is consistent with Mrs.
Helmsley's intentions and would change injustices in dog care and welfare
For instance, even a small fraction of this money makes it possible to
virtually empty all animal shelters in America of dogs without homes."
"There has been a sea change in recent years in how we treat animals and
the Helmsley trustees don't understand that change," said Ed
Sayres, president and CEO of the ASPCA. "Mrs. Helmsley understood the
importance of animal welfare and was determined to help. She had a vision
for her worldly estate to make our society a better place for dogs and
animals, and consequently, people. We want that noble cause to go forward.
Dogs give us so much in our lives, and the least we can do is make sure
they are not harmed, exploited, or neglected, and the Helmsley estate
allows us to do so. It is not an overstatement to say that the fate of
dogs in this country could very well rest on the
decision of this lawsuit."
The trustees went to court last fall to invalidate Mrs. Helmsley's express
wishes, asking the Court to declare that they "are not bound by the
expression of Decedent's wishes...."
The Trustees disregarded Mrs. Helmsley's wishes and obtained court
sanction for doing so. The process deprived the parties most affected by
their decision -- dog welfare charities -- of any fair opportunity to have
a say on the issue. Neither the Trustees nor the Attorney
General contacted any of these three nonprofit organizations, which are
widely recognized as the leading advocates for dog welfare in the country
if not the world -- or any other organization that might speak up on
behalf of the charitable community that Mrs. Helmsley had a
right to expect would receive "special emphasis" in the Trustees'
After a judicial ruling without hearing from the only charitable
category of recipients specifically listed in Mrs. Helmsley's mission
statement, the trustees distributed the initial round of grants from Mrs.
Helmsley's trust, blatantly disregarding Mrs. Helmsley's express wishes.
The trustees allocated less than .1 percent to dog welfare charities.
"These three leading organizations tried to reach an amicable solution
with the trustees; unfortunately, the trustees were unwilling to
discuss this with us. Now these organizations are forced to resort to
litigation to correct this abuse," Pacelle said.
They have filed a motion to intervene and vacate the initial order.
Posted by: http://www.maddiesfund.org/
Click on title above to go to a petition we have made for the dogs;