Founder of Sandstone Wildcat Sanctuary receives fraud complaints

The Wildcat Sanctuary is a nonprofit organization south of Duluth that houses wild animals that have suffered from abuse or have been illegally kept as pets. It was established in 1999 with just a small number of cats but has since grown to care for 109 animals. The Wildcat Sanctuary operates entirely through private donations. Recently, a group of people who have worked closely with the organization have started raising questions about how some of the money has been spent.

In a recent report, the woman that founded the sanctuary was accused of embezzlement and fraud for using donated funds for personal reasons. Accounting discrepancies were first noticed after a snowstorm that damaged many of the enclosures responsible for housing the cats. The woman made a public plea for $100,000 in order to make repairs that were needed to save the lives of the animals. The sanctuary raised over $90,000 in donations; however, the actual repairs only cost around $5,000.

Employees became suspicious about what was happening with the money, and they took their concerns to the board of directors. The board then hired a Minneapolis law firm that conducted an investigation. The report that the law firm eventually gave to the board was so controversial that half of the board members decided to resign. The findings claimed that the woman had been commingling personal and business funds, even using donated money to buy skydiving lessons for her husband.

However, the person who took over as president of the sanctuary board of directors had a separate audit conducted. The audit concluded that no money had been embezzled and that donors have never been misled. The Attorney General’s office is looking at the complaints but has not stated if there will be a full investigation.

While it can seem particularly despicable to take donations from people who want to save the lives of animals, the fact that the two investigations have led to opposite results is a reminder that people must be presumed innocent until the courts determine otherwise.

Source:, “Minnesota AG Looking into Wildcat Sanctuary Complaints” Beth McDonough, Nov. 05, 2013

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