The Big Stink

Fur is flying over whether one of the most popular animal charities in town has gone to the dogs

"That's the way we want it. Make it as clear as I can be," Susan says, leaning across the table, tapping her reading glasses.

"That's our vision."

Although the first board member resigned in June, there's been scarcely a mention of the scandal at Scratch & Sniff in the press. Susan Heywood bragged in a letter to a donor that the Phoenix Business Journal decided against running a story (publisher Don Henninger is a big supporter of Scratch & Sniff), and instead planned to run a positive story about Scratch & Sniff's media campaign.

Left: The most recent Scratch & Sniff program cover. Right: Susan and Bill Heywood, founders.
Left: The most recent Scratch & Sniff program cover. Right: Susan and Bill Heywood, founders.
Party animals: Board president Jill Alanko, with husband, Bert, top. Below, John and Nancy Teets, this year's honorary chairmen.
Party animals: Board president Jill Alanko, with husband, Bert, top. Below, John and Nancy Teets, this year's honorary chairmen.

In anticipation of this story, Heywood put her public relations machine into overload, flooding New Times with calls from animal rights organizations -- even a county supervisor -- who have benefited from Scratch & Sniff dollars over the years. Some were apologetic, explaining they didn't know the details of the board troubles, but wanted to be sure they said nice things about Heywood and Scratch & Sniff, because she'd asked them to.

Few of Scratch & Sniff's current board members had much to say at all. Of the board's 16 current members, at least three (Sonia Falcone, Arizona Public Service vice president Marty Shultz and attorney Rick Ross) are so new to the board they have yet to attend a meeting. Five board members, including Nicole Heywood Cooper, didn't return calls. Carole Machiz and Jennifer Brooks would only say that the whole thing is sad -- then they wanted to talk about their pets. (Machiz has a 20-year-old Siamese; Brooks has 19 turtles.) Linda Pope and Eddie Matney both said they've tried to get off the board -- time constraints, each insists -- but so far have remained on at Susan Heywood's urging.

Treasurer Michael Owens says the Heywoods have his full support.

Jill Alanko, the current board president, left a phone message.

"I would not continue to give $50,0000 of my foundation money to an organization that in any way mishandles anything. . . . I'm sorry there are some disgruntled board members that have been on the board a long time and have seen it all and know it all, and if they were unhappy they should have spoken up a long time ago."

Alanko referred further questions to her attorney, who did return calls.

Heywood, too, castigates the former board members for breaching confidentiality and airing the organization's dirty laundry, but they say it's the only way Scratch & Sniff will ever clean up its act. They fear for the organization's future.

The worst part, the former board members say, is that Susan Heywood ignored their concerns.

"I felt like Susan wasn't being accountable to her board. She wanted a deaf, mute board that had no say in the direction she was going," says Kari Crown, who resigned earlier this month.

Crown, a stay-at-home mom whose ex-husband did very well in the computer business, served on the Scratch & Sniff board for about two years. She donated $30,000 this year and about $25,000 the year before.

Crown didn't like the way former board members Christine Gustafson and Keely Moran were treated. Gustafson, a senior vice president at Morgan Stanley, has served for years on the boards of several Valley charities. Moran, whose husband Bob is an executive with PETsMART (historically, a big corporate sponsor of Scratch & Sniff), had never served on a board, but has a background in accounting.

Independently, the two concluded earlier this year that Susan Heywood was mismanaging Scratch & Sniff, and eventually both resigned. When they (and their concerns) were ignored -- and even derided -- Crown resigned, too.

Of Gustafson and Moran, Crown says, "Two very reputable people with nothing to be gained from a war stood up and asked questions they were entitled to ask and Susan brought down the wrath on them."

Susan Heywood says she has no idea why the former board members are so angry, even as she sits with their detailed letters of resignation before her.

"We're baffled," Bill says.

Adds Susan, "We have a mission and they have a personal agenda."

The history of infighting and backstabbing among animal charities in Phoenix is rich. Only AIDS fund raisers rival dog and cat lovers in their nastiness when it comes to grabbing at ever-shrinking pots of money.

The mom-and-pop rescue groups fight amongst themselves, but the highest profile squabbles have been between the Arizona Humane Society and a coalition of animal rights groups including Maricopa County's animal control department, over who would build and control the biggest, best no-kill shelter in town. The war's gone on for years, and meanwhile about 150 homeless cats and dogs are put to death every day in the county.

Enter Susan Heywood. Originally, she and Bill designed Scratch & Sniff as a fund raiser for the Arizona Humane Society. Reports vary, but that first year the Heywoods' dinner raised at least $200,000. After the tables were cleared, the Arizona Humane Society cut the Heywoods loose, announcing the creation of their own event, the Hair Ball.

"We were very hurt," Susan says.

The reason for the split? "You'd have to ask them," she says.

The Arizona Humane Society did not return calls.

The Heywoods took a break in 1998, then went out on their own, ignoring the Humane Society and donating proceeds to several small animal groups. They founded their own nonprofit corporation and trademarked the name, with the hope of someday spreading the Scratch & Sniff Awards nationwide.

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