By Jano Tantongco
Supporters of the Grateful Paw Cat Shelter have urged the town board to reverse its decision to cut ties with League For Animal Protection of Huntington.
The town declined to renew the 10-year agreement with LAP to operate the cat shelter after it was discovered that the nonprofit had lost its tax-exempt on May 15, 2015 by consistently failing to file necessary state and federal paperwork.
The IRS automatically revokes tax-exempt status for organizations who have failed to file for three consecutive years.
Following the town’s decision, LAP must vacate the shelter by July 19.
Deborah Larkin, president of LAP, said during the public portion of Tuesday’s town board meeting that the oversight that led to the decision “was a serious mistake, and they “are not making light of it. But, it was just that: an oversight.”
She added that while the town has agreed to take care of the cats at the shelter, some of them require special care that LAP has provided.
“Even if the town or any organization takes over the care of these cats, the likelihood is strong that many would not adjust,” Larkin said. “As devastating as this situation is for the volunteers, the ones who will really suffer from this decision are the animals.”
Councilwoman Tracey Edwards expressed empathy over the situation after Larkin spoke.
“Thank you for everything you have done, you and the volunteers. I just feel horrible,” Edwards said.
Edwards then asked Larkin when the tax exempt status might be renewed. Larkin said their new legal and accounting teams have filed for renewal, and expect the IRS to make a decision in three to nine months. If renewed, she said, it would be reinstated retroactively so there would be no lapse in status.
“But, there’s no guarantee of that.” Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone said.
Chiming in, Town Attorney Cindy Elan-Mangano said “reinstatement can take time,” if it’s even approved “at all.”
One of 24 supporters who pleaded to the board to reconsider was Gina Florentina James, who said she adopted a cat from the shelter last August.
“I love her, she loves me. I don’t know what I’d do without her. End of story,” James said. “I ask the town to do all it can to protect our fine, furry friends and to keep this fine shelter up and running. They – and we – deserve it.”