Susan Babbitt runs a small no-kill animal shelter in Oklahoma entitled Friends of Collinsville Animal Shelter. In early March, she received a phone call from the Dana Law Firm in Scottsdale, Arizona informing her that her shelter was to inherit a sum of money from the estate of a woman who had recently passed away. The amount of the inheritance was not discussed at the time. Babbitt expressed her feelings of shock and appreciation that her struggling shelter was being blessed with a contribution.
Babbitt was even more astonished when she later discovered that the funds were from a Mary Kay Thomas who passed away at 68 years old and had no family to which she could leave her funds. Instead, she chose to divide it amidst a number of charities, including 27.5% going to a specific animal shelter that she wished to support. Babbitt knew of no relationship with Ms. Thomas or why she would choose to support her shelter specifically. She even asked the law firm why Ms. Thomas had chosen her shelter, but no one at the law firm seemed to know either.
And then, when the check came for the huge sum of $188,981 Babbitt was amazed! The shelter was continually struggling to make ends meet, generally running monthly fundraisers in order to cover expenses. Shelters are in existence for the love of animals far more than for any desire for profit. In fact, most shelters lose funds due to the cost to maintain the animals, get medical treatment as needed, spading and neutering surgeries and more. Adoption fees rarely cover the total cost that the shelter has spent on each animal.
Unfortunately for Babbitt, nearly two months after cashing the check she received a phone call from the Dana Law Firm saying that the funds needed to be returned. In fact, the message they left stated that they had made a mistake and sent the funds to the wrong animal shelter. Instead of her shelter in Oklahoma, the funds were intended for the Friends of Collinsville Animal Shelter in Illinois.
The firm realized their mistake only after the correct shelter called wondering about the status of the check. Mr. Dana said the firm went into a panic as everyone searched for information, finally discovering that the check was sent to the wrong shelter in the wrong state. Dana says he feels terrible about the error but that he does expect Babbitt to return the funds as they are not technically hers. The firm has offered to donate $12,000 to Babbitt’s shelter as an apology and as a show of goodwill.
Babbitt has hired an attorney which advised her that she would, indeed, have to return the funds. She states that she does plan to return the funds and just has not yet had the time to do so. Babbitt did contact the mayor of Collinsville, Illinois to ask if they would be willing to split the donation in half, citing that hers is a no-kill shelter while the other shelter does euthanize. As of Friday, May 10th, Babbit had not heard back from the mayor.
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