Oprah-supported pet hospice shut after mismanagement ruling

AP News
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Posted: Oct 14, 2015 5:49 PM
Oprah-supported pet hospice shut after mismanagement ruling

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A pet hospice once supported by Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities has been shut down for financial mismanagement and ordered sold, the state's attorney general said Wednesday.

The owner of the Angel's Gate hospice, Susan Marino, misused $3.1 million in charitable donations raised between 2007 and 2012, using the funds for many of her personal living expenses without any oversight and without filing required financial reports, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.

"When generous New Yorkers open their hearts and pockets to donate to charity, they shouldn't have to wonder whether or not their hard-earned dollars are actually being used to help those in need," Schneiderman said. "To abuse this generosity is reprehensible."

A state Supreme Court judge in Cooperstown last month ordered that Angel's Gate be dissolved and Marino permanently barred from taking in rescue animals, noting she had been convicted of numerous counts of animal cruelty related to the animals at her property in rural Delhi, 60 miles southwest of Albany.

The judge appointed a receiver to sell the 98-acre Angel's Gate property, including Marino's home there.

Efforts to reach Marino for comment via phone and email on Wednesday were unsuccessful. A phone listed as Marino's has been disconnected.

Marino, who ran the hospice for hundreds of chronically ill and crippled dogs and cats, was charged with cruelty and neglect after a 2010 undercover investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

In September 2012, after Schneiderman filed a lawsuit alleging financial mismanagement and seeking dissolution of Angel's Gate, Marino said she had an auditor who was working with her bookkeeper to get the hospice's records up to date.

"We're late in filing, but there's been no misappropriation of funds," she said then. "Every penny went for the animals' care."

Donations poured in after Angel's Gate was featured on Winfrey's syndicated television show, "The Oprah Winfrey Show," in 2008. In 2009, Angel's Gate won $50,000 in a competition sponsored by Rachael Ray's pet rescue organization. Marino also had an appearance on Martha Stewart's show and was awarded an ASPCA Founders award and a Woman of Distinction honor from New York state.

But critics, including several animal welfare and pet rescue groups and former volunteers at Angel's Gate, accused Marino of being an animal hoarder and self-promoter who put on a good face for the media while animals suffered behind closed doors and were denied veterinary care.

After the property is sold and creditors are paid, any remaining funds will be directed to another charity dedicated to animal care and protection, Schneiderman said.