Highlights from Hair Balls
The owner of a self-proclaimed animal rescue with an alleged history of not paying boarding fees is still refusing to explain why her rescue's major donor, the CEO of a multimillion-dollar investment company, pulled his funds and will not pay to save 248 dogs abandoned in a Dallas-area kennel.
Linda Robinson-Pardo, a.k.a. Linda Kay Robinson, an ex-boxer who was suspended five times in two years, appears to have operated the Waco-area Happy Endings Dog Rescue solely on funds from Life Partners CEO Brian Pardo. The Houston Press could not find marriage records indicating the two were ever married, and Pardo's assistant would not confirm for us whether Pardo is still married to the woman identified as his spouse in U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
Pardo did not respond to multiple requests for interview.
A former associate of Robinson's, who asked not to be identified, said the current situation is just the latest in Robinson's history of pulling dogs from multiple shelters with no real plan to adopt them out.
"It's almost like it's a sickness, in the aspect that she wants to save them, but she won't make sure that she follows through," said the former associate, who claims that at least 50 of the dogs stuck at the Camp Diggy Bones kennel have been in Happy Endings' possession since 2007, and that about 100 have been with the rescue nearly as long.
Life Partners, a pioneer in the sale of life insurance policies on the secondary market, has faced a rash of legal action from state and federal authorities, as well as shareholders, and the legal costs may be one reason Pardo decided to stop funding Robinson's hobby. (Life Partners has come out on top in the recent legal proceedings.)
Still, Pardo seems to be doing well: The company recently announced that Pardo got a salary bump to $530,900. The company's latest annual report states that Pardo also owns a plane, which has been "rented" to the company to the tune of $452,424, $422,057 and $189,653 during the past three fiscal years. Of course, Life Partners must also travel by water to conduct its affairs, so the company also pays "well below the fair rental value" for Pardo's yacht — more than $300,00 total for the past three fiscal years.
SEC filings also state that Pardo's spouse, identified as Elizabeth Pardo, runs a company Life Partners contracts with called ESP Communications. That company is paid "7,500 on a semi-monthly basis," and was paid "$180,000 in each of fiscal 2013, 2012, and 2011." (Curiously, SEC filings from the early 2000s include Elizabeth's name, but her name is omitted from recent annual reports.)
Although Robinson declined to tell us anything of value, she did provide a rambling statement claiming that Happy Endings paid Camp Diggy Bones "over $400,000 in 2013 to adopt out, care for and house the [Happy Endings] dogs."
Robinson also claimed in her statement that Happy Endings is "focusing all effort to get these dogs adopted quickly [and] we need the help of local and national organizations." She also wrote, "An agreement...is being negotiated...to bring temporary resolution to the disputes between the two parties that will ensure the safety of the dogs while alternate rescues are found." (The problem is, "national organizations" don't like to clean up an incompetent rescue's mess if that rescue is still in business and will likely have similar problems down the road.)
Camp Diggy Bones owner Gene Mason claims he had to nearly exhaust his own savings to cover the boarding of the dogs — mostly pit bulls and pit-mixes. Mason also claims to have sent Happy Endings two demand letters for back payment, although he declined to share the letters after initially agreeing to. Mason has also refused to provide the name of the lawyer representing Happy Endings whom he is supposedly negotiating with.
In a statement posted on Happy Endings' Facebook page in January — since removed — the rescue noted, "We are concerned that you Gene are unstable and while going on a sort of public relations campaign aimed at damaging our reputation and to extort money from us and/or those who financially support HEDR." The statement also noted that Camp Diggy Bones "is the home and residence of Gene and Nicollete Mason," which "makes it very difficult to determine exactly what money received is being used for HEDR dogs or personal use since the personal residence is the boarding facility and it is apparent you co-mingle business funds with your family funds and assets."
The former Happy Endings associate, as well as the heads of two kennels in the Dallas-Forth Worth area who had trouble collecting payments from Happy Endings, all say they warned Mason of the rescue's payment history before he agreed to board hundreds of its dogs.
Mason has also been mum about what he is doing — if anything — to work with local and regional rescues to find homes for these dogs. Unfortunately, anyone who wants to make sure these dogs continue to eat every day has no option but to donate to either Happy Endings or Camp Diggy Bones, the very companies that created this cluster in the first place.
Robinson declined repeated attempts by the Press to find out more about how Happy Endings got in this jam and why Pardo suddenly stopped paying.
The former associate claims that Robinson didn't seem interested in actually finding homes for the dogs she pulled — some of which spent so much time sleeping on concrete kennel surfaces that patches of fur wore away. At one point, the ex-associate claims, Robinson kept dogs in temporary construction trailers on her property that were quickly mired in urine.
The former associate claims that Robinson would tell her, "These dogs have a home...I am no hurry to get them a home." Yet the ex-associate says that some of the dogs were owner-surrenders, which meant they went from sleeping in a home "to being caged their whole life."
At one point, according to the former associate, plans for a Happy Endings calendar meant to highlight and promote dogs available for adoption were scrapped in favor of a calendar that put more emphasis on Robinson herself.
"It was like a promotion for Linda, basically...'Look at me, look at what I'm doing,'" the former associate says.
We hope rescues up there — or even around Houston — can do something about this. The dogs stuck in Camp Diggy Bones deserve better than the brand of human they've been getting.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.