When Bernard and Jeanne Adler donated $50,000 to the Save A Friend to Homeless Animals shelter for construction of a new 30,000sq. foot facility on Herrontown Rd. in Princeton, NJ, they did it to “ensure there would be rooms for large dogs and older cats, pets that usually are harder to adopt.” In return, they expected to be given naming rights for the building.
However, after SAVE merged with Friends of Homeless Animals and changed its plans in favor building a smaller facility in Montgomery, the Adlers asked for their money back. The shelter refused, and the Adlers filed suit against them in 2007. After a three-year fight, culminating in a 2-day bench trial, a Mercer County Superior Court judge ruled in the couple’s favor and ordered the money returned. The decision led SAVE to appeal, with the Appeals Court releasing its final decision earlier this month.
In announcing its ruling, the court stated, “That any charity that solicits and accepts a gift from a donor ‘is bound to return the gift’ when the charity unilaterally decides not to honor the donor’s originally expressed purpose.”
“We believe that responsible charities will welcome this decision because it will assure prospective donors that the expressed conditions of their gift will be legally enforceable,” the judges ruled.
Although the Adlers’ attorney Stuart J. Polkowitz said his clients felt “vindicated” by the decision, SAVE was quick to respond by calling it a “Pyrrhic” victory for the couple and emphasized that the ruling would now “make it more difficult for the shelter to save homeless dogs and cats that much more difficult.”