Something stinks at Haven Humane


Consider the video linked below a preface to the story series you’ll read here in the next few days about Haven Humane Society.

“Picking God,” by the RyanMountainBoys, seems the perfect way to introduce this bizarre chapter.

Meet Norm Ryan. In the video he’s the daddy with the guitar.

He was Haven’s CEO for less than a year. He quit in April in the middle of a police investigation. Ryan now faces prison time, if convicted of a slew of felonies related to his dealings at the shelter, including identity theft, grand theft and embezzlement by a public officer.

By and by, Lord, by and by.

It took more than 50 years for Haven Humane Society to slowly grow to the pinnacle of its success. It was renowned far and wide as a well-run, state-of-the-art animal shelter worthy of community praise and pride.

In the last year Haven’s reputation has taken a beating.

Insiders blame the Preston/Ryan administration, which one person characterized as a “hostile take-over.”

As an aside, educator Ray John was hired recently as Haven’s newest CEO. He has agreed to talk with us soon about his new job.

Meanwhile, Haven outsiders look on in bewilderment.

Many long-time Haven insiders and dedicated supporters are troubled by what they’ve seen and heard. They’re angry about the damage done to their beloved organization. They worry about the effect this damage will have on the animals Haven is charged with helping.

Some people continue to ask questions that Yvonne Preston (seen here in a photo from Haven’s previous website), the shelter’s former board chair-turned-interim-CEO, has yet to fully answer.


• Questions about full disclosure of money contributed to Haven, including private donations, estate funds and even coin-collection jars.

• Questions about staff firings, lay-offs, demotions, intimidation and an exodus of loyal Haven employees, supporters and board members.

• Questions about Preston’s connections to Ryan and Rich Steele, the shelter’s former operations director of just three months.

I’ve asked Preston questions, too.

It’s hard to get answers when Preston abruptly hangs up on phone conversations before they’re finished.

It’s hard to get answers when Preston ignores emails.

Of the few times Preston and I have spoken, she made two statements that I later learned were flatly false. (Check back for details.)

This gives me great pause.

What’s really happening at Haven? Why different versions of the same stories?

Why all the secrecy? Why make employees and board members sign contracts that forbid them from talking about Haven? What could they possibly say that would harm Haven?

Now I wonder if there’s any truth to bizarre stories that seem out of character for a so-called professional shelter, like pig-harnessing contests.

Preston behaves as if she thinks the public is not entitled to know what’s happening inside Haven.

She behaves as if she’s forgotten that Haven depends upon public money (hello, city of Redding) for its support.

She behaves as if she’s forgotten that Haven’s doors are open solely because of this community’s generosity and goodwill.

Maybe you’ve paid Haven when you’ve adopted a pet.

Maybe you or your kids have plunked coins inside a Haven collection can on a grocery-store counter.

Or maybe you’re like one elderly Redding couple who’ve donated thousands of dollars to Haven over the years but still wait for an acknowledgment from Haven that it’s received their most recent gifts.

No maybe about it: When it comes to what’s going inside Haven, the public is entitled to answers.

Check back for the next in a series of Haven stories.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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17 Responses

  1. Avatar L. Marge says:

    Excellent sleuthing, Kelly. Thank you. We look forward to learning more about these strange and dark chapters at Haven Humane Society, and hope for better days ahead.

  2. Avatar Tammy D says:


    Keep asking the hard questions. Something is certainly wrong at Haven. How does the public get the answers? What are Haven board members hiding with their closed door board policy? An organization that takes public funds should not be operating as a secret society. I hope the new CEO can clean up the mess that has been left by the few remaining board members. Keep up the good work.


  3. Avatar Darcie says:

    Thanks Doni, there are many people, including me, that want to know what is happening there. I will look forward to your next installment.

  4. Avatar Pat J says:

    I have had only a positive contacts with Haven Humane, and always recieve a prompt letter when I send a donation…mostly in memory of .

    The last one I sent in July 2008, I requested notification to 4 relatives which was taken care of quickly. It's a shame that Ryan was such a bad apple (to be polite), but it should be pointed out that many of the people working at Haven are volunteers and receive no salary.

  5. Avatar Because I Know says:

    Actually, Pat J, the people that work there are paid employees under Yvonne's thumb. She has successfully run off all of the most dedicated and wonderful volunteers.

    Until Yvonne and her cronie, Cheryl Wright are gone, there will be no chance of changes. I know the new CEO is seeing the light already. The sun will only shine brightly when they are gone.

    Thank you Doni for opening eyes.

  6. Avatar Kay Wilson says:

    Since I have been back, end of 2005, Haven Humane has had all kinds of problems. Norm Ryan was hired to clean up the mess that Haven was in at the time he was hired. I happended to be at Pellegrini's Brazillian Steak House when Norm and his sons were playing. It is hard to teach your children to play instruments and play in a band. Maybe he should have stuck with music.

    I agree that questions at Havan need to be answered and the organization needs to get back on track. It is not the same place it was when it was struggling out on Placer Street. As this is a public supported non-profit orginazition, the public has the right to know. If their board meeting are all close, Haven is probley in violation of the Brown Act. Board meetings should be open to the public unless discussing personnel matters.

    It seems that there is a real problem with bookeepers, CEOs, and others who have access to funds running off with hundreds of thousands of dollars from the companies and non-profits they work for. I think there are problems with hiring proceedures in this area.

    There needs to be more oversight of people responsible for funds and above all they need better backgroung checks.– not who they know. If the charges are true, at least Mr. Ryan was stopped before he became Redding's Treasurer!! Keep up the good work Doni.

  7. Avatar Because I Know says:

    Just to set the record straight, Norm was not brought in to fix any messes. The CEO he replaced, Joel Warner, retired. He is the one who with his decades of experience brought all good things to Haven and really got the shelter on a great track for the future. He has been missed very much.

    Yvonne was the one who got Norm to come to the shelter to begin with and needless to say everything went downhill from there. Hopefully the new CEO, although he doesn't have animal experience, will be able to turn things around for the better.

  8. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    Doni, It's a shame that some of these non profits as well as veterans groups get such low life gangsters who steal and run a good organization to the ground. I've seen it happen time and time again that a mostly volunteer not for profit has been taken by these types.

    Even with a board of directors and several checks and balance in place, these scum bags find a way to con a few thousand bucks to their bank account as just what happened to the senior nutrition program.

    Most survive, but with a loss of money that's hard to recoupe.

    Go get em' Doni. Make them account for their losses by entrusting their group to this con man Norm Ryan. Is that the same Rich Steel that says so many ignorant, vindictive statements on blogs?

    Thank God Haven has a saint in Ray John running the show now. I hope they send this scum Ryan to prison.

  9. Avatar pmarshall says:

    Doni and Kelly. We adopted our wonderful cat at Haven 11 years ago. Haven also helped us when there was a dead animal in our basement. We are always sending a donation when we can. I regret very much the "scandal" that seems to be happening. Hope you can get to the bottom ot it. Those people should talk to you; If I could stand the work there, I would certainly talk.

  10. Avatar Chere McMillan says:

    Hi Doni and Kelly,

    Congratulations on an incredible job of investigative reporting! From the information in the story, it is obvious that a lot of research went into putting this series together. The comments and statements are right on target. I feel that it is only fair for the public to know what has happened at Haven Humane during the last 1 1/2 years. They have no idea. Dr. Ray John has a formidable task ahead of him.

    I can't help but wonder if Ms. Preston has to testify at Norm Ryan's trial, will she respond with her usual "no comment?"

  11. Avatar Ginny says:

    Something went wrong when Sandy left Haven and began her own 'no kill' facility in Palo Cedro. I pray that Haven will become what it was when she was there. I will always love and never forget my little Pom no one wanted that we found when Sandy was there.

  12. Avatar Arlene says:

    The Ryan Mountain Boys just came to play in our community room, today. Mr. Ryan was very charming and seemed to be a devoted father. He and his boys performed for us at no charge. They sung and played songs they wrote themselves. Not only are his sons very talented, but they are being taught to give service at an early age. I wish my grandkids could have seen them. I can't square what I have seen written about Norm Ryan with the man I met this afternoon. Is there any chance this is just a big mistake? Is there another side to this story that we are not hearing about?

  13. Avatar Chere McMillan says:

    I am so pleased to hear that Mr. Ryan and his boys are providing entertainment for people in our community. His timing is impeccable! I am sure there is another side to this story and hope that it will be presented when this scenario is played out in the Shasta County courtroom.

    Since he has pled not guilty, it should be enlightening.

  14. Avatar Because I Know says:

    Norm Ryan is a con artist and a crook. He's probably selling those CD's he made to pay for his legal fees. I feel sorry for those kids.

  15. Avatar Candy says:

    I was an employee at Haven when Sandy was still there, and before that i had been a foster parent for over a year. I have been fostering since 1991 at Tehama county before Haven. When i went to work for Haven Joel Warner was just taking over what a mistake! and i could not believe what was going on there. and no matter what i told Joel or Leann they would just ignore me. The things i saw there i just couldn't believe, the cruelty to the animals there. I complained to Joel and Leann several times and nothing was ever done about it.

    Now i hear they want to put there own crematorium in and i think that will be a big mistake! they don't want the public to know what there doing and how cruel they really are to the animals, and the one that is the worse of all there is Holis, he was just as bad to people and he was to the animals. When i worked at haven i worked in the back where they put the animals down and what i saw go down back there with cats and dogs i couldn't believe my eyes.

    The guys who took care of the dog kennels would kick the cages at the dogs when they would feed or they would shoot them with water even when it was cold in there. I tried to get word to the board but it never made it past the directors secretary. And donations given to them benefit them not the animals they need to dig deeper into what goes on there and have some one there every day to make sure the animals are cared for not abused like they are being now and will be until it is stopped.

  16. Avatar Candy says:

    When i was employed at Haven. the only one who really cared about the animals was Sandy and Dr Mark Deer burger, and they made sure his hands where tied. I think they should of made Sandy the director in stead of Joel, then she would of gotten rid of those who were abusing animals she would of done wonders for Haven.

    The clinic now is just as bad now that Dr Mark is gone. When he was there Dr Mark is where i went with my dogs for just about everything there shots there neutering and all my dog i fostered and adopted. my one boy has skin and joint problems i went to get my records from there and the new staff there told me they threw away all the records so i could not bring them to the new vet my one boy Mac is also allergic to Bees. Now i have no way of showing the new vet all his problems. I could not believe it, to them it was no big deal. Someone need to check up on what this clinic is up to also.

    I am looking into it and find out what i can do about this, when i do i will post it, so if this has happened to anyone else i can let them know also.

    Doni keep up what you are doing I'm so glad that some one is listening to all the cry's from the animals there. and maybe it will be a loving place for unwanted animals again.

  17. Avatar Miss Calculated says:

    The one thing missing from the Ryan mountain boys video is Norm in his Armani suit.(barf)LOL