By now most people who read this blog are probably familiar with HumaneWatch.org-- a website that has been designed almost with the sole purpose to take down the Humane Society of the United States.
The website has really put Wayne Pacelle and the rest of the HSUS staff on the defensive -- and in the process, is finding HSUS trying to dig themselves out of a hole. Meanwhile, several local humane societies -- whose name similarities are causing consumer confusion and been a fundraising windfall for HSUS - are starting to undergo name changes to distance themselves from their unaffiliated namesake.
The attack has by Humanewatch has HSUS defending what they do to help shelters -- and as it turns out, what they do, is just raise money off of them.
And it looks like the best route for HSUS to take is to come clean with what they do and what they stand for -- before the hole they are trying to dig themselves out of gets too much bigger.
On April 1st, Humane Watch ran the ad pictured here as a full-page ad in the US Today. The ad touts that everyone is probably surprised that HSUS spends less than 1% of its donations to help local animal shelters -- a statement that appears to be true according the HSUS's tax statements (you can see a list of all of their grants starting on page 36 - most of the high dollar grants are to wildlife or political orgs).
This focus on spending wouldn't be such a big deal if HSUS didn't seem to try to trick people into THINKING they were giving money to support local shelters -- even when they, in fact, were not. Hey, I get the importance of focusing on politics -- my own group is a political group - just be honest about what you are doing and what people's money is really going toward.
The number of instances is starting to mount up. Whether it is their fundraising to "care for the dogs seized in the Vick Case" that they were simultaneously lobbying for the dogs to be killed and not caring for any of them. There was also the case of Fay, where HSUS sent out a fundraising emailasking for money to help the dogs "Just like Faye" even though HSUS wasn't caring for those dogs either. While HSUS raised over $1.2 million dollars in the "Faye" campaign, only $5,000 went to local organization Mutts & Stuff who was actually caring for Fay. No money went to support the other 450 dogs rescued from the fight bust.
Meanwhile, in a case in South Dakota back in September, HSUS campaigned for more money to "support these efforts" after their great work rescuing some dogs from a puppy mill in South Dakota, talking about how they were "working with local humane organizations to adopt them out to loving families." However, a week later, local news reported that HSUS had already left town, leaving the local organization, Second Chance Rescue Center, to deal with the 172 dogs taken from the raid on their own. Later,it was noted that 28 of the dogs got sick and died at the overwhelmed rescue center.
Incidences like this leave at least one blogger asking the question: When is an animal "rescued"?
Throughout all of this, it seems as if HSUS has done a great job of helping themselves raise money -- but not so much at helping the rescue groups that are caring for the animals. Again, this might be fine, if people weren't donating millions of dollars to HSUS THINKING it was going to help the rescued animals --and taking money out of the pockets of the groups that actually need the money to care for them.
HSUS has of course responded to the accusations by Humane Watch. The vast majority of the "defense" has been targeted at the Center for Consumer Freedom and at Humane Watch. They've really not denied any of the accusations -- they've only attacked the accuser. That, in and of itself, is pretty telling. However, in one post on Wayne Pacelle's blog, they listed out all of the things they are doing to support local animal shelters. This postis maybe the most damning testament of all. According to the blog entry, here is what HSUS says they do with their $100 million a year budget to support local shelters:
1) Host the Animal Care Expo in Nashville to provide education for animal shelter professionals - cost is $200 for people to attend.
2) Publish Animal Sheltering Magazine - Subscribe now for $20 a year.
3) Publications on a wide variety of topics - all available at a cost.
4) animalsheltering.org website - hey, look at that, available for free
5) Our Shelter evaluation program that provides "affordable, in-depth animal shelter evaluations" - but also, at a pretty significant cost.
6) The Gulf Coast Spay/Neuter project -- a project that they started when people made the same complaints after Hurricane Katrina that the money given to help animals after the hurricane were not used to help those animals -- so in order to stop legal suits against them, they started this program.
7) Hosting Spay Day - that included an online pet photo contest where they raised half a million dollars, had 200 participating spay/neuter programs -- of which 11 got grants from HSUS.
8) Humane Society University - which hosts a variety of classes for animal shelter management -- all at a fee.
There are also a couple of other programs - -their disaster assistance and Pets for Life NYC program that I really don't know a ton about that are on the list.
So, interestingly, the majority of the programs that they have "to support shelters" involve more revenue for HSUS....all the while, their fundraising is also taking money away from the shelters from people who think they support the local shelters. Tragic.
Meanwhile, local shelters are starting to try to separate themselves from HSUS. Over the past 2 weeks, at least 3 shelters have announced that they are undergoing name changes in order to distance themselves from HSUS.
The Joplin (MO) Humane Society, which has serviced their community for 52 years, will undergo a name change that will be announced tomorrow.
In Klamath Falls, ID, the Klamath Humane Society pleads for donationsto go locally and announcing that they have "different values" than HSUS.
And last week, the Marquette County (MI) Humane Society announced too that they would change their name because they are not funded by the Humane Society of the United States.
And meanwhile, the Halifx Humane Society (FL) also moans about the reality that people think their donations to HSUS suppor their local shelter.
The hits keep coming.
If HSUS wants to solve their little PR crisis, they badly need to either a) be honest about what their fundraising dollars go toward or b) change where their fundraising dollars go. But the bait and switch scheme is out -- and if you want to get out of the hole, you have to stop digging.
Meanwhile, if you want to give money to help save animals in your local community -- please give directly to a good local shelter or rescue group in your community.