HSUS's Wayne Pacelle with Michael Vick

My condemnation of PETA in my last post created a bit of confusion that I’d like to clear up:  I didn’t intend to give anyone the impression that animal welfare causes in general are not worth supporting because they’re all corrupt. And I don’t believe that such overall worthy organizations as the ASPCA should lose support because they’ve made some mistakes.

I do think, however, that it’s useful to steer people away from charities that don’t deserve donations when there are so many others that do.

I was also surprised that commenters should be surprised that I have no problem with dissenting opinions on this blog. I’m here to learn as well as, I hope, to teach, so I especially like when commenters provide links to support those opposition points of view. I do draw the line at ad hominem (or feminem) attacks or name calling of any sort. So far I’ve never had to delete any comments but I wouldn’t have a problem with it. It’s always fun to wield a little power.

Oh yeah, and if you say anything mean about Frankie, you’re outta here. For good.

Without further ado, then:

Why my money won’t be going to HSUS

They are wasteful

My annoyance with HSUS started, as with PETA, on a purely personal level, in this case because they kept sending me stuff, unsolicited, even though I had never donated to them. I am as susceptible to guilt as the next person — okay, more so — but even I draw the line at being manipulated into donating because I got a tote bag and a pair of gloves that I didn’t ask for in the first place.

Don’t even get me started on those Sara Mclachlan commercials that make me cry in spite of my being irritated over how much it must cost to air them. They’re also misleading in suggesting that the money that is donated will go to shelters that help save animals (more on which in a bit). Update: Oops I goofed here; that Sara McLachlan commercial is for the ASPCA. At least I didn’t construct an entire rant post around the error, as a Canadian blogger did here.

They are control freaks about criticism

HSUS has an “Emerging Media Manager, Online Communications” person on staff to monitor tweets and blogs that mention them. This is not only another expenditure that is not being directed towards animals, but it’s also disturbingly Big Brotherish.

I know this because:

— A while back, when I tweeted about being annoyed that I received unsolicited stuff in the mail, I got an answering tweet from HSUS that I could always send it back if I didn’t want it. (Yeah, good idea — so you not only want to manipulate me into donating, but if that annoys me I can also waste my time and money with a trip to the post office.)

— When, in my recent post, I alluded to the fact that I was going to explain why I had a problem with HSUS, I received an email that said:

I read your recent blog post which briefly mentioned the HSUS, and I wanted to reach out and touch base to see if you have any questions about our work. While our website is a great resource to seeing what we do on a daily basis, there are a lot of stories behind the scenes of the other work we do to help animals that isn’t on such a large scale. I’d be happy to answer and address any concerns you might have; your blog was very interesting to read!

While it’s true that this note is benign, even friendly, and flattery usually gets you everywhere with me, I found the idea that someone has a job seeking out and addressing criticisms of HSUS — or in my case, heading it off —  on blogs like mine very creepy. As far as I can tell, the only power I wield extends to fantasies of deleting mean comments about Frankie.

Michael Vick

So much has been written about the deal with the devil that HSUS made by enlisting NFL star Michael Vick, convicted head of a dogfighting ring and personal dog executor, to serve as their spokesperson that I’m not going to reiterate it here. I’ll just summarize the two main problems:

— It sends a terrible message about it being okay to harm animals if you pretend to regret it afterwards so you can play sports again. (See Michael Vick Makes Me Sick)

— The HSUS raised money on the promise of protecting the Vick dogs while recommending that they be euthanized. (See Humane Society of the United States is Morally Compromised)

It has been argued by HSUS that the sites that criticize them, especially the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) which I linked to, have their own, nefarious agendas, that the CCF is a corporate shill for the Food and Beverage industry. That’s true. It doesn’t make the information they’ve presented and provided supporting documentation for any less accurate.

The real problem is that HSUS is …

Encouraging confusing & inaccurate association with local humane societies

HSUS has a tendency to turn up at rescue efforts, such as that done after Hurricane Katrina, after local humane societies have done all the work and take credit — and raise funds. This is bad enough in itself but what’s worse is that when the HSUS does something wrong, all local organizations with the term “Humane Society” in their name are tarred with the same brush. And donations dry up.  The problem is outlined in this article that my twitter pal Mel Freer (@MelzPetPals) sent me.


That’s it. I understand and appreciate that HSUS does a lot of good; so do other organizations that don’t waste as much money or have as many problems. So I’ll leave you with this shout and reminder:  NO SHELTERS, SANCTUARIES, OR POUNDS ARE RUN BY OR AFFILIATED WITH HSUS. This means that other animal assistance organizations can and should be judged individually. Go visit the shelters and sanctuaries in your city or state. Read local reporting.  Volunteer if you don’t have money.

And one thing you can do that’s extremely easy — and free: Click on The Animal Rescue Site every day. It’s a great way to support the worthy organizations that help animals.

27 thoughts on “Not-So-Sweet Charity, 2”

  1. Boy (Girl), Edie – you could get a job writing exposes! Watch your back …

    I am seldom inclined to donate to any national charities no matter what the cause. I don’t have the time (meaning, I don’t want to take the time) to investigate their operations and see what % of donations actually reach the intended users – I think charity watchdog organizations call that the efficiency ratio.

    In the case of animals, it seems much easier and much more direct to donate goods (food, treats, beds, crates, blankets, etc.) to your local shelter, rescue, humane society, etc. If you donate stuff, instead of money, there is no question that it’s going to the animals instead of lining the pockets of an administrative bureaucracy. And if it’s a tax deduction that’s providing some motivation to your donation, you can still deduct the fair market value of whatever goods you donate (just keep the receipts).

    1. Hey Rod – Completely agree with you on donating to shelters and rescue organizations, but don’t discount the money part of this. My shelter is very much in need of money to build a new shelter and donations of toys, beds, etc. isn’t going to help them get out of a building where the water leaks through the roof and into the lights hanging over the dog kennels.

      I know that it wasn’t you’re intent to discount the importance of giving money to these groups, but just wanted to reiterate.

  2. Thanks for this great post and including links telling more about HSUS. They seem to have their marketing in order. Even doing social media. Actually lot of animal cruelty/welfare organizations could learn of it. But clearly in HSUS’ case it has gone over the top. It doesn’t support the “cause” anymore, just survival of HSUS itself. Disappointing.

    In Europe, what we see about the US is a lot of publicity for the local Human Societies and the ASPCA. TV series are aired about them and what they are doing. They are met with great respect. It is discouraging to find out an organization like HSUS uses leach tactics on these organizations, like in the Katrina disaster, to serve their own purpose.

  3. Thanks so much for this series. I really needed to know about both PETA and HSUS as I’ve often wondered about HSUS but didn’t know why I was bothered by the mailings I got. Ahh, that’s it, it’s the cost that could be going to an animal! That’s what makes me seeth. I had donated to the HSUS when I got my first mailing from them thanking me for my yearly membership. Membership!?. Here are some address labels and a keychain….I repeat….What membership. ? Must not have been 2 days later that they again sent a mailer making sure I got their letter thanking me for my yearly membership (ie, you’re sending us some more money, right?). Just 2 months ago I decided to save all the mail I got from them (I’d tried asking to be removed from their list some time ago, to no avail). Within a period of 2 weeks: 4 mailings. Needless to say, if they mail me that much stuff (chock full of tschotkes and colorful images), when I only donated once or twice, imagine how many other people are getting these unwanted snail spams…..To say nothing of the paper used to produce the mailing, there’s the cost of publishing (all in color of course–much more expensive); stuffing envelopes, postage, etc, all to give me mail that I don’t want. And then they ask me to pay for the stamp on their self-addressed-stamped-envelope so it can go to the animals…..ummmmm….yah. That makes sense!! They keep sending me blankets, too….I read it as: “More money, please…we sent you a nice blanket and you haven’t sent us any money in a really long time.” I only hope that the animals at my local animal shelter like the blankets ’cause that’s where they end up. If there’s this much waste in mailing, imagine the other wasting they do?! Eaaak….

    Your other points, especially about the “Michael Vick” situation, also speak to me. I remember when I heard about his dastardly deeds how much I wanted for the NFL to ban him for life. That would’ve brought home the message that animal cruelty is not okay(e.g. you’ll lose your reputation, people will hate you, and you’ll lose millions of $ too)…but instead, they’re letting him make millions again! And…..the man has a TV show about redeeming himself. I don’t know, but I wonder how involved the HSUS is in that show….

    Anyway, I hope you get a chance to tout some great organizations that you know about too….I can use an HSUS replacement–not that it would stop the mailings!

  4. Edie, I think you bring up interesting points, but the fact is that there is not one organization that it is charge of all local shelters – they are all separate entities. To first clarify my position at the HSUS – I work in our emerging media department. Twitter is a great way for us to connect with our supporters, and get the word out about important issues. The same goes for facebook, as well as blogs. Just like anyone, when we see articles about us posted with inaccurate information, or not the most updated information, we of course want to reach out and correct that. You can read more about them here.
    Here is an example of this, your post, where you say we are not affiliated with any shelters is correct (we also state this on our website here), however we do run 5 animal care centers, which have taken care of nearly 16,000 animals. You can read more about them here
    I think it’s very important for organizations to address concerns people have, sometimes they are legitimate, so we want to make sure that we use that feedback in a constructive way. Sometimes they are not legitimate, but the person believes them to be true, so it’s important to clarify for them, so that they know the facts.
    Also as a sidenote, we don’t use Sarah McLaughlin music in any of our commercials, that is a different and unaffiliated org. If you’d like to see videos of our work, you can view them on our youtube channel

    1. Sarah, you’re absolutely right. The Sarah McClachlan commercial is for the ASPCA. I will correct that immediately.

      Your first point — that there is not one organization that is in charge of all local shelters — is what I said, and precisely why I think it’s a problem that too many people conflate the local organizations with the national ones.

      I appreciate your commenting here, including your explanation of how you use social media. As I said, I want everyone to feel welcome and you’ve been very thoughtful and respectful in your response.

    2. Hi Sarah, great to have you join in! My question to you would be, what is exactly an animal care centre, as it is not a shelter? The links give info on specific programs, not so much work with animals directly?

      1. Hi Kenzo, good question – we call them animal care centers as a whole, but each is different. We have the three wildlife care centers, that rescue and rehab and ideally re-release wildlife, and then the two sanctuaries, and while we do adopt out some of the horses, their primary purpose is not adoption. To give a quick background, the Fund for Animals merged with the HSUS in 2005, as did the Doris Day Animal League. The Fund for Animals operated 5 of the animal care centers, so now they are considered FFA/HSUS care centers. The sixth joined us just last year, in Florida.
        We have Duchess Sanctuary, which is just that, a sanctuary, for horses located in Oregon. Last year, we combined with the SPCA Wildlife Care Center, which is in Florida. They provide rescue, rehabilitation and release services for more than 250 species of wildlife, including raccoons, owls, egrets, tortoises and pelicans.
        We then have Black Beauty Ranch, is a sanctaury in Texas, that takes in all kinds of animals. It is 1300 acres, and is home to more than 1,200 rescued domestic and exotic animals.
        In Massachusetts we have the Cape Wildlife Center, and in CA we have the Wildlife Center. (Though technically wildlife, we also have 50 feral cats that were rescued from San Nicolas Island, that reside in an awesome outdoor habitat.)
        So I guess the differences between these centers and shelters is that we don’t take in all animals from the public, as open access shelters do, and don’t have adoption programs at every one of our centers either, such as the wildlife centers.
        I will add, that as someone who worked at a local shelter, and volunteers with a rescue, I understand the daily struggle for funds. However I do feel that like with any cause, people don’t contribute blindly (though there are exceptions of course). When people go to our website, it’s clear we work on a broad range of issues, factory farming, wildlife abuse, companion animal issues, puppy mills – we have all kinds of programs, and our website shows our work clearly.
        In addition, our commercials feature footage from rescues we have done, or cases, such as Hallmark Westland, that we have been very involved with. If someone does come to our website with the misconception that we run local shelters, and say, want to find what they believe is their local affiliate, if they type local affiliate into the search box, the first result is a page that clarifies that we don’t run local shelters.
        And thanks Edie, even though my opinion may vary on certain things, I appreciate the opportunity to learn about different viewpoints from other animal lovers!

  5. This is a knock out post. Well done! I have so many people on the Positive Solutions Dog Training Yahoo list that rail against the HSUS- and now I understand why.

    Crystal Saling, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP

  6. A few years ago I/ my human started directed donations to the all volunteer, near by geographically, face to face with people, society that rescued me, Daisy. We found the larger organizations spent a lot of donations on advertising, and in the case of the BCSPCA, a court case against someone who criticized them.

    As for saying mean things about Frankie … a pox on those who do. may the fleas of a million stray dogs nest in their beds.

    1. No one has actually said anything mean about Frankie — at least not to his little furry face or to mine. I was just drawing a line in the sand about what I’ll tolerate in this comments section. But I appreciate your support — that’s a darned good curse you’ve got there!

  7. I always thought that the HSUS operated all shelters that had the words “humane society” in them, but I found out differently last year. HSUS fundraising is very misleading, making contributors believe that their donations directly help shelter animals. If the majority of their supporters found out that their donations mostly fund court battles regarding issues that they might not agree with, the donations would dry up.

    For those that want to donate to shelters, give to a registered local animal charity that directly deals with animals. Atleast you know that your money is being used the way you want it to be.

  8. Great post Edie! You did it way better than I ever could! And, thanks for clarifying that HSUS is not affiliated with local shelters with the name Humane Society. Way too many people have that impression, as witnessed by Karen’s comment above.

    I am sorry Sarah, but I don’t think you guys do enough to make people aware of that fact. When the enter of Consumer Freedom goes after you it impacts all the shelters with the name “Humane Society” in them. I don’t doubt that you guys do some good work, but when the bad news comes a’knockin’ it’s the little guys who suffer.

    For me personally, the moment HSUS decided to support Vick they lost any respect I might have had for them. If there is anyone who should not receive the support of humane organizations it is him.

    Add to the fact that HSUS uses dollars to promote themselves while leaving people with the impression it goes to their local shelters and you’ve got enough to be disgusted with, don’t you think?

    Edie – I fully support Barbara and Daisy’s curse! 🙂

  9. Hey, Edie. Yes, Sarah is always helpful. She addressed some issues I had raised at my blog last year. There is a lot of internal discussion that goes on at HSUS about how things are handled, and I had brought up the fact that the commercials aired for fundraising after major busts do not give credit to the organizations who do all the the caretaking of the animals after the bust is completed. I suggested they do so even though the commercial is primarily a plea for funds for HSUS. I know they have this information on partners on one of the gazillion pages of their website, but it’s not the same.

    The orgs who are shelling out the funds to care for an added 80 – 100 animals, or in the case of the 8 State roll out bust last year 400-500 for Missouri Humane should get an advertising boost from HSUS for the major assistance they give. Pointing out others who also do a good job and need customers (donors) opens doors, and people’s hearts. It’s like social media – don’t you prefer to follow/friend/read someone who is open, transparent and appreciates and shares others work over the self promoter, afraid to link to others for fear of becoming less?

    Sarah did not disagree and offered to bring the suggestion to their internal discussions.

    These big charities are institutions, and change must be the cause of a constant struggle. Often not enough creative destruction occurs, gets stomped on by the hierarchy. I think it’s significant that other orgs got together and pushed for a major turnaround on the adjudication of dogs from fighting rings. Maybe more of this kind of cooperative pressure should be applied to push needed change forward.

    I totally agree with you on the “free tote” manipulation nonsense. My mom used to get labels and she felt she had to send some money in because she was a soft touch in only one area: animals! Since she already donated to Lake Shore Animal Shelter I told her giving more was unnecessary and reminded her she did not ask for the labels. I respond negatively to psych games like that and cross organizations who engage in these tactics off my list.

  10. Fantastic post! I’m so glad people are talking about this now. For a long time bringing up these issues wasn’t socially acceptable in the animal-living world, at least not in my small part of it. Thanks for taking the time to write this.

    Oh, and thanks as well for the link to the Animal Rescue Site. I can’t believe I didn’t know about it before.

    1. You’re welcome, Kristine. I discovered the Animal Rescue Site several years ago — before I understood why clicking could generate income for a site!

  11. Thank you for this post Edie and thank you Mary for twittering about it. I do think HSUS does get a lot of money from those labels and things they send out because there are some people that do feel obliged to send them something – because they love animals so much. So, I don’t see that stopping. As for the HSUS in general – I lost respect for them the minute they teamed with Michael Vick and it bothered me even more so because one of my favorite organizations, The Doris Day Animal League, ended up in alignment with HSUS. When I think of HSUS now, I think of Vick and I’m disgusted. There’s no way that a person that did the things he did can be rehabilitated so quickly, if at all. I support the ASPCA, local no-kill shelters and a few other organizations. The HSUS will have to do some rehabilitation itself before I will ever support them again. Sometimes certain decisions you make are very telling and say a lot about who is in charge.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Kim. I just visited your blog — very nice! — and left it sobbing with the story of Rosie. What a tough decision and so great to see how well things turned out.

  12. Great post Edie! I have been trying desperately to get those words out but you have done it beautifully. Nice job! Great blog posts…I’m hooked!

  13. I’m a couple of days late to this very informative conversation, but, as they say, better late….

    Outstanding post, Edie. Although I’m now aware, as you pointed out, that local humane societies, as in Boulder, are NOT affiliated in any with the the national organization, I wasn’t until a couple of years ago. The mistake I made was making monthly donations to the HSUS mistakenly thinking a portion of those funds would go to our local shelter. Then when HSUS embraced Michael Vick, that was the last straw. I was contributing to the HSUS by having them monthly post charges to my credit card. I decided enough was enough and called them to stop the monthly donations. Whoever I spoke with said they would do so. But the charges kept showing up. I called again. Same thing. Coincidentally, soon after my last plea my credit card company called me about what they suspected were fraudulent charges on my card (NOTHING to do with the HSUS) so they issued me a new card with a new number. Needless to say, that stopped the HSUS charges. Also, I have to agree with Mel, all the mail I still receive from HSUS is a waste of money that could be spent on animals.

    1. Wow, Deborah, you are the second person in this comments thread to mention monthly charges to your credit card not being removed when asked. One person.. it could be an accident. Two out of a very small pool of commenters here — sounds like a pattern to me. Sarah, any thoughts about this?

      1. While I know that it sometimes takes 6-8 weeks to process things, if it is still charging after this, that is concerning. I will definately pass this along to the people that manage that, as it is something that we will definately want to look into, thanks for bringing it up!

  14. I appreciate good writers like you Edie who take a sensitive topic, write your thoughts and point of view, yet stay open to comments. For some reason the HSUS story reminds me of the 1992 United Way scandal.

    For me, local is always more pragmatic than national when it comes to giving…whether the giving is time, money or in-kind.

  15. Isn’t there a site which compares the salaries and expenditures of different non-profit organizations? Seems like I remember looking at one once. It’s interesting to see how much of annual income goes to marketing, admin, etc.

  16. I’m glad you are addressing this topic. I think PETA et al get a lot of funding because people don’t realize what’s going on but have good intentions. I make it a point to do something else when I get guilted. I take some supplies to my local shelter, or send a check if I can. Volunteering time is good too, if you can do it. But over all making an attempt to keep it local is good advice in a lot of areas, including this one. I always wonder though if all those spokespeople realize what these organizations are really up to?

  17. Coming in late here…
    Last year a friend whose mother has Alzheimer’s disease asked me to donate to the national charity as her company matched donations. I did because I love her mother and wanted to support my friend who frequently supports greyhounds.
    I won’t be donating any more $$$ to Alzheimer’s though. In a period of 6 short months, I have received two 11×7 envelopes filled with crap…those nasty address stickers that screw up shredders. I hate it!
    When my friend K.F. died in Calif., I had the arduous task of cleaning up her house and readying it for sale. K.F. was a generous woman and she donated to every charity that ever asked for money. She must’ve had 20,000 address stickers filling bureaus and boxes.
    Hell has no fury like me trying to trash them.
    If you have money to send out this crap (calendars and notepads too), you don’t need my money.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *