Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Are people giving to the HSUS because they are idiots? Or are they being duped?

I got in a discussion on Twitter tonight about Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) fundraising practices. I believe many people think the dollars they give to the HSUS provide dog and cat care.

Ag groups including Farm Bureau have been accused lately of beating this drum because we want to get them out of the legislative arena. Truth is I like a good debate.

During this discussion, I was told that a person "would have to be an idiot" to believe donations would be earmarked for animal care and that "no one could provide one fact" that the HSUS has done anything wrong".

On Twitter, I wasn’t arguing that HSUS had done anything wrong. Instead I was arguing that many people give mistakenly thinking they’re giving for animal care. Reports show that less than ½ of 1% of funds raised goes to grants for small (local) animal shelters.

So in setting out to “prove” that people do get confused, I have found what is in my opinion, real proof that HSUS has done things that mislead people:

From their fundraising and web pages they list these activities prominently:
  • Rescue animals
  • Prevent dog fighting
  • Outlaw puppy mills
  • End euthanasia of pets
  • And other work --shouldn’t that be first since that’s where the majority of the funds go.
And there are a lot of reports out there saying the show up to shoot footage that they can raise more money with and then leave town, sharing none of that money with the local shelters who have to care for those animals.

And on an “ad” on one of their pages you find this:
“When you join our fight as a monthly supporter or give a one-time gift of $5 or more, you’ll receive a story and a photo of an animal whose life was saved by generous donations like yours.”

Now realize it doesn't say that those funds go for care and feeding of the animal pictured, but how many people jump to that conclusion?

When you provide monthly sponsorship of a child in a developing country you also get a photo. And you know those funds are going to support the person pictured. Subtle twist that I don’t think most people--even non-idiots--catch on to.

By having the pet section at the top of the list of topics on their website, I believe they imply that pets are their highest priority. And they have a large sections on pet protection and animal issues.  Both talk about pets.

On the how is my donation used? They call out:
  • Pet adoption and spay/neuter initiatives
  • Animal care centers
Most donors expect highlighted activities to be supported by funds amount to more than pennies on the dollar.

So far a lot of smoke and mirrors. The waters are murky.  In what I’ve listed above, nothing has been said explicitly, but then there is Faye.

The blog world is full of people who thought they gave money for Faye’s upkeep only to find out that the HSUS didn’t actually have Faye in their possession.

From the HSUS letter: “Your gift of $20.10 a month for 2010 — just 66 cents a day — can help thousands of animals like Faye not just survive, but thrive in the new year.”

How are your donations helping them thrive if those dollars aren’t going to care? I recognize that it doesn’t say they are raising money for Faye specifically. I cut them some slack if they only say “survive.” But to me, saying that your donation “will help animals thrive” means those funds are going to animal care. I think it means that to a lot of non-idiots.

The people providing care for these dogs pleaded with people who received the letter to give directly to them instead: “Please consider donating to the other groups who ACTUALLY HAVE IN THEIR POSSESSION and are caring for the dogs HSUS is trying to make money off of, including (but not limited to): Our Pack, Inc.

They certainly think people are giving to the HSUS believing that dollars flow to the animals featured in those campaigns. It should be noted that after taking hits about this deceptive campaign, HSUS did finally agree to donate some dollars for her care.

You may not have heard of Faye, but you’ve heard of Michael Vick.

There was a flyer asking for money to care for Michael Vick’s dogs. Rest of the story is that the HSUS was raising money for dogs they recommended be put down because they deemed they could not be rehabilitated.

After it was later revealed that the dogs were not in HSUS's care and that HSUS recommendation was for the dogs to be euthanized, the donation pitch was altered to remove references to caring for Vick's dogs.

Other bloggers and animal lovers--call the HSUS out for playing on emotions to raise money that really goes for salaries, more fundraising and lobbying.
Why is anyone listening to the HSUS?
Rescues broke-HSUS are millionaires
HSUS fund raising pitch raises hackles

How can you prove that people think they are giving for animal care?  I certainly can’t prove what is in the hearts or minds of people, but here are people of all walks of life complaining about these practices.  There's plenty more out there, but I'm sure that some will say that all of this is no proof at all.

So what do you think?

Are people who give money to the HSUS believing their dollars go to animal care idiots who don’t know any better?  Or are these people being duped?  Do you need more proof?

I usually don’t write a post for just one person, but @Ellie_Moondog, this one was for you.


  1. like most fund-raising organizations, i'd imagine there's a lot of OTHER things to pay before your donation actually gets to dogs and cats. that's not an indictment of the humane society specifically, but a likely scenario for all outfits of this type. that's why they like to have so many volunteers, i.e. FREE HELP. so that doesn't really get my fires started. but yes, i would have to opine that the pleas are formulated to tug your heart with the doggies and kitties and some sapy song. it sure works with my 8 year old, who cries at the first notes of "Angel" so i have to scramble to turn the channel. no, im not cold-hearted; animal abuse sucks and people who do it are in dire need of an ass-kicking. it is sick, mean, creepy AND widespread. their pitch works because no one wants to be THAT GUY who says "screw the animals" but realistically there is nothing that will stop animal abuse OR spouse/child abuse, it's been going on longer than HSUS and goes on in spite of that group's work. how do i combat animal abuse and neglect? by taking care of MY pets. that's what i can do and in doing so, i can ensure that 3 animals will not suffer. my heaert breaks to see kids who are abandoned or neglected as well, but i do my part - again - by taking care of MY kids, plus stray ones when i can. am i horrible for saying this? if you think so, that's ok with me. and can anyone help me with this conundrum: how to PETA people avoid running over animals in the road? and when they do hit something, do they leap out and scoop it off the road, race to the nearest vet to save it? or do they hear that thumpTHUMP and go, oh shit what was THAT? oh, a skunk. meh. like the rest of us do. here is something that i have done in the advancement of animal kindness: on a hot summer day, i saw a tiny kitten with an obvious spinal problem, pulling itself toward the street meowing pitifully. it was just awful. i stopped and picked up that kitty, which was panting with need of water, and crying all the way drove to the vet to have the kitty put to sleep. it was the best thing i could do to help this little fuzzy sweetheart. im not a radical animal rights person, just a regular person with feelings and im sorry but they are just is the circle of life.

  2. Ah, I'm honored ;)

    I need to respond to the Vick case first, since that SEEMS to be the most damming.

    Here is the REAL timeline:
    -HSUS had custody of the Vick dogs initially
    -The dogs were housed in a local shelter
    -HSUS gave $23,000 for the care of the dogs to that shelter
    -The Feds came into the picture of their own accord, and took the dogs into custody
    -From there on out, all costs for the care of the dogs were absorbed by the Federal Government
    -The HSUS ads asking for money in reference to the Vick dogs came out WHILE HSUS STILL HAD CUSTODY OF THE DOGS
    -HSUS does not, and never has, had the authority to euthanize dogs
    -As a result of the Vick case, the HSUS CHANGED their recommendation policy regarding fighting dogs; they currently recommend individual assessment.

  3. I have read some about HSUS, when following Agriculture it is hard not to learn about them. They are a very skilled marketers and very carefully word their ads. In their minds they do or try to do everything they say they do, only they do it with lobbyists to push legislation and with video cameras to emphasize the point. Without reading the fine print many people send donations to them thinking it's going directly to a shelter, rather than a lobbying group. They have good lawyers on staff that help with wording and fine print, a few court cases and fines for misleading ads have taught them to run things past legal before sending it out.

  4. HSUS plays on people’s emotions and uses their name in direct correlation to elicit funds from unsuspecting people that believe their money must be going to the national organization that supports their local animal shelter. This sadly is not the case, as mentioned above; HSUS is a lobbying extreme animal rights group that wants to end pet ownership (they won't admit to this), hunting & fishing, and animal agriculture. Their executives have been quoted many times saying they want to end the above practices, especially animal agriculture.

    Groups like this and PETA are only concerned with animal rights and not animal welfare. If they did care about animal welfare, they would pour the majority of their money into animal shelters and programs of all kinds, instead of lobbying for laws that are near impossible to enforce and/or make life hard for the rest of the world. Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO, of the HSUS is nothing more than a ambulance chasing lawyer that found a niche. He makes around 250,000 a year lobbying (estimated amount from IRS forms), and probably gets a lot more under the table money, from HSUS supporters and such. If he loves animals so much, then why doesn't he take less money to help them, along with the rest of his staff and all 50 state lobbyists? Because they realized they can get rich off of manipulating people with this guise that they are the "standard bearers" for animals everywhere, give me a break...

  5. Mo, just wondering where you got your info.

  6. While we are wondering how HSUS seems to fool so many people, how about addressing the latest ploy? They are asking for 'donations' for the pets of Haiti. Of course, they still haven't been able to account for the MILLIONS donated for Katrina pets, but that doesn't stop the money machine from reaping the moment.(maybe raping would be better than the word reaping) I can't figure it out, why hasn't THAT scandel been plastered across the evening news? Non-profit? Puh-leeze....

    If you wonder where the info came from Brett, google Wayne Purcelle. He has stated clearly that the goal is to end ALL animal ownership.

    The first step is to make animals 'companions' instead of property. The constitution protects our right to own property, it does not protect our right for companionship. They own not ONE shelter!! They swoop in grab photos(some of which are 'set' up to appear bad) and leave. The burden of care is left to locals and the burden of proving innocence is born by the accused. You heard me, guilt is assumed. Innocent until proven guilty does not apply with animal law. You are guilty until proven innocent. BIG difference. City by city, county by county, state by state, HSUS is winning. People like me fight every day for your right to own animals. Make no mistake, Animal Welfare is NOT Animal RIGHT.

    Please, if you want to help, donate to your LOCAL shelter. They are underfunded, understaffed and overworked. They are the ones that do the work we don't want to know about, NOT HSUS. HSUS is a political machine, not a HUMANE machine.

  7. Yeah, I figured he got his info from HSUS.

  8. Mo,
    I'm curious where your information is sourced?

    Much of what you have indicated regarding the Vick case is contradicted by the court records of the Vick case, the records of the rescues that had custody of the dogs and the duration of time during which the ad was online claiming possession of the dogs.

    The ad was up even after Wayne Pacelle was quoted in the NY Times recommending the dogs be euthanized.

    Since the HSUS has a long history of making inconvenient things disappear from their website and even from the Google caching, (like much of their previous Katrina related information) the extent of time during which the ad was up is difficult to be seen as less than intentional.

  9. People give money to the meat/dairy industry because they are both stupid and being duped. I know, it's hard to believe but they think they NEED it to live. So sad but hilarious too.