Will The Real Humane Society Please Stand Up?

March 8, 2010

- See all 164 of my articles

Last week, I complained about scare tactics used by local governments during tax and budget planning.  This week I am going to complain about organizations misleading people with good intentions into donating money.

First, I want to point out that I encourage people to donate to their chosen causes, and donate generously.  Whether it is something as grand as feeding the people of Africa, timely like adding the people of Haiti, or as local as saving an historic building, all charity has value.  My complaint is purposefully misleading advertisements, naming or fear mongering to obtain money.

The best example of this is the Humane Society of the United States (http://www.humanesociety.org/).  At first glance or from their dramatic commercials, you would believe that these are the same people who run you local animal shelter.  This is not the case.  The HSUS is actually a subsidiary of PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (http://www.peta.org/).  Nowhere on their web site does the HSUS admit its association with PETA, nor their independence from local societies.  Local Humane Societies (including SPCA, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) have suffered greatly from the divergence of charitable donations to this national organization.  I am not saying that the HSUS is not a worthy organization, it is just that it has different goals than your local Humane Society and the money may not be used in your community.

The HSUS and your local Humane Society are also not affiliated with the American Humane Association (http://www.americanhumane.org/).  They are at least a lot clearer in defining who they are, or more precisely, who they are not.  To take directly from their web site:

…And Who We Are Not

Dedicated to protecting both children and animals, American Humane is not affiliated with the Humane Society of the United States, an organization that primarily uses litigation and legislation to promote animal rights. Nor is American Humane a parent organization of local “humane societies” and SPCAs, which are locally based, independent agencies that operate animal shelters and provide animal care and control services to their communities. However, many of those agencies are member organizations of American Humane. As such, they benefit from our trainings, informational and funding resources, and national programs that increase the abilities, knowledge and effectiveness of their organizations and staff.

It is interesting and disturbing to me that some so called charitable organizations are nothing more than law suit generators.  I remember when PETA sued a group called People Eating Tasty Animals for having the web site PETA.com.  The result of that law suite was that the meat eating group lost their right to advertise because it was misleading.  At the same time, PETA created the HSUS, using the Humane Society name that has been so recognized for local efforts.  I personally believe that the intent was to capitalize on that name recognition to gather more funding.  Although this is not illegal, it is misleading, and many people with good intentions have inadvertently support a militant and aggressive national group when they believed they were supporting a local effort.

All I ask is that you do some research before sending your check.  I want to reiterate that I do not think any charitable group is bad.  If you truly believe that you can save an abused animal by enacting yet anther law or suing yet another business, then by all means support PETA and the HSUS.  If you are trying to save the animals you saw being taken from an abusive situation on you evening news, find the local group that is taking on that effort.  When you donate to a large national or international group, you need to know what that money could be used for.  PETA and HSUS have active campaigns to force corporations to stop the use of all animal products with the stated goal of making vegetarianism the standard for all people.  This is in addition to their efforts to stop the use of animals for painful and questionable research, most notably in the cosmetic industry.  Other groups have much narrower goals and tasks.

The bait and switch that I am concerned with here can only work with an uneducated or lazy audience.  You can avoid funding things you don’t like by taking the time to research any organization you think you want to support.  I personally believe that you can make the biggest impact in the world by starting in your own community.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Squeaky
    Mar 08, 2010 @ 12:04:39

    I agree Martin. It’s disturbing when organizations/people try to captilalize on the name recognition that other companies have built.

    We saw that recently following the earth quake in Haiti. Similar to your examples, people obtained toll free nubmers one digit off from the reputable agencies that were seeking donations and operated under similar names. However, the newly formed companies were not using the money to relieve the destruction in Haiti. Rather, they were renting hummer limos and going out for wild times with their friends.

    Have you noticed that Amway has done something similar to HSUS? Many people have a bad taste in their mouth and knee jerk reaction to run if they hear Amway. As a result, Amway created child corporations that make no mention of Amway but essentially run the same pyramid schemes that made Amway famous. Those new corporations are Alticor/Quixtar and probably others that I’m not aware of. They operate like Amway (high pressure) but intentionally hide their affiliation.

    On a positive note, having PETA and PETA, you can probably just about fit everyone comfortably into one of those groups. You have the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or the People Eating Tatsty Animals. I’ll join the latter of the two and enjoy a steak fresh off the grill.


  2. kosmo
    Mar 08, 2010 @ 15:28:42

    I was going to jokingly suggest that The Casual Observer relocated to SeaNN.com or SeeNN.com

    Oh, wait, too late. They are already taken.



  3. HillaryHSUS
    Mar 09, 2010 @ 10:33:36

    Hi Martin – The HSUS has no affiliation with PETA; we are an entirely separate organization. The HSUS was established in 1954 when its founders split off from the American Humane Association.

    I agree that donors should definitely research the charities they support. Our organization has always focused on broader animal protection issues such as factory farming, puppy mills, animal fighting, and lab animal welfare. Here’s a link from our website that explains the HSUS’s relationship to local shelters: http://www.humanesociety.org/animal_community/resources/qa/common_questions_on_shelters.html


  4. Martin Kelly
    Mar 09, 2010 @ 18:07:29


    I apologize for the mistake. I wrote based on information from a rather aggressive internet source. Your organizations effort to protect animals is honorable, but I am still concerned about the focus on legal action and legislation. I would prefer enforcement of existing law, with authorities taking action to prevent abuse.

    I attempted to access the link that you provided and got a ‘page not found’ error. I spent some time surfing you site. I did find the articles where HSUS supported local shelters and runs several rescue ranches (which is great), but could not find any history section that would show the date of establishment and other information. Such a page would help to battle the people who are linking your organization to PETA.

    I would like to thank you for taking the time to read my article and respond. Your comments were respectful and civil, an attitude that is sorely lacking in the high tension politics that surround topics like this today.


  5. kosmo
    Mar 09, 2010 @ 23:36:23

    Hillary had ended her sentence with a period – which was being interpreted as part of the URL by the browser. I edited out the period (leaving everything else in her message intact) and the link should work now.


  6. HillaryHSUS
    Mar 10, 2010 @ 12:08:08

    Thanks for the URL edit, Kosmo.

    Martin, I appreciate your response. I do believe that adequate enforcement of exising laws would go a long way in some areas. In other cases, animal protection laws are vague and difficult to apply, or they simply don’t serve as an effective deterrent. For example, when I began working at the HSUS a number of years ago, cockfighting was still legal in many states, and dogfighting was often considered only a misdemeanor (today I believe it’s a felony in all 50 states).

    I’ll pass along your feedback about our website. Thanks again.


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