About the HSUS

There are a number of misconceptions about the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), misconceptions that HumaneWatch and CCF are all too happy to prey upon. Let’s begin by clearing up the most deceptive claims made by HumaneWatch, and learn a little about the HSUS in the process.

  1. “HSUS doesn’t care about animals. The HSUS doesn’t support animal shelters, and only a fraction of its revenue is devoted to local shelters.”
  2. “HSUS ads deceive consumers into thinking that their funds are going directly to local shelters.”
  3. “The Humane Society wants to force us all to be vegetarians — or vegans.”
  4. “The HSUS wants to put all breeders out of business. They won’t be happy until all pets have been confiscated.”
  5. “The HSUS has an extremist animal rights agenda. They want all use of animals to cease, even guide dogs.”
  6. “The HSUS pays its directors exorbitant salaries and outrageous pensions.”
  7. “Local shelters hate the HSUS.”

The Illusion
“HSUS doesn’t care about animals. The HSUS doesn’t support animal shelters, and only a fraction of its revenue is devoted to local shelters.”

This is the favorite rallying cry of HumaneWatch, one designed to stir outrage and the illusion that HSUS has deceived its donors.

The Reality
The HSUS has long been the nation’s strongest advocate for animal welfare. That’s a key term: animal welfare. That encompasses pet shelters, but also includes wildlife sanctuaries, animal rescues, spay and neuter programs, free veterinary assistance for low-income communities, law enforcement assistance in uncovering dogfight and cockfighting rings, promoting public awareness of animal welfare issues, shaping humane legislation, disaster response for animals and shelters… just to name a few of HSUS’s endeavors.

HSUS is concerned with the welfare of all animals, not only the ones in pet shelters. Short-term funding of pet shelters is not the primary goal of the HSUS, and it has never claimed otherwise. HSUS effectively addresses the root causes of animal abandonment and cruelty that have created the crisis in America’s shelters, and while it does a great deal for shelters, it does not focus solely on short-term financial aid.

The HSUS is not a grant-making foundation, and it is not a shelter funding organization. Expecting HSUS to fund shelters is like expecting the American Cancer Society to pay for every cancer patient’s chemotherapy bills. That’s not the purpose, the mission, or the strategy of the HSUS.

But this straw-man argument sounds damning, and that makes it a golden issue for CCF. That’s why they’ve parroted it nearly 350 times on their websites, as of July, 2010.

CCF is attempting to redefine and dictate how HSUS must operate. CCF wants HSUS to focus all of its efforts on local pet shelters and stop promoting animal welfare legislation, stop exposing cruelty and abuse, stop increasing public awareness of unhealthy and illegal food practices. In short, to abandon the victims of corporate animal cruelty to their abusers, and focus solely on short-term funding of local shelters.

Until HSUS abandons its ideals and behaves the way its enemies want them to, CCF can point derisively at the HSUS and falsely accuse them of ignoring shelters and “misusing” donations — when in fact, HSUS is only pursuing its stated mission instead of the fictional one CCF has invented and is attempting to force on them.

Despite CCF’s red herring claim, HSUS is heavily involved in the promotion and support of shelters:

  • “Shelters Rock” campaign
  • national “Spay Day” events
  • large-scale pet adoption campaigns
  • Shelter Pet Project, a joint effort with Maddie’s Fund and the Ad Council
  • establishment of uniform shelter standards and best practices
  • training, education, and evaluation of shelters
  • emergency assistance to shelters in disaster zones
  • celebrity campaigns to promote shelter awareness
  • shelter grants up to one quarter million dollars
  • Animal Care Expo for shelter personnel

Knowledge is the antidote to CCF’s deception. Research the facts: look at independent charity evaluators like GuideStar and CharityNavigator to get the undoctored truth. Learn about the mission of HSUS from the only authoritative source — the HSUS itself. Confirm for yourself all the amazing work HSUS has done for all animals.

Then tell a friend, and help put an end to CCF’s favorite lie.

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The Accusation
“HSUS ads deceive consumers into thinking that their funds are going directly to local shelters.”

The Actuality
Silent Victims is one advertisement HSUS opponents have repeatedly claimed is deceptive. It features Wendie Malick narrating over footage of abused and neglected animals. HSUS opponents claim that the ad shows animal shelters in order to deliberately deceive the viewer into thinking that donations will be used to fund local shelters.

Watch the ad, and note the following:

  • The word “shelter” is not mentioned in the ad. Not even once.
  • Not one of the images in the ad appears to be from a local shelter. Footage is all taken from HSUS disaster relief operations, puppy mill rescues, dogfighting busts, and investigations of animal cruelty.
  • Each time “your donation” is mentioned, it is in conjuction with “fighting animal cruelty” or “fighting animal abuse”, and never with “funding shelters”.
  • When the ad mentions that the HSUS “rescues tens of thousands of animals every year”, it explicitly shows images of a dog being rescued in Hurricane Katrina, and an abused horse in an HSUS-run shelter.

The ad is not deceptive, and the supposed controversy over it has been artificially created by HSUS detractors. A scene-by-scene analysis with links to the source of each image is available here so you can judge for yourself.

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The Fantasy
“The Humane Society wants to force us all to be vegetarians — or vegans.”

The Facts
That’s an actual quote from CCF’s Rick Berman. As wacky conspiracy theories go, it’s a whopper.

Of course HSUS would love it if more people adopted a vegetarian lifestyle, because that reduces the overwhelming demand for factory-farmed animals. But they are not attempting to force anyone to change their diet, even if such a ridiculous goal were within the power and resources of HSUS.

What the HSUS really encourages is “eating with conscience”: in HSUS’s words, “eating products only from animals who have been raised, transported, and slaughtered in a system of humane, sustainable agriculture that does not abuse the animals.”

That’s a far cry from yanking the pork chop out of your mouth, as CCF would have you believe. However, the dwindling number of ranchers who rely on inhumane farming techniques like battery cages and veal confinement crates are all too happy to play up the “Vegan Conspiracy” myth rather than consider humane methods of farming.

HSUS does not oppose ranching and farming: its goal is only the elimination of unnecessary suffering in the name of profits. Farming and cruelty are not inextricably linked, and only the most irresponsible and greedy companies would have you believe that savage abuse of animals is a necessary evil.

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The Laughable
“The HSUS wants to put all breeders out of business. They won’t be happy until all pets have been confiscated.”

Yet another popular paranoid fantasy encouraged by CCF. Really? The nation’s largest, most effective, most vocal advocate of responsible breeding practices is anti-breeder? AND anti-pet?

The Logical
I think you’d have a hard time finding an HSUS employee who doesn’t have pets in their home. Right there, that should put shame to the ridiculous idea that HSUS doesn’t want anyone to have pets.

There’s a vocal contingent of breeders who fear that the HSUS is out to shut down all breeders. That’s obviously untrue, as evidenced by HSUS publications on how to find a good breeder, and wonderful employees who work tirelessly to bridge the gap between HSUS and the breeder community.

Breeders should not be painted with the same broad brush, and HSUS recognizes that. There are outstanding breeders in the field, women and men who truly love animals and understand the genetic traits of the breed, whose dedication and good practices should be encouraged.

But there are bad breeders — the puppy mill operators posing as small breeders, the hoarders, the massive outdoor kennel operators, the uneducated and uncaring individuals that have no respect for the genetic health of the breed, the sell-to-anyone-if-the-price-is-right breeders — that are high on the HSUS list of problems.

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The Hilarity
“The HSUS has an extremist animal rights agenda. They want all use of animals to cease, even guide dogs.”

Along the same lines as the anti-pet conspiracy theory is this animal rights claim. It’s intended to portray HSUS as a wacky, out-of-touch extremist group that wants to give animals the right to vote and sue in court, among other things.

The Clarity
This attack plays on confusion between animal welfare and animal rights.
Animal welfare involves the elimination of animal cruelty and abuse.
Animal rights is a philosophy that states that humans have no right to use or exploit animals for meat, fur, etc.

While there is some overlap between the two concepts, HSUS is clearly a supporter of animal welfare. Its mission and actions are entirely devoted to the elimination of animal cruelty.

CCF and other promoters of animal cruelty frequently try to brand HSUS as an animal rights group. They point to HSUS-endorsed legislation regulating the treatment of farm animals and circus animals as the first step on a slippery slope to outlawing all animal use, even guide animals.

That’s plainly not true.

As we discussed in the Vegan Conspiracy Myth above, the HSUS does not reject farming or eating meat. Legislation that affects farms has been explicitly tailored to eliminate cruelty to the animals — not to ban the use of those animals. Similarly, actions against Ringling Bros. and other companies that profit from cruelty have spotlighted or halted their inhumane treatment of animals.

CCF likes to trot out a heavily-edited thirty year-old quote from a national HSUS conference that mentions the words “rights” and “animals” in the same sentence, and claim this is codified proof of an animal rights agenda.

However, its actions consistently show that the HSUS is doing exactly what it claims to: eliminating animal cruelty wherever it may occur, and not trying to elevate animals to human status.

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The Myth
“The HSUS pays its directors outrageous salaries and pensions.”

The Math
HSUS pays its employees — over 500 of them — just as every other major charitable organization in the United States does. Is that compensation excessive?

Analysis by respected, nonpartisan watchdog groups like CharityNavigator show that the compensation HSUS pays its CEO and directors is comparable to, or less than, other charity groups.

Consider 2009’s figures:

Expenses HSUS Red Cross ASPCA
Administrative Expenses 4.2% 4.4% 2.1%
CEO Compensation $228,981 $446,867 $473,998

Compensation is not tied to the charity’s revenue or its expenditures, nor should it be.

A more comprehensive analysis and infographics are available here, comparing HSUS compensation to other national charities and nonprofits.

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The Smear
“Local shelters hate the HSUS.”

CCF has collected a list of quotes from shelter personnel critical of HSUS. Since the HSUS has been in operation since 1954, and with the number of shelters supposedly united against the HSUS, there must be a damning list of testimonials from shelters railing against the HSUS, right?

What’s Clear
As of June, 2010, with half a century and thousands upon thousands of independent humane societies to draw upon, CCF came up with a whopping six quotes that were supposedly critical of the HSUS.

The vast majority of shelter personnel are not critical of the HSUS, and recognize that they are powerful allies in the fight to eliminate animal cruelty. In fact, CCF’s quotes were not from people critical of the HSUS, but rather, people concerned that donors did not understand that local humane societies are not subdivisions of the HSUS.

On May 25, 2010, the National Federation of Humane Societies issued a scathing letter to Richard Berman and CCF defending the HSUS and challenging the CCF’s agenda and credibility.

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For More Information:

Shelters and HSUS
Shelters Support HSUS
HSUS Response to CCF’s “Seven Things You Didn’t Know”
YouTube: HSUS Does A Lot For Shelters

Richard Berman and CCF
NY Times: Nonprofit Advocate Carves Out a For-Profit Niche

HSUS: Finding A Good Dog Breeder
PetConnection: Interview With Stephanie Shain

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