Breaking News: HSSP Leadership Vanishes

Have you ever been struck by the sense that you’ve seen this all before?

In May of 2011, we reported on the frantic purge of David Martosko’s name from Berman and Company websites, followed by his abrupt and unceremonious departure.

So when two-thirds of the Humane Society for Shelter Pets’ leadership suddenly vanished from its website, the feeling of déjà vu was inescapable.

All traces of Jeff Douglas and Deborah Price have been purged from the HSSP website. As in Martosko’s departure, no announcement was made, no farewell message was given; just a wave of revisionist editing that wiped away all traces of their participation in the failing project.

If Price and Douglas have indeed fled HSSP, the group is left with Didi Culp as their sole leadership. Culp’s history of animal advocacy is less than sterling:

  • Culp is currently the subject of an ethics investigation for her misuse of the Frederick County Animal Control facilities, where she is — for the moment — employed.
  • She has publicly opposed vital puppy mill legislation like the PUPS act.
  • She has published a nearly incoherent rant dismissing concerns about animal cruelty.
  • On her website, Culp explains how “comforted” she was by the handling of an animal’s gruesome, fatal injury at a rodeo, concluding that “there was no sign of disrespect for their lives or actions that could in any way be considered cruel or even insensitive.”
  • According to a source at Frederick County Animal Control, restrictions on the inhumane declawing of cats were explicitly removed from adoption contracts under Didi Culp’s supervision.
  • On the HumaneWatch Facebook page, Didi declared that it’s taking away an animal’s rights if you support spay/neuter, a perspective diametrically opposed to the beliefs of most shelter and rescue managers, but squarely in line with that of many commercial breeders and puppy mills.

If two-thirds of HSSP’s leadership are gone and Culp is the last to flee this sinking ship, HSSP is an organization in profound trouble.

And that’s good news for animals.

We’ll bring you more information as it becomes available. In the meantime, we’ll leave you with this quote from Richard Berman:

So no matter how nasty Wayne and HSUS get, they won’t stop me from being proud of my contribution to this excellent new organization and he won’t be able to stop its leadership from excelling.

Berman’s contribution to this fiasco is clear… but HSSP’s leadership? They appear to be escaping, not excelling.

The Devil is In the Details

Yesterday we examined a new organization, the Humane Society for Shelter Pets. If you’re not familiar with their high-priced campaign of deception against the Humane Society of the United States, read our previous article for the background.

The Humane Society for Shelter Pets (“HSSP”) says they have no connection to the anti-animal welfare organization, the Center for Consumer Freedom. We find this assertion a little… shall we say, less than credible?

Here’s why.

HSSP has hired Berman & Company to run their organization’s public relations and marketing campaign.

Berman & Company is a major (and very expensive) lobbying firm in Washington, D.C.. The company is the brainchild of Richard Berman, a well-known lobbyist sympathetic to the concerns of anti-social corporate interests and anti-animal causes. The Center for Consumer Freedom (“CCF”) is a major client of Berman & Company, paying them a tidy sum of $1,461,597.00 for “management services” last year — not including Berman’s salary as “Executive Director” of CCF.

The services of Berman & Company do not come cheap. And they don’t work for free. Yet it would appear that HSSP has no problem affording this very expensive corporate PR firm.

If HSSP had been around for a while, and had time to build up a substantial donor base, this little fact would be less interesting. However, in its very first week of existence, HSSP was able to afford the services of one of Washington, D.C.’s most expensive, most infamous PR firms.

Ironically, HSSP claims to exist for the purpose of helping get donations to local shelters. The presumably hefty fees they are paying Berman & Company could help a lot of shelters, but instead this supposed non-partisan non-profit has chosen to use that money to attack a major animal advocacy and welfare group.

So, inquiring minds wanted to know, where is HSSP getting their operating money from?

Veterinary Practice News covered the debut of HSSP, and dropped a clue to one possible source of HSSP’s funds:

The organization is funded by individuals, corporations and foundations that are supporters of the pet industry, according to HSSP co-director Jeff Douglas.

Which “supporters of the pet industry” would have both money to burn, and a burning grudge against the Humane Society of the US? Could it be the puppy mills and irresponsible breeders who account for more than a quarter of the pets in shelters?

Exotic pet breeders and their trade groups aren’t happy about the HSUS pointing out the dangers of having a tiger in your backyard.

Shamed pet store chains who purchase from pet mills and perpetuate the puppy mill trade have an axe to grind too.

HSSP, as is usual in Berman’s long line of nonprofit puppet websites, have not disclosed exact sources of their funding, as is common among most legitimate nonprofits. Nor do they seem to be in any hurry to do so. Which leads one to wonder: Why so secretive?

What, exactly, does the Humane Society for Shelter Pets have to hide?

Update: HSSP’s Form 990 tax returns have been released, and to no one’s surprise, Richard Berman’s name appears on the form — along with $765,000 in payments to Berman and his for-profit PR firm.

One down…

In February, we revealed information that suggested David Martosko was being quietly put out to pasture by Berman & Company. (Although given HumaneWatch’s agenda, perhaps “trucked to a Mexican slaughterhouse” would be a more apt analogy.)

Today we have confirmation of that rumor. It’s a dark day for Martosko, but a good one for animals and the truth.

The morning of May 10th saw Martosko facing a judge on alcohol-related charges. Martosko’s high-priced, well-connected lawyer succeeded in having the prosecutors drop the case, as he previously succeeded in doing on at least three other charges against his client.

What’s really noteworthy about the day’s events, however, is news from a highly-placed source which states that Martosko has confirmed that he no longer works for Berman & Company, Inc.

Thanks to the circumstances surrounding Martosko’s headlong plunge into ruin, there was no fanfare, no press release, no fond farewells on the HumaneWatch website or Facebook page. Martosko was unceremoniously herded out the back door with the bootprints still fresh on his backside, a dirty little secret to be buried and forgotten and quickly as possible.

Thus ends the first sordid chapter in HumaneWatch’s history of lies, deceit, and scandal.

The previous weekend, Martosko updated his résumé, copying and pasting his badly written, typo-laden curriculum vitae to several websites. Martosko justifies his lack of education and experience by comparing himself to more successful individuals: “Like White House economist Jared Bernstein and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, David Martosko originally aimed for a career in the arts.” He downplays his role as Director of Research as a parenthetical aside, and conspicuously absent from his résumé is any mention of his role as the head of HumaneWatch.

Can you blame him for wanting to distance himself from the train wreck that is HumaneWatch?

Judging from Berman & Company’s thundering silence, the feeling is mutual.

Exit, Stage Left

It appears that David Martosko’s troubled and chaotic reign at HumaneWatch may be coming to an end.

Following revelations of Martosko’s substance abuse problems, arrests, his connection with stalking of activists and apparent impersonation of a veterinarian, there are signs that the Center for Consumer Freedom’s failed opera singer is finally being yanked off center stage.

The Center for Consumer Freedom is now hiring a “Researcher/Analyst”. That’s Martosko’s current job.

Like Martosko’s position as the “Director of Research”, the job requires no research experience and no scientific background, only the ability to look up information on the internet, and preferably “some knowledge of… the animal rights movement” or at least a “hidden, passionate interest” in it. In other words, no training or experience is needed, just a willingness to smear animal protection charities for money. The supposedly nonprofit position promises a “lucrative financial incentive plan”.

The HumaneWatch Facebook group appears to be moderated by someone other than Martosko now, and he or she is clamping down on discussion with an iron fist. Even the merest mention of Martosko’s scandals from their core members is stifled. Some have left HumaneWatch in disgust over the draconian censorship.

Martosko’s name has been removed from internal HumaneWatch documents.

And Martosko himself is nowhere to be found.

On March 1st, David Martosko is scheduled to speak at the Alberta Chicken Producers‘ General Meeting. But according to their website: “[O]ur Guest Speaker David Martosko has cancelled his appearance. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.” So sad.

On March 19th, the Wisconsin Ag Women’s Summit will feature David Martosko speaking on “How to Survive in the Era of HSUS”. Oops. Not so fast. Dale M. Beaty tells us that “Unfortunately, David Martosko informed us this weekend that he is unable to present. We are in the process of finding a similar presenter to fill his spot.”

On April 7th, The NY Farm Bureau is hosting an event to coach farmers on how to defend themselves from activist cameras. David Martosko is the featured speaker. Or is he? NYFB’s Legal Affairs Department confirms that Martosko had to cancel his appearance due to a “personal conflict”.

Martosko’s criminal hearing for public drunkenness, swearing and trespassing on the grounds of a church/school doesn’t take place until May, so the possibility of jail time doesn’t explain the abrupt cancellation of his speaking engagemnets. Inpatient rehab is certainly a possibility. However, that doesn’t explain why his presence is being so vigorously scrubbed from the HumaneWatch website.

CCF may be hiring an apprentice for Martosko to coach in the finer aspects of the Dark Side, but given their frantic efforts to distance themselves from this latest disgrace, we find it more likely that Richard Berman has demanded a more stable backup for Martosko — and possibly, a future replacement.