Berman’s “Humane Society for Shelter Pets” sinks out of sight

The deceptively named Humane Society for Shelter Pets (HSSP) has filed for dissolution, signaling the death of yet another one of Richard Berman’s schemes to line his pockets while undermining animal welfare.

Diana “Didi” Culp: HSUS ex-employee and co-director of HSSP.

HSSP was founded by Berman to attack the Humane Society of the United States, part of his ongoing strategy to defund the nation’s largest animal protection charity by frightening away donors.  Berman selected disgruntled ex-HSUS employee Didi Culp as the figurehead of the organization.

Culp, a supposed shelter advocate who advises people to “get a better dog” from a breeder, may have seemed the ideal choice for the job.  But when HSSP was exposed as a front group for Berman’s corporate clients, Culp became the subject of an ethics investigation for her improper use of Frederick County Animal Control facilities.   The organization’s leadership fled, and Culp was left at the helm of a sinking ship.

The collapse of HSSP puts an end to Berman’s most recent attempt to deceive animal lovers. Don’t feel too badly for the millionaire tobacco lobbyist, however:  Before the collapse of HSSP, Berman managed to funnel $765,483.00 of the organization’s “nonprofit” donations into his personal and corporate bank accounts.  Berman has not disclosed how much Culp was paid for her services as the organization’s figurehead.

The shelters that Berman and Culp used as pawns received nothing, according to tax forms filed by the organization.

Berman’s Vermin

The Center for Consumer Freedom (which runs HumaneWatch) recently purchased a full-page ad attacking the Humane Society of the United States. Of course the ad –- published in The Washington Examiner — was filled with the usual array of half-truths, innuendo, and misleading statements that Richard Berman specializes in.

We don’t have a multi-million dollar budget paid for by disreputable corporations, but when Rick Berman throws a hand grenade, we’re happy to pick it up, pull the pin, and throw it back.

We therefore present Berman’s Vermin, a factual, seven point examination of Richard Berman and his unsavory tactics. Many people wrongly assume that HumaneWatch is a watchdog group, or that it is concerned about animal welfare. Please share this graphic on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to help set the record straight!

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Rick Berman profits from nonprofits

Nonprofit regulations are intended to ensure that nonprofit organizations exist for the public benefit, and not for the enrichment of its creators.

But when Richard Berman creates nonprofit organizations with a dubious purpose, and diverts tax exempt donations into his own coffers, he circumvents the accountability that’s meant to protect the public from fraud and abuse.

That’s why Marcus Owens, former director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, says that Berman’s evasive scheme “clearly, in my view, is operating for his private benefit and for the private benefit of his clients… [That’s] a clear violation of the requirements for tax-exempt status.”

We tallied the payments to Berman and his for-profit PR firm from six of the nonprofit front groups he has created: the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), Center for Union Facts (CUF), Employment Policies Institute Foundation (EPI), American Beverage Institute (ABI), Employee Freedom Action Committee (EFAC), and the Humane Society for Shelter Pets (HSSP).

The results are shocking.

Payments to Richard Berman or Berman and Company, Inc.


Since 2002, Rick Berman has diverted over $35 million in supposedly nonprofit donations into his personal and corporate bank accounts. In some years, as much as 93% of an organization’s revenue has been funneled into personal gain.

Berman has not yet been held accountable for his abuse of nonprofit tax code. It’s a sad indictment of the Internal Revenue Service, its inability enforce its own regulations fairly and consistently, and its unwillingness to protect consumers.

To the see the raw numbers we used, consult the Form 990 tax returns for Berman’s organizations. These forms are gathered for your convenience in our Document Library, or you may obtain them from independent charity evaluators like

The relevant figures used in this table are:

  • Gross Receipts: Line G
  • Berman’s token salary: Part VII, Section A
  • Funds diverted to Berman and Company, Inc.: Part VII, Section B (Independent Contractors)
  • Grants to Berman-run organizations: Schedule I

Further reading

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.