When disaster strikes, the last thing you need is a HumaneWatcher

It is often said that one’s character comes out during a crisis.  If that is so, then several prominent HumaneWatchers have shown their true colors in the wake of the Joplin tornado.

Last Sunday’s tornado was among the deadliest in U.S. history, with a human death toll of at least 142.  And where human lives are destroyed, surviving animals are displaced.

One agency — the Joplin Humane Society Animal Adoption & Resource Center — has been working nonstop to care for animals displaced by the storms and reunite them with their families.  As of Saturday, they had received 573 animals and reunited 147 with their families.  Besides dogs and cats, some of the animals handled by the shelter include a quaker bird, several chickens, goldfish, and a boa constrictor.

Unfortunately, no good deed goes unpunished, and HumaneWatchers are always there to dole out punishment to anyone who actually cares about animals.

As is common in any large-scale rescue or natural disaster, the local animal shelter was unable to handle the huge influx of animals on its own.  So Karen Aquino, director of the Joplin Humane Society, asked the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help.  The ASPCA set up an emergency shelter, brought in all the necessary supplies, and is running the emergency operation.

The Humane Society of the United States, already stretched thin by its operations in the disaster zones of Mississippi and Alabama, sent personnel to care for the animals at the emergency shelter in Joplin.  The Humane Society of Missouri sent in teams to perform search and rescue operations.  And American Humane Association sent in people to provide relief in the shelter itself so staff could time off to care for their own families hit by the disaster.

You would think that all this would show how local and national animal welfare groups can pull together during a time of disaster to provide much needed care for displaced animals.

But then, you would not be a HumaneWatcher.  In their paranoid, delusional fantasy world, the national organizations are not in Missouri to help the local shelter.  They are there to loot, steal, whisk people’s pets off to far-away places, sell them for a profit for themselves, or give them to out-of-state shelter and rescue groups trying to make a buck off tornado victims.

Who, you ask, could possibly believe such a thing?  Let’s start with the VoteNoOnPropB page, which has become a haven for paranoid puppy milling HumaneWatchers and their sympathizers.

Here, Sabra Steele recounts how rescue groups “looted” dogs in Alabama.  She thinks the National Guard should close state borders to any out-of-state rescue groups, and says next time she will chain her dog crate to one hand and her gun to the other.

HumaneWatchers Larkin Vonalt and Cheri Medlin Cason tell VoteNoOnPropB that the HSUS is only in Missouri to take dogs for shelters in the Northeast to sell for a profit:

HumaneWatcher Angie Jensen Noland says she won’t give a dime to Joplin Humane Society.

And HumaneWatcher Bonnie Thompson Jensen sided with VoteNoOnPropB admin Jessica White Bryand on charges that the HSUS had looted dogs from Mississippi.

In fact, the HSUS was transporting animals that families had surrendered because they had lost everything in the storms and could no longer care for their pets.  Rather than trying to rehome pets in a disaster area, HSUS was moving them to new areas where families looking to adopt animals could be found.  This also freed up space in the disaster area for displaced pets.

But that didn’t stop Bonnie from going on to accuse the Joplin Humane Society — on its own Facebook page — of releasing pets to be taken out of state by rescue groups before people had the chance to claim them.

The Joplin Humane Society’s Facebook page is supposed to be a place for the shelter to post items it needs to have donated, information to volunteers, and photos of lost, found, and reunited pets.  It is not supposed to be a place for people to harass those working so hard to help.

So when HumaneWatch rather unwisely chose the Joplin Humane Society as its “Shelter of the Day” on Friday, it should have come as no surprise that its core members would revolt.

Bonnie Thompson Jensen repeated yet again the unfounded rumors of the humane society releasing animals to out-of-state rescue groups.

Gail Ledbetter bemoaned how the Joplin Humane Society allowed national groups to “take over” the shelter.

And Cheryl Nims, to the incredulity of a shelter manager in Minnesota, denounced the Joplin Humane Society, the HSUS, ASPCA, and rescue groups, all in one post.  She also claimed that local groups were turned away, despite the presence of the Humane Society of Missouri.

So what does a sane person do in the face of such irrational hate-filled diatribes?  They set the record straight, as the director of the Joplin Humane Society did in a series of posts on May 25:

And they hope their friends will step up in support, as we are doing today.

HumaneWatch Info condemns the lies, misinformation, and slander directed at the Joplin Humane Society, ASPCA, HSUS, and other rescue groups from sources such as HumaneWatch and VoteNoOnPropB.

While people like Sabra, Larkin, Cheri, Angie, Bonnie, Jessica, Gail and Cheryl are sitting behind their computers spreading malicious rumors, the local and national welfare groups have people on the ground actively working to help.

We salute these animal heroes, and urge everyone to support their work on behalf of animals affected by natural disasters and the families who love them.

If you’d like to donate, the Joplin Humane Society’s wish list is here – http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wedding/9NXFU5BUZCLK.  Urgent needs include 6-foot-high chain link dog panel fencing and swamp coolers to help cool the emergency shelter building.

If you’d like to volunteer, please use the volunteer sign-up form at http://www.controlledgo.com/AARC_JHS_FAQ.html.  Give your name, phone number(s) and availability. Someone will contact you to confirm your shift(s). Please do not just show up at the shelter.

And you can see some of the wonderful reunions of pets with their families here – http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.569815389308.2066417.107700024

Meet the new boss … same as the old boss?

Retraction and Clarification

On May 19, 2011, HumaneWatch Info published a blog entry about Will Coggin, a Berman and Company employee. The post described Coggin’s involvement in a series of controversies during his college days at the College of William and Mary.

Unfortunately, we got many of the details wrong, unintentionally confusing the facts of two separate controversies, as well as the nature of Coggin’s involvement in each.

The staff of HumaneWatch Info prides itself on honesty and accuracy, and we sincerely regret any confusion resulting from the erroneous statements. We have removed the erroneous blog post and offer the following collection of third-party reports in its stead. We invite you to read through the facts of these cases and to evaluate the context, extent and propriety of Coggin’s involvement in these scandals for yourself.

We close with a final note regarding Richard Berman. Mr. Berman — through his attorneys — objects to our opinion that he is a “liar for hire”. This does not change our view of his ethics in the slightest. However, we feel compelled to clarify that the misleading statements we alluded to were in fact issued through his PR firm and its many front groups, and we cannot attribute them to Mr. Berman directly. We therefore withdraw our characterization of him as a liar, and clarify that he is the head of an empire of more than 100 industry-funded front groups and campaigns based on deception and dishonesty.

We trust this will soothe Mr. Berman’s wounded ego, and allow him to continue waging war against the health of Americans and the welfare of animals everywhere.

Sons of Liberty Remorseful about Game, but Pleased with Dialogue
Last week the Sons of Liberty saga continued in a series of meetings with students, the Student Assembly and the administration. The spillover stemmed from the 8 November anti-affirmative action bake sale at which the Sons of Liberty, an official student organization, sold cookies and brownies in groups of four for $1 for whites, $0.75 for Asians, $0.50 for African Americans and Hispanics and $0.25 for Native Americans, while playing a game called “Ghettopoly,” viewed by many to be racist and offensive.
Bake Sale Reignites Controversy
“I guess by the technical, legal definition we did discriminate,” Coggin said.
Affirmative action policies on stage at University Center
Will Coggin (l), president and co-founder of the Sons of Liberty, and Adam McCool offer treats for purchase at race-weighted prices.

Rape Charges Dropped In W&m Assault Case
A frat party rape case that sparked a study of alcohol use at the College of William and Mary last fall ended Wednesday when all the sexual assault charges were dropped, and the man accused of the rape pleaded guilty to two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Woman files $800,000 defamation lawsuit against student newspaper
A student newspaper is being sued for $800,000 on allegations that the paper published defamatory statements last year about a rape victim. […]Remnant editor-in-chief Will Coggin did not return calls for comment, but he told the Daily Press Thursday afternoon that the newspaper staff would review the complaint today. ”We feel like we’ve done everything right,” Coggin said in the article. ”We’re prepared to defend ourselves.” The Remnant ran into trouble in February when newspaper staff posted fliers around campus naming another alleged rape victim.
Student Publication Sued
The Remnant wrote, “[P]olice are speculating that like many other wannabe victims and con artists, [Desiree Nall, president of the Brevard Chapter of the National Organization for Women] was trying to draw attention to an issue she thought was important,” in the story in question from the issues “Nasty, Brutish, and Short” section. The story continues, “Fortunately, in this case, a specific persons name was not dragged through the mud, unlike the case of Kenneth Ian Lang, the only real victim from last years fiasco. The Remnant is grateful that this fraud is being charged and urges the same for the girl who lied last year.”
Woman Sues W&m Newspaper, Staff
Remnant Editor in Chief Will Coggin said Thursday afternoon that he was unaware of the lawsuit. He could not be reached Friday. “We feel like we’ve done everything right,” Coggin said Thursday. “We’re prepared to defend ourselves.” […]The Daily Press is withholding the woman’s name because the newspaper generally does not identify people who say they have been raped.
Circuit Court for Williamsburg/James City County The Remnant, Kevin DeAnna, Marcus Epstein, Will Coggin, Liz Kveselis, George McCallister, Defendants.

Assault Gets Even Uglier: Controversy escalates over sexual violence on campus.
On February 15, students saw more flyers. This time, however, the flyers announced a news exclusive by The Remnant about developments in the now infamous rape case. Vague new sources reportedly revealed inconsistencies in the accuser’s version of events. A web link to a more detailed online article appeared at the bottom of the flyer. “Until now, students knew precious little about the specifics of what occurred that night. Statements by some of the involved parties, obtained by The Remnant, specify some of the critical facts that caused the charges against [the accused] to be dropped,” Coggin stated in a press release on February 15. Defending the continued coverage, he said, “The student body needs to be kept informed on this crucial matter.” […]Neither the flyer nor website coverage included the source of the so-called “breaking news.” In fact, the source calling into question the events was the civil lawsuit filed by the accused. The Remnant report omitted this important fact, but included unnecessary details about the accuser, including her home address.
Employee wrong to tear down student newspaper fliers, university says
A newspaper editor used an early-morning stakeout to catch a university employee last week in the act of tearing down fliers posted by newspaper staff that named an alleged rape victim. Will Coggin, editor of The Remnant, a student newspaper at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., waited for more than two hours in the chilly morning air before spying a university employee who removed several fliers from a communal posting board at about 7 a.m. Coggin said when he ran up to the employee and confronted him about tearing down the fliers, the man said he had been instructed to remove “foul material.” Coggin then followed the employee, snapping photos with his digital camera as the man threw away a handful of fliers and retreated to a campus facilities building. He said after he followed the man to his office, peppering him with questions, the employee threatened to have him arrested if he did not leave the premises.
Judge Dismisses Defamation Suit Against W&m Rape Accuser
A dismissal order signed by Charles City County Judge Thomas Hoover on Sept. 5 states that the case was dismissed without prejudice “upon agreement of the parties.” The suit stems from an Oct. 28, 2005, incident at an off-campus sorority party hosted by John Gerdelman, a member of the university’s Board of Visitors. A 20-year-old female student accused then-senior Patrick Decker of raping her, but the charges were dropped Jan. 4, after prosecutors found conflicting and insufficient evidence to support a charge.


Meet a CCF Minion
While in college, Coggin was also the editor of a student libertarian newspaper, The Remnant. A woman who reported that she had been raped sued Coggin and the paper for “embarrassment, humiliation and mental suffering” following articles that he published about her implying that she was lying.

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.

Do HumaneWatchers know where THEIR money is spent?

Anyone who is familiar with Richard Berman’s enterprises knows that deception is the key to his astroturf empire.

But seldom have we seen evidence of his deception shown as blatantly as in the Center for Consumer Freedom’s 2009 tax return.

The CCF — also known as HumaneWatch — describes its mission as “research and education on food, beverage and lifestyle issues”. But according to CCF’s tax return, a staggering 86% of donations to the organization were redirected to Berman’s union-busting campaign, the Employment Policies Institute Foundation (EPI). 86 cents out of every dollar donated to HumaneWatch or CCF was used to undermine working wages, employee health care, and labor unions.

How many HumaneWatch donors know that “educating consumers about lifestyle issues” means lobbying to strip workers of their health benefits and wages?

The remainder of CCF’s donations were redirected to Berman’s for-profit PR firm, Berman & Company, Inc., to the tune of $1,461,597.00. That left CCF $779,222.00 in the red for 2009, a shameful performance record that would earn it the lowest possible rating in any charity evaluator’s system — if CCF were significant enough to warrant an evaluation.

If there’s one lesson we can take away from this, it’s that Richard Berman cares about human rights as little as he cares about animal rights. What Richard Berman cares about is money, and finding creative ways of diverting it into his personal bank account.

Because Berman thrives on deception and obfuscation, he does not makes the tax returns for his “nonprofits” available online. However, we have assembled the most recent tax returns for his money-making enterprises in the Document Library.

Hope you guess my name

Following Wednesday’s report that Center for Consumer Freedom employees appear to be impersonating activists, we have evidence of more impersonations in the name of their industry-funded agenda.

On December 19, 2010, Chicago Now blogger Steve Dale posted an article about Wayne Pacelle’s role in Michael Vick’s rehabilitation. It’s a controversial topic that’s ignites heated discussions, and CCF spokesperson David Martosko is always eager to fan the flames in order to discredit animal protection charities.

That day, Martosko published a press release announcing CCF’s purchase of a full-page ad in the NY Times. The ad attacks Pacelle’s work with Michael Vick. Not coincidentally, the following comment also appeared on Steve Dale’s blog:

The commenter, “SmallDogVet”, also criticizes the HSUS and ridicules the effectiveness of the successful End Dogfighting program:

This is a veterinarian criticizing HSUS… and because a small dog vet works with dogs every day, his opinion carries some weight, right?

Well, that’s a dangerous assumption. Maybe SmallDogVet isn’t a vet at all. Maybe SmallDogVet is secretly a bomb-sniffing Pomeranian recently back from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.

Or maybe he’s just David Martosko defrauding the public by pretending that veterinarians support animal cruelty.

In our previous exposé, we demonstrated how the gregoire525 account was traced to a subscriber residing in the area around David Martosko’s home, and working in the area around David Martosko’s office.

If you click “SmallDogVet’s” name, it takes you to his profile page. And right there in the URL is the account name that user signed up with: gregoire525.

Now, we can’t say conclusively that David Martosko and CCF were behind this. It’s entirely possible that there’s another person out there who stalks opponents of CCF, promotes CCF’s agenda, fawns over Martosko’s posts, writes with Martosko’s cadence and mannerisms, lives within walking distance of Martosko’s house, works down the block from Martosko’s office, subscribes to the same internet service providers as Martosko, and whose user name reflects Martosko’s training (opera) and Martosko’s birthdate (5/25).

But I wouldn’t bet on it.

CCF — the dubious “nonprofit” behind the HumaneWatch smear campaign — seeks to deceive the public. They are, in fact, an industry-paid public relations firm defending unpopular, unsafe, and unethical corporate practices, but their entire existence is predicated on their ability to masquerade as a credible, public interest nonprofit.

Every op-ed piece, every letter to the editor, every press release CCF writes hides behind this mask. That’s nothing new.

But impersonating an animal care professional in order to push an anti-animal agenda goes far beyond CCF’s usual spin and distortions. It crosses the line into outright fraud.

It also calls into question the “grassroots support” that CCF claims. How many of the 200,000+ Facebook members they claim are genuine accounts? How many of the comments on CCF’s editorials are just sockpuppets mouthing David Martosko’s words? What percentage of CCF’s donations come from the American public, and what percentage comes from the corporations that have hired CCF to slander charities on their behalf?

In order to defend corporate cruelty to animals, CCF has to persuade Americans that public opinion is against animal welfare — even when CCF’s own polls prove that’s untrue. The poll commissioned by CCF revealed that 77% of Americans have a positive view of HSUS and their campaigns to stop animal cruelty.

CCF’s industry-paid opinion does not reflect the beliefs of the American public. And that’s why they resort to underhanded tactics like lies, deception… and apparently, impersonation.