Sorting Out Animal Acronyms: HSUS

For being a country of animal owners and lovers, nothing seems more fragmented than the myriad organizations that exist (supposedly) for the benefit of animals, especially pets. Registries, Breed Clubs, Shelters, Rescues, Breeders, Enthusiast Clubs, Activity Clubs and Organizations, and the various Religions that dictate how to breed, socialize, train, buy, sell, feed, groom, provide health care, lose, find, abandon, re-home, and ultimately kill pets.

In accordance with the theory of Narcissism of Minor Differences, there is often as much or more fighting between groups and policies that an outsider would find hard to distinguish than there is between groups with opposing values. And certain items that the public would be indifferent to are critical sticking points within the community.

Even worse, there is often a huge discrepancy between the public perception of what a group does and stands for and what they actually do. Let’s start with the largest groups: HSUS, ASPCA, and PeTA.

HSUS – Humane Society of the United States

The HSUS does not run or financially support a single shelter. It is an armchair Animal Rights group that gives plenty of advise to local shelters, law makers, and animal owners without running a single shelter of its own, yet taking credit for the hard work of others while sometimes standing in the way of that work. It collects a lot of money and hires a lot of lawyers to push its agenda. Existentially, it is a direct mail cash cow that reinvests 70 cents of every dollar back into sending old ladies post cards asking them to donate money to save doggies in shelters.

The HSUS has pursued an aggressive growth strategy since Pacelle took over as president and CEO of The HSUS in 2004. The combination with the Fund for Animals led to the creation of a campaigns department that focuses on four major areas – animal cruelty, fur, factory farming and abusive sport hunting practices. The HSUS has also created an in-house litigation team that has more than 40 active cases in state and federal courts. The group’s list of on-line animal advocates has also developed dramatically. The HSUS’ 2006 budget is $103 million, more than double the 1996 annual budget of $42 million. The organization employees more than 400 people, a 60 percent increase from 2000.

The HSUS’ growth reflects the growing popularity and strength of the animal protection movement. With the commitment and support of its robust membership, HSUS has spearheaded successful efforts to pass more than 60 state laws this year, won several cases to protect wildlife and enforce laws banning trapping and cockfighting, and helped pass legislation in Congress to protect pets in disasters and close a tax scam by trophy hunters.

The HSUS is a special interest lobby organization. It is the largest anti-Hunting/Fishing/Trapping lobby. They oppose keeping Reptiles as pets. They are in no way affiliated with your local Humane Society.

What is The HSUS’s role in relation to local animal shelters?

By long-standing tradition, local humane societies remain independent entities, each with its own policies, governance, and priorities. In the 1950s, the founders of The HSUS recognized that animal welfare professionals at these societies were consumed with the day-to-day tasks of community animal care and control. No organization gave a national voice and coast-to-coast muscle in the fight against cruelty and the celebration of the human-animal bond. The founding mission of The HSUS was to support the work of local societies by speaking with just such a voice.

So, the HSUS essentially collects money on behalf of the people who do the hard work in thousands of shelters without sending them a dime of it.

If The HSUS does not oversee my local animal shelter, what does it do?

For more than a half-century, The HSUS has stood as the nation’s most important advocate for local humane societies. Across the country and around the world, we serve local animal shelters and other groups by offering a wealth of publications, training opportunities (such as our annual Animal Care Expo, a trade show and workshop conference specifically designed for animal care and control professionals), and advice and assistance from our team of expert staff. We also publish recommended guidelines for shelter operations, shelter management, and animal control and cruelty.

Um, ok, they talk a lot and collect a lot of money. They are “experts” yet they don’t run any shelters… so where exactly does all that experience come from? The shelter system in this country has a horrible adoption rate (typically 30-40%) so if these “experts” are not actively running shelters, their expertise must come from a history of doing a poor job of adopting out pets.

HSUS might be seen as a more moderate Animal Rights group than PeTA, but the two share several ties:

The HSUS employs several former PeTA employees, and Ingrid Newkirk, president and founder of PeTA has allies within the HSUS directors. One of Newkirk’s allies would be Wayne Pacelle, [former] vice president for media and government affairs [and now President of the HSUS]. Pacelle was hired by the HSUS directly from Cleveland Amory’s Fund for Animals. Amory is also interestingly the mentor of PeTA co-founder Alex Pacheco. Newkirk used the help of Amory in 1987 when she seized corporate and financial control of the anti-research New England Anti-Vivisection Society and its multi-million dollar bank account, the first of her moves to consolidate the animal movement under her influence.

Other former PeTA employees and associates who are now employed at HSUS include the chief computer programmer, the head of its national and international investigations who by the way, also oversees its lucrative Wildlife Lands Trust, two key HSUS investigators and many other people throughout the HSUS corporate structure, including its lab animal section, which handles the medical research issue.

The following analogy puts HSUS and PeTA in perspective as far as their radical Animal Rights platform is concerned:

The difference between PeTA and the HSUS is like the difference between a mugger and a con man – they both steal your money but they have different tactics, and a different timetable. PeTA is a mugger that tries to force its agenda quickly through propoganda and violence, while the HSUS is a con man who is slowly infiltrating government and society looking for a long term realization of the same goals.

As Gina Spadafori notes on the Pet Connection blog, HSUS isn’t an entirely wayward and evil organization:

I have known many HSUS staffers and former staffers for more than 20 years, and have long admired the work they’ve done. Like Bob Baker, the brave and indefatigable investigator (no longer with the HSUS) who has spent his life exposing puppy mills. Or Eric Sakach (still with the HSUS) , who knows more about the dog-fighting underground than anyone alive. Or Dr. Randall Lockwood (now with the ASPCA), the nation’s top authority on dog bites. The HSUS has, for better and for worse, shaped how many of shelters operate, improving standards of care and professionalism, and helping to bring in innovative programs (like behavior counseling) to many of them.

HSUS has proven to be very flexible, especially once they realize those issues that are sure-fire money-raisers, or, more specifically, sure-fire enemy-makers that will slow the fund-raising efforts. And unlike PETA, I have no doubt HSUS can and will shift again. (Nothing is wrong with a charity fund-raising, by the way. It’s what you do with the money that counts. And how you represent your group while raising the money.)

Apparently, what the HSUS does with all of that money (or at least 70% of it) is campaign to get more money.

Check back soon for coverage of the ASPCA and PeTA.

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.