10 Things You Should Know About HSUS

Updated February 2023. For a printable handout of this information, click here

If you’re visiting this site for the first time–welcome! Here’s the full list of things you should know about the so-called “Humane Society” of the United States. It’s a story of financial malfeasance and misrepresentation. But the local humane societies across America are not affiliated with HSUS. So, do your research, but please try to help your local shelter. Click on the links for more information.

10 Things You Should Know About HSUS

1. HSUS raises millions of dollars from American animal lovers through manipulative advertising. An analysis of HSUS’s TV fundraising determined that more than 85 percent of the animals shown were cats and dogs. However, HSUS doesn’t run a single pet shelter and only gives 1 percent of the money it raises to pet shelters while sucking money out of local communities.

2. HSUS puts more into its pension plan and Caribbean hedge funds than it gives to pet shelters. Between 2012 and 2014, HSUS put over $50 million in Caribbean investments while also putting nearly $10 million into its pension plan. As of 2021, HSUS reported having nearly $60 million offshore in the Caribbean and millions more offshore in Europe.

3. While it raises money with pictures of cats and dogs, HSUS has a PETA agenda. HSUS CEO Kitty Block used to work for the animal liberation group PETA, and HSUS’s longtime food policy director created a PETA campaign comparing chicken to Holocaust victims and farmers to Nazis. Central to this agenda is controlling what people eat. Speaking to an animal rights conference in 2006, HSUS’s vice president for farm animal issues stated that HSUS’s goal is to “get rid of the entire [animal agriculture] industry” and that “we don’t want any of these animals to be raised” for food.

4. HSUS executives have been accused of sexual harassment. In Feb. 2018, HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle resigned after credible accusations that he had sexually preyed on staff members. His deputy, vice president Paul Shapiro, resigned the previous month after also being accused of sexual harassment. HSUS board member Erika Brunson shockingly blew off the allegations against Pacelle, saying, “We didn’t hire him to be a choir boy.” The board also voted to close an internal investigation into Pacelle, before public and donor outrage forced his resignation.

5. In May 2014, HSUS was part of a $15.75 million settlement of a federal racketeering lawsuit. Feld Entertainment sued HSUS, two of its in-house lawyers, and others under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act for bribery, obstruction of justice, fraud, and other torts. Court documents indicate that HSUS sent several checks as part of an alleged witness-payment scheme. The ASPCA separately paid a $9.3 million settlement.

6. HSUS’s senior management voiced support for terroristic acts. Longtime HSUS chief policy officer Mike Markarian, who left in 2018, had written, “A perfect example of effective rebellion is an Animal Liberation Front raid on a laboratory.” HSUS food policy director Matt Prescott wrote, “I also believe in the actions of the ALF and other such groups.” HSUS president Wayne Pacelle hired John “J.P.” Goodwin in 1997, the same year Goodwin described himself as “spokesperson for the ALF” while he fielded media calls in the wake of an ALF arson attack at a California meat processing plant. In 1997, when asked by reporters for a reaction to an ALF arson fire at a farmer’s feed co-op in Utah (which nearly killed a family sleeping on the premises), Goodwin replied, “We’re ecstatic.” As of 2023, Goodwin still works for HSUS as a senior director.

7. HSUS receives poor charity-evaluation marks. CharityWatch (formerly the American Institute of Philanthropy) has issued numerous “D” ratings for HSUS for wasteful spending, including in its Winter 2022 guide.

8. HSUS’s CEO endorsed convicted dogfighting kingpin Michael Vick getting another pet. After Vick got out of prison, now-former HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle told the press that he thought Vick “would do a good job as a pet owner.” This startling comment came after Vick’s new employer, the Philadelphia Eagles, made a $50,000 “grant” to HSUS.

9. Given the massive size of its budget, HSUS does relatively little hands-on care for animals. While HSUS claims it “saves” more animals than any other animal protection group in the US, much of the “care” HSUS provides is in the form of spay-neuter assistance. In fact, local groups that operate on considerably slimmer budgets, such as the Houston SPCA, provide direct care to more animals than HSUS does.

10. HSUS’s own donors and local shelters feel wronged. A poll of self-identified HSUS donors found 80 percent thought HSUS “misleads people” about their connections to pet shelters and 75 percent were less likely to support the group when they found out the truth. And according to a poll of animal shelters most agree that “HSUS misleads people into thinking it is associated with local animal shelters.”