Alienating Your Base, HSUS-Style

Today in suburban Detroit, the Michigan Humane Society made a strong statement distancing itself from the Humane Society of the United States and its political activity. The Oakland (MI) Pressreports:

The Michigan Humane Society is distancing itself from a political action committee called the Humane Society Legislative Fund, which is running ads on behalf of U.S. Rep. Gary Peters.

The Bingham Farms-based nonprofit said in a statement Wednesday that it is not connected with the Humane Society Legislative Fund or its parent organization, The Humane Society of the United States.

It is prohibited as a nonprofit from promoting or endorsing political candidates, spokeswoman Nancy Gunnigle said.

“Our focus is on caring for dogs and animals each year in metropolitan Detroit,” she said.

Not only is HSUS’s political arm running ads in support of a Michigan politician, it’s also buying ad space for similar political ads on behalf of at least three other national politicians (1 | 2 | 3). It’s all paid for by the Humane Society Legislative Fund, which HSUS controls.

In at least one of the affected Congressional districts (so far…), the local pet shelter community is up in arms. And why shouldn’t they be?

Any political ad saying “vote for X, not Y” is likely to alienate about half of any group of people—including the group that donates to pet shelters, and the group that considers adopting dogs and cats.

For HSUS, of course, this is of no consequence since the group doesn’t support pet shelters with any serious money or enthusiasm anyway. But for the shelters themselves, being wrongly associated with targeted political advocacy could be disastrous for fundraising.

Are you listening, HSUS? The “humane society” name confusion you actively promote doesn’t just help you raise millions. It actually jeopardizes the future of pet shelters. In addition to raiding their fundraising base, you're making half of the public angry with them because of your political endorsements.


Note: Note: HumaneWatch is a project of a respected 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that does not take positions for or against anyone running for public office. This is not an endorsement of any candidate.