Lawsuit Says “Aloha” to HSUS

It's no secret that the Humane Society of the United States conducts many, many "raids" to rescue allegedly abused animals. But in the process, the group is earning a reputation for using seriously heavy-handed tactics. South Dakota media outlets are reporting that Tuesday a judge ordered dogs illegally seized by HSUS and a local rescue facility to be returned to their rightful owner. And now HSUS is getting another “black eye”—this time for harassing a widowed 64-year-old owner of a Hawaii animal shelter.

Last July, Norman Pang took over control of the Animal Haven shelter after the death of his wife Bonnie (who ran the facility for nearly two decades). Norman, who played a minor role in running Animal Haven, realized he could not care for its more than 400 dogs, cats, and birds.

Many of these animals had long struggled with crippling injuries and terminal illneses. Bonnie, you see, had always operated Animal Haven a no-kill philosophy and accepted any animal regardless of its physical condition. She often described her shelter as a "hospice."

You would think this is the kind of compassionate behavior HSUS would support. At least if you judged HSUS by its heart-rending ads.

But you'd be wrong. HSUS actually did its best to see Pang convicted of animal cruelty.

Norman Pang accepted an offer from the Oahu Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to take his late wife's sheltered animals off his hands. But he specifically told the Oahu SPCA that he did not the Hawaiian Humane Society involved. Bonnie had disapproved of that organization's euthanasia policy, and in the middle of a squabble the group had even taken her to court for animal cruelty. (The case was dismissed.)

The Oahu SPCA requested HSUS's assistance in transferring the animals from the Pangs' facility. And that’s when the trouble started.

On July 19, the Oahu SPCA and an HSUS rescue team led by Scotlund Haisley (who has since left HSUS under a cloud of suspicion) began moving the animals out.

Pang became suspicious when a man and woman from HSUS began videotaping the animals. He asked if they were trying to gather evidence against him. HSUS denied any such motivation, insisting they we’re “doing it for the training film.”

Pang took them at their word.

But soon after the rescue, HSUS posted video footage of the animals on its website—along with a fundraising solicitation. HSUS described Animal Haven as a “hoarding operation” and alleged that Pang was getting away with the “murder” of animals.

And then HSUS's photographs started showing up on the Hawaiian Humane Society's website.

The Honolulu prosecutor’s office conducted an animal cruelty investigation of Norman Pang. The Oahu SPCA strongly defended him.

“We believe Mr. Pang is doing everything he should be doing, and for that he doesn’t deserve to be prosecuted,” Oahu SPCA president Alicia Maluafiti told The Honolulu Advertiser.

Pang added: "I thought they [HSUS] were here to help me in my time of need … But it's evidently not turning out that way. He told the Advertiser that HSUS was working with the Hawaiian Humane Society to carry out its “spiteful vendetta.”

In September 2009, the Honolulu prosecutor’s office decided not to pursue a case against Norman Pang. And just before the investigation wrapped up, Pang sued HSUS [ed. HSUS employees] and the Hawaiaan Humane Society. In addition to an apology and a retraction, he sought a court order requiring the two organizations HHS and HSUS to remove photos and videos of Animal Haven from their Internet websites.

Pang's attorney sent HSUS president Wayne Pacelle a letter accusing HSUS of unethical and deceitful conduct. We think that's a pretty mild description of what HSUS did. They rolled tape on his private property without his permission, told him it was for a training video, and then tried to use the footage as evidence against him.

The attorney's letter also accused HSUS of "working surreptitiously to carry out the Hawaiian Humane Society’s spiteful vendetta against the Pangs.”

The more we read about HSUS's in-the-field activities surrounding animal rescue facilities, the more we're seeing this sort of reckless misconduct as par for the course. HSUS seems to be cynically and opportunistically staging “raids” in order to generate publicity and money. And unlike the cash-strapped Pangs, HSUS still hasn't invested its ($162 million) nest egg in any hands-on pet sheltering.

We'll be watching Norman Pang’s lawsuit closely. We wonder how many of HSUS's 30+ in-house lawyers have any courtroom experience as defense counsel?