HSUS Horse Sanctuary: All About the Money

DuchessSanctuaryGiven the Humane Society of the United States’ recent settlement of a bribery lawsuit for up to $15.75 million, we decided it would be worthwhile to review some other litigation against HSUS. No, not the lawsuit HSUS is facing in South Dakota over an animal seizure. No, not the lawsuit HSUS faced in Hawaii relating to another seizure. This is a suit in Oregon for wrongful termination.

In 2010 HSUS hired Kathleen Strek to run the Duchess Sanctuary, an 1120-acre facility that housed about 200 horses (animals that were rescued not by HSUS, but the Ark Watch Foundation). In 2011, HSUS fired Strek, who has a disability, and she then sued HSUS. The case was settled last fall.

What was somewhat surprising to us was the description Strek gave during a deposition regarding her responsibilities. You’d think the primary job of the director of an animal care center would be to run the center. But Strek states that she was required to fundraise—both big-dollar and small-dollar.


Strek also noted that HSUS has “well-oiled machinery” for large-scale fundraising operations, making it seem illogical to send her out independently to raise money. She has a point.

HSUS has its own philanthropy department in Maryland that is dedicated to raising money—to say nothing of the direct-response personnel that HSUS employs. HSUS raises over $100 million from the public, to say nothing of the fundraising campaigns of the Fund for Animals (which co-runs the Sanctuary) and other HSUS affiliates.

And the sanctuary was even made possible by a founding grant totaling $3.5 million and continued support from Ark Watch ($240,000 in 2009, $200,000 in 2010, $200,000 in 2011). In fact, the legwork appears to have been done by Ark Watch, too, which notes in its 2008 tax return that it conducted a two-and-a-half year search to identify suitable property for the sanctuary along with securing grants. It’s probably fair to say the sanctuary was handed to HSUS on a platter.

Further, HSUS spends millions on its own pension plan every year, and tens of millions on fundraising. Why would the head of an animal care center have to do fundraising? It’s not as if the sanctuary would have closed. HSUS has the money. It has socked away $25 million in Caribbean bank accounts.

But that’s the thing: HSUS is all about the money. So really, we shouldn’t be surprised at all.