The extremist animal liberation group calling itself the Humane Society of the United States is engaging in a multi-state lobbying effort to take away the rights of animal owners who are accused of abuse before they’ve had a trial. An HSUS-supported measure in Montana—which appears to be dead—would require animal owners who have animals seized over pending abuse or cruelty charges to pay for the animal’s care before the owner is found guilty. Similar legislation has been introduced in at least three other states this year, including New Hampshire, where Dog Owners of the Granite State interim president Elin Phinizy says the HSUS-backed bill “turns the New Hampshire justice system on its head.”
HSUS says it supports the legislation because shelters and localities can’t afford to pay for the care of animals that have been confiscated from owners who await trial. That’s certainly a burden on local groups. But the solution isn’t to make the accused front the costs for care. That simply violates the principle that people are innocent until proven guilty and opens the system up to abuse of false accusations.
While HSUS has made no mention of how much it is spending on its lobbying effort to take away the rights of animal owners in New Hampshire and other states, shelters in the Granite State (and ten others) didn’t receive a single dime from HSUS to help them care for pets in 2013, according to HSUS’s most recent tax return.
That’s not a surprise, considering that according to its tax return, HSUS only gave 1% to local pet shelters even though it raked in more than $130 million in revenues. And a charity watchdog recently gave HSUS a poor mark for spending millions on fundraising instead of programs.
Animal abusers should definitely be prosecuted under the law, but it seems outrageous to change such a basic tenet of our legal system.
Our suggestion to HSUS: Help shelters care for animals instead of blowing money on solicitations featuring socks and garden gloves. HSUS could cover the up-front costs for the cost of care of animals in far more cruelty cases than it does currently. But it apparently has other priorities for its money than providing direct care.