Is Giving to HSUS an Efficient Use of Money?

Donors want their dollars used effectively. There’s only so much money that each person has budgeted for charity. So is the Humane Society of the United States deserving of animal lovers’ donations? We certainly don’t think so.

For starters, the American Institute of Philanthropy gives HSUS a “D” grade for high spending on fundraising and overhead and low spending on programs. This is similar to a finding from the animal rights newspaper Animal People.

But in terms of actual animal care, we looked a little closer. If you combine the revenue from HSUS and its affiliates (about $160 million) and divide by the number of animals HSUS claims to have provided some level of “care” for among its affiliates (about 100,000), we can determine that for every $1,600 donated to HSUS, only 1 animal will be given direct care.

Seem inefficient? We think so.

We looked around and tried to get a feel for how much good that money could do at a local shelter. The Michigan Humane Society—which cares for just as many animals as HSUS on one-tenth the budget—says it costs $156 to find a home for a dog or cat. So $1,600 with Michigan Humane Society would provide a home for 10 times as many animals as the same gift made to HSUS would provide (temporary) “care” for.

The Houston SPCA, meanwhile, has an even smaller budget ($7.8 million) but provided services for 100,000 animals and conducted 14,000 investigations in 2012. The Oregon Humane Society, on a budget of $9.2 million, adopted out 11,521 animals in 2011. The Nebraska Humane Society took in 17,000 animals on a budget of $9.4 million.

There’s an important distinction to make as well. Groups like the Oregon Humane Society run a pet shelter and incur all of the fixed and variable costs of doing so: Utilities, food, medicine, etc. The Humane Society of the U.S. doesn’t run a single pet shelter. It is not in the business of adopting out animals. And the animals it does rescue are generally turned over to a local group.

Donors should keep in mind that Best Friends states that it costs $13.50 per day for the cost of care and feeding per dog and $8.70 per cat per day, so $1,600 could go a long way with a local shelter (the average length of stay for animals differs from shelter to shelter). Millions of dogs and cats are euthanized every year due to lack of resources. And local groups are in a much better position to provide care for animals than HSUS, which doesn’t even run a shelter.