It's Raining Cats and Dogs (in HSUS Fundraising Appeals)

According to polling we commissioned from Opinion Research Corporation, most Americans think the Humane Society of the United States is a pet shelter umbrella group. If you've spent much time on this website, you already know  it isn't. And most Americans think the Humane Society of the United States gives most of its money to pet shelters. Also not true. The Humane Society of the United States is not affiliated with local humane societies; again, this flies in the face of popular belief.

Why do so many Americans have the wrong idea? In large part because the Humane Society of the United States knows that images of cats and dogs raise money better than pictures of pigs and chickens. HSUS’s new TV ad featuring Jenna Elfman (of “Dharma and Greg”) shows 44 live animals—and 95 percent of them are dogs and cats.

It’s no wonder many Americans confuse the Humane Society of the United States with their local humane society.

HSUS responds that it looks out for all animals—including prairie dogs, snakes, and wolves. That’s fine, but is it too much to ask that HSUS’s ads reflect its aims?

If you’re skeptical, the proof is in the pudding. Thanks to helpful HumaneWatch readers, we have examples of HSUS fundraising letters from the last two years showing the group’s bait-and-switch approach to fundraising.

Is HSUS taking advantage of Americans’ goodwill toward cats and dogs? You be the judge.

“Exhibit A” is a membership renewal mailing that the Humane Society of the United States sent out in September 2009. It included 10 reasons why the recipient should renew his membership.

The number one reason?

Your renewed membership helps The HSUS assist local shelters to become better through improving management and adoption practices.

From reading that, you might think a significant portion of HSUS’s budget funds local shelters. But according to its tax returns, the Humane Society ofthe United States shares less than one percent of its money with hands-on pet shelters.

In fact, HSUS charges shelters up to $25,000 to perform a shelter evaluation and suggest management improvements. So it’s hard to see how renewing an HSUS membership will help the group “assist local shelters.”

And none of those 10 reasons mentions farm animals, even though HSUS spends millions of dollars every year trying to end livestock farming and convert people to an animal rights-approved diet (no meat, dairy, eggs, or any animal product permitted on your plate).

An accompanying letter, signed by Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle, includes this line:

[T]he only way we can make these critical life-saving programs work and help save the lives of puppies and kittens in peril is with the continued support of our very best members such as you.

Again, HSUS's tax records show that less than a penny of every dollar you give will filter down to dog and cat shelters at the local level.

A second letter promises:

The HSUS will … use [your gift] where it is most urgently needed and can do the most good for the animals.

HSUS and its affiliated groups have $191 million dollars in assets stuffed away. Can’t they use some of that right now?

A third letter notes that up to 4 million pets are euthanized every year, asking:

How can we save these innocent puppies and kittens and find them good, loving homes?

Since HSUS is not a pet adoption agency, the answer seems pretty clear: If you want your donations to be used immediately to care for cats and dogs like those in HSUS’s TV commercials, you should donate to the shelter in your community—not to the Humane Society of the United States.