LA Times Editorial: HSUS Doesn’t Support Local Pet Shelters

If you’re coming to HumaneWatch for the first time today because you saw an editorial that criticized us in today’s Los Angeles Times, welcome! It seems our hard-hitting national ads, including a recent one in the Times, have struck a nerve. Tinseltown is fast becoming the Humane Society of the United States’s power center, so we’re not surprised to learn that its leaders apparently persuaded the Times to take a closer look at our campaign to keep them honest.

The Times Editorial Board told its readers two important facts about the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Commenting on our recent ads in the paper, they wrote:

One of the current ads features a photo of dogs looking wide-eyed in shock under the caption "SURPRISED to hear the Humane Society of the United States shares only 1 percent of your donations with local pet shelters?" The ad goes on to state that the Humane Society "is NOT your local animal shelter.

The ad is true on both counts.

Too few Americans are aware of HSUS's misplaced priorities and the Times' reiteration of our central message is an important step in educating more Americans about HSUS's deception. But alas, the newspaper's editors couldn't stop there. They go on to write:

But [the ad is] also misleading. The Humane Society has never claimed that its mission is to fund local animal shelters… While some people may mistakenly believe that the Humane Society of the United States does the same job local humane societies do, it should not surprise anyone who has looked at the organization's website that only a small percentage of its money goes to local shelters.

Here we disagree—strongly. There is an important distinction between HSUS's claims and public perception. Although the Humane Society of the United States never explicitly claims to support local hands-on pet shelters, it does go out of its way to perpetuate the myth that its primary focus is helping homeless dogs and cats. The result? Robust national polling shows that 71 percent of Americans believe HSUS is an umbrella organization for the nation's hands-on pet shelters.

It's frustrating to see the Los Angeles Times papering over HSUS's intentional public misrepresentation of its own mission. Whether you love us or hate us, we encourage you to make up your own mind about this wealthy animal rights group.

Just take the Times' own challenge and visit HSUS's website. Three of the four primary images on its home page today feature dogs and cats. Better yet, take a look at HSUS's fundraising page. It's wall-to-wall pets. Now try to find HSUS's disclaimer explaining that it doesn't fund local shelters. Can you find it? Good luck.

For the record, though, here are a few things today's editorial didn’t tell you.

  1. The Times suggests that we are “dragging shelter pets into the fight” over HSUS’s duplicity. But it’s HSUS that has been throwing shelters (and their furry charges) under the bus for years, mainly by poaching unsuspecting donors from their communities. The State Humane Association of California has already publicly complained about similar misbehavior by the ASPCA, so this problem is certainly on shelters’ collective radar screens. (HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle's response has been to suggest that the Association should fire its employees who are pointing out the truth.)
  2. The Times observed that a public affairs firm with which HumaneWatch’s parent organization contracts for services runs another organization that questions some policies of MADD. Today’s editorial blurs an important distinction, in the way an unscrupulous commentator might hold one attorney responsible for the way another lawyer in the same firm defends his clients. That organization and this one are separate, although the management firm in question provides services to both.

The Los Angeles Times concludes:

If [] don't like the Humane Society's positions, they are entitled, of course, to make their case. But don't drag shelter pets into the fight.

It is the Humane Society of the United States—not us—who is guilty of dragging dogs and cats into this debate. We've tirelessly engaged the HSUS toe-to-toe on numerous issues affecting companion (and other) animals. We're happy to debate the group's leaders on the merits of their proposals, but we refuse to allow them to cloud the debate by falsely insinuating that it has the moral authority of representing the nation's struggling animal shelters.