Less Than One-Half of One Percent

Here’s a really inconvenient truth.

In 2008, the Humane Society of the United States had an operating budget of $99,664,400. (See line 18 on page 1 of this document.) But it paid less than one-half of one percent of all that money to organizations that do hands-on dog and cat sheltering—the functions its TV ads suggest are HSUS’s main focus.

Yep. Really, really inconvenient. We’re going to try to document this very carefully. Please let us know if it’s unclear, or if our math is off.

Earlier this week when we ran you through the basics of HSUS’s 2008 tax return, we wrote:

HSUS paid out $4.7 million in grants to other organizations and individuals … [and] Only about $450,000 of it consists of checks that HSUS wrote to organizations doing hands-on sheltering of dogs and cats. I checked, line by line. I’m going to post my accounting of this soon, so anyone can correct my math or quibble with my estimation of what counts as a hands-on pet shelter.

Here’s that accounting. It’s a PDF of all the pages from the 2008 HSUS tax return where the group spells out the checks it wrote to outside organizations.

If a line is highlighted, it’s one for which HSUS could make the case that it’s supporting hands-on work with pets (i.e., dogs and cats). We’re inviting you—all of you, including the HSUS employees reading this—to tell us if we missed the boat.

We count a total of $452,371 in that category. Which is 0.45 percent of what HSUS spent that year. You read that right: less than one-half of one percent.

Just for the sake of illustration, then: Someone who takes Wendy Malick or Wayne Pacelle up on their infomercial request for “just $19 dollars a month” will pay HSUS $228 over the course of a year. Of that, just $1.03 will reach a pet shelter.