The Silent Majority

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) isn’t affiliated with any pet shelters and doesn’t run any, even though it could afford to build and operate them in all 50 states. Instead, less than 1% of HSUS’s budget in 2009 went to hands-on pet shelters.

Still, HSUS claims that it’s “the nation’s leading advocate for animal shelters.”

If that’s the case, pet shelters should be singing HSUS’s praises from high atop every mountain. But as far as we can tell, not many pet shelters actively support HSUS.

There’s one Facebook group that we’ve found, named “Shelters in Defense of The Humane Society of the United States.” It’s been around for nearly a year. You’d think that if shelter experts energetically supported HSUS, this group would have membership in the hundreds, if not thousands.

As of this writing, it has just 49 “likes.” And only one of those is actually a pet shelter page. (But we do count at least 4 HSUS employees.)

If you think that’s telling, the best-looking façade of shelter support that HSUS President Wayne Pacelle has put together hasn’t fared much better.

The “National Federation of Humane Societies” claims to be a coalition representing local- and state-level animal shelters and animal control agencies. As we’ve explained, it’s merely a front group for HSUS. Wayne Pacelle co-founded the organization and sits on its board. The Federation’s executive director worked at HSUS for 10 years. NFHS shares HSUS’s street address in Washington, DC.

In practice, the Federation is the official group for pet shelters to join if they want to jump onboard the HSUS train. (And this back-scratching is apparently a two-way street: The majority of the Federation’s board members represent organizations that received money from HSUS between 2006 and 2009.)

So how many pet shelters have joined HSUS’ Federation? According to its website, NFHS had just 63 members in April 2010. (The website hasn’t been updated since then.)

Meanwhile, the ASPCA estimated that there are more than 5,000 independent animal shelters in the United States. There’s no national group that tracks the real number, but PetFinder lists more than 13,400 pet adoption groups.

Sixty-three out of 5,000 U.S. pet shelters is just 1.26 percent. Sixty-three out of 13,400 is less than half of one percent (a percentage that sounds eerily familiar).

Generally, pet shelters are publicly silent about the Humane Society of the United States, but we’ve seen some grow tired of the “humane society” name confusion. They’ve begun to emphasize their lack of affiliation with the animal-rights behemoth (examples here, here, here, here, and here).

Most shelter directors are busy with more important matters, like taking care of cats and dogs and finding them “forever homes.” The last thing they want is to upset a political machine with a $121-million budget. But the next time HSUS acts like it’s pet shelters’ fairy godmother, it’s helpful to know that HSUS doesn’t represent many pet shelters at all.