Unpacking the HSUS Gravy Train (2014 Edition)

The 2013 tax return of the deceptively named Humane Society of the United States, which was just filed this week, tells a familiar story: While dogs and cats fill up HSUS’s ads, the organization gives little money to pet shelters while wasting a pretty penny. (Read our report on HSUS’s spending, state-by-state.)

Only about 1%—one penny on the dollar—of HSUS’s $120 million budget is grants going to support pet sheltering. Local humane societies, despite having a similar name to HSUS, are not affiliated with HSUS, a common misconception among the public and HSUS donors.

Some good news is that HSUS’s contributions from the public were essentially stagnant. Based on HSUS’s annual report—which was released in May—it appears that general contributions to HSUS are down, but this is offset by an increase in bequests. Do your parents or grandparents have HSUS in their will by accident?

Here are some key points of what we’ve seen:

  • HSUS sent $26 million to the Caribbean and Central America—just as it did in 2012. HSUS has now sent over $50 million to the Caribbean in the past two years. In 2012 most of this money wound up at Cayman Island and Bermuda funds—in other words, HSUS is putting tax shelters ahead of pet shelters.
  • HSUS spent $42 million on fundraising-related expenses—35% of its budget. In other words, HSUS is a “mail mill” or “factory fundraiser,” wasting millions on direct mail calendars—even socks—in an effort to simply raise more money.
  • HSUS’s membership magazine only went to 562,000 people in 2013—up only 3% from 2012. While HSUS claims to represent 11 million Americans—presumably counting every last Twitter follower, real or fake—the membership magazine circulations shows that HSUS is inflating its true constituency.
  • HSUS put $2.5 million into its pension plan—more than it made in grants to support pet sheltering. Pensions get more than pet shelters at HSUS.
  • HSUS CEO Wayne “I don’t love animals” Pacelle pulled in over $400,000 in total compensation. Overall, HSUS spent $44.3 million on salaries and compensation.
  • HSUS paid $7.7 million to Quadriga Art, a direct mail firm that this year agreed to pay $25 million to settle an investigation by the New York Attorney General. Quadriga was exposed by CNN in 2012 in connection with charity scams. Quadriga was HSUS’s second-largest independent contractor in 2013 and HSUS has paid about $40 million to Quadriga over the past several years.
  • HSUS declared over $5 million in lobbying expenses, including $600,000 that went to a Maine front group pushing a ballot measure to restrict bear hunting. That measure failed earlier this month.

Overall it’s a picture of waste and—thankfully—stagnation at HSUS. With the holiday fundraising season around the corner, we’ll do our part to help Americans understand that HSUS is an inefficient and deceptive organization. You can help too by spreading the word to those you know. For all you know, a family member could be giving to HSUS.