What Were They Thinking? (Part Deux)

It’s still mind-boggling that the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), the pet industry’s trade group, would hire Ed Sayres to be its new president. Sayres was president of the increasingly radical ASPCA from 2003 to 2013 and attacked pet businesses.

We have reviewed some of Sayres’ tenure at ASPCA. Some highlights:

  1. In late 2012, ASPCA settled a federal racketeering and bribery lawsuit for $9.3 million. This is the same litigation where HSUS got tagged in a $15.75 million multi-party settlement as well. Sayres’ ASPCA lost in spectacular fashion after it emerged that the ASPCA and others had, in preceding litigation against a circus, covertly paid the key witness, who lied under oath. That lawsuit was dismissed and sparked the racketeering litigation.
  2. You may have heard of a New York City group called NYCLASS, whose goal is to ban horse-drawn carriages in the city. The ASPCA gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the group between 2008 and 2012. This became problematic when NYCLASS opposed a mayoral candidate and carriage horse supporters filed a complaint with the state attorney general. They argued that the  501(c)(3) charity shouldn’t be giving to an overtly political group (charities are forbidden from electioneering). Sayres was a co-founder and co-president of NYCLASS.
  3. Sayres has been under fire for alleged financial improprieties. In 2006, the ASPCA budgeted $125,000 for Sayres to hire a consultant for strategic planning and fundraisers, including a fundraising “dog walk.” Yet the ASPCA ended up spending more than six times that figure with the consultant and his firm, $400,000 of which was for work on the dog walk. The dog walk ended up netting a mere $14,000.  The ASPCA board treasurer was incensed at the “inappropriate expenditure” and “failure of management disclosure to the board.”

We’re sure there’s more—we’ve only just begun looking. (Email tips to [email protected].)

A trade group has to represent all of its members. In PIJAC’s case, that includes pet stores that sell animals and businesses that sell pets over the Internet—things Ed Sayres trashed while head of the ASPCA.

So either Ed Sayres is going to throw some of PIJAC’s members under the bus (which might please one pet industry executive who’s chummy with Wayne Pacelle), or he’s going to do an about-face and lose even more credibility in public. Of course, Sayres could call his past positions unreasonable in light of “learning more” about the pet business. The more likely prediction is that the ASPCA, HSUS, and others will accuse him of selling out if he takes that tack. And these groups can wield a megaphone to bludgeon an opponent, fairly or unfairly. Sayres would know.