What Does the Pet Sheltering Community Really Think About HSUS?

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is feeling the heat. More and more people are learning, thanks to this project and other efforts, that HSUS is not a real “humane society” and in fact gives only 1 percent of the money it raises to pet shelters. People are seeing how HSUS uses misleading advertising that preys on the common misconception that HSUS is a pet-shelter umbrella in order to raise millions from the public.

In response, HSUS is trying to act like it’s the pet sheltering community’s biggest advocate. But we’re skeptical. We’ve noticed numerous comments made to the media from shelters that have been willing to publicly speak out against HSUS. And we’ve suspected these represent a broader portion of the community.

Our own November poll of the sheltering community, which used a nationally representative sample of 400 rescues, shelters, and animal control organizations, found that 71 percent agree that “HSUS misleads people into thinking it is associated with local animal shelters.”

We’ve decided to print some of the comments we received during our poll. Some have been edited for grammar and spelling. For obvious reasons, we’re not going to identify them.


“A horrible organization that does a disservice to those of us who are helping dogs and cats.” –A rescue

“I don't believe that HSUS or ASPCA either one should use money that was donated to their organization to create their heartbreaking commercials that play on the hearts of people!  Both commercials make you believe that they are working in "local" areas as well but I for one have NEVER seen them in the [redacted] area, nor have they ever done anything to help my rescue animals!  I also don't believe that they should be paying their executives a six-digit salary out of donated money!  That is SO wrong!” –A rescue

“I am appalled that they share so little of the funds raised with organizations that are actually out there in the trenches fighting the war against pet overpopulation and abuse.”—A shelter

“I feel they deliberately misrepresent what they are and what they do.”—A rescue

“The commercials you see on TV ads imply that the HSUS and the ASPCA give the money they raise to local shelters because of the footage and pictures they use. It is my understanding that the money they raise is to attack other groups (i.e. hunting, agricultural) and to lobby at the government level. … It makes me pretty angry when I then read articles that the President of HSUS is spending money trying to convince people that eating meat is wrong and going after hunting organizations. He is only looking at what he thinks is important and has lost sight of the real issues.”—A shelter

“One look at HSUS IRS filings will show that they have well over $200,000,000.00 (Two Hundred MILLION dollars) in investments & cash that can easily be converted to cash (i.e. stock market investments). I'd like to know what a "humane society" that doesn't own ONE SINGLE shelter, needs that money for?  …The HSUS is perpetuating a SCAM on the public.” – A rescue

“I've sat on local and statewide task forces for animal welfare and am never surprised the lengths the HSUS/ASPCA will go to get their way.  I frequently post informational HSUS articles to my FB account so people understand where the funds go.  ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS FOLLOW THE MONEY!!!!” –A rescue

“They use animal tragedies like hurricane Katrina and the Vick case to raise funds and yet do not voluntarily use those funds raised to "help" the animals.  They only use the tragedy to further their agenda. They are despicable.” –A rescue

“They mislead the public and money is misappropriated just like with government taxes, etc.  […]  The Humane Society gets all the publicity, funds and praise.  How much physical labor is involved for their administrators each day?” – A rescue

“A whole lot of talk, very little action.”—A shelter

“I would like to see a good portion of the money spent on the political front spent helping these shelters.  We are lucky where we are and I have good support from my city officials.  I know there are some shelter who could really use the help.  I know there are evaluation tools available but I also believe there is a cost to them and know that many can't afford it.”—A shelter

“It frustrates me that they do not make it clear to the general public that they (HSUS) do not directly maintain any shelters for homeless animals and they do not make it clear that they are a distinctly separate entity from the local Humane Society.  HSUS, I believe, misleads the general public into believing that they support the local humane societies and small rescue organizations when this is not the case at all.”—A rescue

“I think of HSUS like PETA, they take money from the public in the guise that they help animals, but they are more POLITICAL organizations than anything else.”—A rescue

“I have no positive thoughts towards the HSUS at all. I think they are money-hungry and attention-seeking, riding into a situation when the media is there then dumping the problem on someone else's shoulders.”—A rescue

“Like any national nonprofit, they have overhead for administrative costs that get paid first….I often wonder just how much they really do for the animals because I have been in ditches and never saw one of them beside me getting animals to safety.  Or do they only do things on a national level that will bring in the donations to pay the help?”—A rescue

“Don't care for them at all, they do a disservice to all shelters and rescues.”—A rescue

“Misleading advertising, hidden agenda, funds could be better used elsewhere.”—A rescue

“They need to spend more money helping animals and local rescues more directly and consistently.”—A rescue

“When the HSUS supported Michael Vick, my suspicions were confirmed.  They are all about the money vs. truly helping animal welfare causes.  I think they should be supporting rural and poor shelters vs. all shelters.” – A rescue

“I think they misrepresent themselves to look like they're "your local neighborhood shelter or rescue organization" in their literature and all of the mailings they do.”—A rescue

“Useless, harmful, and misleading.”—A rescue

“I do think these national groups should disclose on all fundraising or donation solicitation material what percentage goes into a much smaller, local organizations so that people can learn to differentiate. More than the money, I think a lot of small groups would greatly appreciate hands-on advice & resources from these groups when called upon. That seems to be the biggest complaint…”—A shelter

“We really don't know how they are helping any animals directly!”—A shelter

“I am extremely unhappy with HSUS's lobbying against stronger animal protection laws (e.g., Hayden Act, Oreo's Law), […] their support of Michael Vick, and their disingenuous fundraising annually and after large-scale disasters like Katrina. HSUS dumped countless animals on small, underfunded rescues in the aftermath of disasters yet took credit in the media for rescuing animals. Some of these animals were left at kill shelters where they likely lost their lives after "rescue" by HSUS.”—A rescue

“A scam.”—A rescue

“They are not an organization aimed at providing care for animals in shelters, and should stop advertising themselves as such.”—A rescue

“For the amount of money they bring in they do not do enough good.”—A rescue

“It misrepresents what it does. They have turned into a front for PETA.” —A rescue

“Only does those things that will grab media attention.  Misleads public.”—A rescue

“It, like a lot of organizations, looks only towards causes that get them publicity. They spend way too much money on glossy magazines and staff salaries and way too little on local shelters that are not "publicity magnets" but need day to day financial assistance from an organization that has it to give. I myself will not continue as a HSUS member.”—A shelter

“That they need to scale back their big fat salaries and put more of their money into educational campaigns and facilities to support low cost spay/neuter.  They aren't doing enough to end the needless, horrendous euthanasia statistics from animal shelters across the country.”—A rescue

“Their nightly solicitation by way of commercials is but one way they mislead the public into believing that money raised actually is helping ‘save the animals.’ If they are so proud to be collecting from the public by the money they spend on these commercials, then it should be noted on the bottom of the TV screen just how little even goes to the animals, or any other community outreach program. I think they are a disgrace to the rescues that actually do work for next to nothing to help get animals adopted.”—A rescue

“A mouthpiece with no true interest in helping those really dealing with the issue. A politically driven organization.”—A rescue

“I think the HSUS has a slick marketing campaign and huge PR budget … with little benefit to the local shelters and rescues.”—A rescue

“They prey on people who are truly concerned with animal welfare who are willing to donate money to help, when they are only helping their own pocket books and let needy animals sit in over crowed, underfunded shelters until they are euthanized.  All the time, the public thinks they are helping their community and can't understand why so many animals are still being put down or why rescues need so much financial help.”—A rescue

“A lot of misrepresentation of what they do and how they "help" animals. The money spent on "administrative costs" while denying the animals is pathetically unbalanced. They use their name to address issues, but I wonder how many who may have come from the smaller world of shelters, remember what it was like to work in them.”—A rescue

“They make a good statement, but when it comes to actually doing, they don't! They do money type things such as the commercials but … we do the day in and day out work that no one ever sees! We are the ones that see and feel the heart ache when these babies get sick and die in our arms from whatever reason. We are also the ones that are first in the field such as during Hurricane Katrina…”—A shelter

“HSUS attempts to cash in on every disaster event that occurs, from floods to earthquakes.  The reality of the situation, as we learned first-hand in the flood of 2008, is that they arrive with cameras, take pictures of what the real workers on the scene are doing, claim that they are making a huge impact on the situation, and beg for money from people who don't know any better.  In fact, they come, they take pictures, they leave.”—A shelter

“I think it’s not right that they market the way they do. I think they need to actually do something. I don't feel like they are really working to solve the problems in the animal rescue world. I feel like they are taking people's money, and misleading them. I think things need to be turned over to local communities.”—A rescue

“I have no respect for the national organizations, they have lost their vision and are doing little to actually help animals in need.  This is especially sad given the amount of money the national organizations take in per year and how little of that money actually goes to helping animals either directly or by sharing that money with smaller grassroots organizations.”—A rescue in Ohio

“Not hands-on. All political BS.”—A rescue

“With the adverts misleading the public thinking they are giving directly to the local animal shelters the HSUS and ASPCA, more of the funding should be given to the local shelters.”—A shelter

“Big business that can use its money to advertise nationally and call in the voices of actors and stars to increase their revenue to pad their own wealth, and to heck with the grass roots groups doing all the work.”—A rescue

“Frankly my dear, they suck!”—A rescue

“The HSUS is an advocacy group who has deceptive fundraising practices. Their advocacy is directed towards progressive causes that are outside of what the typical Humane Society is involved with.”—A rescue

“It does disturb me that there are so many ads asking for money to help the animals and publicity boosts.”—A rescue

“They are a "Hollywood" organization […] They do not help animals as directly as the small-town rescues do, yet they reap all of the benefits for their employees. They are overpaid solicitors!”—A rescue

“We changed our name … because we in no way want to be affiliated with the Humane Society of the United States.  I personally believe their ad campaigns are deceptive.”—A shelter

“I think they're deceptive in their fundraising and take away funds from local shelters/rescues.”—A rescue

“Shameful that an organization would raise all that money and then not use it for spay/neuter which is what is going to fix that overpopulation problem.  Most people who donate to the HSUS do not care about the veganism that HSUS is promoting.”—A rescue

“People believe they are helping animals in shelters when they give money to HSUS.  HSUS is very misleading in this because they do not make it clear no animals are helped in shelters or rescue.”—A rescue

“It is not an actual shelter or rescue, yet solicits funds by presenting itself as such.”—A rescue

“I question some of the recent moves to promote an extremely different lifestyle from the majority of the public.  As it moves in this direction, the voice of the Humane Society will have less of an impact on the very people it needs to reach to make a lasting change in regards to animal welfare.”—A shelter

“We have contacted them on several issues in our parish for help and never got a response. I feel they put more into payroll and advertisements instead of helping smaller humane societies and shelters.”—A shelter

“I'm sure the majority of people in the world think they financially support shelters, and I believe they intentionally do that. Shelters are in dire straits these days, with donations down, and more animals needing costly medical care. Many animals that could be helped and saved from death are passed over because we cannot afford to save them. In light of that, I would love to see help from the big boys!”—A shelter

“Some of their views have made it very hard for shelters. They offer help but only to a few.”—A shelter

“I believe that the local shelters that are involved in the day to day care of the animals and responsible for getting the animals adopted should be provided with a much greater portion of the national fundraising money. We see so many shelters struggling to stay afloat with the costs of animal care and the current economy only makes it worse. So many animals suffer from the lack of funding for shelters. So many more could be saved if the local shelters benefitted from the donations to the national organizations.”—A foster group