What is the Humane Society?

Sportsmen can turn tables on Humane Society of the United States by exposing this group to your friends

Maybe I've been too close to this subject for too long to realize that the average citizen – and even the average hunting, fishing and trapping license buyer – do not understand just what the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is really all about. For me, the real reason for the HSUS's existence became clear years ago – Wayne Pacelle and anyone intertwined with the hierarchy of the HSUS play on the sympathies of caring people to collect money that does nothing but fuel their business plan. That plan is to do nothing more than provide them a very comfortable living. Over the years, myself and other writers have touched on that subject many times, so maybe I just assume that everyone who should know does know what HSUS is really all about.

That can't be the case, or the people of Wisconsin would have stopped donating their money to HSUS. Bob Noonan, the editor of Trappers' Post, took the time to spell out exactly what HSUS is all about. We ran his  editorial as our "Commentary" on page 3 of the Feb. 6 issue of Wisconsin Outdoor News. Please share it with your friends, publish it in your conservation group's newsletter, post it to your Facebook wall, and get it to your local newspaper. Noonan does a great job of calling out the HSUS and explaining to the average citizen that there is NO CONNECTION between the national HSUS group and your local – city or county – humane shelter. Donate your money locally where it will actually do some good. Do not give it to HSUS.  

Humane Society of the United States: Not your local humane society

By Bob Noonan

It’s common knowledge among hunters and trappers that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), based in Washington, D.C., is Enemy No. 1 to our way of life. The openly-stated goal of HSUS is to end all hunting and trapping.

HSUS is behind almost all anti-hunting and trapping efforts across the country. In reality, their aim is much wider; they also push a vegan agenda, and want to end all animal use, including farm raising of livestock for meat, dairy, and eggs.

HSUS is effective working towards its goals because it has huge financial resources – and the prestige of its name.

Unfortunately, most people, even some trappers, do not understand what HSUS really is. That’s because they call themselves the “Humane Society.” What, exactly, is the Humane Society? It turns out there are two. And they’re even not remotely the same.

The general public knows their local humane society as shelters for dogs and cats, run by dedicated, low-paid people and volunteers who love animals. Across America there are thousands of such local shelters, almost all calling themselves the Humane Society. They are all independent; they are not connected to a larger organization, or even to each other. However, polling shows that 71 percent of Americans believe HSUS is an umbrella organization for all of these local shelters. People think their shelters are somehow affiliated with HSUS. By extension, they also feel that HSUS is the voice of local shelters.

It is not.

HSUS has nothing to do with local shelters; they just happen to use a similar name. HSUS furthers this deception by frequently using dogs and cats in its ads that ask for money to help these animals in shelters. But HSUS does not run any pet shelters – and, although it raises well over $100 million annually from contributions, it consistently gives shelters less than 1 percent of that money.

The figures below are based on HSUS’s 2013 IRS Form 990, which all nonprofits have to file. In it, HSUS reveals its 2012 financial activity. (Note: not all expenses listed.)

• Total revenue: $125.8 million.
• President/CEO Wayne Pacelle’s annual compensation package: $395,469.
• Employees: 636 (including 30 lawyers); seven earn over $200,000; 38 earn over $100,000.
• Total salaries and benefits: $44.5 million (35 percent of its total budget).
• Added to pension plan: $2.4 million.
• Fundraising: $49 million (39 percent of its total budget).
• Lobbying: $2.5 million.
• Grants to pet shelters: $1,028,586 (.8 percent of its total budget).
• Expenses: $120.3 million.
• Investments: $177.7 million (publicly traded securities).
• Total assets: $195.4 million

Its varied investments are revealing. For example, although HSUS pushes legislation to end meat eating and farm raising of livestock, it has owned shares of Hardees, McDonald’s, Wendy’s. These are profitable investments, and HSUS has never had a problem privately violating its own, publicly stated “values” for its main goal – fundraising.

Of particular concern is HSUS’s 2012 investment of $25.7 million in what they refer to as the “Central American and Caribbean” region. These investments are: Ascend Partners Fund I, L.P. (Cayman Islands); BKM Holdings Ltd. (Caymans); Fore Multi Strategy Offshore Fund, Ltd. (Caymans); Hayman Capital Offshore Partners, L.P. (Bermuda); Fir Tree International Value Fund (Caymans). These are all for-profit hedge funds. Why did a U.S. not-for-profit group park almost $26 million in off-shore for-profit funds in a Caribbean area long known as a place for corporations to hide money?

Equally disturbing is the May 2014 settlement of a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) lawsuit against HSUS by Feld Entertainment, Inc., which owns Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circuses. HSUS had sued Feld for mistreatment of its elephants, but it was discovered that they had paid their witness $190,000 to provide false testimony. HSUS paid Feld a settlement of $15.75 million to avoid the RICO charge, a conviction that would have seriously damaged its reputation and image.

The respected American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP), which analyzes charities, has consistently given HSUS annual “D” ratings, reflecting its high operational costs and low percentage of giving to its intended recipients. And in 2014, Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest charity evaluator, completely revoked HSUS’s charity rating, for these same reasons.

One major way HSUS raises money is by asking for contributions to help animals in shelters. Their deceptive advertising is so effective that polling of those who contributed to HSUS shows that 74 percent gave specifically to help pet shelters. A full 90 percent of those polled were completely unaware that HSUS gave less than 1 percent of its annual income to shelters. These people believed that by giving to HSUS, they were helping their local shelter.

Local shelters operate on a shoestring, with low salaries and volunteers. Maine’s Bangor Humane Society, for example, has only 20 paid employees, most part-time, and about 100 volunteers. Like most shelters, they survive on contributions and some municipal funding.

HSUS siphons off many millions of dollars that should go to these local shelters, because much of the money given to HSUS is from people who think their contributions are going to shelters.

Money isn’t the only thing HSUS steals from the nation’s shelters. By using the name “Humane Society,” it also steals the well-deserved respect and prestige of local shelters.

Another big fundraiser for HSUS is its constant anti-hunting and anti-trapping state ballot initiatives and referendums. During these, HSUS raises more than it spends, due to its deceptive appeals to their 11-plus million “constituents” across the country, mostly urban/suburban people with no idea of the reality of either rural life or wildlife management, and who don’t even live in the states these initiatives affect. These ballot initiatives are moneymakers for HSUS. They make money even when they lose. But they do need wins, to encourage more contributions. That’s another reason to beat them.

The term “Humane Society” has enormous positive clout in the public’s mind. Hunters and trappers need to educate their friends and families about the difference between HSUS and local shelters. Tell people if they want to contribute money to their local shelter, to send it directly to them, not to the fat cats at HSUS. If people are doubtful, tell them to call their shelter. Most shelters are well aware that HSUS siphons off millions meant for them, and will gladly tell callers that, if asked. In fact, some shelters, when publicly asking for contributions, will openly request that the money not be sent to HSUS.

HSUS is effective at attacking us as much because of its huge financial resources as because of its lies to a well-intentioned, but uninformed, urban public. By educating people, we can help divert money from them to the shelters that need it. And we have to make people aware that when HSUS says hunting and trapping are cruel, they are not speaking for the many local shelters throughout America that deserve our respect and admiration.

Hunters and trappers have achieved major goals in the past by focused grassroots action. We have to educate people about HSUS. This article is on our Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/trapperspost – feel free to share it. If you want an electronic copy, email me and I’ll send a return email with this article attached. Feel free to put it on your Facebook page, or send it to your local newspaper if you think they’d be interested. As many people as possible must know how HSUS gets their money, and what they actually do with it.

Bob Noonan is the editor of Trapper’s Post. Email him at editor@trapperspost.com for more information, or permission to publish his commentary elsewhere.