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February 27, 2012

The HSUS Responds to CCF

Center for Consumer Freedom's critique falls flat

  • In 2011, our Animal Rescue Team spent months helping animals after tornadoes and floods struck the country. Chuck Cook

Richard Berman—a Beltway con artist and the architect of a shadowy network of phony non-profit organizations that fight against animal welfare and other good causes—wants The HSUS to stop helping animals.

He'd like to see us halt our campaigns against puppy mills, stop our intervention programs against urban dogfighting, stop working with law enforcement on animal fighting raids or in cases of abandonment and hoarding. He'd like us to stop working to end the extreme confinement of farm animals on factory farms.

The trusty hired gun never reveals who is behind his capers. But what would you expect from a man who revels in being called Dr. Evil by "60 Minutes"?

One of his many corporate front groups, the so-called Center for Consumer Freedom, is behind the document called "9 Things You Didn't Know About HSUS," which is chock-full of falsehoods and distortions. In fact, CCF has already admitted its own errors regarding The HSUS and published a retraction on its own website regarding statements it knew to be false and reckless. Below are responses to each of the nine "facts" in the CCF screed.

1. Fundraising ads

Nearly all of the companion animals featured in our TV ads are from HSUS rescues. Our Animal Rescue Teams deploy nearly every week to save animals from puppy mills, animal fighting rings, cat hoarding cases, horse neglect cases, natural disasters, or other forms of cruelty. We set up and operated about 20 emergency shelters in 2011 to care for the animals rescued from these cases. Our TV ads also show the breadth of The HSUS’s work—including undercover investigations to expose inhumane factory farming practices such as the torment of downer livestock, our efforts to stop wildlife abuses such as Canada's seal hunt, and much more.

Donors who receive our bimonthly magazine All Animals, our email alerts, our direct mail, our annual report, or other communications know exactly where their donations are going, and they give to The HSUS because they support our work to prevent cruelty and turn around the major industries that are harming animals.

2. Charity evaluation

The HSUS has been rated three or four stars each year for the past decade by Charity Navigator; is approved by the Better Business Bureau for all 20 standards for charity accountability, earning the privilege to bear its seal of approval; was voted by GuideStar’s Philanthropedia experts as the #1 high-impact animal protection group; and was named by Worth Magazine as one of the 10 most fiscally responsible charities.

3. Lobbying

The HSUS, like other 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organizations, is permitted to spend a small percentage of its budget to lobby for stronger laws on the issues that concern us at the federal and state levels. In fact, the overwhelming bulk of our resources are used for non-lobbying activities, such as education and hands-on animal care. The HSUS spends less than 5 percent of its annual budget on lobbying. An affiliate entity, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, does lobbying and political work, and donations to that organization are not tax-deductible.

We work to reduce suffering through a wide range of program activities, and that includes supporting public policies, investigating cruelty and working to enforce existing laws, educating the public about animal issues, joining with corporations on behalf of animal-friendly policies, and conducting hands-on programs that make ours a more humane world.

4. Pension plan

Like any responsible employer, The HSUS is committed to treating its staff fairly. We employ hundreds of hard-working and talented employees who are dedicated to the cause of animal protection and are working for nonprofit salaries when in many cases they could be earning much more in the corporate sector. The health benefits, pension plan, and 401(k) options we offer to these dedicated individuals are consistent with the goals of an organization that wants to keep the best and the brightest people working to help animals day after day, year after year, and decade after decade.

Our CEO's salary is less than half the annual salary of the only organization in the humane field of comparable size, and about one-fourth the salary of the president of the National Rifle Association. It is far lower than the salaries of the heads of the World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Environmental Defense Fund. His salary is well below the mean for CEO salaries of comparably sized organizations.

5. Animal shelters

The HSUS partners with local animal shelters and rescue groups on a wide range of issues, and we celebrate their life-saving work in local communities. We host the largest training conference for sheltering professionals, Animal Care Expo; we publish Animal Sheltering magazine and animalsheltering.org, which are the best resources in the field; and we launched The Shelter Pet Project with Maddie's Fund and the Ad Council, which has resulted in more than $50 million in free advertising to promote the adoption of shelter pets and drive down euthanasia rates.

In December 2011, the Humane Research Council conducted a survey of about 300 animal shelter and rescue personnel around the country—most of them CEOs, executive directors, or individuals serving in other leadership positions within their organizations. Among other findings, the survey confirmed that there is overwhelming agreement among local organizations that they view the humane movement broadly as taking on large-scale cruelties to pets, wildlife, and farm animals. They also value the services that The HSUS provides to local animal shelters and rescue groups, and they see The HSUS as having an important role as a powerful organization battling the root causes of cruelty nationwide.

Animal shelter leaders are also speaking up about the CCF and Rick Berman, who has also gone after some of the shelter leaders for telling the truth about him (Read blogs written by Washington Animal Rescue League CEO Dr. Gary Weitzman, Richmond SPCA CEO Robin Robertson Starr, Humane Society of Berks County executive director Karel Minor, and San Francisco SPCA Co-President Jennifer Scarlett).

6. Agriculture

The HSUS works to protect the welfare of all animals, including animals in agriculture. We work to promote food safety and curb the worst factory farming abuses, such as the slaughter of downer livestock too sick or injured to walk on their own and the extreme confinement of breeding pigs in two-foot-wide metal cages. The HSUS has a Farmers and Ranchers Council and directly supports the Global Animal Partnership (GAP), which certifies animal products from farmers using best practices when it comes to animal care.

We are working with agriculture groups such as the United Egg Producers to improve animal welfare and provide a stable and secure future for U.S. egg farmers. And we work with food companies including Bon Appétit, McDonald's, and Safeway to improve the treatment of animals in their supply chains. We are proud to have many family farmers as our allies in these efforts.

7. Hands-on animal care

The HSUS provided direct care and services to more than 76,000 animals in 2011 alone. Our Animal Rescue Team deploys in response to natural disasters, working with other organizations to rescue, shelter, and reunite lost animals with their families. We also assist law enforcement in saving animals from dogfighting and cockfighting rings, puppy mills, animal cruelty and hoarding cases, and other human-caused crises. In 2011, we set up and operated about 20 emergency shelters for rescued animals. We also provide free spaying and neutering, vaccinations, and other wellness services each year to dogs and cats in rural areas and communities underserved by the veterinary profession. In addition to running its own direct care and service programs, The HSUS has given more than $43 million in grants to other animal protection organizations since 2005.

8. Michael Vick

The HSUS helped steer the federal laws to passage that resulted in the successful prosecution of Michael Vick. The case would not have progressed but for our efforts to raise the importance of prosecuting animal fighting cases at the federal level. Since the Vick case, we have upgraded the federal law against animal fighting twice (making it a federal felony to engage in animal fighting and to ban possession and training of fighting animals), upgraded laws in more than 30 states (including establishing felony-level penalties in the final states that had misdemeanor penalties), cracked down on dozens of dogfighting operations, paid out more than 100 rewards on animal-fighting tips, run public service announcements on animal fighting throughout the nation, and elevated national debate on this issue to the highest level ever.

Michael Vick is now repudiating his terrible past, talking about his experience and punishment, and he has spoken to more than 10,000 at-risk kids in inner-city communities to tell his story and steer them away from the dead-end path of dogfighting. We are working to redeem the image of pit bull-type dogs in urban communities and we would not be able to have these conversations if it were not for Michael Vick.

9. John Goodwin

No animal protection organization has been more resolute and outspoken about condemning violence and vandalism done in the name of animal protection than The HSUS. CCF lies in saying that The HSUS harbors an advocate of violence on staff—picking one person on a staff of more than 700, suggesting that one youthful indiscretion taints an organization that has always devoted itself to non-violence. In fact, John Goodwin leads our animal fighting campaigns and works hand in hand with law enforcement in cracking down on illegal activities. As a teenager, John engaged in some radical activism he came to regret, and more than 15 years ago, he renounced this activity. He is a stellar example to young people that legal channels offer the best means of effecting social reforms, and he is a harsh critic of the claim that progress can be secured through illegal conduct. Our work is about the business of change, and we welcome people into the fold who change for the better.

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