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The Humane Society of the United States Issues Warning About Fake Humane Charities

Make Sure Your Support Goes to Proven Organizations –Local and National

Tender-hearted Americans beware: Every holiday season, heartless Internet scammers play on public concerns for animal welfare. New websites pop up promising to rescue animals in peril, with no actual connection to humane societies or animal shelters, and no track record of helping animals.

The Humane Society of the United States urges Americans to be generous this holiday season – to donate to their local humane society or other pet shelter or rescue group, and to support the broad-based and proven work of The Humane Society of the United States and other national organizations. Credible research shows that typical donors and volunteers support more than just a single organization, and understand that animal cruelty is a wide-ranging concern that requires a response on the local, national, and international level.

There may be as many as 20,000 groups, big and small, in the enterprise of animal protection. Most of them do essential work – sometimes concerned with just a single species, such as rabbits or horses. Sometimes, as in the case of local animal shelters, the work is focused on finding homes for millions of dogs and cats. And there is the national and global work of rescue, sanctuary, policy reform and education.

But there are also groups, especially on the Internet, who don’t do any hands-on work for animals at all. For example, notorious Washington, D.C., lobbyist Richard Berman has announced that he’s fabricating from whole cloth a “new” humane group called “Humane Society for Shelter Pets.” The group lists no street address, is not registered with the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, GuideStar, or any other charity watchdog, and has more than a dozen complaints against it pending before the Federal Trade Commission.

This con man, Richard Berman, is straight from the school that tells us smoking tobacco is fine, that pregnant women need not worry about mercury in seafood, that drunken driving is overrated as a social problem, and that the obesity epidemic is not a public health issue. But now, apparently, pocketing millions of dollars to promote those dubious causes is not enough–-and he has decided to appropriate the honorable name of “Humane Society,” which has been used for legitimate means for decades by The Humane Society of the United States and hundreds of independent local humane societies.  

His slick new website also talks repeatedly about “shelter pets”–-a brazen effort to create confusion between his operation and the Shelter Pet Project – the first-ever national campaign to promote shelter pet adoptions.  The project is a partnership with the Ad Council, the pet foundation Maddie’s Fund and The Humane Society of the United States and so far has reached millions of Americans with the message that local animal shelters and rescue groups should be everyone’s first choice when shopping for a pet.  The ad campaign has generated $32 million in advertising since it launched two years ago, and is expected to generate an additional $50 million in advertising to promote adoption and shelter pets.

Berman’s for-profit PR firm has a shocking record of pocketing the lion’s share -- sometimes more than 90 percent of funds that wash through his other misnamed “charities.” This shameful record of anti-public service has been exposed again and again by the news media, including CBS’ “60 Minutes,” the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and many others. Links to these exposes can be found here.

“Animals deserve far better this holiday and so do the thousands of people who give so much as employees, volunteers and supporters of our many legitimate humane societies, locally and nationally,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “We encourage everyone to donate to the local animal shelters addressing the symptoms of animal abuse, and also to the national organizations working every day to help those efforts and also to stop the root causes of animal suffering.”

This holiday, the nation’s responsible news media and opinion leaders can help by spreading the word that Richard Berman’s “Humane Society for Shelter Pets” is the work of a man with no record of helping animals or people – and in fact has a long history of defending puppy mills, seal clubbing, factory farming and other economic interests that jeopardize animals.


Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your iPhone by searching "HumaneTV" in the App Store. 

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.