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Maryland Resident Rick Bernthal Elected to Lead National Board of Directors of The Humane Society of the United States

At its meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., the board of directors of The Humane Society of the United States elected Eric L. “Rick” Bernthal as its new chair. Bernthal, a partner in the law firm of Latham and Watkins LLP, is the seventh board chair in The HSUS’ 58-year history.

Bernthal, an expert in corporate and communications law, served as Managing Partner of the Washington, DC office of Latham and Watkins from 2000 to 2011.  A member of the HSUS board since 2007, with a special connection to pit-bull type dogs, he has a long history of pro bono involvement with environmental and animal protection causes, and a strong personal commitment to animal rescue. Under Bernthal’s leadership, Latham and Watkins worked with HSUS attorneys to crack down on the illegal “soring” of Tennessee walking horses, to protect sea lions in the Northwest, and to defend two animal protection statutes dealing with animal “crush” videos and the inhumane treatment of downed farm animals in the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I’m deeply honored to have been selected as Chair of the Board of The Humane Society of the United States,” said Bernthal. “I’ve been privileged for the last five years to witness the extraordinary accomplishments of this fantastic organization, a group of remarkable and dedicated professionals who are making a difference in the lives of animals every single day. The mandate of The Humane Society of the United States is special and unique, taking on the very toughest and most sophisticated challenges in confronting cruelty to animals, and I am excited and grateful to have an opportunity to help advance its vital mission.”

Bernthal succeeds Anita W. Coupe of Biddeford Pool, Maine, a former partner in the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, who in 2008 became the first female chair of The HSUS. Coupe, a member of the HSUS board since 1990, will continue to serve on its Executive Committee.  

During Coupe’s tenure, The HSUS expanded its work to rescue animals from cruelty, and launched two new horse rescue facilities in Oregon and Texas. The group also secured landmark successes including the passage of California’s Proposition 2 to phase out the extreme confinement of farm animals, an agreement with agricultural leaders in Ohio to support a package of animal welfare reforms in the state, corporate policy breakthroughs with McDonald’s, Wendy’s and others to improve the treatment of animals in their food supply chains, the passage of federal legislation on “crush” videos, animal fighting, puppy mill imports, shark finning, and fur labeling, and an agreement with the United Egg Producers to jointly advocate for a national law improving the welfare of egg-laying hens.

The HSUS is rated a 4-star charity (the highest possible) by Charity Navigator, approved by the Better Business Bureau for all 20 standards for charity accountability, voted by GuideStar’s Philanthropedia experts as the #1 high-impact animal protection group, and named by Worth Magazine as one of the 10 most fiscally responsible charities.

“The board, staff and members of The Humane Society of the United States are fortunate to have a leader of Rick Bernthal’s skill to guide us in meeting the opportunities and challenges to come,” said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO.  “We are also fortunate to have had Anita Coupe’s calm, steadfast and principled leadership during a time of sweeping changes in humane work and intensifying interest in our mission. Her tenure as a board member and board chair has included many firsts, but it is the absolute purity of her devotion to our cause that made her such an effective leader for us these past years.”

Jennifer Leaning, M.D., S.M.H., of Lincoln, Mass., continues to serve as vice chair. Leaning, who has served on the HSUS board since 1991, is the François-Xavier Bagnoud  Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health, and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Media contact: Heather Sullivan, 240.477.2251; hsullivan@humanesociety.org