Sixty-five years ago, four animal advocates, determined to fill “a great vacuum, at the national level, in American humane work,” came together in a Denver living room to found a new organization with a bold vision, a broad reach and a principled commitment to making the world better for animals—all animals.

The four borrowed money against their life insurance policies to fund the group’s first few months, recruited a representative group of peers for their board of directors, and made the decision that a national organization needed to be based in the nation’s capital. They resolved to build a national constituency and train their energies on the era’s greatest animal welfare challenges—the inhumane slaughter of animals raised for food, the unrestrained use of animals in research, testing and education and the tragedy of animal homelessness.

Just as importantly, the organization they sought to build, from the start, would confront cruelty to animals wherever it occurred, “no matter by whom committed and without concern for who might be offended or alienated.”

Today, the fruits of their labors are known to all those who have supported the mission of the Humane Society of the United States through the years, and this week, we acknowledge our founders, Larry Andrews, Marcia Glaser, Helen Jones and Fred Myers. Their selflessness, their realism, their inclusiveness and their deep devotion to the ideals of animal protection are the beacons and signposts of our contemporary campaigns. Succeeding generations of advocates, on staff and on our board, along with our volunteers and our supporters, have helped to make real on the promise and the boldness of those who first conceived of an organization that would take on the biggest fights and root out cruelty. Each day, our skilled and dedicated staff here in the United States and around the world works to implement their vision. Our affiliates have expanded our scope further, with Humane Society International taking on animal protection issues in more than 50 countries around the world, and the Humane Society Legislative Fund working to strengthen federal policy for animals stateside.

Consistent with our founders’ vision, we have secured pathbreaking advances in animal protection, from improving the lives of farm animals, to the campaign to halt the use of fur, to the battle against trophy hunting of wild animals, to the fight against puppy mills, to moving toward an end to the use of animals in research and testing. Any day now, we await the president’s signature on the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, a historic federal anti-cruelty statute that we helped to draft and push for in Congress. The bill would apply felony level penalties to some of the most extreme acts of animal cruelty.

Helen Jones

Could there be any greater tribute to the imagination and farsightedness of our founders than the simple fact that somewhere, every hour of every day, HSUS and Humane Society International campaigners are at work, extending the reach and influence of the organization they brought to life those many years ago, and doing so in a manner consistent with their desire to engage humane supporters thoughtfully, meaningfully and effectively?

Our founders acted with faith that other leaders would come along, too, with the same singular devotion, the same expansiveness of vision and the same resolve to do great good for animals; to fill their shoes and to take the organization still further in its fundamental mission. And they also acted with confidence that a sympathetic public would express support and provide the financial resources needed to succeed. The record shows that their faith has been redeemed a thousand times over, in the countless animal protection achievements, small and large, that those who contribute to the HSUS and its affiliates in the intervening years have made possible.

I have always appreciated the fact that the anniversary of the HSUS’s founding on November 22 roughly coincides, every year, with the Thanksgiving holiday. And that’s because I never stop feeling grateful to the people who first saw the need for an organization like ours, and who gave their full measure to its establishment. In our own way, and in our own time, each and every one of us who supports the HSUS and its affiliates has answered their call and vindicated their trust and their hope. The work you make possible to protect animals around the world is our mission and in standing with us you do justice to the legacy and memory of our founding generation.