The Board of Directors of the HSUS today announced significant leadership and governance changes as part of its ongoing efforts to chart the way forward for the organization.
The Board has appointed Kitty Block, currently acting President and CEO, as permanent President and CEO of the HSUS.
Ms. Block, an attorney, has devoted more than a quarter century to protecting animals. She joined the HSUS in 1992 as a legal investigator and later moved on to oversee international policy work related to international trade and treaties. While at the HSUS, Ms. Block has served in various executive roles, including as President, Humane Society International, the international affiliate of the HSUS. During her time as acting President and CEO of the HSUS, she has been a key contributor to the passage of major state ballot initiatives, which have set new animal welfare standards across the country. While at HSUS, she has also been instrumental in bringing cruelties such as horse slaughter and the killing of dogs and cats for their fur in China to light, and her efforts led to major policy reforms in those realms. In addition, the protection of whales, dolphins and other wildlife have been major areas of focus for Ms. Block, and her efforts have helped to secure and strengthen international protections for these animals. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and daughter and their street dog rescue, Lilly, and brother and sister rescue cats, Misti and Storm.
Ms. Block said, “I look forward to building on the progress we have made – for our staff, for our volunteers, for our donors and for the animals. We have made great strides in addressing the challenges facing the HSUS. Giving animals a better tomorrow is my lifelong passion and it is what we are all fighting for here at the HSUS. It is a true honor to lead this organization in its next chapter.”
Eric L. Bernthal, Board Chair, said, “The HSUS has a proven leader in Kitty, a professional who is deeply passionate about our mission and who inspires those around her. Her ability to motivate our staff and our donor base is second to none, and has resulted in meaningful change on behalf of the animals for whom we fight every day. She has the unanimous support of the Board and we are all excited for what the organization will accomplish under her leadership.”
The Board has also appointed Susan Atherton and Thomas J. Sabatino, Jr., as Co-Chairs of the HSUS Board following Mr. Bernthal’s decision to step down as Board Chair after seven years of service in this role. This transition is effective immediately.
Ms. Atherton is an independent philanthropist and long-time advocate for animals at the local, national and global level. In addition to her service on the HSUS Board, she serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees of UC Riverside, Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco SPCA and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Prevent Cruelty California initiative. She also served as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the Humane Society Legislative Fund for 14 years, and continues to serve as a member on this Board. Professionally, Ms. Atherton served in executive management positions in the enterprise software and cloud computing industries for 25 years. She lives in California with her husband and their adopted dog Simba, who was rescued from a puppy mill.
Mr. Sabatino is a longtime animal advocate actively engaged in animal rescue in communities across Florida and New England. Mr. Sabatino most recently served as Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Aetna, and has served in comparable positions at other major companies. Throughout his career, he has received numerous awards, including the Inside Counsel’s Transformative Leader Award, the National Bar Association Gertrude E. Rush Award and the Equal Justice Works Scales of Justice Award. In 2016, the Women’s In-House Counsel Leadership Institute created the Sabatino Advocacy Award in his honor. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and their 17-year-old Jack Russell.
Ms. Atherton and Mr. Sabatino said, “Rick Bernthal has made significant and lasting contributions in our fight to help all animals during his tenure as Board Chair and as a Board member over the last 12 years. His involvement with the HSUS follows a long personal history of pro bono work with environmental and animal protection organizations. We are pleased to be able to build on the substantial progress our Board has made this year under Rick’s leadership and look forward to overseeing the Board’s continued efforts to make the HSUS the most effective animal welfare protection organization in the country, as well as a better, more compassionate and more supportive place to work.”
Update on Governance Enhancement Action Plan
The Board continues to implement the governance recommendations made by Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, one of the nation’s leading law firms, to modernize the organization’s bylaws and adopt updated governance principles. Full implementation of the plan will occur by the Board’s April 2019 meeting. This follows an extensive engagement, during which Gibson Dunn reviewed and advised on the HSUS’ governance practices on a pro bono basis. The Board noted its deep appreciation for Gibson Dunn’s time, expertise and dedication to the HSUS.
About the Humane Society of the United States
The HSUS is the nation’s most effective animal protection organization dedicated to ending all forms of animal cruelty and achieving the vision behind our name: a humane society. We not only come to the aid of animals in crisis through our sanctuaries, veterinary programs and emergency shelters and rescues, but also prevent cruelty before it occurs through legislation, corporate policy and education and awareness programs. We fight to improve legal protections for animals through the courts and the ballot box, we train law enforcement to help stop animal cruelty and we work with some of the world’s biggest companies to reform and improve their treatment of animals. Through our awareness campaigns and investigations, we shape public opinion on animal cruelty, encouraging and empowering people to make kinder, more informed choices today to give animals a better tomorrow.