On October 1, 2018, the Humane Society of the United States announced a Reconciliation Process to improve the organization for the benefit of all HSUS employees and volunteers. Today, Kitty Block, President and CEO of the HSUS issued the below message to staff regarding the conclusion of the Reconciliation Process, in addition to the statement recently issued by the Co-Chairs of the HSUS Board of Directors:
When I agreed to take on the role of acting President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States at the beginning of 2018, I did so because I love the HSUS and our family of organizations and believe we are uniquely positioned as the leader in fighting for all animals. And I made a public commitment to help the HSUS prove ourselves worthy of our stakeholders’ trust. The Reconciliation Process I announced in October is completed, and our organization finds itself in a defining moment, when we must demonstrate what HSUS’s principles and values are through our choices and our conduct moving forward.
What I have learned over the past year makes it clear that some of those we trusted and admired most betrayed us all. It is unambiguous that over the past decade, the HSUS ushered in dramatic shifts in public perception and consciousness and saved countless animals. But it is also unambiguous that the gains achieved for the animals and the organization came at a terrible price – a price still being paid by people across the country and by the organization as a whole. It is impossible to quantify the harm suffered by so many individuals, many of whom were driven from HSUS and in some cases the movement as a whole. In turn, it is impossible to know how much more HSUS and the movement might have accomplished during that same time period had HSUS fostered and maintained a truly inclusive environment.
However, we also know that these problems were not new to the organization. I have personal experience with the damaging effects of sexual harassment and discriminatory treatment; I was one of two women who sued the HSUS in 1995 to try and help the organization do better. While my personal experiences at the organization in the wake of that suit improved, I now know that my experience was not the experience of far too many others. And going beyond sexual harassment, I understand that the experience of too many of our staff and volunteers has been one that suggests a disregard for their input, experiences, potential, and well-being.
No person’s dignity, safety, or humanity should ever be compromised in the name of fighting for animals; to tolerate this degrades us all and compromises the moral force of our cause. I have been sickened to learn what so many went through, and I want to take this opportunity to personally apologize. I am so very sorry. And I am also both personally and professionally humbled by the perseverance shown by our staff and volunteers to fight for animals and the HSUS even when the HSUS failed them. HSUS has been given countless chances and allowed great latitude by our stakeholders because of their deep emotional connections to the movement and to the organization. I can commit that so long as I am charged with leading this organization, we will appreciate that gift and not squander it moving forward.
To that end, I want to take this opportunity to make it abundantly clear how deeply committed I am to ensuring that the HSUS learns and grows from this experience. As head of this organization, I am committing to implementing the changes Ms. Kimpel has recommended for the organization. As our Board co-chairs shared earlier today, we are, among other actions, thoroughly revamping and strengthening our internal reporting, investigation, and resolution procedures, reviewing our management structures and standards, and enforcing expectations for everyone regarding appropriate and collegial interactions. And let me state emphatically that moving forward the HSUS will hold those who harass or assault accountable.
What Ms. Kimpel has indicated HSUS should do to address and prevent these sorts of problems from ever occurring again is no small task. This will be a group effort, it will take time, and there may be bumps along the way. But I want to make it clear that the HSUS is committed to doing the hard work necessary to set things right. For example:
- We already have worked with Ms. Kimpel to reform our anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies as well as the policies around reporting, investigations and resolutions, and additional modifications to those policies will be forthcoming. To date, nearly all of our U.S. based staff has received training on these new policies and our international staff will be trained in the coming months. In addition, our internal investigators have already begun working with Ms. Kimpel to fully revamp our internal investigative system. Moreover, a pay equity study is underway to ensure that all employees can be confident their compensation is equitable.
- In the near future, we are going to revise the social media policy, continue the strategic planning process, and update our performance management and hiring expectations to ensure that each and every supervisor understands that the HSUS will hold them accountable for creating and maintaining an equitable and inclusive environment.
Those of us who may have enjoyed appropriate and even supportive experiences here at HSUS have to commit to ensuring that all of our colleagues can say the same moving forward. There is much to do, but this is a good place to start.
I remember how hard it was for me to speak out against harassment, and I can imagine how difficult it was for the women who did so in the subsequent years. Your voices have been heard, and the changes you sought are happening. Thank you for the invaluable service you have provided to HSUS and the movement. And thank you to each and every person who took part in this Reconciliation Process and enabled us to finally be at a place where we can see a path forward.
I believe the HSUS that emerges from all of this will be better and stronger. As an organization and as a movement, we will be able to accomplish more when we disavow abuse within our own ranks as vigorously as we do for animals. Thank you to every community partner, donor, and external stakeholder who has been a part of our successes in the past and thank you to those of you who will be a part of those successes moving forward. I am excited for what the future brings.
President & CEO, HSUS