The Humane Society of the United States has theoretically been a long-standing organization symbolic of animal rights, protection, and welfare – a feasible presumption. A donation sent to the Humane Society is sent to provide food for malnourished horses in Texas or to provide shelter for homeless dogs and cats in New York City – right?
An investigation into the Humane Society’s financial history is a quantitative way of determining the organization’s true intentions. In 2008, the Humane Society’s net assets reached $162,217,144. Its revenue alone was $85,837,220– the equivalent of almost 4.3 million $20 donations. Humane Society’s 2008 grant schedule shows that $452,371, a mere 0.45% of their budget that year, was donated to directly affect animals in need, i.e. animal shelters and HSUS state branches. Connecticut received only $10,000: a donation sent to a spay clinic in Stratford. Not one of Connecticut’s three Humane Society branches – Westport, Waterford, or Newington – was given a dime from their national counterpart.
What is the difference between an animal rights organization and an animal welfare organization? An animal’s rights and its welfare, although seemingly interconnected, are, in fact, two separate entities. An animal welfare organization promotes and facilitates animal rescue, adoption, and overall care. However, an animal rights organization, such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), takes a more political role in defending cultural practices that lead animals into harm’s way. Examples of PETA’s forerunning campaigns are against the fur industry and animal testing and in favor of vegetarianism and veganism. Although they often conjure tangible results on behalf of animals, animal rights organizations’ works are mostly political, social, and legislative. In other words, a donation to PETA would most likely be contributed toward an animal rights lobbying effort, not to an animal shelter in your state. Understandably, there is a place for this kind of advocacy, and this advocacy absorbs considerable money and, often, incalculable time before it is resolved. In an attempt to promote the future protection of our animals, one may raise the question, “What are national organizations doing to safeguard animals rights to welfare on a daily basis, and is it humane enough?” Don’t animal enthusiasts in the United States donate to organizations like the Humane Society with the expectation that starving, suffering, and homeless animals will somehow receive the benefits of funds they send off in envelopes? Are envelopes addressed to the Humane Society of the United States sent to an animal rights or welfare organization?
On its website the HSUS declares itself an “animal protection organization.” Its 2010 accomplishments list includes legislative action against puppy mills in Missouri, adoption of a cage-free poultry industry in California, and the prevention of wolf hunting in Montana and Idaho. These aforementioned successes fit into the subjective animal rights category. However, many items on the list may be classified as animal welfare, such as the organization of a veterinary team sent to Haiti’s post-earthquake disaster and the rescue of hundreds of animals from severe hoarding situations. As encouraging as the animal welfare actions appear, most of the items on this list appear to be of a legislative nature.
Donating directly to your local branch of the Humane Society will ensure that your generously given dollars will go directly towards the Pet Food Pantry, a shelter, or a veterinary clinic in your area. To make a donation to the Connecticut Humane Society, click here. On the other hand, the final destination of a donation to the national Humane Society of the United States may reside in a nebulous cloud of uncertainty. So what is the take-home message here? If you are a supporter of animal legislation and national movements on behalf of the animal kingdom, donate to the HSUS. If you are a Connecticut animal welfare advocate whose priority is to directly provide for helpless animals in Connecticut, donate to the Connecticut Humane Society. Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.