The Humane Society of the United States

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HSUS logo.svg
Tax ID No.53-0225390
Founded1954 (as National Humane Society)
Founder(s)Fred Myers, Helen Jones, Larry Andrews, Marcia Glaser
Coordinates38°54′14″N 77°02′49″W / 38.904°N 77.047°W / 38.904; -77.047
Key peopleWayne Pacelle
Focus(es)Cruelty to Animals, Humane education, Animal Welfare, Animal Ethics, Animal law, wildlife conservation, Animal rights
Method(s)public education, science-based analysis, grant-making, media outreach, litigation, legislation, public policy
Revenue$125,763,492 (2012)[1]
Motto"Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty"
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HSUS logo.svg
Tax ID No.53-0225390
Founded1954 (as National Humane Society)
Founder(s)Fred Myers, Helen Jones, Larry Andrews, Marcia Glaser
Coordinates38°54′14″N 77°02′49″W / 38.904°N 77.047°W / 38.904; -77.047
Key peopleWayne Pacelle
Focus(es)Cruelty to Animals, Humane education, Animal Welfare, Animal Ethics, Animal law, wildlife conservation, Animal rights
Method(s)public education, science-based analysis, grant-making, media outreach, litigation, legislation, public policy
Revenue$125,763,492 (2012)[1]
Motto"Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty"

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), based in Washington, D.C., is the largest nonprofit organization advocating animal rights in the world. The organization's policy statements make clear that The HSUS does not oppose all uses of animals, so it does not fit within the strict animal rights category of organizations from either a philosophical or a practical perspective; rather, it is so classified because in everyday parlance, those individuals and groups that advocate for more protections for animals are described as supporting animal rights or being animal rights advocates.[2][3]

The HSUS does not run local shelters or oversee local animal care and control agencies, but promotes best practice and provides assistance to shelters and sheltering programs;[4] 1% of the group's budget goes directly to shelters.[5][6]

Consistent with its founding vision, HSUS works on a broad range of animal protection issues, including those affecting companion animals, wildlife, farm animals, horses and other equines, and animals used in research, testing and education.[7][8] In 2011, the Chronicle of Philanthropy identified The HSUS as the 145th largest charity in the United States in its Philanthropy 400 listing.[9] The HSUS reported its revenue as $125,763,492 for 2012.[1] It claims more than 11 million Americans among its members and supporters.[10][11][12] In 2009, HSUS reported assets of over US$160 million.[13]



Journalist Fred Myers and three others founded HSUS in 1954 to address what they saw as cruelties of national scope, and to resolve animal welfare problems by applying strategies beyond the resources or abilities of local organizations.[14] The incorporators of HSUS, all of whom were active in the leadership of existing local and national groups,believed that a new kind of organization would strengthen the American humane movement, and its guiding principle was ratified by its national membership in 1956: "The Humane Society of the United States opposes and seeks to prevent all use or exploitation of animals that causes pain, suffering, or fear."[15] HSUS operates animal sanctuaries in five states. The group's current major campaigns target five issues: factory farming, animal fighting, the fur trade, puppy mills, and wildlife abuse.[16]

HSUS publishes Animal Sheltering, a bi-monthly magazine for animal sheltering professionals.[17] HSUS distributed the magazine to more than 450,000 people in 2009.[13] It also operates the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, which provides free veterinary services for animals in impoverished communities.[18] The Genesis Awards have been awarded annually since 1986 to individuals in the major news and entertainment media for producing outstanding works which raise public awareness of animal issues.[19]


The values that shaped HSUS's formation in 1954 came from the humane movement that originated in the 1860s in the United States. The idea of kindness to animals made significant inroads in American culture in the years following the Civil War. The development of sympathy for creatures in pain, the satisfaction of keeping them as pets, and the heightening awareness about the relationship between cruelty to animals and interpersonal violence strengthened the movement’s popular appeal.[20]

Albert Schweitzer

The most immediate philosophical influence on 1950s-era advocates, including those associated with HSUS, was the reverence-for-life concept advanced by Albert Schweitzer. Schweitzer included a deep regard for nonhuman animals in his canon of beliefs, and animal advocates laboring to give their concerns a higher profile were buoyed by Schweitzer’s 1952 Nobel Peace Prize speech, in which he noted that "compassion, in which ethics takes root, does not assume its true proportions until it embraces not only man but every living being."[21]

Myers and his colleagues found another exemplar of their values in Joseph Wood Krutch (1893–1970), whose writings reflected a deep level of appreciation for wilderness and for nonhuman life. With The Great Chain of Life (1957), Krutch established himself as a philosopher of humaneness, and in 1970, HSUS’s highest award was renamed in his honor.[22]

The growing environmental movement of the early 1970s also influenced the ethical and practical evolution of HSUS. The burgeoning crisis of pollution and wildlife-habitat loss made the public increasingly aware that humans needed to change their behavior toward other living things. By that time, too, the treatment of animals had become a topic of serious discussion within moral philosophy.

The debate spilled over into public consciousness with the publication of Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation (1975). Singer’s book sought to recast concern for animals as a justice-based cause like the movements for civil rights and women’s rights.[23]

Much of what Singer wrote concerning the prevention or reduction of animals’ suffering was in harmony with the HSUS’s objectives. Singer’s philosophy did not rest upon the rights of animals, and he specifically rejected the framework of rights in favor of a utilitarian assessment that focused on animal sentience. His principal concern, like that of the HSUS, was the mitigation and elimination of suffering, and he endorsed the view that ethical treatment sometimes permitted or even required killing animals to end their misery.[23][24]

The 1980s witnessed a flourishing of concern about animals and a proliferation of new organizations, many influenced by the emergence of a philosophy holding that animals had inherent rights. Those committed to the purest form of animal rights rejected any human use of animals. In this changing context, the HSUS faced new challenges. As newer animal organizations adopted more radical approaches to achieve their goals, the organization born in anti-establishment politics now found itself identified - and sometimes criticized - as the "establishment" group of record.

While the HSUS welcomed and benefited from growing social interest in animals, it did not embrace the language and philosophy of animal rights. Rather, HSUS representatives expressed their beliefs that animals were "entitled to humane treatment and to equal and fair consideration."[25] Like many of the organizations and individuals associated with humane work, HSUS did try to come to terms with the shift toward rights-based language and arguments. In 1978, attorneys Robert Welborn and Murdaugh Stuart Madden[26] conducted a workshop at the HSUS annual conference, "Can Animal Rights Be Legally Defined?", and assembled constituents passed a resolution to the effect that "animals have the right to live and grow under conditions that are comfortable and reasonably natural... animals that are used by man in any way have the right to be free from abuse, pain, and torment caused or permitted by man... animals that are domesticated or whose natural environment is altered by man have the right to receive from man adequate food, shelter, and care."[27] In 1980 the notion of rights surfaced in an HSUS convention resolution which, noting that "such rights naturally evolve from long accepted doctrines of justice or fairness or some other dimension of morality," called for "pursuit on all fronts... the clear articulation and establishment of the rights of animals"[28]

In 1986, HSUS employee John McArdle opined that "HSUS is definitely shifting in the direction of animal rights faster than anyone would realize from our literature".[29] The HSUS fired McArdle shortly thereafter, he alleged, for being an "animal rights activist.".[30] At about the same time, HSUS president John Hoyt stated that "this new [animal rights] philosophy has served as a catalyst in the shaping of our own philosophies, policies, and goals."[31]


In 1954, HSUS’s founders decided to create a new kind of animal organization, based in the nation’s capital, to confront national cruelties beyond the reach of local societies and state federations. Humane slaughter became an immediate priority and commanded a substantial portion of the organization’s resources. Myers and his colleagues also viewed this first campaign as a vehicle for promoting movement cohesion.

Humane slaughter legislation[edit]

When the Humane Slaughter Act passed in 1958, only four years after HSUS’s formation, Myers pointed out that the movement had united, for the first time, to achieve enactment of federal legislation that would affect the lives of tens of millions of animals. He was encouraged that "hundreds of local societies could lift their eyes from local problems to a great national cruelty."[14]

Regulation of experimentation upon animals[edit]

HSUS also made the use of animals in research, testing, and education an early focus. In the post–World War II era, an increasingly assertive biomedical research community sought to obtain animals from pounds and shelters handling municipal animal control contracts. Local humane societies across the nation resisted. HSUS sought to bolster the movement’s strong opposition to pound seizure, believing that no public pound or privately operated humane society should be compelled by law to provide animals for experimental use.[32]

HSUS took the position that animal experimentation should be regulated, and in the 1950s it placed investigators in laboratories to gather evidence of substandard conditions and animal suffering and neglect.[33] The HSUS was not an anti-vivisection society, Myers explained in 1958. Rather, it stood for the principle that "every humane society … should be actively concerned about the treatment accorded to such a vast number of animals."[14]

Beginning in the 1990s, HSUS board member David O. Wiebers, a medical doctor associated with the Mayo Clinic, undertook efforts to lessen tensions between animal protection organizations and the scientific community, and to seek to identify areas of common agreement.[34]

Companion Animals and Shelters[edit]

Service to local animal shelters, with a special focus on solving problems and challenges of importance to every one of the nation's humane societies, was an early priority for HSUS. Its first brochure, "They Preach Cruelty," focused on the tragedy of animal overpopulation.[35] HSUS and its state branches operated animal shelters in Waterford, Virginia, Salt Lake City Utah, and Boulder, Colorado, and elsewhere, during the 1960s, and part of the 1970s.[36] From the early 1960s onward, HSUS worked to promote the most humane methods possible for euthanasia of animals in shelters, using its Waterford, Virginia animal shelter as a model for best practices in this area.[37]

In 1984, a General Accounting Office report confirmed HSUS allegations of major problems with puppy mills in the United States, setting the stage for proposed legislation to regulate mills in the 1990s.[38]

Exposure of cruelty in the dog trade[edit]

In 1961, HSUS investigator Frank McMahon launched a probe of dog dealers around the country to generate support for a federal law to prevent cruelty to animals destined for use in laboratories. The five-year investigation into the multilayered trade in dogs paid off in February 1966 when Life published a photo-essay of a raid conducted on a Maryland dog dealer’s premises by McMahon and the state police.[39][40]

The Life spread sparked outrage, and tens of thousands of Americans wrote to their congressional representatives, demanding action to protect animals and prevent pet theft. That summer the U.S. Congress approved the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act (later renamed the "Animal Welfare Act of 1966"), only the second major federal humane law passed since World War II.[41]

Goals and expansion[edit]

Other broad goals during this time included a reduction in the U.S.’s homeless dog and cat population, the reform of inhumane euthanasia practices, and to regulate pet shops and to end the commercial pet breeding trade.

HSUS and its state branches operated animal shelters in Waterford, Virginia, Salt Lake City Utah, and Boulder, Colorado, and elsewhere, during the 1960s, and part of the 1970s.[36] Today, HSUS operates five animal sanctuaries in the states of California, Florida Massachusetts, Oregon, and Texas.[42]

HSUS also worked, from the 1960s, to promote humane education of children in the schools. Much of this work was carried out under the auspices of an affiliate, the National Association for the Advancement of Humane Education. In the 1980s, HSUS sponsored several validation studies designed to demonstrate the value of humane education.[43][44]

Recent history[edit]

In the spring of 2004, the HSUS board appointed Wayne Pacelle as CEO and president. A former executive director of The Fund for Animals and named in 1997 as "one of America's most important animal rights activists,"[45] the Yale graduate spent a decade as HSUS’s chief lobbyist and spokesperson, and expressed a strong commitment to expand the organization’s base of support as well as its influence on public policies that affect animals.[46]

Since Pacelle’s appointment, HSUS has claimed successes such as the adoption of "cage-free" egg-purchasing policies by hundreds of universities and dozens of corporations;[47] the exposure of an international trophy hunting scam subsequently ended through legislative reform;[48] a number of successful congressional votes to outlaw horse slaughter; progress in securing legislation at the state and federal level to outlaw animal fighting and the interstate transport of fighting implements;[49] the enactment of internet hunting bans in nearly all of the states;[50] announcements by Wolfgang Puck and Burger King that they would increase their use of animal products derived under less abusive standards;[51] and an agreement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to begin enforcement of federal laws concerning the transportation of farm animals.[52]

Seals being clubbed

The HSUS’s campaign to end the hunting of seals in Canada secured pledges to boycott Canadian seafood from 300 restaurants and companies, plus 120,000 individuals.[53]

Under Pacelle's leadership, HSUS has undertaken several dozen ballot initiative and referendum campaigns in a number of states, concerning issues like unsporting hunting practices, cruelty in industrial agriculture, greyhound racing, puppy mill cruelty and animal trapping.[54][55][56]

Hurricane Katrina animal rescue[edit]

In September 2005, when thousands of animals were left behind as people evacuated during Hurricane Katrina, HSUS joined other organizations in a massive search-and-rescue effort that saved approximately ten thousand animals, and raised more than $34 million for direct relief, reconstruction, and recovery in the Gulf Coast region. HSUS led the campaign that culminated in the federal passage of the PETS Act in October 2006, requiring all local, state, and federal agencies to include animals in their disaster planning scenarios.[57] On the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, HSUS reported that it had spent or committed $7.3 million on direct response and efforts to reunite people and lost pets, $8.3 million on reconstruction grants for 54 humane societies in the Gulf Coast region, and $2.3 million on reimbursement grants to 130 humane societies from around the country that assisted in the response. The society also reported that it had committed $800,000 and $900,000, respectively, to shelter-medicine programs at the veterinary schools of Louisiana State University and Mississippi State University, and $600,000 to the construction of an emergency overflow shelter at the Dixon Correctional Institute in Jackson, Louisiana. HSUS reported that it had directed $2.76 million in in-kind contributions to the relief effort, and collected another one million dollars from other donors in grants to Gulf Coast societies.[58] In August 2008, Pacelle appeared with Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell at a press conference marking the enactment of a law prohibiting cockfighting in Louisiana, the last state to do so. The prohibition resulted from a longtime campaign led by HSUS.[59] The HSUS remains active in the Gulf region, funding a number of projects aimed at reducing the area's pet overpopulation problem, and improving access to pet care for the Gulf Coast residents.[60]

Legislative victories[edit]

During 2006, HSUS helped to secure the passage of 70 new state laws to protect animals. Two successful November ballot initiatives conducted with the support of the society outlawed dove hunting in Michigan and, through Proposition 204, abusive livestock-farming practices in Arizona.[61] In 2008, HSUS helped to pass 91 state animal-welfare laws, including Proposition 2 in California.[62][63]

Investigation into "faux" fur[edit]

In late 2006, HSUS broke the story of its investigation into the sale of coats trimmed with real fur but labeled "faux" or fake. Laboratory testing found that the fur came from purpose-bred raccoon dogs in China that were sometimes beaten to death and skinned alive. The story of fur animals beaten to death and skinned alive is disputed by a fur industry trade group.[64] The investigation reportedly prompted several retailers including Macy’s and J.C. Penney to pull the garments from the sale floor. Legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress to require that all fur jackets be properly labeled, and to ban raccoon dog fur.[65]

Exposure of Petland's reliance on puppy mills[edit]

In the fall of 2008, HSUS also launched a campaign to expose the reliance of the pet store chain Petland on puppy mills where animals are raised under inhumane conditions.[66] However, Jessica Mitler from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the government agency that regulates dog breeders,[67] provided the following response to the HSUS investigation: "The agency has received no complaints from the Humane Society about a particular kennel or Petland; so they have not investigated this specifically."[68] On November 24, 2008, Petland responded to the HSUS campaign video footage of the Petland investigation[69] by stating: "Petland is outraged that HSUS would intentionally use video footage of unrelated kennels in the report to try to mislead the general public into believing these facilities have a connection to Petland."[70] In another statement dated February 19, 2009, Petland stated they turned over death threats and threats of kidnapping generated from the HSUS campaign against Petland to the proper authorities for further investigation. Petland continued by asking HSUS to cease and desist in any actions that may promote malicious intent (directly or indirectly).[71]

On March 17, 2009, HSUS launched a class action suit against Petland on behalf of patrons who allegedly purchased sick animals from the chain, under the alleged pretense that the animals had come from the nation's finest breeders.[72] On August 8, 2009, the case was dismissed by a United States District Judge for lack of facts concerning the case.[73] Petland responded to the dismissal by stating: "The Humane Society of the United States touted the lawsuit in furtherance of its fundraising and media campaign seeking to end the sale of animals through pet stores. Petland denied that it had done anything unlawful, and it believes strongly that consumers have the right to purchase and keep pets."[74] The HSUS does not oppose the ownership of pets, but maintains that the desire for profit in commercial pet stores undermines proper care of companion animals.[75]

Corporate expansion[edit]

The corporate expansion forged by Pacelle included mergers with The Fund for Animals (2005), founded by social critic and author Cleveland Amory and the Doris Day Animal League (2006), founded by screen actress and singer Doris Day. This made possible the establishment of a separate campaigns department, an equine issues department, a litigation section, the enhancement of signature programs likes Pets for Life[76] and Wild Neighbors,[77] and an expanded range of hands-on care programs for animals.[78] During the first 2½ years of Pacelle’s tenure, overall revenues and expenditures grew by more than 50 percent.[79] In early 2008, HSUS re-organized its direct veterinary care work and its veterinary advocacy under a new entity, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, which was formed through an alliance with the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR), a group of veterinarians that support the animal-rights movement.[80]

Investigation of Westland Meat Packing Company[edit]

In February 2008, after an undercover investigation conducted by HSUS at the Westland Meat Packing Company alleged substantial animal abuse, the USDA forced the recall 143 million pounds of beef, some of which had been routed into the nation's school lunch program.[81] HSUS had been a longtime advocate for the elimination of downer animals from the nation's food supply, and the undercover investigation led to the USDA adopting the policy.[82]

In November 2013, the Justice Department reached a $155 million settlement with the firms that operated the plant.[83]

Successful political initiatives against animal abuse[edit]

HSUS was a leader in the Proposition 2 in California, which gained eight million votes on Election Day 2008, more than any other initiative on the ballot. The measure, which prohibits certain intensive confinement practices in agriculture beginning in 2015, passed by a 63.3 to 36.7 percent margin, winning in 46 of 58 counties, and gaining support throughout the state's urban, suburban, and rural areas. It garnered votes from Democrats, Independents, and Republicans alike, as well as among Caucasians, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Latinos. Nearly 800,000 Californians signed petitions to place the measure on the ballot.[84]

HSUS was also a participant in a ballot initiative campaign focusing on inhumane treatment of farm animals in Ohio.[85] The livestock-agriculture initiative was withdrawn from the ballot after a compromise was brokered between HSUS, Ohioans for Humane Farms, the Ohio Farm Bureau, and Ohio Governor Ted Strickland.[86]

HSUS led a campaign against puppy mill cruelty in Missouri in 2010. The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, known as "Prop B", was narrowly passed by Missouri voters.[87]



The HSUS has an entire department devoted to pets, and to services for companion animals.[88] It also has sections working to end dog-fighting, and to provide rescue and emergency services to animals at risk in animal fighting, hoarding, puppy mill enterprises and disasters.[89] The HSUS Pets for Life program uses community-level outreach in a number of American cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia,to raise retention levels and to improve the lives of companion animals and those who care for them, by providing veterinary services in zones where convenient and low-cost care is lacking.[90][91][92] The HSUS is a strong supporter of "pets in the workplace" programs.[93]

In 2013, The HSUS gave its Henry Spira Corporate Progress Award to the Consumer Specialty Products Association to recognize the antifreeze manufacturing industry's commitment to add a bittering agent to products so that animals would not die poisonous deaths, the subject of a long-running campaign by The HSUS.[94]

Puppy Mills[edit]

HSUS has been an active opponent of the domestic and global puppy mill industry, and helped law enforcement agencies to confiscate more than 35,000 animals from purported puppy mills since 2007. HSUS has also pressed anti-puppy mill bills in states like Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The number of dog breeders licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture declined from 3,486 in 2009 to 2205 in 2011.[95]

Feral cats[edit]

While initially opposed to Trap-Neuter-Return programs, calling them "a form of subsidized abandonment",[96] HSUS reversed its position on March 2006 and endorsed TNR as part of a multi-pronged approach to feral cat management.[97]

Animal fighting[edit]

In July 2007, HSUS led calls for the National Football League to suspend Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in the wake of allegations that he had been involved with dog fighting activity.[98] Vick was prosecuted and convicted under state and federal laws.[99] HSUS has backed upgrades of the federal laws concerning animal fighting in 2008, 2008, and in relation to the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, from 2011 to the present.[100][101][102]

Animals in Research, Testing, and Education[edit]

In 1988, HSUS played a role in the revision of the Holt, Rinehart and Winston laboratory manual, Modern Biology, so that it would include information on alternatives to dissection.[103] In 1990, HSUS and the Animal Legal Defense Fund sued the USDA to compel inclusion of mice, rats, and birds used in research within the protective orbit of the Animal Welfare Act.[104] In 2013, HSUS worked closely with the Arcus Foundation and other partners in the successful effort to persuade the U.S. government to transfer the remaining chimpanzees it owns to sanctuary over time, and for an end to chimpanzee use in research, testing, and education.[105] Since 2007, HSUS has pressed corporations still using chimpanzees in research to commit to policies of non-use. In 2011, the Institute of Medicine, part of the United States National Academies, recommended the curtailment of chimp use in testing. The IOM said that while genetic similarity made chimps valuable for medical research, such research raised ethical issues and carried a "moral cost." In 2014, Merck, the world's third largest pharmaceutical company, became the largest multinational corporation to make such a commitment.[106][107]

In March 2008, HSUS released the results of a nine-month undercover investigation of the NIRC laboratory in Louisiana, alleging widespread mistreatment of chimpanzees and other primates. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack ordered an immediate investigation of the facility.[108]

Animals in sports and entertainment[edit]

HSUS opposes greyhound racing, animal fighting, and works to limit the use and abuse of animals in certain display and spectacular contexts like zoos, circuses, aquariums, and roadside zoos.[109]

Animals as food[edit]

HSUS opposes cruelty in the raising and slaughter of animals used for food, encouraging its constituents to reduce their consumption of meat and to choose products from humanely raised animals instead of factory farm products.[110]

Former chief executive officer John Hoyt once declared, "We are not a vegetarian organization, and as a matter of policy do not consider the utilization of animals for food to be either immoral or inappropriate -- a position that, as you might expect, earns us a great deal of criticism from various animal rights organizations."[111]

HSUS is a supporter of Certified Humane, one of the programs that aims to certify that farm animals have been humanely treated.[112] HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle is a board member of the Global Animal Partnership, which recognizes humane producers with an animal welfare ratings standard that measures and rewards commitment to high welfare approaches.[113]

HSUS was involved in the ballot initiative campaign to enact California Proposition 2 (2008), enacted as the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, a law requiring that eggs sold in California be laid by hens raised in cage-free settings.[114][115]

An HSUS-led coalition pressed for the passage of a California foie gras band that took effect in mid-2012.[95]

In January 2014, in response to a long-running HSUS campaign to end the use of gestation crates in the pork industry, Smithfield and Tyson both announced their commitment to relevant reforms.[116] These announcements by major industry players came after a year in which dozens of other entities had pledged to remove pork from gestation crates in their supply chains.[117] In a January 2014 letter to the National Pork Board, Pacelle challenged that entity to end its resistance to reforms relating to pig housing and to the use of blunt force trauma to kill piglets.[118]

HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle frequently speaks with the agricultural press to reinforce HSUS's criticism of contemporary factory farming and related issues.[119] Pacelle has toured family farms operating on humane principles as part of building solidarity against factory farming interests.[120]

In recent years, HSUS has sought to build bridges with small farmers raising animals under humane conditions.[121] One of those farmers is Joe Maxwell, who has worked for HSUS as vice president for rural affairs. In recent years, farmers committed to raising animals in humane conditions have received greater attention and public support.[122][123]

HSUS is cooperating with the United Egg Producers to secure federal legislation to phase out barren battery cages for all laying hens in the United States.[124]

As a member of the Keep Antibiotics Working coalition, HSUS campaigns against the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture out of concern for its possible effects on the use of antibiotics in human medicine.[125]

With other animal groups, HSUS played a role in the defeat of Ag-gag, anti-whistleblower laws in a number of states during 2013.[126][127][128]

HSUS also fought against passage of the King Amendment to the farm bill, promoted by Representative Steve King of Iowa. The King Amendment was struck from the compromise bill considered by the U.S. Congress in late January 2014. The Wall Street Journal credited HSUS as having led the campaign to defeat the King Amendment, with arguments that it would nullify dozens of state laws addressing animal welfare and other concerns.[114][115][129][130]

In early 2014, HSUS revealed the results of its undercover investigation of a Collingswood, New Jersey slaughtering plant, which resulted in the operation's immediate suspension by the USDA. HSUS called for the closure of a regulatory loophole that permits the slaughter of "downed" calves, those too weak or ill to walk on their own.[131]

Horse racing[edit]

HSUS has taken a careful but critical stance concerning practices commonly found in the horse racing industry.[132] On occasion, HSUS has taken a position against particular practices associated with horse racing, such as the use of corticosteroids.[133]

Horse slaughter[edit]

The HSUS has long opposed the use of horses for food, and campaigned against their slaughter via litigation and public policy approaches.[134]

Exotic Pets[edit]

HSUS has taken a strong stand against the private ownership of exotic pets.[135] It has campaigned for legislation banning ownership of exotic pets in the few states that have not yet made it illegal. In Ohio, the HSUS negotiated last summer with Governor Ted Strickland and leaders of 8 agricultural commodity organizations in the state for improved animal rights legislation. One of the points in the law that was passed prohibits owning exotic pets.[136]

In recent years, HSUS has expressed a clear opposition to the keeping of constrictor snakes by private citizens, pressing for laws to limit possession of such animals to zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and sanctuaries accredited by the Global Federation of Sanctuaries (GFAS).[137] In December 2013, a reptile trade group sued the federal government to overturn its ban on the importation and transport across state lines of four giant snakes the government considers dangerous and threatening to the ecosystems of the Florida Everglades, a ban HSUS supports.[138][139][140]

Wild Animals[edit]

HSUS opposes the hunting of any living creature for fun, trophy, or sport. HSUS only supports killing animals for population control when carried out by officials and does not oppose hunting for food or subsistence needs.[141]

As a practical matter, HSUS has generally campaigned against the worst abuses found in the treatment of wildlife. Its ballot initiatives focus on things like shooting bear over bait, hunting with hounds, and other forms of hunting that are unsporting.

Together with its global affiliate, Humane Society International, HSUS has waged a decade-long fight to end the Canadian seal hunt. In late 2013, the World Trade Organization upheld the European Union ban on trade in products of commercial seal hunts, rejecting the Canadian and Norwegian challenge.[142]

HSUS first took a policy position on zoos in 1975, its board of directors concluding that it would be neither for nor against zoos, but would work against roadside menageries and regular zoos that could not improve. In 1984, HSUS adopted a policy that animals should not be taken from the wild for public display in zoos.[143]

HSUS is a funder and supporter of contraceptive research for use in regulating animal populations. In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency approved an immunosterilant contraceptive for wild horses called ZonaStat-H, developed with funding from HSUS.[95]

In June 2007, HSUS launched Humane Wildlife Services, a program to encourage and provide humane wildlife-removal services when wild animals intrude on human dwellings.[144]

Position Against the Use of Violence[edit]

Since 1990 at least, HSUS has expressed a clear opposition to "the use of threats and acts of violence against people and willful destruction and theft of property."[145][146][147] In 2008, HSUS offered a reward for information leading to the identification and arrest of parties involved with the firebombing of two University of California animal researchers.[148]

Governance and expenses[edit]

The Humane Society of the United States headquarters located in the West End neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

A nonprofit, charitable organization, HSUS is funded almost entirely by private membership dues, contributions, foundation grants, and bequests. HSUS is governed by a 27-member, independent board of directors. Each director serves as a volunteer and receives no compensation for service. For 2012, HSUS reported its revenue as $125,763,658.[1] In late 2013, a Rolling Stone article reported HSUS's annual budget to be $181 million.[149] HSUS currently has a 3-star rating from the charity evaluator Charity Navigator.[150] For 2012, HSUS’s program expenses composed 75% of its budget, fundrdaising expenses 22% of its budget, and management and general costs 3% of its budget.[151] HSUS’s financial efficiency ratios exceed the BBB Wise Giving Alliance (BBBWGA) standards which require that program expenses as a percentage of total expenses be 65% or greater. HSUS meets all 21 BBBWGA financial and administrative standards,[152] and all 20 of the BBB's Standards for Charity Accountability.[153] In 2011, the Chronicle of Philanthropy identified The HSUS as the 145th largest charity in the United States in its Philanthropy 400 listing, up from 168 in 2009.[9][154] In 2010, Worth Magazine named The HSUS as one of the 10 Most Fiscally Responsible Charities.[155] In 2011, a study by GuideStar's Philanthropedia ranked HSUS the number one high-impact nonprofit making a positive impact in the field of animal protection.[156]

HSUS gave grants to 260 other organizations in the U.S. and abroad during 2011, totaling $6.5 million.[95]

Affiliated and Related Entities[edit]

Humane Society International

Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association

Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust

Doris Day Animal League

The Fund for Animals

The South Florida Wildlife Center

Humane Society Legislative Fund

Board Members[edit]

HSUS board members of prominence have included:

Leslie Alexander (businessman)

Cleveland Amory

Amanda Blake

Roger Caras

Raúl Héctor Castro

Doris Day

Jane Goodall

Denis Hayes

Franklin M. Loew

John Mackey (businessman)

Charles Thomas McMillen

Gaylord Nelson

Richard L. Neuberger

Paul Shapiro (activist)

Maurice Strong

Persia White

Headquarters and regional offices[edit]

The Humane Society's national headquarters are in Washington, D.C. For 2012, it reported having 684 employees, with field representatives in 44 states.[157] Its international arm, Humane Society International (HSI), has offices in half a dozen nations and a broad range of international animal protection programs. HSI focuses on international treaties, animal birth control, humane slaughter education, and an end to the Canadian seal hunt.[158][159][160]


Protect the Harvest[edit]

Protect the Harvest is an organization founded by trucking magnate Forrest Lucas, of Lucas Oil who uses the site to promote the defense of industrial animal agriculture and puppy mills, in whose defense he has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in Missouri.[161][162][163]

Center for Consumer Freedom[edit]

The Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), an organization that lobbies on behalf of the food and beverage industry, has been critical of HSUS for many years. CCF's founder Richard Berman refuses to disclose its funders, and in 2013 the watchdog entity Charity Navigator gave CCF the lowest possible rating, issuing a donor advisory concerning the group.[164] CCF has produced several advertising campaigns alleging various improprieties by HSUS and accusing HSUS of misrepresenting itself to supporters and donors. HSUS has rejected CCF's accusations as "falsehoods and distortions" by "a flack agency and industry front group for tobacco, alcohol, and agribusiness interests."[165] Non-profit groups operated by Mr. Berman's public relations firm paid Berman and Company $15 million from 2008 to 2010, an arrangement that may violate Internal Revenue Service rules that prohibit executives from profiting off of the non-profit entities they run.[166] CCF carries out its attacks on the HSUS via advertisements and direct mail campaigns targeting HSUS donors and supporters.[167] CCF likes to take this approach in criticizing The HSUS: in 2009, HSUS reported assets of over US$160 million,[13] despite only 1% of their budget going to shelters.[5][6]

Charity Watch[edit]

The American Institute of Philanthropy, now called Charity Watch, has been critical of the HSUS. Charity Watch gave the HSUS a "C-" in 2013.[168] Charity Watch believes that HSUS spends an insufficient percentage of donations on programs, and an inordinately high percentage on fundraising. Using different estimates of fundraising expenses and efficiency, the American Institute of Philanthropy AIP's rating system heavily penalizes charities for possessing large assets or maintaining more than three years' operating expenses in reserve.[169] Only Charity Watch among all charity evaluation groups believes that organizations should not write off some of their fundraising costs as program expenses. Other evaluators agree with the approach taken under Generally accepted accounting principles, which permit such joint allocation of expenses.

Animal Rights or Human Responsibility[edit]

Animal Rights or Human Responsibility (AR-HR) is a website critical of the HSUS. AR-HR has disclosed that it receives no compensation from the CCF, the agriculture industry, the fur industry, or the pet industry.[170] AR-HR agrees substantially with many of the conclusions reached by the Center for Consumer Freedom, in particular, HSUS's misrepresentation of itself in advertisements seeking donations.

Nathan Winograd[edit]

Nathan Winograd, an animal rights advocate and No Kill spokesman, has been critical of the HSUS. He has accused the organization of aiding animal abusers by thwarting legislation designed to curtail abuse. He made such claims in a Huffington Post article entitled: "Putting Abusers Before Animals Is Business as Usual at the HSUS."[171]

Specific criticism[edit]

Feld Entertainment litigation[edit]

Feld Entertainment sued HSUS and other animal-rights advocates and advocacy groups under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Feld asserted HSUS wrongdoing in relation to litigation brought by animal rights activists against Feld alleging abuse of animals in the circus. This litigation was dismissed in 2009, with the judge finding that animal-rights groups had paid the key witness, a former Feld employee, at least $190,000. HSUS's merger and combination with The Fund for Animals drew HSUS into the case.[95]

In December 2012, the ASPCA settled the Feld suit and agreed to pay $9.3 million.[172] In May 2014, HSUS and the remaining co-defendants (which included two HSUS employees, the HSUS affiliate Fund for Animals, and parties unaffiliated with HSUS) agreed to pay $15.75 million to settle the litigation.[173]

Oklahoma Attorney General Issues Alert[edit]

In March 2014 Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt issued a consumer alert regarding HSUS and other national animal organizations.[174] Pruitt stated that his office had received complaints about HSUS misleading donors following a May 2013 tornado disaster.[175]

IRS Complaint[edit]

In November 2013, a complaint was filed with the Internal Revenue Service against HSUS by the Center for Consumer Freedom. According to Bloomberg News, the IRS complaint alleges that HSUS "violated IRS rules by listing as contributions the $17.7 million value of air time for its public service announcements to promote pet adoption. The net effect is to raise the ratio of program expenses to total expenses, which the independent assessor Charity Navigator uses to rank the effectiveness of charities." According to Bloomberg News, a tax attorney claims that the “Humane Society shouldn’t count the public service air time as contributions.”[176]

Allegations of misappropriation of donations for Hurricane Katrina rescues[edit]

In 2006, the Attorney General of Louisiana opened an inquiry into the American Red Cross and HSUS after numerous complaints about the misuse of funds raised in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.[177] This inquiry was part of a wide-ranging effort to ensure that charities providing relief for the victims of the hurricane did not profit from the incident.[178] Neither Attorney General Charles Foti nor his successor Buddy Caldwell took any action, and the inquiry focusing on HSUS was called off in early 2008. AR-HR's analysis of the HSUS's tax returns has determined that 48% of the $34.6 million donated to the HSUS for the purposes of helping animals after Hurricane Katrina remain unaccounted for, despite the aborted investigation.[179]

Allegations of misleading fundraising materials[edit]

Many Critics, including the CCF, AR-HR, and Nathan Winograd have accused HSUS of misleading donors into thinking that their donations directly support local animal shelters, when HSUS has no affiliation with or control over local humane societies. HSUS states on its website that it is not affiliated with local animal shelters,[180] and that the organization's role is to supplement and support the work of local shelters, not duplicate them. The fundraising materials of HSUS do not make the claim that HSUS runs local shelters, or that donations will be applied directly to local animal shelters. Some have accused HSUS of a misleading fundraising pitch in relation to the Michael Vick dog fighting case.[181] Fundraising material on HSUS's website one day after Vick's indictment states that donations will be used to "help the Humane Society of the United States care for the dogs seized in the Michael Vick case" and that donations would be "put to use right away to care for these dogs."[182] It was later revealed that the dogs were not in the care of HSUS and that the group recommended the dogs be euthanized.[183] The donation pitch was altered to remove references to caring for Vick's dogs one week after the initial pitch.[184]

Position on horse slaughter[edit]

Veterinarians for Equine Welfare (VEW)[185] and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) have criticized HSUS and other organizations who lobbied for an end to horse slaughter in the United States, stating that instead of making things better "horses are being abandoned in the United States or transported to Mexico where, without U.S. federal oversight and veterinary supervision, they are slaughtered inhumanely."[186][187]

Questions about meat packing investigation[edit]

US Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer questioned the way HSUS handled its Westland/Hallmark Meat Packing Company investigation, stating that HSUS "sat on four months of production that went out into the marketplace that's now being recalled".[188] More recently, the debate over forcing animal welfare organizations to release information about cruelty within a specified period of time has prompted criticism from editorial boards and journalists skeptical of the motivations for such calls.[189]

Animal rights agenda[edit]

USA Today, The International Herald Tribune and The San Francisco Chronicle have described HSUS as devoted to "animal rights," as opposed to "animal welfare."[190][191][192] Shortly after Wayne Pacelle joined HSUS, he stated in an interview with the Animal People newspaper that his goal was to build "a National Rifle Association of the animal rights movement."[193] The IHT describes HSUS as the "least radical" of animal rights groups.[194] Feedstuffs, an agribusiness newspaper, has leveled the charge that HSUS is pursuing a vegetarianism and veganism agenda instead of animal welfare.[195] In 2010, one journalist in Oregon also claimed that HSUS "primarily works on animal rights legislation."[196]

Allegations of financial malfeasance[edit]

CCF alleges that a large network of affiliates and subsidiaries allows HSUS to "bury millions in direct-mail and other fundraising costs in its affiliate’s budget, giving the public (and charity watchdog groups) the false impression that its own fundraising costs were relatively low." According to them, HSUS’s Earth Voice International and the Humane Society of the United States Wildlife Land Trust received ratings of one and zero stars (out of four) respectively from Charity Navigator. Earth Voice International is no longer an affiliate of HSUS, and the HSUS Wildlife Land Trust is not rated by Charity Navigator. The Los Angeles Times reported that based on 1997 to 2006 data in the state of California, the HSUS has a net return of 11.3% while the Wildlife Land Trust has a -70% net return.[197] According to the "Pennies for Charity" report issued by the New York State Attorney General, of the $1.95 million raised in 2008 by fundraisers, only 5.29% went to HSUS. The average return for charities in the report was 39.5%. HSUS actually incurred a net loss of $5,358 (-0.32%) in 2007. Those figures in 2006 and 2005 numbers were more positive, with 7.27% and 19.99% of contributions going to HSUS.[198]

Misrepresentations of Canadian seafood boycott participation[edit]

In 2006, CCF conducted an informal poll of restaurants listed as boycotting Canadian seafood in protest of the slaughter of seals. CCF claims that 62% of the chefs and restaurant managers they spoke to on the phone were unaware that their companies were listed as "boycotters" on the HSUS website. In its report, CCF excluded those restaurants that were boycotting Canadian seafood prior to the HSUS boycott, and restaurants that serve any Canadian seafood (regardless of the type or quantity), and drew the conclusion that 78% of the interviewees were not actively participating in the boycott.[199] CCF quotes Loyola Hearn, Canadian Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, as saying: "Some animal rights groups have been misleading the public for years... it's no surprise at all that the richest of them would mislead the public with a phony seafood boycott."[200]

Michael Vick controversy[edit]

The football player Michael Vick was sentenced to prison for running a dogfighting ring; he was found to have buried dogs alive, drowned them, beaten them to death, and pulled out their teeth without anesthetic. After he had completed his sentence, Vick offered to volunteer his time to an HSUS campaign against dogfighting.[201] Pacelle's acceptance of Vick's offer and willingness to appear in public and be photographed alongside Vick caused outrage and led one organization with the words "Humane Society" in its name to stress its non-affiliation with the HSUS.[202]Sports Illustrated magazine published a major investigative cover story about Michael Vick's dogs, and what happened to them after they were seized. The writer, Jim Gorant, was highly critical of the HSUS's immediate call for the pit bulls to be euthanized. Gorant went on to document the animals' rehabilitation, and how one went on to become a therapy dog in a hospital.[203] In 2010, during an interview, Wayne Pacelle pointed out that Vick could own a dog "two or three years down the line"[204] after his sentence was completed. Pacelle toured schools with Vick, in the HSUS campaign against dogfighting, and was quoted as saying, "I have been around him a lot, and feel confident that he would do a good job as a pet owner."[205] Vick's sentence did not include a lifetime ban on owning pets, and Pacelle issued a blog post explaining his stance on Vick as a potential dog owner.[206] In October 2012, Michael Vick acquired a pet dog, w purchased from a breeder.[207][208] Additional controversy surrounded the report that HSUS had received a $50,000 grant from Michael Vick's team, the Philadelphia Eagles.[209] The Eagles' donation was made as part of the 2009 launch of its "Treating Animals With Kindness" (TAWK) program, which provides grants to animal welfare organizations to protect animals: HSUS received a $50,000 grant, used to launch anti-dogfighting and community intervention programs in Philadelphia. In April 2011, Vick joined HSUS in denouncing the android App "Dog Wars," which involved a simulation of animal fighting.[210] In July 2011, he lobbied on Capitol Hill for passage of the Animal Fighting Spectator Provision Act.[211] Animal fighting experts generally agree that since the Vick case, there has been a significant strengthening of anti-cruelty laws at the state level,making it easier to prosecute wrongdoers.[212]

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]