Our Opponents’ Claims Ring Hollow

Whether they’re attacking The Humane Society of the United States (The HSUS) for our work to stop factory farming, or to shut down puppy mills, misrepresenting the philosophy of staff members, attempting to cast doubt on fundraising practices, or making false implications concerning our disaster relief work, there’s one consistent theme when it comes to the deceptions from our opponents. They just can’t get their facts straight, and they don’t bother to try. Quite a few of our opponents, such as HumaneWatch (the Center for Consumer Freedom), Protect the Harvest and the Calvary Group, would have no purpose on earth if they had to tell the truth about cruelty and their defense of individuals and companies that exploit animals.

We’re transparent about our work and policies, and have addressed a few of the claims our opponents make below. If you have a question about our work that you don’t see answered below, don’t hesitate to contact us using the contact form on this site.

Read The HSUS policy statements on specific issues »


Is The HSUS affiliated with local shelters?

No. There are an estimated 3,500 local animal shelters in the U.S., about half run by private organizations and half run by municipal government agencies. The HSUS does not run them or serve as a parent organization, nor could any group serve that purpose. Just like the National Rifle Association does not run local gun clubs, the American Farm Bureau does not run local farms, no single law enforcement agency runs all police departments, and the American Bar Association does not run state or local attorney groups.  By long-standing tradition, local shelters are independent. They have their own policies, governance, and operational priorities. We support local shelters in many ways, but we primarily run our own programs to care for animals in crisis and tackle systemic abuses on a national and global scale – that is, cruelties beyond the reach of local organizations and agencies. Read more about how The HSUS works together on animal issues with local shelters.

Does The HSUS spend less than 1% on helping animals?

No. While our critics try to falsely frame animal welfare work as the narrow category of just giving pass-through grants to separate organizations, our work is broad and focused on helping all animals. We have our own staff and programs, and together with our affiliates we provided direct care to nearly 300,000 animals in 2016, and providing services and resources to train and professionalize the entire field of animal care and sheltering. We also spend resources protecting the millions of pets who never end up in a shelter – those living in poverty in the U.S., and caught up in puppy mills, dogfighting rings, and other large-scale cruelties. We spend 80 percent of our funds on program expenses, helping pets, wildlife, animals in laboratories, farm animals, marine mammals, and other animals at risk in society.

Our work lifts up the entire field of animal sheltering, such as our partnership with The Ad Council and Maddie’s Fund to create The Shelter Pet Project, the first nationwide public service advertising campaign designed to encourage people to adopt their next pet from their local shelter. This multi-million dollar campaign has already been credited with encouraging thousands more people to adopt than ever before, and will undoubtedly change the lives of millions of homeless pets. In one shelter director’s own words:

“There is a shelter pet project billboard two blocks from our facility and it has prompted several people to stop in and check us out. It is a cheerful, upbeat and positive “get a buddy” message. Thank you Maddie’s Fund, HSUS and Ad Council and also whoever assisted with placement, as this is the third billboard that has been within one mile of the Humane Society for Tacoma and Pierce County, WA.” – Kathleen Olson, director of the Tacoma-Pierce County Humane Society, 2012.

Where are the animals in The HSUS commercials from?

The animals featured in our commercials are all from rescues and investigations in which we are involved. The dogs and cats are from HSUS rescues from puppy mills, cruelty and hoarding cases, dogfighting rings, and other abuses. We show a range of animals, including horses, wildlife, and farm animals, in our commercials to show the broad scope of our work to protect all animals from cruelty. We also include an on-screen disclaimer to emphasize that local humane societies are independent from The HSUS.

Does The HSUS provide any direct care to animals?

Yes. The HSUS and our affiliates provide direct care to more than 100,000 animals each year — more than any other animal welfare organization — through our sanctuaries, veterinary programs, and emergency shelters and rescues. In 2016 that figure rose to nearly 300,000 animals. We have four affiliated sanctuaries and medical centers, programs that provide veterinary care and other animal services to inner cities, our veterinary affiliate provides these services to Native American reservations, and our international affiliate sterilizes tens of thousands of street dogs in developing countries.

Is The HSUS affiliated with other national organizations like PETA and the ASPCA?

No. Below are the organizations that The HSUS is directly affiliated with:

If you have questions about the work of other groups, we recommend contacting them directly.

Does The HSUS support farmers and ranchers?

Yes. We support those farmers and ranchers who give proper care to their animals, act in accordance with the basic ethic of compassion to sentient creatures under their control, and practice and promote humane and environmentally sustainable agriculture. We promote the Three Rs—reducing the consumption of meat and other animal-based foods; refining the diet by eating products only from animals who have been raised, transported, and slaughtered in a system of humane, sustainable agriculture that does not abuse the animals; and replacing meat and other animal-based foods in the diet with plant-based foods. We would encourage those with questions to read The HSUS policy on farm animals and eating with a conscience.

Does The HSUS support violence in the name of animals?

No. No animal protection organization has been more resolute and outspoken about condemning violence and vandalism done in the name of animal protection than The HSUS. The very foundation of The HSUS’s work is to protect animals from suffering and cruelty caused by human actions. Any tactic or strategy involving violence toward people undermines the core ethic we espouse. Such tactics are ethically wrong and do fundamental damage to the credibility of the humane movement. The HSUS has repeatedly and publicly criticized individuals who break the law in the name of supposedly protecting animals.

The HSUS asks people to adhere to a code of conduct in how they treat animals, and expects staff and everyone who represents the organization to adhere to a civil code of conduct ourselves. The illegal actions and use of vandalism by a few individuals in the name of protecting animals result in irreparable harm to the cause of animal protection. True animal advocates promote respect and compassion for people as well as animals.

We have posted rewards for the prosecution of those who resort to violence. Read our complete policy statement on our commitment to nonviolence here.

Even Rick Berman and CCF have retracted the false claims they made about HSUS being connected to domestic terrorists. CCF’s published correction.

Did The HSUS help Michael Vick get a dog or endorse it?

The HSUS had no say in whether Vick would be permitted to own animals; that was a court decision, beyond our influence and authority. Like you, we learned about the Vick family’s decision to get a dog in the news. We had urged Vick to rescue a shelter dog, and to give a dog a second chance, but were disappointed that he did not. Read The HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle’s comments on this issue.

Why did The HSUS settle with Ringling Brothers (aka Feld Entertainment)?

The HSUS and The Fund for Animals fight tirelessly to prevent the abuse and mistreatment of animals, including elephants by circuses.  Although The HSUS was never a plaintiff in the case against Ringling, we believe it was prudent for the parties to settle, because this court would never address the core claims of elephant abuse, and there would be significant cost in continuing to litigate. We expect that a substantial portion, if not all, of the settlement costs to The HSUS and The Fund for Animals will be covered by insurance, and in the end, that no donor dollars from The HSUS will go to Feld. We also urged Feld Entertainment to devote the settlement money to help protect threatened and endangered elephants and combat the plague of poaching that is decimating wild populations. Read our full statement on humanesociety.org as well as The HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle’s comments on his blog.

In 2015, following the settlement and after years of mistreatment, Ringling Bros. announced that it will retire its performing elephants in 2018. This is a positive outcome, on the heels of cities such as Los Angeles and Oakland banning the use of bullhooks on elephants. We’ve said all along that the public won’t tolerate the abuse of elephants with sharp bullhooks to get them to perform tricks or the constant chaining of these highly intelligent and mobile animals.

In 2017, Ringling announced that they were closing the circus entirely. It’s clear from the announcement that the marketplace is leading the way. But as California, Rhode Island, and a number of local communities have demonstrated, government has a complementary role to play, which is how it should be. You can read more about this here.

Why does The HSUS have lawyers on staff?

The HSUS is not only concerned with having laws on the books to prevent animal cruelty and abuse, but also making sure those laws are properly enforced and upheld. Our Animal Protection Litigation program was formed in 2005 to advocate for animals protection in the courts at the local, state, and federal levels. We knew having a group of litigators dedicated to these issues could right a lot of wrongs, and once formed they hit the ground running. Since then, the program has filed more than 170 legal actions and secured over 150 favorable rulings for animals in state and federal courts around the country (a total win ration of ~85%). HSUS lawyers authored the Endangered Species Act legal petition that resulted in new federal regulations last year halting invasive research on chimpanzees in the U.S., and also hold the record for the largest judgment for animal abuse ever entered in a U.S. court – $155,000,000 against the owners of the infamous Hallmark slaughterhouse in Chino, California. We encourage those wanting to learn more about how the Animal Protection Litigation program works to help animals read The HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle’s blog on the issueour magazine piece covering their work, and follow them on Facebook.

Why did Charity Navigator issue a donor advisory on The HSUS?

We disagreed with this 2014 decision. The factually incorrect “donor advisory” concerning The HSUS has now been removed, and at no point did that advisory ever have anything to do with financial metrics, governance, transparency, or the impact and effectiveness of our work to protect animals. The advisory came solely as a result of a legal settlement The HSUS and numerous other parties reached with the owner of Ringling Bros. circus. Charity Navigator’s donor advisory penalized animal welfare organizations for advancing their mission through advocacy work and for defending themselves in court against scurrilous charges. The HSUS was never even a plaintiff in the case against Ringling Bros., and we essentially worked to protect ourselves from a lawsuit launched by a company with a history of Animal Welfare Act violations and of infiltrating and fighting animal welfare groups.

For a decade, we got high marks from Charity Navigator, so it was mystifying that the charity evaluator wouldn’t understand the threats constantly leveled against The HSUS by corporations that use and cause harm to animals.

In fact, following the settlement and after years of mistreatment, and less than a year after Charity Navigator issued its donor advisory, Ringling Bros. announced that it will retire its performing elephants in 2018, and then announced in early 2017 that they were closing their circus entirely.

Charity Navigator is wrong to criticize charities that advocate for animal protection through litigation, which plays an important role in our campaigns protecting animals.. The HSUS follows strict standards of governance, transparency, and accountability, and is rated the top high-impact animal protection group in the country by our peers. You can read more about The HSUS position on charity ratings here.

Why does The HSUS have investments in the Caribbean?

This is yet another false and irresponsible attack from opponents of The HSUS who don’t want us to have any resources to fight puppy mills, animal fighting, factory farming, seal clubbing, and their other favored industries.  Of course The HSUS invests its funds, with the goal of getting the best return possible on those investments and putting the returns toward taking on the biggest fights to protect animals.  Whether it’s the stock market or mutual fund index or other investment, some of those funds are global.  We are a tax-exempt organization, so the idea that we would seek out countries with certain tax implications is just absurd. Our investments reflect the fiscal prudence and long-term outlook of an organization founded to fight the biggest and most intractable cruelties of our time.

How much does Wayne Pacelle make, and why does The HSUS spend money on pension plans?

Like any responsible employer, The HSUS is committed to treating its staff fairly. We employ hundreds of hard-working and talented employees and we believe in providing them a living wage. The health care, pension options and 401(k) plan options offered to employees are in line with other non-profit organizations. There’s nothing particularly distinct or special about any of these plans. Our opponents simply don’t believe that there should be professional staff working to combat factory farming, puppy mills and the commercial seal hunt. That’s really their gripe.

We also have a breakdown of finances, including salaries of individuals, on our 990 forms which are available here. Compensation for Wayne Pacelle, the President/CEO, is set by The HSUS’s independent Board of Directors. Each Director serves as a volunteer and receives no compensation. In setting the CEO’s salary, the Board evaluates performance and takes into account the salaries of CEOs at non-profit organizations of comparable size and influence. In fact, Wayne’s salary is much lower than that of most nonprofit groups of similar size, and lower than the CEOs of the National Rifle Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, and many other national groups. Our compensation philosophy is a reasonable one and we are determined to harness the best talent available, to be the most effective in preventing cruelty and protecting all animals, across America and around the world.

What is HelpPetShelters.com?

HelpPetShelters.com is a website referenced in ads by the Center for Consumer Freedom and its project HumaneWatch. People who care about animals are becoming more and more aware of the nefarious work of Rick Berman, the Center for Consumer Freedom and its HumaneWatch project, and as with HumaneWatch, HelpPetShelters.com presents itself as trying to help shelters, when it is nothing more than another vehicle for Berman to attack the HSUS.

It was only a few years ago that the Humane Society for Shelter Pets – a nonprofit that Berman denied involvement with until a memo came to light showing otherwise- dissolved. When it dissolved, $983,204 of the donations to the supposed nonprofit were paid directly to Berman’s PR firm.  According to tax returns, no animal shelters received funds. Whether it’s the Center for Consumer Freedom, HumaneWatch, HelpPetShelters.com – they all have the same agenda stemming from Berman: To stop the progress the humane movement is making to help animals.