By Mike Barnett
You’ve all seen the commercials. The heartbreaking image of a pitiful puppy or kitten fills the screen. A sorrowful song plays in the background. Statistics of animal abuse are narrated by a compassionate voice. Your eyes tear up and your checkbook opens. And the cash registers at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) go Ka-ching Ka-ching.
The implication of the HSUS commercials is that monthly donation emotionally wrenched from your pocketbook is going to provide funds for pet shelters. You would be mostly wrong.
At least, that’s the scenario cast in a news release by HumaneWatch.org, a group who explains its purpose as “keeping a watchful eye on the Humane Society of the United States.” HumaneWatch.org said HSUS spent a total of $120 million in 2012, but less than 1 percent of that went to support local pet shelters. Only $7,330 in shelter grants were given in Texas during 2012, a schedule of outgoing grants provided by HSUS as part of its IRS Form 990 nonprofit federal tax return, showed.
A recent poll by the Opinion Research Corporation found that 71 percent of Americans believed HSUS “is an umbrella group that represents thousands of local humane societies across America.” The poll showed 68 percent believed that HSUS contributes most of its money to local organizations that support dogs and cats.
But according to HumaneWatch.org, grants to shelters are a miniscule portion of the money gained through HSUS’s fundraising efforts, with much of it going to salaries, lobbying, advertising, fundraising and expenses not related to pet shelters. The watch group maintains HSUS spent $50 million on fundraising-related expenses alone in 2010, which they say is 50 times more than HSUS gave for grants to support shelter aid. That kind of puts things in perspective.
Don’t be misled by fundraising that pulls on your compassion and emotions. If your intent is to fund a nationwide group who preys on unsuspecting donors to fill its coffers, donate to HSUS. If your intent is to help homeless animals and the Christmas spirit moves you, consider giving directly to your local animal shelter. They depend on donations to cover the costs of housing, feeding and providing medical care for homeless animals.