Americans are the most caring, charitable people on the planet. During this holiday season of giving, the Humane Society of the United States uses pulling at heartstrings to dupe millions of Americans into filling its coffers. Sadly, the vast majority of the money is not used to help local animal shelters, but instead to pay bloated overhead costs and fund lavish employee pensions and salaries, or it’s parked in offshore tax shelters and spent on PETA-like anti-hunting lobbying.
We’ve all seen HSUS’s TV ads full of sad music and sadder dogs and cats, and HSUS has “humane society” in its name. Thanks to these powerful ads, in 2014 HSUS raised over 100 million from the public. That same year, however, only one percent of HSUS’s budget was spent on grants to support pet sheltering, according to HSUS’s newly-released tax return.
A recent poll by the Opinion Research Corporation found that 71 percent of Americans believe HSUS “is an umbrella group that represents thousands of local humane societies all across America,” while 68 percent believe HSUS “contributes most of its money to local organizations that care for dogs and cats.”
Recent research has determined HSUS’s own donors are confused about where their money goes. An April 2015 poll of 1,051 self-identified HSUS supporters found that 87 percent of HSUS’s donors were unaware that HSUS gives just one percent of its budget to local pet shelters. When informed of this fact, 92 percent of HSUS’s own donors agreed the group “misleads people into thinking that it supports local humane societies and pet shelters,” and 55 percent were less likely to support HSUS.
How bad is this “reality gap?” Consider that in 2014 HSUS:
- Put more into its pension plan ($4 million) than it spent on pet-sheltering grants.
- Sent $55.4 million to Caribbean hedge funds, adding to the $50 million HSUS sent in 2012 and 2013 to funds in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.
- Spent $46 million on fundraising-related expenses — ads that reinforce the false public perception that HSUS is all about finding homes for needy pets.
- In 2014, HSUS didn’t make a single shelter-aid grant in 11 states: Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Tennessee, Vermont and Wyoming.
- In May 2014, HSUS paid $5.7 million to settle a racketeering, fraud and bribery lawsuit filed under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. HSUS and other defendants had allegedly paid a witness who lied in federal court during anti-circus litigation brought by animal-rights activists.
- In October 2014, HSUS was sued for fraud for allegedly ripping off a dog-welfare charity based in Hong Kong called the World Dog Alliance. The Alliance had given HSUS $500,000 to help promote a documentary exposing the cruel dog-meat trade, yet HSUS allegedly took the money and didn’t do the work.
- In July 2014, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt announced he was issuing subpoenas to HSUS to investigate the group’s fundraising solicitations. HSUS has since refused to fully cooperate with his investigation. In July 2015, state legislators representing 11 states at the Midwestern Legislative Conference, a part of the Council of State Governments, called on their attorney general to investigate HSUS.
- In Michigan and Maine, HSUS put more into its lobbying front groups pushing ballot initiatives than it gave in grants to support pet sheltering. In Michigan, “Keep Michigan Wolves Protected” received $300,000 from HSUS. In Maine, “Mainers for a Fair Bear Hunt” received $1,360,000. Maine voters rejected HSUS’s initiative.
HSUS routinely spends far more on state-level political fights than on pet shelters in those same states. Two examples: HSUS spent 86 times more on its Ohio political front group in 2009 than it did on Ohio pet shelters, and 32 times more on a political front group in Missouri in 2010 than it did on sheltering-support grants in that state. In 2011, HSUS spent 90 times more on ballot initiative groups in Missouri than it spent on sheltering grants.
A complete state-by-state list of the money HSUS gave to pet shelters in 2014 can be found at www.goo.gl/zVCBvp. The list was compiled by www.humanewatch.org after examining Schedule I of outgoing grants provided by HSUS as part of its “IRS Form 990” nonprofit federal tax returns. For the period analyzed (2010-14), HSUS’s tax returns were explicit about the purpose of grants. The report documents HSUS’ grants to pet shelters in the 50 states and D.C. from 2009-2014. The data is drawn from HSUS’s public tax filings with the IRS. HSUS deserves a lump of coal — not your money — this Christmas.