Despite polling to the contrary, the Humane Society of the United States has said on multiple occasions to the media that its donors know what they’re funding. In December 2013, for one instance of many, HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle told the media that “I’ll say that such claims (specifically that there is confusion between The HSUS, and the ASPCA on the one hand, and local shelters on the other) is [sic] a contrivance.” In short—in spite of the overwhelming evidence that HSUS donors and the public are confused and think that money given to HSUS will largely fund animal shelters, HSUS has defiantly issued denial after denial and refused to take responsibility for its clearly deceptive advertising.
Guess what? HSUS knows its donors are confused—and has for years. Newly surfaced internal polling data conducted by HSUS in 2011 proves the point that we have been making all along: HSUS donors think they’re funding animal shelters. They’re not.
The Humane Society of the United States recently conducted a survey in order to determine what its donors’ expectations are for how their contributions are being spent. Unsurprisingly, given HSUS’s advertising full of cats and dogs—with no disclaimer that HSUS doesn’t run any pet shelters—about two-thirds of HSUS donors believe that their contributions will go towards funding “local animal shelters for unwanted, injured or stray animals.” According to the polling, 65% of “high-level” donors and 71% of “non-high level” donors thought that HSUS supported local animal shelters with their donations. (The document comes from public court filings.)
Unfortunately for HSUS donors, these expectations are clearly not being met, as HSUS only spends 1% of its budget on providing grants for local pet shelters.
Swindled donors watch HSUS TV ads or receive HSUS direct mail and believe that their offering will provide funding to help save and find homes for pets. HSUS is willing to go to great lengths to keep this myth alive, even if it means lying before Congress, where Wayne Pacelle recently falsely asserted to a U.S. Senate subcommittee that there was “explicit language” in HSUS ads saying “that we’re not giving the money to animal shelters.”
HSUS’s poll confirms what we have been saying all along. HSUS donors are confused, and it’s not a “contrivance.” They believe that their money is supporting an umbrella organization for local animal shelters throughout the country.
It probably wouldn’t be wise to hold your breath waiting for HSUS to dispel this confusion explicitly in all of its fundraising materials. HSUS stands to lose millions. It is apparent that more work needs to be done from grassroots individuals and campaigns like ours in order to show misled HSUS donors that their donations would be better off at the local level—and with an ethical group.