The Humane Society of the United States - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Key people


1954 (as National Humane Society)
Fred Myers, Helen Jones, Larry Andrews, Marcia Glaser
Animal protection, Animal rights, Cruelty to Animals, Humane education, Animal Ethics, Animal law, wildlife conservation
38°54′14″N77°02′49″W / 38.904°N 77.047°W / 38.904; -77.047
public education, science-based analysis, training and education, grant-making,litigation, legislation, public policy
Wayne Pacelle, Andrew Rowan, Michael Markarian, Holly Hazard, Roger Kindler
$125,763,492 (2012)[2]
"Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty"
humanesociety .org

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), based in Washington, D.C., is an American nonprofit organization founded by journalist Fred Myers and three others in 1954, to address what they saw as animal-related cruelties of national scope, and to resolve animal welfare problems by applying strategies beyond the resources or abilities of local organizations.[3] In 2013, the Chronicle of Philanthropy identified HSUS as the 136th largest charity in the United States in its Philanthropy 400 listing, up from 145 in 2011.[4][5] In 2011, HSUS was rated the number one high impact animal organization by 169 experts in the field, in a survey by Philanthropedia.[6] The group's current major campaigns target five issues: factory farming, animal fighting, the fur trade, puppy mills, and wildlife abuse.[7] The organization works on a full range of animal issues, including companion animals, wildlife, farm animals, horses and other equines, and animals used in research, testing and education.[8]

The HSUS reported its revenue as US$125,763,492 and its net assets at over US$195 million for 2012.[9]

HSUS pursues its global work through an affiliate, Humane Society International, which listed staff members in 17 nations for 2013.[10] Other affiliated entities include the Doris Day Animal League, founded by the actress Doris Day, and the Fund for Animals, founded by the social critic Cleveland Amory. Together with its affiliate, the Fund for Animals, HSUS operates animal sanctuaries in five states.[11]

The HSUS does not run local shelters or oversee local animal care and control agencies, but promotes best practices and supports such entities throughout the country with a range of services.[12] In 2014, it claimed more than 11 million Americans among its members and supporters.[citation needed]


The HSUS formed after a schism surfaced in the American Humane Association over pound seizure, rodeo, and other issue of policy. The incorporators of HSUS included four people—Larry Andrews, Marcia Glaser, Helen Jones, and Fred Myers—all of whom were active in the leadership of existing local and national groups, who would become its first four employees. They believed that a new kind of organization would strengthen the American humane movement, and they set up HSUS as the "National Humane Society," in Washington, DC to ensure that it could play a strong role in national policy development concerning animal welfare. HSUS's 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."[13][14][15][16][17][18]


The values that shaped HSUS's formation in 1954, came in some degree 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.[19]

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."[20]

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.[21]

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.[22]

Much of what Singer wrote concerning the prevention or reduction of animals’ suffering was in harmony with 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 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.[22][23]

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, 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.[24]


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]

In 1958, the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act passed, which required the proper use of humane slaughter methods at slaughterhouses subject to federal inspection.[25] Only four years after HSUS’s formation, Myers pointed out that the movement had united, for the first time in eighty-five years,[25] 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."[3]

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.[26]

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.[27] 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."[3]

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.[28]

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.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31]

Under Phyllis Wright, HSUS was a driving force behind the shift to use of sodium pentobarbital for animal euthanasia, in opposition to the use of gas chambers and decompression, the standard shelter killing methods until the early 1980s.[32]

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.[33]

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.[34][35] 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.[36]

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.[30] Today, HSUS operates five animal sanctuaries in the states of California, Florida Massachusetts, Oregon, and Texas.[37]

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.[38][39]

Relationship to animal rights[edit]

While HSUS welcomed and benefited from growing social interest in animals, it did not originally 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."[40] 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[41] 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."[42] 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"[43]

In 1986, HSUS employee John McArdle declared that "HSUS is definitely shifting in the direction of animal rights faster than anyone would realize from our literature".[44] The HSUS fired McArdle shortly thereafter, he alleged, for being an "animal rights activist.".[45] At about the same time, former 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."[46]

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."[47][48][49] 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.[50]

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,"[51] 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.[52] 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.[53][54][55] In August 2014, Pacelle was again named to the NonProfit Times' "Power and Influence Top 50" for his achievements in leading HSUS, the fourth time he has been so recognized.[56]

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;[57] the exposure of an international trophy hunting scam subsequently ended through legislative reform;[58] 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;[59] the enactment of internet hunting bans in nearly all of the states;[60] announcements by Wolfgang Puck and Burger King that they would increase their use of animal products derived under less abusive standards;[61] and an agreement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to begin enforcement of federal laws concerning the transportation of farm animals.[62]

Animal Protection Litigation section[edit]

HSUS launched an animal protection litigation section in 2005. The section works with several thousand pro bono attorneys around the country to pursue its docket of cases. Under section leader Jonathan Lovvorn, the animal protection litigation group has won approximately three dozen cases in its first decade of existence, taking a practical approach, which Lovvorn explained in a 2012 interview. "We look at cases that are going to have a concrete impact on animals but are winnable. You won't see us out asking for courts to declare animals persons. Or to file habeas corpus requests on behalf of animals, or other things that require judges to go way beyond what they're comfortable with." In 2010, the section estimated that it had filed more than 50 legal actions in 25 states, and won 80% of its cases, while booking 10,000 hours of pro bono attorney time for a total in-kind contribution of $4 million.[63][64][65][66]

Canadian seal cull campaign[edit]

Once launched in 2005, 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.[67] By 2014, the campaign claimed more than 6,500 restaurants, grocery stores and seafood supply companies were participants the Protect Seals campaign.[68]

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[69] and Wild Neighbors,[70] and an expanded range of hands-on care programs for animals.[71] During the first 2½ years of Pacelle’s tenure, overall revenues and expenditures grew by more than 50 percent.[72] 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, formed through an alliance with the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR).[73]

Corporate Social Responsibility Outreach[edit]

Engagement with major corporations in an effort to persuade them to press for reforms in their supply chains has been a significant priority for HSUS in the last decade, and as a result of its efforts, more than 60 major food suppliers have used their leverage to change production level practices in the pork industry.[74]

Shareholder resolutions play a part in HSUS campaigns to generate corporate reform.[75]

Faith Outreach[edit]

In 2007, HSUS launched a program designed to advance relationships and awareness within the American faith community at all levels. The program provides speakers, produces videos and other materials, and works with faith leaders to lead discussion of animal issues within the broader religious community.[76][77][78]

Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy[edit]

The Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy (HSISP), founded in 2010, supports the application of scientific and technical analysis and expertise to animal welfare issues and policy questions worldwide. and HSISP is sustained by HSUS's own core group of academic, scientific, and technical experts in animal welfare, as well as outside scientists. HSISP is the manager of the Animal Studies Repository, a digital collection of academic and scientific resources related to animal studies and to animal welfare science. HSISP has held three conferences, the first on purebred dogs and genetic defects,the second on outdoor cats and associated management issues, and the third on sentience as a factor in determining animal welfare policy.[79][80][81]

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.[82] HSUS published updates on its spending for a number of years following the disaster; the last appeared in 2011.[83] 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.[84] 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.[85] 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.[86] In August 2014, The Louisiana SPCA announced that it had received a grant of $250,000 from HSUS for continuing expansion of its New Orleans headquarters.[87]

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.[88] 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.[89]

In 2014, HSUS accused Kohl's department store of selling a men's jacket made with real animal fur as "faux," and issued a warning to consumers.[90]

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 of 143 million pounds of beef, some of which had been routed into the nation's school lunch program.[91] 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.[92] In November 2013, the Justice Department reached a $155 million settlement with the firms that operated the plant.[93]

Petland puppy mills campaign[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.[94] However, Jessica Mitler from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the government agency that regulates dog breeders,[95] 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."[96] On November 24, 2008, Petland responded to the HSUS campaign video footage of the Petland investigation[97] 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."[98] 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).[99]

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.[100] On August 8, 2009, the case was dismissed by a United States District Judge for lack of facts concerning the case.[101] 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."[102] 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.[103]

Political and legislative initiatives against animal abuse and cruelty[edit]

During 2013, HSUS helped to pass 109 animal protection laws at the state level.[104] In 2006, HSUS helped to secure the passage of 70 new state laws on behalf of animals. Two successful November 2006 ballot initiatives conducted with its support outlawed dove hunting in Michigan and, through Proposition 204, abusive livestock-farming practices in Arizona.[105] In 2008, HSUS helped to pass 91 state animal-welfare laws, including Proposition 2 in California.[106] HSUS was a leader in the Proposition 2 campaign 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.[107]

HSUS was also a participant in a ballot initiative campaign focusing on inhumane treatment of farm animals in Ohio. 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.[108][109]

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.[110]

United Egg Producers[edit]

For several years, HSUS cooperated with the United Egg Producers to secure federal legislation to phase out barren battery cages for all laying hens in the United States. Discussion between HSUS and the United Egg Producers concerning a national standard for egg production began with a meeting between Jerry Crawford, an Iowa resident with ties to the egg production industry, and HSUS's Wayne Pacelle. Crawford recommended a further meeting with the United Egg Producers' Chad Gregory. The context for the meeting was HSUS's commanding win in Proposition 2 in California, and a shared belief that open warfare would serve no one's purposes. Additional negotiations produced the agreement to pursue federal legislation, the Egg Products Inspection Act of 2013, to support a shift to cage-free housing systems for laying hens, like enriched colony cages. The proposal failed in the Congress, and was not taken up in the 2014 Farm Bill, as a result of opposition by livestock production groups concerned over the precedent of federally-mandated standards for housing. Hog producers in particular recognized their vulnerability in reference to gestation crates[111][112][113][114]

Positions and Program Work[edit]

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.[115] Vick was prosecuted and convicted under state and federal laws.[116] HSUS has backed upgrades of the federal laws concerning animal fighting in 2007, 2008, and in relation to the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, from 2011 to the present.[117][118][119]

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.[120] 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.[121]

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.[28] The announcement by the NIH that it would no longer fund experiments that relied on Class B dealers marked the end of a long campaign by HSUS and other organizations to halt this channel for the supply of animals [122]

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.[123]

HSUS has been active in anti-greyhound racing campaigns in Florida.[124]

HSUS has long opposed the keeping of marine mammals in captivity and played a key longterm role in the campaign to end captive orca performance at SeaWorld.[125][126] HSUS opposed the Georgia Aquarium's application to the National Marine Fisheries Service to import 18 beluga whales from Russia, an application the NMFS denied.[127]

Animals used for food[edit]

Basic Policy[edit]

HSUS opposes cruelty in the raising and slaughter of animals used for food, and has done so since its inception in 1954. HSUS's policy of the 3 Rs encourages its constituents to reduce their consumption of meat and to choose products from humanely raised animals instead of factory farm products.[128][129]

Support for humane farmers and farms[edit]

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."[130] In the 1990s, HSUS published a guide to the purchase of humanely raised meats.[131] HSUS is a supporter of Certified Humane, managed by Humane Farm Animal Care, one of the programs that aims to certify that farm animals have been humanely treated.[132][133] 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.[134] Pacelle frequently speaks with the agricultural press to reinforce HSUS's criticism of contemporary factory farming and related issues.[135] Pacelle has toured family farms operating on humane principles as part of building solidarity against factory farming interests.[136]

In recent years, HSUS has sought to build bridges with small farmers raising animals under humane conditions.[137] 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. Via Maxwell and other staff members, HSUS has also forged ties with the global Slow Food Movement in connection with discussion of the sustainability of contemporary meat production.[138][139][140]

Proposition 2 in California[edit]

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.[141][142] An HSUS-led coalition also pressed for the passage of a California foie gras band that took effect in mid-2012.[143]

Gestation crate campaign[edit]

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.[144] 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.[145] 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.[146] In the summer of 2014, HSUS announced its success in helping to influence Heinz, Nestle, and Unilever in their decisions to make substantial commitments to animal welfare, in the form of shifts to cage-free egg purchases and a move away from gestation crates in their supply chains.[147]

Ag Gag legislation[edit]

With other animal groups, HSUS played a role in the defeat of Ag-gag, anti-whistleblower laws in a number of states during 2013.[148][149][150]

King Amendment to Farm Bill in 2014[edit]

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.[141][142][151][152]

Veal calf investigation[edit]

a 2009 HSUS investigation resulted in the USDA's closing of a Vermont slaughtering plant at which days-old dairy (bob veal) calves were dragged, kicked, shocked and cut by workers.[153]

Downed animals[edit]

HSUS has also worked on the plight of the so-called Downer (animal), an animal unable to walk. 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.[154]

Koster lawsuit[edit]

In October 2014, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by six states, initiated by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, challenging California's ban on the sale of eggs laid by hens housed in cages smaller than those approved by California's electorate in a 2008 referendum. The ballot measure, Proposition 2, setting standards for the treatment of farm animals in California, has also survived three legal challenges by California egg producers.[155] On October 14, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to California's ban on foie gras, made by restauranteurs who argued that the law violated the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause. The Supreme Court let stand the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' rejection of that argument. HSUS, which supported the original ban in 2004, filed a brief in the case.[156][157] A DesMoines Register article noted that the rejection of the Koster and foie gras challenges should give agricultural producers pause to reconsider the value of litigation and to embrace instead legislative solutions aiming for national, uniform standards ike those embodied in the failed HSUS/United Egg Producers agreement to seek passage of the Egg Products Inspection Act of 2013, scuttled in the U.S. Congress by beef and pork producers.[158][159]

Perdue legislation[edit]

October 2014 was also the month in which Perdue Farms and HSUS settled litigation in which HSUS accused the chicken producer of using the term "humanely raised" in a misleading way on its Harvestland product packing. Perdue rejected the allegations but agreed to drop its use of the phrase, which HSUS dropped the two lawsuits it had filed in the matter.[160]

Antibiotics in animal agriculture[edit]

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.[161]

Meatless Monday[edit]

HSUS is a supporter of the Meatless Monday campaign.[162]

Whistleblower reward program[edit]

In 2014, HSUS launched a whisteblower reward program, to incentivize the reporting of incidents of cruelty and neglect at livestock auctionsin slaughtering plants, and at sites of intensive animal farming.[163]

2014 lawsuit on feed additives[edit]

In November 2014, HSUS joined the Center for Food Safety, and the United Farm Workers of America in suing the United States Food and Drug Administration to vacate its approval of several livestock feed products widely used to add weight to farm animals. The groups claimed that beta-agonists based on ractopamine are dangerous to animals, workers, wildlife, and American waterways.[164]

Bear Baiting[edit]

HSUS has long opposed the baiting and killing of bears over bait, most recently through a ballot initiative, Maine Question 1, 2014, in the state of Maine. Question 1 seeks to end the baiting, trapping, and hound hunting of bears.[165][166][167]


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.[168]

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.[169] 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.[170][171]

Companion Animals[edit]

The HSUS has an entire department devoted to pets, and to services for companion animals.[172] 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.[173] 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.[174][175][176] The HSUS is a strong supporter of "pets in the workplace" programs.[177]

HSUS publishes Animal Sheltering, a bi-monthly magazine for animal sheltering professionals.[178] HSUS distributed the magazine to more than 450,000 people in 2009.[9] It also operates the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, which provides free veterinary services for animals in impoverished communities.[179]

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.[180]

HSUS believes that, in general, wild animals are not suitable as pets, and opposes the general traffic in wild animals.[181]

Exotic pets[edit]

HSUS, in addition to its ongoing lobbying against the pet industry, has taken a strong stance against the private ownership of any exotic pet, regardless of species.[182][183] It has campaigned for legislation banning ownership of exotic pets in the few states that have not yet made it illegal. In the summer of 2011, the HSUS negotiated with Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and leaders of 8 agricultural commodity organizations in the state for improved animal welfare legislation. One of the points in the law that was passed prohibits owning exotic pets.[184][unreliable source?] The HSUS also heavily lobbied for the passing of HB 4393 in West Virginia,[185] which generated a large amount of controversy when its restricted animal list was originally drafted and made illegal the private ownership of common and harmless exotic pets, such as hamsters, hedgehogs, turtles, tortoises, pufferfish, sugar gliders, salamanders, alpacas and domestic hybrid cat breeds, among several other species.[186][187]

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).[188] In December 2013, the United States Association of Reptile Keepers, a reptile trade group and opponent of the HSUS, sued the federal government to overturn its national ban on the importation and interstate transportation of five large constrictors species, specifically Python bivittatus; Python natalensis; Python molurus; Python sebae and Eunectes notaeus, as the government labels these reptiles a threat to the ecosystem of the Florida Everglades, and is a ban HSUS supports.[189][190][191] (See below.)

Feral cats[edit]

While initially opposed to Trap-Neuter-Return programs,[192] HSUS reversed its position in March, 2006, endorsing "community-based Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs with on-going responsible management as the most viable, long-term approach available at this time to reduce feral cat populations.".[193] The HSUS offers many resources to individuals, organizations and public officials, for helping feral cats and ultimately reducing their numbers in the community.[194] The Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy convened a conference on outdoor cat issues in December 2012, bringing together stakeholders from a range of interested perspectives.[195]

Horse racing[edit]

HSUS has taken a careful but critical stance concerning practices commonly found in the horse racing industry.[196] On occasion, HSUS has taken a position against particular practices associated with horse racing, such as the use of corticosteroids.[197]

Horse slaughter[edit]

HSUS has long opposed the use of horses for food, and campaigned against their slaughter via litigation and public policy approaches.[198] It has pursued both legislative and litigation channels as part of its campaign to prevent horse slaughter plants in the United States from resuming their operations.[199]

Horse soring[edit]

HSUS has campaigned against the soring of horses since its earliest years. In recent years, it has made the end of soring a priority for investigation, public awareness.[200][201][202]

In 2013, in the aftermath of an investigation carried out by HSUS, former hall of fame Tennessee Walking Horse trainer Jackie McConnell pleaded guilty in a Tennessee circuit court to 22 counts of animal cruelty after being caught on tape beating horses with wooden sticks and shocking them with electric cattle prods. McConnell was prohibited from owning or showing horses for twenty years[203]

Marine mammal protection[edit]

Since the 1970s, The HSUS or its international affiliate Humane Society International has campaigned against commercial whaling by Iceland, Japan, Norway, and other parties.[204] Humane Society International works within the International Whaling Commission and other entities to defend the global moratorium on commercial whaling.[205]

Pigeon shoots[edit]

The HSUS has fought for many years to secure legislation to prohibit pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania, without success.[206]

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 2,205 in 2011.[143]

HSUS led the effort to secure adodption of a United States Department of Agriculture rule to prohibit the importation into the United States of dogs from foreign countries for resale unless the animals were in good health, vaccinated and at least 6 months old.[207]

Dog breeders opposed another measure supported by HSUS, to regulate the sale of dogs over the Internet.[208]

Shark Finning[edit]

Through its efforts in the United States, and globally through its affiliate Humane Society International, HSUS has helped to achieve prohibitions on shark finning in state and national legislatures and through administrative action here and abroad.[209][210][211]


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.[212] As a practical matter, HSUS has generally campaigned against 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 the organization believes 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.[213]

Wildlife contraception[edit]

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.[143]

Wild horses[edit]

HSUS is critical of the Bureau of Land Management's horse roundups, and has called for reforms within the agency and a stronger commitment to fertility control technologies.[214]

Wildlife exclusion[edit]

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.[215]


HSUS has waged campaigns on behalf of wolves since the 1970s. In recent years, HSUS has campaigned against the killing of wolves via ballot initiatives, and—with other partners—in litigation.[216][217][218]


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.[219]

Governance and expenses[edit]

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.[2] In late 2013, a Rolling Stone article reported HSUS's annual budget to be $181 million.[220]

For 2012, HSUS’s program expenses composed 75% of its budget, fundraising expenses 22% of its budget, and management and general costs 3% of its budget.[221] Such 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,[222] and all 20 of the BBB's Standards for Charity Accountability.[223] HSUS is a 2014 top-rated nonprofit by GreatNonprofits.[224] In 2010, Worth Magazine named The HSUS as one of the 10 Most Fiscally Responsible Charities.[225] In 2012, President and CEO Wayne Pacelle received $347,675 in compensation.[226]


HSUS gave grants to 260 other organizations in the U.S. and abroad during 2011, totaling $6.5 million.[143]

According to its IRS Form 990, HSUS makes grants to organizations that meet its mission criteria, and typically to those groups which it has researched, with which it has an existing relationship, or with which its staff members have interacted at events and through other channels. HSUS lists all grants of $500 or more, with details, although the IRS Schedule F requires only that grants surpassing $5000 need be reported.[227]

Affiliated and related entities[edit]

Humane Society International[edit]

Founded in 1991, Humane Society International (HSI) seeks to expand The HSUS's activities into Central and South America, Africa, and Asia. HSI's Asian, Australian, Canadian, and European offices carry out field activities and programs.[228]

Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association[edit]

The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (HSVMA) formed in 2008 to encompass both veterinary advocacy and veterinary clinical services work conducted by The HSUS, and to provide a political alternative to the American Veterinary Medical Association for veterinarians of a strong animal welfare orientation.[229]

Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust[edit]

As an affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States since 1993 HSWLT, alone or in partnership with other conservation groups, has participated in the protection and enhancement of more than 3.6 million acres of wildlife habitat in 38 states and nine foreign countries. HSWLT has taken both large and small properties under its protection, through title donations, consrevation easements, and formal agreements, to provide sanctuaries for a variety of animal species.[230][231] In recent years, HSWLT has also sponsored anti-poaching awards as part of its commitment to public awareness and law enforcement work.[232][233] Its website,, carries press releases and updates about its sanctuary, conservation partnerships, and anti-poaching work.

Doris Day Animal League[edit]

The Doris Day Animal League, established in 1987 by the actress Doris Day, is a 501(c)(4) organization that focuses the spaying and neutering of companion animals and the development of national, state and local legislation that will minimize the inhumane treatment of animals. The League launched its annual observance of Spay Day USA in 1994, to bring attention to the pet overpopulation problem in the United States.

The Fund for Animals[edit]

The Fund for Animals, founded by the social critic Cleveland Amory in 1967,worked for many years on wildlife issues. Today, it is an entity that manages animal care facilities as an affiliate of HSUS. Its sanctuaries include the Ramona Wildlife Facility, the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, the Duchess Horse Sanctuary, and the Cape Wildlife Center.[234]

The South Florida Wildlife Center[edit]

The South Florida Wildlife Center provides direct care to owls, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, ducks, reptiles and other indigenous South Florida wildlife, injured or orphaned.[235]

Humane Society Legislative Fund[edit]

The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization formed in 2004. The group supports the passage of animal protection laws at the state and federal levels, educates the public about animal protection issues, and supports humane candidates for office. In the 2014 cycle, the Humane Society Legislative Fund has endorsed 38 Republicans and 240 Democrats in races across the country [236]

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

Amanda Hearst

Franklin M. Loew

John Mackey (businessman)

Patrick McDonnell

Charles Thomas McMillen

Gaylord Nelson

Richard L. Neuberger

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.[237] 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.[238][239][240]

Celebrity supporters[edit]

Colbie Caillat

Ellen DeGeneres

Danny DeVito

Jenna Elfman


Bill Maher

Wendie Malick

Ali MacGraw

Mary Tyler Moore

Pauley Perrette

Charlotte Ross

Alicia Silverstone

Carrie Underwood

Michael Vartan

Gretchen Wyler


Center for Consumer Freedom[edit]

The Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), an organization that lobbies on behalf of the food and beverage industry, has criticized HSUS for many years. Experts on non-profit law question CCF's non-profit status.[241][242] while commentators from Rachel Maddow to Michael Pollan have characterized CCF as an astroturfing group.[243][244] CCF's founder Richard Berman refuses to disclose its funders, and in 2013 Charity Navigator issued a donor advisory concerning the group.[245] 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."[246] 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.[247] CCF carries out its attacks on HSUS via advertisements and direct mail campaigns targeting HSUS donors and supporters.[248] CCF takes this approach in criticizing HSUS: in 2009, HSUS reported assets of over US$160 million,[9] despite only 1% of their budget going to shelters.[249][250][250][251]

Nathan Winograd[edit]

Nathan Winograd, a No Kill advocate, has been critical of 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."[252] Winograd's general claims concerning HSUS and animal sheltering work have been disputed or qualified by other parties.[32]

Protect the Harvest[edit]

Protect the Harvest is an organization founded by trucking magnate Forrest Lucas, of Lucas Oil who uses the group to defend industrial animal agriculture and puppy mills, on whose behalf he has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in Missouri.[253][254][255] Protect the Harvest is a 501(c)(4) organization explicitly engaged in political action, and in 2014, announced its plan to form the Protect the Harvest Political Action Committee, to elect and defeat candidates for office.[256] Executive Director Brian Klippenstein has singled out HSUS as a target of his organization's political activities and as treasurer of Protect the Harvest PAC he and Lucas campaign against candidates the two groups consider aligned with HSUS.[257][258]

The United States Association of Reptile Keepers[edit]

The United States Association of Reptile Keepers, or USARK, is a 501(c)(6) organization, founded by Andrew Wyatt and currently operated by CEO Phil Goss, that lobbies on behalf of the captive bred reptile industry, which is made up of both pet owners and professional breeders of captive reptiles, as well as supporting zoos and sanctuaries.[259] USARK has argued against a national ban that HSUS has lobbied for since its writing in 2009, which was originally intended to ban the import and interstate transport of nine constrictor snake species.[260] However, due to pressure from the reptile keepers association, the U.S. government lessoned the ban to include only four of the original nine species. As a response, Wayne Pacelle wrote on his blog in response that "these large constricting snakes are not suitable as pets," continuing with "they suffer from capture in the wild and long-distance transport for trade; they can injure and kill people who possess or interact with them; and they can wreak havoc on our natural resources as an invasive species, killing native wildlife, including endangered animals." [261]

In the summer of 2014, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service reopened its admission of comments on whether to list the five remaining species of snakes on the Lacey Act, including Boa constrictors. The HSUS then called upon its proponents to send in replies and letters to support further restriction of the trade in the reptiles.[262] In response, USARK has accused the HSUS of directly telling its advocates to lie to the U.S. government: the reptile keepers association stating on their website that "HSUS President Wayne Pacelle is even asking HSUS followers to join in and lie to the U.S. Government by sending their sample letter." They continue their argument with "Their deceptive campaign continues because there is not valid, peer-reviewed science to support their claims. They lack credible arguments and instead focus on sensationalized propaganda."[263] HSUS has always been against the keeping of snakes in captivity, stating that they are a "threat to public safety" and that the welfare of the snakes themselves are at risk, as they "[require] specialized expertise and care." [264] The HSUS is also against the keeping of other reptiles in captivity, such as turtles[265] and iguanas,[266] which is in direct opposition of USARK's interests.[267]

Specific criticism[edit]

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 complaints about the misuse of funds raised in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.[268] 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.[269] Neither Attorney General Charles Foti nor his successor Buddy Caldwell took any action, and the inquiry focusing on HSUS ended in early 2008. AR-HR's analysis of the HSUS's 2005, 2006, and 2007 tax returns claimed that 48% of the $34.6 million donated to the HSUS for the purposes of helping animals after Hurricane Katrina was then unaccounted for.[270] For a number of years, HSUS published updates on its Gulf Coast spending, the last of which appeared in in 2011.[271]

Allegations of misleading fundraising materials[edit]

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,[272] 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.

Allegations of financial malfeasance[edit]

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.[273]

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".[274][275][276] 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".[277] The IHT describes HSUS as the "least radical" of animal rights groups.[278]Feedstuffs, an agribusiness newspaper, has leveled the charge that HSUS is pursuing a vegetarianism and veganism agenda instead of animal welfare.[279] In 2010, one journalist in Oregon also claimed that HSUS "primarily works on animal rights legislation."[280]

Charity Navigator[edit]

In June 2014, Charity Navigator replaced its rating of HSUS with a "Donor Advisory" citing a $15.75 million settlement of a lawsuit.[281] A Charity Navigator representative told The Washington Examiner that a Donor Advisory indicates "extreme concern."[282]

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.[283] 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.[284] 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.

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. In December 2012, the ASPCA settled the Feld suit and agreed to pay $9.3 million.[285] 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.[286]

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.”[287]

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".[288] 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.[289]

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.[290] 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.[291]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.[292] In 2010, during an interview, Wayne Pacelle pointed out that Vick could own a dog "two or three years down the line"[293] 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."[294] 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.[295] In October 2012, Michael Vick acquired a pet dog, purchased from a breeder.[296][297] Additional controversy surrounded the report that HSUS had received a $50,000 grant from Michael Vick's team, the Philadelphia Eagles.[298] 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.[299] In July 2011, he lobbied on Capitol Hill for passage of the Animal Fighting Spectator Provision Act.[300] 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.[301]

Some have accused HSUS of a misleading fundraising pitch in relation to the Michael Vick dog fighting case.[302] 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."[303] It was later revealed that the dogs were not in the care of HSUS and that the group recommended the dogs be euthanized.[304] The donation pitch was altered to remove references to caring for Vick's dogs one week after the initial pitch.[305]

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.[306] 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."[307]

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.[308] Pruitt stated that his office had received complaints about HSUS misleading donors following a May 2013 tornado disaster.[309]

Position on horse slaughter[edit]

Veterinarians for Equine Welfare (VEW)[310] 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."[311][312]

Other criticisms[edit]

1% of the group's budget goes directly to shelters,[249][250] and in recent years, HSUS has taken criticism for not dispersing enough money, in ratio to what it receives from memberships and donations, to local humane societies and shelters for which it claims to be an umbrella organization.[citation needed] and is the largest nonprofit organization advocating animal rights in the world.[citation needed][a] Unlike its founding vision which strictly revolved around animal welfare, HSUS has evolved to work towards establishing a broad range of animal rights legislation, including those involving companion animals, wildlife, farm animals, horses and other equines, and animals used in research, testing and education.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

  1. ^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 classified that way by some parties 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.[313][314]


  1. ^"About Us: Overview : The Humane Society of the United States". Retrieved 2011-03-30. 
  2. ^ ab"Form 990"(PDF). Humane Society of the United States. 2012. Retrieved January 28, 2014. 
  3. ^ abcUnti, Bernard (February 16, 2005). "Fred Myers: Co-Founder of The HSUS". Washington, D.C.: The Humane Society of the United States. Retrieved April 19, 2011. After The HSUS formed on November 22, 1954, Myers and the other co-founders—Larry Andrews, Marcia Glaser, and Helen Jones—moved quickly to fulfill their goal of engaging cruelties of a national scope. 
  4. ^"Form 990"(PDF). Humane Society of the United States. 2009. Retrieved October 30, 2014. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^"Form 990, Part I, line 5, Part III, line 4a"(PDF). Humane Society of the United States. 2012. Retrieved January 29, 2014. 
  15. ^"Animal People". Humane Society of the United States. July–August 2004. Retrieved April 8, 2012. 
  16. ^[2][dead link]
  17. ^"Pew Whale Conservation Project". The Pew Charitable Trusts. December 31, 2010. Retrieved April 8, 2012. 
  18. ^Preston, Caroline (March 11, 2010). "Nonprofit Group Attacks Humane Society Over Spending of Donations"(PDF). The Chronicle Of Philanthropy. 
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^Pollan, Michael (June 4, 2006). "Attacks on the ‘Food Police’". New York Times, the opinion pages. 
  22. ^Michael Kranish. May 19, 2013. Corporations anonymously fund attacks and influence Washington policy through nonprofit groups. The Boston Globe
  23. ^The HSUS Responds to CCF HSUS, Nov 16, 2009
  24. ^Drajem, Mark and Brian Wingfield. Nov 1, 2012. Union Busting by Profiting From Non-Profit May Breach IRS Bloomberg
  25. ^Beall, Pat. Jan. 18, 2014. Taking on the popular: ‘Dr. Evil’ targets Humane Society. The Palm Beach Post
  26. ^ abThe Humane Society of the United States and Pet Shelter Giving. HumaneWatch
  27. ^ abcHSUS is Not Your Local Humane Society. HumaneWatch
  28. ^Douglas Anthony Cooper, 01/23/2014 "Will the HSUS Make a Killing Off Hurricane Sandy?" The Huffington Post (
  29. ^Winograd, Nathan J. (May 13, 2013). "Putting Abusers Before Animals Is Business as Usual at the HSUS". Huffington Post. Retrieved November 17, 2014. 
  30. ^ Forrest And Charlotte Lucas Take A Stand Against Missouri’s Proposition B : Lucas Oil][dead link]
  31. ^"Our Mission: Inform, Protect, Respond". Protect the Harvest. Retrieved 2014-07-14. 
  32. ^Ken Hough - (2011-08-04). "Missouri Pork Association's Press Release". Retrieved 2014-07-14. 
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ 'The Reptile Nation'
  37. ^
  38. ^ 'The Way Washington Works'
  39. ^ 'Time to Tighten Grip on Imports of Constricting Snakes' 6.24.2014
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External links[edit]