Thursday, December 31, 2009

Unpacking the HSUS Gravy Train

Consumer Freedom December 30, 2009
There are only two things certain in life, as the saying goes, and a byproduct of one of them requires nonprofit organizations to file paperwork with the IRS. So now that the deceptively named “Humane Society” of the United States (HSUS) has submitted its "Form 990" for 2008, we thought it was time to take a close look. The tax filing itself is a bit more detailed than ones in the past, thanks to some new IRS rules. And more detail equals a clearer picture of exactly what HSUS is doing -- and what it's not doing -- with all its money. [Click here to view the full document.]

HSUS reported spending almost $20 million on “campaigns, legislation, and litigation”—enough to worry any livestock farmer or hunter looking to keep their chosen lifestyle alive. The group collected over $86 million in contributions, and spent more than $24 million on fundraising, including $4 million on professional fundraisers. Think about it: 28 cents of every dollar contributed to HSUS goes back out the door to raise more money. HSUS even paid a single “lockbox” company more than $4.2 million to count and process its cash hauls. We won’t comment on that company’s curious "ALF" initials (for Arizona Lockbox & Fulfillment).

The bottom line is the same as it ever was: HSUS rakes in millions from unsuspecting Americans who may confuse the animal rights group with an unaffiliated local humane society. And with all this cash flying around, it’s no surprise that 41 HSUS employees made at least $100,000 last year. All told, HSUS paid out over $30.9 million in salaries, wages, and other employee compensation.

HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle earned more than $250,000 in salary and benefits in 2008. We wouldn’t begrudge him a large salary, of course: He runs an animal-rights business “charity,” after all.

But the real trouble lies in where most HSUS money doesn’t go: to pet shelters. In contrast with the group’s extravagant spending on people, HSUS’s total grant allocation was less than $4.7 million. And of that, almost half went to a political campaign committee called “Californians for Humane Farms,” the main lobbying organization responsible for California’s “Proposition 2” ballot initiative.

For all the cute pictures of puppies and kitties on HSUS paraphernalia, you’d think it would operate a pet shelter, or at least give a substantial portion of its money to one. But HSUS has lobbying to do, a PETA-inspired agenda to push, meat eaters to stigmatize, and livestock farmers to put out to pasture. Lobbying? Oh, yes. HSUS takes four full pages to detail its lobbying activities on the state and federal levels.

With all the politicking going on, the animals—remember them?—seem to get lost in the shuffle. We added up the totals, and HSUS gave only a little more than $450,000—that’s just half of one percent of its total budget—in grants to organizations providing hands-on care to dogs and cats. That’s less than 11 percent of what it paid “ALF” (see above) just to count its money.

We’re musing today about HSUS’s next big self-marketing blitz, and some new slogans it might want to use. Our favorite? “HSUS: Feed the lawyers, save the fundraisers, screw the pets.” Link

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Attorney: PETA worker neglected snakes in his care Posted on Wed, Dec. 30, 2009 06:44 AM
Attorneys for an exotic animal dealer have accused an employee of intentionally neglecting animals to further his work as an undercover investigator for an animal rights group.

Howard Goldman could have done more to provide food, water and care for the animals that he said were being mistreated, said Lance Evans, an attorney for Jasen and Vanessa Shaw, the owners of U.S. Global Exotics.

Instead, Goldman secretly took photos and made daily reports to send to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Evans said.

"He was more concerned about helping PETA achieve its goal of putting U.S. Global out of business than actually aiding any animals that he felt were in distress," Evans said. Goldman worked at the Arlington facility for seven months.
Full story ....

Monday, December 28, 2009

HSUS loses 4-year battle against USDA

Turkey slaughter lawsuit won't fly, judges rule ...
A federal appeals panel says the Humane Society did not have the standing to sue the USDA for asserting that a 1958 congressional act mandating humane slaughter does not extend to poultry.

LA Times: By Victoria Kim November 26, 2009

Ruling on a four-year legal battle over the regulation of poultry slaughter, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last week threw out a lawsuit challenging the government's position that a half-century-old congressional act on humane slaughter does not extend to animals of the feathered kind.

The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco three days before Thanksgiving 2005 by the Humane Society of the United States, contended that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's position leads to shoddy slaughter practices and jeopardizes food safety. It was sparked by a 2005 USDA notice that "there is no specific federal humane handling and slaughter statute for poultry."

The plaintiffs contended that the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1958 -- which requires that "cattle, calves, horses, mules, sheep, swine and other livestock" be rendered insensible to pain before slaughter -- should be read to include poultry.

Attorneys for the USDA accused the plaintiffs of attempting "revisionist history," saying that without taking into account Congress' intent, the phrase "other livestock" could be read to include "fish, ants, guinea pigs, cats or dogs bred for sale, bees."

After hearing oral arguments the week of Thanksgiving 2007, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel ruled in favor of the USDA, saying lawmakers' intent to leave poultry out was clear.

In the decision entered Friday, a three-judge panel decided that the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue in the first place. Judge George H. Wu wrote that a legal ruling on the meaning of the act would not have any effect on poultry slaughter practices because it is dependent on "a number of political and legal factors quite independent from this court's determination." Full story ....

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It’s all about numbers

Recently HSUS aired an announcement on their website congratulating Wisconsin Governor, Jim Doyle, and the state legislature for enacting a law “to regulate large scale puppy producing operations, known as puppy mills.” AB 250 regulates anyone who sells more than 25 dogs or 3 litters a year. In HSUS language, this separates small-scale breeders from puppy mills.

HSUS continues by stating, “In addition to Wisconsin, bills to regulate puppy mills were enacted by the 2009 state legislatures in Arizona, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Nebraska, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington.” WRONG! In their zeal to pat themselves on the back and keep the momentum alive for potential success in their multi-million dollar campaign to regulate dog breeders, HSUS forgot how to count! It seems they also forgot to check the results as posted on their own website. Arizona bill HB2517, sponsored by Rep. Nancy Young Wright (D, 26), failed as did Nebraska LB677 sponsored by Sen. Ken Haar (District 21).

In an unprecedented drive, HSUS introduced 33 commercial breeder/regulation/licensing bills across the country from late 2008 thru 2009. Of these 21 died, 8 passed; 4 are pending – due to either the legislatures still in session or bills qualifying to be held over for 2010. Full listing is available on the SAOVA website

Numbers played a huge role in the drafting and promotion of the HSUS commercial breeder/regulation/licensing bills – a long name to use but I am loathe to call them “puppy mill” bills even long enough to write this commentary.

What is the definition of commercial or large scale dog breeding? The answer according to HSUS appears to depend on what the region can be convinced to believe. To crack down on alleged puppy mills in Washington State, HSUS determined 10 intact females was the magic number; Tennessee, Montana Minnesota, and others used 20 as the beginning point for licensing; North Carolina’s commercial breeder bill was set at 15, and in Illinois HSUS determined that only by licensing breeders beginning with 3 intact females would the state be saved from being overrun with puppy mills. One HSUS state director recently explained – a hobby breeder is someone with 6 who breeds only one or two litters a year; anything more than that is a commercial breeder/puppy mill.

Another strategy in the HSUS legislation is to limit breeders by placing caps on ownership. A 25-dog magic number was proposed in legislation this year as the limit of breedable dogs one could own in Colorado, Delaware, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Washington.

There is no logic to the idea that an owner can care for 25 dogs but not 26, or even 100. Ownership caps are nothing more than a limitation of personal rights and the ability to build a breeding program, run a business, or earn a living.

To keep legislation moving, it is always useful to have a crisis at hand.

HSUS claims there are more than 10,000 large, puppy mills housing 200,000 to 400,000 breeding dogs producing up to 4 million puppies a year. If Americans add approximately 8 million dogs to their households a year and HSUS also claims nearly 50% of these come from friends, is HSUS saying the other 50% come from substandard sources?

In Tennessee before the commercial breeder bill was enacted, HSUS claimed 10,000 puppies were for sale every day in the state. In North Carolina, HSUS claims their previous estimate of 200 puppy mills was in error – the number is actually 400 and growing as the state is becoming home to breeders fleeing states where regulatory laws have been passed. Illinois voters were urged to enact Chloe’s Bill before the onslaught of puppy mills could become a blight on the State's reputation.

The same sound bites are distributed in every state with a pending breeder bill and the proclaimed crisis of abuse or overpopulation is NOT new.

In “The Humane Society of the U.S.: It's Not about Animal Shelters” Daniel Oliver writes:

“HSUS promotes restrictions on pet breeding and ownership that would sharply limit the supply of pets and ultimately deny many responsible pet owners the pet of their choice. It maintains that there is a ‘raging pet-overpopulation crisis . . . an appalling overabundance of dogs and cats caused by human carelessness and irresponsible breeding.’ Because an estimated 4.5 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year in the U.S., HSUS has called for the elimination of large dog breeding kennels and the enactment of mandatory pet sterilization laws.”

Oliver continues that in 1993, HSUS proposed mandatory pet sterilization laws and high license fees to deal with alleged pet overpopulation. HSUS called on local, county, and state legislators to enact either voluntary or mandatory dog and cat breeding bans and to initiate mandatory pet sterilization laws, including a two-year moratorium on all breeding. For each puppy or kitten born in violation of the moratorium, the owner or person possessing the animal would pay a penalty of $100.

To quote Washington, D.C. analyst Steve Kopperud, “The problem we have has almost doubled because we have allowed the activists to define us; we have allowed the activists to tell the public what we do and how we do it and frankly, we’re sitting back and continuing to allow that to happen.”

We are the experts and must take back that role. We must get our message back to the public and to our legislators. We can no longer afford to have HSUS and animal rightist philosophers frame the issues, labeling us as exploiters and legislating away our rights. The battle will begin again in 2010 and we need to be ready.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Don’t Blame Cows for Climate Change

December 7, 2009

Despite oft-repeated claims by sources ranging from the United Nations to music star Paul McCartney, it is simply not true that consuming less meat and dairy products will help stop climate change, says a University of California authority on farming and greenhouse gases.

UC Davis Associate Professor and Air Quality Specialist Frank Mitloehner says that McCartney and the chair of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ignored science last week when they launched a European campaign called "Less Meat = Less Heat." The launch came on the eve of a major international climate summit, which runs today through Dec. 18 in Copenhagen.

McCartney and others, such as the promoters of "meatless Mondays," seem to be well-intentioned but not well-schooled in the complex relationships among human activities, animal digestion, food production and atmospheric chemistry, says Mitloehner.

"Smarter animal farming, not less farming, will equal less heat," Mitloehner said. "Producing less meat and milk will only mean more hunger in poor countries."

Mitloehner traces much of the public confusion over meat and milk’s role in climate change to two sentences in a 2006 United Nations report, titled "Livestock's Long Shadow." Printed only in the report's executive summary and nowhere in the body of the report, the sentences read: “The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalents). This is a higher share than transport.”

These statements are not accurate, yet their wide distribution through news media have put us on the wrong path toward solutions, Mitloehner says.

Full story ..

Friday, December 4, 2009

An Obituary For Words by Cindy Cooke

Once again Cindy Cooke, Legislative Specialist, is right on target with this essay. Cindy notes that our acceptance of the animal rightist term puppy mill was a mistake and "it’s rapidly becoming fatal today." I recently attended an HSUS Lobby Seminar where the HSUS Director used the terms commercial breeder and puppy mill interchangeably, and stated that anyone with more than 6 dogs or who bred more than one/two litters a year was a commercial breeder/puppymill.

An Obituary For Words by Cindy Cooke
You can’t really ban a word. In fact, an attempt to ban something often backfires, particularly in the United States, where we don’t like people censoring our speech. So I’m not going to tell you not to say “puppy mill”. I’m going to give you some very good reasons for not using that phrase.

I speak to a lot of dog clubs and frequently hear dog breeders supporting so-called “anti-puppy-mill” laws. When I ask these people to define “puppy mill,” invariably the definitions given include:

• People who “overbreed” their dogs;
• People who don’t take care of their dogs;
• People who have too many dogs;
• People who breed dogs “just for money”; and
• People who don’t take health issues into account when breeding their dogs.

Let’s look at these definitions in turn. What is “overbreeding”? In the wild, most canids can only reproduce once a year. Most domestic dogs can have two litters a year. When I first became a dog breeder, it was almost a religious belief that no female dog should be bred more than once a year. We were told that it was important to “rest” the uterus between litters. Today, however, thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, we know that an uterus is actually damaged by the elevated progesterone levels that occur in each heat cycle, whether the dog is pregnant or not. Veterinary reproduction specialists recommend that dogs be bred on their second or third heat cycle, that we do more back-to-back breedings, and that we spay the dogs at around age six.

The “overbreeding” argument also treats reproduction as something that female dogs wouldn’t do if they had a choice. Dogs aren’t people - female dogs actually want to be bred when they’re in heat and, with few exceptions, enjoy raising their puppies. It’s not an unwelcome event for dogs.

Full editorial ..