Posts tagged ‘HSUS’

Objectivity FAIL

There have been some interesting goings on at the StarTribune this week. It started on Sunday when Jean Hopfensperger published a piece titled Humane Society, fighting a “smear”.

The story quickly hit local dog boards and generated some interest both because of the subject of the story and… because the piece was quickly scrubbed not only from the paper but also from google’s archives, shortly after it was published. A few people (including yours truly) wrote to the paper asking why the story was pulled. No answers were given but the story mysteriously re-appeared on the StarTribune’s website today.

The piece presents a strongly one-sided defense of Janelle Dixon’s condemnation of Humane Watch’s campaign to inform pet owners about how little money fund-raising behemoth the Humane Society of the United States uses to directly support animals in need.

While readers may assume that a woman representing a local animal shelter is primarily driven by a desire to save as many pets as she can, it may not be quite that simple. Ms. Dixon is not only president of the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley, she’s also the president of the National Federation of Humane Societies (NFHS).

What is the NFHS? According to the social activist networking website care2:

Earlier this year when Pacelle was criticized for his role in euthanizing dogs rescued from a dog-fighting operation, HSUS made a commitment to begin evaluating all rescued dogs on an individual basis.  This commitment has led HSUS to launch The Shelter Pet Project – a multi-million dollar marketing campaign to end euthanasia of healthy and treatable homeless animals.

It has also led to the creation of the National Federation of Humane Societies. This is a coalition of dozens of major shelters and rescue groups throughout the country that have vowed to stop euthanasia for healthy homeless pets by the year 2020.

Stopping the euthanasia of pets is a laudable goal, but the StarTribune opinion piece story appears to have been lifted entirely from a letter NFHS wrote to Mr. Richarad Berman of the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) dated May 25, 2010. A letter that is posted prominently on the HSUS website.

The letter states that the HSUS’s “charitable purpose has never been questioned.” Apparently Steve Putnam, author of the letter and the executive director of NFHS, doesn’t spend much time on the internet. HSUS’s ‘charitable purposes’ have been called into question for years by yours truly and a host of other bloggers, forums, webgroups and advocacy groups. It’s old news.

Putnam goes on to state that “The HSUS mission has always included a focus on large-scale animal cruelty and eliminating animal suffering. HSUS has always been transparent about that mission.” Perhaps HSUS is completely transparent when they’re dealing with groups who share their ideals, but in my experience, the group makes millions by taking advantage of the fact that a very large number of pet lovers think that the Humane Society is the same thing as their local humane society. HSUS further obfuscates the truth by prominently featuring the plight of homeless pets (the same ones they spend less than 1% of their funds to help directly) in their advertising copy.

While he calls CCF’s motives into question, Putnam, for some reason, does not feel the need to mention the very strong ties between NFHS and HSUS. Neither does Dixon.

So Putnam and Dixon both have a pro-HSUS bias. Big deal. I’m a huge fan of freedom of speech, and as such, I support the rights of Putnam, Dixon, CCF, HSUS and NFHS to lobby and speak out on issues as they see fit. While I would fight to the death to support the rights of these people to speak their minds – I’m convinced that it’s immoral (and quite possibly illegal) to engage in misleading advertising.

As I’ve stated before I meet a very disturbing number of average Americans who donate money to HSUS in the mistaken belief that their money is going directly to fund their local shelter. While we all bear the responsibility to make reasonable efforts to investigate where our donations are being used, the deceptively ambiguous ads used extensively by HSUS – in my opinion – lead most people to a false sense of assurance that their money will go directly to support the care of pets in need rather than to support lobbying efforts that many of these same people disagree strongly with.

I’m also not a fan of advocacy journalism. The words you read here, on this blog, represent my opinions. I do not present this site as a news outlet so you can safely assume that anything you read here reflects my own personal bias. And unless you’re a complete dimwit, you probably understand that’s pretty much status quo for the blogosphere. The same can not (or at least should not) be said of the non-opinion pages published in a newspaper. When a journalist lifts information from a letter that is nothing more than a strongly worded opinion/PR piece and publishes it as ‘news’ without looking for, examining and discussing an opposing viewpoint – she spits on the idea of objectivity.

But, as I’m sure most of you know – that isn’t news. Spittoons appear to be common fixtures in newsrooms these days…

June 16, 2010 at 12:29 pm 14 comments

No More Dog “Ownership” in Wisconsin?

Loretta Baughan over at the Spaniel Journal has a new article up on proposed legislative efforts by the Dane County Humane Society (DCHS) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to remove animals from the realm of property law in Wisconsin.

Proposed LRB-0677/2, creates new legal definitions, applying only to animal-related situations, that will eliminate the need for fact-based evidence in the seizure of property and allow subjective standards to be used as the basis for action. It would eliminate existing provisions that seized animals be held in custody until the owner is convicted, dismissed or found not guilty and allow animal protection organizations to immediately euthanize, sell or sterilize seized animals as they wish.

If HSUS and DCHS are successful in their legislative bid – a disgruntled neighbor could report you to a publicity-hungry local animal rights group for ‘abuse’ based entirely on subjective standards. The animal rightists can then show up at your door, legally seize your animals – and kill or sell them before you even have a chance to prove that you’re innocent.

Go, read the whole thing. And if you live in Wisconsin and own (or ever plan to own) animals – call your legislators now.

February 27, 2010 at 1:29 pm 7 comments

Delicious

In a delicious bit of irony – hot on the heels of HSUS’s promotion of their new organic, vegan dog food is the publication of a study out of Cranfield University that alleges that tofu does more damage to the environment than beef or lamb. According to the Telegraph (I couldn’t find the Cranfield article online):

But a study by Cranfield University, commissioned by WWF, the environmental group, found a substantial number of meat substitutes – such as soy, chickpeas and lentils – were more harmful to the environment because they were imported into Britain from overseas.

The study concluded: “A switch from beef and milk to highly refined livestock product analogues such as tofu could actually increase the quantity of arable land needed to supply the UK.”

The results showed that the amount of foreign land required to produce the substitute products – and the potential destruction of forests to make way for farmland – outweighed the negatives of rearing beef and lamb in the UK.

Tofu is killing the rain forests (and if I try to sneak it into her bowl, my decidedly non-vegan dog may kill me too…)

Humane Choice contains no animal proteins, protein comes from grains and soy beans; and the product is being produced in Uruguay from products grown in Uruguay. Six% of product sales will go to HSUS’s various “programs” – i.e. advertising, salaries, direct marketing and, of course, lobbying.

February 14, 2010 at 9:40 pm 13 comments

Not Good Enough

We sent our wonderful Aussie girl, Roo across the bridge almost seven years ago.  A bright, athletic and somewhat pugnacious soul, she was the perfect counterpoint to our Leonbergers.  Not long after we lost her my husband was transferred to the Twin Cities area so, while we were eager to add a new dog to our pack, we decided it would be prudent to wait until we’d settled into a new home before we started our search.

A year and a half later we moved into our home in Red Wing.  After taking a couple of months to settle in, I started surfing the websites of local rescue groups and PetFinder ads to find a suitable dog.  Since I’m an experienced professional dog trainer, I work from home and have been known to spend what some might find to be ridiculous sums of money on pet care I foolishly assumed that getting approved to adopt a dog – any dog - would be a slam dunk.

Silly me.

Here’s the score:

Two groups turned me down because my yard was not yet fenced. The fact that it was February in Minnesota and the ground was frozen to a depth of at least three feet, making fence building impossible did not sway them. Neither did the fact that I had a 50×50 foot, heated indoor area to exercise a dog in. Or receipts showing that I had already made a down payment on having not one - but two – fenced yards installed in the spring.

One group turned me down because I had lived in my current home for less than a year. They didn’t care that I’d lived in the previous one for a decade, that my husband had worked for the same company for fifteen years or that we had more than enough assets to pay off our currant mortgage if we chose to.

One group turned me down because I would not sign an agreement that specified exactly how I would feed, house and train a dog I rented ‘adopted’ from them. An agreement that gave them the right to take the dog back at any time without notice if they felt that I in any way failed to follow these explicit (and IME ridiculous) instructions.

After strike four, I decided that I was apparently not worthy to adopt a dog.  So I gave up, found a breeder and bought an adorably cute Australian Kelpie puppy.  Poor Zip. Because I failed as an adoptive home she’s forced to live in this hell hole.  Look how sad the poor girl is [hangs head in shame]:

Zip

It seems I’m in good company. Earlier this week Nathan Winograd blogged about problems he recently faced when trying to adopt a dog.  In the post he nails the all-too-common rescue elitest philosophy:

Unfortunately, too many shelters go too far with fixed, arbitrary rules—dictated by national organizations—that turn away good homes under the theory that people aren’t trustworthy, that few people are good enough, and that animals are better off dead. Since leaving the Tompkins County SPCA, I’ve seen the same attitude within rescue groups. But the motivations of rescue groups differ from those of the bureaucrat I ended up firing in Tompkins County. Rescue groups love animals, but they have been schooled by HSUS to be unreasonably—indeed, absurdly—suspicious of the public. Consequently, they make it difficult, if not downright impossible, to adopt their rescued animals.

The qualities that make a person (not a house or a fence or a dog door) a good home for a dog can’t be measured in a rigidly quantifiable way.  I’ve met wonderful pet owners who lived in urban apartments and RVs.  And I’ve met people I wouldn’t trust to properly care for a tapeworm who lived on farms or in spacious suburban estates complete with immaculate indoor/outdoor kennels and dog doors.  Being a good pet owner, like being a good parent, is a skill.  A skill developed from practice that sometimes - inevitably – includes mistakes.  The goal of shelters and rescue groups should be to make a mindful individual evaluations of each pet and each potential adopter when making these important decisions. While this takes more time than reviewing a checklist, it could allow these groups to get more pets into good homes — and isn’t that the goal?

Open-minded, individual evaluations could also provide opportunities for shelter and rescue staff to educate pet owners on husbandry skills – and to be educated on them as well (hey, contrary to what some people might want you to believe - nobody knows everything).  We need more of the kind of open-minded discussion that helps us allto  be better pet owners and less of the arrogant, closed-minded, “we know better than you” posturing that drives adopters away.

I am a rescue / foster volunteer.  And as a dog trainer I also get a lot of calls from people who want to get rid of inconvenient dogs.  I understand the frustration, the anger, and the burnout a person can feel when they’re bombarded with regular doses of weapons-grade stupidity – but the fact that some people are clueless or heartless doesn’t justify treating every pet owner and potential adopter as an animal abuser in training.

Read Nathan Winograd’s post over at the No Kill Blog (just added to our blogroll) for some fascinating and disturbing background information on the history of the “not good enough” philosophy of pet adoption.

September 13, 2009 at 7:22 pm 10 comments

The “Creatures’ Caucus” – A Call to Action

Back in December the HSUS bragged that a record number of animal “protection” laws had been passed in 2008.  Their website states that; “The nation’s largest animal protection organization ushered in a whole new era of policies for animals by helping to pass 91 new animal protection laws this year, surpassing the previous record number of 86 new laws enacted in 2007.” 

While we’re absolutely in favor of well-written legislation that improves the lives of animals — it is our opinion that the goal of the “protective” legislation pushed by HSUS lobbyist is to end all use of animals.  HSUS lobbies for breed-specific legislation, limit laws, mandatory spay-neuter and overly restrictive breeding regulations designed to put hobby, show and working dog breeders out of business.  While 2008 saw record numbers of these kinds of laws introduced at every level across the country, 2009 may be even worse. According to a press release just posted by United States Sportsmen’s Alliance:

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) couldn’t be happier with the formation of a new group of Congressmen that will promote its agenda.

On February 18, U.S. Representatives Jim Moran (D- VA) and Elton Gallegy (R- CA) announced the formation of a new Congressional Animal Protection Caucus. The goal of the group is to get like-minded members of Congress together and promote animal rights policy in Washington, D.C. through forums and briefings. 

According to the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF), the legislative wing of the HSUS, the new caucus will “take lawmaking for the animals to the next level.” HSLF went on to gush in its blog, “we could not be more excited about their leadership of this new organization of humane lawmakers.”

creatureblacklagoon

This group of legislators, also known as the “Creatures’ Caucus” appears to be operating under the false assumption that HSUS speaks for American pet owners.  A press release published yesterday on Moran’s website prominently features this quote:

“The American public is united in its belief that all animals deserve humane treatment,” said Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.  “The newly constituted Congressional Animal Protection Caucus will help better align our federal policies with public opinion, and we are excited to work closely with its leaders and with the entire Congress to combat cruelty and abuse.”

NEWSFLASH Representative Moran – the beliefs of the American public are in no way “united” with those of the HSUS.  Most of us enjoy eating meat, drinking milk, wearing leather and wool and owning pets.  Lots of us enjoy hunting and fishing.  Many of us love “dangerous” breeds of dogs. And unlike the self-rightous a$$#*les at HSUS, we don’t feel entitled to force our social / religious / moral standards on other people.

Folks, this is something we all need to keep an eye on. Write to your senators and representatives and let them know that “Humane Wayne” and his vicious pack of mindless, mean-spirited monsters don’t speak for you.  According to USSA:

As of press time, a full list of other U.S. Representatives joining the caucus was not available. However, the USSA will let sportsmen know as the names become available. Each member of the caucus should be contacted by constituents in their districts. 

Don’t wait for that list to come out. Call or write NOW.  We all need to make sure that we are the voice our elected representatives hear.

February 19, 2009 at 10:19 pm 4 comments

The Universe Frowns on Houston

celestialfrownhouston

…because something this horrific demands an astronomical sense of outrage.

The sad news comes from BadRap via our friends over at YesBiscuit.

I am deeply saddened and disappointed to learn that all 187 dogs saved from the Houston dogfighting ring have been killed by their “rescuers”. BAD RAP tells it like it is:

They did it. They went for the easy out: The most convenient, economical way to deal with an unwanted excess of abuse victims.

Thank goodness they don’t “help” battered women, I guess.

‘Biscuit’s analogy to battered women brings up a disturbing and interesting point. Something is really wrong with a society where pathetic bastards men convicted of beating their wives get treated with more loving kindness fairness than dogs whose only crime is belonging to the wrong person — and the wrong breed.

What am I talking about? Restraining orders. Those esoteric bits of paper armor intended to protect women from their abusers - that have now fallen victim to a labyrinthine system where procedures differ from stationhouse to courthouse and where, sadly, violators often benefit more than the violated.

I’m not going to argue that dogs should be granted personhood, however… when a man who brutally beats his wife isn’t just given a free legal aid attorney and habeas corpus protection from arbitrary imprisonment but is also - all too often- given little more than a wink and a nudge when he violates a TRO; and a dog who belongs to a law-breaking, abusive bastard (or worse yet, to an innocent person) is seized and killed with less thought than we give a Thanksgiving turkey (and this, in the name of “rescue”) — we really need to re-examine our cultural mores.

[apologies for the rambling, disjointed structure of that last paragraph... The Cold From Hell has my brain stuck somwhere between park and neutral and I fear that I didn't coast smoothly to the conclusions I was trying to make]

December 3, 2008 at 3:51 am 6 comments

Iraq’s Stray Dog Dilemma

Life on the street is tough for dogs in Iraq. And unfortunately it looks like things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. According to the Canadian Press:

Baghdad authorities killed more than 200 stray dogs on Sunday, the opening day of a campaign to cull dog packs roaming the capital that was prompted by a spate of fatal attacks on residents.

Three teams of veterinarians and police officers used poisoned meat and rifles to kill the animals, said Dr. Hassan Chaloub, an official at the veterinary hospital supervising the effort. He said the capital has no dog shelters.

When I first read this, shades of the recent Chinese pre-Olympic dog purge went through my mind. But… sad as it is to hear of hundreds that dogs are being killed in the streets of Baghdad, it sounds like this time it’s not just a case of politicians run amok:

Thirteen people died in August alone in the capital after being attacked by dogs, according to Baghdad’s provincial council, which is overseeing the campaign.

People in some neighbourhoods have been too frightened to go outside when the dogs are present.

“For many days, people, including me, could not go to work in the morning because of these dogs,” said Jinan Abdul-Amir, who lives in the Sadiyah neighbourhood in southwest Baghdad.

[Related sidebar: the fellow finishing the tile job in my kitchen today just got a call from his girlfriend – she can’t leave the house because there is a large, aggressive stray dog in her garage. I told them to call the police – this is not a situation you should deal with on your own.]

It would be nice if there was a shelter for Iraqi dogs. But I imagine that what with the IEDs, suicide bombings, rapes, kidnappings, power and food shortages, random gunfire and other human-related violence, the residents understandably have more pressing issues to deal with than saving stray dogs.

What can we do? Well, Operation Baghdad Pups was recently organized through SPCA International. The group’s stated goal is to bring stray dogs from Irag to the U.S.  Each dog must have a pre-arranged home to go to before it is vetted and transported. This sounds like a good thing but I decided to do a bit of checking.

And look what I found….

In May of this year the New York Times published and article called An E-Commerce Empire, From Porn to Puppies about Richard J. Gordon, who was a key player in the development of e-commerce. According to the Times:

While Amazon.com and eBay were still fledgling enterprises, the companies that Mr. Gordon founded in the early 1990s were already laying the groundwork for electronic transactions conducted with credit cards — a development that opened the doors to the first generation of e-commerce start-ups.

And if the Internet is for porn, as the hit Broadway show “Avenue Q” asserts, perhaps it was only natural that many of Mr. Gordon’s early clients were purveyors of X-rated entertainment.

What’s this got to do with Baghdad Pups? Well, again from the Times:

As the Web has evolved since the early days of e-commerce, so has Mr. Gordon. Although he fashioned his early career around credit card transactions and helping Internet pornographers, he has more recently adopted an ecumenical approach to business as the shepherd for an altogether different endeavor: a Christian charity.

Until last week, Bold New World, his Los Angeles-based Web design firm, had a lucrative contract to design sites for the American Bible Society — the 192-year-old philanthropy based in Manhattan whose mission is to make a Bible available to every person in the world.

Bold New World has also created the Web site for a charity called SPCA International, which fights animal abuse; it helps members of the armed forces bring dogs home from Iraq. That charity has been stirring controversy in the animal-rights world because it owns no animal shelter and is unaffiliated with older and more established societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals.

Hey – I don’t care if you make a fortune in pornography (as long as it doesn’t involve minors). And I really don’t care if you want to raise money for give a bible to every person in the world. But I do care if you operate a big bucks charity and mislead your donors about where the money they donate is spent. And Mr. Gordon certainly has a questionable history:

IN 1979, six years after being honorably discharged from the Navy, Mr. Gordon found himself on the bad end of a bust. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested him after finding him hiding in a closet of a friend’s apartment in Washington, D.C. On a living room table were four round-trip Concorde tickets to Paris.

According to a 1981 review of the case by a federal appeals court, New York State authorities had been investigating accusations that Mr. Gordon, who then lived outside Albany and ran insurance and financial planning companies, had dipped into customer funds. When he learned of the investigation, according to the court documents, Mr. Gordon closed his businesses and fled Albany, planning to go to Europe.

He was ultimately convicted in 1980 of mail fraud, interstate transportation of a stolen check and making a false statement to a bank. He served more than two years of a seven-year sentence in federal prison in Danbury, Conn., and Lompoc, Calif.

After serving his sentence, Gordon went on to become a pioneer in web-based credit card transactions. From the Times:

He appears to have created and run many companies in the ’90s, though they were all related and shared office space, according to Mr. Peisner and other former employees. In addition to Electronic Card Systems and a related entity, Electronic Authorization Systems, Mr. Gordon was involved with magazine publishing, long-distance telephone service and an interior decorating company, among other pursuits.

In 1999, to take advantage of the dot-com gold rush, Mr. Gordon combined many of these companies into a single entity, CreditCards.com, according to a company press release at the time. But the company was having financial problems. Former employees say they remember paychecks occasionally bouncing and leased furniture being repossessed.

According to documents filed with the bankruptcy appellate panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Mr. Gordon brought in new partners from Nashville in 1999 and borrowed several million dollars from them, using his stock as collateral.

The documents, filed as part of litigation relating to business disputes at the company, say that when Mr. Gordon could not pay his partners back, they removed him. The company is now called iPayment and is based in Nashville.

Gordon may have been dumped, but he walked away from the litigation with $2 million in funds and many of his business relationships still intact. Among them was Paul Irwin, the head of the American Bible Society, and from 1996 to 2004 — chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States.

In his two decades preaching animal rights, Dr. Irwin, an ordained minister of the United Methodist Church, turned the Humane Society into the largest animal welfare charity in the world. But his tenure was also pockmarked by scandal.

USA Today reported in 1987 that the society spent $85,000 renovating Dr. Irwin’s vacation cabin in Maine. A decade later, a judge ordered the organization to pay $1 million to the Humane Society of Canada for soliciting donations in Canada and then transferring funds to the United States.

It was toward the end of his tenure, in April 2003, that Dr. Irwin first hired Mr. Gordon. Tax returns for the Humane Society show that the organization paid $881,000 to Mr. Gordon’s new venture, Exciting New Technologies.

In May 2003, according to a press release at the time, Mr. Gordon also hired Dr. Irwin’s son, Christopher, as director of business development at Exciting New Technologies. The younger Mr. Irwin could not be reached for comment, and it is not clear how long he worked there.

So, Paul Irwin, who was a key player in moving HSUS to its current business model of soliciting funds in the name of saving animals to drive direct mail campaigns used to raise money to lobby for the end of all use of animals… is the face behind SPCA International? And a convicted felon is one of his business associates? Lovely… According to the Times:

Mr. Gordon’s company designed the SPCA.com site, and James D. Winston, a longtime business associate of Mr. Gordon, is listed on tax documents as the organization’s executive director. SPCA International declined to make Mr. Winston available for an interview.

It’s not clear how much Mr. Gordon profits from his work on SPCA International. But the chief executives of petsupplies.com, an e-commerce partner listed on the SPCA.com site, and Pet-Togethers, an advertiser on the site, both say their company’s financial relationship is not with SPCA International but with a separate entity, the SPCA Foundation.

According to California corporate records, the foundation was registered as a for-profit company last August by Mr. Gordon’s lawyer, Mr. Woodlief.

As for SPCA International, Mr. Gordon appears to have no operational role there. Even so, the group is involved in a range of initiatives. Every few weeks, the SPCA International selects a “shelter of the week” from around the world and then asks for money for that shelter.

Four of five shelters that were awarded this distinction over the past two months say that they received a $1,000 check and a plaque for the honor — but not a percentage of any donations. The fifth shelter, Welfare of Our Furry Friends, in West Sacramento, Calif., says it received $48.

Hmmm… What percentage of SPCA International’s ‘Shelter of the Week’ proceeds do you suppose $48.00 represents? Given the shady background of key staff and the apparently tiny percentages of their funds that go to actually helping animals – we do not recommend that you you’d have to be a`fool to donate to SPCA International or their subsidiary, Operation Baghdad Pups.

What can you do to help? Donate your money – or your time – (or both) to a reputable local shelter or rescue group. There isn’t a single one who’s not in need of both.

What about the heart-breaking situation in Iraq? Given the circumstances, Iraq’s stray dog population obviously needs to be controlled. And considering the degree of violence and hardship the Iraqi people already have to deal with on a day to day basis - a humane death is, unfortunately, the only option available for most of these dogs. While I’d prefer to see them euthanized in a more humane way than being shot or poisoned – it’s difficult to say what else can be done. In a country where many of the schools, hospitals, streets and utilities have been destroyed by war – is it reasonable to ask people to fund shelters, capture/euthansia, or trap/neuter/release programs?

November 24, 2008 at 10:04 pm 11 comments

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