Having written the book shown on the left, it shouldn’t be a secret that I love animals. My dogs are all spoiled rotten, and they should be.
All of them were rescued.
Once upon a time, every one of our dogs and even the cat were homeless strays or abandoned, surrendered by former owners: purebred German Shepherds, a Dalmatian…this list especially includes Blossom the Maine Coon.
In return, the pack have rewarded me with their stories. The majority of them came through our connections with our favorite “local” Humane Society, the Humane Society of Forsyth County.
Lisa and I volunteered for that organization over a number of years fostering animals, working at adoption events, walking dogs at the shelter, helping raise funds, and doing anything we could that would save another life. The HSFC operates as a no-kill animal shelter, but has limited capacity.
Please don’t confuse the local Humane Society for animal control. When no kennel space or foster homes are available, animals to be surrendered must be turned away.
In my opinion, no domesticated animal should ever be unwanted. For that reason, animal activists like my wife and me put magnets on our cars that preach messages like “Adopt, don’t shop.”
Adoption from a shelter is a win/win situation, and even cheaper than taking a free dog from a neighbor.
Don’t believe me?
Listen to this real world example: Sheba the German Shepherd was given to me as a “free” puppy — but she cost more than $500 at the vet to be fully vaccinated and spayed.
In contrast, Amazing Gracie, her story immortalized in my short story collection titled Always a Next One, was adopted from the Humane Society of Forsyth County. We spent a grand total of $150 and that included the adoption fee, all of her vaccinations, and being spayed.
Furthermore, if you purchase a dog from a breeder, you’re going to pay several hundred dollars for the animal, and you may be helping someone operate an unethical business in the process.
And where were all these horribly treated and neglected dogs taken? To the local Humane Society in Cherokee County, of course.
Now if you’re like me, when you read a story about the mistreated puppies at a puppy mill, your instinctive reaction is to want to help, so you reach for your wallet.
Perhaps you don’t live close enough to the shelter to adopt one of those puppies, but you still want to make a donation. You don’t know how to find the website of that specific shelter, in this instance the Humane Society of Cherokee County, but you want to help the animals.
Your heart is definitely in the right place.
You decide to make a donation instead to the Humane Society of the United States, probably assuming that your money will help those dogs you were reading about.
And there would be your mistake.
The Humane Society of the United States has virtually nothing to do with your local animal shelter. The HSUS is a political and marketing organization who are expert at raising funds, but they have very little to do with actually helping or saving animals.
Only one percent of their total budget is redirected to local shelters.
Sure, for a $50 donation they will probably send you a cool t-shirt that says something like “Club sandwiches, not seals”, but they aren’t going to stop anybody from actually clubbing a seal.
However, they will show you pictures of a seal about to be clubbed in their commercials, so you’ll be sure to open up your checkbook, or pull out that credit card.
It might be true that the Humane Society of the United States might invest some of your donation taking some great PR photos of an actor wearing body armor petting an allegedly abused dog on a chain, but nobody is in any real danger in this obviously staged photo op — except maybe the puppy.
Between spay-or-neuter clinics and vouchers, operating a food pantry for people who can’t afford dog food, reuniting lost pets with their owners, and helping homeless animals find forever homes, even our small and struggling no-kill shelter in Forsyth County manages to help a few thousand animals per year on a small fraction of the HSUS advertising budget.
Now I’m not as familiar with the inner workings of the much larger Atlanta Humane Society, which serves the metropolitan Atlanta area, but I’m cure they help many thousands of animals every year. They’re still local to the community.
I don’t know about their financial needs, but I do know how painful it was when we asked for donations for the Humane Society of Forsyth County, only to be told money had already been given to our “parent” organization, the Humane Society of the United States.
The HSUS make us volunteers with the HSFC feel like orphans. And nobody likes begging for money.
But unlike the Humane Society of the United States, your local Humane Society can’t afford to waste money on expensive commercials during prime time. With the economy struggling, we have had to get very creative with our efforts to raise money, because the really big bucks seem to go to all the wrong people like the HSUS, or PETA.
For example, the Humane Society of Greater Savannah operates a thrift store that now provides a significant portion of the operating budget for the animal shelter.
It’s a win/win situation for the community.
People without cash to donate can donate gently used items to the thrift store, bargain hunters have found their idea of heaven on earth, and all the proceeds go to help homeless animals.
Following their example, the Humane Society of Forsyth County opened its own thrift store, but we remain light-years behind Savannah in terms of being established in the community.
But it’s young, and growing.
Your local Humane Societies are all independent organizations, but they do share several things in common. For example:
- Most of the staff, and their board members of your local Humane Society are unpaid volunteers. There are a few full-time shelter employees who report to the volunteer board of directors, but staff are typically underpaid — not because they don’t deserve more, but local Humane Societies have limited resources. And the full-time people rarely get time off on major holidays.
- Local Humane Societies are very frugal and often struggle to raise funds.
- Virtually all of the money donated to your local Humane Society goes directly to help homeless animals. As little as possible is spent on staff salaries or overhead.
In contrast, the HSUS don’t operate animal shelters or directly help any animals.
Instead, they pay for expensive television commercials that play on the viewer’s heartstrings and siphon off funds that are desperately needed by these local organizations.
The next time you see one of the commercials for the Humane Society of the United States, think about how many homeless animals that your local Humane Society could have saved with a fraction of the $15.75 million the HSUS paid to settle a racketeering lawsuit.
If you want to donate money to a national organization, you might want to consider giving something to the HSUS watchdog organization, HumaneWatch.org, currently campaigning to get the designation of the HSUS as a charitable organization revoked by the IRS.