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Commentary: If you're going to give, give to local animal shelters

By Harold Harpster

Americans are a generous people, and the vast majority are animal lovers. Trouble is, many activist groups eagerly prey on those emotions to further their agendas.

Few are as sinister as the Humane Society of the United States, the richest anti-animal agriculture organization in the U.S. Ask 100 people on the street what the HSUS does and the majority would say: "They save abandoned animals by supporting local human shelters."

Nothing could be further from the truth. Yet HSUS seems content to prey on the public's perception that they're a part of the Society to Prevent Cruelty to Animals, the system of local shelters that do the work of caring for abandoned animals.

As many livestock producers know, HSUS's real goal is to end U.S. animal industries. They're on the front lines of attempts to implement laws to end production animal agriculture as we know it. As their wealth grows, so has their clout in organizing state referendums and dictating to major food chains and restaurants how animals should be raised.

Consider this report by The Center for Consumer Freedom, a non-profit watchdog organization on activities of tax-exempt activist groups: The Human Society of the United States spends 50 cents of every donated dollar on continued fundraising and additional overhead costs. HSUS had a 2010 holiday fundraising goal of $1.2 million. A staggering $600,000 of that likely will go to raise more money, pay lobbyists and fund HSUS's $11 million pension plan.

"HSUS's skewed spending priorities leave countless shelters without funds in today's tough economy," says Animal People News, an animal rights movements newspaper.

The article went on to report that based on HSUS's 2009 federal income tax return, 50 percent of HSUS costs were "overhead," not 29 percent as HSUS claims.

A Center for Consumer Freedom analysis of HSUS's recent tax filings indicated that HSUS shares less than 1 percent of the public's contributions with America's underfunded pet shelters.

HSUS received a "D" rating in the American Institute of Philanthropy's most recent quarterly "CharityWatch" guide. Charity Navigator also gives HSUS a one star (out of four) rating.

The Los Angeles Times reports that HSUS raised $8.6 million through California telemarketing campaigns between 1997 and 2006, alone. And HSUS's most recent tax return shows it spend $3,999 for each animal that its "rescue operations saved."

Bottom line: HSUS has everything to do with ending food animal production and little to do with saving homeless animals.

Spread the word. Save your support dollars for your local animal shelter.

Harold Harpster is an animal scientist at Penn State University and a beef cow-calf producer.