Over the years in my writings about deplorable dog breeding facilities, aka puppy mills, I have referred to the Humane Society of the United States' annual “Horrible Hundred” reports of the worst puppy mills in the U.S. that often include puppy mills in the Finger Lakes region.
After recording the abuse and neglect of dogs described in federal or state inspection reports to compile the “Horrible Hundred” reports, HSUS posts its reports on the HSUS website. Otherwise, however, HSUS does little to alert news media located near the cited puppy mills and takes no action to prompt law enforcement agencies to pursue cruelty to animals charges against the cited puppy mill owners.
In a June 10, 2019, letter to HSUS President Kitty Block, I urged HSUS to whenever possible “contact newspapers in the immediate localities of every puppy mill mentioned in your reports … HSUS should also contact law enforcement agencies in these communities and otherwise make sure your reports lead to corrective actions. And I believe this policy should begin immediately in regard to your 2019 report.” To date, no reply. HSUS disregarded similar requests from me when Wayne Pacelle presided over the organization.
HSUS supported a 2017 bill in Vermont that greatly reduced the cage space allocated to dogs in breeding kennels. According to Steve Hindi, president of Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, “SHARK worked with humane organizations in Vermont to try to dissuade HSUS from this terrible bill, which was supported by the puppy mill industry, but HSUS refused to stand down and the horrible bill became law.” Vermont’s governor, when he signed this bill, which also weakened cold weather protection for outdoor farm dogs, noted HSUS support for this bill.
In September 2017, HSUS claimed “we have stopped pigeon shoots in California, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas — and most recently secured an attorney general’s opinion in Maryland to prevent live pigeon shoots from occurring there.”
SHARK advised HSUS that pigeon shoots had not stopped in North Carolina and Maryland, and requested justification for the HSUS claims. Pacelle refused to comply with SHARK’s request. Block, who became HSUS president in February 2018, also refused to cooperate with SHARK’s request — even though SHARK has achieved many successes in stopping live pigeon shoots.
The bipartisan Congressional Animal Protection Caucus has largely adopted HSUS’s legislative priorities that include a ban on exporting horses to other countries for slaughter and an end to the use of live animals in cosmetics testing. But these bills die in committee and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won’t allow most of them to advance for a vote on the Senate floor. HSUS brags about its support for progressive humane legislation, but in my opinion this support has been weak and passive, thus contributing to the failure of these bills to become law.
All too often, while many other organizations are on the front lines trying to combat cruelty to animals, HSUS has become a large, well-funded bureaucracy, far removed from the animals it is supposed to be protecting. Last year, HSUS dropped to a two-star rating (out of four stars) from Charity Navigator. CharityWatch has also repeatedly given HSUS low grades for its wasting of donor money, a large portion of which is used for fundraising and for the relatively high salaries paid to its top officials.
I am deeply saddened by the fact that in many ways HSUS has become a part of the problem of, rather than the solution to, cruelty to animals in our country.
Joel Freedman, of Canandaigua, is a frequent Messenger Post contributor.