By Gina Spadafori
May 28, 2009
If ever there were a case that a passle of wrongs donâ€™t make a right, take a look at the kerfluffle over the report by an Atlanta TV station on the Humane Society of the United States.
The first wrong was the piece itself, which was pulled down after the HSUS cried foul over the contents. This triggered an Internet game of whack-a-mole, as the piece popped up seemingly everywhere, and when that seemed to abate, the transcript was floated around instead.
Mainly, the piece claimed the HSUS raised money under false pretenses, giving the impression that the advocacy groupÂ claims direct responsibility for shelter operations, which it does not and does notÂ claim to. But that wasnâ€™t good enough for the TV station, which reported:
Critics tell Channel 2 Action News reporter Amanda Rosseter that this isnâ€™t just consumers misunderstanding who they are giving in to â€“ but an organization actively misleading donors to get money.
â€œThey do their marketing very well, that’s for sure,â€ said Trey Burley of PAWS Atlanta.
Critics say the national organization takes advantage of people who think they are giving to local shelters. DeKalb’s “PAWS” shelter says there is no regular funding help from the $100 million HSUS budget.
â€œI think that some of the folks who donate to the national organization may be under the false pretense that that money is going to a local cause,â€ said Burley.
This isnâ€™t news. In fact, thereâ€™s a section in my book â€œDogs For Dummiesâ€ (1994) that discusses the importance of direct donations to local shelters and rescue groups. When you give to the HSUS, youâ€™re providing mostly for animal advocacy, lobbying for animal laws and investigations. And thereâ€™s nothing wrong with any of that.
Without even creasing my brow I can think of a dozen non-animal-related organizations that do the same. Lobbying, after all, is a stand-alone business, and I doubt many of the professional lobbyists in Washington or Sacramento spend much of their time involved with the management of theÂ industryÂ groups Â or social interests they represent. (Pulitzer prize-winning reporter John Woestendiek of the OhMiDog blog takesÂ apart the TV piece, here.)
What happened next was perhaps politically predictable but still sleazy: An effort to raise money forÂ anti-forced spay-neuter lobbyingÂ efforts, Â suggesting that the HSUS was not correcting the record but burying the truth by demanding the TV piece be pulled down.
The perpetrator? PetPac, which has been a tireless fighter against forced spay-neuter laws and the drive by spittle-spewingÂ animal-rights hatersÂ toÂ pushÂ reputable, ethical breeders into extinction through laws not only opposedÂ byÂ reputable Â breeders butÂ also contrary to policy statementsÂ of Â the ASPCA and the AVMA. The opposition to forced spay-neuter knows that this kind of legislation is racist and classist, kills more pets than it saves and inserts the government into a medical decision that’s not without negative consequences and that should be left to a petâ€™s owner, withÂ adviceÂ from a veterinarian.
PetPac led the fight against the draconian AB 1634 last year in California, and is working against SB 250 this year. The latter was brought forward by the sameÂ folks behind the last bill, especially Judie Mancuso, who insists that all breeders are the same, and all are evil “greeders.”
The HSUS hasnâ€™t taken a position on SB 250, please note. But that didnâ€™t stop PetPac from smearing them anyway, to throw red meat to the rabid HSUS-haters among its own supporters.
In a series of e-mailsÂ to suporters (which includes me, by the way) Â PetPacâ€™s Bill Hemby questions the motives of HSUS in having the TV piece pulled down, suggesting some nefarious plot to bully the station into hiding the â€œtruth.â€
Mr. Hemby knows better. He’s decent guy and a reputable, compassionate and ethical breeder — I firstÂ talked toÂ him when trying to find the owners of a pair of lost Borzoi who wandered down my street a few years ago.Â But he has been around long enough to know that when a media organization has really got a tiger by the tail, they donâ€™t back down, and sabre-rattlingÂ by the group that theyâ€™ve reported on is a badge of honor.
PureÂ politics, this spin, playing to the red state/blue state divide of pets, mortars fired across the scarred battlefieldÂ betweenÂ two entrenched positions. Playing to and scaring the choirs, and it’s done all the time, by all kinds of special-interest groups on all sides of every imaginable issue.
But thisÂ sort of behavior, from the extremists in camps that often seem to hate each other more than they care about animals, is counter-productive.
Iâ€™ve called the HSUS out on many of their positions, especially with regards to forced spay-neuter (which they have in the past at least tacitly supported) and with what should be done with fight-bust dogs. I ripped them for raising money on the backs of the Vick dogs whileÂ their “experts” saidÂ the dogs all be destroyed as unredeemable (unredeemable, like Hector here). Not cool, nor is their current deal with Michael Vick himself.
ButÂ I believeÂ that for reasons largely driven by changing internal ideology and partly driven by the continued need to tap the zeitgeist so as to keep on tapping wallets for donations, the HSUS is evolving on many of their positions. Theyâ€™ve embraced trap, neuter and release of managed feral cat colonies, a 180-degree turn from a past position. They have a guide to choosing a reputable breeder that I honestly couldnâ€™t have written much better myself. And theyâ€™re spot-on that concentrated animal feeding operations are cruel as well as environmentally unsustainableÂ and a risk to our national health and security. Cheap eggs aren’t worthÂ those kind of risks,Â folks, cruelty aside.
The agriculture and food industries doesnâ€™t much like that last bit, which is why they haveÂ outfits like the Center For Consumer Freedom out there attacking animal advocacy-groups and scaring the bejeebers out ofÂ many good breeders who are now convinced that if they don’t side with puppy-milling scum, they’ll be nextÂ to go — a point with some merit, if the Mancusos of the world have their way. (Just to show how complicated this all can get, the CCF has done spectacular work documenting through public records the shameful practices at PETA with regard to their handling of homeless pets in their â€œshelter.â€)
I live on both sides of the great divide, and itâ€™s my job to talk to people on both sides as well.
Itâ€™s long past time for the reasonable, animal-loving people of the world to quit allowing the 10 percent ofÂ nutjob true believersÂ on the extremes ofÂ these issuesÂ to dictate the terms of engagement.
For all his good work, Bill Hemby was wrong in calling out the HSUS on this politically motivated crap, just as Judie Mancuso is wrong in lumping the work of compassionate, ethical and responsible breeders in with the careless, clueless breeders or with puppy-milling scum. I hasten to say, though, that itÂ was Hemby’s first mistep, while Mancusco is the ATM of extremism, spitting outÂ hate along withÂ long-discreditedÂ “facts” Â whenever anyone punches her buttons.
I will be on the side of PetPac whenÂ SB 250, theÂ new Pet Extinction Act, comes to a floor vote in the California State Senate. And I am on the side of HSUS when it comes to investigations and legislation against puppy-milling scum. I am not one of those breeders who defends puppy-millers because ofÂ the slippery-slope argument: I believe we need to separate from these dirtbags because we care about what happens to animals in their “care.” Iâ€™m a reputable, ethical and compassionate breeder as well as a person who has run a breed rescue and is looking to raise foster litters in the future for shelters and rescue groups, just because Iâ€™ve discovered Iâ€™m damn good at it.
I will fight forced spay-neuter because it doesn’t work. I will fight for compassionate, reputable and ethical breeders. AndÂ I will fight to shut down puppy mills and their Internet and retail outlets.
If any of that bothers you, I bloody well donâ€™t care. Because itâ€™s not about politics and “winning” for me:
Itâ€™s about the animals.