By Gina Spadafori
December 4, 2009
Shameless. And shameful. Those are perhaps the most polite words that have landed in the PetConnection e-mail queue since the HSUS sent out this fund-raising pitch:
This is Faye. She survived because of you.
Our team met her in Missouri, when The Humane Society of the United States helped rescue hundreds of animals from the horrors of dogfighting. Sheâ€™d been wounded badly in a fight, and a dogfighter had mercilessly cut off her lips. She was in tough shape, but we found her in the nick of time.
Watch our moving video to see Fayeâ€™s happy ending — then become a Humane Hero with your monthly donation to our 2010 Animal Survivors Fund.
Faye’s a lucky survivor: She now sleeps in a warm bed in a safe place. To help save thousands of animals just like her in the new year, weâ€™re doing something weâ€™ve never done before, and itâ€™s BIG: Weâ€™re hoping to raise a million dollars online by December 31 for our 2010 Animal Survivors Fund.
Itâ€™s ambitious — but so are our plans for saving animals next year. We’ll not only continue to help bust dogfighting rings, but we’ll also take on the individuals and industries that profit from animal suffering — from people who club baby seals to death, to those who confine animals in factory farms, to those who abuse dogs in puppy mills.
Your gift of $20.10 a month for 2010 — just 66 cents a day — can help thousands of animals like Faye not just survive, but thrive in the new year. Click here to watch Fayeâ€™s video and make your tax-deductible monthly donation today. Thank you for everything you do for animals.
Manager, Animal Fighting Campaign
The Humane Society of the United States
Problem? The HSUS hasn’t given one thin dime to help Fay (not Faye), according to her foster mom, who noted in the comments yesterday:
I am rather sad that HSUS has chosen to use Fay (not Faye)in their fund drive. Fay has never received a dime from HSUS. How do I know? Because I am the one that is fostering Fay. Fay is currently going through expensive surgeries to recreate medically need lips so her teeth do not fall out, her jaw bone stops deterioating, and she can live a normal life. HSUS never contacted us regarding Fay. In the video John states she is in a loving homeâ€¦reallyâ€¦thanks for the compliment but Fay is LOOKING for her forever home.
BADRAP’s Donna Reynolds wasn’t quite so kind, noting acerbically that, “fight bust victims have become hot commodities. Who knew?”
The HSUS knew.Â One figures they had a little pow-wow — lawyers, fund-raisers and accountants — and then did the math, figuring any howls of protestÂ would be more than offset by the sight of a dog with her lips cut off by a dogfighter, and the number of people who’d click on that link and give, give, give.
We’ve cut the HSUS a lot of slack here, justifiably so,Â and even noted what seems to be a change in the internal culture of the place and policies that seem to be shifting as a result. Some of this seems to be ideology — a move more to honest-to-goodness animal advocacy and away from the policies of theÂ unapologetic animal-rights killersangels of death at PETA. The HSUS has made 180 degree turns in its policies on no-kill communities, on trap-neuter-release of feral cats, and on the rehoming of fight-bust dogs. They’ve even backed off their enthusiasm for forced spay-neuter — recognizing a difference between reputable, ethical breeders and puppy-milling scum –Â although we’ve yet to see the formal policy change said to be in the works last summer.
But no doubt the change is also driven by the realities of a changing attitude among animal lovers: That no-kill communities are the wave of the future, that exterminating community cats isn’t kinder than trap-neuter-release and colony management — and that fight-bust dogs “saved” by humane groups are not deserving of the needle just because they were once owned by twisted sociopaths like Michael Vick.
Oh yes, Michael Vick. The HSUS could simply have not handled that particular hot potato worse. As with Fay, they fund-raised on the backs of dogs they didn’t have and weren’t helping. In the Vick case, they advocated for the deaths of the seized dogs, in keeping with their long-held policy that fight-bust dogs were too mentally unstable, too potentially dangerous to ever be trustworthy members of human society.
And then, they watched, no doubt in wide-eyed amazement, as BADRAP and other groups took Vick’s dogs and proved everyone wrong. The HSUS surely yearned for the warm, basking glow other groups enjoyed when Sports Illustrated put out a cover story on the saved dogs. Oh, such missed opportunities!
Did they figure that if the dogs could be a generator of positive publicity — and donations — that Michael Vick could be, too? It’s hard to imagine any other motive for laundering the dirtbag, cleaning him up and making him acceptable to the NFL and at least one morally-challenged franchise, the Philadelphia Eagles. The HSUS trots him out at regular intervals, to mumble half-hearted “don’t get caughtdon’t be like me” talks to at-risk youngsters who learn more by meeting his victims than the sociopath himself.
No, the HSUS doesn’t get the Vick thing, even though everyone and her sister has tried to clue them in. And they apparently don’t get that it’s downright sleazy to fund-raise on the backs of fight-bust dogs the organization isn’t actually helping. Not even with the vague promise of possibly helping others in the future.
I suppose we should be pleased that the HSUS is no longer raising money on one side of the office while advocating the needle on the other.
But it’s not enough.
Having thrown themselves into this situation, the HSUS should use the money it already has to pick up every penny of the cost of Fay’s medical and mental rehabilitation. That’s right, every damn penny. And every penny of the cost of the other dogs seized with her.
Going forward, HSUS leadership — hello Mr. Pacelle — needs to shake up the fund-raising staff, and stop misleading people.
Until both of those things happen — and happen publicly, with a statement of wrong-doing and a pledge to animal-lovers going forward, I would encourage animal-lovers to give to the HSUS not one thin dime. Which is exactly the amount they have given to help Fay, their fund-raising poster dog.
Instead, from Gale, Fay’s foster mom:
If you really want to help Fay, please go to our website, http://www.muttsandstuff.com and click on the donate now button. If you want to help the other 35 dogs we took with their own health issuesâ€¦.please donate. We are a small group that can use the help.
I’ve long believed that any massive national group cannot be as effective as a small-community-based charity. This has not changed my view, and in fact has reinforced it. Think globally, give locally. Or rather: Think big, and give small — not small amounts, but to small groups that really do the job the big guys claim the credit for.
Update 3:47 p.m. PT: As noted in the comments, the HSUS has now said on Twitter that they will be picking up the tab for Fay (not Faye)’s surgery.Â The decision is the right one, and I’m glad they’ve stepped up. Now they just have to tell Mutts-n-Stuff to update their Web site, which as of a few minutes ago was still asking for help in paying for the dog’s care (home page at right, detail below).
Be very clear about this: Unlike the “H$U$” haters who routinely rag on the organization for not operating any shelters, I don’t have any problem with them raising money to be an advocacy group. None whatsoever. A powerful animal advocacy group is very much needed, as is an organization that can go in with trained teams to assist local groups when they’re faced with major fight bust, puppy-mill shut-down or a crisis like Hurricane Katrina.
But the HSUS has to be clear about its role and honest with its donors.Â In this case, they weren’t.Â I’m glad they’re jumping in now to help after they were called out, but their fund-raising pitches need to change going forward. If they aren’t going to help small rescue and shelters after the high-profile bust, they need to stop suggesting that they do.
Better yet: Give those little groups some money.