“Make sure donations to animal charities stay local” – wise words? Or put another way, don’t give any more money for the time being to these large animal rights and welfare groups HSUS and ASPCA because your hard earned money might go to the law firms who are acting for these organisations in a claim against them that has already cost ASPCA a massive $9.3 million. HSUS is yet to find out what they’ll have to pay if anything but it is likely to be a large amount.
It is an extraordinary case and a very sad one indeed, which I briefly explain below. It shows how big animal charity organisations can effectively go wrong and act like big business because the CEOs and top management of these organisations behave like directors of commercial enterprises, which perhaps they really are. HSUS has US$160 million in assets at 2009. They seem to lose their way and moral compass.
HSUS has been criticised not infrequently and by well know people such as Nathan J Winograd. And Graig Grant of Caboodle Ranch has jumped on this case in support of his arguments that ASPCA have acted illegally in the taking of the Caboodle rescue cats in the prosecution of Caboodle Ranch. ASPCA rehomed the cats.
In this sad case, which has slightly dented my trust and belief in these high profile organisations, they are accused of paying a witness (very handsomely – $190k) in a court case in which they sued Feld Entertainment, the parent company of the Ringling Brothers circus, alleging elephant abuse in violation of the Endangered Species Act. This litigation started many years ago. And for many years Feld Entertainment was on the defensive. They changed strategy, turned the tables and went on the offense and proved their case that ASPCA and HSUS (plus two individuals) were guilty of an offense under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act. Feld claimed that the behavior of HSUS and ASPCA were illegal in other ways, as well. Incidentally, the witness turned out to be unreliable.
ASPCA lost the Feld Entertainment counter prosecution and agreed to compensate Feld Entertainment with a $9.3 million payment . How many cats could have been saved with that? The president and CEO has resigned. It seems to be because of this horrendous litigation but he says it is to pursue new challenges. The usual reasons.
There is an example of gross wastage of donations in the UK as well. It concerns the Cats Protection organization. They rashly invested in some impossibly optimistic investments run by an Icelandic bank. You may remember that all the Icelandic went bust several years ago as did the entire country. Cats Protection lost about £11 million (GPD). I don’t how much of it, if any, they recovered. The news dried up. Surprised?
If they lost all £11 million (17.3 million USD), how many cats could that have saved? I know they had to change plans to build new shelters. I don’t know if they were able, in the end, to build them.
I’ll return to the opening quote. I have always been reluctant to give money to distant, large organisations. The admin costs appear to be too high and one asks what percentage of your money gets through to the animals, the front line even on the basis that they are well run? When you read about HSUS, ASPCA and Cats Protection it undermines confidence in the big animal welfare organisations. If these charities were involved in fraudulent behavior it makes you question, what is their thinking? How moral are they? If they behaved illegally in this high profile incident, can you trust them?
However, this may be a one off case of overreaching and trying too hard to build a successful prosecution against a circus. I can understand that desire.
Personally, I think it pays to give donations to smaller organisations. The funding is used more directly. At some point in an animal charity’s growth it becomes too big to be hands-on effective. It becomes more a lobbying machine, political and yes, sometimes a little corrupted.
Note: HSUS and ASPCA do a hell of a lot of great work too. It seems they don’t get it right sometimes.