Make Sure Donations to Animal Charities Stay Local

“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.

Tomb of Henry Bergh Founder ASPCA

Tomb of Henry Bergh Founder ASPCA. Photo by Tony Fischer Photography.

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.

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Make Sure Donations to Animal Charities Stay Local — 8 Comments

  1. Michael – THANK you so much for this very important article. The charity ‘scene’ is just like the capitalist business scene. The only way we can help keep our values intact is by supporting small enterprises because when things grow big – by definition – they are not capable of being morally good in order to survive. This story about all this money is being wasted on litigation is infuriating. It makes me so angry. Most people don’t evne have that much money to give and yet if they did it might not even go to saving the animals. It’s so awful and depressing. I hate these big powerful charities who always want to kill animals to save money claiming its more humane or whatever. I hate them so much. Most people who have a bit to give see their expensive TV ads and give their money to them and not their local rescue who can save a cats life for about 100 bucks or less. Imagine – as you say – how many things could be made better with a few million dollars. Imagine giving a few hundred rescues a few thousand dollars. I don’t like when prizes get too big for one winning shelter either. I think a little bit goes around much more effectively. Any sum of money in such large proportions is guaranteed to lead to awful terrible waste.

    I can’t begin to say just how important this article is. Resucues rely on donations and there’s enough people donating to help the rescues if they wouldn’t all give their money to the same ones. It’s the same as the corporation problems we have that cause small shops to go out of business. Big is bad and that is that. I will never give a penny to any charity worth so many millions – my money is nothing to them. It’s a terrible tragedy. What could all that litigation money and damages money have been used for?? How many shelters could have gotten a couple grand and how much could that couple gs have helped them. I am so sad at the way the world works in this capitalist corrupted society and this business of HSUS and ASPCA and PETA for me is the worst of it. How many people who donated to them even know their money went to pay a lawyer? It’s beyond morally deplorable. They may do good work but they can’t be trusted to always do it. However a small rescue can be – so donate your money to the small ones and lets shrink down these big fat ones and put them in their place.

  2. Yes it’s the same with all charities, animals or peoples, you need to be sure your money is going to help those in need of it, not for fancy offices and posh cars for the people who work for them.
    There is controversy over the RSPCA at present for spending money prosecuting a fox hunt for breaking the law, but if they hadn’t done so, no one would have and that would be a clear signal to all hunts that they could get away with breaking the law. This present government wants the hunting with dogs ban overturned, it took us years to get the law so we have to fight that! Money well spent this time I think although I don’t always agree with the RSPCA.
    It would be a shame for local Cats Protection branches to suffer because of the people at the top who lost money, so yes Michael, it’s best to mainly support locally. Our branch is run by Marion who has dedicated her life for many years to cats and she appreciates every penny donated and makes it count.
    We support her and Kays Hill cattery, they too appreciate every penny they receive and they spend it well.

  3. What little I have after feeding my own mini rescue I donate to Cats Protection league locally because all branches are run by unpaid volunteers.
    I agree it’s best to do that as big organisations swallow a lot up in costs or wages and not on the animals in need.

  4. Pingback: Caboodle Ranch Fights On | Pictures of Cats

  5. I support Cats Protection on a local level. I foster kittens and I contribute food to their collection bins. I never just throw money at charities because it seems to disappear into a bottomless pit!

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