From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1997:

“Know what works good?”
homeless Earl asked Mike Barnicle of
the Boston Globe last November, as
Barnicle researched a feature on panhandling.
“Get a can and cover it with pictures
of hurt dogs. People give you
money: they think it’s for hurt dogs.
The ‘feed the family’ sign, that don’t get
you anywhere near as much as a picture
of a hurt dog.”
Pioneered decades ago by the
March of Dimes, the counter change can
is a staple of grassroots fundraising,
especially important to small town
humane societies and neighborhood rescue
groups, who have learned that the
regulars at restaurants and coffee shops
will often chip in to help the feral cats
around the dumpster. The secret, agree
experts, is having lots of attractive cans
out in lots of locations––and visiting
them often, to avoid losses to petty theft.

Can campaigns involve much driving, so
may not bring a big net if a humane society
has to provide the vehicle and personnel,
but running one makes a dandy job
for a volunteer who likes to drive.
Unfortunately, the seeming
ease of change collection also attracts
questionable operators. And usually, as
the Bucks County SPCA found out in
1995, there isn’t much anyone can do
about it. Two years after winning conviction
of Puppyland pet store owners
Sheri Gould and Alan Deitschman for
neglecting dogs at the Richland branch of
their two-store chain, and one year after
the Deitschman conviction was upheld
on appeal, Bucks County SPCA investigator
Jeanette Rilling traced counter cans
for an unknown “Animal Welfare
League” to a maildrop and unlisted telephone
number. The telephone rang at an
answering service. The operation was
incorporated by Gould and Deitschman.
Since neither the IRS nor state agencies
pay much attention to charities financed
by small change, and since begging is a
constitutionally protected free speech,
about all the Bucks County SPCA could
do was make sure that merchants who
had the cans on their counters understood
that the “Animal Welfare League” was
an unrelated organization.
The most ambitious change
can operation yet may be the Volunteer
State Humane Society and Humane
Society of the Carolinas. Since fall 1996,
the twin organizations have placed hundreds
of tin banks shaped like dogs on
counters along a route from Knoxville,
Tennessee, through Hendersonville,
North Carolina, to Ashville, South
Carolina. Behind it are one Troy Taylor,
the listed owner of the PostNet maildrops
in each city, where the “humane society”
telephones ring––but ANIMAL PEOPLE,
in repeated tries, never got an
answer, nor were messages returned.
We did obtain bylaws, articles of incorporation,
a mission statement, and a letter
of introduction for the Volunteer
State Humane Society. The introduction
opened, “Our organization is primarily a
fundraising entity, which frequently
serves to engender fear and suspicion on
initial contact with animal welfare organizations.”
It went on to decry “people
worried about high school kids dissecting
frogs,” and to deplore “people taking
ther children to see the Barnum and
Bailey [circus] and being screamed at,”
asserting that “the animals in a highquality
circus have a better life than the
majority of human beings.”
Added the letter, “We have
pledged to keep our overhead at less than
50%,” well above the 40% ceiling set by
the National Charities Information
Bureau. It also explained, “We will be
paying those people on the street doing
the work a modest salary.” It suggested
that an attorney might contact any critics.
The much shorter mission
statement said “The Volunteer State
Humane Society was organized as a nonprofit
fundraising entity, designed to
help provide financial assistance to various
animal shelters, rescue groups for
both pet and livestock animals, and lowcost
spay and neuter clinics. It should be
noted that all funds raised in the community
will be donated to programs directly
in the community.”
However, humane societies in
Knoxville and the western Carolinas that
run such programs said they hadn’t
received any VSHS or HSC money,
adding that the tin dogs had cut into their
own counter can revenue.
The VSHS mission statement
continued to assert that VSHS, “following
the lead of the Humane Society of the
United States,” is “dedicated to helping
fund education aimed at raising consumer
awareness of conditions existing
in many commercial livestock operations,
as well as helping to provide assistance
and encouragement of farmers to
raise and process food animals in a more
humane and healthy manner.”
The remaining four paragraphs
of the mission statement attacked
humane opposition to eating meat.

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