FIXING PETS, RODEO ABUSE, AND MAIL MILLS
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1998:
GLENDALE, Calif.; CHICAGO; SARASOTA––Unacquainted
with each other except through the pages of
ANIMAL PEOPLE, DELTA Rescue founder Leo Grillo,
Chicago Animal Rights Coalition president Steve Hindi, and
Sarasota In Defense of Animals wildlife coordinator Sumner
Matthes have independently served notice on major national
animal and habitat-related charities that they are mad as hell
about the nationals raking off money for projects the nationals
don’t really fund, and after years of putting up with it are ready
to start pointing fingers.
Grillo fired the loudest warning shot with a March 16
direct mailing to thousands of southern Californians, starting
fundraising for his new Spay L.A. 2000 and Spay America
2000 low-cost pet sterilization initiatives.
“I’m sick of the lies and empty promises of the selfappointed
animal welfare ‘gurus,’” Grillo said in his appeal.
“For years these fakes have played on our desperation…our
deepest wish to end animal suffering. It’s time for a change!
It’s time for you and me to take matters into our own hands and
tell these cons…living off the backs of animals…enough
already! No more address labels, greeting cards, sweepstakes,
calendars, tote bags…Why? Let me tell you how it all works.
When you get free address labels in the mail, you join the organization,
and even receive another ‘free’ gift for joining. But
the animals get none of that money. None! Why? Because the
organization spends even more than it gets in donations to send
you that solicitation and those ‘free’ gifts.
“Not only is there no money left for the animals…they
took money that other people sent for the animals and spent it
on your free gifts! Do you get the picture? There is enough
money to pay for their mailing because 20% of the people joining
will make a second donation…and that’s pure profit if the
group doesn’t have any animals to feed and shelter!
“One group, the largest ‘humane society’ in the U.S.,
has no animals at all, and it is n o t connected to your local
humane society…though that is the impression it gives you in
Not mentioning the Humane Society of the U.S. in so
many words, Grillo then summarized HSUS anti-pet overpopulation
campaigns over the past 30 years, which have not significantly
funded neutering, even as HSUS gathered assets of $58
million and the highest executive payroll in animal protection.
Grillo pledged to spay one dog or cat for every $50
the Spay L.A. 2000 and Spay America 2000 campaigns raise.
Hindi also went after HSUS. “Last September,” he
wrote to HSUS president Paul Irwin on March 13, “we worked
with TV news show Hard Copy in developing a story on the
cruelty of rodeo. They told us that HSUS was going to initiate
an all-out campaign against rodeo. This claim was broadcast at
the end of their story,” which was based largely on CHARC
undercover videos but made no mention of CHARC.
“Since then,” Hindi continued, “I am unaware of
any rodeo campaign from HSUS. Although we have for
months maintained a nationwide campaign against rodeos, we
operate on very little money. We were much looking forward
to a strong campaign from a larger organization. Where is the
campaign? We are scraping bottom financially, and would like
to know when the relief promised will arrive.”
Matthes meanwhile demanded an accounting from
National Wildlife Federation president Mark Van Putten and
National Parks and Conservation Association president Thomas
Kiernan for claims made in recent mailings about the organizations’
roles in trying to save the Florida panther.
NWF, the national umbrella for 49 state hunting
clubs, said it was “fighting to save the Florida panther by
focusing action on issues in the southwestern part of the
Everglades,” where “we plan to expand our efforts to protect
the Everglades’ precious wetlands and educate the public about
the importance of this diverse habitat.”
NPCA said it “has worked to help replenish panther
populations through education initiatives for local residents and
by helping to fund efforts to cross-breed panthers with Texas
cougars,” as well as “evaluating restoration models for the
Everglades, which provides habitat for the panther.”
The mention of “education” in each statement hinted
that the major Florida panther-related activity of either organization
was direct mail. To avoid having declared fund-raising
and administrative costs rise above the ceiling of 40% of total
budget set by the National Charities Information Bureau, many
organizations ascribe a portion of direct mail expense to program
activity, under the heading of “public education.”
NWF acknowledges using this tactic on page two of
its 1997 IRS Form 990 filing.
The NCIB reported in November 1997 that NPCA
flunked accountability standards requiring “that the organization
spend at least 60% of annual expenses for program activities,
and that the organization insure that fundraising expenses,
in relation to fundraising results, are reasonable over time.”
Mentioning that he is “currently participating in and
assisting the USFWS in rewriting the Florida Panther Recovery
Plan,” Matthews on February 18 asked both NWF and NPCA,
“From the Florida Panther Recovery Plan’s original approval
date of December 17, 1981, to date, how much money have
you given in your efforts to save the panther? If any money has
been given, who was it given to? How much money have you
received as result of your current appeal about the Florida panther?
How much of this money has been earmarked for the
Florida Panther Recovery Program? How much of this money
has actually been distributed, to whom?”
On March 4, failing to find answers to Matthes’
questions in either our own files or in the IRS Form 990 filings
of NWF and NPCA, ANIMAL PEOPLE asked Van Putten
and Kiernan for copies of their responses to Matthes.
Having received no responses, Matthes on March 13
repeated his requests to Van Putten and Kiernan.
Who really paid
The NPCA boast about “helping to fund efforts to
cross-breed panthers with Texas cougars” might have especially
annoyed Matthes. As a test of whether the Florida habitat
could support more panthers, the Florida Game and Fresh
Water Fish Commission during 1993 released 19 radio-collared
Texas cougars in northern Florida. All the males were supposed
to have been vasectomized, but one, T-33, sired three
litters of kittens with Texan mates. The Florida Game and
Fresh Water Fish Commission recaptured most of the cougars
and kittens in 1994, but one kitten, Waldo, was grown by the
time they brought him in a year later.
Waldo and the last seven of the Texas cougars captured
were given to the Asbhy Acres wildlife park in New
Smyrna Beach, Florida. Ashby Acres sold them to a South
Carolina dealer, who sold them to a Missouri dealer, who sold
them to the Jim Moore hunting ranch near Balmorhea, Texas.
Because the state failed to confer with the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service on the cats’ disposition, and because
Waldo had become a cause celebre, the Florida Game and
Fresh Water Fish Commission tracked him down and flew him
back to Florida, where he became a resident of the White Oak
Owned by the Gilman Foundation, White Oak from
1990 until 1995 tried unsuccessfully to captive-breed Florida
panthers, as part of the Florida Panther Recovery Plan.
Of the other cougars sent back to Texas, three were
killed in canned hunts before Matthes found them, bought
them, and placed them at The Wild Animal Orphanage, near
San Antonio, Texas. The rescue cost Sarasota In Defense of
Animals $39,000, of which Sumner and Elise Matthes were
obliged to borrow $14,000.
The Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission
gave nothing to the effort, calling it an “inappropriate use” of
funds raised for panthers via sales of a special license plate.
Neither did NWF and NPCA contribute. Sarasota In
Defense of Animals is still collecting donations to help pay off
the loan, at POB 15633, Sarasota, FL 34277-1653.