Editorial feature: The Fund, HSUS, & merging packs

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2004:

Rumors that the Fund for Animals and the
Humane Society of the U.S. are holding merger
talks reached ANIMAL PEOPLE on July 26.
Confirmation came a few days later.
In the interim, on July 30, five closely
spaced shotgun blasts followed by frantic yelping
disturbed the woods about half a mile from our
remote rural office. Someone apparently dumped
two black Labrador retriever mixes, a mother and
nearly grown son, and fired the shots to keep
the dogs from following his truck.
Ignoring rabbits who boldly ran right in
front of them, the dogs survived by scavenging
for several days before stumbling upon the
feeding station we set up for them.
For almost a month, we fed and watered
them at the same spot–waiting more than a week
for box traps to arrive, and then waiting for
the dogs to get used to the traps enough to begin
eating inside them. Finally the dogs were
caught, first the mother and then the pup.
Now comes the even more difficult process
of integrating the two new dogs into our pack of
three older dogs.

Tasha, the eldest at 12 years, is a German
shepherd adopted from the Bennington County
Humane Society in southern Vermont, who rescued
her and a Doberman after they were abandoned by a
man who did not want to pay the shelter surrender
fee. The Doberman was adopted before Tasha.
Francesca, now about 11, was dumped
along the dirt road that led to our former
headquarters in upstate New York. She had given
birth to puppies not long before she was thrown
out of the back of a pickup truck.
Simon, born on the streets of Taiwan,
was hit by a Taipei taxi and luckily taken to
Taiwan Abandoned Animal Rescue Foundation founder
Mina Sharpe. We adopted Simon, while still a
pup, in 1998. Simon greatly enjoys life,
after extensive orthopedic surgery.
Amid the canine politics, our 15
cats–some feral, all rescue cases–are mostly
unafraid of the dogs, but are discreetly keeping
out of the way of any risk of trouble.
In effect, we are merging two
established packs, of similar history but
differing recent experience. They knew each
other slightly, from twilight barks, when both
packs exchanged insults with the local coyotes,
but proximity demonstrates how superficial their
acquaintance was.
Cleveland Amory’s legacy
“The Fund and HSUS are discussing the
possibility of combining the resources, staffs,
boards, and programs of both organizations.
While nothing has yet been finalized, both boards
of directors voted unanimously to explore this
concept,” Fund president Mike Markarian
confirmed on August 9.
By then, mid-level and senior personnel
at both the Fund and HSUS already seemed to be
circling nervously, marking territory, staking
out strategic hallways, barking past each other,
and in some cases anxiously seeking somewhere
else to go.
Fund for Animals president emeritus
Marion Probst informally briefed ANIMAL PEOPLE
three days before Markarian provided detailed
answers. Probst acknowledged the tension, but
expressed confidence that it soon would settle.
“This is what Cleveland Amory would have wanted,” Probst said.
Both HSUS and the Fund are part of the Amory legacy.
Still working long hours from her New
York City office, Probst remembered instantly
that Amory hired her as his personal assistant on
May 24, 1961. She has kept his affairs in order
ever since-posthumously since October 1998.
As a U.S. Army intelligence officer and
former Saturday Evening Post reporter, Amory in
early 1945 witnessed a so-called “bunny bop,” or
rabbit-killing contest, sponsored by the
American Legion at Harmony, North Carolina. He
exposed the event in a photo essay for the Post.
For several weeks thereafter the Post reportedly
received more letters about the rabbit killing
than about World War II, then still raging.
Amory rose to fame as a best-selling
humorist and broadcast commentator in the early
days of television, but discovered in animal
welfare a more compelling interest than his
considerable career success.
In 1954 Amory joined former American
Humane Association National Humane Review editor
Fred Myers, former American SPCA secretary Helen
Jones, and several others in forming the
National Humane Society. Probst said Amory came
aboard initially as a silent partner, whose
popularity was expected to help attract support,
but he did not remain silent for very long.
Founded to challenge the then-timidity of
the AHA and ASPCA in fighting biomedical research
use of animals, the new organization was renamed
the Humane Society of the U.S. several years
later.
By then it had already begun growth by
division. While remaining on the HSUS board,
Amory in 1959 helped Jones to incorporate the
National Catholic Humane Society, a far more
militant voice for animals, which in 1977 became
the International Society for Animal Rights.
Disappointed that HSUS refused to
vigorously oppose sport hunting, Amory in 1968
started the Fund for Animals, with Probst
handling the administration. Amory from the
beginning made plain his hope that the Fund, as
a rump caucus, could demonstrate humane
opposition to hunting so convincingly that HSUS,
the AHA, and the ASPCA would all adopt similar
positions. They soon did, so long ago that
generations of activists no longer recall that
they ever did not.
Initially, Probst recalled, Amory
expected that the Fund would reunite with HSUS
after winning the hunting issue-but the Fund
almost immediately took on an additional mission
of providing hands-on care to rescued animals,
first at the Black Beauty Ranch in Texas, and
later also at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
in California and the Rabbit Sanctuary in South
Carolina.
HSUS until recently avoided becoming
involved in hands-on care for animals, for
reasons Amory himself articulated in early
position statements: to focus on advocacy, to
avoid any dilution of mission, and to escape
philosophical compromises that might be driven by
the need to raise money to feed and house animals.
By 1974, when Amory finally left the
HSUS board, he had changed his mind. Amory had
come to believe, as he told ANIMAL PEOPLE in
1994, that taking on at least a limited mission
of hands-on care helped to keep an organization
honest; that if an organization rescues animals,
it has an obligation to care for them; and that
having sanctuaries helped him to avoid hiring
anyone who felt above cleaning litter pans or
shoveling out a stable.
While HSUS endured more than 30 years of
administrative scandals and frequent conflicts
with the emerging animal rights and no-kill
sheltering movements, Amory and Probst ran the
Fund as a model of fiscal accountability. They
held far more money in reserve than the Wise
Giving Alliance recommends, reflecting the
fiscal conservatism of many people who lived
through the Great Depression, but Probst’s
hand-completed IRS Form 990 filings detailed the
disposition of every penny. They welcomed and
made common cause with animal rights
organizations, and observed the no-kill
philosophy at their sanctuaries.
Chances of reconciliation with HSUS
receded after HSUS three times hired away senior
Fund personnel-executive director Patricia
Forkan, now the HSUS executive vice president;
Lewis Regenstein, who is no longer with either
organization; and national director Wayne
Pacelle, who took several other members of the
Fund staff with him to HSUS in 1994.
Annoyed, Amory expressed hope that the
Fund might instead eventually merge with PETA.
PETA cofounder Alex Pacheco, an Amory protegé,
debuted in animal advocacy as a volunteer for the
Fund at a Cincinnati branch office. In 1986-1988
Amory and Pacheco led a hostile takeover of the
then grossly mismanaged New England
Anti-Vivisection Society, whose former
president, the late probate judge Robert Ford,
was eventually stripped of his judgeship and
convicted of related criminal offenses.
For almost a decade NEAVS operated under
de facto Fund and PETA joint trusteeship. The
arrangement was seen as a test of an eventual
merger, but fell apart in disputed board
elections and a lawsuit. Pacheco soon afterward
left PETA.

“Talking points” memo & money

Pacelle, named HSUS president in May
2004, after 10 years as vice president for
legislation, hypothetically proposed a three-way
merger of HSUS, the Fund, and PETA as long ago
as 1988. Pacelle appears to have been the
primary author of an internal memo of “Talking
points on the potential merger” recently
circulated among Fund and HSUS senior staff and
board members.
“The Fund and HSUS jointly publish the
Humane Scorecard, which tracks the voting
records of members of Congress,” the memo
reminded. “The groups jointly publish
Humanelines, a weekly electronic alert with
subscribers drawn from both organizations.
Together they operate the Humane Activist
Network, which organizes thousands of volunteers
and calls them to action on important issues.
They have collaborated very meaningfully on
ballot initiatives since 1992, and work
cooperatively on state and federal legislation.
They are co-plaintiffs on a long list of
lawsuits. Both groups have strong urban wildlife
programsŠ”
Pacelle put merger talks with The Fund on
the fast track, encouraged by Probst and
Markarian. Hand-picked by Amory to eventually
head the Fund after Pacelle left, and groomed
for the position for five years under Probst’s
presidency, Markarian debuted in animal rights
as an assistant to Pacelle in the Fund’s
Washington D.C. office.
“A key component of the merger,”
Markarian told ANIMAL PEOPLE, quoting directly
from the memo on talking points, “would be the
launch of a new 501(c)(4) organization which
could spend unlimited resources on lobbying. It
would raise money specifically for lobbying.”
The new entity might be named either, “The
Humane Fund for Animals” or “The Humane Society
Fund for Animals,” the memo indicated.
“As you know,” Markarian and the memo
continued, “The Fund and HSUS are both [IRS
classification] 501(c)(3) organizations, and
both currently face lobbying limits that severely
encumber their effectiveness. HSUS must limit
its [political] spending to $1 million per
year-just 1.3 percent of total spending. The
Fund must limit its expenditures to
$450,000-about 6% of total spending. These hard
caps cannot be consistently exceeded without
risking the loss of our charitable status.
“In short, as our organizations grow,
our lobbying programs cannot grow commensurately
because of the rigid formulas established by the
IRS. The HSUS spending cap is frozen at $1
million, no matter how much HSUS grows. The
spending limit is the same whether an
organization’s annual budget is $20 million, $80
million, or $200 million. As wages, benefits,
printing, postage, and other expenditures rise
from inflationary pressures, we face shrinking
ability to spend in the lobbying domain.”
Markarian and the memo pointed out that
the National Rifle Association’s Political
Victory Fund “distributes in excess of $5 million
per year, and its lobbying arm spends nearly $20
million. Other political opponents, including
the American Farm Bureau, National Pork
Producers Council, Safari Club International,
and Feld Entertainment, spend millions more on
political activity. We are at a distinct and
often insurmountable disadvantage,” Markarian
and the memo contended, “when we attempt to push
sweeping and meaningful reforms.
“Our hope,” Markarian and the memo said,
“is that a single 501(c)(4), viewed as the
political lobbying arm of both organizations,
would appeal to donors from both The HSUS and The
Fund. Within a few years, it is not
unreasonable to think that the 501(c)(4) may be
able to spend upward of $10 to $15 million on
political activities-representing an increase in
spending in this domain by a factor of 10.”
Mergers of animal advocacy organizations
are not nearly as common as splits, but occur
relatively often at the local or regional level,
often as a matter of logical consolidation of
programs and services.
An example may be the impending
annexation of the Ozaukee Humane Society by the
Wisconsin Humane Society, announced in late
August. The Ozaukee Humane Society name will
remain in use, and four board members will join
the 13-member OHS board.
The Ozaukee Humane Society handles about
1,600 animals a year, with an annual budget of
under $500,000 and a paid staff of just six, but
claims 450 volunteers. Wisconsin Humane handles
17,000 animals per year, with a paid staff of 85
and 750 volunteers.
At the national level, mergers have been
few. The most prominent examples have all
involved HSUS:
* The World Society for the Protection
of Animals was formed in 1981 by merging the
International Society for the Protection of
Animals with the World Federation for the
Protection of Animals. ISPA was formed earlier
by combining programs of the Massachusetts SPCA,
Royal SPCA of Britain, and HSUS.
* The Free Willy/Keiko Foundation,
initially funded by Earth Island Institute and
HSUS, in 1999 merged with the Jean Michel
Cousteau Institute to become Ocean Futures. HSUS
assumed responsibility for looking after Keiko
during the last two years of his life.
* HSUS in August 2002 absorbed the
financially struggling Ark Trust, coordinators
of the 17-year-old Genesis Awards program to
honor animal advocacy in the mass media. Founded
by actress Gretchen Wyler as a program of the
Fund for Animals, the Ark Trust went independent
in 1991. Pacelle is believed to have brokered
the merger into HSUS.
Another recent example of merger at the
national level was the formation of Oceana in
2000 by the Oak Foundation, Pew Charitable
Trusts, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Surdna
Foundation, and Turner Foundation. Oceana
president Steve Roady previously headed the Ocean
Law Project, begun by the Pew Charitable Trusts
and incorporated into Oceana. In 2001 Oceana
merged with the American Oceans Campaign,
founded in 1997 by actor Ted Danson.
Although Oceana has enjoyed considerable
success in litigation, it appears to be having
difficulty capturing public support. In
fairness, however, the post-9/11 economic
climate has hurt the growth of most nonprofit
organizations.

Job security

“Fund staff members obviously have
questions about the merger and how it would
affect their day-to-day work,” Markarian
acknowledged to ANIMAL PEOPLE. “The structure
is still being discussed.”
Outlined the memo on talking points,
“Two of the Fund’s historically most important
campaigns, the abolition of sport hunting and
the fur trade, would be reflected in two of the
four major campaigns of the new organization,
along with [work for the benefit of] farmed
animals and [opposition to] cruelty to animals
and blood sports.
“The Fund’s flagship sanctuary, the
Black Beauty Ranch, would continue as a
permanent home for abused and abandoned animals,
primarily hooved animals who can roam freely,”
the memo said.
“The Fund’s three animal care facilities
fit well with the three HSUS animal care
programs, the Cape Wildlife Center in
Massachusetts, Spay & Neuter Clinic in Dallas,
and Rural Area Veterinary Services.”
All three of these programs were acquired
within the past half dozen years through previous
mergers and takeovers of existing organizations.
Other sources within both HSUS and the
Fund indicated that the provisional operating
plan would split the combined organization into
five divisions: external affairs, operations,
finance, the office of the general counsel, and
a “special focus” team.
Current HSUS chief of staff Andrew Rowan
would head the operations division, according to
one draft leaked to ANIMAL PEOPLE. Markarian
would become chief of external affairs. Current
Fund national director Heidi Prescott would head
the “special focus” team. The financial and
legal teams would retain more-or-less the same
composition that they now have within HSUS.
Rowan said it would be premature to
comment on either the structural features or
personnel assignments.
“My role would potentially be head of
external affairs,” Markarian confirmed, “which
would oversee communications, government affairs,
litigation, fundraising, investigations, and
campaigns.”
Markarian also anticipated that he would
“head the new 501(c)(4) political arm. My
guess,” Markarian said, “is that The Fund’s
current staff and programs would be fairly evenly
split between external affairs and operations
such as sanctuaries, urban wildlife work, and
international programs.”
Markarian described the Fund staff
response as “incredibly enthusiastic,” but
ANIMAL PEOPLE heard otherwise from both HSUS and
Fund insiders.
“The staff at the Fund was caught
totally by surprise when the merger was announced
at a staff meeting,” one well-placed person
said, noting an apparent discrepancy between
what Fund and HSUS personnel were told by
superiors.
“HSUS staffers claim nothing firm has
been decided,” the source said, “yet Pacelle
spoke to a Fund staff meeting on August 20 to
quell their concerns about keeping their jobs.”
Reasons to worry
Fund personnel have three reasons to
worry about their future employment.
First, a merger creates redundancy.
As Markarian told ANIMAL PEOPLE,
“Melding our resources will allow for savings in
management, accounting, publishing, auditing,
and other functions.”
Such savings come through staff cutbacks.
Second, there are ideological conflicts.
“HSUS is not an animal rights
organization,” summarized one source. “HSUS and
the Fund have worked together on one level, but
at a deeper level we don’t represent the same
things. HSUS is unlikely to adopt Fund positions
on everything, while for Fund people,
retreating to the HSUS positions will involve
unacceptable steps backward.”
“The basic issue,” said another source,
“is that the Fund, having established itself as
the pre-eminent anti-hunting organization, will
cease to exist. Hunters all over the country
will be raising a glass in celebration.”
Several well-placed people at both the
Fund and HSUS perceive a continuing need for The
Fund, appealing to a heavily overlapping donor
base, to demonstrate the viability of more
progressive positions than the HSUS board might
otherwise endorse.
Third, mergers are economically awkward.
The Fund currently raises about $7.6 million per
year. HSUS raises about $65 million. When
nonprofit organizations merge, they typically
raise only slightly more than the wealthier
organization raised before the merger, because
donors who formerly gave to both organizations
usually do not give the combined organizations as
much as they gave when contributing to two.
A more promising model, favored by both
Markarian and senior HSUS staff, is based on the
outcome of institutional splits. When successful
organizations divide, for whatever reason,
usually they raise less money in their first
years of separation than the components did as a
single entity-but then they gradually attract new
supporters, as the Fund did after splitting from
HSUS. While HSUS has grown far more rapidly in
recent years, both the Fund and HSUS were bigger
by 1985 than either one was before the split.
The memo on talking points anticipates
that merging the Fund with HSUS while forming a
new 501(c)(4) political organization will produce
the same donor behavior as a split.
With combined fiscal reserves exceeding
$100 million, the Fund and HSUS could ride out a
short-term cash flow deficit without firing
anyone-but only by actually drawing upon the
reserve funds, which so far neither organization
has often done (if ever).

“Movement unity”

“We believe that a merger of two of the
nation’s highest profile animal protection
organizations will give us new opportunities to
attract and engage new members and donors,”
Markarian asserted. “Throughout the country,
rank-and-file animal advocates repeatedly ask,
‘Why don’t the groups get together?’, allowing
us to spend a higher proportion of our dollars on
programs, showing donors that we are serious
about getting the most bang for our buck for
animals.”
Indeed, animal advocates do often
express a wish for “movement unity,” but as
ANIMAL PEOPLE has often pointed out, that
concept tends to be naïve.
In the short run, a unified ad hoc
coalition can often win specific objectives. In
addition, as opposition organizations such as
the NRA and Farm Bureau Federation demonstrate,
a unified front can successfully defend an
entrenched status quo, or even advance an
agenda, if the agenda is sufficiently narrow.
Successful political movements, seeking
cultural transformation, by contrast must
practice multi-party politics. Instead of
presenting a narrowly unified front- easily
isolated, diverted, distracted, disrupted,
and ultimately defeated-they stretch across the
socio-political and economic spectrum, giving
the public multiple points of entry and making
successful use of their divisions to appeal to
people who otherwise may have little in common.
The infighting, internal debate, and
economic competition that animal advocates often
decry are inevitable byproducts of building a
broad base that can be politically mobilized from
multiple directions.
Attempts to establish “movement unity” by
suppressing real conflicts of outlook, tactics,
and goals actually intensify the conflict behind
the scenes by elevating the stakes of
infighting-because whoever sets the public agenda
“wins,” and everyone else must then support that
approach or be accused of breaking unity, even
if they think it is 100% dead wrong and
counterproductive.
Trying to keep conflicts hidden helps the
corrupt and incompetent to evade exposure, helps
agents provocateur to hide, and allows foes to
tar the whole cause with one brush-for example,
by equating animal advocates with terrorists.
Most important, in seeking homogeneity
the cause loses by default much potential public
support, because instead of seeing a variety of
views to choose from, the public sees only one,
and often feels uncomfortable with all the
baggage attached to it.
Retailers learned long ago that more
choice means more sales, but the animal cause
has yet to notice, even though the most obvious
feature of the rise of the humane movement in the
19th century, the animal welfare movement in the
post-World War II era, the animal rights
movement in the post-Vietnam War era, and the
no-kill movement in the past decade has been the
proliferation of successful new organizations.
Fundamentally, merging the Fund with HSUS reduces public choice.
A case can be made that the merger will
serve both organizations’ institutional
interests, including the interests of the
majority of present donors. Certainly the merger
appears to have been part of Cleveland Amory’s
vision, from the debut of the Fund.
Whether the merger will equally serve the
animals’ cause, especially over time, is a much
more complex question. If the Fund and HSUS are
so much alike as to present no substantive choice
to donors, or are apt to evolve to be the same,
there is no reason not to merge. If other
organizations are positioned to fill any
ideological or tactical void created by the
merger, nothing will be lost.
But is any other organization so positioned?

Donor expectations

Not to be overlooked is the question of
what donors really want from organizations.
Cleveland Amory helped to found HSUS and ISAR,
and started the Fund for Animals, because he
wanted to extend moral consideration to animals.
Animal protection donors typically state
similar concerns, but hired-gun fundraisers long
ago discerned that what donors most respond to is
the promise of a short-term feel-good from the
act of giving, not the prospect of contributing
to attitudinal changes that will actually occur
only over decades or generations.
Thus the typical fundraising approach
consists of inducing pain with a gruesome
description of an issue and perhaps an evocative
photograph, and then offering immediate relief
in exchange for a donation.
The success of organizations-and the
leaders who succeed the founders-has come to be
measured by their ability to manipulate donors,
not by their ability to win big issues.
“Wow! That certainly is interesting
news about the possible corporate merger,” wrote
longtime New York City activist Irene Muschel a
few days before ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press.
“They will certainly increase the power,
money, and numbers of people behind their work,”
Muschel opined. “I hope they will be an open and
receptive entity, interested in ideas and input
from others and not unreachable and closed and
inflexible. One issue I hope you will address
[in covering the proposed merger] is how the fact
sheets and literature of animal rights groups can
be most successfully made available to the
public. I think it is crucial that the leaders
of these groups understand that individual
activists can do only so much, and that
permanent change can only come about with major
funding from these wealthy groups.
“It is true that many people’s lives have
been changed by a pamphlet received from an
animal activist,” Muschel wrote, “but achieving
broad, systemic change takes money. PETA, to
its credit, often gives out free literature for
activists to distribute,” unlike many other
groups that charge for literature.
“Nevertheless, activist activity has limited
effect, and activists come and go, and cannot
always be there for the long fight,” Muschel
continued. “No volunteer, even the most
committed, can possibly reach the numbers of
people who must be reached if the situation for
animals is to get any better.
“It is irresponsible for wealthy
organizations to ask volunteer activists to do
the major work on issues such as fur,” Muschel
argued. “People give money to these organizations
so that they will do the major work. They should
be spending money on advertising the facts
everywhere.
“Make clear to the leaders,” Muschel
asked, “that they must lead by spending the
millions they have received from donors on
campaigns to promote animal welfare, rather than
asking volunteers to do their work. On broad
issues such as fur, it is these groups who must
take the lead in spending money on advertising,”
and other forms of public education.
Markarian, Probst, and the “talking
points” memo all suggest that merging the Fund
for Animals with HSUS and creating a 501(c)(4)
political arm will better position them to do
what Muschel expects them to do.
But Muschel had some further thoughts.
“This evening I called my my best friend,
who is a psychoanalyst, to ask if there is some
kind of fix for the problem that ANIMAL PEOPLE
publisher Kim Bartlett described on the back
cover of the 2004 ANIMAL PEOPLE Watchdog Report
on Animal Protection Charities as organizations
which ‘run on interest instead of having to
justify their existence to supporters,'” Muschel
wrote in a follow-up e-mail.
“We talked about how so many big groups
basically attempt to sell themselves-‘Look how
much we are doing!’-as opposed to listening to
committed activists and trying to work with them
toward a shared goal.
“We also talked about how these groups
often view people as objects who can be
manipulated to give money and serve the needs of
the organizations so that they will look great.
We discussed how their style of relating to
donors and activists is frequently similar in
some ways to the narcissist who wears fur: such
groups will listen and use their wealth for
animals only if they see that it is in their own
interest to do so.
“If you were to increase the distribution
of the Watchdog Report,” Muschel concluded,
“you would increase the pressure on these groups
to genuinely respond to donor expectations.”
Whether the merger of the Fund with HSUS
brings out the best or worst from either
organization, or a new balance of both, the
role of ANIMAL PEOPLE will be to provide an
independent, observant, keenly interested
external perspective.
Watchdogging is the role that all of our
dogs recognize as theirs, regardless of their
positions relative to each other. Whether
working as one pack eventually, or continuing as
two distinct packs, our newcomer dogs are
already on the job for us, reminding us of the
job we must do for you.

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