Who is behind "Humane Society for Shelter Pets" campaign against HSUS?
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2012:
WASHINGTON D.C. –Full-page ads in USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago
Tribune, and New York Times on November 31, 2011 marked the public debut of the Humane Society for Shelter Pets.
Incorporated on February 2, 2010 as the HSAP Operating Fund, with IRS employer
identification number 27-1814295, the original HSSP mission was “to provide grant support to needy local shelters across the U.S.” The organization later changed missions, “from
financial to educational support for shelters,” according to IRS Form 990.
“Please help shelter pets by donating locally, not to the Humane Society of the U.S.,”
the HSSP ads implored, displaying the web address HumaneForPets.com.
HSSP founding president Deborah Price identified herself as having previously been
chief development officer for the National Campaign to Stop Violence, an eight-year staffer
at the U.S. Department of Education, and for 16 years an aide to U.S. Senators Don Nickles of
Oklahoma and Bill Armstrong of Colorado.
Price resigned from HSSP before 2011 ended, Humane Society of the U.S. president
Wayne Pacelle told ANIMAL PEOPLE. Listed as founding board members but
departing earlier, Pacelle said, were Virginia Thomas and Michelle Bernard.
Thomas, the wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is associated with the
libertarian lobbying organization Liberty Central. Bernard, a conservative political
commentator, heads the Bernard Center for Women, Politics, & Public Policy. The Bernard Center has at times opposed animal advocacy groups over public policy pertaining to diet and health.
The HSSP incorporating attorney was Alan P. Dye. Admitted to the bar in 1971, Dye was
long associated with projects of evangelist Jerry Falwell, and has represented many other
conservative organizations. The HSSP registered address has always been that of Richard Berman & Co. Inc., in Washington D.C.
Berman and the Center for Consumer Freedom, which he founded at the same address,
and an ancestral organization called the Guest Choice Network, became aggressively critical of animal advocacy activity in 2002. The web site HumaneWatch.org, attacking HSUS since 2010, is a project of the Center for Consumer Freedom.
Earlier, Berman and CCF appear to have been best known for opposing laws that hold hotel
and restaurant owners liable if they knowingly or negligently allow guests to drive drunk, and for opposing laws that require hotels and restaurants to pay at least the minimum wage to waiters and waitresses, instead of requiring them to work for tips alone.
Berman in 2005-2006 funded the production of a video called Your Mommy Kills Animals.
“Roughly 80% was devoted to a favorable portrayal of the SHAC-7, members of an animal rights group called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, who were tried and convicted for violations of the Animal Enterprise Protection Act,” assessed Virginia Lawyers Weekly in 2007, after the video became the subject of litigation among producer Curt Johnson, Berman, and Speakeasy Video company owner Maura Flynn. Alleging copyright
infringement, Berman and Flynn contended that Johnson violated their intent to produce a
documentary attacking People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
The 2009 filing from Berman’s Center for Consumer Freedom, the latest available, showed
income of $8 million, of which $1,461,597 was paid to Richard Berman & Co., Inc., for
“management services.” The center also directly paid Berman $18,000.
“Not my group”
“HSSP isn’t my group,” claimed Berman in a December 7, 2011 Humane-Watch.org posting.
“My firm simply wanted to help this shelter organizationŠwe donated over 1,000 hours of our
time to its efforts.”
HSSP “is a separate entity from HumaneWatch.org,” said then-HSSP director Jeff
Douglas at the HumaneForPets.com web site. Douglas’ name disappeared from the web site
during the first week of January 2012. “HSSP and the Center for Consumer Freedom
are separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations,” Douglas explained. “Berman and Company is the communications firm that was brought on by HSSP during its inception to manage its campaign due to their extensive work in this issue area. HSSP has an independent board,” Douglas said, “and is managed by me and former director of education for HSUS Diana Culp.”
“Since HSSP launched,” said Berman, “it has been welcomed warmly by the shelter
community, with over 500 shelters signing on immediately to the HSSP mission of educating the public.”
Douglas told Steve Karnowski of Associated Press that about 650 shelters had
expressed support for HSSP, but ANIMAL PEOPLE found few web postings in support of HSSP from people verifiably associated with animal shelters.
The HSSP filing of IRS Form 990 for 2010 lists donations of $1,263,700, including 11
donations of $50,000, one of $100,000, and one of $300,000. The money came from “foundations and organizations that are involved in the pet industry,” Douglas said.
Douglas, says the HSSP web site, “spent more than 25 years working with the
Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg,
Virginia.” In 1998 Douglas formed the Association of Veterinary Advancement Professionals.
Culp, claiming to have been HSUS director of education from 2006 to 2009, was
actually director of education for Humane Society University, “which was just a start-up at the time. She did not last long,” HSUS president Pacelle told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
Now a humane educator for Frederick County Animal Control in Maryland, and a Sunday
pet care columnist for the Frederick News Post, Culp came under investigation, county animal control director Harold Domer confirmed to the News Post, for using the agency shelter as backdrop for an HSSP promotional video. The video was posted to the HSSP web site, but by December 17, 2011 had been removed.
“Although raising awareness about animal welfare problems is important,” Culp said in the
video, “far more of the money donated to the Humane Society of the United States should be
usedŠto address the suffering of abandoned and abused animals.”
Culp in February 2011 posted to <www.examiner.com> concerning “questions about
the tactics of activists who disregard the law with an ends justifies the means mentality,” and
noted that she is “at odds with misinformed animal lovers who believe that four million pets
are killed annually in shelters and this is caused by dog breeding.”
This belief would be mostly accurate: the average number of dogs and cats killed in
U.S. shelters during the past 10 years has been about four million, dipping to 3.4 million in
2010. More than half of the dogs have been pit bull terriers and about half the rest have been
purebreds–almost all of them products of intentional breeding.
HSSP is “trying to pit one group of animal advocates against another,” assessed
Humane Society of Berks County [Pennsylvania] executive director Karel Minor, “and are hoping that no one will notice who is paying them to do it. I regularly find myself explaining to people that we don’t get money from HSUS,” Minor acknowledged. “But I also regularly deal with people who tell me their golden retriever is a yellow Lab. I don’t blame their confusion on the dog. Even if the HSUS’s one hundred million dollars a year was given locally,” Minor continued, “assuming a low number of just 5,000 animal shelters in the US, that comes out to a whopping $20,000 per shelter.”
Pacelle showed Karnowski of Associated Press a memo that Pacelle said was leaked by “a
source in an animal-use industry” whom he declined to name. Berman complained in the memo that he was having trouble finding a suitable leader for a project he called the Humane Society for America’s Pets, apparently the entity incorporated as HSAP Operating Fund. Berman boasted that HumaneWatch had been “far more successful than I anticipatedŠhaving the intended effect of chilling some of the donation stream that HSUS would have expected prior to our campaign.” Berman confirmed to Karnowski that he wrote the memo, but said HSAP was a different project from HSSP, though undertaken under the same corporate shell. Berman told Karnowski that he refunded donations for HSAP to contributors
who wanted their money back, but others agreed to fund HSSP instead.
“We’ve obtained some original documents,” Pacelle affirmed to ANIMAL PEOPLE, “and it’s
all about HSUS and damaging the brand. Berman is funding HSSP from animal-abuse groups and others who don’t like HSUS’s attacks on institutionalized cruelty,” Pacelle charged.
“He’s not soliciting donations for HSSP in his ads, but he’ll probably move to broader
solicitations at some point, as the pressure for him to actually make an occasional grant to an
animal shelter increases. While HSUS has made $43 million in grants to other animal protection organizations in the last five years,” Pacelle said, “we contend that the services we provide to other animal-care organizations are of even greater value.”
Pacelle told ANIMAL PEOPLE that knowing what influence HSSP had on HSUS holiday season fundraising, if any, could not be immediately determined. Pacelle added he had “no additional info” about the HSSP start-up funders. “But it’s worth noting that HSSP is not soliciting general support,” Pacelle noted.
Berman in his December 7, 2011 HumaneWatch.org posting acknowledged defending
animal agriculture, but denied “allegations related to sealers, puppy millers, cock fighters,
etc. Neither I, nor any Berman & Company-managed organization gets money from any
of these groups, nor do we defend them,” he said.
A possible funder not excluded by Berman’s statement might be We Support
Agriculture, formed in September 2011 by Nebraska Cattlemen, the Nebraska Farm Bureau,
Nebraska Poultry Industries, Nebraska Pork Producers, and the Nebraska State Dairy
Association, specifically “to fight advances by HSUS directed at the agriculture industry,”
reported Michael Fielding of the meat trade news portal Meatingplace.com. Fielding on December 8, 2011 wrote that the Nebraska Attorney General’s Supplemental Environmental Project Fund had allocated $100,000 to We Support Agriculture, raised from “fines and payments from natural resource-related legal settlements.”
Another possibility might be Kenneth Feld, chief executive of Feld Entertainment,
owner of the Ringling Bros. Circus. Feld in 1990-1997 employed former head of CIA covert
operations Clair George to direct infiltrations of PETA, In Defense of Animals, the Performing Animal Welfare Society, and the Elephant Alliance.
The HSAP Operating Fund was formed about a month after Feld Entertainment won dismissal of ten years of litigation by animal charities, including HSUS, who alleged that Ringling use of elephants violates the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Just days before the HSSP public debut in November 2011, Feld agreed to pay a record $270,000 civil penalty to settle charges of multiple violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act allegedly occurring between 2007 and 2011.
Pacelle said that, though lacking specific proof, he “wouldn’t be surprised” by Feld involvement. “Berman has consistently defended Feld and circuses through CCF and
HumaneWatch.org,” Pacelle noted.