The Death of Hope at HSUS

The Death of Hope at HSUS

In Wilkes County, North Carolina, 127 Pit Bull-type dogs seized from a dog fighter are going to be systematically put to death. As they did in the Michael Vick case, HSUS is once again leading the charge to have the dogs slaughtered. In response to anger from the rescue community calling for HSUS and Wilkes County officials to give the dogs clemency unless and until they are individually assessed and a rehabilitation plan, where possible, is devised for each of the dogs, HSUS’ John Goodwin wrote in reply: 

Wilkes County euthanizes 3,000 healthy, adoptable animals a year simply because there are not enough good homes opening their doors to these needy animals. I find it disturbing that the groups clamoring for media attention over these 127 dogs raise no fuss, and offer no assistance, for the other 3,000 dogs put down in that county each year.  

Are Goodwin and his cohorts at HSUS out of their minds? Are we back to blaming pet overpopulation? What happened to HSUS’ claims of just a few short months ago that that the public does care and is not to blame for their killing, that killing animals in shelters is “needless,” that we can be a No Kill nation today, and that “pet overpopulation” is more myth than fact? 

What happened to their statements that

  • “The needless loss of life in animal shelters is deplored by the American public. People deeply love their dogs and cats and feel that killing pets who are homeless through no fault of their own is a problem we must work harder to prevent. They want animals to have a second chance at life, not death by injection.”
  • “The needless killing of pets by animal shelters and animal control agencies comes at an enormous economic and moral cost.”

What happened is that when they made those statements, Maddie’s Fund was dangling a check in front of them and the check came with the statement attached for their signature. What is now happening here is that HSUS is, once again, showing us who the animals’ true enemy really is. As I’ve stated in a prior blog, 

Our battle for a No Kill nation is not against the public. It is against the cowards of our movement who refuse to stand up to their colleagues and friends running shelters that are mired in the failed and defunct philosophies that allow (indeed, cause) killing. Our battle is against those who claim to be part of our movement but fail to recognize the killing of millions of animals every year as an unnecessary and cruel slaughter and to call it what it is. It is against those who will not do for the animals that thing which is their solemn duty to do: to change themselves and to demand that their colleagues change, when that is what the situation calls for. 

The only thing standing between the system of mass killing we are living under today and the No Kill nation we can immediately achieve is that the leaders of the large national organizations refuse to seize the opportunity to act. Instead they are determined to fail—to ensure that the paradigm they have championed for so long is not upended—by blocking reform efforts which challenge their hegemony; by protecting and defending draconian shelter practices, uncaring shelter directors; and by squandering the potential represented by the great love people have for companion animals. 

Instead of championing life, HSUS not only calls for the systematic killing of the 127 Pit Bulls, they blame the very groups expressing concern for the fact that Wilkes County NC continues to needlessly slaughter 3,000 other dogs a year. Moreover, shelter activists have raised a fuss over the killing of other animals. Showing how little knowledge Mr. Goodwin has about the field he is supposedly a part of, that fuss has culminated in the No Kill movement, which has challenged his organization’s paradigm of killing. 

Indeed, activists have been fighting to modernize North Carolina shelters for years, but have been continuously rebuffed by the sheltering industry every step of the way—even to the point of refusing to stop cruel methods of killing (North Carolina deplorably remains a state which continues to allow the use of a gas chamber). And, when activists do raise a fuss and offer their assistance to help animals, that assistance is often refused by shelters (as happened in Minnesota just this week). And, just as often, HSUS often ends up condemning the fuss, siding with regressive shelters which refuse to work with animal advocates to reduce killing, as they have in communities across the country.. 

Every time HSUS defends killing, their antiquated, regressive viewpoints are not only harmful to animals, they make HSUS more and more irrelevant to animal sheltering and more and more despised by those who truly love animals. And they become more out of touch with public sentiment. 

In Minnesota, for example, the Animal Humane Society this week systematically put to death about 120 cats they claimed to rescue from a hoarding situation, even though the cats suffered only minor and treatable medical conditions, and even after No Kill shelters, rescue groups, and even everyday Minnesotans offered to help save the cats. Here are some of the comments the media and rescue groups have been receiving from the public: 

  • We are just so upset about this. Whether or not they knew about the offers of help, they shouldn’t have killed those cats so quickly.
  • AHS is an embarrassment to this community with its anachronistic policies and refusal to even consider a different way of doing things other than killing almost 50% of the animals who come through their doors every year. And now you can add straight out misleading and lying to the public, their donor base, to the list.
  • I’m so saddened to think that this probably happens even far more often than the media even knows about. We all understand that with that large number of cats, there would be illnesses. I am upset about the lying to the public and unwillingness to respond to the outpouring of support.
  • If I were an animal that’s the last group of people I would want to be “rescued” by.
  • I struggle with finding words to express my anger and disgust with this revelation… This is nothing more than a mass cat slaughter.
  • I would of taken one or two of those poor kitties and would have assumed responsibility for their care. I emailed the humane society about it on Feb 13th, and never even got a reply back. It makes me so sad.

While the news media was condemning the action, while protests erupted in front of the humane society, while animal lovers were aghast, and while groups across the country were condemning the action, what did HSUS say? Nothing. They said nothing. 

What should they have said? They should have said that the actions of the director in ordering those cats killed violated both the rights of the animals and the trust the public placed in her. As a result, her actions are intolerable and she should be removed. What would they almost certainly have said if they were asked for a comment? If history is any guide, they would have said it was the fault of pet overpopulation.  

And so it has come to this. While animal lovers around the country can see so clearly what the problem is, Wayne Pacelle and his team at HSUS continue to stick their head in the sand and deny reality—acting like the Bush Administration when it continued to flatly deny that climate change was real even after the alleged controversy had been put to rest and the nation moved on to looking for viable solutions; Or refusing to admit the nation was in a recession, even as the economy began falling to pieces.  

If they did not still have the power to cause harm—in fact, they will potentially contribute to the death of 127 dogs—the anachronistic viewpoints they continue to espouse would be merely embarrassing. We would feel nothing but pity for such an out of touch viewpoint. But they do cause harm, just like Bush’s environmental and economic policies. And so we must condemn HSUS once again. 

While the Republican Party not so long ago was the dominant voice in American politics, Wayne Pacelle would do well to heed the lessons offered by how Bush’s obstinacy in the face of reality led to their demise.

UPDATE: All of the Wilkes County dogs were killed today including the puppies. One foster parent was ordered to return two puppies (that she had nursed back to health) to be killed. Please note that HSUS testified at the court hearing that all of the dogs should be killed.

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20 Responses to “The Death of Hope at HSUS”

  1. What a horrid shame … I sometimes dream about how much more on the road toward No Kill the entire nation would be if rich, powerful groups like the HSUS, ASPCA, and even Maddie’s Fund were behind it and stopped offering excuses and cover for the needless killing every day … if most animal advocates could get on the same page and bombard these groups with messages every day that we are tired of the killing and know other options exist and demand that these groups represent this change and fight with us for it.
    It’s ironic that HSUS and other animal-rights groups never offer this kind of support and protection to other industries that harm animals–not to factory frams, not to laboratories, not to the entertainment industries (and rightfully so) … none except the very industry whose sole reason for existence is to help homeless and abused companion animals find another chance at a forever home or to take any chance at life over the alternative of death. What hubris for these groups to think that in these instances, such as the 127 pitties put down today or the hoarded cats killed in Minnesota over offers of help, that death is the best and most humane action we can take.
    Is there any way those of us advocates who do see the light at the end of this tunnel can band together and start a letter-writing or other campaign to the HSUS, etc.?

  2. One of the issues I neglected to address is Goodwin’s offensive claim that the advocates were motivated by “clamoring for media attention..” HSUS can only see this as a “clamor for media attention” rather than a clamor to save lives because that is how it operates. For HSUS, animals don’t matter unless they result in a headline and therefore donations for HSUS. For the rest of us, it’s the animals that count.

  3. YesBiscuit! says:

    Thanks for this. The Inhumane Society keeps lowering the bar. : (

  4. John Keene says:

    Mr. Winograd, your follow-up comment about HSUS and their endless pursuit of headlines and donations could not be more on the mark.

  5. Unfortunately, it seems like most animal-welfare advocates do not understand this sad fact about HSUS and how much on the wrong side of the companion animal-welfare issue they are on … is there anything any of us can do to send HSUS a STRONG messages that many people are “getting it” … something that makes them worry they may begin to lose some ground financially or otherwise? To let them know they are playing on the wrong side of the field and more and more of us are realizing that — that for the biggest animal-protection group, when it comes to this one issue, they are NOT representing the desires and wishes of millions of animal-lovers? That they should be ashamed they don’t not only acknowledge those making huge strides in animal sheltering but that they continue to protect those that kill in the face of alternatives or else stay silent or worse yet — publically testify against animals they should be protecting? Is there a way to show our OUTRAGE over their continued offenses?

    It angers me on the local level here that when any animal adovcate tries to have a legitimate conversation about a REAL issue, we are made into monsters by both the media and our local leaders. It’s a shame HSUS uses the same tactics of deflection. I often feel like I’m in a Twilight Zone episode over here as well.

  6. Caveat says:

    The HSUS is an animal liberation organization. It cries crocodile tears for ‘pit bulls’ such as the Vick dogs while simultaneously calling for their deaths.

    They are not experts in anything but fundraising and lobbying to achieve their goals - which are not pet or pet-owner friendly. Breed bans - oops, too much pushback now, let’s switch to mandatory neutering instead. Pet limits, slurs against all breeders, support for shelter killing and more.

    It’s time to get the mainstream media asking questions, not just stalling at the words ‘Humane Society’ in their name.

  7. Great post. Thank you for keeping up with what HSUS is doing or not doing for the animals.

    We can all do our part by let others know about this educational website.

  8. Elisabeth Perry says:

    Killing those dogs was the easy way out for Wilkes County and HSUS. I am the former Director of an Animal Cruelty Investigations department and the Executive Director (my boss) always told me I should measure success on how fast I could rid our organization of the animals we seized from animal cruelty. Needless to say, I never even thought of listening to his advice and you can see why I left.
    I’m not surprised by North Carolina’s reaction to this situation, considering they still advocate the use of the gas chamber in their state. Even the most progressive areas of North Carolina (such as Asheville, Waynesville, etc.) are not No-Kill. I find it ironic however that being in the Bible belt, North Carolina fails to recognize the sanctity of life for ALL creatures. As a devout Christian, I find this appalling.
    I am ashamed of HSUS’s actions. Or better yet-inaction, to stand up for these Pit Bulls when they needed them most. This situation is a complete failure in leadership and animal protection. It is the ultimate in betrayal for any animal welfare agency to kill the very animals they are confiscating from an animal abuser without giving them even a chance to live healthy, normal lives. Sadly, stunts like this are happening all over the country and the public is being deceived with fancy public relations. Most think animal cruelty investigations is a heroic job, and it is for some agencies, however, there are agencies that exist that do things like this on a regular basis under the radar.
    Thanks to Nathan Winograd, the No Kill Advocacy Center, and other Executive Directors who are leading No-Kill animal shelters around the country, hope is not dead, but it is alive more than it ever has been before. Walk into a kill shelter, you can see and feel the darkness. Walk into a No-Kill shelter and feel the warmth and light.

  9. I understand and agree wholeheartedly with these observations and criticisms about the HSUS. My question is how to convey this to the average person who sees the HSUS as the pillar of animal welfare and as experts, even in animal sheltering. I struggle to convey this to other animal advocates. They don’t get it, and that is very frustrating as well.
    I am eternally grateful to Nathan Winograd and sheler directors who are doing it right. I am frustrated with locals I am dealing with, both advocates and our leaders, who do not seem to understand what I am trying to say. I think myself and a few others out here have bought and distributed more than 50 copies of “Redemption” in the past year alone … it boggles my mind that most people in animal welfare cannot be bothered to pick it up and read it, no matter how life-changing I try to explain it is.

    I am not giving up, but I do get frustrated!

  10. MichelleD says:

    “clamor for media attention” It takes a lot of nerve for the biggest media whore in the nation to make that claim against others.

  11. tim says:

    I agree the HSUS is nothing more than PETA with different initials but let us not forget the Floyd B case where Laura Maloney is personally responsible for the death of 65 Pitt Bulls. Many dying in the back of a truck from heat stroke and the ASPCA just promoted her to vice president not to mention the aspca dragged the court case out over 3 years and the case was thrown out by a judge in 2 days. This is why I have stopped my donations to the ASPCA. Why didnt the aspca step up on this case? Why didnt the aspca step up on Pat Patricks case where the HSUS killed over 100 dogs and Pat was found not guilty. I started giving money to the aspca after the Vick case because I thought they truelly cared about pit bulls but I am starting to believe that was just about the money. When the ASPCA steps up and really start to defend our dogs i will donate again but not until

  12. Lucky12 says:

    I think it is shameful, unhumane! how can these greedy, hypocrite, unhumane, cruel people sleep at night knowing they are nothing but killers of poor innocent helpless animals! how can they live with themeselves and call themselves christians or any other religious group, they are nothing but killers that deserve to die in a gas chamber, the same way they kill those poor animals.

  13. How do we expose the hypocrisy of groups like this (HSUS, ASPCA, PETA) to the millions of animal lovers in this country? I, too, have stopped donating money and time to these groups as well, but I still feel that isn’t enough when most people and many animal-welfare advocates are still fooled into thinking they represent the best interests of companion animals.
    It’s very twisted and sickening, isn’t it?

  14. Sandra says:

    How can we make them pey the consequences? That is the question here. If they don’t feel that their organization or their job are in peril, they will continue to do as they will.

    Someone should start by challenging their name, there is nothing “Humane” in those actions.

    Really, what we need to think is in actions that can strike them where they hurt: their pockets!

  15. Robin Olson says:

    I’m appalled and shocked and sad. I have been supporting the AHS in MN for almost my entire LIFE. They’re even in my WILL. If what you report is true, I am going to contact my Lawyer and make some changes. There are so many people out there who are in small rescue groups, who would do anything they could to help any animal in need and to know the big power players pull this sort of merciless, inhumane treatment-well, it’s completely offensive and against what these organizations need to be about. Our group does not KILL-ever and I will not be part of any one that would. Thank you for making me aware of what’s going on so I can be a part of the wave of change that clearly needs to be made.

  16. Jill says:

    Thank you for this article. I just can’t believe their supposed “logic” of “bred to be aggressive”. We all know temperament of an animal starts at the other end of the leash. You can teach any type of dog to be aggressive, just by how you raise it. I’ve been loved on by a 150 pound Rottweiler and attacked by a 10 pound Pomeranian mix. They honestly just don’t get it.

    Keep up the fight for No Kill. There are many of us out there who look forward to the day, but it will only happen as more and more people step up and speak out.

    Let’s get mainstream media on board!

  17. >Let’s get mainstream media on board!

    Yes, this is what is needed, more press about what is really going on.

    But we must not forget that we all can do our part by blogging about this article and others that expose the actions of HSUS (and PETA and any of the other big organizations that don’t stand up for what is best for the animals).

  18. Sue Little says:

    I find this very disturbing especially the killing of those little puppies the woman had painstakingly nursed back to health. Something is terribly wrong with this picture. From now on my donations are going to the small rescues on the front lines to rescuers like Deborah Hoffman who has worked tirelessly to rescue dogs in the “Corridor of Cruelty” in Houston, Texas. She is constantly begging for help from individuals and rescues and officials to care! She has tried to get the word out to the media. She has personally saved 50 dogs since August. These are the people that I will henceforth be donating to.

  19. I have Goodwin on film saying how wonderful Pit Bulls are “in the right hands”, no kidding. He says the can make “wonderful pets”. maybe he has not followed teh Vick dogs success!?!?
    So why not get these dog legitimatly evaluated? Because, there was no money or media surrounding them! Vick had a dowery of $980,000. So there was a money grab to help the Vick dogs.

    The real issue here is that these dogs were not attached to a million dollar football star like Vick. If these dogs were they would have been evaluated legitimatly and given a shot through one of the MANY rescues that work to help Pit Bulls.

    Euthinasia is cheaper than eduacation to some people. Of course that is not the case. Education is the only thing that erases ignorance.

    The HUSU wanted to kill the Vick dogs too.
    But as always money talks, and groups like Bad Rap & Best Friends stepped in to help.

    Follow the money and you will find the truth. Why these dogs “owners” were not made to provide for them financially is
    SAD! They must have had some type of assests that could have been transfered to help the dogs.

    Equally as sad are the lack of LEGITIMATE people who can evaluate dogs. I bet no one in the HSUS is all that dog savvy, but hey that does not stop anyone, why shoudl it stop them? Anyone can say what they want about dogs without ANY proof. Happens at shelters everyday, ” this dog is that or this or what ever” bla bla bla…
    shelters, rescues and ACO are many times just barely able to evaluate dogs in general, nevermind dogs from fight busts.

    Frightening how the most familar species on the planet get so misunderstood!


  20. Agnes says:


    I certainly agree whit this!!!Don’t blame the dogs for men behaviour!!!!

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