As CEO of the nation’s largest animal protection group, I receive a cascade of requests for assistance and financial support from individuals and organizations on a dizzying array of matters, including spay and neuter and pet overpopulation programs, captive wildlife issues, sanctuary assistance, hunting issues, factory farming abuses, animal fighting cases, marine mammal killing and exploitation, anti-fur activism, puppy mills, animal testing problems, and much more. This is a vast nation and animal abuse and neglect are rampant, and I assure you that we could responsibly spend all of our resources on any one of these problems (as many advocates wish we would do, given their passionate concern about certain issues that particularly stir their consciences).
Read our 2006 Annual Report (PDF).
The Humane Society of the United States was created more than 50 years ago as a complement to local SPCAs and humane societies immersed in animal care problems in their communities. The founders of The HSUS believed that the local groups did not have the expertise or reach to fight the myriad forms of animal abuse in society and that a national group was needed to focus on national (and now international) cruelties. I remain committed to that complementary role today, and find it hard to improve on the vision of the founders of the organization. We help local organizations directly and we work to professionalize the animal care field, but we are steadfastly committed to taking on factory farming, puppy mills, the exotic pet trade, the fur trade, and other national and global industries.
We must be strategic about investing resources. If we were to spread our resources in a thousand ways, we might not accomplish much of significance, landing glancing blows that have little lasting impact. More and more, I believe our role is to concentrate resources in some major areas and to make fundamental change. While we are probably among the nation’s top three grant-makers to other animal organizations (this year, we’ll probably give $7 million to other animal organizations), we have hired professional staff and developed programs to advance our goals directly, not to work through intermediaries. We therefore reserve the bulk of our resources to push these campaigns forward.
We cannot shut our eyes to any form of cruelty or abuse. But we must make hard cost allocation decisions every day. We wish we did not have to do so, but that’s the reality of a world of finite resources and almost infinite problems. We believe we have a responsibility to address not just symptoms, but the root causes of the animal problems of society, and to fight institutional forms of abuse.
As long as animals are in jeopardy in so many arenas, I don’t expect ever to be free from the stream of suggestions and ideas concerning how and where we ought to spend our time and our funds. There are so many compelling needs and, more often than not, there are no wrong and right answers. These are the difficult decisions I grapple with every single day.