Leona’s Hemlsley’s Loot and a More Humane America

Hotel magnate Leona Helmsley’s $8 billion bequest "for the care and welfare of dogs" has drawn a lot of buzz lately. Economists, legal professors, dog bloggers—everyone’s weighing in on what has quickly become the most controversial Last Will and Testament in recent memory. Everyone including, of course, the animal-rights radicals from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) who are already angling for a share of the enormous proceeds. But neither group deserves a dime. Which is why we’re chiming in too.
Both groups have been drooling like Pavlovian mutts at the idea of a who-wants-to-be-a-billionaire payday. But, to state the obvious, Helmsley left her estate to dogs—not cows, lobsters, or lab rats. And neither PETA nor HSUS has a decent track record actually caring for Man’s Best Friend. The “Queen of Mean” has presented Americans with an historical opportunity to help living, breathing, four-legged canines. An opportunity which, as we’re telling Seattle Post-Intelligencer readers today, would surely be squandered if PETA and HSUS were left in charge of the Helmsley billions:
[T]he Helmsley billions have the potential to help countless dogs and cats in ways that have always seemed out of reach. More no-kill shelters. More shelter staff. Better spay and neuter programs. Financial aid for low-income Americans who want to foster an animal. And more effective ways to promote the moral imperative of rescuing unwanted dogs from a lonesome existence that is often far too short.
Sadly, the infrastructure needed to make these improvements on a national scale simply isn’t there. America lacks a national umbrella group for humane societies and other pet shelters, a group that could put Leona Helmsley’s money to work.
So far, two familiar national animal rights groups, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), have announced their intentions to claim big slices of the $8 billion bounty. But neither one has the track record to handle such a responsibility.
Look at how PETA has spent the money it already has: The group raised over $30 million last year, and found adoptive homes for 17 animals. Just 17. Meanwhile, it killed 1,815 dogs and cats—slightly more than the number of naked interns it sent out to “save” cows, chickens, and minks.
And although much of the public (and press) consider HSUS to be an actual “humane society,” its record isn’t any better. The group’s name hides its lack of affiliation with any hands-on pet shelter anywhere in America. Of the $85-plus million HSUS spent in 2006, it gave only 4.2 percent to pet shelters.
Neither of these groups deserves additional millions. We just might need a new national organization to do the heavy lifting.
Click here to read our op-ed in today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

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