Six-month-old “Bo,” the long-awaited First Dog, will finally move in to his new home tomorrow – but not without some controversy. Despite campaign pledges that he would adopt a rescue dog, Obama’s latest addition to the family did not come from a pet shelter. To ease the disappointment, the First Family will reportedly make a donation to a Washington, DC “humane society.” But the White House has yet to clarify an important detail: Which DC humane society? If the San Francisco Chronicle and a handful of others are correct in interpreting this to mean the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), homeless dogs and cats in our nation’s capital are getting a tough break.
As we told reporters last week, hands-on pet rescue shelters see shockingly little of the millions of dollars donated to HSUS every year. According to the group’s most recent tax return, HSUS passed less than 4 percent of its $91.5 million operating budget through to local shelters in 2007. And news of the Presidential pup’s arrival has provided HSUS with the latest opportunity to do what it does best: capitalize on the misunderstanding that it is an umbrella group for local adoption shelters.
Yesterday, the animal rights giant put out a press release congratulating the Obamas, and warning Americans about a growing euthanasia crisis in shelters across the country. HSUS also announced that it is launching a big-budget Ad Council campaign to encourage shelter adoptions. But if HSUS is so concerned with the plight of homeless shelter animals, why doesn’t it divert more of its lobbying and advertising dollars towards helping them?
The answer is simple: Helping America’s real hands-on shelters isn’t going to raise HSUS’s profile or help fatten its purse. And it certainly won’t do much to convince Americans to quit hunting, stop going to the circus, or abstain from milk and meat.
As long as HSUS can associate itself with your local adoption center, well-meaning (but naïve) pet lovers will presumably keep the gravy train flowing. Let’s hope the First Family is wise enough to make its donations elsewhere.