Haters, lies and what we’re not learning from our pets
By Gina Spadafori
May 28, 2009
If ever there were a case that a passle of wrongs don’t make a right, take a look at the kerfluffle over the report by an Atlanta TV station on the Humane Society of the United States.
The first wrong was the piece itself, which was pulled down after the HSUS cried foul over the contents. This triggered an Internet game of whack-a-mole, as the piece popped up seemingly everywhere, and when that seemed to abate, the transcript was floated around instead.
Mainly, the piece claimed the HSUS raised money under false pretenses, giving the impression that the advocacy group claims direct responsibility for shelter operations, which it does not and does not claim to. But that wasn’t good enough for the TV station, which reported:
Critics tell Channel 2 Action News reporter Amanda Rosseter that this isn’t just consumers misunderstanding who they are giving in to – but an organization actively misleading donors to get money.
“They do their marketing very well, that’s for sure,” said Trey Burley of PAWS Atlanta.
Critics say the national organization takes advantage of people who think they are giving to local shelters. DeKalb’s “PAWS” shelter says there is no regular funding help from the $100 million HSUS budget.
“I think that some of the folks who donate to the national organization may be under the false pretense that that money is going to a local cause,” said Burley.
This isn’t news. In fact, there’s a section in my book “Dogs For Dummies” (1994) that discusses the importance of direct donations to local shelters and rescue groups. When you give to the HSUS, you’re providing mostly for animal advocacy, lobbying for animal laws and investigations. And there’s nothing wrong with any of that.
Without even creasing my brow I can think of a dozen non-animal-related organizations that do the same. Lobbying, after all, is a stand-alone business, and I doubt many of the professional lobbyists in Washington or Sacramento spend much of their time involved with the management of the industry groups or social interests they represent. (Pulitzer prize-winning reporter John Woestendiek of the OhMiDog blog takes apart the TV piece, here.)
What happened next was perhaps politically predictable but still sleazy: An effort to raise money for anti-forced spay-neuter lobbying efforts, suggesting that the HSUS was not correcting the record but burying the truth by demanding the TV piece be pulled down.
The perpetrator? PetPac, which has been a tireless fighter against forced spay-neuter laws and the drive by spittle-spewing animal-rights haters to push reputable, ethical breeders into extinction through laws not only opposed by reputable breeders but also contrary to policy statements of the ASPCA and the AVMA. The opposition to forced spay-neuter knows that this kind of legislation is racist and classist, kills more pets than it saves and inserts the government into a medical decision that’s not without negative consequences and that should be left to a pet’s owner, with advice from a veterinarian.
PetPac led the fight against the draconian AB 1634 last year in California, and is working against SB 250 this year. The latter was brought forward by the same folks behind the last bill, especially Judie Mancuso, who insists that all breeders are the same, and all are evil “greeders.”
The HSUS hasn’t taken a position on SB 250, please note. But that didn’t stop PetPac from smearing them anyway, to throw red meat to the rabid HSUS-haters among its own supporters.
In a series of e-mails to suporters (which includes me, by the way) PetPac’s Bill Hemby questions the motives of HSUS in having the TV piece pulled down, suggesting some nefarious plot to bully the station into hiding the “truth.”
Mr. Hemby knows better. He’s decent guy and a reputable, compassionate and ethical breeder — I first talked to him when trying to find the owners of a pair of lost Borzoi who wandered down my street a few years ago. But he has been around long enough to know that when a media organization has really got a tiger by the tail, they don’t back down, and sabre-rattling by the group that they’ve reported on is a badge of honor.
Pure politics, this spin, playing to the red state/blue state divide of pets, mortars fired across the scarred battlefield between two entrenched positions. Playing to and scaring the choirs, and it’s done all the time, by all kinds of special-interest groups on all sides of every imaginable issue.
But this sort of behavior, from the extremists in camps that often seem to hate each other more than they care about animals, is counter-productive.
I’ve called the HSUS out on many of their positions, especially with regards to forced spay-neuter (which they have in the past at least tacitly supported) and with what should be done with fight-bust dogs. I ripped them for raising money on the backs of the Vick dogs while their “experts” said the dogs all be destroyed as unredeemable (unredeemable, like Hector here). Not cool, nor is their current deal with Michael Vick himself.
But I believe that for reasons largely driven by changing internal ideology and partly driven by the continued need to tap the zeitgeist so as to keep on tapping wallets for donations, the HSUS is evolving on many of their positions. They’ve embraced trap, neuter and release of managed feral cat colonies, a 180-degree turn from a past position. They have a guide to choosing a reputable breeder that I honestly couldn’t have written much better myself. And they’re spot-on that concentrated animal feeding operations are cruel as well as environmentally unsustainable and a risk to our national health and security. Cheap eggs aren’t worth those kind of risks, folks, cruelty aside.
The agriculture and food industries doesn’t much like that last bit, which is why they have outfits like the Center For Consumer Freedom out there attacking animal advocacy-groups and scaring the bejeebers out of many good breeders who are now convinced that if they don’t side with puppy-milling scum, they’ll be next to go — a point with some merit, if the Mancusos of the world have their way. (Just to show how complicated this all can get, the CCF has done spectacular work documenting through public records the shameful practices at PETA with regard to their handling of homeless pets in their “shelter.”)
I live on both sides of the great divide, and it’s my job to talk to people on both sides as well.
It’s long past time for the reasonable, animal-loving people of the world to quit allowing the 10 percent of nutjob true believers on the extremes of these issues to dictate the terms of engagement.
For all his good work, Bill Hemby was wrong in calling out the HSUS on this politically motivated crap, just as Judie Mancuso is wrong in lumping the work of compassionate, ethical and responsible breeders in with the careless, clueless breeders or with puppy-milling scum. I hasten to say, though, that it was Hemby’s first mistep, while Mancusco is the ATM of extremism, spitting out hate along with long-discredited ”facts” whenever anyone punches her buttons.
I will be on the side of PetPac when SB 250, the new Pet Extinction Act, comes to a floor vote in the California State Senate. And I am on the side of HSUS when it comes to investigations and legislation against puppy-milling scum. I am not one of those breeders who defends puppy-millers because of the slippery-slope argument: I believe we need to separate from these dirtbags because we care about what happens to animals in their “care.” I’m a reputable, ethical and compassionate breeder as well as a person who has run a breed rescue and is looking to raise foster litters in the future for shelters and rescue groups, just because I’ve discovered I’m damn good at it.
I will fight forced spay-neuter because it doesn’t work. I will fight for compassionate, reputable and ethical breeders. And I will fight to shut down puppy mills and their Internet and retail outlets.
If any of that bothers you, I bloody well don’t care. Because it’s not about politics and “winning” for me:
It’s about the animals.
Pet Connection Blog Haters, lies and what we’re not learning from our pets