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Dave Roepke, Published June 03 2010

Confusion issue for Humane Society donors

A group that’s been critical of the national Humane Society renewed its jabs Wednesday, detailing in a state-by-state report how little the society donates to local animal shelters.

The Humane Society of the United States dismisses the criticism by the Center for Consumer Freedom, saying it doesn’t claim to be a source of grant money for local animal shelters.

Regardless of the goal of the national group, directors of shelters in Grand Forks and Fargo say they often battle the notion that donations to the HSUS will go to actual shelters.

“I definitely think it’s an issue,” said Arlette Moen, executive director of Circle of Friends Humane Society in Grand Forks.

Moen and the executive director of the FM Humane Society, Nukhet Hendricks, said they regularly encounter indications that some donors draw no distinction between their outfits and the national group.

“We have people walk into the shelter and say, ‘Oh, I give to the Humane Society of the United States,’ ” Moen said. “That’s our opportunity to tell them, ‘No, it doesn’t work that way.’ ”

The Center for Consumer Freedom report said that in a three-year period ending in 2008, just $5,000 of HSUS money was given to North Dakota shelters – a 2006 grant to a Minot shelter. In 2008, less than one-half of 1 percent of HSUS money was spent on shelters, according to the report.

Moen and Hendricks said since they understand that the national society is an animal-rights lobby, not a granting organization or a sheltering group, the lack of HSUS funding does not bother them.

Hendricks and Moen said they have never seen any fundraising material that made them think that the HSUS intentionally tried to mislead donors. But public misperception about HSUS is frustrating for every local humane society, a confusion calling for more education, Hendricks said.

“I can see why a donor would think that, just because of that name,” she said.

In polls referenced in the CCF report, 59 percent of respondents thought HSUS gave most of its money to local shelters that care for dogs and cats, and 71 percent thought it represented the local humane societies.

While the HSUS doesn’t represent local groups, the head of an association that does count those sorts of sheltering organizations as its members wrote a letter to the CCF last month to demand a stop to what it called a “smear campaign” against the national Humane Society.

“(HSUS) has always included a focus on large-scale animal cruelty and eliminating animal suffering,” wrote Steve Putnam, executive director of the National Federation of Humane Societies. “HSUS has always been transparent about that mission.”

Wednesday’s report was not the first time CCF has taken on the Humane Society, as it founded a website devoted to criticism of the group earlier this year.

The nonprofit bills itself as an advocate for personal responsibility and choice. The HSUS describes CCF as a “front group for corporations” aiming to thwart reform efforts of all sorts, animal rights among them.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535