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August 06, 2012

Helping Pets in Need, And Also Fighting Large-Scale Cruelty

As this year’s general election approaches, candidates are already airing millions in attack ads. It’s that season.

For us at The HSUS, it’s always that season. Puppy millers, sealers, factory farmers, and others attack and criticize us about everything we do–not because we don’t use money efficiently, but precisely the opposite. They even try to tell us how to spend our resources–do more of this, and less of that. “That,” in a practical sense, means not spending any money to get after their inexcusable and abusive treatment of animals.

Michigan dogfighting raid
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
The HSUS rescues pets from dogfighting rings,
puppy mills, and other cruelty.

The biggest offender of them all is the multi-millionaire public relations flack Rick Berman. Last Friday, Berman's so-called Center for Consumer Freedom took out another full-page ad in USA Today attacking The HSUS, with the false charge that we don’t do enough to help animal shelters. I estimate CCF has spent perhaps $10 million in its attacks against us since he took up the case in earnest. During the opening ceremonies for the Summer Olympics in London, CCF aired one of its phony television ads in the Washington, D.C., market, burning hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to smear the nation’s most influential animal protection organization.

And here’s the irony. Last Friday, on the very day of CCF's USA Today ad, our Animal Rescue Team came to the aid of more than 140 dogs at a North Carolina puppy mill. Our affiliate, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, sent veterinarians to an American Indian reservation in South Dakota, treating animals in need and helping the people who care about them. Our Pets for Life team was on the ground in communities working with hundreds of people in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, giving out spay-and-neuter vouchers and other critical pet care services to help people and their animals. Our team was also on the ground to raid a suspected dogfighting operation in Kalamazoo, followed by a second raid today. And that just scratches the surface of what we do every day.

Some of that work may not qualify as making grants to animal shelters (which we do often), but was it life-saving work? Did it help dogs and cats? Were we the last, best hope for these animals? The answer in every case: absolutely yes.

With his spider-web of front groups, Berman is best known for defending smoking, junk food, obesity, trans-fats, tanning beds, drunk driving, and a host of other social blights.

He’s also an apologist for animal exploitation. CCF has fought Prop 2 in California and Prop 204 in Arizona (to ban extreme confinement on factory farms), Prop B in Missouri (to regulate puppy mills), the egg industry reform bill in Congress, our corporate campaigns against gestation crates, our campaign to end the seal hunt, and so much more.

CCF's advertising and social media campaigns notwithstanding, we keep racking up victories and progress. But that’s not to say Berman doesn’t have an effect: He’s lined his pockets very well by trading on the fear that some of the people responsible for today’s widespread abuses of animals have of The HSUS. According to federal tax filings, in 2008, 92 percent of the money raised for the Center for Consumer Freedom went to Berman or to his for-profit Berman and Company public relations outfit. 

CCF and Berman never deter us from taking on the biggest forms of large-scale, industrialized cruelty. When I see CCF's ads, it makes me, as CEO, want to invest more in these fights. Because more than anything, CCF's presence is a sign we are winning and that change is around the corner. That’s what we do here at The HSUS: drive the biggest forms of social change for animals and take on the perpetrators of animal cruelty and their front-men who stand in the way.

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