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HSUS’ 101 Worst Puppy Mills – The Minnesotans who made the list

May 29, 2014 10 comments

IMG_8857The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has released it’s annual 101 Worst Puppy Mills list. Once again, it contains puppy mills from several familiar states, like Missouri.

It’s sad that even though Missouri passed a puppy mill bill four years ago, they remain one of the top states for bad breeders (22 of the top 100 are from Missouri this year).

Over the past few years, the Missouri puppy mill bill has been weakened by local by politicians, individuals who caved under the pressure of big Ag and the puppy millers themselves. The truth is one cannot be assured that passing a puppy mill bill will lead to an end of puppy mills or to animal cruelty in puppy mills. The battle may be won once a puppy bill passes, but the war goes on. There will always be those who prefer to take dollars from deep pockets than to do the right thing, and those deep pockets have no interest in keeping laws pertaining to puppy mills in place. They will do what they must to get rid of the bill or make it weaker so it is no longer effective. We must stay ever-vigilant if we want to see puppy mills go away.

Most of those who made the list were cited for extremely bad care and treatment of animals. According to HSUS, some of these citations included:

  • A breeder in Missouri who admitted to leaving a gravely injured and nearly unresponsive Pomeranian named “Woofie” lingering for three days without taking him to a vet (Johanna Steele);
  • Four breeders who listed gunshot as a method of euthanasia on their official veterinary plans (Barker in AR; Mamma’s Minis in CO; Tietz and Williams in NE);
  • A breeder in Illinois who had five beagles euthanized rather than providing them with warmer shelter as directed by his inspector (Melton Christiansen);
  • A breeder in Missouri who was found with a dead, four-week-old shih tzu puppy frozen solid in the outdoor portion of an enclosure when overnight temperatures had recently been as low as -9 degrees (Johnny Dake);
  • Breeders who left their dogs exposed to heat indexes as high as 109 degrees or bitter cold temperatures as low as one degree Fahrenheit (Hines in SD; Pesek in NE);
  • USDA inspectors photographed a Yorkie with an eye disorder at a facility owned by Andy Troyer in Fredericksburg, Ohio, in 2011 after the operator repeatedly failed to get adequate treatment for the dog. Additional problems were found at the same facility in 2014. /USDA 2011.
  • A breeder in Missouri who admitted to slaughtering downed cattle (cows unable to walk and who could be ill) from a local slaughterhouse in order to feed the raw meat to her dogs; rotting meat infested with maggots was found in her kennels (Barbara Neubert); and
  • A breeder in Nebraska (listed in our appendix because she was in last year’s Horrible Hundred report), who was found with no fewer than 54 dogs in need of veterinary care during a single USDA inspection (Linda Hager).

Yes. Lovely people aren’t they? I can’t imagine how one becomes okay with treating an animal this way, but I suspect your soul has to die off a bit first.

There were five Minnesotans that made the HSUS list this year. One of them is from Pine River, but strangely enough, it is not he one who ran the place Maggie came from (that one was run by Deborah Rowell). It makes me wonder – just how many puppy mills are in business in Pine River?

Here are the five Minnesota puppy mills that made the list:

  • Gloria Brouwer, Jasper, MN – Three dogs died after not being treated properly. Brouwer received an official
    warning from the USDA in February 2013 for failing to get proper care for three dogs who were observed to be sluggish with poor appetites in July 2011. A USDA Director of Investigative and Enforcement Services noted that Brouwer took the dogs inside when they seemed ill and attempted to treat them herself with Baytril. All three of the dogs died. The incident occurred in 2011 but the USDA did not publish its official warning until February 2013. In January 2013, the USDA cited Brouwer for several new problems, including expired veterinary drugs and unsafe housing. In February 2014, the USDA went to check on the kennel but was not given access, which is a violation. USDA #41-A-0364.
  • Paul and Sheila Haag, Valley View Kennel aka A Maze N Farmyard LLC, Eden Valley, MN – Mega mill, repeatedly cited for dogs with injuries. Although it passed one USDA inspection in 2013, Valley View Kennel was cited for violations during four previous inspections in a row, including repeat violations for lack of adequate veterinary care for issues such as limping dogs with swollen feet (common in facilities where dogs are forced to stand on wire cage floors), a dog with “a red ulcer-like mass in the eye,” unsafe and unsanitary housing, and numerous other problems. The Haags appear to have an enormous amount of dogs; in July 2013, the USDA counted more than 800 dogs and puppies on the property, indicating it may be one of the largest puppy mills in the country, and the second largest in the state next to Animal control officers found deplorable conditions at Chien d’Or Kennel in Farmington Hills, MI. The kennel has registered AKC breeding stock and sells online. In recent years, the AKC has opposed more than 100 bills designed to crack down on puppy mills. /Oakland County Animal Control, 2013. Clearwater Kennel in Cushing. The facility has not been inspected yet in 2014 (as of April 10). Concerned local advocates are calling for action via social media: facebook.com/pages/Shut-down-A-mazen- Farmyard/175238609266415. USDA #41-A-0281.
  • Sharon Lanz, Pine River, MN – Dogs in the freezing cold. In November 2013, USDA inspectors found a number of issues at Lanz’s kennel, including dogs outside in the cold without adequate protection when the temperature was only 29 degrees, expired vaccination drugs and accumulations of wastes and clutter. Records show that USDA inspectors attempted to re-inspect the kennel three times in February 2014 and made calls to the owner each time, but were not given access during any of their attempts, a repeat violation. Violations were also found in 2011 and 2012. USDA #41-A-0027.
  • Deloris and Dick Richards, Marshall, MN – Ten dogs found with injuries; dogs repeatedly exposed to freezing cold and walking in their own feces. In January 2014, USDA inspectors found three different repeat violations at the Richards’ kennel, including dogs without adequate protection from the bitter cold, safety issues and excessive feces. In August 2013, USDA inspectors found no fewer than ten dogs in need of veterinary care at the Richards’ kennel for issues such as hair loss, bleeding wounds and blackened scabs on their ears from fly bites. In addition, the Richards have been repeatedly cited by USDA inspectors for inadequate cleaning of feces in their dog runs (Jan. 2014, Dec. 2013, Aug. 2013, April 2013, and March 2011) and for dogs with inadequate protection from the weather. In December 2013, a USDA inspector noted that dogs were not properly sheltered when “the outdoor winter temperatures and wind chills are frequently falling below zero degrees,” and that some dog runs were so soiled with feces that “there were no clean areas for [the dogs] to step without coming into contact with the waste.” USDA #41-A-0016.
  • Michelle Sonnenberg, Detroit Lakes, MN – “A foul odor” and standing water was mixed with feces and maggots. USDA inspectors found multiple violations during five inspections in a row at Sonnenberg’s kennel between December 2011 and September 2013. In September 2013, inspectors noted a “foul odor” due to standing water mixed with feces and maggots, a “prevalent ammonia [urine] smell” that was “strong enough to make the inspector’s eyes burn,” dogs without adequate space, and sanitation problems. During the September 2013 visit, more than 430 dogs and puppies on the property. In February 2013 an inspector noted an “ammonia level strong enough to make the inspector cough and feel a burn in the back of the throat” and other problems. In December 2011, inspectors found underweight dogs, dogs with matted fur, numerous unsafe conditions and puppies with their legs falling through wire flooring, which, as the inspector noted, “risks malnourishment” because puppies whose legs are stuck through the wire gaps may not be able to reach their mother to feed. The HSUS has received two complaints from buyers who reportedly purchased sick puppies from the facility. USDA #41-A-0021.

Courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States, 101 Puppy Mills: A Sampling of Problem Puppy Mills in the United States , May 2014.

Want to stop puppy mills? Don’t buy from a pet store. People who have started following and commenting on the FB group “Shut down A maze’n Farmyard” (the 2nd mill on the MN list), have mentioned buying sick puppies from a pet store that were sourced from this place. Buying a sick dog from a pet store may be saving THAT dog, but it is sentencing the parents to a continued life of misery, pain and cruelty. Just don’t do it.

Don’t shop, adopt.

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100 Problem Puppy Mills – Is your state on the list?

May 12, 2013 22 comments

Puppy mill kennelsLast Thursday the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) came out with their “Horrible Hundred” – one hundred puppy mills it feels need closer scrutiny by state and federal authorities (“A Horrible Hundred: 100 Problem Puppy Mills“).

These are not necessarily the worst puppy mills in the country, but they are indicative of many puppy mills who provide inadequate and substandard care. Most of these facilities have been repeatedly cited by federal and local officials and have at least 100 dogs or more, including one in Minnesota with 1,100 dogs. Yes. 1,100 breeding dogs.

Many, if not all, of these facilities sell their dogs at pet stores (and over the internet) all across the country. One of the four  puppy mills listed for Minnesota has been found to have sold dogs in pet stores in Michigan, Chicago, Ohio and California.

Want to see if any from your state are listed? Go here. 

You can read a more detailed report on each of these mills here

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

So which puppy mills were on the list from Minnesota?

Carole and Larry Harries/ Harries K-9 Ranch – Alpha, MN

Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) investigated the Harries back in 2007 and called out issues with the wire mesh flooring, which allowed the dogs legs to slip through. They also documented dirty kennels, dirty water dishes, matted fur on several dogs, feces build up and up to 5 dogs per kennel in several kennels.

Apparently, not much has changed since 2007. In February 2013, the Harries were cited for a repeat violation by USDA inspectors for several dogs in need of veterinary care, including a shih tzu whose teeth were so rotted that the inspector could see the roots of her teeth, and two dogs with excessive matting around the tail with feces matted into the fur. 

Ted Johnson / Funtime Kennels – Windom, MN

Ted appears to have a revolving door policy when it comes to his USDA licenses, often letting them lapse and then reapplying (maybe he couldn’t make it just selling over the internet or just trying to hide his business from people like me?). He has also had multiple violations at his kenneling facility.

Back in 2011, he was cited for failure to establish and maintain adequate veterinary care as is seen in this USDA inspection report.

In April 2013, USDA inspectors found two Maltese dogs his kennel that had such severe dental disease that they had lost most of their teeth. One of the dogs had only two teeth left, and one of her remaining two teeth “was loose and moved easily when touched.” The dog was seen “excessively licking its mouth with its tongue hanging out of its mouth most of the time,” according to the inspector. The USDA also noted that the ammonia (urine) smell in the facility “was strong enough to make the inspector’s eyes burn.” 

John & Lyle Renner/ Renner’s Kennel – Detroit Lakes, MN

Renner’s Kennels have been cited multiple times for violations. This is one from 2004:

“One kennel that houses three golden retrievers (199, 176, 175) has an area of kennel wire that has turned inside the cage and the ends are poking out towards the dogs in the cage. Another kennel housing three huskies (238, 184, ?) has a pipe end that protrudes to the inside of the kennel that appears that the end of the pipe is sharp and may cause injury to the dogs.”

The most recent set of violations were received in January 2013, when they were “fined more than $5,000 by the USDA for repeat violations of the Animal Welfare Act regulations.” Previous violations documented on USDA inspection reports include “dogs kept in small cages without the minimum required space; lack of proper cleaning and sanitization, violations for dogs needing vet care, including a husky who could not bear weight on his leg, a dog with a missing eye and discharge, dogs with swollen/oozing paws (common in puppy mills with wire flooring), dogs without adequate protection from extreme temperatures, strong odors and accumulations of feces.” 

Wanda Kretzman / Clearwater Kennel Inc. – Cushing, MN (has 1,124 dogs as of February 2013)

According to Animal Folks MN, Wanda’s facility is THE LARGEST BREEDER/BROKER in MINNESOTA. She has over 1100 dogs and multiple violations covering several years, including violations for incomplete records, wire mesh floors that allow dogs’ feet to go through, not enough floor or head space in pens, and buildup of feces under kennels and in outdoor pens in 2006 (St Cloud Times, Mar 3, 2007) and violations in 2012 for seven dogs with bloody, inflamed and/or swollen feet, likely from straddling the painful wire flooring (HSUS, 100 Puppy Mills Report, May 2013).

Wanda’s puppy mill puppies have been sold in California, Chicago, Michigan and at dog auctions in Ohio. In an undercover video from the January 15, 2011 Farmerstown Dog Auction in Ohio, over 300 of the 504 dogs sold were from Clearwater Kennels (see the video below to learn more about dog auctions).

It’s hard not to see how this puppy mill ended up on the list is it?

puppymillsblack

Don’t see your state on the list? Chances are you will on a previous year’s report. HSUS has been highlighting some of these awful puppy mills for seven years now.

Want to stop puppy mills?

  • Share with your friends. Pick just one person and educate them on where pet store and internet puppies come from and then ask them to share with just one friend. Spread the word.
  • Send one tweet about puppy mills today.
  • Post one story on Facebook today about puppy mills and let people know where pet store and internet puppies come from.
  • Don’t buy puppies from pet stores or over the internet. Many puppy mills are turning to the internet to sell their dogs now because they are not required to have a USDA license nor are they subject to inspection.
  • Get active. Write your legislator and ask him/her to support a law to tighten the standards of care for puppy mills.

Animal politics – Will North Dakota make animal abuse a felony?

November 4, 2012 13 comments

Update: By an overwhelming majority of voters, North Dakotans chose not to make animal cruelty a felony. One can only hope they will not become the only state to think setting a cat on fire is only worth a misdemeanor, but as of right now they remain one of two states who do – the other is South Dakota.

Yes. Election politics is definitely in the air. It’s hard to miss it these days.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait until Wednesday when all the political ads will go silent for another two years. (At least I hope they do, otherwise, we will have entered a new level of hell.)

I think I am pretty well-versed on the political issues up for a vote in Minnesota on Tuesday, but recently I started to wonder what political issues might be pending that had to do with animals and animal welfare. Thanks to my friend Paul, I discovered there was one. In North Dakota.

Unlike Minnesota and Montana, neighboring states, North Dakota does not currently make animal abuse a felony. In fact, the most an animal abuser in North Dakota can be charged with is a misdemeanor, even in the most extreme cases.

This year, North Dakotans will have the opportunity to vote on Measure 5, which will make it a felony to maliciously and intentionally harm a dog, cat or horse. The question is, will they?

They currently regard all kinds of animal fighting, not just dog fighting, as a felony. Why not malicious and intentional animal abuse?

The answer may lie with state and national agribusiness groups. They are fighting like mad to make sure it doesn’t pass and it appears they may be succeeding:

About three weeks ago the Valley News Live Mason-Dixon poll found that 66% of people surveyed said yes to Measure 5. Which would make it a class c felony for extreme cases of animal cruelty. The most recent poll found a substantial drop, 44% supported the measure with 49% saying no.

So what are state and national agribusiness groups opposed to? Most likely, the involvement of the Humane Society of the United States. HSUS has poured a good amount of money into this fight, and for many North Dakotans, this rankles their fiercely independent nature.

But is there more to be concerned about?

Opponents of the bill list these two items as problematic:

  • The language doesn’t cover the type of neglect or abuse most commonly seen in North Dakota – everyday abuse, neglect, and abandonment (Although, it appears they are covered by other state laws.)
  • It doesn’t cover all animals, just cats, dogs, and horses (The bill was specifically designed to exclude hunting, trapping, fishing, agriculture, animal research, and protecting personal property or safety – something I would think most North Dakotans would approve.)

I assume that most abused animals are dogs, cats and horses, but maybe the opponents feel other animals should be included? Farm animals? Wild animals? It seems kind of odd that the special interest groups excluded from the measure (hunters, trappers, fishermen and farmers) would argue the bill is too limited and should include other animals, but what do I know? Maybe that really is what they want. Huh. Who’d have thunk it?

One thing I know for certain, there are a great number of strong proponents and opponents on both sides of this issue. The list of those opposed to the measure includes – Ag, Cattle, Deer and Elk Coalitions, farm groups, and veterinarians. The list of those who support Measure 5  includes many animal welfare and rescue groups, veterinarians and law enforcement officials.

So will Measure 5 pass on Tuesday? Will North Dakota voters support making an animal abuse a felony? I don’t know, but we will certainly know by Wednesday, November 7th.

Resources:

Is the Humane Society of the United States evil? Or, does HumaneWatch.org just want you to think they are? Part Two.

April 18, 2011 35 comments

Yesterday’s post: What is HumaneWatch.org?

This post is the second in a two-part series looking at HumaneWatch.org and it’s campaign against the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Many animal lovers and animal advocates have heard stories about HSUS – where they spend their money, how they misrepresent themselves to the public, how they spend their money, etc. – but not many people know about HumaneWatch.org and it’s campaign to discredit HSUS. This series aims to educate people on this organization and their purpose.

Delving into the animal welfare world has been an education to say the least. Perhaps the most educational for me has been the amount of information and number of opinions one can find on a wide variety of animal-related issues – kill vs. no kill shelters, vegan vs. meat, puppy mills and pet stores, dominance dog training vs. positive reinforcement, and love vs. hate the Humane Society of the United States. But what happens when what you think is true is really a lie? Or, when the information you seek is actually distorted in such a way as to mislead someone or to support a more hidden agenda? As I shared in yesterday’s post HumaneWatch.org is an organization focused on “Keeping an eye” on HSUS. But, who is behind Humane Watch.org? Read on to learn more more.

WHO is behind HumaneWatch.org?

For those who already know about HumaneWatch.org, Rick Berman is a familiar name. In some circles, he is known as Dr. Evil, in others, a powerful Washington lawyer and lobbyist (60 Minutes did a great piece on him if you want to learn more).

Mr. Berman is notorious for taking on unpopular causes and attacking them with a vengeance. He creates non-profit organizations with names like: Center for Consumer Freedom, the American Beverage Institute and the Employment Policies Institute which he then uses to pay his own company, Berman and Company, to fund campaigns focused on discrediting and attacking those organizations his clients deem most important to them. Some of the organizations he has gone after in the past are: Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) AND the Humane Society of the United States.

According to an article in USA Today (dated July 31, 2006), Mr Berman is “hired by businesses” to fight such efforts as “further restricting drinking and driving, mandating healthier foods and raising the minimum wage.” And, PRWatch.org described Berman’s methods this way, “Berman’s signature method of operation is to discredit the messenger rather than address the message head on.”

HumaneWatch.org is sponsored by the first of the Rick Berman non-profit organizations I listed above, the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF). (You should note that HumaneWatch.org is only one among many websites/organizations sponsored by CCF.) The Center for Consumer Freedom is a non-profit lobbying group dedicated to “protecting consumer choices and promoting common sense.” It’s a pretty generalized mission statement, but it allows them to take on a wide variety of causes (i.e. attack a variety of causes), based what their donors want them to do. Against stricter laws for drinking and driving? Donate to CCF, they hire Berman and Company, and voila! Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) is under attack. A pretty ingenious approach don’t you think?

Note: The spokesperson for the Center for Consumer Freedom is David Martosko, who according to SourceWatch is “Frequently cited as a scientific and economic expert,” and with an additional title like Director of Research for CCF you would think he has a lengthy background in these areas, again from SourceWatch – “Mr. Martosko received his graduate degree in opera from the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University in 1995.” An expert in scientific and economic matters for sure! You can read more about Mr. Martosko here.

I’ll just include a quote David Martosko taken from an interview with Drovers Cattle Network in February 23, 2010:

Q. Last week, CCF launched http://www.humanewatch.org which got some positive notice among people in animal agriculture, especially among those involved in social networks like Twitter and Facebook. What was the impetus behind developing the web site? And would you also share the financing behind it?

A. Our faces are already on a lot of dart boards over at PETA. Remember http://www.PETAkillsAnimals.com? But PETA’s more bizarre tactics make it easy to convince Americans that they’re a fringe group. HSUS is a different story.

Essentially, PETA’s role in the animal world today is to make HSUS look reasonable by comparison. HSUS is smarter, more patient, and better-dressed, except for those vinyl shoes. But their long-term goals are exactly the same as PETA’s. And since they have a much less confrontational and nutty style, proving that they’re closet radicals is a much more daunting task.

So, if the CCF sponsors HumaneWatch.org, who is funding it (via CCF) and why?

According to Wkipedia, “acknowledged corporate donors to the CCF include Coca-Cola, Wendy’s, Tyson Foods, Monsanto, and Pilgrim’s Pride.” But, that’s not all. According to PRWatch.org, agribusiness is also a large contributor to CCF and HumaneWatch.org because HSUS “has had an ongoing campaign to achieve better living conditions for livestock, which, if it came to fruition, could cost agribusiness millions.” A pretty powerful motivator for one to want HSUS weakened or removed from the picture completely.

It’s hard to know exactly which food and agribusiness companies support the work of HumaneWatch.org, since a non-profit is not required to disclose its donors, but one can find many companies listed on SourceWatch (under the CCF Contributions Table) that would likely benefit from just such a campaign against HSUS. Among them are: Monsanto, Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride Corp, Perdue Farms Inc., Standard Meat, National Steak and Poultry and many others. Are these HumaneWatch.org’s donors? Only Rick Berman and his staff knows, but it certainly is possible.

HSUS’s campaign to improve the living conditions of farm animals is pretty well-known. In fact, it’s on their website. In the past, they have exposed farms and slaughter houses who have abused their livestock. Agribusiness definitely has a stake in this game. After all, what HSUS does could, and likely does, impact their profits, not to mention their bottom line. While your average small farmer or rancher understands the value of treating their livestock well, factory farms have to be concerned with the numbers (although I am sure they would say quality is of the utmost importance too).

“Factory farming is a term referring to the process of raising livestock in confinement at high stocking density, where a farm operates as a factory. Confinement at high stocking density is one part of a systematic effort to produce the highest output at the lowest cost by relying on economies of scale, modern machinery, biotechnology, and global trade.” So, if your output or cost (or both) are impacted by what HSUS is doing you just might want Rick Berman, CCF and HumaneWatch.org to take them on.

The truth is that we don’t really know who funds HumaneWatch.org and what they do, but what we can do is look at WHO HumaneWatch.org and CCF is targeting and take a guess at who might be benefitting from their campaign. I’m guessing the majority of the money is not coming from your average small farmer, but someone who has much more to lose.

So, is the Humane Society of the United States evil? Only you can answer that, but in my opinion “evil” is something best left to be defined by the dictionary. What I do know is nothing is ever as it seems. Knowing who is saying what about whom, and who benefits from what is being said, is so much more important. Now more than ever.

Definition of EVIL
1
a : morally reprehensible : sinful, wicked
b : arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct
2
a archaic : inferior
b : causing discomfort or repulsion : offensive
c : disagreeable
3
a : causing harm : pernicious

Is the Humane Society of the United States evil? Or, does HumaneWatch.org just want you to think they are? Part One.

April 17, 2011 33 comments

This post is the first in a two-part series looking at HumaneWatch.org and it’s campaign against the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Many animal lovers and animal advocates have heard stories about HSUS – how they spend their money, how they misrepresent themselves to the public, where the money they raise goes, etc. – but not many people know about HumaneWatch.org and it’s campaign to discredit HSUS. This series aims to educate people on this organization and their purpose.

A couple of years ago, I came across a friend’s Facebook post showing that they had “Liked” a group called HumaneWatch.org. I briefly checked out their Facebook page and discovered that they were a non-profit group dedicated to “Keeping a watchful eye on the Humane Society of the United States” (HSUS). At the time, I had been hearing a lot of negative things about HSUS – they had deceived people into thinking their money was going to shelters when it was actually going back to HSUS, they spent a majority of their money promoting themselves and raising more money for their PR campaign, etc. – so I decided to “Like” Humane Watch too. After all, they were focused on exposing HSUS and their lies, how bad could they be? This group obviously cared about animals right? Heck, they had animals in their logo.

It was only later, after I began to hear little news stories here and there, that I became concerned about HumaneWatch.org. Who was this organization? Who was behind it? What was their purpose and why were they targeting HSUS?

The truth about HumaneWatch.org is much more insidious and political than you could imagine. It takes a little explaining, but I believe that my animal-loving friends would want to know more about this group, their TRUE agenda and why knowing WHO you support is so important these days. More than ever before.

WHAT is HumaneWatch.org?

HumaneWatch.org is a non-profit group solely focused on discrediting (and likely destroying) the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). They attack HSUS using HSUS’s own data, but the way they use it is selective – designed to to distort, obfuscate and confuse people, in hopes of reducing HSUS’ power in animal welfare circles and destroy its base of supporters. Don’t get me wrong, there are many things about HSUS that I don’t like (don’t get me started on their support of Michael Vick), but learning about HumaneWatch.org has led me to believe that perhaps most of what I knew about HSUS was not based on true facts, but on the obfuscation facts provided by HumaneWatch.org via the news, the internet and other media outlets.

If there is one thing HumaneWatch.org has done extremely well it is in taking one piece of data and promoting it over and over again in order to distort what HSUS really does. For example, one of the leading statements promoted by HumaneWatch.org is this: “HSUS devoted less than one-half of one percent of its budget to directly funding hands-on pet shelters.”. True. HSUS doesn’t spend a whole heck of a lot on “hands-on” pet shelters, however they do spend money on five animal care centers they run in Texas, Florida, California, Oregon and Massachusetts. Humane Watch shares this information, but look where they put it (in bold): “So only four-fifths of one percent (0.80%) of the money HSUS collected in 2009—much of it in response to TV ads that begged for money to “save” dogs and cats—actually went to the community-based organizations doing that work. (HSUS runs a handful of “animal care centers,” but no dog or cat shelters and no pet adoption programs.)”

And let’s take a look at those TV ads that HumaneWatch.org says “begged for money to ‘save’ dogs and cats.” Here’s one from one year ago. Or this one from two years ago. Yup. They do talk about saving dogs and cats, but is HumaneWatch.org’s definition of saving dogs and cats the same as how HSUS defines it in their commercials? Or, is it possible that they are purposely confusing people so they think that HSUS’s ads are the same ones put put by the ASPCA and the SPSCA. If so, it would make sense for us to be outraged wouldn’t it?

Another one of HumaneWatch.org’s purported HSUS goals is to make everyone become a vegan. Really? In an interview with Drovers Cattle Network, Wayne Pacelle said “It is my core belief that Americans are going to continue to eat meat, milk and egg products. That is the way it is. These are long-standing cultural practices.” and “Our board of directors is a national volunteer board of directors. Very few of them are vegetarian. I have been since I’ve been a teenager. Whatever I do in my personal life does not necessarily reflect the policies of HSUS and we support certified humane programs, we support other farmers, we work with farmers, we think farming is a noble profession.” Does HSUS support a vegan lifestyle? My guess is they would say yes to that, but it doesn’t appear they have an agenda to make everyone a vegan.

So if HSUS does not support local animal shelters and they don’t have an agenda to make everyone become a vegan, what is their true purpose?

According to Wayne Pacelle, HSUS was “…founded in 1954 specifically to tackle the national problems facing animals, such as puppy mills, inhumane slaughter, animal fighting, and animal trafficking, through education, public policy, investigation, and other conventional means suited to a civil society. Local animal shelters are consumed with the responsibilities of animal care and control in their communities, and they don’t have the reach or the resources to tackle a national dogfighting ring or pet theft ring or examine the practices at research labs or slaughter plants, so that has been the purpose of HSUS for more than 50 years.” (Drover’s Cattle Network, March 5, 2010)

I don’t see “supporting local animal shelters by giving them grants or direct funding” in there do you? Is that something they should be doing? Probably. But is HSUS (as HumaneWatch.org says) really misrepresenting what it does and where its money goes? Or, is HumaneWatch.org deliberately distorting what HSUS does (based on their charter) with what they want you to believe they should be doing? I leave that for you to decide, but it certainly is worthy of exploring.

I’m not here to defend HSUS, but when one looks at the distorted facts so prevalently promoted by HumaneWatch.org on their website (and the many others they have created), one has to wonder… What is the truth?

On Tuesday, we’ll explore: Who is behind HumaneWatch.org.