Posted on 02/20/2009

The Death of Hope at HSUS
February 18, 2009 by Nathan J. Winograd

The original version of this post appeared on The No Kill Nation website at
_www.thenokillnation.com_ ( on February 17,
2009. The following is a modified version of that post.

In Wilkes County, North Carolina, over 120 Pit Bull-type dogs and puppies
seized from a dog fighter were systematically put to death over the opposition
of rescue groups, dog advocates, and others. Some of the puppies were born
after the seizure. And a foster parent was even ordered to return puppies she
had nursed back to health to be killed.   As they did in the Michael Vick case,
HSUS once again led the charge to have all the dogs, including the puppies, slaughtered.

Before the dogs were killed, rescue groups were offering to help and calling
for HSUS and Wilkes County officials to give the dogs clemency unless and
until they are individually assessed and a rehabilitation plan, where possible,
was devised for each of the dogs. HSUS refused. In reply, HSUS’ John Goodwin

Wilkes County euthanizes 3,000 healthy, adoptable animals a year simply
because there are not enough good homes opening their doors to these needy
animals. I find it disturbing that the groups clamoring for media attention over
these 127 dogs raise no fuss, and offer no assistance, for the other 3,000 dogs
put down in that county each year.

Are Goodwin and his cohorts at HSUS out of their minds? Are we back to
blaming pet overpopulation? What happened to HSUS’ claims of just a few short
months ago that that the public does care and is not to blame for their killing,
that killing animals in shelters is “needless,” that we can be a No Kill
nation today, and that “pet overpopulation” is more myth than fact?

What happened to their statements that

• “The needless loss of life in animal shelters is deplored by the
American public. People deeply love their dogs and cats and feel that killing pets
who are homeless through no fault of their own is a problem we must work
harder to prevent. They want animals to have a second chance at life, not death
by injection.”

• “The needless killing of pets by animal shelters and animal control
agencies comes at an enormous economic and moral cost.”

What happened is that when they made those statements, Maddie’s Fund was
dangling a check in front of them and the check came with the statement attached
for their signature. What is now happening here is that HSUS is, once again,
showing us who the animals’ true enemy really is. As I’ve stated in a
previous blog,

Our battle for a No Kill nation is not against the public. It is against the
cowards of our movement who refuse to stand up to their colleagues and
friends running shelters that are mired in the failed and defunct philosophies
that allow (indeed, cause) killing. Our battle is against those who claim to be
part of our movement but fail to recognize the killing of millions of animals
every year as an unnecessary and cruel slaughter and to call it what it is.
It is against those who will not do for the animals that thing which is their
solemn duty to do: to change themselves and to demand that their colleagues
change, when that is what the situation calls for.

The only thing standing between the system of mass killing we are living
under today and the No Kill nation we can immediately achieve is that the
leaders of the large national organizations refuse to seize the opportunity to act.
Instead they are determined to fail—to ensure that the paradigm they have
championed for so long is not upended—by blocking reform efforts which challenge
their hegemony; by protecting and defending draconian shelter practices,
uncaring shelter directors; and by squandering the potential represented by the
great love people have for companion animals.

Instead of championing life, HSUS not only called for the systematic killing
of the Pit Bulls, they blamed the very groups expressing concern for the
fact that Wilkes County NC continues to needlessly slaughter 3,000 other dogs a
year. Moreover, shelter activists have raised a fuss over the killing of other
animals. Showing how little knowledge Mr. Goodwin has about the field he is
supposedly a part of, that fuss has culminated in the No Kill movement, which
has challenged his organization’s paradigm of killing.

Indeed, activists have been fighting to modernize North Carolina shelters
for years, but have been continuously rebuffed by the sheltering industry every
step of the way—even to the point of refusing to stop cruel methods of
killing (North Carolina deplorably remains a state which continues to allow the use
of a gas chamber). And, when activists do raise a fuss and offer their
assistance to help animals, that assistance is often refused by shelters (as
happened in Minnesota just this week). And, just as often, HSUS often ends up
condemning the fuss, siding with regressive shelters which refuse to work with
animal advocates to reduce killing, as they have in communities across the

Every time HSUS defends killing, their antiquated, regressive viewpoints are
not only harmful to animals, they make HSUS more and more irrelevant to
animal sheltering and more and more despised by those who truly love animals. And
they become more out of touch with public sentiment.

In Minnesota, for example, the Animal Humane Society this week
systematically put to death about 120 cats they claimed to rescue from a hoarding
situation, even though the cats suffered only minor and treatable medical conditions,
and even after No Kill shelters, rescue groups, and even everyday
Minnesotans offered to help save the cats. Here are some of the comments the media and
rescue groups have been receiving from the public:

• We are just so upset about this. Whether or not they knew about the
offers of help, they shouldn’t have killed those cats so quickly.
• AHS is an embarrassment to this community with its anachronistic
policies and refusal to even consider a different way of doing things other than
killing almost 50% of the animals who come through their doors every year. And
now you can add straight out misleading and lying to the public, their donor
base, to the list.
• I’m so saddened to think that this probably happens even far more
often than the media even knows about. We all understand that with that large
number of cats, there would be illnesses. I am upset about the lying to the
public and unwillingness to respond to the outpouring of support.
• If I were an animal that’s the last group of people I would want to be
“rescued” by.
• I struggle with finding words to express my anger and disgust with this
revelation… This is nothing more than a mass cat slaughter.
• I would of taken one or two of those poor kitties and would have
assumed responsibility for their care. I emailed the humane society about it on Feb
13th, and never even got a reply back. It makes me so sad.

While the news media was condemning the action, while protests erupted in
front of the humane society, while animal lovers were aghast, and while groups
across the country were condemning the action, what did HSUS say? Nothing.
They said nothing.

What should they have said? They should have said that the actions of the
director in ordering those cats killed violated both the rights of the animals
and the trust the public placed in her. As a result, her actions are
intolerable and she should be removed. What would they almost certainly have said if
they were asked for a comment? If history is any guide, they would have said
it was the fault of pet overpopulation.

Moreover, Goodwin’s offensive claim that the advocates calling for clemency
in Wilkes County were motivated by a “clamoring for media attention” is a
classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. HSUS can only see this as a
clamor for media attention rather than a clamor to save lives because that is
how HSUS appears to operate. For HSUS, animals do not seem to matter unless
they result in a headline and therefore donations for HSUS. For the rest of us,
it’s the animals that count.
And so it has come to this. While animal lovers around the country can see
so clearly what the problem is, Wayne Pacelle and his team at HSUS continue to
stick their head in the sand and deny reality—acting like the Bush
Administration when it continued to flatly deny that climate change was real even
after the alleged controversy had been put to rest and the nation moved on to
looking for viable solutions; Or refusing to admit the nation was in a
recession, even as the economy began falling to pieces.


If they did not still have the power to cause harm—in fact, they will
potentially contribute to the death of 127 dogs—the anachronistic viewpoints they
continue to espouse would be merely embarrassing. We would feel nothing but
pity for such an out of touch viewpoint. But they do cause harm, just like Bush’
s environmental and economic policies. And so we must condemn HSUS once

While the Republican Party not so long ago was the dominant voice in
American politics, Wayne Pacelle would do well to heed the lessons offered by how
Bush’s obstinacy in the face of reality led to their demise.

To read more commentary on the Wilkes County slaughter, visit
_www.thenokillnation.com_ ( ,

_www.kcdogblog.com_ ( ,

 and _www.bestfriends.org_ ( .