The Humane Society of the United States is cheating abused, neglected and abandoned animals out of the help they need with misleading ads that don't disclose the way donations actually are spent. (See related article on this page.)
The national organization uses gut-wrenching ads filled with pitiful animals in an emotional appeal to raise money. The problem is, only a very small fraction of that money filters down to local shelters, with those in many states, including South Dakota, receiving no money at all.
According to the financial report posted on HSUS's website, the agency raised nearly $100 million in donations and bequests last year. It spent nearly $31 million of that on fundraising alone while only $11.6 million was dispersed to animal care facilities.
Most of the money not used for administrative costs is spent on educational campaigns.
Don't make the mistake of confusing the national organization with the local Humane Society that does so much to help animals in need.
Last year, the Humane Society of the Black Hills took in 6,000 unwanted animals. Of those, 260 dogs and 1,800 cats were euthanized. The local shelter recently was filled to capacity. When that happens, more animals have to be euthanized unless the agency can find homes for them.
In an effort to place more animals, the local Humane Society has lowered its adoption fees to $85 for dogs and $55 for cats. Older animals are $42.50 for dogs and $27.50 for cats. An "adoptathon" held last weekend found homes for 44 dogs and cats.
The Humane Society of the Black Hills offers low-cost spaying, neutering, and vaccinations. A policy requiring all adopted pets to be spayed or neutered, enacted several years ago, has cut the euthanasia rate in half.
The agency also inspects kennels and investigates reports of animal neglect, abuse, abandonment and hoarding. In 2006 it received nearly 3,150 requests to investigate.
It's a sad fact of life that some people abuse and neglect animals. Others regard them as a pieces of property to cast aside when caring for them becomes inconvenient.
It's the caring people who take good care of their pets who can be vulnerable to misleading ad campaigns that solicit donations with emotional appeals.
Don't be fooled. It's always wise to check the record of any agency before giving a donation.
According to the Better Business Bureau, a charitable agency should spend at least 65 percent of its total expenses on program activities, and no more than 35 percent on fundraising. It has a guide to charitable giving at www.bbb.org/us/charity/
Another reliable guide to charitable giving can be found at www.guidestar.org.
Be on the lookout for agencies that try to exploit the reputations of responsible agencies that do good work.
The next time you see one of those gut-wrenching ads of abused animals, and feel inclined to help, be sure to give to the local Humane Society.
People interested in donating, volunteering or providing permanent or temporary homes for pets can call the Humane Society of the Black Hills at 394-4170 or get more information at www.hsbh.org.