Animal Charities: Lifting the Veil of Misinformation (by Eli Zielsdorff)

eli.zielsdorff-stock-illustration-43106112-cartoon-monkey Expensive commercials full of sad and abused animals, misleading names and acts, group presidents taking home as much as $550,000 annually, and a plethora of misinformation surrounding it all (Winograd). As an avid supporter of animal care groups, and as someone who has put numerous hours into community work, it really pains me to see just how many people are misinformed when it comes to some of the most well-known organizations, and how their donations are put to use. I hope to inform you all about where your donations make the biggest impact, and some misinformation or misunderstandings surrounding some of the big charities out there.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is well-known as one of biggest animal support organizations in the United States. Thousands of people around the country donate money to HSUS every month, but what many don’t seem to realize is that the organization does not give a large amount of its donations to local shelters. According to statistics from an article on Humanewatch.org, 59% of people asked believed that the organization gave most of its money to local shelters (“Humane Watch”). In reality, HSUS only gives around 0.8% of its earnings to hands-on shelters, as seen in their tax returns found on humanewatch.org (“Grants”). I am in no way saying that the HSUS does not help within the community theme of animals, but I do think that many people are being extremely misled from their advertisements, which feature a lot of shelter animals (“Animal Cruelty”). It is always important to realize what your money is being used for when considering a donation. HSUS isn’t the only organization that has some misinformation surrounding it however.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is another well-known organization with a bit of misinformation or misunderstanding. Like the HSUS, this organization does not spend much of its donations on shelters, spending around 4% of its earnings on their support. Their advertisements are not as misleading as those created by the HSUS, yet many people still believe they are donating to support shelters. An article on Activistfacts.com also states that the ASPCA spends much of the money they receive on advertising, as well as other expenses; 35% of their budget going to overhead, which consists of expenses for legal fees, accounting fees, utilities, etc. (“American”). It is important that those who wish to donate to the ASPCA consider that a large amount of their donation will likely go towards advertisements and other company expenditures. Those donating must also realize that the ASPCA mainly fights against animal abuse, not supporting local shelters. Another organization that donators may be misinformed about is PETA.

“. . . the largest animal rights organization . . . PETA works through public education, cruelty investigations, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns” is a quote directly from PETA’s website (“About PETA”). It isn’t hard to find out how PETA supports animals, yet many people will still donate to them believing they are directly helping animals. This isn’t the case with PETA as they specifically state that they support animal rights.

The difference between animal rights and animal welfare is one that causes a lot of misunderstanding amongst donators, and can leave them supporting charities they may not actually agree with. An article on Animalwelfarecouncil.com tell us that animal welfare “is a human responsibility that encompasses all aspects of animal well-being, including proper housing, management, disease prevention and treatment, responsible care, humane handling, and, when necessary, humane [euthanasia].” Whereas animal rights “. . . [Are] a philosophical view that animals have rights similar or the same as humans. True animal rights proponents believe that humans do not have the right to use animals at all” (Bavota). This means that charities that support animal welfare will use your donation to help animals directly, while organizations like PETA, which supports animal rights, will use your donation for protests, publicity and other ways to bring attention to themselves in order to essentially try and make animals like people by declassifying them as property (pets), food, clothes, etc.

How to Get Involved

I urge readers and potential donators to really look into their charity of choice. There is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding surrounding big charities, and it is your responsibility to make sure you understand what that charity stands for, how it plans to make a difference, and how your donation is used. Sites such as Charitynavigator.org can help you get a better understanding of specific charities, but If you really want to make most of your donation go towards actual aid for animals instead of advertisements and other expenses, I would highly recommend donating to your local shelters.

Works Cited

“About PETA.” PETA About PETA. PETA.org People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, n.d. Web. 03 June 2015.

“Animal Cruelty – The Humane Society of the United States.” YouTube. YouTube, 27 Dec. 2012. Web. 03 June 2015.

“Grants and Other Assistance to Organizations, Governments, and Individuals in the U.S.” (2 “American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) | Funding Sources, Staff Profiles, and Political Agenda | Activist FactsActivist Facts.” Activist Facts. Center for Organizational Research and Education, n.d. Web. 02 June 2015.008): n. pag. Humanewatch.org. Center for Consumer Freedom, 2008. Web.

“HumaneWatch | What Today’s Polling Numbers Mean.” HumaneWatch. Center for Consumer Freedom, 2 Mar. 2010. Web. 02 June 2015.

“Online Animal Reporting.” (n.d.): n. pag. Virginia.gov. The Commonwealth of Virginia, 17 Feb. 2010. Web.

Bavota, C. “Welfare vs. Rights.” Animal Welfare Council. Animal Welfare Council, 2015. Web. 03 June 2015.

Winograd, Nathan J. “Frankenstein’s Monster.” The Truth About ASPCA : Nathan J Winograd. N.p., 29 Aug. 2014. Web. 02 June 2015.

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2 comments

  1. Daniel Parks

    Thank you, Eli! This was a very informative post. I’ll admit, I was one of those that never really gave much thought to how donations were being handled, always assuming only the best of intentions. It is very true though, about the organizations that you hear so much about, the reason for that is the amount of money spent on advertising. TV commercials and mass mailers are extremely expensive, let alone the cost of legal support and paying full-time staff. It seems wrong to put people’s donations towards such expenses, but if you think about it, being a ‘non-profit’ means that is the only way they can continue to operate. One large disagreement I have with many non-profits is the huge amount of money the upper administration makes in salary. I know everyone needs to make ends meet, but for an organization where ‘profits’ are from people donating to support a specific cause, raking in higher six-figure incomes.

    I like your suggestion to donate directly to local shelters. They are often overworked and underfunded, yet do a ton of good for the animals in the community. Even if you don’t have the monetary means to give money, merely giving of your time can be a huge show of support for all the work they do. The large organizations get all the publicity and financial support, but barely any of it trickles down to the men and women on the front line, doing the majority of the work. Put your money where it makes a real difference!

  2. Eli, thank you for your incredibly informative post. I, for one, was not aware of the differences between animal welfare and animal rights. It is interesting to me that so much of the money raised for animal rights campaigns goes towards funding protests, with marginal amounts going towards the animals they are fighting to have rights for.

    Your suggestion of donating directly to animal charities is wise. As you stated, your donation does not need to be financial but merely a few hours out of your day to help directly benefit the animals in need. Thank you for your post, Eli!

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