A massive mosaic of five Times Square billboards went up today at the corner of Seventh Avenue and 48th Street, highlighting the deceptive fundraising practices of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), America’s richest animal rights group. Sponsored by the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), the billboard collage promotes HumaneWatch.org, CCF’s watchdog website devoted to scrutinizing HSUS’s activities. Despite most Americans’ belief to the contrary, HSUS is not a national umbrella group that represents community-based humane societies, and it shares less than one percent of its income with underfunded pet shelters at the local level.

Photos of the Times Square billboards are available here. The enormous outdoor installation is part of HumaneWatch’s campaign challenging HSUS to put charitable contributions to work doing what its donors expect: funding the care of homeless dogs and cats like those in HSUS’s television ads.

A national poll conducted in 2010 by Opinion Research Corporation found that 59 percent of Americans falsely believe HSUS “contributes most of its money to local organizations that care for dogs and cats.”But according to its publicly available tax filings, in 2008 and 2009 HSUS shared less than 1 percent of its income with those hands-on pet shelters.

HSUS raised $97 million in 2009, mostly from Americans who thought their donations would filter down to local pet shelters. Instead, that money supports a payroll bigger than that of the White House, lobbyists in more than 40 states, nearly three dozen full-time lawyers, a bloated executive pension plan, and exorbitant fundraising expenses. Ironically, Americans who want to help the puppies and kittens in HSUS’s television ads should instead donate to pet shelters in their own communities.

CCF has pledged to shut down its popular HumaneWatch.org website if HSUS guarantees to give just 50 percent of its income to hands-on U.S. pet shelters. So far HSUS has refused to acknowledge this challenge or respond to it.