A prominent U.S. charity is boasting that it has raised over $5.5 million in the past week to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It’s not the American Red Cross (a very worthwhile recipient of your donations). It’s the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), a gigantic animal rights group whose $113 million in assets is apparently not enough to provide adequately for pets displaced by Katrina. For $5.5 million, you’d expect HSUS to be flying rescue choppers over New Orleans, plucking thousands of puppies and kittens from rooftops. But the group reports in a press release: "So far, The HSUS has helped to rescue more than 300 animals in Louisiana and Mississippi, including dogs, cats, ferrets, and a seal."
CBS News reports that the Houston SPCA has rescued nearly 1,000 animals and sent them to a temporary shelter near the Astrodome. The Houston Chronicle reports that the Louisiana SPCA is handling an additional 700. According to the Guidestar nonprofit directory, the two organizations’ combined resources are less than 8 percent of HSUS’s $95 million annual budget. And the Petfinder service notes that the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine in Baton Rouge is sheltering another 600 animals — without anything close to a $5.5 million payoff.
Presuming that HSUS’s claim of helping "more than 300" animals means somewhere between 300 and 320, that translates to more than $17,000 for every animal rescued. The Salvation Army (another worthwhile charity) writes that a $100 donation "will feed a family of four for two days [and] provide two cases of drinking water." Perhaps HSUS has decided that a ferret’s life is worth 160 times the assistance required by its owner and his entire family.
And HSUS isn’t stopping with ferrets. The Decatur (AL) Daily News reports that shortly after Katrina hit, HSUS representatives began calling Alabama newspaper reporters to find out how many chickens needed help. "They wanted to come here and capture any chickens running loose and homeless," state veterinarian Tony Frazier told the Daily News. "They were going to find homes for the chickens."
Not all animal rights groups are angling for a hurricane-sized payday in Katrina’s wake. Some, like the PETA-affiliated Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), are just looking for cheap publicity. The quasi-medical PCRM issued a news statement on Sunday that criticized relief workers for "forcing evacuees to choose between their possessions and their companion animals" and warned that leaving pets behind is against the law in Louisiana. While charities like the American Medical Association and AmeriCares are urgently alleviating human suffering, PCRM — as usual — seems more concerned about animals than people.