Who knew Leona Helmsley, the legendary “Queen of Mean,” had a soft spot for dogs that measured eight billion dollars wide? And who could have guessed that there were people among us whose greed and cunning surpassed hers? As the executors of Helmsley’s gargantuan estate are about to find out, America’s two largest animal rights groups are drooling like Pavlovian mutts at the prospect of cashing in on a new cache of doggy dollars. And there is no worse place for a massive animal welfare endowment to wind up.
Helmsley’s money, which may amount to as much as $400 million in grants every year, “could make such a difference,” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) president Ingrid Newkirk told the Associated Press yesterday.
[Newkirk] said at least 3 million dogs are put to death each year for lack of spay and neuter programs. “Many people cannot afford the surgery for their dogs,” she said.
Last year, PETA raised $30 million. With all of this money, it managed to spay or neuter just 6,341 dogs and cats. (PETA also killed 1,997 pets while finding adoptive homes for just 17.) This is an organization for whom fixing the pet overpopulation problem isn’t a top priority. It’s more interested in ending AIDS research, demonizing carnivores, and targeting children for vegetarian indoctrination. If the executors of Helmsley’s estate were looking for a place to invest pet-protection dollars, they could hardly do worse.
Unless, of course, they considered the record of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Here’s HSUS president Wayne Pacelle’s wish-list for the money, as he explained to Britain’s Press Association:
“You could solve the pet overpopulation problem. You could attack dogfighting. You could attack rabies in China and India, where there are tens of thousands of cases a year. You could take care of dogs left behind in disasters.”
Let’s see … Pet overpopulation? Probably best solved by the people who run hands-on pet shelters. And despite its name, the Humane Society of the United States doesn’t operate a single one anywhere.
Dogfighting? Already illegal, and HSUS has already misled the public with dogfighting-related fundraising.
China and India? Not exactly the purview of the Humane Society of the United States.
Pets left behind in disasters? The last “big one,” Hurricane Katrina, netted HSUS more than $32 million in fundraising, and an investigation by the Louisiana Attorney General has focused on where that money actually went. (We still don’t know.)
Pacelle also hinted in a press release yesterday that enriching HSUS with Helmsley’s money would help ensure needy dog and cat shelters get the funds they desperately need:
“While there are 10,000 or so humane organizations in this country, many are poorly funded and overwhelmed by the daily burdens they face. Robust giving by Helmsley’s trustees can remedy this problem, and in a major way.”
Robust giving, yes. But not to HSUS. A look at the group’s latest federal income tax return and some quick math suggests that less than five percent of its budget found its way to actual “humane societies” and other shelters—the very organizations many of HSUS’s donors believe they are actually supporting with their contributions.
Here’s a modest proposal for the Helmsley estate: Establish a new national Humane Society, an umbrella group devoted solely to distributing money to local pet shelters. No stealth campaigns aimed at winning legal “rights” for chimps, cows, and elephants. Just a real national Humane Society. We’ve had a pretend one for years. Maybe it’s time for the real thing.