All About the Humane Society Fund

dog in kennel
Dr. Linda Janowitz checks on some of the dogs at the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA  in San Mateo, California. See more pictures of pets.
David Paul Morris/Getty Images

When most people think of the Humane Society, they imagine rows and rows of caged dogs and cats waiting for someone to adopt them and take them home. While the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) does work to support local animal shelters -- and dogs and cats -- its work encompasses much more than that. The motto of the HSUS is "Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty," four simple words that illustrate a complex organization.

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­There are thousands of animal species all over the world, and the HSUS works directly or indirectly to save, protect or rescue just about all of them. And it works globally, not just in the United States, including with animals found in the depths of the oceans. Some of the animals the HSUS provides help for are involved in rodeos, racing, circuses, zoos, research, hunting, food, fashion, puppy mills and aquariums. And that's not even close to a complete list.­ ­

The HSUS also works with domestic pets and provides support to local animal shelters and animal-control professionals. The organization is constantly presenting pieces of legislation -- locally and nationally -- to outlaw cruelty to animals. In the event of a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina or the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia, the HSUS has a disaster team ready to travel to the area and help rescue animals. It even has a program in place for homeowners to learn to coexist with backyard neighbors like squirrels, raccoons and mice.

So are there programs successful? What has the HSUS accomplished in its relatively short existence? How did this nonprofit organization get started, and how does it stay in business?­




The History of the Humane Society

Feeding and watering a horse
July 1963: A horse that gives tourists rides through Central Park is being fed by an ASPCA and Humane Society worker during a summer heat wave.
Arthur Schatz/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

­The Humane Society wasn't the first organization to work toward helping anima­ls. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded in 1866. It was the first organization of its kind in the United States, but it wasn't the last -- over the next decade, several similar organizations came into existence [source: Learning to Give]. In 1877, delegates from 27 of these humane organizations across 10 states banded together to form the American Humane Association (AHA). Its main priority was to help farm animals and improve the conditions of their lives [source: American Humane Society].

The AHA worked for more than 65 years to help animals throughout the United States. But in 1954, a rift arose among its members. There was great debate about animals that were abandoned at animal shelters and had little to no hope of being adopted. Some members of the AHA wanted those animals turned over to laboratories for research. Others felt that was cruel and went against what they were fighting for -- those members broke off from the AHA and started the Humane Society of the United States. Robert J. Chenoweth was selected to lead the new organization, and Oliver M. Evans was chosen as its first director.


The primary goal of the HSUS was to eliminate all animal cruelty throughout the world, not just in particular areas. Its first fight was against legislation that would require shelters to turn over animals for scientific research. The next 50 years saw a myriad of accomplishments from the HSUS in several fields:

  • Legislation: Because of HSUS campaigns, the United States government and other governments have passed animal-rights legislation. These laws do everything from protecting endangered species to making it illegal to treat research animals inhumanely.
  • Education: Several HSUS programs focus on educating people of all ages on the humane treatment of animals and responsible pet ownership. Examples are the "Be a P.A.L. (Prevent a Litter)" campaign on the importance of spaying and neutering pets and the "Shame of Fur" campaigns on the treatment of animals in the fur industry.
  • Preservation: In 1995, the HSUS established the HSUS Wildlife Land Trust in order to protect wildlife and habitats around the globe.

Today, the HSUS is based in Washington, D.C., with nine regional offices, eight affiliates and an international arm. There are 569 paid staff members -- including veterinarians, biologists, and behaviorists -- as well as the volunteers that work throughout the country. The Humane Society is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, which keeps the business running the same way other nonprofits do: through donations and fundraising. It boasts nearly 10 million members and constituents and saw total revenue of more than $100 million in 2006, with more than $91 million coming directly from public support [source: HSUS].

While the Humane Society of the United States has done a lot to help animals in need in the past, it's up to some pretty cool activities right now. In the next section, we'll take a look at some of the HSUS' current programs.



Humane Society Programs

Rescuing dogs during Hurricane Katrina
Racelle Carlson from the Arizona Humane Society leads two rescued dogs from a flooded neighborhood in New Orleans, La., to a processing area where the dogs will be examined, fed and evacuated to area shelters on September 6, 2005.
Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

As we talked about in the last section, the HSUS has had many accomplishments over the years. In the 21st century, the organization has kept its momentum going. Here are two programs that have launched in the last few years:

  • The Cleveland Armory Black Beauty Ranch: Located in eastern Texas, the ranch serves as a sanctuary for more than 1,300 injured or mistreated animals. There are two other wildlife centers, one in Cape Cod, Mass., and the other in Southern California. The HSUS' sanctuaries provide homes to more animals than any other animal rights group in the United States.
  • The Rural Area Veterinary Services (RAVS): This program gives veterinary care to animals whose owners might not be able to afford it and to animal owners who may not be near veterinary care. In 2006, around 1,000 volunteer veterinarians and students offered their services. They gave more than $1.3 million worth of free care to 40,000 animals [source: HSUS].

Along with these new programs, the HSUS had some major achievements in 2007, in several areas of concern. To someone not well schooled in the animal cruelty trade, some of these areas may be surprising. These are some of the animal rights advances that took place because of HSUS programs and lobbying:


  • Animal fighting: The U.S. Congress passed a bill making dogfighting and cockfighting a felony.
  • Animals in research: The National Institutes of Health stopped breeding chimpanzees for research.
  • Disaster relief: Staff and volunteers helped to save 1,000 animals during the California wildfires
  • Factory farming: Oregon outlawed cruel confinement of farm animals.
  • Fur: A continuing investigation revealed dog fur imported from China and garments labeled as fake fur that contain real fur.
  • Horse slaughter: Illinois banned horse slaughter, and the three remaining horse slaughter facilities in the United States closed.
  • Hunting: Several states banned Internet hunting.
  • Puppy mills: The HSUS worked closely with law enforcement to expose puppy mills throughout the United States [source: HSUS].

Humane Society International also persuaded the European Union to ban the trade of cat and dog fur and elephant ivory and continued to monitor seal hunts that take place in Canada.

Toy cat made with real cat fur
Humane Society International (HSI) spokesperson Nicola Beynon displays a toy cat purchased in Sydney, Australia whose face is made of real cat fur, at a press conference on July 10, 2003.
Greg Wood/AFP/Getty Images

The HSUS works diligently to improve the welfare of animals around the globe, but it can't possibly be everywhere all at once. For this reason, the Humane Society teams up with other animal-rights groups and services to accomplish its mission. In the next section, we'll take a look at the HSUS' relationship with those other groups.


The Humane Society and Other Animal Groups

Protestors march against seal hunting.
Demonstrators hold signs to protest against the slaughter of harp seals on March 15, 2006, in Washington, D.C. The Canadian commercial seal hunt is the largest marine mammal slaughter in the world.
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

­The HSUS supports many animal rights groups. It's affiliated with eight specific organizations: the Humane Society Legislative Fund, the Doris Day Animal League, the Humane Society Youth, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society University, The Fund for Animals, the Center for Respect of Life and Environment, and the Wildlife Land Trust.

You'll notice that none of these are animal shelters. While many people associate the Humane Society with local shelters, the two may not have anything to do with one another. The HSUS works to support local humane societies and has become their most important advocate. In 1960, local shelters began to affiliate with the HSUS, but they had to measure up to some very strict standards of operation [source: Funding Universe]. The HSUS wanted to ensure the organizations it was helping were truly looking out for the best welfare of animals. However, even if the HSUS is affiliated with a local shelter, that shelter remains an independent entity, with its own policies, rules and priorities.


Local humane societies that meet the standards of the HSUS receive some serious perks. The HSUS works to give its local shelters:

  • Animal Services Consultation (ASC) programs providing in-depth training and recommendations for evacuations
  • An assortment of training programs
  • Access to its bi-monthly magazine and Web site
  • Education for citizens wishing to support their local shelters
  • Classroom support for education programs in schools
  • Discounts on products and services
  • Disaster assistance by way of evacuation, recovery and rebuilding
  • Spay and neuter programs
  • Fundraising and other financial assistance

So although affiliation with the HSUS requires a shelter to meet rigid requirements, the shelter gets help and support that it wouldn't be able to find elsewhere. For more information on the Humane Society of the United States, local animal shelters and related topics, follow the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links

  • 2006: Together We Changed Lives. The Humane Society.
  • 2006 HSUS Annual Report.
  • About the Humane Society.
  • Celebrity Support. The Humane Society.
  • Courson, Paul. "Humane Society blasted for late release of video in beef recall." CNN.
  • Hood, Chayse. "The Humane Society." Indiana University. Learning to Give.
  • "How American Humane Began." American Humane.
  • "How is the HSUS Affiliated With My Local Humane Society?"
  • HSUS Awards Ceremonies.
  • The Humane Society of the United States. Frequently Asked Questions.
  • "The Humane Society of the United States." Funding Universe.
  • The Humane Society of the United States. History.
  • Mieszkowski, Katherine. "Extreme facts of animal cruelty."
  • Pacelle's Dozen: The Top 12 HSUS Animal Stories of 2005.
  • Pacelle, Wayne. "Winning the Fight for Animals in 07."
  • Statements of Policy. The Humane Society.