What to do, what to do?

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What is a person to do? You want to support animals, you want to provide shelter and medicine and safe harbor. You want to prohibit the mistreatment of animals, whether they are pets or livestock, but you don’t want to do it in such a way as to threaten the existence of – or the human relationship with – those species or breeds.

Think globally, act locally.

This has been a fascinating winter and spring. The Center for Consumer Freedom decided to take on the Humane Society of the United States, then Feld Entertainment (Ringling Brothers)  decided to file a RICO suit against HSUS, and another group orchestrated a bombardment of the IRS with letters and ‘documentation’ alleging fraud perpetrated by the HSUS.

(I looked on a variety of news sites, and Googled if five different ways but couldn’t come up with an unbiased news site that had information about the suit. Agribusiness sites could barely contain themselves… but no one else seems to know it exists.)

I’m no fan of either HSUS or PETA – both are far too extreme for my tastes. But I do understand the raw emotion they have tapped into – now if only they could be more transparent regarding where the money goes every time they make pleas for donations, and if only I could believe that the welfare of the animals was the primary concern.

For the record – PETA’s kill rate of the animals it has taken to its Norfolk, VA shelter is staggeringly high, some sources suggesting 80-90 percent of all of the animals they take in are euthanized. And I don’t appreciate any organization that seems to believe that my dogs deserve better than to be part of my family.

HSUS does NOT operate your local Humane Society. They do operate a few animal sanctuaries, but they are not a local sheltering organization. They typically charge local shelters to consult on how the local shelter might be improved. A few grants go to a few shelters each year.

But to side with CCF is just as problematic. 60 Minutes ran an expose of the driving force behind CCF. The wiki entry for CCF (which reads as though Berman wrote it himself) doesn’t even (at this writing) mention the Morley Safer interview.

Additional sites discussing CCF include:

http://www.consumerdeception.com/public.asp

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/unleashed/2010/02/new-center-for-consumer-freedom-website-targets-humane-society-of-the-united-states.html

http://www.organicconsumers.org/organic/anti_organic_consumer_group.cfm

http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/politics&id=4140447

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Rick_Berman

and  more.

Oh, and before you get too excited about anything over at activistcash.com  — read the About Us page. That’s CCF, too.

In all fairness, there are many issues that I have with the way HSUS does business. They have become top-heavy and too much of a bully, with an elephant-like my-way-or-the-highway attitude.

Not all of the funds donated in several recent disasters have been fully accounted for, at least not to the public, and too often it appears that their main focus is  publicity rather than the animals.

I wish that they would focus on the  mission of promoting the safety and welfare of animals in the United States rather than the welfare of the HSUS.

So, what to do?

Think globally, act locally.

Most communities have a local shelter. Is yours well-staffed? Do they need volunteers, food, equipment? Do they have a website, rescue contacts, pictures to post of the strays brought in? Is the shelter one with a high kill rate or does it call itself a No-Kill shelter – and what is their definition of no-kill? (Some shelters call themselves no-kill if they don’t kill any *easily* adoptable animals, but won’t work with rescues to help dogs that might have medical or behavioral problems). Other shelters call themselves no-kill and never kill any animal – even those with such severe issues that euthanasia would be a true mercy.

If you are uncomfortable with your local shelter, your county extension agent may know of some group with which you could volunteer or donate goods or time. So some kids need chaperones for a visit with their class to a farm? If your local vet does rescue, does he/she need help walking the dogs or doing behavior assessments? If there is a specific breed that you work with, your regional or national club has a rescue affiliate, they are always in need of volunteers or cash or both.

Your state animal health division may also be able to direct you to where the greatest needs are within your state or what regulations are under consideration. If legislators need to be contacted, they will be far more amenable to comments from their own constituents than to out-of-staters trying to impose their views on your state.

If your community is drafting animal regulations, ask questions. Why are they doing it, what laws already exist, are they enforceable and are they being enforced? If not, why not?

There are lots of ways to get involved on the local or state level, and there are hundreds of organizations that are deserving of your support. In creating massive national organizations, we tend to create organizations more committed to their own perpetuation than to their original cause (and I would love not to be so cynical, but would need evidence to convince me otherwise).

Heck, even the AKC better served purebred dogs when it was less worried about its own real estate and upper management.

I have no faith at all in either CCF or HSUS – but I have a local shelter and a regional rescue that will each receive my time and support. And I will continue to work within my state (and my neighbor’s, when invited) to improve the living conditions for dogs in so-called commercial kennels.

And if we’re really lucky, CCF and HSUS will expose each other for exactly what each is, rendering both as insubstantial as the straw many arguments they use.

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