By Erica Gaudet Hughes, Executive Director, State Humane Association of California
The State Humane Association of California, on May 3, 2011, filed a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General against the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), alleging unfair and deceptive fundraising practices which harm local humane societies and SPCAs. The complaint alleges that ASPCA capitalizes on and intentionally reinforces the widely held, mistaken belief that it is a parent or umbrella organization to the thousands of humane societies and SPCAs across the country.
In reality, the ASPCA operates only one animal shelter and that shelter is in New York City. While it does fund projects in California, such expenditure is insignificant in comparison to the amount of money the organization raises in this state. For example, according to the ASPCA, it received $116.5 million in revenue in 2009. However, in 2010, California received only a total of only $352,100 from the ASPCA. That is only .03% of the ASPCA income, while California represents 13% of the national economy and undoubtedly donates proportionately to the ASPCA, especially based upon the targeted ASPCA solicitations in this state.
Most of us are familiar with the ASPCA’s commercials featuring Grammy-award-winning musician, singer, and songwriter Sarah McLachlan and comedian Dan Aykroyd. The commercials feature heartbreaking images of abused and neglected animals as a backdrop to their compelling plea for donations. However, the commercials do not reveal that the ASPCA is not directly affiliated with any of the thousands of humane societies and SPCAs across the country.
Since such aggressive fundraising by the ASPCA in Califiornia began several years ago, humane societies and SPCAs throughout the country have suffered. Erica Gaudet Hughes, Executive Director of the State Humane Association of California, explained, “Our member humane societies and SPCAs frequently report hearing from people who gave to the ASPCA believing they were giving to their local shelter. We believe they are missing out on funds that were intended for them and which they need badly to care for the thousands of local homeless, sick and injured animals in their care.”
The State Humane Association of California does not take issue with the work done by the ASPCA and has been involved in cooperative efforts with them. SHAC simply wants the ASPCA to stop capitalizing on and reinforcing public confusion regarding its relationship to local SPCAs and humane societies.
“Our member SPCAs and humane societies do not wish to stop the ASPCA from fulfilling its mission. They just want the public to understand that when they give to the ASPCA, local SPCAs and humane societies do not receive a direct or significant benefit for local animals in need.”