Articles HSUS

Going Rogue

Wayne Pacelle’s rewriting of history adds another to his growing list of disturbing titles

Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, is many things: a dog killer such as when he lobbied the court to kill puppies and other dogs in Wilkes County, NC. He is an embracer of dog killers such as when he made the most notorious animal abuser of our generation a spokesman for HSUS, without asking for anything substantive in return such as the names and locations of other dog fighters. He is an apologist for killing who has referred to No Kill as hoarding in Newsweek, attacked No Kill on the pages of USA Today, and steadfastly defended shelters that kill against reformers trying to save lives, as he did in King County (WA). He is a thief, stealing the money that belongs to other groups by fundraising off of their work and success and trying to pass it off as his own as he recently did with the “Faye Fundraising Debacle.” Thanks to his latest blog, add “revisionist historian” to his growing list of disturbing titles. For those who prefer plain speaking, it means Wayne Pacelle is also a liar.

His recent blog post on the issue of No Kill is nothing less than a fanciful depiction of the World According to Pacelle (WAP), a work of fiction that is only rivaled in its sheer magnitude of truth avoidance by “Going Rogue,” Sarah Palin’s excursion into the absurd.

In the WAP, Wayne Pacelle says that the “trend [toward lifesaving] is moving in the right direction, with the pro-sterilization campaigns launched by The HSUS and others in the 1970s” being responsible for the drop in U.S. pound killing rates. In fact, the drop in killing is the result of the implementation of many programs—all of which HSUS opposed. They even opposed the “pro-sterilization campaigns” Pacelle cites as the primary reason for the decline.

As I document in my book, Redemption, the so-called “leaders” of the companion animal protection movement met in 1974 to discuss solutions to what they called the “surplus dog and cat problem,” a full three years after a local group in Los Angeles had launched the first municipally funded low cost spay/neuter clinic in the U.S. for the companion animals of low income households. At the 1974 meeting that included representatives from HSUS, ASPCA, the American Humane Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the American Kennel Club, HSUS put out a statement opposing municipally funded and shelter run low cost spay/neuter clinics, siding with veterinarians who did not want any threat to their profits (ignoring that the clinics were being used by poor people who would not otherwise sterilize their animals).

Tragically, after the “leaders” met again in 1976, and despite the report from a representative of the Los Angeles clinics that they were having great success at reducing impounds and killing, HSUS once again sided with the AVMA and opposed low-cost spay/neuter programs.

Until 2006, HSUS also opposed feral cat Trap-Neuter-Release programs, arguing that it was tantamount to “subsidized abandonment,” and that caretakers should be arrested and prosecuted for violating anti-cruelty laws, they opposed offsite adoptions calling them “sidewalk giveaways,” and they opposed working with rescue groups, arguing in the 1990s that killing was preferable because animals get “stressed” when they are transferred to rescue groups.

In the WAP, Pacelle also says that when No Kill is achieved, “among the celebrants will be the leaders of shelters.” There are many problems with this fictional statement. First of all, we would be No Kill today, but for “the leaders of shelters” who find killing easier than doing what is necessary to stop it. Second, it makes it seem that No Kill will be achieved by others and then “the leaders of shelters” can just celebrate. In fact, to be a No Kill nation requires “the leaders of shelters” to stop killing, a power they now have if they implement the programs and services of the No Kill Equation, programs HSUS has historically opposed and which many of “the leaders of shelters” oppose to this very day. Third, to be a No Kill nation, “the leaders of shelters” will no longer be “the leaders of shelters” because they are the roadblocks to success and they will have been removed.

With all due respect to Robin Starr, his focus on the Richmond, VA experience, which is working toward No Kill but is not there yet, shows that Pacelle is also not willing to admit that No Kill has been achieved. Tompkins County (NY), under my leadership, was the first in 2002—it has saved at least 92% of all animals every year since. Charlottesville (VA) and other communities across the country have also since achieved No Kill success. But in WAP, it is like No Kill has not been achieved. It is like the keys to ending the killing have not been discovered. To this very day, Pacelle wants to intentionally mislead his readers into thinking that No Kill is something only for the future, rather than what it is: something any community can achieve today precisely because many community have already done so. Because if he tells the truth, the reality is that I have to be added to his list of No Kill “pioneers.”

This isn’t an exercise in self-indulgence, it is a reality. I was, after all, the first animal control director in history who ever achieved it. In 2002, despite animal control contracts that made Tompkins the proverbial open door shelter, we saved 93% of all Tompkins animals: 100% of all healthy animals (dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, hamsters, gerbils, mice, even chickens, horses and “exotic” animals) treatable animals, and healthy and treatable feral cats, the first community in the nation to do so.   [I might also mention that when the Richmond SPCA was transitioning from animal control to private shelter, I was their primary contact at the San Francisco SPCA and spent hours on the telephone with Robin Starr’s staff giving them the advice and information needed to successfully embrace the No Kill philosophy.]

But in WAP, Pacelle can’t give me any credit, or credit for causing him to write the blog in the first-place, because to do so would be to acknowledge me and my contributions to the movement, to admit he was and is wrong, and to tell his kill-oriented “leaders of shelters” that No Kill can be achieved and it can be achieved in open admission animal control shelters, but for their own untoward practices and intentional failure—none of which Pacelle has the constitution or integrity to do.

What his blog post shows he can do—and is so easily and quick to do—is to change facts and rewrite history so that he, his organization, and his colleagues are not held accountable. In other words, he is willing to lie. And the timing could not be more transparent: It comes on the heel of yet another major HSUS scandal, “The Faye Fundraising Debacle,” and the recent release of my new book, which calls HSUS to the carpet once again for their killing orientation despite lip service to the No Kill movement. And once again, Pacelle proves me right.

But despite these deficits, there is a silver lining. In 2004, Pacelle and others created the “Asilomar Accords,” a statement of principles and guidelines that he billed as the future of the movement: the ground rules in the WAP. In that future, the term “No Kill” is not allowed by any groups as “divisive.” In fact, HSUS’ Vice-President for Companion Animals traveled the country telling groups they could no longer use the term. How did that work out for Pacelle? As Jon Stewart from the Daily Show likes to say, “Not so much.”

Not only does his blog post show that the Asilomar Accords are officially acknowledged to be dead (they were actually D.O.A., showing that Pacelle has a hard time seeing the obvious), it shows that he is under tremendous pressure from the grassroots. It shows that despite the size, wealth, and media presence of HSUS, we have the power to bring Pacelle to his knees. It shows that the No Kill movement, despite his attempts, is making such tremendous progress he has no choice but to modify his language, again.

He doesn’t say that No Kill is warehousing as he did to Newsweek earlier this year. He doesn’t say that No Kill is succeeding because of HSUS’ disastrous legislative approach, as he did the last time he blogged about No Kill. And, for the first time ever, he doesn’t rely on the fiction of “pet overpopulation.” In fact, the term “pet overpopulation” doesn’t appear once in the blog.

But there is little reason to celebrate that HSUS is changing. We’ve heard this before, just last year, which was quickly followed by the embrace of killing in Tangipahoa Parish, LA, Wilkes County, NC, and elsewhere.   Recognizing that his language is changing is not even real progress. This is nothing more than an attempt at self-preservation.

When Wayne Pacelle took over as head of the Humane Society of the United States, he was given a trust that he has violated again and again and again and again. Try as he might to rewrite his own sordid history with one blog post, it is too little, too late, and too insincere. Right now, the head of the nation’s largest animal protection organization is a dog killer, an apologist for dog killers, an embracer of animal abusers, a thief, and a liar. Don’t we and the animals deserve better?

Wayne Pacelle must go.

“Hat tip,” to once again.