It is long overdue.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy is reporting that “The Board of Directors of the Humane Society of the United States, the nation’s most influential animal-welfare group, has hired a Washington law firm to investigate an allegation of workplace misconduct against its longtime chief executive, Wayne Pacelle…

“Among the topics, insiders say, is an alleged sexual relationship between Mr. Pacelle and a female employee.”

“Among the topics” suggests there are others. That’s not surprising as it’s not the first time he and others at HSUS have been accused. “Former HSUS-National Council member Arthur Benjamin has also faced four separate lawsuits for sexual misconduct. Claims against former HSUS vice-president Paul Shapiro were made last week.” I also know a woman who had to fend off Pacelle’s unwanted sexual advances. And there’s more.

“The organization has a long history of sexual harassment, starting from the top,” notes a review on Glass Door. “It is truly a boy’s club atmosphere. Many people have complained to HR, managers, and others, and no one is listening. It is a serious problem! Stop pretending that it doesn’t exist and hope it goes away. Really take a serious look into the sexual harassment claims.”

Another review states that: “The attractive women that have bragged about sleeping with the CEO are given promotions and huge pay raises. These women are given preferential treatment by management and HR.”

His deplorable conduct and the harm it has caused is not new. And for animals, it’s been deadly.

This is a man who demanded that Michael Vick’s victims — the dogs Vick violently abused — be killed, but that Vick himself be forgiven and given his job back;

This is a man who fought the No Kill movement for years;

Who called for the round up and killing of community cats;

Who defended abusive pounds;

Who fought legislation to keep animals from convicted animal abusers because he did not want convicted animal abusers stigmatized;

Who fought shelter reform legislation including laws that would have banned the gas chamber, heartsticking, and convenience killing;

Who fundraised off the work of others;

And who admitted he doesn’t live with animals or particularly like them.

After years of undermining the cause he is paid $380,000 a year to perform, he may finally be held accountable for his behavior — not because he betrayed animals as he has time and time again, but because of his treatment of people.

Given that the Board of Directors has long been a look-the-other-way, do-nothing rubber stamp for Pacelle, why the change of heart? Why have they opened an investigation?

Perhaps it is that the reckoning on sexual misconduct occurring in society at large can no longer be ignored by the animal protection movement. Perhaps. But my money is on…. well, money. The actions of HSUS leadership are finally starting to impact donations.

A Tofurky spokesperson announced that it might withdraw funding from HSUS. “Moving forward, I will not be donating to groups that have known chronic problems with sexual harassment and/or gender discrimination, whether it be problem individuals or chronic patterns of organizational behavior. Too many women have left the animal movement due to these issues. It must stop.”

That’s true. It must stop. People deserve protection. But so do animals. And that is the cruel irony here. So long as he was making money, the Board of Directors at HSUS were willing to look the other way. They no longer can.

They, and the animal activists who defended Pacelle, may finally learn the very lesson the movement has been claiming for decades; that there is a link between animal abuse and abuse of people.

“The Link,” as it is often called, seems to go both ways.

Jan. 30, 2018 Update: The Washington Post is reporting on the details and they are disturbing. Not only because there are multiple complaints leading to a “toxic environment” and not only because how wretched Pacelle’s behavior has been, but because of the impact on animal protection:

“The people briefed on the investigation said they worried that money going to address Pacelle’s actions was misdirected from protecting wildlife.

“One woman said she received a settlement from the Humane Society after she complained about Pacelle’s alleged girlfriend joining her team without proper qualifications and was shut out of work opportunities, according to the memo.

“Two more received payouts after they leveled retaliation charges against the organization, asserting they lost their jobs after speaking up about Pacelle’s office romance and sexual behavior in the office, according to the memo.”


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