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Tapping our collective spirit

From Animal Sheltering magazine January/February 2017

Wayne Pacelle and his adopted dog, Lily

At The HSUS, our mission is to help all animals. It’s a life calling for me and for my colleagues, who are stirred to act whenever there’s a crisis for animals.

But with a dizzying array of challenging animal problems confronting us here and around the globe, it’s not a cause that can succeed with only a limited pool of supporters. Success requires a mass movement—an ensemble cast of characters putting their distinct talents and networks to work for the larger good.

This is the reason I spend so much of my time making the case—to the public, to prospective donors, to writers, to legislators, to corporate executives—about the urgency of these topics and the vital role that individuals can play in driving transformational change. The good news is that so many people of conscience are standing up and demanding more just treatment of animals, both wild and domesticated.

Our influence is grounded not only in the strength of our moral argument, but also on appeals to economic and social self-interest. In our world today, when we do the right thing for animals, it’s often the right thing for businesses, for governments and for us as individuals.

When we bring down dogfighting rings, we not only halt cruelty to animals, but we make the entire community safer from people whose violent deeds are not confined to the fighting pit or even to the animal kingdom. When we hold animal abusers to account, we take a bite out of spousal or child abuse, because statistics tell us that these forms of interpersonal violence are intertwined. When we put a stop to factory farming practices, we allow animals to live better lives, but we also minimize threats to public health and stop the polluting of our land and water.

It’s critical that we never relent in our outreach, operating with the assumption that there are good people everywhere. Our Pets for Life work is now broadening as our staff mentors groups in other cities, spreading the model of outreach to historically underserved communities. Our Rural Area Veterinary Services program goes into the most isolated rural regions of our nation, and does similar work in faraway places. In our work against factory farming, we pull in people concerned about the rights of workers, the health of the environment, and public health and human welfare.

Everywhere we go, we find not only willing partners, but a vast—and sometimes still untapped—network of animal lovers who are ready and willing to help, and often just need to be asked, to be told that they are valued and needed and to be persuaded of the value they can bring to the cause.

As always, I want The HSUS to lead, to show a way forward—and also to professionalize our field. Our ongoing commitment to Animal Sheltering magazine, which for nearly 40 years has gathered the voices of experts to create a collection of the best, most helpful information for sheltering and rescue groups, is part of my belief that mentoring has power.

The help is reciprocal. Shelters and rescues have stepped up time after time to help us place animals we’ve rescued from hoarders or puppy mills. With every case, we see the ways in which many hands are required to get the job done and to deliver animals a better world.

There will always be some tensions, some points of conflict in our work—with different circumstances and strategies shaping our thinking and our responses. But our watchwords must be collaboration and cooperation. We must lock arms, even when it’s a struggle. It’s what our supporters expect, and it’s the pathway for success for all of us. It’s our spirit of togetherness that keeps me going when the vast problems facing animals around the globe feel overwhelming. When we charge ahead, we don’t travel alone.

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About the Author

Wayne Pacelle is the former President and Chief Executive Officer of The Humane Society of the United States. Under Pacelle's leadership, The HSUS has been approved by the Better Business Bureau for all 20 standards for charity accountability, voted by Guidestar's Philanthropedia experts as the #1 high-impact animal protection group, named by Worth Magazine as one of the 10 most fiscally responsible charities, and is ranked in the top 10 for nonprofit brands.