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Winning combinations

From Animal Sheltering magazine March/April 2014

Wayne Pacelle and his adopted dog, Lily

I’ve long marveled at the raw numbers of animal organizations. Counting shelters and humane societies, breed rescues and rabbit rescues, chimpanzee refuges and feral cat caretakers, elephant and big cat sanctuaries, there may be as many as 20,000 animal organizations in the U.S. alone.

The number has doubled in the last decade or so—an inspiring phenomenon, since it reflects society’s ever-increasing regard for animals. But this proliferation has also led to a great diffusion of resources. If our resources are spread too thinly among groups, how can we tackle problems of national or even global scale?

When I was elected president of The HSUS, I called my former colleague Mike Markarian at The Fund for Animals. “The HSUS and The Fund should join together,” I said, “because what animals need more than anything else is a big, powerful group that can drive legislation and corporate reforms, and influence the national discussion about animals.” He agreed, and for the last eight years, we’ve coordinated all of the activities of our organizations, squeezed out inefficiencies, and created new programs and departments that allow us to press the fight for animals in ways we never could before. It was the biggest of several corporate combinations we’ve conducted.

In this issue of Animal Sheltering, our feature “Better Together” examines the value and complexities of mergers in the animal welfare field. Where some groups should remain independent, for others, the path to success may involve combining operations.

The goal for all of us is to have impact. When we unite, we can be more effective for animals. Here are just a few of the things we achieved in 2013.

Making gains to end cruelty in puppy mills: The HSUS championed a new U.S. Department of Agriculture rule bringing 2,000 Internet dog sellers under federal regulation; drove enactment of new laws in Vermont and West Virginia to provide for humane breeding standards; conducted undercover investigations showing puppy mill dogs being sold at flea markets and pet stores (see “To Market, To Market,”); and exposed the American Kennel Club’s ties with the puppy mill industry on national television.

Stopping animal fighting in the U.S. and abroad: The HSUS secured language in the House and Senate Farm Bills to make it a federal crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fight. We conducted a series of raids on dogfights and cockfights throughout the nation, including more than a dozen sites in Alabama and Georgia, rescuing hundreds of dogs in the second-largest dogfighting bust in U.S. history.

Freeing chimpanzees from laboratories: The HSUS played the crucial role in securing the passage of a bill in Congress to continue funding for chimpanzee sanctuaries, and in getting the National Institutes of Health to commit to retire nearly 90 percent of chimpanzees owned by the government to sanctuary.

Rejecting gestation crates: The HSUS and its global affiliate, Humane Society International, generated seismic shifts in the landscape for sows in gestation crates, getting leading agricultural agencies and trade associations to recommend a phaseout of these restrictive devices in Canada and South Africa. In the U.S., we persuaded multiple major food retailers to phase out the use of gestation crates. We now have sufficient momentum to spell the end for the use of crates in the U.S.

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As you look ahead in your community, don’t forget to look around. Are there groups working toward goals you share that might make strong partners, enabling you to work better and smarter for animals? Whether you make it official with a merger or simply commit to transparent, professional collaboration with other animal welfare groups in your community, you’ll find that you can always do more for animals with a unified effort.

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.