Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Evil and Power of HSUS is...What Again???

Rod Russell writes from Florida:

Dear Mr. Burns: I am a regular reader of the terriermandotcom blog. I noticed you seem to repeatedly suggest that H$U$ is not as much of a threat to the purebred dog as others may fear.

I am attaching an article I wrote for the AKC magazine, Perspectives, published in September 2010, that disputes that opinion. Perspectives is distributed to AKC delegates and executive staff members.

Excellent! I always eager to be wrong, as it's always a pure positive: I either get new information (and I am always a pig in slop with new information -- more input!), or else; 2) the new information is a little less stellar than it might at first appear, which simply confirms, through attack, the original thesis.

So I poppped open the attachment with a little excitement, as one way or another this was going to be illuminating. And, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, you can pop it open too.

The article is well written and Mr. Russell comes to a good point in the end. But rather than illuminate the rapacious evil of HSUS or their power, I think the article actually makes the opposite points.

First, let's look at the real question at hand: Is HSUS a powerful organization capable capable of delivering well-crafted and well-timed legislative proposals supported by a blitzkrieg phalanx of public support?

Well actually, NO.  Mr. Russell notes that over the last two-year legislative session in Florida,"not one of HSUS’s lunatic bills was passed."

Not one of HSUS proposed bills passed in Florida over a two-year period? Wow. And why is that?

Mr. Russell notes that while the AKC and others blasted delegates with faxes, calls, and emails, their ultimate success "might not have had anything to do with our efforts, since the overriding focus of the Florida legislature’s attention was on desperately trying to balance the state’s budget."

That's refreshing candor. In fact, that no doubt had a lot to do with it. But that actually illuminates two reasons why HSUS enjoys so few legislative victories:

  1. They do not understand the political playing field they are on and/or cannot position for a win. Right now, 44 out of 50 states are running massive deficits, and that's a problem that is not going to go away. If you cannot play ball on a deficit field, you are not going to be playing ball now or into the future.
  2. HSUS, like a lot of other organizations is happy using futile action as an organizing tool. So too is the AKC. In this legislative pantomime play, one side gets a legislator to introduce some bit of poorly-thought-out legislation which they can then use as a bullet-point in their direct mail letters. The other side points out how crazy the legislation is (whether it is actually crazy or not hardly matters) and rallies the troops to defeat it. Both sides "win" in the sense that they raise cash and consciousness, and never mind if the ball was not even touched, much less moved down field.

So what is the great evil that HSUS (or H$U$ as Mr. Russell prefers to call them) doing? What is the "secret sauce" that gives HSUS their (alleged) secret power? Mr. Russell writes:

There is a lot more to HSUS than its deceptive mission and buying legislators. HSUS has full-time regional lobbyists and grassroots educational and training programs which are highly valued by state and local officials.

Did you know that HSUS is the primary nationwide provider of professional development and educational training for county and municipal animal shelter staff and animal control officers? One of its stated goals is “to support you with the very latest in training and skills enhancement whether you are in the advocacy, law enforcement, or animal care and control community.”

Did you know that HSUS has a disaster services program that offers training courses and planning assistance to animal disaster responders throughout the United States? HSUS puts on numerous regional three-day workshops and has on-line Internet courses.

In Florida, state and local animal control and disaster response agencies rely heavily upon information created by HSUS. As an example, go to this web page to see a slick, multi-colored HSUS brochure, “Disaster Preparedness for Pets”, which the Florida State Agricultural Response Team distributes to explain the state’s disaster preparedness program for pets.

In addition, HSUS has regional representatives who serve both as lobbyists to state, county, and local governments, as well as educators at government-sponsored animal control and disaster seminars and workshops. In Florida, the “go to” expert for legislators is not anyone associated with AKC or the Florida Association of Kennel Clubs; it is HSUS’s eastern regional representative, with over 20 years of HSUS experience and whose office, unfortunately, happens to be located in Florida’s capital city, Tallahassee.

Now if you are like me, you read that two times to find the evil.

Maybe you missed it? No? Good. I couldn't find it either.

How is having "full-time regional lobbyists and grassroots educational and training programs which are highly valued by state and local officials" a bad thing?  How is holding "professional development and educational training for county and municipal animal shelter staff and animal control officers" a bad thing?  How is distributing a free brochure on “Disaster Preparedness for Pets” a bad thing?

Sorry, but I do not get it, and I am hardly a supporter of HSUS. 

My criticism of HSUS is that while they are experts in direct mail -- separating people from the money in their wallets -- they have never cared enough about dogs and cats to learn even the most basic elements of the debate, and their past actions have managed to savage a great deal of intelligent discussion. 

  • HSUS cannot lead in any discussion about hunting dogs as they are opposed to hunting.
  • HSUS cannot lead in any discussion about herding dogs as they are opposed to herding and eating meat.
  • HSUS cannot lead in the area of shelter management while demonizing the No Kill movement and while giving less than one percent of the $100,000,000 a year they raise to local shelters where dogs are (literally) dying for cash.
  • HSUS cannot lead in the arena of dog breeding after spending decades demonizing dog breeder and dog breeds.

But does that mean HSUS does not do some good?  

No, of course, not.  And I have said so.  But Mr. Russell has said it even better than I have. 

Is the activity they do a sufficient "bang" for the buck?  I will let others judge that, but suffice it to say that is it not what most HSUS donors think they are giving money for, and it does not make for very good direct mail copy.

So where does Mr. Russell end up? 

Actually in a place and with an idea that I fully salute:  the AKC has to actually do something for real dogs, no matter how minimal.

Right now, it does NOTHING.  Not.  a . thing.   

Mr. Russell argues:

AKC needs to go regional and start competing with HSUS in the education and training of state and local animal control and disaster response professionals. If AKC truly is “the dog’s champion,” then it cannot afford to just sit at its national headquarters and dispense advice to volunteers from local dog clubs.

A full salute there, and a prayer for action -- in Florida first, and then across the nation.  

But will the Big AKC Office in New York listen to this very good idea coming from someone in the Central Florida Kennel Club and the Florida State Association of Dog Clubs?    I would not hold my breath.  The AKC listens to no one.

1 comment:

Donald McCaig said...

Dear Doggers,

We are agreed that dogs do need a champion. A few AKC and HSUS PR people may believe their organizations fit the description (there's no truer believer than the adman). Most of us sense a void filled primarily by the faint echoes of 19th century thinking.

Donald McCaig