Seeing an ASPCA commercial with Sarah McLachlan on TV today prompted me to write this post. There is so much confusion about the role of HSUS (the Humane Society of the United States) and the ASPCA (the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and many animal lovers mistakenly believe that their local shelter, for example, "Anytown SPCA," is a chapter affiliate under the umbrella of a larger organization. In fact, "Humane Society" and "SPCA" are generic terms, and do not connote a connection to the ASPCA or HSUS at all!
Don't get me wrong: both of these organizations do good work and raise awareness about important animal welfare issues, however, they do not have any affiliation with the thousands of shelters, rescue groups, and animal control agencies across the U.S.
The reality is that HSUS doesn't operate any permanent shelter facilities, except for five wildlife rehabilitation centers and horse sanctuaries. The primary mission of HSUS, which is based in Washington D.C., is to advocate for issues such as farm animal protection, and lobby against puppymills, horse slaughter, and seal hunting in Canada.
The ASPCA differs only slightly since they do run one adoption center in New York City. If those sappy commercials with the mournful Sarah McLachlan songs get the best of you and you wind up donating to the ASPCA, it's important to know that your dollars are going to a shelter that's headquartered in Manhattan. Although you are led to believe otherwise with the heart-breaking images of sad pets behind bars and pleas to help stop animal cruelty, you are NOT supporting animals in your community by making a contribution to the ASPCA. If there's any doubt in your mind, take a look at the "Contact Us" section of the ASPCA's website by clicking here. As you will see, this organization only offers services in the New York metro area.
So, what's a well-meaning animal lover to do???
The only way to help abandoned, abused, and unwanted pets in your area is to contribute your time and money directly to your local shelter. While the ASPCA and HSUS get a lot of the lime-light, individual nonprofit shelters and municipal animal control agencies across the country rely on support from local community members to survive. The homeless cats and dogs in your town will thank you!