Rumors that the Fund for Animals and the Humane Society of
the U.S. are holding merger talks reached ANIMAL PEOPLE on July
26. Confirmation came a few days later.
In the interim, on July 30, five closely spaced
shotgun blasts followed by frantic yelping disturbed the woods
about half a mile from our remote rural office. Someone apparently
dumped two black Labrador retriever mixes, a mother and nearly
grown son, and fired the shots to keep the dogs from following
Ignoring rabbits who boldly ran right in front
of them, the dogs survived by scavenging for several days before
stumbling upon the feeding station we set up for them.
For almost a month, we fed and watered them at
the same spot––waiting
more than a week for box traps to arrive, and then waiting for the dogs to get
used to the traps enough to begin eating inside them. Finally the dogs were caught,
first the mother and then the pup.
Now comes the even more difficult process of
integrating the two new dogs into our pack of three older dogs.
Tasha, the eldest at 12 years, is a German shepherd
adopted from the Bennington County Humane Society in southern
Vermont, who rescued her and a Doberman after they were abandoned
by a man who did not want to pay the shelter surrender fee. The
Doberman was adopted before Tasha.
Francesca, now about 11, was dumped along the
dirt road that led to our former headquarters in upstate New
York. She had given birth to puppies not long before she was
thrown out of the back of a pickup truck.
Simon, born on the streets of Taiwan, was hit
by a Taipei taxi and luckily taken to Taiwan
Abandoned Animal Rescue Foundation founder Mina Sharpe. We adopted
Simon, while still a pup, in 1998. Simon greatly enjoys life,
after extensive orthopedic surgery. Amid the canine politics,
our 15 cats––some feral, all rescue cases––are
mostly unafraid of the dogs, but are discreetly keeping out of the way of any
risk of trouble.
In effect, we are merging two established packs,
of similar history but differing recent experience. They knew
each other slightly, from twilight barks, when both packs exchanged
insults with the local coyotes, but proximity demonstrates how
superficial their acquaintance was.
Cleveland Amory’s legacy
“The Fund and HSUS are discussing the possibility of combining
the resources, staffs, boards, and programs of both organizations.
While nothing has yet been finalized, both boards of directors
voted unanimously to explore this concept,” Fund
president Mike Markarian confirmed on August 9.
By then, mid-level and senior personnel at both
the Fund and HSUS already seemed to be circling nervously, marking
territory, staking out strategic hallways, barking past each
other, and in some cases anxiously seeking somewhere else to
Fund for Animals president emeritus Marion
Probst informally briefed ANIMAL PEOPLE three
days before Markaria provided detailed answers.
Probst acknowledged the tension, but expressed confidence
that it soon would settle.
“This is what Cleveland Amory would have wanted,” Probst said.
Both HSUS and the Fund are part of the Amory
Still working long hours from her New York
City office, Probst remembered instantly that
Amory hired her as his personal assistant on
May 24, 1961. She has kept his affairs in order ever since—posthumously since
As a U.S. Army intelligence officer and former
Saturday Evening Post reporter, Amory in early
1945 witnessed a so-called “bunny bop,” or rabbit-killing
contest, sponsored by the American Legion at Harmony, North Carolina. He
exposed the event in a photo essay for the Post.
For several weeks thereafter the Post reportedly received more
letters about the rabbit killing than about World War II, then
Amory rose to fame as a best-selling humorist
and broadcast commentator in the early days
of television, but discovered in animal welfare
a more compelling interest than his considerable career success.
In 1954 Amory joined former American Humane
Association National Humane Review editor Fred
Myers, former American SPCA secretary Helen
Jones, and several others in forming the National Humane Society.
Probst said Amory came aboard initially as a silent partner,
whose popularity was expected to help attract support, but he
did not remain silent for very long.
Founded to challenge the then-timidity of the
AHA and ASPCA in fighting biomedical research
use of animals, the new organization was renamed
the Humane Society of the U.S. several years later.
By then it had already begun growth by division.
While remaining on the HSUS board, Amory in
1959 helped Jones to incorporate the National
Catholic Humane Society, a far more militant voice for animals,
which in 1977 became the International Society for Animal Rights.
Disappointed that HSUS refused to vigorously
oppose sport hunting, Amory in 1968 started
the Fund for Animals, with Probst handling
the administration. Amory from the beginning made plain his hope
that the Fund, as a rump caucus, could demonstrate humane opposition
to hunting so convincingly that HSUS, the AHA, and the ASPCA
would all adopt similar positions. They soon did, so long ago
that generations of activists no longer recall that they ever
Initially, Probst recalled, Amory expected
that the Fund would reunite with HSUS after
winning the hunting issue—but the Fund almost immediately
took on an additional mission of providing hands-on care to rescued animals,
first at the Black Beauty Ranch in Texas, and later also at the Wildlife
Rehabilitation Center in California and the Rabbit Sanctuary in South Carolina.
HSUS until recently avoided becoming involved
in hands-on care for animals, for reasons Amory himself articulated
in early position statements: to focus on advocacy, to avoid
any dilution of mission, and to escape philosophical compromises
that might be driven by the need to raise money to feed and house
By 1974, when Amory finally left the HSUS board,
he had changed his mind. Amory had come to believe, as he told
ANIMAL PEOPLE in 1994, that taking on at least a limited mission
of hands-on care helped to keep an organization honest; that
if an organization rescues animals, it has an obligation to care
for them; and that having sanctuaries helped him to avoid hiring
anyone who felt above cleaning litter pans or shoveling out a
While HSUS endured more than 30 years of administrative
scandals and frequent conflicts with the emerging animal rights
and no-kill sheltering movements, Amory and Probst ran the Fund
as a model of fiscal accountability. They held far more money
in reserve than the Wise Giving Alliance recommends, reflecting
the fiscal conservatism of many people who lived through the
Great Depression, but Probst’s
hand-completed IRS Form 990 filings detailed the disposition of every penny.
They welcomed and made common cause with animal rights organizations, and
observed the no-kill philosophy at their sanctuaries.
Chances of reconciliation with HSUS receded after
HSUS three times hired away senior Fund personnel—executive director Patricia Forkan, now
the HSUS executive vice president; Lewis Regenstein, who is no longer with
either organization; and national director Wayne Pacelle, who took several
other members of the Fund staff with him to HSUS in 1994.
Annoyed, Amory expressed hope that the Fund might
instead eventually merge with PETA. PETA cofounder Alex Pacheco,
an Amory protegé, debuted
in animal advocacy as a volunteer for the Fund at a Cincinnati branch office.
In 1986-1988 Amory and Pacheco led a hostile takeover of the then grossly
mismanaged New England Anti-Vivisection Society, whose former president,
the late probate judge Robert Ford, was eventually stripped of his judgeship
and convicted of related criminal offenses.
For almost a decade NEAVS operated under de facto
Fund and PETA joint trusteeship. The arrangement was seen as
a test of an eventual merger, but fell apart in disputed board
elections and a lawsuit. Pacheco soon afterward left PETA.
“Talking points” memo & money
Pacelle, named HSUS president in May 2004, after
10 years as vice president for legislation,
hypothetically proposed a three-way merger of HSUS, the Fund, and
PETA as long ago as 1988. Pacelle appears to have been the primary
author of an internal memo of “Talking points on the potential
circulated among Fund and HSUS senior staff and board members.
“The Fund and HSUS jointly publish the Humane Scorecard, which tracks the
voting records of members of Congress,” the memo reminded. “The groups
jointly publish Humanelines, a weekly electronic alert with subscribers drawn
from both organizations. Together they operate the Humane Activist Network, which
organizes thousands of volunteers and calls them to action on important issues.
They have collaborated very meaningfully on ballot initiatives since 1992, and
work cooperatively on state and federal legislation. They are co-plaintiffs on
a long list of lawsuits. Both groups have strong urban wildlife programs…”
Pacelle put merger talks with The Fund on the
fast track, encouraged by Probst and Markarian. Hand-picked by
Amory to eventually head the Fund after Pacelle left, and groomed
for the position for five years under Probst’s presidency,
Markarian debuted in animal rights as an assistant to Pacelle in the Fund’s
Washington D.C. office.
“A key component of the merger,” Markarian told ANIMAL PEOPLE, quoting
directly from the memo on talking points, “would be the launch of a new
501(c)(4) organization which could spend unlimited resources on lobbying. It
would raise money specifically for lobbying.” The new entity might be named
either, “The Humane Fund for Animals” or “The Humane Society
Fund for Animals,” the memo indicated.
“As you know,” Markarian and the memo continued, “The Fund
and HSUS are both [IRS classification] 501(c)(3) organizations, and both currently
face lobbying limits that severely encumber their effectiveness. HSUS must limit
its [political] spending to $1 million per year—just 1.3 percent of total
spending. The Fund must limit its expenditures to $450,000—about
6% of total spending. These hard caps cannot be consistently exceeded without
risking the loss of our charitable status.
“In short, as our organizations grow, our lobbying programs cannot grow
commensurately because of the rigid formulas established by the IRS. The HSUS
spending cap is frozen at $1 million, no matter how much HSUS grows. The spending
limit is the same whether an organization’s annual budget is $20
million, $80 million, or $200 million. As wages, benefits, printing, postage,
and other expenditures rise from inflationary pressures, we face shrinking
ability to spend in the lobbying domain.”
Markarian and the memo pointed out that the National
Political Victory Fund “distributes in excess of $5 million per year, and
its lobbying arm spends nearly $20 million. Other political opponents, including
the American Farm Bureau, National Pork Producers Council, Safari Club International,
and Feld Entertainment, spend millions more on political activity. We are at
a distinct and often insurmountable disadvantage,” Markarian and the memo
contended, “when we attempt to push sweeping and meaningful reforms.
“Our hope,” Markarian and the memo said, “is that a single
501(c)(4), viewed as the political lobbying arm of both organizations, would
appeal to donors from both The HSUS and The Fund. Within a few years, it is not
unreasonable to think that the 501(c)(4) may be able to spend upward of $10 to
$15 million on political activities—representing an increase
in spending in this domain by a factor of 10.”
Mergers of animal advocacy organizations are
not nearly as common as splits, but occur relatively often
at the local or regional level, often as a matter of logical
consolidation of programs and services.
An example may be the impending annexation of
the Ozaukee Humane Society by the Wisconsin Humane Society, announced
in late August. The Ozaukee Humane Society name will remain in
use, and four board members will join the 13-member OHS board.
The Ozaukee Humane Society handles about 1,600
animals a year, with an annual budget of under $500,000 and a
paid staff of just six, but claims 450 volunteers. Wisconsin
Humane handles 17,000 animals per year, with a paid staff of
85 and 750 volunteers.
At the national level, mergers have been few.
The most prominent examples have all involved HSUS:
* The World Society for the Protection of Animals
was formed in 1981 by merging the International Society for the
Protection of Animals with the World Federation for the Protection
of Animals. ISPA was formed earlier by combining programs of
the Massachusetts SPCA, Royal SPCA of Britain, and HSUS.
* The Free Willy/Keiko Foundation, initially
funded by Earth Island Institute and HSUS, in 1999 merged with
the Jean Michel Cousteau Institute to become Ocean Futures. HSUS
assumed responsibility for looking after Keiko during the last
two years of his life.
* HSUS in August 2002 absorbed the financially
struggling Ark Trust, coordinators of the 17-year-old Genesis
Awards program to honor animal advocacy in the mass media. Founded
by actress Gretchen Wyler as a program of the Fund for Animals,
the Ark Trust went independent in 1991. Pacelle is believed to
have brokered the merger into HSUS.
Another recent example of merger at the national
level was the formation of Oceana in 2000 by the Oak Foundation,
Pew Charitable Trusts, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Surdna Foundation,
and Turner Foundation. Oceana president Steve Roady previously
headed the Ocean Law Project, begun by the Pew Charitable Trusts
and incorporated into Oceana. In 2001 Oceana merged with the
American Oceans Campaign, founded in 1997 by actor Ted Danson.
Although Oceana has enjoyed considerable success
in litigation, it appears to be having difficulty capturing public
support. In fairness, however, the post-9/11 economic climate
has hurt the growth of most nonprofit organizations.
“Fund staff members obviously have questions about the merger
and how it would affect their day-to-day work,” Markarian
acknowledged to ANIMAL PEOPLE. “The
structure is still being discussed.”
Outlined the memo on talking points, “Two of the Fund’s
historically most important campaigns, the abolition of sport
hunting and the fur trade, would be reflected in two of the four
major campaigns of the new organization, along with [work for
the benefit of] farmed animals and [opposition to] cruelty to
animals and blood sports.
“The Fund’s flagship sanctuary, the Black Beauty Ranch, would continue
as a permanent home for abused and abandoned animals, primarily hooved animals
who can roam freely,” the memo said.
“The Fund’s three animal care facilities fit well with the three
HSUS animal care programs, the Cape Wildlife Center in Massachusetts, Spay & Neuter
Clinic in Dallas, and Rural Area Veterinary Services.”
All three of these programs were acquired within
the past half dozen years through previous mergers and takeovers
of existing organizations.
Other sources within both HSUS and the Fund indicated
that the provisional operating plan would split the combined
organization into five divisions: external affairs, operations,
finance, the office of the general counsel, and a “special
Current HSUS chief of staff Andrew Rowan would
head the operations division, according to one draft leaked to
ANIMAL PEOPLE. Markarian would become chief of external
affairs. Current Fund national director Heidi Prescott
would head the “special focus” team.
The financial and legal teams would retain more-or-less the same
composition that they now have within HSUS.
Rowan said it would be premature to comment on
either the structural features or personnel assignments.
“My role would potentially be head of external affairs,” Markarian
confirmed, “which would oversee communications, government
affairs, litigation, fundraising, investigations, and campaigns.”
Markarian also anticipated that he would “head the new 501(c)(4) political
arm. My guess,” Markarian said, “is that The Fund’s
current staff and programs would be fairly evenly split between
external affairs and operations such as sanctuaries, urban wildlife
work, and international programs.”
Markarian described the Fund staff response as “incredibly enthusiastic,” but
ANIMAL PEOPLE heard otherwise from both HSUS and Fund insiders.
“The staff at the Fund was caught totally by surprise when the merger was
announced at a staff meeting,” one well-placed person said,
noting an apparent discrepancy between what Fund and HSUS personnel
were told by superiors.
“HSUS staffers claim nothing firm has been decided,” the source said, “yet
Pacelle spoke to a Fund staff meeting on August 20 to quell their
concerns about keeping their jobs.”
Reasons to worry
Fund personnel have three reasons to worry about
their future employment.
First, a merger creates redundancy.
As Markarian told ANIMAL PEOPLE, “Melding our resources will
allow for savings in management, accounting, publishing,
auditing, and other functions.”
Such savings come through staff cutbacks.
Second, there are ideological conflicts.
“HSUS is not an animal rights organization,” summarized one source. “HSUS
and the Fund have worked together on one level,
but at a deeper level we don’t
represent the same things. HSUS is unlikely to
adopt Fund positions on everything, while for Fund people, retreating to the
HSUS positions will involve unacceptable steps backward.”
“The basic issue,” said another source, “is that the Fund,
having established itself as the pre-eminent anti-hunting
organization, will cease to exist. Hunters all over the country will be raising
a glass in celebration.”
Several well-placed people at both the Fund and
HSUS perceive a continuing need for The Fund, appealing to a
heavily overlapping donor base, to demonstrate the viability
of more progressive positions than the HSUS board might otherwise
Third, mergers are economically awkward. The
Fund currently raises about $7.6 million per year. HSUS raises
about $65 million. When nonprofit organizations merge, they typically
raise only slightly more than the wealthier organization raised
before the merger, because donors who formerly gave to both organizations
usually do not give the combined organizations as much
as they gave when contributing to two.
A more promising model, favored by both Markarian
and senior HSUS staff, is based on the outcome of institutional
splits. When successful organizations divide, for whatever reason,
usually they raise less money in their first years of
separation than the components did as a single entity—but
then they gradually attract new supporters, as the Fund did after
splitting from HSUS. While HSUS has grown far more rapidly in recent
years, both the Fund and HSUS were bigger by 1985 than either one was
before the split.
The memo on talking points anticipates that merging
the Fund with HSUS while forming a new 501(c)(4) political
organization will produce the same donor behavior as
With combined fiscal reserves exceeding $100
million, the Fund and HSUS could ride out a short-term cash
flow deficit without firing anyone—but
only by actually drawing upon the reserve funds, which so far
neither organization has often done (if ever).
“We believe that a merger of two of the nation’s highest
profile animal protection organizations will give us new opportunities
to attract and engage new members and donors,” Markarian
asserted. “Throughout the
country, rank-and-file animal advocates repeatedly
ask, ‘Why don’t
the groups get together?’, allowing us
to spend a higher proportion of our dollars on
programs, showing donors that we are serious
about getting the most bang for our buck for
Indeed, animal advocates do often express a wish
for “movement unity,” but
as ANIMAL PEOPLE has often pointed out, that concept tends to be naïve.
In the short run, a unified ad hoc coalition
can often win specific objectives. In addition,
as opposition organizations such as the NRA and
Farm Bureau Federation demonstrate, a unified
front can successfully defend an entrenched status
quo, or even advance an agenda, if the agenda
is sufficiently narrow.
Successful political movements, seeking cultural
transformation, by contrast must practice multi-party
politics. Instead of presenting a narrowly unified
front— easily isolated, diverted, distracted, disrupted, and ultimately
defeated—they stretch across the socio-political and economic
spectrum, giving the public multiple points of entry and making
successful use of their divisions to appeal to people who otherwise
may have little in common.
The infighting, internal debate, and economic
competition that animal advocates often decry
are inevitable byproducts of building a broad
base that can be politically mobilized from multiple
Attempts to establish “movement unity” by suppressing real conflicts
of outlook, tactics, and goals actually intensify the conflict behind the scenes
by elevating the stakes of infighting—because whoever sets the public agenda “wins,” and
everyone else must then support that approach
or be accused of breaking unity, even if they
think it is 100% dead wrong and counterproductive.
Trying to keep conflicts hidden helps the corrupt
and incompetent to evade exposure, helps agents
provocateur to hide, and allows foes to tar the
whole cause with one brush—for example,
by equating animal advocates with terrorists.
Most important, in seeking homogeneity the cause
loses by default much potential public support,
because instead of seeing a variety of views
to choose from, the public sees only one, and
often feels uncomfortable with all the baggage
attached to it.
Retailers learned long ago that more choice means
more sales, but the animal cause has yet to notice,
even though the most obvious feature of the rise
of the humane movement in the 19th century, the
animal welfare movement in the post-World War
II era, the animal rights movement in the post-Vietnam
War era, and the no-kill movement in the past
decade? has been the proliferation of successful
Fundamentally, merging the Fund with HSUS reduces
A case can be made that the merger will serve
both organizations’ institutional
interests, including the interests of the majority
of present donors. Certainly the merger appears
to have been part of Cleveland Amory’s
vision, from the debut of the Fund.
Whether the merger will equally serve the animals’ cause,
especially over time, is a much more complex
question. If the Fund and HSUS are so much alike
as to present no substantive choice to donors,
or are apt to evolve to be the same, there is
no reason not to merge. If other organizations
are positioned to fill any ideological or tactical
void created by the merger, nothing will be lost.
But is any other organization so positioned?
Not to be overlooked is the question of what
donors really want from organizations. Cleveland
Amory helped to found HSUS and ISAR, and started
the Fund for Animals, because he wanted to extend
moral consideration to animals.
Animal protection donors typically state similar
concerns, but hired-gun fundraisers long ago
discerned that what donors most respond to is
the promise of a short-term feel-good from the
act of giving, not the prospect of contributing
to attitudinal changes that will actually occur
only over decades or generations.
Thus the typical fundraising approach consists
of inducing pain with a gruesome description
of an issue and perhaps an evocative photograph,
and then offering immediate relief in exchange
for a donation.
The success of organizations—and the leaders
who succeed the founders—has
come to be measured by their ability to manipulate
donors, not by their ability to win big issues.
“Wow! That certainly is interesting news about the possible corporate merger,” wrote
longtime New York City activist Irene Muschel
a few days before ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press.
“They will certainly increase the power, money, and numbers of people behind
their work,” Muschel opined. “I hope
they will be an open and receptive entity, interested
in ideas and input from others and not unreachable
and closed and inflexible. One issue I hope you
will address [in covering the proposed merger]
is how the fact sheets and literature of animal
rights groups can be most successfully made available
to the public. I think it is crucial that the
leaders of these groups understand that individual
activists can do only so much, and that permanent
change can only come about with major funding
from these wealthy groups.
“It is true that many people’s lives have been changed by a pamphlet
received from an animal activist,” Muschel
wrote, “but achieving
broad, systemic change takes money. PETA, to
its credit, often gives out free literature for
activists to distribute,” unlike many other
groups that charge for literature. “Nevertheless,
activist activity has limited effect, and activists
come and go, and cannot always be there for the
long fight,” Muschel
continued. “No volunteer, even the most
committed, can possibly reach the numbers of
people who must be reached if the situation for
animals is to get any better.
“It is irresponsible for wealthy organizations to ask volunteer activists
to do the major work on issues such as fur,” Muschel
give money to these organizations so that they
will do the major work. They should be spending
money on advertising the facts everywhere.
“Make clear to the leaders,” Muschel asked, “that they must
lead by spending the millions they have received
from donors on campaigns to promote animal welfare, rather than asking volunteers
to do their work. On broad issues such as fur, it is these groups who must take
the lead in spending money on advertising,” and other forms of public
Markarian, Probst, and the “talking points” memo
all suggest that merging the Fund for
Animals with HSUS and creating a 501(c)(4) political
arm will better position them to do
what Muschel expects them to do. But Muschel
had some further thoughts.
“This evening I called my my best friend, who is a psychoanalyst, to ask
if there is some kind of fix for the problem
that ANIMAL PEOPLE publisher Kim Bartlett described on the back cover of the
2004 ANIMAL PEOPLE Watchdog Report on Animal Protection Charities as organizations
which ‘run on interest
instead of having to justify their existence
to supporters,’” Muschel
wrote in a follow-up e-mail.
“We talked about how so many big groups basically attempt to sell themselves—’Look
how much we are doing!’—as opposed
to listening to committed activists and trying
to work with them toward a shared goal.
“We also talked about how these groups often view people as objects who
can be manipulated to give money and serve the
needs of the organizations so that they will look great. We discussed how their
style of relating to donors and activists is frequently similar in some ways
to the narcissist who wears fur: such groups will listen and use their wealth
for animals only if they see that it is in their own interest to do so.
“If you were to increase the distribution of the Watchdog Report,” Muschel
concluded, “you would increase the pressure
on these groups to genuinely respond to donor
Whether the merger of the Fund
with HSUS brings out the best or
worst from either organization,
or a new balance of both, the role
of ANIMAL PEOPLE will be to provide
an independent, observant, keenly
interested external perspective.
Watchdogging is the role that all of our dogs
recognize as theirs, regardless of
their positions relative to each other. Whether
working as one pack eventually, or continuing
as two distinct packs, our newcomer dogs
are already on the job for us, reminding us of
the job we must do for you.