We’ve all seen those sad commercials of dogs and cats suffering, starving, and in horrid conditions while Sarah McLachlan plays in the background. Some of us turn the channel, some of us fast forward through the commercials, but none of us really enjoy watching animals suffer. Organizations like the ASPCA, however, create these commercials for two main reasons: number one, they play on people’s emotions and encourage them to give money. Number two, they focus on the suffering and do not call into question what these large organizations are actually DOING with the money.
This article focuses on why it is important to donate directly to your local shelters and rescues, rather than to larger corporations like the ASPCA. If you really want to stop the suffering of animals, you do more when you help smaller, more local organizations with your donations, and your money is more likely to go to help pay for the care of an animal in need, rather than paying for CEO salaries and sad commercials.
Follow the Money
According to the ASPCA’s latest 990, last year (2022) the ASPCA took in over $456 million in revenue. Where did that money go? Well, close to $1 million went to its CEO, Matthew Bershadker. If you give $15 a month, it’s likely that your money is not going to feed a cat or a dog, but rather to his salary or between $404,000 to $485,000 dollars each that is paid to their SEVEN Senior Vice Presidents. Overall, approximately $97 million of the $456 million they take in go to pay salaries- about 21% of its total income.
Of course, that’s chump change to how much they pay companies for “donor acquisition” to encourage you to pay them money. That’s right- they pay over $54 million just to advertise to you to encourage YOU to give THEM money. Then they pay another $27 million for “donor engagement.” They pay over $80 million to these companies- this means they pay almost as much in trying to convince you to pay them money as they pay in employee salaries, and not nearly as much as they do to help animals.
With almost 40% of their money going to employees or to paying companies to convince you to pay them money- where does that other 60% of their money go?
According to their 990, approximately $37 million goes to office expenses, and a little over $20 million goes to “Information Technology.” They spend about $13 million on grants to other animal rescues. The amount that they spend on actual “Veterinary and Medical” services is under $10 million. They spend six times more money to buy pencils and keep the wifi working than they do on veterinary and medical care or on grants to organizations that actually do help animals. This is a non-profit corporation whose goal is supposed to help animals.
Humanewatch.org wrote an article about the ASPCA and how most of its money is NOT going to help animals. You can read the article and watch their video here.
Although this article focuses on the ASPCA, the HSUS has similar issues. You can read the article on Humanewatch.org that exposes similar greed in the HSUS here.
Local SPCAs or Humane Societies
We should note right now that your local SPCA or Humane Society does not necessarily have ANY affiliation with the ASPCA or HSUS. There is a common misconception that by donating to the ASPCA or the HSUS, those funds will eventually funnel down to the local level- this is untrue. Contact your local animal rescue for more information on where they get their money, and you can watch a CBS expose on how this misconception adds to the overall ASPCA’s bottom line.
The Right Horse is Wrong
For full transparency, in 2016- 2017 Hanaeleh partnered with the ASPCA’s “Help a Horse Day” while they promoted all equine rescues and focused on encouraging equine sanctuaries. In 2018, however, they hired Tom Persechino as Director of Equine Welfare, and we cut all ties with the ASPCA.
Persechino had previously been a senior director at the American Quarter Horse Association, an organization that refused to come out against horse slaughter. In multiple interviews, Persechino refused to come out against overbreeding, auctions, or to prevent horse slaughter, and has publicly stated that horse slaughter is “humane.” His Right Horse program is rooted in this pro-slaughter philosophy.
Poorly Designed and Poorly Executed
According to the ASPCA’s 990, “The ASPCA Right Horse program, which works to increase horse adoption throughout the country, generated more than 4,300 adoption inquiries through myrighthorse.com, the ASPCA’s online adoption platform for equines, and ASPCA Right Horse partners placed more than 3,200 in adoptive homes.”
Wow, ASPCA gets 4,300 inquiries per year? To put this into perspective, horsetrader.com gets approximately 1,000 unique visitors DAILY, or over 350,000 visits per year, so this is not the flex that ASPCA may think it is. In fact, it’s downright abysmal for an organization that took in over $456 million last year alone.
The Right Horse partners essentially take in a horse, rehab the horse, adopt it out- and that’s it. Depending upon the organization, there is no sanctuary option nor is there any first right-of-refusal clause to ensure that the horse does not get sold back to an auction or be sold to slaughter. Some of these partners also have incredibly high euthanasia rates. While these partners may have placed a total of 3,200 horses across the United States last year, Hanaeleh has received inquiries to help place horses who were adopted out through Right Horse partners who REFUSED to take back the horses who were adopted by them.
According to the map of Right Horse partners posted on the ASPCA’s website, there are approximately 40 of these Right Horse partners. The fact that there are so few “partners” tells you how poorly received this program has been in the equine community (in comparison, there are over 500 members in the Homes for Horses Coalition). Also, this means that on average, each one of these organizations are adopting out 80 horses PER YEAR, or about six horses per month, or a little over a horse a week. That is an insane number of horses to assess, train, and ensure the due diligence for each adopter is done, which begs the question- how much of that is actually being done, and how many of these horses are just being flipped in an effort to make room for new horses? And, while these horses are being adopted- is this really rescue?
I wrote about a micro-analysis I did on Hanaeleh’s adoption rate, and how the Right Horse program’s focus is not only contrary to true rescue, but exacerbates the problem.
According to their website, the ASPCA has only given $6.2 million TOTAL to Right Horse programs over SIX years, so about $1 million per year. They spend the same amount each year for all of the equines in the United States as they do for one CEO.
Don’t be fooled by those sad commercials and Sarah McLauchlan, which are part of the $54 million campaign to encourage you to give to their organization. Instead, find a local rescue or animal shelter and give to them instead. If you’re not certain if an animal rescue is reputable, we wrote an article about how to identify a reputable horse rescue– the points we make for horse rescues can be applied to any animal rescue.
Finally, thank you for helping animals and for donating to their care. It is upsetting that organizations such as the ASPCA are more focused on making themselves more money than they are in helping animals, but there thousands of us who are in the proverbial trenches, doing the actual work, and helping to save the animals. Most of us do not get a salary, but rather we volunteer our time and resources. Your donation helps all of us continue the necessary work of helping to provide food, shelter and medical care to the animals in your neighborhood. For that, we want to thank you- not like the ASPCA does, with a sad picture of a starving dog, but with pictures of some of our beautiful horses who are cared for, loved, and who are now safe because of caring people like you. Thank you again for helping us help the horses.