Money Mysteries Part 2: The Michael Vick dogs and Stolen Sympathies

MoneyDownTheDrain  Michael Vick’s involvement in Bad Newz Kennels and dog fighting, one of the biggest sport and animal news stories of 2007.  HSUS voices were all over the media condemning Michael Vick, talking about the case and fundraising to offset the costs of caring for the dogs seized from the property.  The fundraising campaign was complete with a scarred brown fighting dog, HSUS t-shirt in the background and a caption including “dogs now being cared for by the HSUS in cooperation with shelters” 

 The problem is this:

  • The HSUS was not in possession of the dogs once they were seized
  • The HSUS was not involved with the assessment of the dogs
  • The HSUS was not involved with care of the dogs after they were seized

 In fact, the agency involved in this case was the ASPCA and the conduct of the HSUS, their words to the contrary, during the duration of the story demonstrates they didn’t have the dogs. Groups involved in federal cases are not permitted to talk to the media during an active court case without the permission of the US Attorney involved or to fund-raise using animals involved in an active court case without the permission of the US attorney involved.   The ASPCA did not have permission to do these things, so they did not.  On the other hand, since the HSUS was not part of these processes after the seizure, they were free to talk to the media, claim they had assessed the dogs and then campaign for the dogs’ deaths all while fundraising with the claim that they were involved in the dogs’ care.  

This bring me to the following questions:

  • How much money was raised from this campaign from people thinking they were donating directly for the care of these dogs?  It must have been sizable considering the prevalence of the story and the HSUS in the news over that period in time
  • What was the money actually used for?  The total grants for 2007 show no significant difference from the total grants issued in 2006
  • Why has there been so little attention paid to this deceptive fundraising campaign?  The HSUS only pulled the direct fundraising campaign after other dog rescue groups started crying foul over the campaign.  The misleading statements about the level of HSUS involvement are still on the HSUS website, including pictures of the same dog used in the misleading campaign.

Shouldn’t the people who donated during that point in time have been contacted when the inaccuracy of the campaign was ‘noticed’?  Shouldn’t they have been offered the option to have their money returned if their reason for donation was for care of the dogs  so that they could donate to organizations more closely involved?   Doesn’t the HSUS want their supporters to feel secure that they understand where and how their donations are really being used?

Is this the level of conduct and ethics one should expect from a 5-star ranked charity?

Copyright 2009 by Erica Saunders
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