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The Real Wayne Pacelle Legacy
by Nathan J. Winograd
Thursday Jul 24th, 2008 7:44 AM
Is Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, really an ardent defender of animals as the Los Angeles Times wants us to believe? Or does a closer investigation reveal an uglier truth?
In a Los Angeles Times article, Wayne Pacelle, the head of the Humane Society of the United States, is portrayed as a charismatic champion of animal rights. While casually noting that he has some detractors, this is nothing more than a flaccid attempt at balance. Rather than dig deeper, rather than really look at whether there is any merit to the concerns, his detractors are dismissed with childish name calling. One, according to Pacelle, is a “pimp for the industry.” I am called “naïve, narrow minded and mean spirited.”

A little digging, however, would have uncovered a treasure trove of archeological proportions. There are a lot of skeletons in Wayne Pacelle’s closet, if the reporter had bothered to open the door.

In Louisiana, Wayne Pacelle’s HSUS raised over $20 million to help the animals impacted by Hurricane Katrina and only spent $4 million before packing up, money piling up in bank accounts, and going home.

In Florida, Wayne Pacelle’s HSUS had People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals give a presentation at its conference equating a movement to save the lives of animals in shelters with the mental illness which leads to animal cruelty, despite the fact that PETA slaughters over 90% of the animals they take in and dumped some of the bodies in a supermarket trash bin.

In Virginia, Wayne Pacelle’s HSUS raised money allegedly for the dog victims of dogfighter Michael Vick (which they did not have custody of) and then told the court overseeing the case to go ahead and kill the dogs. (The court refused, they are now with rescue groups and in loving new homes.)

In Iowa, Wayne Pacelle’s HSUS stated that they do not have a problem with the town choosing to kill cats.

In Washington, Wayne Pacelle’s HSUS defended a shelter that allows animals to languish and unnecessarily puts them to death.

In Oregon, Wayne Pacelle’s HSUS slammed No Kill and supported a shelter which left all but six cat cages intentionally empty so that staff did not have to clean the cages or work hard, killing the remainder.

Far from being universally loved as the article states, Wayne Pacelle is a polarizing figure in the animal movement—a figure, who by many accounts, is squandering HSUS’ vast potential. As the entire animal movement is moving in a vast wave of public support for No Kill, Pacelle is stuck being a shill for shelters that kill. That is why rescue groups protest his annual award ceremony in Los Angeles. That is why animal activists in San Bernardino County called HSUS a “dinosaur.” It is why those truly working to save animals after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans called for a criminal investigation into HSUS fundraising and (lack of) spending on the animals who needed it. And it is why he is condemned by animal lovers from coast to coast.

Wayne Pacelle represents the status quo—a status quo that oversees the wholly unnecessary slaughter of five million dogs and cats a year. And while he claims no one should criticize, that we should work together, what he really means is that people who disagree with the killing should not say so publicly.

And because I dare to question shelters whose staff mistreat, neglect, and outright abuse animals and for demanding the removal of shelter directors who would rather kill animals than save them (such as working with rescue groups, starting a foster program, or embracing any of the other programs of the No Kill Equation), I am called “mean spirited.”

To Wayne Pacelle, if you are critical, you are “naïve,” “narrow minded,” and even “mean spirited.” We do not need that kind of divisiveness, he says. Except, of course, when he does it. When Pacelle criticizes, when he calls people “pimps” or “mean-spirited,” it is well—it is perfectly acceptable. Because in Pacelle’s world, the rules only appear to apply in one direction.

You would expect that the head of the nation’s largest and wealthiest animal protection group to acknowledge the fact that there are communities which have ended the killing of healthy animals in U.S. shelters. You would expect that he would acknowledge and promote the model which has ended the killing of all but hopelessly ill animals in others. Instead, he denies it and, through HSUS, calls the killing of healthy animals in shelters “kind” and a “necessity,” and equates the movement to save those animals which No Kill represents with animal abuse. And the only time he is vocal about it is when he sells the lie that it doesn’t exist or isn’t possible.

You would expect that the head of the nation’s largest and wealthiest animal protection group would condemn shelter atrocities like those occurring in Los Angeles shelters:

* The abuse of a dog which occurred when a staff member at Los Angeles County’s animal control shelter kicked a dog who is being forcibly held upside down with a catch-all pole, hard wire noose wrapped around his neck.
* Or when another at this same shelter dragged a dog with a broken back.
* Or even when another dragged two dogs across hot asphalt.
* Or when others allowed a dog to starve and die in a filthy kennel.
* Or allowed rabbits to go without water.
* Or a sick puppy to languish without any care.
* Or allowed 80% of cat cages to intentionally be kept empty while the shelter kills 80% of all the cats it takes in.

But Pacelle does not condemn it.

He says nothing about it.

He does not fight it.

Given that we now have a formula for ending the killing and examples of it working successfully in several communities, it is our most pressing task to educate the animal loving public that they should expect and must demand better from their local shelter. Once this is accomplished, and the public and media are increasingly armed with the facts and knowledge necessary to see through the smokescreens HSUS puts up in defense of the status quo, self-preservation will demand that HSUS—as the largest animal protection organization in the nation—both embrace and champion an end to shelter killing as vociferously as it currently defends the status quo of killing.

When that finally happens, and new leadership at HSUS finally redirects that agency’s mission away from its current one—of defending their colleagues who are responsible for the high kill rates, abuse and neglect common in our nation’s animal shelters—back to its original purpose of protecting animals, only then will we be able to fully comprehend, by way of comparison, how very badly HSUS under Pacelle’s leadership is failing in its duty to our nation’s companion animals.

And while Pacelle currently condemns those who point out these realities and are working to reform our nation’s shelters as “mean-spirited,” it is through his own work to undermine No Kill that he himself is unwittingly writing the most uncomplimentary words which will eventually memorialize his tenure at HSUS.

Far from the champion of the furry and winged as the Los Angeles Times portrays, this is the real Wayne Pacelle, and this will be his enduring legacy to the millions of animals needlessly being slaughtered in shelters each year.

That is what I believe the Pacelle record shows. And I believe that is how history will remember Wayne Pacelle. To use his own words, it is tempting to call Wayne Pacelle nothing more than a “pimp for the industry” of shelter killing. But truth be told, one simple observation is more powerful than childish name calling. It is this: As a defender of animal killing, as someone who stands side-by-side with those responsible for slaughtering thousands of dogs and cats annually, Wayne Pacelle has no place running the nation’s largest and wealthiest organization that claims to speak on behalf of defenseless animals.