A white terrier mix with floppy ears cocked his head to the side and whimpered from his cage; a grey kitten curled her paws and tucked her tiny body a little tighter, dreaming of days spent sunning in a window of a loving home. Both were dumped on gravel roads outside of Fort Dodge and rescued by compassionate farmers, who brought them to the Central Iowa Humane Society Shelter.

These farmers and staffers are pretty typical and they do more for animals in your hometown than the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and all their millions of dollars. So says Charity Navigator, a non-partisan, non-profit charity evaluator and research group, who just issued a down-graded rating for HSUS: http://www.iowafarmbureau.com/article.aspx?articleID=6111

Charity Navigator says HSUS spends only 33 percent of what it takes in on programs, compared to most cause-oriented groups that spend at least 65 percent. HSUS (now) defends itself by saying it’s not in the business of helping homeless animals. But take a look at their website and tell me if you believe that: (http://www.humanesociety.org/). Battered kittens and sad, wide-eyed dogs are featured in prominent places all over their website; you’d never know such animals are at the bottom of their charitable spending.

Of course, livestock farmers smelled a rat in the hen house long before Wayne Pacelle recently brought his three-piece Armani suit and hidden chicken farm videos to Des Moines. Even though the poultry farm took swift action against bad conditions allegedly captured on Wayne’s hidden video, the majority of farmers know the true goal of HSUS is to divide and deride multi-generational family farmers who raise animals for a meat-loving public. That’s why HSUS is pouring your millions of donation dollars into political campaigns to change the size of cages at egg farms and hog barns, changes not backed by animal science or generations of actual farm experience. I’m betting you didn’t know that, did you?

Coming clean to a bacon and egg-loving public clearly won’t sway public opinion (nor solicit enough money) so HSUS hits where compassionate dollars live, pet lovers like me. HSUS caters their messages to moms and kids who have a soft spot for the most vulnerable creatures on earth- neglected and abandoned pets. Even intelligent, high-profile celebrities with a reputation for defending pets, such as Oprah, have been seduced by Wayne Pacelle and HSUS. And, I don’t have to tell you about the value of getting on Oprah’s good side…

Organizations like HSUS really make honest shelter workers like Laurie Hagey of the Central Iowa Humane Society Animal Shelter cringe; she says folks see HSUS commercials and write their checks out to HSUS, not their local shelter. And in this down-turned economy, Laurie knows more animals are in need. Farmers, too, are seeing more cases of urban pet owners “dumping” their animals out in the country. In some cases, the roving, desperate animals can pose a threat to livestock farms. It’s difficult for farmers who spend their lifetime caring for their own pets and livestock to see these sad creatures appear in their farm lanes; it’s just as bad for shelter volunteers.

I learned a lot about going the extra mile for animals from my years growing up on an Iowa hog farm; animal stewardship isn’t always easy or cheap and I give that lesson to my 13-year-old daughter, who is also involved in caring for our extended pet “family” (which now includes a dog, two cats, two frogs, several fish and an occasional hamster). But, there’s a lesson about animal stewardship to be learned here, even if you didn’t grow up on an Iowa livestock farm or have a houseful of pets; reputable, respected, hard-working local shelters deserve your respect (and your help), not out-of-town wolves cloaked in cuddly Labrador skins, like HSUS.

Written by Laurie Johns
Laurie Johns is Public Relations Manager for the Iowa Farm Bureau.