Editor's Note: This feature first appeared yesterday in our companion service, The Archery Wire(www.archerywire.com).
Does the nation's largest anti-hunting and animal rights organization solicit contributions from the public under dubious pretense during times of national disaster, only to funnel those assets to further its agenda to end certain types of legal hunting and agricultural practices?
The Attorney General of Oklahoma apparently suspects that might be the case.
In a statement issued March 12, AG Scott Pruitt issued a warning to Oklahomans regarding solicitations and advertisements by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), an organization known well by hunting groups and animal farming interests. Pruitt said he was concerned HSUS gave Oklahomans the mistaken impression their donations are assisting Oklahoma animal shelters, when in fact the donations of Oklahomans may go toward unrelated efforts like lobbying in other states or at the federal level. â€¨â€¨
Archery Wire readers may recall our feature appearing earlier this month, "Ballot Measure Threatens Black Bear Archery Hunting in Maine," in which we detailed the effort to prohibit the hunting of bears using bait, hounds or traps through the voter initiative process. The primary organization bankrolling the issue is - you guessed it - HSUS.
It marks the second attempt to ban bear hunting in Maine - the most bear-rich state in the lower 48 - in the past ten years using the ballot box and an emotion-driven campaign. For its ultimately unsuccessful 2004 effort, Washington DC-based HSUS ponied up nearly a half-million dollars.
In Oklahoma, the Attorney General said he is specifically looking into concerns over fundraising advertisements in the wake of the devastating and deadly May 2013 tornadoes that struck the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore. Pruitt contends HSUS advertising and public relations gave Oklahomans the deceptive impression their donations would help pets and other animals displaced by the storm, as well as support local shelters impacted by the storm.
But that was not the case, Pruitt's office discovered.
Through consultation with central Oklahoma animal shelters in the region most affected by the 2013 tornados, the AG's office could not find any that indicated they received financial or in-kind assistance from any national animal welfare groups, much less HSUS.
Not surprisingly, HSUS conducted a strikingly similar widespread public relations and advertising campaign on the heels of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, seeking memberships and donations to allegedly aid displaced pets in and around New Orleans.
"Oklahomans are caring people and gave generously to assist our friends and neighbors devastated by the deadly May 2013 tornadoes," Pruitt said. "The concern is the donations of Oklahomans made to national animal welfare organizations in the wake of the tornadoes may have gone instead to lobbying activities. We all want the best for displaced animals and appreciate the work animal welfare organizations do to provide care for dogs, cats and other animals. But it's important to ensure Oklahomans are not being deceived, and that the donations they made to help Oklahoma-based animal shelters are doing just that."â€¨â€¨
The $64,000 Question remains, did the generous (but naïve) animal lovers who felt compelled to write checks to HSUS based on its pleas for the 4-legged victims of Oklahoma and Katrina actually help fund its recent lobbying campaign to ban lead-component ammunition and outlaw bobcat trapping in California and attempt to block state agency wolf management practices in Michigan?
If you believe it, you have plenty of company.
Days after Pruitt's announcement, billboards began appearing around the Oklahoma City metropolitan area sponsored by The Center for Consumer Freedom, a noted HSUS adversary that supports the food industry and food producers. While praising Pruitt's actions in an accompanying press release, the billboards read: "The Humane Society of the United States deceives donors with tear-jerking and manipulative images of dogs and cats, and then funnels the money to push a radical animal liberation agenda aimed at attacking farmers."
We would add "hunters, conservationists and wildlife managers."
In his March 12 statement, Pruitt encouraged Oklahomans to donate directly to state-based causes and organizations to ensure their money goes to help local animal welfare organizations and not to other states or programs.
"The best way to ensure your donation is assisting the charity or organization you intended is to give directly to that organization," Attorney General Pruitt said. "If anyone suspects they have been the victim of false or misleading fundraising efforts by national animal welfare groups, they should contact the Attorney General's Office. As the state's top consumer advocate, I will continue to review these concerns to ensure no one is taking advantage of the generosity of Oklahomans."â€¨â€¨
Further, the Attorney General's Public Protection Unit provided a list of tips to avoid charity fraud, and a couple were particularly relevant to HSUS and its notorious track record: â€¨â€¨
- Be leery of charities with names similar to well-known organizations; â€¨
- Beware of appeals that are long on emotion, but short on fact.
That's what archers refer to as a bull's eye.
- J.R. Absher