BOZEMAN, Mont. - Last year the Humane Society of the U.S. handed out two grants to Montana animal shelters in Billings and Frenchtown to the tune of $4,500.
NBC Montana checked the facts and found the Humane Society of the United States doesn't claim to regularly fund money to local shelters. According to the organization's website, it is not directly affiliated with any local humane societies or other animal organizations.
I headed to a nearby dog park to see if folks there were confused about funding for local shelters.
"I don't know if the Humane Society helps or not. I'm not really clear on that," says Bozeman resident Anne Harris.
But Bozeman local Sandy Dodge says he knows where the money comes from. He's a regular donor to the Heart of the Valley.
"It was my impression the local shelter gets all its money from private donations," says Dodge.
Bozeman resident Samantha Willey got her dog Sam from the Humane Society in Great Falls.
"Would you be surprised to hear the HSUS does not regularly fund local animal shelters?" I asked.
"Yeah, I'd be surprised to hear that," replied Willey.
I stopped at Gallatin Valley's local animal shelter to find out more about where they get their funding.
Heart of the Valley's Development Director Kathryn Hohmann says she's heard the misconceptions.
"People believe that the Humane Society is an umbrella organization and we're underneath that umbrella as if we're a franchise of the Humane Society. But that's not in fact the case," says Hohmann.
Hohmann gave me a tour of the facility. She says they share some expertise and learn from the Humane Society of the U.S. but says it's an independent organization.
"Our funding, by and large, comes from generous individuals. It's families, it's people just out in Bozeman and the surrounding communities who open up their hearts and make a gift," explains Hohmann.
Last year, private donations accounted for 45% of the Heart of the Valley's income. The rest came from service revenues, events, grants and city and county contracts.
The following is a letter from Rachel Querry of the Humane Society:
Viewers got a first-hand glimpse at how our charity laws are being twisted by a Washington, D.C. front group in a report based on a press release from this supposed authority on charitable giving to animal welfare groups.
Last year, The Humane Society of the United States provided direct care for 76,955 animals – through rescue, rehabilitation, veterinary service, and sanctuary. The HSUS and its affiliates operate one of the largest networks of animal care centers and sanctuaries in the United States. We have rescued and provided hands-on care to more than 60,000 animals already in 2012, including hundreds of pets displaced because of Hurricane Sandy. We also support local animal shelters and rescue groups in a myriad of ways. For example, our Shelter Pet Project public service advertising campaign with the Ad Council has generated more than $100 million in free advertising to support local animal shelters and rescue groups. The HSUS' mission is to prevent cruelty and abuse from occurring in the first place with major campaigns to fight puppy mills, animal fighting, inhumane factory farming practices, poaching and other wildlife abuses.
In Montana last year, The HSUS joined the Lewis and Clark Humane Society, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, and Jefferson County Attorney in rescuing 161 malamutes from a puppy mill in Jefferson City. The dogs were housed in unsanitary conditions and needed socialization and medical care. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office seized the animals, and The HSUS was there on site to help. We also contributed more than $377,000 to date to cover the costs of the dogs' care at the Lewis and Clark Humane Society while the case was pending in court. In addition to helping these animals, The HSUS is pressing Montana lawmakers to pass a law to regulate large-scale breeding facilities to prevent such cruelty from occurring in the future. We've also been there for so many more animals in Montana and around the world.
Why would someone criticize such a storied name in American charity as ours? Easy, The HSUS is working with consumers, scientists, and major food companies such as McDonalds, Burger King and hundreds of others to reduce the suffering of farm animals raised for food. The group's clients get behind this Washington lobbying operation to attack The HSUS in hopes of slowing down our achievements. The man behind it all is a beltway lobbyist named Richard Berman, who learned his trade as a paid lackey defending cigarette smoking. Berman does it in the name of nonprofit public-interest work – an unacceptable misuse of charity laws to foster corporate aims. Misusing charity laws to attack public interest groups and depriving the U.S. treasury doesn't help animals or anyone.
HSUS donors support, on average, five to seven different animal groups. They know animals need help from shelters, rescue groups, wildlife centers and horse sanctuaries, and they also know that a powerful organization like HSUS is needed to battle cruelty's root causes. We help shelter animals with more than just grants, and we help the 99 percent of at risk animals who will never enter the doors of an animal shelter.
The HSUS is rated a 4-star charity (the highest possible) by Charity Navigator, approved by the Better Business Bureau for all 20 standards for charity accountability, voted by Guidestar's Philanthropedia experts as the #1 high-impact animal protection group, and named by Worth Magazine as one of the 10 most fiscally responsible charities. All of the work we do in Montana and around the world is thanks to the generosity of Americans. We are grateful for this support, and we also urge people to also keep in mind that local animal shelters and rescue groups need their support, too. Confronting cruelty requires people of good heart to stand together, and not let outliers divide us. To learn more about our work and get involved, go to humanesociety.org.
Here is a link to b-roll on the malamute case: http://video.humanesociety.org/press/video.php?bctid=1217119278001&channel=929963352001
I appreciate your involvement in this. Please let me know if there is anything else you may need from me.