THE BLOG
10/14/2014 11:09 am ET Updated Dec 14, 2014

People and Other Animals: Helping the Animals Near You

Back in October 2010, the ASPCA sent fundraising letters throughout the San Francisco Bay Area that told the story of a dog named Brutus who had been horribly abused then rescued and treated by ASPCA. Although some organizations with national sounding names make up their stories, I have no reason to doubt the ASPCA tale of Brutus, and I have no reason to do anything but commend ASPCA for that effort and others like it they make to save animals. What I did take exception to then were four point made in that letter, quoting now from its text:

  1. "Together we can stop cruelty to animals like Brutus."
  2. "As you read this letter, somewhere -- perhaps not far from you -- someone is inflicting pain on an innocent and helpless animal."
  3. "You may not be able to rescue that particular animal."
  4. "Please send the largest gift you can manage to help the ASPCA save animals like Brutus...."

My problem, then as now, is that ASPCA operates out of a shelter in Manhattan. Manhattan is literally a country away from the San Francisco Bay Area. If an animal "perhaps not far from you" in the Bay Area is being abused, contacting ASPCA will do nothing to help that animal. If you "send the largest gift you can manage to help the ASPCA save animals like Brutus" that gift will do absolutely nothing to help an animal "perhaps not far from you."

Back in 2012, residents of the Bay Area started again contacting me about another fundraising letter from ASPCA, this one telling a remarkably similar story about a dog named Spike. Again, this letter included the exact same language as above, only inserting Spike's name where Brutus appears above. Again, I have no reason to think the story untrue, but I have every reason to know that gifts from residents of the San Francisco Bay Area will not help animals here in the San Francisco Bay Area. That claim is, simply, a lie.

And to further make matters interesting, this past weekend I received at home that very same letter about Spike. If the ASPCA is doing so much to help animals, I'm sort of surprised they don't have a more recent case to write about!

ASPCA is not the "mothership" of the SPCA in your community, although presenting itself as if it is obviously proves to be an effective fundraising method for them. Shame on them. Each of the thousands of SPCAs, humane societies and animal control agencies around the country is an independent organization. Sometimes we work together, sometimes not. Sometimes we agree with each other, sometimes not. We are each of us distinct.

The letter goes on to talk about ASPCA's work in places around the country, claiming that last year they "...traveled across the country assisting in anti-cruelty raids and disaster relief efforts... from Miami to Sacramento and many places in between." That's carefully written, assuming it's true (and I have no reason to doubt that it is) to make it seem like a coast (Miami) to coast (Sacramento) campaign. However, let's be clear that there are a whole lot of places in between Miami and Sacramento, places with local humane societies and SPCAs and animal control agencies doing really hard and good work to help the animals in their community without a stitch of help from ASPCA's New York City-based employees.

Know who is asking for your money, and know who is spending it to help the animals near you. If you need help figuring out who that is in your community, send me an email and I'll see if I can find the answer. Chances are it's not the ASPCA.