"If we just duplicated the work of shelters we would be leaving 99.9 percent of the animals to fend for themselves," said HSUS President Wayne Pacelle in a Skype interview. "We know from the data that most animal welfare donors give to four to seven animal welfare organizations."
Pacelle explained how the Humane Society of the United States spends a lot of time and money on bigger animal cruelty issues like ensuring that farm raised animals are treated ethically and stopping fur trade. He could not enumerate how much of the money his organization raises from donors actually goes to programs in Florida.
"The work that we do in the Congress, the work that we do internationally, in so many settings, is of great interest to our Florida supporters," he said. "So to confine it just to Florida is really just a small part of what we do."
His group provided a list of projects that were specific to Florida conducted from 1990 to 2012, a lot of which was lobbying work to change legislation.
Heather Sullivan, the HSUS public relations director, claimed the group helped update Florida’s animal fighting laws to make all involvement with dog fighting, cockfighting, hog/dog fighting or greyhound baiting a felony.
Other laws they claim they helped pass include a ban on freshwater turtle trading and a ban on the sale of Burmese pythons.
In addition, Sullivan pointed out the work the group did to save gopher tortoises and hands-on projects like breaking up a cock-fighting ring, a dog-fighting site and rescuing cats from an animal hoarder.
But local agencies said they can often be left holding the bag when the HSUS comes in and does these types of raids.
“HSUS has no physical shelter so when they do a puppy mill raid or break-up a dog-fighting ring they call humane societies like us and say hey can you take these dogs which of course we do,” said Diane Anderson, an animal behaviorist with the Central Florida SPCA.
Anderson said the Central Florida SPCA took on 30 puppies from a puppy mill raid that HSUS did in North Florida.
An exam of HSUS 990 tax forms from 2011 showed that it raised $133 million in revenues that year. The biggest portion of their money is spent on salaries with about $29 million being appropriated there.
It spends about $24 million on educational material and $11 on advertising and promotion.
$6.5 million is given out as grants to domestic animal welfare charities.
"We do a lot of local programs ourselves," Pacelle insisted. "Whether it's our Pets for Life Program or our animal care centers, so we're providing hands-on care in a lot of communities."
Abi-hassan and the other leaders at Halifax Humane society devised a formula to help potential donors look at animal welfare groups and decide whether or not they are appropriately using their funding.
The mission impact should equal the percentage of the animals served plus the number of programs in addition to the fundraising efficiency, said Abi-hassan.
Abi-hassan said fundraising efficiency should be around 75 percent which translates to 75 cents to every dollar.
Abi-hassan and other animal welfare charity leaders all recommend utilizing Charity Navigator and Guidestar to get a good idea of where the charity is spending it’s money and read its tax filings before donating.