ONCE AGAIN, THE Washington Humane Society (WHS) is on the brink of shutting down operations due to lack of funds (“Dog Days,” The District Line, 10/20). Although 11th-hour maneuverings by the city have averted stoppage in the past, it looks as if WHS will finally be closing its doors and leaving 12,000 stray animals a year to fend for themselves.
The sad irony of this predicament is that two of the nation’s largest and wealthiest animal protection groups are located in the Washington area but have failed to come to WHS’s aid. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), located in downtown Washington, had assets in 1994 that exceeded $40 million, but did not make significant contributions to local animal care or control. Last month, HSUS withdrew an offer to build a model animal shelter in D.C. when the city would not give the organization free land and bestow tax-exempt status on all real estate owned by the society in the District.
In 1994, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), in Rockville, had revenues of more than $11 million—they are undoubtedly higher now—but it never offered to help WHS. For those who would argue that a national organization cannot get bogged down in local issues, I ask them to think back to 1991, when PETA waged an expensive (but futile) campaign to ban carriage horses in the District. WHS had commended the only carriage-horse operator for exemplary care of her six horses, but PETA seemed more opposed to the idea of carriage horses than to how they were treated. And yet, when the only shelter in the nation’s capital threatens to go belly up, PETA apparently chooses not to get involved. By PETA calculations, it seems, six horses are worth more than 12,000 dogs and cats.
President, Foundation for Biomedical Research