HumaneWatch.org, a project of the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), recently called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to open an investigation into the deceptive fundraising practices of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). A recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request revealed that more than 120 complaints have been filed with the FTC since December 2011 regarding HSUS.

Dozens of the complaints come from Americans who have given money to HSUS. HumaneWatch.org contends that HSUS’s deceptive advertising helps fool the unsuspecting public: a recent analysis found that more than 85% of the animals in HSUS’s TV appeals between January 2009 and September 2011 were cats and dogs, when just 1% of the money donated to HSUS is sent to hands-on pet shelters, according to HSUS tax returns.

“This is deception on a national level, and the FTC needs to act now,” said J. Justin Wilson, CCF's Senior Research Analyst. “HSUS routinely employs familiar images of sad-looking dogs and cats in their advertisements. Yet, the majority of HSUS’s donations are used to bankroll an animal rights agenda. This emotionally charged bait-and-switch doesn’t just harm donors. It harms needy shelters and pets.”

Recent public polling determined that 71% of Americans mistakenly believe that HSUS is a pet shelter umbrella group, and 68% wrongly think that HSUS spends most of its money on pet shelters. Less than 1% of HSUS fundraising appeals have contained a disclaimer that local humane societies are independent of HSUS.

Some comments to the FTC include:

“I pay $19.00 monthly and have been paying for a minimum of 6 months. I thought that they [HSUS] were the country’s clearing house and this way my little bit of money could help whichever Humane Shelter needed it.”

“I feel the HSUS has advertised deceptively implying that my donation is used to help dogs and cats ... I have donated hundreds of dollars over the years.”

“I donate money to help out animals, but I didn’t realize that the HSUS did not help out our local shelters.”

A longer list of quotes and a PDF of the complaints are accessible at HumaneWatch.org.