(UPDATED July 13 5:00 p.m. CDT)

Thursday, HumaneWatch.org, a project of the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), petitioned 12 state Attorneys General to investigate deceptive fundraising practices of the animal rights group Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). 

The watchdog group has released a full report exposing HSUS’s misleading telemarketing, direct mail, and television appeals. The new analysis reveals that HSUS fundraising activities might be more than just dishonest and misleading, speculating that these tactics could violate charitable solicitation or consumer protection laws in several states.

The new report delves into years of HSUS’s direct mail, telemarketing, and television appeals, which actively perpetuate the misperception that HSUS’s primary focus is to care for abandoned and abused cats and dogs. However, a look through the group’s tax returns reveals just 1 percent of its multi-million dollar budget goes to local hands-on shelters and rescues.

Recent public polling by ORC International determined that 71 percent of Americans mistakenly believe that HSUS is a pet shelter umbrella group, and 68 percent wrongly think that HSUS spends most of its money on pet shelters. 

In a response from HSUS, a spokesman defended the group's track record on help given to animals in need of assistance. "Regardless of what CCF is paid to say about HSUS, we provide direct care for countless animals worldwide, including through HSUS’ vast network of spay and neuter clinics, sanctuaries, wildlife rehab centers and more," said Matthew Prescott, HSUS food policy director.

The report documents multiple occurrences of HSUS misrepresenting its work, including an appeal for donations in 2010 that begs donors to “please send your best new membership gift of $8, $12, $15 or as much as you can give to protect and save precious puppies’ and kittens’ lives.” However, HSUS doesn’t run a single pet shelter and local shelters aren’t seeing much of HSUS’s donations, with several local organizations going so far as to change their names in order to prevent donor confusion.

“HSUS is a factory fundraising machine, sucking valuable dollars out of local communities with its advertisements that mislead donors into believing a majority of its budget benefits local cats and dogs,” said J. Justin Wilson, CCF’s senior research analyst. “HumaneWatch’s new report clearly demonstrates that HSUS is fully aware of its deceptive fundraising tactics.”

“The truth is HSUS knows what opens Americans’ wallets and it’s not photos of HSUS’s sad-looking lawyers and lobbyists,” continued Wilson. “If HSUS wants to spend its donations funding its PETA-like agenda, it shouldn’t be doing it on the backs of America’s needy pet shelters and by misleading Americans.”

Read the full report here