WRAL Investigates

Donating to Humane Society, ASPCA? Money might not go to NC

Posted November 21, 2011 7:42 p.m. EST
Updated November 21, 2011 11:56 p.m. EST

WRAL Investigates

— Many local animal shelters say a confusing name-game is hurting their ability to help animals in need. The reason is because the Humane Society of the U.S. and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have no direct ties to most local shelters.

Despite raising hundreds of millions of dollars, those groups gave little or no money to North Carolina rescue groups.

The SPCA of Wake County cares for thousands of cats and dogs every year. They do it without federal, state or local funds. Despite the name, the shelter gets no help from the ASPCA.

“It’s a perpetual source of confusion,” said Wake County SPCA Executive Director Hope Hancock.

Hancock says groups like the Humane Society and ASPCA do good work. The problem is that many donors think they're the parent groups of local shelters, but they're not.

“I think there is a misconception about both the Humane Society and the ASPCA. The names cause confusion,” she said. “I’ve got to tell you, they both have compelling campaigns. I’ll give them that, but that money is not landing locally.”

Figuring out the difference between the national campaign and the local outreach isn't easy. A WRAL Investigates producer went line by line on the three years of IRS forms from the Humane Society and ASPCA.

Despite raising a combined $519 million nationally, North Carolina animal welfare groups only received $1.1 million in major grants. That's almost the same amount the ASPCA paid one telemarketer for one fundraising campaign that ended in July.

In 2009, records show North Carolina received $517,845 from the ASPCA, the second most of any state. However, 96 percent went to one spay and neuter group in Asheville.

The numbers surprised donors WRAL News spoke with at a fundraising event at the SPCA of Wake County.

Linda Tuday, who donates to animal causes, says she was confused

“When you put an ‘A’ at the beginning, and it’s ‘American,’ you think of it being a national organization, and most national organizations will help local organizations,” she said.

While there's no cash windfall for North Carolina, the Humane Society and ASPCA do offer other types of support. The Humane Society helped rescue animals in the wake of Hurricane Irene in the eastern part of the state. They swooped in to assist local law enforcement bust suspected puppy mills, such as the one in Franklin County in June.

The ASPCA says it stands behind its work and fundraising, telling WRAL News that: “We do not feel it is a local vs. national issue … We are bringing national attention to critical needs of animals and highlighting the good work of those local groups, which will ultimately expose more supporters to our shared cause.”

Still, there's confusion. One direct mail solicitation WRAL News has doesn't distinguish between the national and local groups. When WRAL News called the ASPCA donation line to get some clarification, the operator made it clear that they are separate. However, that's a question many local animal lovers don't ask.

“We here rely on individual donors,” Hancock said. “It’s very important to us they give locally and not be deceived by any national organization.”

For those who want the most out of their donations, be proactive. Whether it's a local or national animal welfare group or other charity, go to their website and donate online or give them a call. Fundraising reports filed with the Secretary of State's office show paid solicitors that handle campaigns for the ASPCA keep as much as 87 percent of the funds raised.