Arizona Humane Society – A Problem Like This

My most recent follower on Twitter is Stacy Pearson, part of a public relations firm in Arizona which lists the Arizona Humane Society as a client on its website.  The AP reports that Ms. Pearson was hired by the Arizona Humane Society specifically to handle the media after the killing of Scruffy was revealed this week.

On the one hand it’s good to know the Arizona Humane Society has enough extra cash in the bank to cover an emergency expense such as hiring Ms. Pearson in an attempt to stop the hemorrhaging of donations from the outraged public.  But on the other hand, if the Arizona Humane Society is indeed flush with cash – the group’s website indicates a yearly budget of roughly 12 million bucks – it seems all the harder to stomach the attempted justification of Scruffy’s killing due to financial concerns.

The statement regarding Scruffy’s killing posted by the Arizona Humane Society director reads, in part:

We are heartbroken that need continues to overshadow resources available[…]

Yet there are immediate resources available to hire Ms. Pearson when donors realize they’ve been hoodwinked and have been giving money to a place that kills pets.

Ms. Pearson told the AP that “the Arizona Humane Society at the time didn’t accept credit card payments over the phone because of possible fraud”.  Apparently the Arizona Humane Society does not want to run the risk of possible fraud when it might mean they don’t get paid for lifesaving services but they don’t mind perpetrating a fraud against the public by calling themselves a “humane society” while needlessly killing pets.

Astonishingly, Ms. Pearson ramps up the rhetoric by making what sounds to me like a thinly veiled threat:

“Pulling funding is only going to make a problem like this worse.”

Worse than death?  Because that’s the issue at hand, or as Ms. Pearson terms it, “a problem like this”.

It’s a problem that the Arizona Humane Society killed Scruffy.

It’s a problem that the Arizona Humane Society refused to accept the payment offered for her care.

It’s a problem that the Arizona Humane Society deceived the owner into relinquishing ownership of his pet on the promise of prompt veterinary treatment.

It’s a problem that the Arizona Humane Society gave the owner the runaround for 3 weeks instead of telling the truth about killing Scruffy.

It’s a problem that the Arizona Humane Society cites a lack of resources as a reason for killing Scruffy then immediately hires a PR firm to try to spin the media on the story.

It’s a problem that the Arizona Humane Society calls itself a “humane society” when in fact they have a $12 million yearly operating budget and kill more than 70% of the cats and dogs in their care.

Spin that, PR lady.

56 thoughts on “Arizona Humane Society – A Problem Like This

  1. Is Ms Pearson being paid more than the $400 it would have cost to save Scruffy?

    Arizona “Humane” and its PR can spin ON it. Disgusting.

    1. SO true, why not use the money for the PR to treat the poor baby. No wonder the HSUS is getting so much bad press. I wouldn’t take my pets there & I will not donate a dime to an organization who is to be there to help pets & their owners in their hour of need. Why is it always seem to come down to $$$$ I am sure if some rich client came there, there would be no problem & would probably get a reduced rate at that. This man loved Scruffy & that love helped him overcome some bad times. Now what happens to him, he is on the streets & doesn’t even have his beloved Scruffy to share his life with, such an injustice….I sure hope they don’t keep sending me donation letters cause they won’t get it. I will help people who need help with a pet so they don’t have to deal with this kind of crap.

      1. To be clear. HSUS does not run an animal shelter nor is it affiliated with any animal shelters. It is primarily a lobbying organization with $100 million in the bank. HSUS gives less than 1% of its money to actual animal shelters. All the actual shelters with the name “humane society” in their names are independent of HSUS. Many people get confused by this and HSUS counts on that confusion when it comes to donations.


  3. Ms. Pearson has certainly entered the eye of the shitstorm. She best be warned that animal advocates have heard them all, and I’ll bet the inHumane Society’s budget she cannot come up with one we haven’t yet heard. As for veiled threats? Give me a friggin’ break.

    Ask anyone around, I not only am good at creative threats, I am willing to carry some of them out if it involves the animals. Forewarned is forearmed, Pearson. Spin it any way you want it – they screwed up and everyone knows it.

    Oh, here’s a good one to swipe: “I vas only following orders”.

  4. I got pretty angry when I first heard this story. Humane society? Hardly. This man trusted the welfare of a beloved creature to this place and was repaid with deceipt and lies. And now they have the audacity to spend – – money – – on damage control? It simply defies comprehension.

    How about,”we’re so very, very sorry, Mr. Dockery. We made a grave and irreversible error and there is no way we can possiby appreciate how our callous and inappropriate behavior has changed your life. We vow that from this day forth, we will change how we operate to make absolutey, affirmatively certain that this never happens to another animal loving member of our community. We want to be seen as a helpful place of safety people can reach out to and trust. We know we violated that trust with you, Mr. Dockery, and beg your forgiveness.”

    That would not have cost them a thing other than some pride. Oh, and a real committment to treat the lives of animals as having value. Perhaps that’s too much to ask of them.

  5. Shirley – Thank you for posting this story. What happened with Scruffy is a complete tragedy and injustice – the very place that should have saved her life, killed her. We know the truth. We know Scruffy was needlessly killed. We know Scruffy was killed because dedication and commitment to lifesaving are not priority number one. Trying to come up with a way to spin Scruffy’s killing is complete injustice. As the great Dr. Martin Luther King said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Enough is enough here in Maricopa County! No Kill Maricopa County is advocating for shelter reform. If you are in Maricopa County, you can help stop this injustice. Get involved and contact us – Even if you aren’t in Maricopa County, you can show your support and “Like” our Facebook page. Who wouldn’t want to stop the needless killings of shelter animals? Who wouldn’t want to do what is morally and ethically the right thing to do? Thank you to all who step up and take action. The No Kill Maricopa County Team, Trish Manes, President

  6. As a former volunteer for them, I am really happy they have been exposed in the media – and NATIONWIDE. I knew in my gut what happened as soon as I read the first article when the poor man was trying to find his beloved Scruffy. It sickens me and I hope it never happens again. However, I am not optimistic AZ Humane will change. Would love to hear if someone investigates them again in 6 months to a year after their marketing campaign to correct their image has ended.

  7. Well said.

    70%??? That is beyond atrocious. Wow. How do you get to use the word “humane” with a number like that Ms. Pearson?

  8. I hadn’t looked at their annual report linked up above on their kill rate, but wow – that’s a slick report for a shelter. It’s even constructed to discourage direct comparisons – notice that? The intake, live release and kill rates are all on separate pages, and spread out through the pamphlet. Even if it only exists on-line and not as a printed document – does anyone know? – I wonder if it was done in-house or contracted out, and how much it cost. Skill like that usually requires bucks.

    Now, I don’t have philosophical objections to nicely produced materials from charitable organizations in general – I think it’s a good idea, if there’s a bit extra to pay for it. But when it’s a slick report from a shelter that’s claimed lack of resources caused them to fail at a primary duty and commit a horrifically unethical act, then I think it’s not only permissible but *imperative* that they be questioned on how they *are* spending their money, and what they’re getting for it.

    This morning we’ve learned where some of it has gone – on a PR consultant. So … with that in mind … *this* inquiring mind wants to know: if there were too few resources to care for Scruffy (whose injuries do *not* sound immediately life-threatening to me, going by newpaper reports, and more fiddly than difficult), then how many Scruffies will be killed to make up the cost for Ms. Pearson? Or was ‘lack of resources’ a lie?

    Sometimes, it seems to me, people would be much better off if they’d say less, and do more.

    1. Ah – Nathan Winograd just tweeted, that AHS says Ms Pearson is serving pro-bono. So that’s something, anyway.

      As Mr Winograd says, though, it’s not like this erases what-all else they’ve done. Nor, I say, does it obviate the need to take a good long look at why.

      1. Call me skeptical but unless they can produce a signed, dated and witnessed contract that states she is working for free, I’m going to file that claim under “more PR malarkey”.

    2. Eucritta, does that slick AHS annual report set out exactly what the top five executives in AHS make? Bet’cha not. It’s time that a Sarbanes-Oxley equivalent was put into place for all charities pulling in seven or more figured in donations – executives’ salaries and perqs, cost of third party fundraisers, investments and returns, investment policy, exact and detailed breakdown of admin costs versus animal care costs, shelter manual online…there is too much information hidden from the public in these large charities.

      1. Oh yes, I’m all for that! What will it take to get that info from each “Humane” group? All too often these large money makers use sympathy most people have for animals to line their own pockets without regard for the ones like Scruffy.

        Everyone has seen the commercials with sad music, injured dogs/cats & pleas for help they promise to give to EVERY animal. Yet too many Scruffy’s happen & we don’t know where their funds go. Are they helping themselves instead of helping those who really need the help most? I believe so.

        I used to donate to all the “Humane Ethical” groups until I’ve become more informed. The wrong PEOPLE are ending up with what should be going to save lives. YesBiscuit! is doing a great job of keeping us all informed & I’m sure funding will be better spent in the future because of it.

        Shame on Arizona Humane Society too.

      2. I agree with the sentiment here. I have given donates to the AHS because I live in AZ and figured they may need it since the HSUS isnt going them any/much at all. After this story, I wont, and I was going to email there to tell them so, but of course there is no way to email and contact them on their page, just like you always get the run around on the HSUS and ASPCA’s webpages too. How convenient.

  9. I left AZ over 12 years ago. I see nothing has changed. In fact it probably has gotten worse. This is a tragic story, a life was lost, deceit, lies, cover up…you name it…its just the same old, same old political scam. Those that sit on these resources are not about to use them for humane causes….that is a promise. Get rid of these people and get someone in there that can do some good. Become a ‘No Kill State’ and half of your problems are gone. Looks like AZ has a knack for hiring just the wrong person for this important position….make a change…demand change. Best of luck in your fight.

  10. Idle bureaucrats wasting donated money while innocent dogs and cats are PUT TO DEATH!!

    For Shame!!

  11. As an AZ resident who has volunteered for them in the past, it sickens to me to hear this story, a lot. It makes me so scared to have my dog get loose in my state for fear that she is going to be euthanized before I find her. What a world we live in, when we have to worry about things like that, instead of a shelter doing its job by…oh I dont know…sheltering?!

  12. Tell everyone involved in that shelter and that area that a No Kill Maricopa is having Nathan Winograd for a speaking event on Feb. 18!!! It’s free, at a pet-friendly location, and it’s important that more and more people get involved. Here is the link:

  13. How much did that report cost? I was amazed to read that over 18,000 were killed due to severe medical conditions. This figure does not include animals killed for severe behavior issues-at almost 8,000 and owner requested-over 4,200. I want to know what they consider severe medical conditions-oh yeah-a cat with wounds that cost $400 according to them! Do they verify the owner requested or just kill on demand? Do rescue groups even have a chance to rescue these animals?

    You might want to check your own local Humane Society for euth rates as many are the same as AZ or worst-check out the Houston Humane Society.

    1. Why is Owner Request Pet Killing a separate category?

      If a pet is happy and friendly and healthy, why would anyone care that a so-called pet owner wants it dead?

      My vet would not kill a healthy, happy pet on demand, and humane societies should not get a pass on it.

      1. Some pounds separate that category out because it misleads donors into thinking that if the owner requested the euthanasia, the pet must be medically hopeless and suffering. IRL, this is not always the case and many pounds will kill a pet upon request of the owner, regardless of health. I advocate for a veterinary consultation, similar to what an owner would receive in an emergency clinic where the vet doesn’t know your pet’s case history, prior to euthanasia. This is not an invasive or extensive examination, merely a verification by a person qualified to make a judgement that the pet is indeed medically hopeless and suffering.

  14. Pro bono publicist my butt! More spin on the spin. Ms Pearson must be getting awfully dizzy by now.
    Question…anyway to find out if Maddies Fund awards grant money to this 501c3 and how much?

    1. It sounds as if Maddie’s Fund was sending them money for years but now may have stopped?

      Also, this page says:

      Our annual statistics, as well as information about our collaborative efforts as part of Maddie’s Projects in Maricopa County, are listed below. The collection and publication of this data is sponsored by Maddie’s Fund®.

      Maddie’s Fund is listed on the AZ HS’s “partnerships” page.

  15. Thanks for the links, Shirley.I would email them myself but they are sick of me and won’t respond. Maddies Fund is another organization I have a serious problem with. They give out millions like its candy to some high kill 501c3’s and yet nothing changes. Nothing. NYCACC is a prime example.

  16. Can i write a comment from Nathan Winograd’s comment section?

    Lorraine Herschkorn Arts wrote “I am crying inside, way inside, for the cruelty that has been going on in so many communities in this “free” country for decades. We can’t be a ‘happy’ people if we also harbor terrorists that abuse the innocent, using public money.”

    I am lost for words lately and the above comment says it better than I could say. Thank you Lorraine for writing what I feel as well. Hope you don’t mind me using your comment.

  17. Shirley, I respect and admire you more than you’ll ever know. Thank you for doing what you do, and doing it so well. Keep it up!

  18. I usually lurk here. This has made me so angry I can’t think straight. I wonder why this poor man didn’t go to a veterinary clinic? I am sure the majority of the clinics there take credit cards and I doubt it would have been $400. AHS has learned well from the HSUS. I would not be surprised to hear HSUS has found a way to make money off this for themselves.

    1. I don’t know why he went to Arizona HS instead of a regular vet clinic but having a guess, some well-intentioned person may have known his circumstances and referred him there thinking they were actually – you know, HUMANE.

  19. I am not optimistic of an overall change at AZ Humane. This is not a farsighted organization, even though there are some really good people working and volunteering there. My observation is: everyone involved in the organization, good and otherwise, are complacent and not accepting to change – until backed into a corner. I think the only good that has come from this is NOT the changes they were FORCED to implement to save face, but they are now on the hot seat – and many of their numerous good-hearted donors now know they have been deceived and will be directing their donations to No Kill shelters.

    1. Every time I see an article which mentions the 5 vols they’ve got assigned to answering inquiries about Scruffy’s killing, I wonder how many lives they could save if they had a team of 5 vols assigned to that.

    1. Well, maybe not. I realize living beings are not interchangeable like nuts and bolts and washers and such…BUT.

      A replacement cat is a HUGE step towards trying to do the right thing! As opposed to paying under the table for pro-bono PR help, organizing volunteer phone banks to spew excuses and the corporate line(s) to caring animal lovers…oh, and veiled threats that decreased funding will only INCREASE animal deaths!

      Although I agree completely on the Thank You for your post part!

      1. As if a replacement cat offer is a sacrifice for AHS to make to even the books?

        I’ve lost many pets over the years, and the ones that came to me after were never “replacements.”

        From what I have read, AHS has a kill rate between 50 and 70 % and most are cats. The offer of a “replacement cat” for Scruffy, when the owner raised her from the bottle, is just an example of AHS detachment from the human/pet interaction.

  20. With a 70%+ kill rate that would be the envy of any Nazi concentration camp, I think it’s time for AHS to officially change their name. Maybe their new “pro bono” PR rep can get to work on that (since she’s doing such a bang-up job with their efforts to shift blame so far). Here are five quick ideas to get them started:

    1. Dachau for Dogs
    2. Four-Legged ‘Final Solution’
    3. Auschwitz for Animals
    4. Youth & Asia
    5. 30% Chance of Surviving

    The most disgusting (in my opinion) part of all of this is AHS’s apparent attitude of indifference. For one thing, when your job is to euthanize over 40,000 animals a year – that’s around 110 per day – one MUST eventually become numb to it. It’s human nature. The problem lies when that numbness turns to laziness. Scruffy was euthanized for one simple reason: it was easier than doing the right thing. She was killed because following a ridiculous policy (one set by AHS themselves) required the least amount of effort on the part of AHS employees. Now, with the media’s attention on this story, AHS seems more concerned about making sure everyone knows their new PR rep is working “pro bono” than with admitting – and more importantly, eliminating – the environment that allowed this situation to happen. Heads must roll.

  21. CNN video link featuring PR person blaming credit card policy as failing Scruffy,

    Seems like the Arizona Humane Society could have put their Trauma Center to good use in this case. “A Second Chance for a Happy Life,”

    The people who run the Arizona Humane Society are not behaving in an ethical manner.

    Seth Godin wrote there’s “No such thing as business ethics.”

    “It comes down to this: only people can have ethics. Ethics, as in, doing the right thing for the community even though it might not benefit you or your company financially. Pointing to the numbers (or to the boss) is an easy refuge for someone who would like to duck the issue, but the fork in the road is really clear. You either do work you are proud of, or you work to make the maximum amount of money. (It would be nice if those overlapped every time, but they rarely do).

    “I just work here” is the worst sort of ethical excuse. I’d rather work with a company filled with ethical people than try to find a company that’s ethical. In fact, companies we think of as ethical got that way because ethical people made it so.

    I worry that we absolve ourselves of responsibility when we talk about business ethics and corporate social responsibility. Corporations are collections of people, and we ought to insist that those people (that would be us) do the right thing. Business is too powerful for us to leave our humanity at the door of the office. *It’s not business, it’s personal.* …”

    1. That CNN interview was mindblowing to me. The credit card policy failed, but, you know, it was actually Mr. Dockery who decided to surrender Scruffy, we would NEVER pressure anyone to do that, such a difficult decision, and Scruffy was suffering, so really, he did the right thing, and we thank our longtime supporters very much, and please remember, Scruffy was suffering, and “Daniel” knew that, so somehow that makes it okay that we killed her for a treatable condition and refused his mother’s credit card because “we did what was humane for her.”

      What a terrible job the interviewer did. Softballing the questions, permitting AHS to use up airtime with irrelevant issues of surrender generally and with pleas of poverty, allowing her to push the responsibility onto the owner, failing to follow up on the question of whether this had happened before, failing to nail her on why they accept phone donations by credit card, allowing a pitch for money . . . this was a disgraceful failure to control the interaction. I’m all for working to the reality of news organization pressures, but this story was right in front of the interviewer and she allowed a sweet-talking, crocodile-tears flack for a regional nonprofit to take charge of the conversation. Horrible.

      1. I could not agree more! AZ Humane trotted out this pretty, soft spoken girl with the soulful brown eyes. Who knows where she came from, the Actors Guild maybe. The interviewer was so obviously disinterested… no challenging, or even intelligent, questions. A four year old could have done 100 times better. CNN did more harm than good to expose the AHS lack of integrity with that segment.

  22. All the PR expended by Arizona Humane Society won’t bring Scruffy back to his guardian. The act of putting Scruffy down was a heartless act by a group that calls itself “humane”

  23. GoDaddy likes to praise itself for its support of AZ Humane. I guess they can be counted on to look the other way over the whole elephant-killing thing.

  24. Death comes to easily to shelter employee’s.
    We should OUTLAW any killing of an adoptable animal.

    We have become a sad nation, hypocritical, greedy, inhumane,
    and these diseases of mankind have grown…we need to stop
    all the innocent lives being taken, and put responsibilty back on proper care and ownership. Spay and neuter BEFORE adoptions, and micro chip each one, so we can track ownership.
    The suffering of innocent animals has to end.

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