State Rep. Shelia Butt has called for a state investigation into fundraising practices of the Humane Society of the United States, reports the Columbia Daily Herald, while the state director of HSUS says that amounts to a “purely political attack” by a legislator who has a contradictory voting record.
Leighann Lassiter, the Tennessee director for HSUS, also claims Butt used false information from the Internet in asking the state’s attorney general to launch an investigation. Butt has asked the attorney general to issue a “Consumer Alert” to raise public awareness about the group’s “potential fundraising abuses.”
Butt contends HSUS uses deceitful advertising to attract donors while using donations to pay “inflated salaries and promote a liberal anti-agriculture agenda.”
She cites a decision by Charity Navigator — an organization that evaluates charities’ financial information — to place HSUS on its advisory list and similar calls for HSUS investigations in other states as her reasoning to question the organization in Tennessee. Butt also cites recent national polling showing 71 percent of Americans believe the Humane Society is an umbrella group for pet shelters across America.
“Other states are now questioning their fundraising tactics and the use of those funds,” Butt said. “I asked our Attorney General to join Oklahoma in a subpoena to ask a court to look at their books. If HSUS is legitimately caring for cats and dogs and spending the majority of their money actually for animal welfare, then they should have nothing to hide.”
Lassiter said Butt used information from a “discredited group that also attacks Mothers Against Drunk Driving — and treats it as gospel.”
“It’s a purely political attack by an extreme lawmaker who doesn’t like our agenda to end horse soring and horse slaughter and dog fighting,” Lassiter said. “Rep. Butt opposes the mainstream values of cracking down on crime and protecting God’s creatures from cruelty.
Lassister said Butt encourages support of local shelters and groups, yet voted against legislation that would take away funds from organizations that battle cruelty to animals. Butt denies that claim.
House Bill 2298, sponsored by Rep. Andy H. Holt, R-Dresden, called for changing the recipient of fines, penalties and forfeitures assessed in cases involving animals from a society for prevention to cruelty to animals to an animal shelter or animal control unit in the municipality or county where the offense occurred.
Butt voted in favor of the bill as a member of the House’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, but the bill died after failing to make it to the House floor for a full vote. During one committee discussion, Holt said in a situation where a county does not have an designated government animal shelter, funds from cruelty cases would likely go to the county’s general fund instead.