FEB. 2, 2018 UPDATE: Wayne Pacelle did the right thing — today he announced his resignation as CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.
I’m a longtime supporter of the Humane Society of the United States, which has done an exceptional job in helping to eliminate puppy mills, cracking down on dog-fighting operations and assisting pets affected by natural disasters.
At the same time, I’m not a fan of its CEO, Wayne Pacelle. Why not? Because back in 2007, when more than 50 pit bulls were rescued from Michael Vick’s dog-fighting operation, Pacelle said they could not be rehabilitated and wanted them all to be euthanized.
Fortunately, the wiser and more compassionate officials at animal welfare organizations like Best Friends Animal Society and BAD RAP knew better, took in the dogs, and soon proved Pacelle to be dead wrong. Many of those survivors, known as the “Vicktory Dogs,” became certified therapy dogs, including Jonny Justice, who was awarded the ASPCA — not HSUS — Dog of the Year honor in 2014.
Nearly 11 years later, there’s even more reason to dislike Pacelle, as well as many members of the HSUS board of directors.
Sexual Harassment and a Toxic Work Environment for Women
The Washington Post reported earlier this week that an internal investigation of the HSUS identified three complaints of sexual harassment by Pacelle. Senior female leaders warned Pacelle that his history of sexual relations with subordinates, as well as with donors and volunteers, could hurt the nonprofit. When they complained about Pacelle’s behavior, it fell on deaf ears.
— Danielle Paquette (@DPAQreport) February 2, 2018
The HSUS offered settlements to three employees who said they were either demoted or fired after reporting the harassment. That settlement money came from donations intended to help animals, not the CEO.
Pacelle claims it’s all a lie. “This is a coordinated attempt to attack me and the organization,” he told the Washington Post. “And I absolutely deny any suggestion that I did anything untoward.”
Some HSUS employees agreed with Pacelle, saying all of those relationships were “consensual.” But others said he created a toxic work environment in which female employees believed they had to have sex with him to further their careers.
Seven HSUS Board Members Resign in Protest
Today the majority of the 32-member HSUS board voted to let Pacelle keep his job. Seven board members immediately did the right thing and resigned in protest. News of the board’s decision is already resulting in the loss of essential contributions from major donors, the Washington Post reports.
“I think Wayne Pacelle should do the right thing and resign,” Rachel Perman, director of charitable giving at Tofurky, told the Post. “I absolutely will not donate to HSUS if Wayne Pacelle is employed.” In November, Perman sent an email to all HSUS board members, urging them to investigate Pacelle after several employees told her they’d been mistreated by him. She only heard back from one board member, interior designer Erika Brunson, who asked Perman if she was out of her mind.
I believe all those women. By not ousting Pacelle, Brunson and the other board members are basically indicating it’s acceptable for the CEO to use his power to screw people — and with the loss of donations, they’re screwing animals as well. Pacelle and those board members should be ashamed of themselves.