The ASPCA’s Watered Down System


Insiders with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals accused the organization of misusing funds last week.

IRS documents conflict with the ASPCA mission to provide efficient care to animals in the United States. ASPCA employees have made misleading claims about the way revenue is being distributed.

Investigators analyzed the ASPCA’s tax forms and financial statements for 2013 and contacted their corporate office to discuss an employees understanding of the way donations are spent. The representative falsely illustrated expenditures.

“Eighty percent of that donation will go for the animal,” the employee said. “Twenty percent of it will go to administrative costs.”

According to the 2013 ASPCA 990 form, about 10 percent of the revenue is allocated for grants, assistance to the government, organizations and individuals outside of the United States. This directly violates the ASPCA mission statement that states: “To provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.”

Additionally, nearly 40 percent of the revenue goes toward salaries, other compensations and employee benefits. None of the income goes towards supporters, as there are no benefits for members of the ASPCA.

This leaves 50 percent of the remaining revenue in the “other” category. Donors need to know where this “other revenue” is being spent. There should be confidence in knowing the money will go towards helping the mistreated Labrador with his ribs showing, and not necessarily for unwarranted expenditures.

The largest outlay for this miscellaneous category is fundraising. The organization spends $33.5 million on professional fundraising fees, which is nearly 20 percent of total revenue.

Additionally, 15 percent of the “other” revenue is spent on services such as accounting, investment management fees or legal fees. Only six percent of this category is spent on veterinary and medical services, while 19 percent is used for operating supplies. When compared to the total budget, that’s less than three percent of revenue going towards veterinary services and nine percent for operating costs.

According to, a run-in with the “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations” (RICO) revealed crimes the ASPCA committed in 2012 that subtracted a pretty penny from the budget. This instance may also be included in the “other” category of spending.

The case tells how the ASPCA paid Tom Rider, a former Ringling Bros. Circus employee, to claim he witnessed abuse toward their elephants. It was not until 12 years after the case when investigators discovered the ASPCA was soliciting money to Rider who never witnessed such abuse. This lawsuit cost them $9.3 million.

The ASPCA claims to spend 80 percent of revenue on the animal, but it doesn’t reflect in their federal tax form. They could claim the services, though not going directly to saving animals, are helping raise awareness and solving long-term cruelty problems.

For every dollar donated to the ASPCA, 39 cents of it is for employees, 35 cents is used for service fees, 20 cents is used for professional fundraising and only 3 cents is used for veterinary and medical services.

In comparison, the Animal Rescue Foundation in Bartlesville, Oklahoma spends none of their revenue on grants, salaries or fundraising according to their 2013 IRS form. Fifty-eight percent of each donation goes directly to the animal in this non-profit organization.

In contrast to the ASPCA, a breakdown of a $1 donation to the Animal Rescue Foundation reveals 42 cents is contributed to their veterinary care and animal supplies, while 36 cents is used to provide shelter for each animal. Only one cent is used for advertising, and the remaining 21 cents is used for insurance, depreciation and office expenses.

The exact percentage of the ASPCA’s money spent on helping animals is unclear and up for debate. However, lawsuits, uninformed employees and administrative salaries all suggest the ASPCA is not exactly altruistic in their mission to help animals.

A more sophisticated database would include a budget of spending on food, number of rescued animals in each operating facility and care distribution costs to compare how many animals they have helped per dollar. It would also include the amount of revenue brought in from fundraising to justify lavish spending.

Regardless of the actual dollar amount that goes directly to the animal, the leading budget percentages still raise suspicion about the distribution of revenue.

The good work the ASPCA does for animals should not be overlooked, but donors should be aware of the pocketbooks they are filling with the money they intended to save animals.