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Who’s Who in Animal Welfare in Pennsylvania?

by Karel Minor, CEO Humane Pennsylvania

Feb 08, 2019
Karel Minor

There is often confusion regarding the various animal welfare organizations in Pennsylvania with similar names and sometimes overlapping missions. Each year after the Super Bowl, someone asks me why some nasty group bought an advertisement harassing us, “the humane society”, and I have to explain it’s a different group that has nothing to do with Humane Pennsylvania. We just have similar names. So, Humane Pennsylvania has prepared this simple explanation of the “Who’s Who” of Pennsylvania’s animal welfare organizations.

Humane Pennsylvania (us!):

Humane Pennsylvania was founded in 1900 and is a locally operated, staffed, and funded charitable organization. Originally the Humane Society of Berks County and the Humane League of Lancaster County, Humane Pennsylvania changed its name to reflect the larger service impact of the organization following the merger of these two local organizations in 2014. We directly house nearly 5,000 animals a year and help tens of thousands more through community services. We are your local “boots on the ground.”

In Berks and Lancaster Counties, we…

  • Have two animal shelters, two nationally accredited public animal veterinary hospitals, a public dog park, an equine rescue facility, a national management services and training division, and a charitable foundation.
  • Receive no tax subsidies and no funding from any national animal groups such as HSUS or the ASPCA.
  • Are not part of, managed by or controlled by any national organization.
  • We advocate for issues and legislation, we do not engage in electioneering.
  • If you live in Berks or Lancaster County, we are your “boots on the ground.”

Other local organizations:

Across Pennsylvania there are many local humane societies, SPCA’s, rescue leagues, and other organizations with similar sounding names. Despite having similar names, they are not related to one another or any national groups. These are all independent local organizations working to help animals in their local communities, with local boards of directors and local staff and donors, just like Humane Pennsylvania. These are their own community’s “boots on the ground.”

Federated Humane Societies of Pennsylvania:

Federated is the statewide member organization of over 65 animal shelters (like us and the others mentioned above). Through 2018 it oversaw Humane Society Police Officer training and continuing education in Pennsylvania (and hopes to continue under the upcoming RFP). Its volunteer board of directors represents animal shelters from across the state. It is the Federation of all the “boots on the ground” organizations across Pennsylvania and represents the broadest voice of local constituencies across the state.

Humane Society of the United States (HSUS):

HSUS is a national animal advocacy organization based in Washington, DC and Hagerstown, Maryland. It operates no animal shelters in Pennsylvania. It is not affiliated with any local organization and does not directly or regularly fund any local organization. It employs a State Director, who serves as its issue advocate in Harrisburg, but she does not represent or speak for any local animal welfare organization (very often, but not always, local organizations are in agreement with HSUS positions). Although they are often considered interchangeable with “the humane society” and even use for their email, HSUS is not your local organization.

Humane PA PAC (Political Action Committee):

Humane PA PAC is a political action committee. It has both out of state and in state animal advocates involved and engaged in election work as well as issue advocacy. It operates no shelters and provides no direct animal services. It is not in any way associated with Humane Pennsylvania (us!), the animal welfare and sheltering organization. It merely has a similar name.

ASPCA, Best Friends, American Humane Association:

There are many out of state animal organizations such as these. Some provide animal sheltering and services in other states and some are issue advocacy organizations. None have local animal service locations in Pennsylvania and none directly operate, fund or are affiliated with any local Pennsylvania organizations.

One thing is really important to remember:

No other organization gives us money! Please don’t think you are supporting your local shelter when you support a national group. These national groups often do great and important work. We often work with them to pass legislation. We provide training for and to them. But donations don’t flow to us from them.

Local, regional, and national groups are all important, but they are all different. I hope that clears up any Super Bowl confusion. To learn more about the direct animal welfare programs and services we provide the communities we serve, visit

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