It’s the time of year when people are in a very giving mood. Nonprofit organizations are aware of this; in fact, many of them successfully raise a large percentage of their annual operating budgets during the last two months of the year.

This is especially true in the animal care and protection field, where a number of national organizations, and others that claim to be, can afford to spend a lot of money for national media exposure.

Doesn’t it just tear your heart out to watch the television commercials that feature neglected and abused dogs and cats? The national animal welfare organizations that sponsor these ads provide music and lyrics that get you all choked up, as a celebrity or the organization’s representative describes the horrors these poor animals are facing. Over the holidays, some of the commercials even use Christmas music as a touching theme. At least three of these organizations currently have their commercials playing on our local cable and network stations.

Granted, these animal-welfare and protection organizations do provide valuable programs for animals on a national level. They are a resource, when needed, for local humane societies, animal care/control, and rescue groups. They offer advice and materials on a variety of programs and issues. Some national organizations will provide assistance when there are local weather- related disasters, or even with large-scale cruelty investigations, such as dog fighting or hoarding cases.

What bothers me is the fact that, when watching their sponsored television commercials, one would think they operate animal shelters, right here in Southwest Florida. I am quite sure that representatives of local organizations in other areas of the country feel the same way. Is that the intent? And does it make us donate? I think it is, and I think it does.

These national organizations do not operate animal shelters anywhere close to our area. One nationally advertised organization does operate shelters in a northeastern state, mostly in one city. Another operates an animal sanctuary of sorts in a state in the West. A third does not operate any animal shelters for dogs or cats, anywhere at all. Again, they do provide resources in areas of humane legislation, public awareness and education. But they do not operate local animal shelters in Southwest Florida.

It is your local humane societies, animal control, adoption agencies and rescue groups that save animals locally and give them that second chance at life.

I have friends who tell me that they have supported Suncoast Humane Society because they wrote a check to one of the national organizations. I received a call from one person very upset because she realized she mistakenly had donated a vehicle to a national organization, following one of these ads. She thought she was donating locally. I have had to inform many people that national organizations are not governing bodies to local humane societies, and there is not a financial trickle-down effect.

National humane organizations have their own agendas, and their programs do require financial support. This being said, please remember, it is your local humane societies and shelters that are the voice for animals here at home, and they desperately need your support. It is good practice to check the websites of local organizations or call to find out just how each organization helps animals and people; and most of all, who you feel is worthy of your financial support.

Phil Snyder is executive director of the Suncoast Humane Society. Email him at


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