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A Bite as Big as His Bark

1 Dec, 2010 By: Thomas Haire Response

Former lead lobbyist Wayne Pacelle's six-year run of success as the leader of the Humane Society of the united States has a strong DR marketing plan as its backbone.

From childhood, I’ve just had a true love of animals and an intense dislike of cruelty,” says Wayne Pacelle, CEO and president of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). “All of our encyclopedias were dog-eared to pages with animal entries. I read National Geographic with fascination about them. I understood they were different from us but in good ways. They’re fast, beautiful, athletic, vulnerable — and needed humans to be good to them.”

So began a life’s work for the now-45-year-old Yale graduate who has headed the HSUS since 2004, but spent the first 17 years of his career waist-deep in the animal care and rights business, first with The Fund for Animals and then the HSUS. According to the Los Angeles Times in 2008, “Pacelle has retooled a venerable organization seen as a mild-mannered protector of dogs and cats into an aggressive interest group flexing muscle in state legislatures and courtrooms.”

Pacelle has played a central role in more than two dozen successful statewide ballot measure campaigns protecting animals since 1990, as well as the passage of hundreds of state and federal laws — 500 in the past decade alone — and direct response marketing has played a major role in that success. “Direct response is a double bottom-line investment,” Pacelle says. “We put money into DR marketing, and we get new members and funds to conduct operations. We strengthen our brand, which is critical in a competitive environment, not only within our sector but also with political adversaries trying to weaken our brand. Fortifying our brand and our coffers with DR is critical for us, and DR helps our brand stand out in the cluttered Information Age.”

Pacelle says the organization utilizes DRTV, the Web, E-mail, direct mail and social media in an ever-evolving mix to not only drive memberships and donations but also to fight the good fight on ballot measures, in statehouses and across various federal agencies. In that realm, Pacelle speaks fondly of a Missouri ballot measure cracking down on puppy mills that passed just a month ago, as well as the 2008 passage of California Prop. 2, halting the intensive confinement of 20 million farm animals.

Throughout a phone conversation with Pacelle from his Washington, D.C., office about the HSUS’ marketing methods, his passion for animals and for fighting for their protection and betterment of their circumstances shines through time and again. Next April 12, Pacelle will share that passion in a new book, published by Harper Collins, “The Bond: Our Kinship With Animals and Our Call to Defend Them.”

A Life Devoted

The HSUS has worked since its founding in 1954 to create a world in which “people satisfy the physical and emotional needs of domestic animals; protect wild animals and their environments; and change their relationships with all animals, evolving from exploitation and harm to respect and compassion.”

That mission appealed immediately to a young Pacelle, who grew up in New Haven, Conn., the son of a father who was a teacher and football coach and a mother who was a secretary. “We weren’t wealthy by any means, but it was a loving family and a great upbringing,” Pacelle says of his parents, brother and two sisters. He attended local public schools until entering an all-boys parochial high school.

“I played tennis there and at Yale,” Pacelle says. “But it’s also where I dove headfirst into the animal movement by starting an animal protection group.”

Following that experience, Pacelle took a college internship with an animal welfare group that really set him on his career path. “I was planning on going to law school, but the internship eventually led to a position as an associate editor for Animals’ Agenda magazine when I graduated. Apparently, though, I still like lawyers — as we have about 50 of them on staff at HSUS,” he says with a chuckle.

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About the Author: Thomas Haire

Thomas Haire

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