Alaska Judge Upholds Judgment Against Friends of Animals, Lowers Award

An Alaskan Superior Court judge this week upheld a judgment by a Tok, Alaska jury that held biologist Gordon Haber and Friends of Animals liable for the release of a black wolf from a trap in 1997.

Haber released the wolf from a trap owned by Eugene Johnson; the wolf died several weeks later from injuries related to wire that Haber did not remove from the animal before releasing it.

At the time Haber released the animal, he was conducting research paid for by Friends of Animals. After Haber began distributing a videotape of the wolf’s release, Johnson sued both him and Friends of Animals claiming that the release violated Alaska state law.

In 2000, a jury agreed, awarding Johnson $40,000 in damages from Haber and $150,000 from Friends of Animals. They both appealed that verdict, but Superior Court Judge Richard Savell upheld the jury’s decision while at the same time agreeing that it had overstepped how much it could award in the case.

Savell reduced the award against Friends of Animals to $100,000 and holds Haber liable for about $79,000 in damages, but essentially permits Johnson’s estate (the trapper died in June 2002) to collect from only one defendant.

Neither Haber nor Friends of Animals has said whether it will appeal Savill’s ruling.


Man who freed wolf loses. Associated Press, September 8, 2002.

Former Employee Makes Allegations Against Human Society of the United States

The April 2001 issue of Animal People contains a story detailing charges against two high level employees of the Humane Society of the United States. A former employee claims she was fired by HSUS for questioning the use of the non-profit’s resources to apparently aid in the management of a for-profit business.

Former HSUS Legal-Exectuvie Secretary/Office Manager Nancy E. Dayton claims that HSUS president Paul Irwin fired her after she complained about what she believed were extensive and unaccounted excess benefit transactions by HSUS general counsel and vice president Roger A. Kindler and HSUS senior counsel Murdaugh Stuart Madden.

Kindler and Madden jointly do business as the law firm of Murdaugh Stuart Madden and Roger A. Kindler which handles cases in the area of tax-exempt law, trusts, wills, and other matters.

In a formal complaint to the Internal Revenue Service, Dayton alleges,

I have witnessed Roger Kindler[‘s] use of the following HSUS resources for private profit and personal gain: office space and meeting room with a prestigious business address; support staff time and services including receptionist, secretarial, accounting, runner/messenger, legal publications filing; computers, printers, copier, facsimile machine; computer software programs; office supplies; storage facilities; mailroom staff time and services; Internet access. Murdaugh Madden enjoys the same benefits.

The allegation that the duo utilize office space of the nonprofit is interesting, since Animal People reports that HSUS’ most recent IRS Form 990 filed on June 28, 2000 reports that the nonprofit received $607,231 in rental income in the previous fiscal year but doesn’t list where that rental income came from.

This is not the first time that the HSUS has been accused of illegally mixing its nonprofit ventures with private financial transactions. In the late 1980s HSUS actually bought President Emeritus John L. Hoyt’s house for $310,000, but allowed him to continue to live there rent free until critics began making a fuss. In another action designed to benefit the animals, HSUS provided the financing for Irwin to purchase beach front property in Maine during the same period.

And, of course, there was also the HSUS scandal involving their former vice president of investigations, David Willis, who was fired from HSUS for embezzling at least $93,000 from the organization.

In fact, with assets approaching $40 million, it sometimes appears that HSUS is less interested in animal rights than in making a quick buck. Animal People passed along a hilarious contradiction from the group that was originally dug up by The Whole Dog Journal. In a June 2000 edition of its e-mail newsletter, “Humane Lines,” HSUS denounced an experiment to use shock collars to condition wolves to avoid livestock. But at the same time, HSUS endorsed the PetSafe Radio Fence shock collar. Why? Because they get a small royalty from the manufacturer in exchange for their endorsement.


IRS probes alleged self-dealing by Humane Society of the U.S. Lawyers. Animal People, April 2001, p.12.

Trapper Awarded $150,000 In Lawsuit Against Friends of Animals

    An Alaskan trapper recent won a $150,000 judgment against Friends of Animals researcher Gordon Haber for freeing an injured wolf out of a snare.

    In 1997, biologist Haber discovered the wolf caught in a trap set by Alaskan Eugene Johnson. Haber called Alaska state wildlife officials to free the wolf arguing it had been trapped illegally since there were dead caribou carcasses in the vicinity which violates an anti-baiting statute. Officials said they’d free the animal but when they didn’t show up, Haber released the animal himself all the while creating a videotape of his actions which he later released to highlight what he believes is an “abusive type of snaring.”

    Under Alaskan law, however, the wolf was the property of Johnson the moment it came into the trap. Since prosecutor’s decided there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Johnson with illegally baiting a trap, Johnson turned around and sued Haber for compensation for the lost wolf. Haber claimed he had the permission of state wildlife officials to free the wolf, but they testified that they told him as soon as he called that the wolf was the property of the trapper under Alaskan law.

    In addition to economic damage, Johnson argued that Haber was acting along with Friends of Animals to create a sensationalized videotape and damage his reputation for fund-raising purposes.

    Although both Haber and Friends of Animals maintain that Haber is an independent research biologist who happens to receive funding from the animal rights group, the jury decided that Haber was in fact acting as an employee of Friends of Animals when he released the wolf from the trap.

    After the verdict, Haber was defiant saying, “If they think I’m going to go away licking my wounds, they’re wrong. It just makes me more determined to get out there.”

    Friends of Animals, who paid all of the legal fees for their non-employee Haber has not yet decided whether it will appeal the jury verdict.


Trapper awarded damages. Tim Mowry, Fairbanks Daily News, July 24, 2000.

Biologist undeterred by verdict in trapping case. The Associated Press, July 26, 2000.