The Humane Society of the United States
    • Share to Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Email
    • Print

Wayne Pacelle

CEO & President

  • Wayne Pacelle (puh-SELL'-ee) is President and Chief Executive Officer of The Humane Society of the United States. The HSUS


Wayne Pacelle (puh-SELL'-ee) is President and Chief Executive Officer of The Humane Society of the United States.

Pacelle took office June 1, 2004, after serving for nearly 10 years as the organization's chief lobbyist and spokesperson.

Under Pacelle's leadership, The HSUS has been approved by the Better Business Bureau for all 20 standards for charity accountability, voted by Guidestar's Philanthropedia experts as the #1 high-impact animal protection group, named by Worth Magazine as one of the 10 most fiscally responsible charities, and is ranked in the top 10 for nonprofit brands. 

During his tenure as HSUS President and CEO, Pacelle has driven transformational change for animals and spurred major growth for the organization, which has emerged as the nation’s 138th largest charity and and most effective animal protection organization. The growth has partly been achieved through successful mergers with other animal protection organizations. In 2004, Wayne Pacelle and Michael Markarian (President of The Fund for Animals and now Chief Operating Officer of The HSUS) helped engineer the corporate combination of The HSUS and The Fund for Animals, the national organization founded by Cleveland Amory. In 2006, Pacelle was the architect of a combination with the Doris Day Animal League, which was founded nearly 20 years ago by iconic actress Doris Day, and is one of the major American animal protection organizations. Also under Pacelle’s leadership, the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights became an affiliate of The HSUS as the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association.

Pacelle has also dramatically grown the animal care programs of The HSUS. He arranged a corporate combination with the SPCA Wildlife Care Center (now the South Florida Wildlife Center) of Broward County, Fla.—now one of four animal care centers of The HSUS and affiliated organizations. The HSUS created Duchess Sanctuary, a safe haven for horses in Oregon, in 2008, and acquired the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch and The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in Southern California, in 2005 with the union with The Fund for Animals. Together with its affiliates, The HSUS provides services for more animals than any other animal protection organization.

Pacelle and his team have helped to drive enactment of 138 federal animal protection laws and provisions enacted since 1999, including a series of upgrades to federal animal fighting laws, banning imports of puppy mill dogs, incorporating animals in disaster planning, and restricting animal testing for the assessment of chemicals. He and his team have also helped to pass more than 1200 state laws since 2004, including passing more than 30 successful statewide ballot measure campaigns. In 2016, Pacelle led the effort to pass Question 3 in Massachusetts to improve farm animal welfare (the fourth straight win on anti-confinement ballot initiatives for farm animals) and to pass Measure 100 in Oregon to combat wildlife trafficking. In 2010, Pacelle championed the winning campaign to pass Proposition B in Missouri, the first statewide ballot measure addressing the problem of cruelty at puppy mills. In 2008, he led the effort to pass Proposition 2 in California, halting the intensive confinement of 20 million farm animals. He also led successful efforts to ban the use of bait and dogs in the hunting of bears, cougars and bobcats in Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington; to ban the use of cruel traps in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Washington; to outlaw cockfighting in Arizona, Missouri, and Oklahoma; and to ban mourning dove hunting in Michigan, among other ballot measures. In 1996, Campaigns and Elections named Pacelle "a rising star in politics," "largely for his achievements in crafting, qualifying, and passing statewide ballot initiatives."

He led successful campaigns to defeat ballot measures hostile to animal protection in California, Oklahoma (measures in 2002 and 2016), Oregon, Arizona (measures in 2002 and 2010), and Michigan (wolf hunting proposals in 2012). Pacelle is a frequent speaker on the initiative and referendum process, and has served on the national advisory board for the Initiative and Referendum Institute.

Wayne Pacelle and The HSUS have worked for the passage of more than 1200 new state and local laws since 2005, and he has helped to pass more than 25 federal statutes to protect animals in the last decade—including laws to protect the great apes in their native habitats (2000), to halt any interstate transport of fighting animals (2002) and to make interstate transport of fighting animals a felony (2007), to halt commerce in big cats for the pet trade (2003), to establish federal standards to include pets in disaster planning and response (2006), to ban the import of puppy mill dogs from foreign countries (2008), to require accurate labeling of fur garments (2010), to combat cruel "animal crush" videos (2010), and to strengthen protection for sharks from the inhumane practice of finning (2011). He has also been the architect of a large number of amendments to halt funding for programs to harm animals, including a program to halt funding for the mink industry and the slaughter of American horses for human consumption.

He has testified before U.S. House and Senate committees on a wide range of animal protection issues, on subjects relating to the mistreatment of downer cows, the banning of "canned hunting," securing adequate funding for the Animal Welfare Act and other wildlife and animal protection programs, halting the trophy hunting of threatened and endangered species, combating cockfighting and dogfighting, stopping horse slaughter, cracking down on puppy mills, stemming the exotic pet trade, halting bear baiting, protecting Yellowstone's buffalo, and managing Chronic Wasting Disease.

Wayne Pacelle's work on animal issues has been featured in thousands of newspapers and magazines across the country. He has been profiled in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, and has appeared on almost all of the major network television programs—including "60 Minutes," "The Today Show," "Ellen," "Oprah," "The News Hour with Jim Lehrer," "Larry King Live," "Good Morning America," MSNBC's "Morning Joe," and ABC's "Primetime Live." Pacelle spoke at The City Club of Cleveland (2011), and City Club of Portland (2011), and TEDxManhattan (2012).

In addition, Pacelle is an experienced writer with numerous pieces published in a variety of newspapers, journals and magazines, including Foreign Affairs, Human Dimensions of Wildlife, Campaigns & Elections, and George Wright Society. He has written columns for dozens of major daily newspapers, including The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Dallas Morning News, Detroit Free Press, St. Petersburg Times, The Seattle Times and San Francisco Chronicle. He has written chapters in a number of books dealing with animal issues and the initiative process. Pacelle's best-selling book, The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them, was published in April 2011, and his book The Humane Economy: How Innovators and Enlightened Consumers are Transforming the Lives of Animals was published in April 2016 (both books are published by William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins). The Humane Economy won a Nautilus Book Award for 2016. He also blogs at A Humane Nation, where he covers the latest news and insights into our relationship with animals, and keeps readers informed about efforts to protect them.

Wayne Pacelle is the founder of Humane USA, the non-partisan political arm of the animal protection movement, and the founder of The Humane Society Legislative Fund, a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization that lobbies for animal welfare legislation and works to elect humane-minded candidates to public office. Working with both organizations, Pacelle has helped to defeat some of the most active anti-animal welfare politicians in the United States, including Rep. Joe Knollenberg of Michigan (2008), Rep. Richard Pombo of California (2006), and Rep. Chris John of Louisiana (2004).

Prior to joining The HSUS, Pacelle served as the Executive Director of The Fund for Animals (1988-94). Pacelle also served as Associate Editor (1987-88) and, later, President of the Board for The Animals' Agenda magazine, and as a guest instructor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge Training Academy. He serves on the board of the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, Humane Society International, the South Florida Wildlife Center, Global Animal Partnership and Humane USA. In 2006, Wayne Pacelle co-founded the National Federation of Humane Societies (NFHS), a trade association principally representing local humane societies across the nation, and he now serves on the board of that organization.

In 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported, "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." In 2007, The New York Times reported, "The arrival of Wayne Pacelle as head of the Humane Society in 2004 both turbo-charged the farm animal welfare movement and gave it a sheen of respectability." In 2008, Supermarket News included Pacelle on its annual Power 50 list of influential individuals in food marketing, writing that "there's no denying his growing influence on how animal agriculture is practiced in the United States." In 2016, Men’s Journal wrote, “In the 12 years since he ascended to the president’s seat, Wayne Pacelle has turned the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) from a polite nonprofit into “a Death Star opponent of industry abuses.” A Chronicle of Philanthropy profile the same year carried the headline “Humane Society Notches String of Big Wins Under Aggressive Leader,” its author concluding that “no one has done more for animals” over the last decade than Pacelle.

Pacelle was named one of NonProfit Times' "Executives of the Year" in 2005 for his leadership in responding to the Hurricane Katrina crisis. In 2008, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, The "NonProfit Times" named Pacelle to its annual "Power and Influence Top 50" nonprofit executives. In 2008, the National Italian American Foundation presented Pacelle with the Special Achievement Award in Humanitarian Service. In 2010, Pacelle received the Knight of Honor Award from Notre Dame High School. In 2016, Pacelle received the Ellen Glasgow Award for Humane Service from the Richmond SPCA.

Wayne Pacelle received his B.A. in History and Studies in the Environment from Yale University in 1987.

Learn more about Wayne Pacelle on »Find Wayne Pacelle on LinkedIn »Follow Wayne Pacelle on Facebook »Follow Wayne Pacelle on Twitter »View Wayne Pacelle's profile on »Buy Wayne Pacelle's new book, The Humane Economy »Buy Wayne Pacelle's book, The Bond, on Amazon »

Journalists seeking interviews with HSUS experts, please see our directory of media contacts

Button reading See Her Now