Humane Society Picks New CEO After Upheaval

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has a new leader, new board co-chairs, and continues work on its bylaws and updated governance principles roughly a year after its chief executive was pushed out amid complaints about workplace sexual harassment.

Kitty Block, an attorney, has been acting chief executive. The acting title has been removed and she will remain in the top post. She joined the HSUS in 1992 as a legal investigator and later moved on to oversee international policy work related to international trade and treaties. Block has served in various HSUS executive roles, including as president of Humane Society International, the international affiliate of the HSUS.

She replaced Wayne Pacelle in January 2018. A board investigation of allegations against Pacelle cleared him of sexual harassment after a seven-hour meeting saying there was no credible evidence against him. Pacelle, who became chief executive in 2004, resigned the next morning.

Susan Atherton and Thomas J. Sabatino, Jr., were appointed co-chairs of the HSUS board following Eric L. Bernthal stepping down as chair on Friday after seven years of service, the organization announced.

Atherton is an independent philanthropist and long-time advocate for animals at the local, national and global level. She also served as vice chair of the Board of Directors of the Humane Society Legislative Fund for 14 years, and continues to serve as a member on that board.

Sabatino is a longtime animal advocate actively engaged in animal rescue in communities across Florida and New England. He most recently served as executive vice president and general counsel of Aetna, and has served in comparable positions at other major companies.

The board continues to implement governance recommendations made by its attorneys Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, according to the announcement. Full implementation of the plan will occur by the board’s April 2019 meeting. This follows an extensive engagement, during which Gibson Dunn reviewed and advised on the HSUS’ governance practices on a pro bono basis. The board noted its deep appreciation for Gibson Dunn’s time, expertise and dedication to the HSUS, according to the announcement.

The Humane Society investigation included interviews with 33 people, including Pacelle. The board released a statement condemning the workplace environment and the actions alleged but never named Pacelle in the release.