The lives of animals : Humane Society’s Shapiro is dedicated to saving them

Brian Shapiro and friend. (photo by Dion Ogust)

“So our animals can’t turn around for the 2.5 years that they are in the stalls producing piglets. I don’t know who asked the sow if she wanted to turn around …” — Spokesman for National Pork Producers Council

This quote represents the kind of thinking Brian Shapiro is trying to change in his new role as New York State director of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The former Ulster County legislator and former Woodstock town council member says, “This new position is the culmination of my life’s work,” combining his longstanding interests in politics and animal rights.

He remembers when he was first taught compassion for animals. “I was four years old, and my mother saw me step on a caterpillar and stare at it. She scolded me and told me, ‘You don’t step on bugs — you need to respect animals.’ It was eye-opening for me, a lesson learned — not to cause needless cruelty to other creatures.”


His mother, Ronnye Shapiro, was also a role model in the field of grass-roots organization, beginning in 1976, when she was head of a moped owners association. “As a nine-year-old I was stuffing envelopes and sorting mail,” recalls Shapiro, as he watched his family help to pass legislation that promoted safety for motorbike riders. “My mother was instrumental is putting together a moped owner’s safety guide. I saw at a young age how to make yourself part of a system for change.”

Over the past four years, Shapiro has served as director of the county’s ASPCA. “I’m proud of my time there,” he says. “I increased the numbers of adoptions, expanded the spay-neuter program, strengthened the humane law division, and focused on cases of neglect and cruelty.”

But his work at HSUS has a longer reach, he says, with 800,000 supporters in New York State and 11 million nationwide. “It’s an incredible opportunity to help rescue animals and help mobilize the animal advocacy community. I’m honored to be with such a prestigious organization that has accomplished so much.”

There are 3 comments

  1. Dorothy

    Unfortunately, HSUS has worked to restore Michael Vick’s image and career without Mr. Vick ever admitting that it was wrong to torture animals, just wrong to get caught and go to prison.
    The money given to HSUS does not directly assist animals, either. It pads the paychecks of its managerial employees.
    Sorry, Mr. Shapiro, you did more good at the UCSPCA.

  2. Sarah

    Dorothy, as someone who works at the HSUS, I would respectfully disagree on your comment. No one worked harder than the HSUS to make sure Vick was held responsible for the acts he committed. The question, once he had served his time, was if he would be able to be any help in the fight to end dogfighting. You and I both know that dogfighting is cruel and inhumane. But Vick saw his first dogfight at 8 years old – and right now, he’s helping us try to pass legislation that would make it illegal for kids to go to animal fights. We don’t want more people headed down the path he went – that is what we are trying to prevent.

    As for money, we spend over 77% of our funds on program expenses – that ranges from our work to end egregious forms of wildlife abuse to stopping puppy mills. The claim you make regarding funds is straight from the playbook of Rick Berman and his absurdly named center for consumer freedom. The same group that sent over 92% of the contributions they received to Berman and his PR firm. (Guess that explains the 3 million dollar mansion he lives in!).

    As for HSUS, we are rated a 4-star charity (the highest possible)by Charity Navigator, 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, and named by Worth Magazine as one of the 10 most fiscally responsible charities.

    I’d encourage you to learn more about our work at, as well as a bit more about Berman, at, and It’s very enlightening.

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