Nearly 500 people gathered at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center Saturday evening for a gala celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Humane Society of the United States and the tenth anniversary of Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of HSUS.
Since its inception in 1954, the organization has helped make animal cruelty a felony in all 50 states. In the past decade years, HSUS has been responsible for passing nearly 1,000 anti-cruelty laws. And on Saturday night alone, more than $500,000 was raised to continue the fight.
“Over these 60 years, we’ve established ourselves as the real thought leader, and the biggest impact organization in the field of animal welfare,” said Pacelle in remarks at the gala. “I’m excited that so many people of conscience have gathered together to decide that collectively, we’re going to do something about animal cruelty, and create a better society for animals and for people.”
The evening began with a cocktail reception, complete with a silent auction and opportunities to mingle with notable animal lovers. HSUS chairman Eric Bernthal was in attendance, accompanied by his three sons, one of whom, actor Jon Bernthal, is known for his role as Shane on AMC’s The Walking Dead. Congressman Jim Moran, a staunch supporter of animal rights, also visited with guests.
“We’re in the trenches every day,” said Eric Bernthal. “It’s wonderful to be able to have a night where we’re among friends and celebrating all the great accomplishments of HSUS.”
Jon Bernthal calls himself a “big pit bull guy”—he owns two of them. He spoke passionately about putting a stop to puppy mills and dog fighting. “I just want them to keep doing exactly what they’re doing,” he said of the HSUS. “I think information will breed change and the HSUS is a great organization for getting information out there.”
A vegan dinner—spinach salad, butternut-squash-and-kale lasagna, and chocolate cake—followed the cocktail hour. Guests enjoyed their meals around centerpieces filled with water and floating lilies as two giant screens at the front flashed images of animals and their saviors.
Actor Ben Stein played host for the night, cracking jokes about his fellow animal lovers. Congressman Moran received the evening’s highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award. Moran, who retires from office after this term, has been at the forefront of several anti-cruelty laws, including the Humane Cosmetics Act. He accepted the award to a standing ovation.
And as for HSUS’s goals over the next 60 years, Pacelle said the organization is focused on expanding its mission internationally.