Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Leona Helmsley Leaves Billions to Dogs!


Hotel magnate Leona Helmsley has requested that the bulk of her estate ($5 billion on the low end) go to the dogs.

It's reported in the NY Times that Mrs. Helmsley's "mission statement" articulates her desire that the monies from her estate be used to help dogs. However, according to the Times, the statement also allows the trustees to use their discretion in distributing the monies.

So, is this crazy? Well, it's certainly unprecedented. Does it have a snowball's chance in Hell of seeing the light of day? If people can see this as less a frivolity and more as a gesture capable of realizing great strides in animal welfare, then perhaps a significant amount of the funds will find their way towards Ms. Helmsley's mission.

One would hope that Helmsley's trustees would realize that such magnanimous generosity would create an unparalleled legacy and give a precedent-setting credence to the importance of animal welfare the world over. What a great gift to the world.

Best to read the NY Times story Helmsley, Dogs' Best Friend, left them up to $8 Billion.

I think it's wonderful that the money is being left to dogs. It's an acknowledgment of the importance of animal welfare for human life. This is not just a total fruitcake gesture; it's a serious and compassionate gesture, albeit from a controversial woman who drew great comfort (and no criticisms, hypocrisies, judgments, expectations, or jealousies) from pets.

There are lots of humane organizations that can be helped by Ms. Helmsley's generosity.

Perhaps monies can be spent on stopping greyhound racing, or funding programs to stop dogfighting, or subsidize low-cost spay-neuter programs, or support service dog organizations, or assist in training search-and-rescue dogs, or assist in veterinary programs (research also helps humans), or subsidize basic shelter costs, or subsidize education and/or training programs, or help out in emergencies like hurricanes and floods, or subsidize medical expenditures making pets more easily adoptable, or giving toys to shelter dogs (always the most urgent items on wish lists), or stopping dog-to-dog rabies throughout the world (an end was put to it in the U.S. last year), or....

Perhaps the trustees will allow only a percentage of the funds for dog-related care. Let's see if even 20% makes it to that. But wouldn't it be great if the total amount went towards animal welfare?

Perhaps monies could be used for special conservation programs, zoo education programs, endangered species, research, rescue, funding of animal law programs....

The list goes on, lots of great programs, all deserving and nothing worthless.

It's about time somebody did something for animals - even if it is just dogs. It's a start. Mrs. Helmsley's philanthropic gestures are kind and thoughtful, regardless of how most of us would spend the monies; selfishness is to be found only among those that are thankful only for monies that contribute to their interests and not the donor's.

Thank you, Mrs. Helmsley. You rock.



I've been reading some of the comments left on the aforementioned NY Times story, and there are some of them make very good points.
  1. It's her money; she earned it.
  2. How is her contributing to animal welfare any different than someone else donating their hard-earned money to an animal welfare group?
  3. What's the point of having a will or trust if anyone can have it changed to suit their wants/needs?
  4. Perhaps by helping animals, we'll become better humans.
  5. Why not use the funds to help animals that in turn help humans? (Service dogs, search-and-rescue, etc.)
  6. For a lot of years, Helmsley was demeaned as having an inordinate sense of entitlement; and yet here we are feeling entitled to the money she earned.
  7. Ruth Lilly (think pharmaceutical foundation) gave $200 million to the Chicago nonprofit Poetry Foundation; who complained about that?
Additionally, Helmsley has given millions to various human causes throughout her life. She's donated $1 million to the Nat'l Council of Churches for the rebuilding of churches damaged/burned in hate crimes; $10 million to a Connecticut hospital; $33 million to the New York Hospital - Cornell Medical Center; underwrote the Alzheimer Alert Program; and donated millions, also, to other medical and religious organizations.

She obviously didn't do as much as we think she should have, or could have. But she did something.

A couple of other thoughts: We think nothing of paying people millions of dollars to act in movies, play basketball or football or baseball, or even for artworks. So why not give some monies for dogs?

Here is one of those NY Times story comments:

This reminds me of a headstone I saw at the Hartsdale Canine Cemetery. "You were the only one who ever loved me back."

— Naked Uke Guy, Brooklyn

To find out what types of working dogs could be helped by these funds, read my July 4 post Working Dogs and the Helmsley Billions.


  1. Great post! You might also be interested in reading Wayne Pacelle's reaction to today's news -- he is president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States and commented on this on his blog.

  2. It would be great if money went on looking after poorly treated animals AND educating people properly on animal ownership.

  3. What an amazing heart his woman had, God Bless Her

  4. I guess it's a Dogs day now, she must had loved her animals very much, but I guess she didn't care much for humans, anyways I love your site, tons of great information.You really did your homework on this.
    If you get a chance stop by my site and say hello anytime.
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