David Wills
Key Player

Founder, the PEAT Institute; former Vice President, Humane Society of the United States; former executive director, Michigan Humane Society; former president, New Hampshire Humane SocietyDavid Wills was vice president in charge of international operations and cruelty investigations for the Humane Society of the United States, the world’s richest animal-rights organization. He was fired in October 1995 after a month-long internal investigation into accusations that he embezzled thousands of dollars and sexually harassed subordinates. There were also rumors that Wills used an HSUS expense account to pay for part of his Mexican wedding to Laurie White, ex-wife of PETA co-founder Alex Pacheco. Wills was a protégé of HSUS president emeritus John Hoyt for over twenty years and was a roommate of HSUS president Wayne Pacelle.

Wills landed the presidency of the New Hampshire Humane Society in 1972 when he was only 19, the youngest person ever to head a major humane society. He got the job with Hoyt’s recommendation, a fabricated resume with a non-existent master’s degree in journalism, and a manufactured background with the Washington (DC) Humane Society. He left six years later amid accusations he stole funds, with estimates ranging from $10,000 to $2 million.

The next year, Wills was hired as the executive director of the Michigan Humane Society, again with a recommendation from Hoyt. Ten years later, he resigned amid controversy over $1.6 million in missing funds. A bookkeeper was held responsible for only $60,000, and the rest was never recovered.

With his departure, Wills’s faked resume — and a separate conviction for breaking and entering — became known. That did not stop him from starting his own animal-rights organization, the National Society for Animal Protection, with financial support from Hoyt. That group was absorbed by HSUS in 1991 and Wills because an HSUS vice president.

Four years later, he was fired in yet another financial scandal. He agreed to pay HSUS $67,800 in restitution and was given a six-month jail sentence for his guilty plea to one count of embezzling $18,900. Six other counts of embezzlement were dropped. The sexual harassment suits were settled out of court.

Wills later founded The PEAT Institute (People Ethics, Animals, and Truth) and he and his wife joined the International Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources (IFCNR) as partners. Ironically, IFCNR offers advice to corporations on how to counter HSUS initiatives, trading on Wills’ knowledge from his many years on the “inside” of the animal-rights movement.