Former President of The Humane Society of the United States Remembered for Promoting Ministry for People and Animals
John A. Hoyt, a pioneer of animal protection who viewed his work as a “ministry” benefitting both people and animals, and promoted a positive agenda of kindness to animals throughout the United States and abroad, passed away at his home in Fredericksburg, Va., on Sunday, April 15. He was 80, and served as president and then CEO of The Humane Society of the United States between 1970 and 1997—nearly half the lifespan of the organization, which was founded in 1954. He was the fourth chief executive of The HSUS.
Hoyt led national campaigns to encourage pet adoption, reduce the population of homeless pets, and eliminate cruel methods of euthanasia in animal shelters; challenge inhumane slaughter and the intensive confinement of farm animals by agribusiness; promote humane education of children; accelerate the implementation of alternatives to animal use in research, testing and education; andadvocate for animals in the wild.
“For those of us who worked with him in the great cause of protecting animals, John Hoyt’s death creates a deep sense of loss,” said Anita Coupe, chair of the HSUS board of directors. “John’s vision of a better world for people and animals attracted generations of Americans to the work of The Humane Society of the United States.”
Working closely for a quarter century with his colleague and successor Paul Irwin, Hoyt helped to build The HSUS into the largest organization in the field, professionalizing its staff by hiring veterinarians, wildlife scientists, humane educators, campaigners and other skilled personnel. Hoyt also worked to build bridges between the humane movement and the veterinary community, and to promote humane work abroad, helping to create and serving two terms as the president of the World Society for the Protection of Animals and creating Humane Society International, an affiliate of The HSUS.
During the 1970s, under Hoyt’s leadership, The HSUS launched a youth education division, created a regional office system that gave the organization greater reach, created an undercover investigations unit to pull back the curtain on abusive industries, and created the Institute for the Study of Animal Problems, an innovative research division that sought to introduce the science of animal welfare into public policy discussions.
“John blended passion with professionalism, and he knew that the prevention of animal cruelty had to be the key focus of The Humane Society of the United States,” noted Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “He also brought animal protection onto the global stage, building capacity to confront these problems all over the world.”
Hoyt was a frequent public speaker who appeared in the CBS television documentary, “The Guns of Autumn,” broadcast in September 1975. The author of Animals in Peril: How Sustainable Use is Wiping Out The World’s Wildlife (1994), he received The HSUS’ highest honor, the Joseph Wood Krutch Award, in 1996. During Hoyt’s tenure, The HSUS grew from about 10,000 to 3.5 million constituents, and increased its staff from 10 to 200.
“The quality of humaneness is uncompromising,” Hoyt wrote in 1978. “It is also undefeatable so long as compassion and caring concern are aflame in the hearts and minds of human beings.”
Hoyt came to The HSUS in April 1970 from the First Presbyterian Church in Fort Wayne, Ind., where as senior minister he pastored a congregation of 3,600 members. His leadership of The HSUS was a natural progression, Hoyt frequently recalled, and flowed organically from his upbringing and the influence of his paternal grandmother, a West Virginia farmer whose acts of kindness to animals made a deep impression on him in boyhood.
Hoyt, born in Marietta, Ohio, in March 1932, earned a bachelor’s degree and D.D. from Rio Grande College in 1958, and a master’s of divinity degree from Colgate-Rochester Divinity School in 1969. He is survived by his wife, Trudy, daughters Peggy, Karen, Anne and Julie, and five grandchildren. During his tenure with The HSUS, Hoyt resided in Darnestown, Md. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Covenant Funeral Service of Fredericksburg.
The family requests that memorial contributions be made to The Humane Society of the United States and the Foundation for PSP | CBD and Related Brain Diseases.