The most high-profile decision of my four-decade career in animal welfare was in 2007. As the then-president and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, I greenlit the famous Sarah McLachlan television commercial that pulled America’s heartstrings.

The spot became a cultural phenomenon that was spoofed on “Saturday Night Live,” and it revolutionized the humane movement’s fundraising strategy forever. The star power supercharged the direct response television approach we had begun exploring a few years earlier. Little did I know that my fundraising team’s most effective achievement would one day hurt local pet shelters.

Prime-time spots featuring celebrities were new to the animal welfare space — and it proved wildly successful. The strategy helped grow the ASPCA’s budget by more than $140 million in just 10 years. The surge is jaw-dropping, considering it took nearly 140 years to realize a $43 million budget. Predictably, the boon attracted copycats. The other big players on the block — notably the Humane Society of the United States — quickly adopted a similar advertising regimen.

Fast-forward to today, the national animal groups have morphed into factory fundraisers — gobbling up donors and raking in hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Compared to 2001, the combined budgets of the ASPCA and HSUS have ballooned by more than $400 million annually.

Animal lovers — including myself — assumed the windfall would mean more dollars for local pet shelters and rescues. At first, we were right; the money mainly helped homeless cats and dogs. But sadly, the good times were short-lived. What were previously robust pet shelter grant programs have shriveled to line items amounting to just 1 percent or 2 percent of yearly budgets.

As a result, the local humane societies and SPCAs — which aren’t affiliated with the national groups — are facing steep budget gaps. Intake of homeless cats and dogs is on the rise, and facilities lack the resources to respond sufficiently. As a recent TIME Magazine headline put it, “Surge in Unwanted Dogs Fuels ‘Crisis’ Across U.S. Animal Shelters.”

Where has the money gone? Financial support for local pet shelters has taken a backseat to bloated investment accounts and alternative priorities. The organizations have a combined $650 million in investments for a rainy day. News alert: It’s pouring.

In addition to grant support drying up, local pet shelters are facing a case of mistaken identity. Many well-intentioned animal lovers are donating to national organizations with similar-sounding names, wrongly believing the money will help the neighborhood pet shelter down the street.

As a former longtime head of a small regional animal shelter in New Jersey, I sympathize. While at the ASPCA, I did my part to help remedy the mix-up by diverting more dollars to shelters. However, since then, the ASPCA and HSUS have gone backward. Correcting name confusion or returning to a budget structure strongly supporting local facilities has not made the to-do list.

This isn’t to say that the ASPCA and HSUS aren’t currently doing anything to benefit animals. But they are undoubtedly leaving the local shelters behind.

The fundraising success of the Sarah McLachlan commercial created a gravy train that has gone off the tracks. I take responsibility for starting it, but I’m no longer in a position to put on the brakes. Until the ASPCA and HSUS correct their spending to prioritize more robust pet shelter grant programs, donors should give locally.