Few are in a position to speak for the animals like Wayne Pacelle. As President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, he leads the nation's largest animal protection organization in the mission of celebrating animals and confronting cruelty. Read more »
When I started in animal advocacy as a college student, there was not a great deal of serious-minded journalism on animal protection issues. The topic was fresh and provocative – specifically the notion that we humans were misusing our power over animals and abusing them in systemic ways through factory farming, animal testing, fashion, and wildlife management, among others. Although there were exceptions to be sure, the reporting often focused on tactics and protests, and treated animal advocacy as a sort of curiosity – an interesting new phenomenon, but not one ready to see its core ideas incorporated into our political, corporate, and cultural landscape or institutions.
Humane Society International
During the last 20 years, we’ve moved steadily from the margins to the mainstream, with The HSUS playing a leading role in building a legal framework to forbid cruelty, working with many of the largest corporations in America to improve their animal welfare practices, and reminding average citizens that concern for other creatures is a matter of the deepest human responsibility. We have worked hard to normalize an ethical concern for all animals throughout society.
One measure of the emergence of our cause is in-depth reporting on our issues, which we’ve tracked carefully, especially through our running of the Genesis Awards, which recognizes the major media for examining animal protection topics.
Yesterday, journalist Paul Solotaroff wrote a dazzling essay for Rollingstone.com on factory farming, exposing the cruelties built into the system of warehousing animals and intensively confining them, the attempts by agribusiness interests to repress investigations and exposés of inhumane practices, and the efforts of The HSUS and many family farmers to challenge the orthodoxies of an industry that turns animals into meat, milk, and eggs.
It’s a 7,000 word essay, but it’s worth spending time with. I cannot imagine any fair-minded people who would read this piece and not think that the protection of farm animals, especially in light of their exploitation on factory farms, should not be an issue for the nation to examine carefully and to work to correct.
During President Obama’s tenure, The HSUS has worked to secure stronger policies from federal agencies to help animals – from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the National Marine Fisheries Service to the National Institutes of Health. Every one of those agencies – and there are at least a dozen at the federal level relevant to our work – makes life and death decisions for animals.
During the president’s first term, the administration was slow to respond to animal protection concerns. But the pace has picked up in a good way, although the results haven’t been uniformly positive. In last year’s 2012 Animal Protection Record, we noted that the administration made some strong moves to protect animals, but came up short in a number of areas.
This year, 2013, has been the administration’s best year by a long shot, and we are giving out our best grade yet: B+. There are some gems in here, with the administration bucking powerful industries and siding with animal protection sensibilities in a few instances. There are still some adverse actions, such as national de-listing of wolves, a free pass for wind energy companies to kill protected eagles, and massive subsidies for the pork industry. But the list below is impressive and it’s something that administration officials should be proud of, and animal advocates should be pleased to see, as a collective set of actions.
The 13 most notable agency actions in 2013 that significantly affected animals were:
Chimpanzees – The National Institutes of Health (NIH) declared that it will retire the vast majority of the approximately 400 government-owned chimpanzees currently in laboratories to sanctuary. The NIH supported removing a spending barrier imposed by the CHIMP Act in order to sustain funding for the retirement of chimpanzees from laboratories to sanctuary, a fix signed into law by President Obama just before Thanksgiving. In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed listing all chimpanzees as endangered, regardless of whether they are in the wild or in captivity.
Puppy Mills – In a long-awaited action that animal welfare advocates have been pushing for a decade, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) finalized a rule that closed a loophole in Animal Welfare Act regulations, now requiring that dealers who sell puppies and other warm-blooded animals as pets sight unseen, including over the Internet, be regulated. The rule will extend federal oversight and standards of care to thousands of puppy mills that do business online, potentially doubling the number of puppy mills nationwide that will be regulated. Significant enforcement actions have been brought against puppy mill violators, including one dealer who was fined $191,000 for serious violations.
Wildlife Trafficking – The president signed an unprecedented executive order to enhance coordination of the U.S. government’s efforts to combat wildlife trafficking, which is decimating wildlife populations across the globe. The president also provided an additional $10 million in regional assistance in Africa to combat wildlife trafficking. As part of the effort to crack down on elephant poaching, the USFWS crushed six tons of stockpiled ivory.
President’s Budget – The president’s FY14 budget included key animal protection items, including proposing to Congress to allow NIH the flexibility to use existing agency funds for the care and transfer of retired federally-owned chimpanzees to sanctuary. The budget also proposed more money for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act (HPA) and to defund inspections of horse slaughter plants.
The Department of Commerce issued a final rulerevising the regulations governing the dolphin-safe label, requiring that all fisheries provide a certification that no dolphins were killed or seriously injured during the harvesting of tuna.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) denied Georgia Aquarium’s request to import 18 wild-caught belugas from the Sea of Okhotsk, Russia.
The NMFS issued a final rule permanently extending existing speed limits for ships along the United States East Coast to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales.
CITES – The USFWS worked to gain protections for numerous species at the 2013 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) conference of the parties, by:
Co-sponsoring proposals to protect a total of 47 species of tortoises and turtles;
Lobbying on behalf of the oceanic whitetip shark, the porbeagle shark, three species of hammerhead sharks, and two species of manta rays, all of which were listed as Appendix II species; and
Working to combat the increasing trade in ivory, which has created a crisis situation for elephants and rhinos, by supporting the establishment of an Ivory Enforcement Task Force.
Toxic Rodent Poisons– The Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) canceled the registrations of mouse and rat poison products posing threats to children, pets and wildlife injured or killed from accidental exposure.
Bird Toxin – The EPA approved new labels for Avitrol® products, a harmful toxicant commonly used to kill birds, including pigeons and sparrows in urban areas as well as starlings and blackbirds on farms. These new labels implement improvements in required safety measures by imposing restrictions on how Avitrol® may be used.
Animal Cruelty – The Department of Justice (DOJ) held a session on the intersection between animal cruelty and public safety. The DOJ has charged at least 190 defendants with animal cruelty offenses during the past six years and has assisted state and local prosecutors in many other cases.
Reducing Animal Research – The NIH has awarded funding to academic research groups to explore new treatments for patients in eight different disease areas. Developing a new therapeutic drug is a long and difficult challenge. This program will forge partnerships to streamline and trim years from the current process, with the effect of reducing the use of animals in research.
Pesticide Testing – The EPA advanced several policy recommendations designed to reduce animal tests for pesticide safety. The EPA’s policy formalizes steps in shifting toward smarter chemical assessment that relies on careful evaluation of the information rather than a list of required tests.
Horses– The USDA successfully defended its mandatory minimum penalty protocol under the HPA in federal court. The HSUS submitted an amicus brief in this case. In an effort to crack down on the cruel practice of horse soring, the USDA’s Office of Inspector General conducted an investigation that led to the arrest of horse trainer Larry Wheelon, an active director of the Tennessee Walking Horse Trainer’s Association, previously cited by inspectors at least 15 times for violations of the HPA between 1993 and 2012.
King Amendment – USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack publicly voiced concern about the King Amendment, a provision in the House version of this year's Farm Bill that aims to block state laws protecting farm animals and could preempt a wide swath of state laws covering food safety, environmental requirements, food labeling, and other issues. Vilsack called it “troublesome” and explained that it would create legal challenges and confusion in the marketplace.
We applaud these actions, and we thank executive agency leaders for showing concern for animal protection values. Still though, there’s much work remaining to be done. Some items that still need attention are making final a rule to prevent the import of sick and young puppies from foreign puppy mills for resale in the United States, the issuance of a rule to close the downer veal calves loophole, the listing of all chimpanzees and African lions as endangered species, a ban on public contact with big cats and other dangerous wildlife, the promulgation of a rule listing the remaining five large constrictor snakes as injurious species to prohibit the importation and interstate transport of these snakes as pets, and an increase in fertility control efforts with an attendant decrease in round-ups of wild horses.
These are good policies for animals, and broadly supported by the American public. We’ll continue to work with administration officials in getting them over the finish line in early 2014. But it’s worth celebrating some tremendous progress for our cause.
If you don’t think video of animals, and specifically of animal cruelty, has the power to drive social reform and behavior changes, then take note of what happened this year in nearly a dozen state legislatures in 2013. From California to Indiana to Tennessee to Wyoming, adversaries of The HSUS, acting in concert with agribusiness interests, introduced legislation to make it more difficult, or in some cases impossible, to legally obtain footage of animals on factory farms. So far this year we have blocked all of these over-reaching bills, but they were cost-intensive, high-profile battles. And more proposals like these are sure to return in a number of states as legislative sessions resume early in 2014.
More broadly, whether it involves highlighting the findings of an HSUS undercover investigation, documenting a raid of a puppy mill facility or the rescue of gopher tortoises, celebrating animals in our lives, or tracking our Humane Wildlife Services team, the power of video in drawing people into animal protection is of inestimable worth. Transparency and an informed citizenry are the greatest antidote to animal cruelty.
Today, it’s impossible for me to imagine our work without the talents of videographers who document our work. They produce compelling pieces that tell the public the actual story of what’s happening with animals and also provide a window into the dizzying array of programs that The HSUS conducts. For the animal-cruelty apologists who falsely argue that The HSUS just talks about companion animals and sheltering, to the exclusion of other animal welfare issues, our broadcasting of all of our programs through our video platform answers that nonsense every day of the year.
Here are ten videos from 2013 that provide a sample of our work, with an emphasis on some of our investigations and raids. There are dozens more, and you can watch any and all of them by going to humanesociety.org/video or getting our free HumaneTV app through iTunes.
Have you got a favorite among the ten, or one that didn’t make my list? Write me and let me know.
Chimps: A New Life, Retirement
Former lab chimpanzees start a new life at Chimp Haven sanctuary in Keithville, La. The success of this campaign started with an HSUS undercover investigation.
HSUS: Pets for Life
Pets for Life is a program of The HSUS that works to prevent shelter overpopulation, reduce animal suffering, and promote veterinary care. It improves the lives of not just animals, but the people who care for them in under-served communities. It involves a more strategic risk-based approach to our companion animal work.
Raccoon Friends Reunited
Our Humane Wildlife Services team encouraged a raccoon to leave his den in the ceiling of a client's porch. We installed a one-way, repeating door in case others were inside. Sure enough, after some vocalized encouragement, a second one emerged! Because of the methods we used, these guys were able to reunite and move on to one of their other known den sites in the area.
Big Cats and Other Exotic Animals Rescued in Kansas
When private citizens keep wildlife as pets – especially big cats and other large, powerful animals – it almost never turns out well. It's also a potentially deadly situation for the owner or other people who must live or work around these animals.
Black Beauty Ranch: America's Largest Animal Sanctuary
Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch is America's largest and most diverse animal sanctuary. It is a permanent haven to more than 1,200 domestic and exotic animals rescued from research laboratories, roadside zoos, captive hunting operations, factory farms, the exotic pet trade, and other forms of abuse and neglect.
Paralyzed Dog Gets Wheels – Ricky Bobby
Ricky Bobby was rescued from a suspected puppy mill in North Carolina and never would have walked again – until we rescued him. We’ve done 15 interventions of puppy mills in North Carolina in just the last two years.
Dogfighting Rescue Saves 367 Dogs
The HSUS Animal Rescue Team at the request of the United States Attorney's Office and the FBI, assisted in seizing 367 dogs in Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia in what is believed to be the second-largest dogfighting raid.
University Animal Lab Investigation; Narrated by Kim Basinger
The HSUS undercover investigation at Georgia Regents University revealed the tragic fate of dogs sold into research by random source Class B dealers. These dealers have a long-standing history of poor conditions and illegal activity, taking up significant USDA enforcement resources.
Animal Hell in Mississippi
What the HSUS' Animal Rescue Team discovered on a Marion County Property left some haunting memories and some hope for more than 200 animals rescued from deplorable conditions.
This has been a year of hope and tremendous progress for chimpanzees in laboratories, with pledges from the federal government to transfer hundreds of chimps to sanctuaries in the months ahead. But for one chimp who left the laboratory more than a decade and a half ago and lived her succeeding years in a sanctuary run by The Fund for Animals, an HSUS affiliate, she will not see the new year. Kitty, the eldest of three chimps at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, passed away peacefully this morning at the age of 51.
The HSUS Kitty passed away peacefully at the age of 51.
Born in the wild in her native Africa, wildlife traders captured her at the age of 10. She was transported to the United States, and she was put into a breeding program to produce chimps for laboratory experiments. Over the course of her life, Kitty gave birth to 14 infants, including two sets of twins. All but four of Kitty’s babies were immediately taken from her. Kitty was retired from the breeding program in May, 1997 and arrived at Black Beauty Ranch on June 3, 1997. She lived her life at the sanctuary as the matriarch and leader of her group that included Lulu, her best friend, and Midge, the youngest of the trio.
Kitty was one smart chimpanzee. She was always the first to explore the areas of the outdoor chimp habitat, and the new forms of enrichment provided to make her time in captivity more stimulating. She was an expert at disassembling whatever contraption was designed to engage her. She also built elaborate nests made of blankets, boxes, hay, and stuffed toys, leaving Midge with the scraps she left behind. Her care team always chuckled at Kitty’s bedtime set-ups which also usually included a stash of snacks.
When her friend Lulu suffered a stroke, Kitty immediately stepped in and began to care for her by bringing snacks and magazines to her side. This came as no surprise. Kitty’s files from her time in the breeding program were full of comments noting excellent maternal care. She was even put into a foster-mother program where she helped inexperienced chimps rear their babies.
Over the last few days as Kitty declined, Lulu was able to return the favor to her friend. Lulu gave Kitty her constant companionship until the end. While our hearts are broken that Kitty is gone, we take comfort in knowing that she spent the last 16 years of her life around chimps and people who would do just about anything for her. She had security, friendship and love, with her basic needs provided to her. She knew the dark side of humanity, people who took her from her home in Africa as an adolescent, shipped her half way around the world, and then conscripted her into a life as a breeding machine to feed a closed and harsh industry. But she also came to know human kindness and love, and those were surely her most recent memories.
We can never express fully how grateful we are to have known Kitty and how proud we are to have told her story—for her and for all of the other chimpanzees being used in laboratories, some of whom are her children and grandchildren. Kitty is survived by her offspring, her best friends Lulu and Midge and her Black Beauty Ranch family, led by Director Ben Callison.
“I have nothing to fear and here my story ends. My troubles are all over and I am at home,” reads the inscription at the entrance to the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch. We made good on that promise to her. RIP.
And while rescue and other direct-care programs are vital to helping animals in crisis, we cannot rescue our way out of so many problems for animals. We must prevent cruelty to millions caught up in factory farms, animal-testing labs, puppy mills, animal fighting rings, the wildlife trade, and so many other settings. That’s why The HSUS, through its advocacy programs, drives transformational change—bringing a wide set of tools to take on the biggest fights, confronting multi-billion dollar industries, and staying the course until reform is realized. Here are some highlights for 2013:
FREEING CHIMPANZEES FROM LABORATORIES
The HSUS played the crucial role in securing the passage of a bill in Congress to continue funding for chimpanzee sanctuaries; in persuading the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to propose listing all chimpanzees as endangered, whether they live in the wild or in captivity; and in getting the National Institutes of Health to commit to retiring nearly 90% of the chimpanzees owned by the government to sanctuary.
REJECTING GESTATION CRATES
The HSUS and its global affiliate, Humane Society International, generated seismic shifts in the landscape for sows in gestation crates, getting leading agricultural agencies and trade associations to recommend a phase-out of these restrictive devices in Canada and South Africa. In the U.S., we persuaded major food retailers such as Dine Equity, Marriott, General Mills, Papa John’s, Ahold (Giant and Stop & Shop), Quizno’s, and others to phase out the use of gestation crates. On top of similar declarations from McDonald’s, Burger King, Costco, and Safeway, announced last year, we have sufficient momentum to spell the end for the use of crates in the U.S.
REDUCING ANIMAL TESTING WORLDWIDE
The HSUS and HSI spurred three of the four biggest economies in the world to take decisive action against animal testing. The European Union, India, and China all took major steps toward a phase-out of reliance on animal tests for cosmetics and other products. We are at the leading edge of a global campaign to drive innovation, develop alternatives, and end animal testing everywhere.
STRENGTHENING PROTECTIONS FOR ANIMALS IN THE STATES
The HSUS helped to secure 107 new state laws to protect animals in 2013 (the highest number in four years): upgrading animal cruelty and fighting laws in Alabama, Nevada, and North Dakota; banning the sale and possession of shark fins in Delaware, Maryland, and New York; halting horse tripping in Oregon; creating statewide spay-and-neuter funding mechanisms in Maryland and Virginia; ending the trade in primates as pets in Arkansas; and restricting the use of steel-jawed leghold traps in Hawaii. We banned the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers for shelter euthanasia in Texas, and worked to shut down chambers in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia. The HSUS also defeated anti-whistleblower (ag-gag) legislation in 11 of 11 states where factory farming interests engineered their introduction.
ENDING SHARK FINNING ON A GLOBAL SCALE
The HSUS and HSI secured bans on the trade in shark fin products in three U.S. states; a ban on finning in India; a revamped anti-finning law in the European Union; and tangible gains in China, including an end to serving shark fin soup at some government functions. The HSUS is working to fend off a proposed rule within the National Marine Fisheries Service that poses the threat of pre-emption of state laws against finning.
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
MAKING GAINS TO END CRUELTY IN PUPPY MILLS
The HSUS championed a new U.S. Department of Agriculture rule bringing 2,000 Internet dog sellers under federal regulation; we drove enactment of new laws in Vermont and West Virginia to provide for humane breeding standards; we conducted undercover investigations showing puppy mill dogs being sold at flea markets and pet stores; and we exposed the American Kennel Club’s ties with the puppy mill industry on national television.
REQUIRING LEAD-FREE AMMUNITION IN CALIFORNIA
The HSUS partnered to secure the first statewide requirement for the use of lead ammunition when shooting wildlife. It’s our hope that this landmark law will usher in similar policies in other states and at the federal level to require the use of non-lead ammunition, which would prevent the poisoning of millions of wild animals every year.
STOPPING ANIMAL FIGHTING IN THE U.S. AND ABROAD
The HSUS secured language in the House and Senate Farm Bills to make it a federal crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fight. We conducted a series of raids on dogfights and cockfights throughout the nation, including more than a dozen sites in Alabama and Georgia, rescuing hundreds of dogs in the second-largest dogfighting bust in U.S. history. We participated in a series of busts in Costa Rica and are readying a campaign to outlaw dogfighting worldwide.
STALLING HORSE SLAUGHTER—ON THE WAY TO A NORTH AMERICAN BAN
Throughout 2013, the HSUS’s legal team has blocked the opening of horse slaughter plants in Iowa, Missouri, and New Mexico, and created an unfriendly climate for the opening of plants in other states. We secured preliminary language in the 2014 House and Senate agriculture spending bills to defund USDA inspections of horse slaughter plants as a more lasting way to prevent the resumption of horse slaughter operations in the U.S.
STAYING BEAR BAYING IN THE UNITED STATES
The HSUS’s three-year campaign, built upon a shocking undercover investigation, prompted South Carolina to end bear “baying”—a form of animal fighting in which packs of hounds attack a captive, tethered bear for entertainment. This is the last state in the nation that permitted these staged spectacles—and the bears rescued from this cruelty have been retired to sanctuary.
SECURING A LANDMARK RULING TOWARD ENDING CANADA’S SEAL HUNT
A World Trade Organization panel upheld the European Union’s ban on the sale of seal products, a ban secured by HSI in 2009. Specifically, the panel held that the main portion of the EU regulation was in compliance with international trade rules because it contributed to a legitimate objective (addressing the moral concerns of the EU public) and was not more trade-restrictive than necessary. The panel’s ruling is pivotal to ending Canada’s seal hunt, and more broadly, validates the idea that animal welfare is a legitimate moral concern that can justify trade restrictions.
REMAKING ANIMAL PROTECTION IN INDIA
Since opening an office just prior to 2013, HSI has had remarkable success in the world’s second most populous country. In 2013, we secured declarations in 20 of 28 Indian states to ban battery cage confinement for laying hens. We’ve secured national bans on shark finning, the use of animals in cosmetic tests, and the captive display of dolphins in India.
UPHOLDING LAWS TO PREVENT EXTREME CRUELTY ON FACTORY FARMS AND INDUSTRIAL SLAUGHTERHOUSES
We secured a final settlement against the owners and investors of the dairy cow slaughter plant that a 2008 HSUS undercover investigation exposed for downed animal abuses in Chino, Calif. A judgment was entered of more than $155 million, which cannot be recovered but will deter future cruelty and fraud at the nation’s slaughter plants. The USDA also committed to adopting a rule to ban the slaughter of downed veal calves. Seven workers at a Wyoming pig farm were convicted of animal cruelty this year, as a result of another HSUS undercover investigation. And our legal team successfully upheld California laws phasing out the extreme confinement of farm animals in crates and cages (Prop 2) and prohibiting the force-feeding of ducks and geese for foie gras.
I’ve written before about the distinction between accredited zoos and roadside menageries. At roadside zoos, the outcomes are typically adverse for the animals, who are often obtained from questionable sources, housed in deficient environments, denied veterinary care and behavioral and enrichment programs, and dispensed with when they are no longer seen as valuable.
At the Catoctin Zoo in Thurmont, we found sun bears (a species native to Asia) confined to a small, barren concrete cage. They were inhibited from climbing, digging, bathing, foraging, exploring, and expressing other instinctive behaviors. The bears engaged in repetitive behaviors, pacing back and forth on the same short path over and over again.
Debbie Leahy/The HSUS Without adequate enrichment, this young macaque at Catoctin Zoo tried to entertain himself by grabbing a handful of gravel.
We found no evidence of an enrichment program for primates at Catoctin, even though the facility houses more primates than all other zoos in Maryland combined. The same zoo also does poorly with big cats, with fencing that is dangerously short; wide gaps in the jaguar cage; a bent, sagging fence next to a tiger enclosure that a child could easily penetrate; and flimsy plastic netting used as a roof on a lion cage.
At Plumpton Park Zoo in Rising Sun, we saw numerous cages that were much too small, poorly designed, filthy and foul-smelling, and structurally unsound. Since 2006, Plumpton Park has been cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 109 violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including numerous citations for inadequate safety barriers and insufficient staffing. Yet this facility recently acquired two new tigers, doubled the number of bears it keeps, and is managed by owners who have expressed an interest in acquiring lions and orangutans.
At the Tri-State Zoo in Cumberland – a cluttered and disorganized private menagerie with poor sanitation practices that relies on volunteers with little to no formal training in exotic animal care – there are six tigers living in a deteriorating, empty swimming pool.
Each facility has a history of animal escapes, and each one has had a record of serious violations from the USDA.
Maryland’s law prohibiting the private possession of certain wild animals, including big cats, bears, and primates, does not apply to any “exhibitor licensed under the federal Animal Welfare Act.” This overly-broad exemption allows exotic pet owners, roadside zoos, and other unqualified facilities to continue acquiring and breeding dangerous wild animals by simply obtaining an exhibitor license from the USDA.
Debbie Leahy/The HSUS Six tigers were observed living in a deteriorating empty pool at Tri-State Zoo in Cumberland, Md.
The USDA has only about 136 inspectors responsible for more than 15,000 facilities, and doesn’t have the resources to continuously monitor all of these roadside menageries. It’s difficult to revoke their licenses even when they’ve had multiple violations, and some shuttered roadside operations reopen under a new name, sometimes with friends or family members fronting for the facility.
We’re calling on Maryland state legislators to strengthen the law by eliminating this USDA loophole for bears, big cats, and primates. Only qualified, professionally-run facilities, such as those accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums or the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries should be keeping these species, since they have significant behavioral needs and are potentially dangerous if they interact with the public and inexperienced keepers.
Don’t patronize these roadside zoos, and join our campaign to work with accredited zoos to prevent these slipshod facilities and new fly-by-night operations from acquiring or breeding especially dangerous species. The vast number of nonprofit animal sanctuaries – which are filled up with refugees from these kinds of substandard facilities – represent living examples of the problems such places create, costing our movement millions as we clean up the messes these operators leave behind.
In 2010, The HSUS led a coalition supporting a winning ballot measure in Missouri to crack down on puppy mills. We launched that initiative because Missouri had long been the top puppy mill state in the nation, with as many as 3,000 large-scale commercial dog-breeding operations. The legislature and farm groups outrageously worked to weaken the core provisions of the ballot measure right after voters approved it. But the initiative still resulted in as many as 600 mills shutting down or otherwise ceasing operation, since they couldn’t even meet the basic standards called for under the new law.
The other major puppy mill states border Missouri – Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa and Arkansas – and we’ve also been working hard in those states to create at least some minimal standards as well.
Given this emphasis, it’s been amazing that North Carolina, far from the Midwest and the heart of the industry, has been the stage for the largest number of puppy mills raids we’ve conducted with law enforcement – 15 in the last two years.
Today, we released a video about one dog we rescued in North Carolina who has a new, better life since The HSUS’ Animal Rescue Team members, Jennifer Kulina-Lanese and Tia Pope, and North Carolina state director Kim Alboum, took him into their arms.
Meredith Lee/The HSUS Ricky Bobby (or "RB") was rescued from a North Carolina puppy mill in February 2013.
At a mass dog-breeding facility in Magnolia, N.C., on a day when rain was pouring down, the team (including members from two local animal welfare groups) arrived on the scene with the sheriff’s office to serve a warrant. They found a variety of small-breed dogs suffering from severe, untreated medical conditions, including dental disease, infection, tumors, eye issues and malnourishment. Some of the animals experienced such severe dental disease that their jaws had rotted away, and one dog’s severe eye issues required the removal of one of her eyes to end the suffering she experienced.
Many dogs were underweight and sick as a result of their dental disease: they could not chew or swallow hard food, so they would have to wait until the food had become soft and rancid to be able to eat it. The owner agreed to surrender 58 of the dogs on the property, and eight of the worst cases were transferred for immediate care at an animal hospital nearby.
Jennifer removed Ricky Bobby, a small, paralyzed dachshund, from the facility. When she picked him up, he was terrified and shaking. Ricky Bobby was among the dogs who required immediate treatment. He had been dragging his non-working legs along a cement floor for so long that he had open sores, inflamed patches, callouses and muscle atrophy throughout his underside and back legs. His hindquarters were covered in urine scalding from being confined to bedding soaked in urine and feces. The condition that paralyzed Ricky Bobby was most likely genetic, but if treated by a veterinarian early, is often reversible.
Ricky Bobby was adopted by Megan, a veterinary technician from CareFirst, the veterinary hospital where he was treated. Before she had even decided to adopt Ricky Bobby, Megan (who calls him RB for short) set to making a wheeled cart to enable RB to get around without hurting his underside. Cobbling together PVC pipe, wheels from a larger cart that didn’t fit him, hair ties, a standard small pet harness, and a make-shift sling, Megan gave RB mobility he’d likely never had.
RB accompanies Megan to work, where he spends his days with another dog, Stella, who was rescued from the same facility and adopted by another kind CareFirst staffer. At home, RB finds comfort in his big brother Tucker, a gentle yellow Labrador. Everywhere Megan and RB go, they act as ambassadors for the puppy mill issue, telling RB’s story to interested passersby and explaining the need for more strict laws governing commercial dog breeders.
It’s easy to get lost in the numbers when it comes to puppy mills – 2 million plus dogs churned out every year, 15 raids in North Carolina, and 3,000 mills just in Missouri with 600 shuttered in that state alone since Prop B passed. But RB reminds us that it’s all about individual creatures, and how your support allows us to turn around their lives and gives them a new beginning.
Today is Cyber Monday, well-known for being one of the biggest online shopping days of the year – coming on the heels of the largest in-store shopping day, known popularly as “Black Friday.”
But whether we purchase goods online, in-store or elsewhere, we should be paying attention to more than just price. We should be paying attention to core values, including animal protection values observed or discounted in the production and manufacturing processes. Whether it’s considering the source of the food we eat for a holiday dinner, the household products we purchase, or what gifts we buy for loved ones, we vote for or against cruelty with our dollars – even if the production practices occur hundreds or thousands of miles away.
Pierre Grzybowski/The HSUS Handbags being sold on Kohls.com were advertised as “faux-fur,” but were actually made with real fur.
The HSUS urges every consumer to keep fur off of any purchasing list. But consumers who want to stay away from fur have to take special precautions. Today, The HSUS is issuing an important consumer warning to all Kohl’s shoppers after confirming that accessories being sold on Kohls.com as “faux-fur” are actually made with real rabbit fur.
Our investigators purchased several different styles of Nicole Lee handbags from Kohls.com in October and November that were prominently advertised as having “faux-fur” trim. After review, the handbags were discovered to be trimmed with animal fur, and laboratory testing determined the fur to be from a rabbit. Selling animal fur as “faux fur” is a violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” in commerce, and carries a civil penalty of up to $16,000 per violation.
Kohl’s has known of our general concerns about the company’s fur policies, with The HSUS filing two shareholder proposals over the last two years, effectively putting the company executives on alert for the very problems we identified in this investigation. Instead of implementing a forward-looking policy that would move the company away from fur and also catch false advertising problems, the company hedged and was vague with consumers about its fur sales.
Year after year, The HSUS exposes retailers selling real animal fur – from rabbits, raccoon dogs and others – as “faux fur.” We even recently found domestic dog fur for sale by a New York retailer. Persistent misrepresentation of animal fur led to the passage of the federal Truth in Fur Labeling Act and earlier this year the Federal Trade Commission handed down an enforcement action against major retailers, most notably Neiman Marcus. These companies are not fulfilling their responsibilities under the law to prevent the deception of their customers.
The decision to go fur-free is common sense for many department stores and designers, including JCPenney, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Kenneth Cole and John Bartlett, which have chosen to not dupe consumers into buying something as frivolous and unnecessary as animal fur. Kohl’s should join that effort, and until it does, let the buyer beware.
As we prepare for a few days of family, friends and giving thanks, I’m thankful for those who walked this path before me.
On Dec. 1, we’ll mark the 50th anniversary of the death of HSUS co-founder Fred Myers, a long-neglected visionary in the history of our movement. Myers’ greatest insight was that the animal protection movement of the 1950s, in examining the challenges to come in the succeeding decades, had a need for a new kind of animal organization – one that would take on the greatest national and global challenges in animal welfare. Myers’ premature death, at the age of 59, was a terrible shock for his colleagues, and a true moment of crisis for The HSUS. Fortunately, a cadre of individuals stepped into the breach and kept The HSUS moving forward and continued developing its capacity to confront the biggest issues of the day.
The HSUS Fred Myers, one of the co-founders of The Humane Society of the United States.
I often think about Myers and other early figures, because it is my responsibility to advance the mission of the organization they founded. I think their vision was inspired, and it syncs up with my view that we must strike at the root causes of cruelty, taking on the largest, most intractable forms of institutionalized cruelty. I often wish that it were possible for him and other HSUS pioneers to see just how far we’ve come in extending their vision. How pleased they would be to see us taking on factory farming, puppy mills, seal killing, animal fighting, and so many problems that they lacked the means to address and run to ground.
Their own early achievements, however, were not inconsequential, given that they began as a small start-up. By the time of Myers’ death, just nine years after the founding of the organization, The HSUS had helped to secure the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which did away with crude methods of slaughter like the poleaxe. When Myers passed away, The HSUS was already two years into its long-term probe of animal dealers taking dogs to laboratories. This is the very investigation which culminated in passage of the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act of 1966, after Stan Wayman’s Life Magazine essay brought the story to millions of Americans. Just last week, The HSUS released the results of an undercover investigation of dog-dealing to laboratories – a sign both of our staying power and of the intractability of so many problems we confront.
In 2014, we’ll celebrate the 60th anniversary of The HSUS, an organization that has relied on thousands of dedicated staff members to advance its programs over the many decades since Myers and others gathered in a Denver living room to launch their new organization, with great principle and high hopes. Without him, The HSUS would not exist at all. That’s the fundamental legacy of Fred Myers. He was a man of great vision, judgment and determination, and together with his colleagues, he introduced a bold new approach to humane issues. It’s made a big difference for millions of animals, and now it’s our task to finally solve some of these problems and to extend that enduring vision on the global stage.
There has been a seismic shift on the international legal front for animals this week. Unknown to most Americans, the World Trade Organization in Geneva sets the rules of the road on trade matters and regularly renders far-reaching decisions that affect the ability of nations to pass laws to protect animals, the environment and public heath – long treating value-based standards of that nature as barriers to trade. This little-understood international body has the power to judge which domestic laws protecting animals are consistent with free trade agreements, and which laws cannot stand.
It's a staggering amount of power for one body to wield over the fate of millions of animals, and that's why Humane Society International and The HSUS have developed a premier team of political and legal experts who work tirelessly to push the WTO toward humane decisions.
I am pleased to report that yesterday our team scored a huge victory when the WTO issued perhaps its most animal-friendly decision to date, upholding the right of the European Union to prohibit trade in the products of commercial seal hunts for humane reasons.
The EU ban on the sale of seal products, instituted in 2009, had been challenged at the WTO by Canada and Norway as violating international trade rules. In essence, the pro-sealing countries argued that animal cruelty is not a sufficient reason to ban the trade in seal products. The WTO panel largely rejected their claims of discriminatory treatment, finding fault merely with certain exceptions to the ban.
The HSI/HSUS team made a significant contribution to this victory by providing video evidence during the WTO hearings of the inherent cruelty of commercial sealing and by filing an amicus brief that the EU lawyers attached to their submissions for consideration by the panel.
The WTO specifically found that the EU ban is consistent with WTO rules because it fulfills the legitimate objective of addressing EU's citizens' moral concerns with regard to animal welfare and that no alternative measure would suffice. The key to the panel’s decision was its findings that, “animal welfare is an issue of ethical or moral nature in the European Union” and that, “animal welfare is a matter of ethical responsibility for human beings in general.” While the truth of these statements may seem obvious, it is hard to overstate the importance of their acceptance on a world legal stage. Seen more narrowly, this is a great win for seals and a huge setback for the government of Canada in its efforts to turn back the clock on sales of seal pelts to the EU.
This ruling will reassure any country considering an animal welfare measure that it has much less to fear from a WTO challenge than it did before. It also improves the outlook for hundreds of state and federal animal protection laws that had an uncertain future because of the consequences of unfettered trade.
Yesterday's win for animals comes on the heels of much more troubling WTO ruling last year, holding that the U.S. “dolphin-safe” labeling law provides “less favorable treatment” to Mexican tuna products in violation of international trade rules. In the wake of that ruling, the Obama administration had a choice to make - it could relax the law’s requirements with respect to setting tuna nets on dolphins, which would be sure to please the Mexican tuna fisheries stubbornly clinging to this antiquated practice. Or it could expand the scope of the dolphin-safe law in order to comply with the WTO report, while leaving intact a strong prohibition on setting nets on dolphins. Fortunately, the administration chose the latter, and we rejoiced on behalf of the dolphins.
Unfortunately, Mexico recently requested another hearing at the WTO, claiming that the dolphin-safe law still runs afoul of WTO principles. Much like Canada, Mexico continues to try to profit from cruel practices that are out-of-touch with modern sensibility and push the products of this cruelty into markets that don’t want them.
In the meantime, our lawyers and policy experts will be hard at work at the WTO Ministerial Conference next month and into the future, making sure free trade principles do not run roughshod over the patchwork of domestic humane regulations, which are the only thing standing between millions of animals and a whole panoply of unspeakable cruelty and abuse in the more than 150 member countries that make up the WTO.