May 2007 Blog Home July 2007


30 posts from June 2007


June 29, 2007

Humane Wildlife Solutions: An Entrepreneurial Model for a Humane Nation

The Humane Society of the United States sometimes has to use raw power to change the circumstances for animals—overcoming the opposition of animal exploitation groups and passing legislation or applying pressure on a company to mend its ways. To a degree, it requires some level of confrontation, and we believe it's something we must do from time to time.

But much of our work involves hands-on work and providing win-win solutions. Today, I am excited to tell you about an upgrade in a long-standing program of The HSUS. The program is called Wild Neighbors–Humane Wildlife Solutions®:, which is a model business we have set up to solve conflicts between people and wild animals in and around their homes.

Raccoon in grass
© istockphoto

Typically, when someone has a conflict with a raccoon, squirrel, or other wild animal, they called a Nuisance Wildlife Control Officer and the "experts" often remove and kill the offending creature. According to their own materials “[t]he nuisance wildlife control industry is an outgrowth and convergence of two related fields—the pest control industry and the rural fur trapping industry.”

Clearly, these are not the concerns The Humane Society of the United States would recommend calling in an animal-related emergency.

Yet, until recently, they were the only option for the average homeowner with a raccoon mother and five babies in her attic. And demand for their services is growing. 

A surging U.S. population has led to steep increases in wildlife-related problems for homeowners and businesses. Increased suburban development provides plenty of food for wildlife, but natural den sites are destroyed every time a tree is cut down or a hedge row bulldozed. When animals decide a warm chimney or attic makes a nice den, even the most devoted nature lover feels intruded upon.

It is estimated that more than a million animals a year—squirrels, raccoons, skunks and other species—are killed when they set up house where they are unwanted.

Continue reading "Humane Wildlife Solutions: An Entrepreneurial Model for a Humane Nation" »

June 28, 2007

Talk Back: Cultural Cruelty

Blog readers had a lot to say about two hot topics in American culture—dogfighting and horse slaughter.

These two comments are among those we received in response to Monday’s post about Nike’s romanticizing of urban culture and dogfighting’s cost to communities and animals:

As long as dogfighting is perceived as "cool" or "edgy" among those who do it or who see these ads, there will always be more kids to fill the spaces around the fighting rings. It's so important that companies that associate themselves with those who take part in this cruel "sport" distance themselves. These dogs are no more than slaves and their "owners" must realize that our "culture" in the United States does not condone this cruelty. —Lisa

A pit bull on a leash has become a fashion accessory among some who seek to emulate the "urban, edgy, hip-hop culture" that is being packaged and sold by corporate America. It is important to note that the consumers and emulators of this pre-fab "culture" now belong to all racial and economic groups.

Street culture used to be about self-expression and self-determination - about real courage and genuine protest. It still can be. An enormous amount of courage will be required to reclaim and maintain a credible vision and practice of non-violence (toward humans and animals) in this contemporary cultural environment where cruelty is packaged, promoted and sold as "hip."

Street culture has always been one of the most important moving and shaping influences in American popular culture. It can be just as "hip" to be humane and responsible as it is to be otherwise.

We all need to ask ourselves: What part do I play? Where do I fit in culturally? What can I do to make a difference? Am I waiting for someone else to "sell" me a "hip" identity?

When we acknowledge that we are all Americans and all in this together, we can begin to make a difference for ourselves and for animals. After all, humans and animals are in this together as well. How are we choosing to act with the power that we have? —Ginger Carter

The conversation also continues on the slaughter of American horses and the responsibility of those who care for the animals:

Keep the pressure on against the slaughter of horses. I couldn't believe when I first heard about this abhorrent practice. It makes me wonder about the type of people who run these businesses and the employees who are doing their dirty work. I wasn't an activist going into this, but I'm becoming one. Keep up the good work on behalf of all those who cannot speak or defend themselves. Beyond our horses, we must also continue to work for a more humane treatment of all animals. —Jack O'Malley

Continue reading "Talk Back: Cultural Cruelty" »

Two Key Wins and a Setback for Polar Bears

Not long after I became president of The Humane Society of the United States three years ago, and after we merged our operations with the spectacular folks at The Fund for Animals, we decided to concentrate some considerable resources in four major campaign areas: 1) animal cruelty and animal fighting, 2) factory farming, 3) seal clubbing and the fur trade, 4) particularly inhumane and unsporting types of hunting, (and we have since added "puppy mills" as a fifth campaign).

By putting more resources than ever into these areas, and co-mingling the talents of litigators, investigators, scientists, lobbyists, campaigners and others, we have seen robust activity and a host of successes—along with an occasional setback.  And today and yesterday, we saw major action in three of these four campaign areas—with landmark successes achieved in two of three areas.

First, in Louisiana, the state legislature took a historic step and gave final approval to a bill to outlaw cockfighting and make the state the 50th state to pass an anti-cockfighting measure, although it delayed the implementation of the ban until August 2008.  And while the delay is disappointing, there is a silver lining. 

Earlier in the week, the state legislature gave final approval—over the strong objections of the cockfighters' legislative advocates—to a separate bill to impose an immediate ban on gambling at cockfights. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco has said she will sign the bills.

Because gambling is always present at cockfights, we believe the anti-gambling measure comes close to a de facto ban on cockfighting.  And along with a new federal law against animal fighting that was enacted last month—which makes it a felony to move any fighting animal or any cockfighting implement in interstate or foreign commerce—Louisiana's cockfighters and their co-religionists in surrounding states have very little room to maneuver. They should just pack it in, and stop their appalling cruelty.  If they don't, they are likely to face serious consequences.

During the first half of this year, we have achieved a trifecta on animal fighting—enacting a cockfighting ban in New Mexico (the 49th state to outlaw the practice), passing the measures in Louisiana (the 50th), and dramatically upgrading the federal law against animal fighting.

It is a historic moment for us—and a personal ambition of mine—that now all 50 states and the federal government have laws against cockfighting.

Louisiana State Senator Art Lentini (R) was our legislative stalwart, doing a brilliant job of shepherding both anti-cockfighting bills to passage. And I also send special thanks to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Francis Thompson (D) who was instrumental in getting the job done on both bills in his chamber.

Brown mother pig and piglet
© iStockphoto
A mother pig and her piglet.

Second, in Oregon, Governor Ted Kulongoski (D) is today expected to sign a bill to ban gestation crates—the two-foot by seven-foot cages used on some factory farms to confine pregnant sows for months and years on end in space too small to allow animals to even turn around. Voters in Arizona and Florida supported HSUS-led ballot initiatives to ban gestation crates, but the Oregon measure is the first one to pass by action of a state legislature. State Senator Ginny Burdick led the fight, and we are indebted to her for her tenacity and commitment and legislative smarts. I offer my sincerest thanks to all of the lawmakers who supported this progressive policy.

And finally, I am sorry to report that the news from the U.S. Congress is not as positive as the two reports from the states. Yesterday afternoon, in what can only be described as a cave-in to the NRA, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected an amendment to ban the import of sport-hunted polar bear trophies from Canada—by a vote of 188 to 242.

Polar bear in snow
© iStockphoto
Polar bears are on thin ice.

American hunters have imported 800 polar bear trophies in the last decade, killing them in guided hunts in Arctic Canada. Now with the bears imperiled because of the effects of global warming, they can ill afford this additional killing by trophy hunters, and an amendment offered by Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) and Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) was designed to put an end to this mayhem.

The NRA, which earlier this year unsuccessfully attempted to derail the animal fighting bill mentioned above, collaborated with the Safari Club International to fight the polar bear protection amendment. While the NRA has little stake in the issue and just offers knee-jerk opposition to any measure to curb even the most unsporting and biologically reckless hunting practices, the Safari Club has a more direct institutional stake in the issue, because it advertises a hunting achievement award called "Bears of the World." To win this award, a hunter must kill four of the eight bears species in the world, and since several of the bears are endangered and off limits to hunters, they trek to Canada to kill the polar bears to complete the quadruple killing. 

The motivation for these trophy hunters is selfishness and self-aggrandizement, and there's nothing good or decent about their conduct. Sometimes I can hardly believe that lawmakers would defend such an activity—killing of the one of the world's most remarkable animals, now imperiled because of human-caused warming, in a head-hunting exercise. 

But I saw it with my own eyes on the House floor yesterday.

Indeed, it is tough to stomach the sight of lawmakers arguing with a straight face and parroting the line of the NRA that it helps the bears to shoot them, even though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just a couple of months ago proposed that they be classed as threatened with extinction under the Endangered Species Act.

There were some particularly low, but almost laughable, moments in the debate. Utah Representative Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), in arguing for the defeat of the amendment, falsely claimed that the groups backing the amendment had wanted to kill Knut,, the famous polar bear at the Berlin Zoo. And Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa)—who always manages to raise his voice in favor of animal exploitation—used his time to launch an incoherent tirade against the amendment, calling it the next step in a campaign toward " incremental global vegetarianism."

Though the House vote is a setback, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted an amendment to protect polar bears in its version of the Interior Appropriations bill, and if that provision stays in the final Senate bill, a conference committee will make a final determination on the provision. 

We must all remember that no sort of lasting change ever comes readily. We fought for decades to have all 50 states outlaw cockfighting. And we also fought for years to see the first few states take a stand against gestation crates and other factory farming practices. We will continue the fight for the polar bears, knowing that the setbacks we face in the short run will just make the final victory all the more rewarding when it ultimately occurs.

June 27, 2007

Talk Back: Dog Days

While the nation observed “Take Your Dog to Work Day,” blog readers celebrated The HSUS’ dogs in the office policy. Among the comments we received:

Congratulations on your dog-friendly environment! I've worked from home for my entire career and I cannot imagine having to leave my greyhounds and my kitty alone all day. I have no doubt that bringing your dog to work improves performance, reduces stress and makes for a friendlier atmosphere. I'm sure even the grumpiest person couldn't walk by an office or cubicle, look into the eyes of a loved dog, and not smile and feel some of that love. And it warms my heart that people who weren't rescuing dogs before because they felt they couldn't meet their needs, now can. It's a win-win-win! —Mary Martin, Ph.D.

I think that being allowed to have your animals/pets in a working environment is a wonderful concept that is obviously somewhat underway. Animals do make you more comfortable in certain situations, and can also reduce stress, creating a better working environment for all employees and customers. —Chelsea

I love reading this blog—it's especially nice when there is something happy and heartwarming from time to time too! Bravo Wayne for letting folks bring their dogs to work with them. I bring my three with me to work every day and it makes my job more enjoyable and less stressed. —Susan

Protecting Wildlife and Preserving Habitats

The depth and breadth of programs at The HSUS is pretty extraordinary.  To know all that goes on, you'd have to make a regular study of humanesociety.org. And even then, it's tough to keep up with all of the work.

You may have heard about the Humane Society Legislative Fund, the political arm of the organization. Or Humane Society Youth, our youth humane education program. Or Humane Society International, our international operation.

Duck flying at sunset
© iStockphoto

You may have also heard of our Wildlife Land Trust®, established in 1993 specifically to protect wild areas and the creatures who live in them. From its inception, the Trust recognizes that in order to protect wild animals, they have to have a place to live. Any debate over hunting or trapping is irrelevant if animals have no place to live.

The Wildlife Land Trust embodies the ethic of concern for ecosystems and their health, but also concern for individual creatures. It works to protect habitat for all species of wildlife, not just condors, or wolves or polar bears, or other so-called charismatic megafauna; and not just those endangered or threatened, or—as we need to acknowledge—not those who are already endangered or threatened. The Trust recognizes that animals live in all sorts of habitats, whether they are wetlands and desert, coastal and interior, or urban, suburban and rural properties, and our sanctuaries include them all.

Habitat for all wild animals is being lost every day, everywhere, to such things as the increasingly commonplace development that marks urban sprawl. In the United States alone, more than 5,000 acres a day are being developed. The impact on our familiar wild neighbors is unyielding. The breadth of the Trust's work to protect habitat for all wildlife often brings to mind a quote from ecologist Robert Michael Pyle: "What is the extinction of the condor to the child who has never known the wren?" This serves as a reminder that animals commonplace to some of us may not be to others, and those common today may be rare—or gone—tomorrow. They all deserve a place on this earth, and they deserve protection from exploitation.

On our sanctuaries, we do not allow recreational and commercial hunting and trapping of wildlife. They are true sanctuaries, and even a hunter like Teddy Roosevelt, who helped establish the National Wildlife Refuge system, recognized that animals deserve some places where they are free from any harm.

Baby black bear in tree
© iStockphoto

Our Trust staff works with land owners across the country who share our vision to provide permanent protection for their property and the wildlife who also call it home. Sometimes that involves transferring the land to the Trust for protection. Other times, it involves permanent conservation agreements, known as conservation easements, which establish restrictions on how the land can be used to ensure it will always be a safe home for wildlife.

While there can be tax benefits for protecting land in this way, my colleagues at the Trust report that donors' motivations are usually their abiding love for wildlife and their desire to ensure that land they already protect for wild animals will remain that way forever. We're proud to have these unique and very special supporters of the Trust and The HSUS, each of whom certainly shares both the Trust's goal of Saving Lives by Saving Land and The HSUS' mission of celebrating animals and confronting cruelty.

Particularly if you own property that is already a safe place for wildlife and you'd like to see it stay that way forever, please visit wildlifelandtrust.org or call 1-800-729-SAVE. Be part of our efforts to protect wildlife habitat for all wild animals. 

June 26, 2007

Kinder Course for Chemical Tests

The United States has been overshadowed by Europe for well over a decade when it comes to being the world leader in advancing non-animal methods of chemical testing. In 2005, for example, European government and industry established the European Partnership on Alternatives to Animal Testing, with the long-term goal of replacing all use of animals in toxicity testing. This alliance has no counterpart in the United States.

A recent report by an influential American body, however, may chart a new, kinder and scientifically sophisticated course for the United States. The National Academy of Sciences report proposes a new approach to assessing chemical safety that moves away from animal testing. Indeed, the new approach could eventually eliminate animal testing altogether, according to a statement released by the Academy.

281x144_two_white_rabbits_i
© iStockphoto

If the innovations detailed in this report come to fruition in the coming years, untold millions of animals will be spared annually from the miseries of laboratory testing, including dogs, mice, primates, rabbits and rats. Today, commercial chemicals, pesticides and other substances are typically tested for safety by dispensing large doses to groups of animals and then observing the animals for symptoms of disease. As the report notes, these animal tests are of questionable relevance for humans, are time-consuming and costly, and cannot handle the enormous backlog of untested agents or meet new and multiplying challenges of chemical safety.

Instead of poisoning animals and looking for overt health effects, the report, entitled “Toxicity Testing in the Twenty-first Century: A Vision and A Strategy,” calls for an approach that focuses on monitoring “toxicity pathways” at the molecular level, emphasizing human cells and processes. The proposed in vitro testing methods would incorporate emerging biological information and technical approaches, combined with sophisticated existing tools that assess chemically induced changes in, for example, genes.

The report recognizes that such a vision and strategy will require years and substantial resources to implement. What is needed now is the kind of government-industry partnership evident in Europe, bolstered by other stakeholders, including the animal protection community. The HSUS is proud to have had a representative on the committee that prepared this report, and we are prepared to take a lead role in ensuring that this vision becomes a reality. We have already started discussions with key stakeholders in the United States and Europe about the need to develop and refine available technology, and eliminate animal testing as soon as possible.

June 25, 2007

Street Cred and Cruelty

A couple years back, The HSUS criticized Nike for running a television ad called "The Battle"—an MTV-like ad featuring a one-on-one game of basketball interspersed with quick takes of a pit bull and a Rottweiler snarling at each other and poised for fighting. It was a barely subliminal glorification of dogfighting and a romanticizing of that aspect of urban culture. A Nike representative denied that the ad encouraged dogfighting, but explained, "People have to understand the youth culture we cater to. Our market is the urban, edgy, hip-hop culture."

Black and white pit bull dog rescued from fight
© The HSUS
An abandoned fighting dog recovered by
The HSUS in Oakland, Calif. in 2006.

That's precisely the subculture where dogfighting has metastasized. "The Battle" was just one small contributing factor toward the promotion of dogfighting. It's gotten even more fuel from rap music and rap stars, such as Jay-Z and DMX.

Comes then Michael Vick. It's not clear whether he is a cause or a creation of the dogfighting subculture. But he is the most prominent star in recent memory to have been entangled in a dogfighting controversy.

Last week, I asked the CEO of Nike to end its commercial sponsorship of Michael Vick. I knew very well that Vick has not been charged with any dogfighting crime. The investigation is pending. Period.

But The HSUS does not reserve its criticisms only to actual criminal circumstances. We are engaged in some pretty complex sociological work and part of our goal is to establish laws to protect animals and to enforce them, but also to suss out how popular culture contributes to animal abuse and to offer course corrections. It's no science, for sure, but we get some pretty good hunches from time to time. Nike promoting Michael Vick and lionizing him sure doesn't sound good to us.

There is no doubt there was some bad stuff going down on Vick's property, whether or not charges are filed against Vick or anybody else with a hand in the game. There were lots of dogs on the property, and many were emaciated or scarred. There were also many of the accoutrements and tell-tale signs of dogfighting, including the presence of a bloody carpet, break sticks (used to separate fighting pit bulls), and even a rape rack (used to harness a female pit bull so that males can mount her for breeding).

Black pit bull fighting dog on chain Nike wasn't guilty of any crime when it ran "The Battle." Just bad judgment. In pursuit of its appeal to "urban, edgy, hip-hop culture," it leaves The HSUS, local law enforcement and local humane societies to pick up the pieces. The cost of dogfighting to our communities is enormous—not to speak of the cost for the dogs themselves and other animal and human victims of the dogfighting subculture.

It's bad judgment to keep Michael Vick on the payroll, too. Nike may like its association with renegades and outlaws. But it certainly doesn't help our communities or the animals.

June 22, 2007

Talk Back: Farm Bureau and Fur

This week, readers praised The HSUS’ outreach to the American Farm Bureau:

Again, you confirm why I support The HSUS. Educating people about humane treatment of animals is vital and approaching the Farm Bureau to begin this dialogue is brilliant. They have the ability to make huge changes for animals and developing a relationship with them could be very powerful for positively changing the way animals are raised and killed for food. —Nicke

Wayne, your article on Invitation for Cooperation is clever and fundamental for the animal welfare cause. But the last part where you write that most importantly the cause for improving the lives of animals is directly connected to understanding sociology and human behavior hits the nail dead on the head! Animal abuse in all its forms whether intentional or based on some naive prehistoric belief measures society's progress. Victories for a humane society begin with those lives for whom we are directly responsible—animal life included. Appreciating your good work by a proud constituent. —Diana Kelley

American Farm Bureau, please listen to us—the American public. Over and over, we feel that you are out of synch with mainstream American values. Many of us perceive your lobby as "backwards" and mired in the past. It is possible to improve farming techniques AND improve humane care of animals.

Please don't turn the American public into your enemies. Some of your members seem determined to do that now, but perhaps younger members can find a new direction. —Ted

Wayne, I am so glad you are the one in the position who is putting forth the effort to try and change those views. You have a delightful insight that can eventually soften those hardened hearts of folks like the Farm Bureau. —Ruth Caron

Readers also reacted to the news that after a shocking investigation and nine years of campaigning by The HSUS, the European Parliament voted to ban the import of cat and dog fur. Among the comments we received:

This is the happiest news I have heard in a long time. The fur trade, particularly in China, has been disturbing my sleep for a long time. Thank you for the tireless efforts to bring about these kinds of changes. These and other investigations take courage and persistence, and vigilance. Well done. —Mary

Continue reading "Talk Back: Farm Bureau and Fur" »

Animals Ascending

Our ideas about protecting animals were once at the margins. Now, they are in the mainstream.

More than ever, Americans and American institutions are embracing the protection of animals as a personal and societal responsibility, and the evidence is all around us.

Usa_today_snapshot_2
© 2007 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. All rights reserved.

Today, The HSUS is being honored by USA TODAY as one of 25 charities to participate in USA TODAY's 25th Anniversary Celebration and its "Spirit of the USA" charity program. We are profiled in today’s paper with a snapshot (at left) on the front page of the print edition, on the front page of usatoday.com, and in advertisements in the paper and online. Thank you USA TODAY.

If you have a chance, pick up the paper and check it out, and please post a comment at humanesociety.usatoday.com.

It’s exciting to have America’s largest newspaper recognize us. But there are many other associations that we are proud of, too.

We are also pleased to be one of 10 organizations Microsoft has chosen to benefit from its recently launched i’m Initiative—an instant messaging program. Every time you have a conversation using i’m, Microsoft shares a portion of the program's advertising revenue with The HSUS. Microsoft has guaranteed a minimum contribution of $100,000 to The HSUS, but there is no cap on the amount the company will donate.

281x177_visa Bank of America is another corporate supporter. The HSUS' credit card affinity program generates significant funding for our animal protection programs, thanks to more than 60,000 card holders. The HSUS gets a donation from Bank of America for every new card opened and then gets a small portion of every purchase. (By the way, if you don’t have an HSUS affinity card and want one, you can sign up online right now.)

There are other measures of common sense, mainstream progress too.

Just yesterday, we saw evidence from around the country of lawmakers embracing our cause.

On Thursday, in Congress, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an HSUS-backed amendment to protect polar bears—perhaps the iconic species for the effects of global warming—from needless killing. Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.) offered an amendment to ban imports of polar bear heads and hides taken by American trophy hunters in Canada. Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Subcommittee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) helped Reed push the amendment to passage, which had a great assist from Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). With polar bears facing threats to their very survival, they do not need additional killing for such a frivolous purpose—for simply a head-hunting exercise by American trophy hunters.

In Louisiana last night, House lawmakers followed the lead of the Senate and banned gambling at cockfights. The bill was introduced by Senator Art Lentini. Banning gambling at the fights eliminates one of the two major motivators for participation in the practice—the other being a lust for bloodletting. Now, we continue the fight to ban the cockfights themselves and make Louisiana the 50th state in the nation to outlaw this form of staged animal cruelty.

281x144_fur_fox_in_cage And finally, in New York yesterday, the state Assembly followed the lead of the Senate and passed a bill to ban electrocuting fur-bearing animals on fur farms in the state. It’s the first time a state legislature has banned this inhumane method of killing. Thanks there go to Assemblywoman Deborah Glick and Senator Frank Padavan—both stalwart advocates for animals.

Take stock of this. Animals are part of the policy debate in Congress and in state legislatures around the country, and we are winning. And never before could you send an instant message or make a credit card purchase and make a difference for animals. Now you can.

I am hopeful. Our cause is ascendant.

Take a moment to celebrate. And then once you do that, get busy again by helping animals.

You are not alone. You are part of a larger social movement, and when we act in concert, the results are tangible and inspiring.

June 21, 2007

Working Like A Dog

Tomorrow we celebrate one of the more obscure observances in the workplace—“Take Your Dog to Work Day.” It doesn't rival Martin Luther King Day, or President's Day, but it's a subject worthy of some reflection, especially from me as CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.

Woman and dog at HSUS office
© The HSUS
Jennifer Fearing and her dog Yoda take
a momentary break from work.

Here at The HSUS, every day is a take your dog to work day. And you might think that it has always been this way—we are, after all, the nation's largest animal protection organization. But while our field offices have had canine colleagues under desks for many years, dogs are relatively new to our DC-area offices. Our densely packed “cube farms”—at first blush—didn’t seem like an ideal environment, and frankly, there was a view that with so many animal lovers working at the place, they might be a bit more attentive to their canines than to the reports and other pressing duties they were hired to execute. 

This time last year, a new HSUS employee requested a meeting with me. Jennifer Fearing, The HSUS’ chief economist, came from a dog-friendly workplace and, as is her wont, made a detailed case for moving in that direction. She gave me a report that looked like a book manuscript. Given our strong commitment to the human-animal bond, she implored, how could we at least not try to foster that bond—held dearly by our employees—in our own offices?

Jennifer's report provided compelling evidence that a change in policy benefits both employers and employees. According to a recent survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, one in five U.S. companies allows dogs at work. That same survey revealed that a significant percentage of Americans believe having pets in the workplace increases creativity, decreases absenteeism and fosters better relationships among colleagues.

These potential workplace improvements seem obvious to those who treasure relationships with pets. A recent journal article notes some of the trends:

In a world of growing global uncertainty and violence, and a trend towards increased prevalence of single occupant homes, household pets will potentially play an increasingly important role in many people’s lives, providing company and respite from the outside world. Moreover… pets live in the moment, and interacting with pets reminds owners of the joys and idiosyncrasies of living in the present, as well as prompting their owners to think beyond themselves.

At The HSUS, we spent six months conducting internal surveys to identify concerns employees had about instituting a dog-friendly policy. Will the dogs become a distraction? Will the dogs contribute to a less sanitary environment? What if someone is allergic? How would we avoid aggression between dogs?

A “dogs in the office” committee was formed and after much diligent work, by year’s end, a policy was ready for implementation. You can spot the cubicles with canine colleagues from the tell-tale baby gates and the posted “My name is: ________” signs. Handouts entitled “Working around canine colleagues” and “Being a considerate canine colleague” are must-reads and have helped prepare employees and dogs for successful interactions.

I was especially pleased to learn recently that in the short time since our policy has been in place, several of my colleagues have made the lifetime commitment to rescue dogs in need—owing their ability to do so to our dog-friendly workplace.

Woman and beagle dog at HSUS office
© The HSUS
Catherine Hess and her rescued dog Daisy.

Catherine Hess in our Online Communications section rescued her first-ever dog Daisy, an 8-year-old beagle, from a life of misery. Daisy languished most of her life not as a companion, but as puppy mill “breeding stock” in a small, dirty rabbit cage. Now Daisy spends her days sleeping (letting out the occasional snore) under Catherine’s desk. Catherine says the new policy gave her confidence that she could give a dog like Daisy the attention and love she deserves.

Rebecca Judd, an attorney with our Animal Protection Litigation section, recently adopted 4-year-old greyhound Shooter, short for “Straight Shooter,” his racing name. Prior to finding his way to Rebecca and her husband Steve, Shooter received little human contact—either cooped up in a too-small crate or being raced—as one of thousands of dogs bred to participate in the greyhound racing industry. Coming to work each day is hastening Shooter’s much-needed socialization. Rebecca says that “Shooter seems to have blossomed as a result of coming to work and having more regular interaction with people.”

Six months in, while there's a little more dog hair in our offices, there's a warmer and better feeling that infuses the work environment. Personally, I just like having the dogs around. They don't talk back to me as much as the staff members do, either. We plan to share our research and our experience through a new Humane Society Press book about creating dog-friendly workplaces, due out in late 2007.