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May 28, 2009

Our Very Own SWAT Unit

Katrina was a wake-up call to The HSUS and to the rest of the animal protection movement that we had to amp up our disaster response capabilities. From that point forward, I thought we needed a capability to respond not only to natural disasters, but also human-caused crises, such as puppy mills, hoarders, or animal fighting operations.

Last year, under the direction of Emergency Services director Scotlund Haisley, we had more than 40 deployments—one every nine days. And the pace is just as brisk this year.

Puppies were among nearly 400 dogs rescued from a Kennewick, Wash. puppy mill
© The HSUS
Newborns at the Washington puppy mill.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about our intervention in Nebraska to save 200 starving horses, with nearly half of the horses going to our Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch. During this last week, we've had two more.

Yesterday we helped to rescue nearly 400 American Eskimo dogs from a puppy mill in Washington state, where the dogs had been living in deplorable conditions, confined to shopping carts and rusty cages caked with waste. And last week we assisted in the seizure of 374 neglected animals—dogs, horses, exotic birds, rabbits and more—from a ranch in Wisconsin, resulting in criminal animal cruelty charges being filed against the property owner.

In addition to strengthening our disaster response capacity, we've been expanding our presence in the states. We now have staff in 33 states, and we plan on covering every state as soon as resources allow.

Our state directors give us a leg up in learning of crisis situations and then allowing us to coordinate with local law enforcement agencies and local and national animal welfare groups. Many of these operations—as was the case with the Wisconsin raid and with a recent puppy mill bust in Arkansas—are set into motion with investigative work by HSUS staff in the respective states after receiving tips from concerned community members.

There's no group like The HSUS, with the range of tools and resources we have. And one great measure of our work are the tens of thousands of little lives spared from misery and cruelty due to our interventions. Last year alone, The HSUS provided hands-on care to more than 70,000 animals, whether they were rescued from floods or fires, abusive puppy mills or animal fighting operations, spayed and neutered through our programs, or provided medical care through our sanctuaries or rural veterinary programs.

If you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to familiarize yourself with the HSUS regional staff nearest you.

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