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August 27, 2009

Catching Up to Cruelty

Most of our work at The HSUS is very linear. We see abuse, or we see a pathway to stop it, and we chase it down.

Today, for instance, our staff stood beside Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell as he signed HSUS-backed legislation to make it a criminal act for non-veterinarians to debark dogs, or to perform a Caesarean section on them. Some of the state’s puppy millers performed these procedures on the dogs even though they had no medical training to do so, and this legislation was a response to those cases. It was the second law we’ve worked to pass in the last two years to crack down on Pennsylvania’s puppy millers, and that represents great progress in a state long known as the “puppy mill capital of the East.”

And in Virginia today, we just got the exciting news that a puppy miller we worked to bust this last weekend—resulting in the seizure of 100 dogs kept in squalid conditions—has now been barred by an Augusta County judge from owning animals. We hope this court order puts him out of the commercial breeding business for good.

And this week, we also announced that we’ve paid our 50th reward for information that led to the arrest of animal fighting criminals. In fact, we’ve paid $157,470 in reward money for information leading to arrests in animal fighting cases since we launched the program two years ago. The rewards have resulted in 2,000 animals being removed from animal fighting operations in 16 states.

But our limited work with Michael Vick is not nearly so linear. Vick completed his two-year sentence in a federal prison for his horrible dogfighting crimes, and now he’s returned to the NFL. We are putting him to work to reach at-risk youth because his anti-dogfighting work may steer kids away from this practice and thereby save dogs’ lives. We hate what he did, but shunning him won’t save the life of a single dog. I’ve urged our supporters to think about what’s best for the animals—even if that runs in the opposite direction of our emotional instincts.

I recorded some off-the-cuff thoughts on the subject in this video.

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