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March 02, 2010

A Picture of Our Work, Protecting All Animals

When I heard the siren of a fire engine screaming down the street this morning, I felt a pang of anxiety. I always do. Someone is in trouble. Maybe a family’s house is ablaze. Maybe there was a bad car accident. Maybe someone had a heart attack.

Firefighters, after all, don’t just fight fires. They answer our emergencies.

Dog rescued from puppy mill by The HSUS
Paul Turner
In the field, we rescue animals in distress.

I’m reflecting on this just now because the staging lot at our headquarters building is primed with our own fleet of emergency vehicles—our rescue trucks, trailers and other mobile equipment. Most of these vehicles are painted with our proud logo depicting a collage of 19 animals—creatures that symbolize for us the whole of the animal kingdom. When a convoy of these trucks heads out on an emergency mission and passes you on the highway, you can feel a pang. Somewhere, animals are in trouble.

What animals? That’s the point I’m leading toward. It could be that we’re racing to join with law enforcement in a raid against criminal dogfighters. Perhaps we are answering the call of local crisis officials in a natural disaster where cats and dogs and other pets are in desperate need. Or a local humane society in a distant city has summoned our experts and equipment to end the suffering of hundreds of dogs at a puppy mill. It could be we are coming to the aid of starving and neglected horses, or delivering life-giving food to farm animals trapped in a flood, or in a blizzard.

The Humane Society of the United States doesn’t help just one kind of animal. We’re in business to protect them all, and we’ve been dedicated to that principle since the day of our founding—Nov. 22, 1954. When animals suffer needlessly, that’s an emergency, no matter what kind of animal or what kind of trouble—and that’s why we exist.

During my more than two decades in this cause of humane work, I have met all kinds of “animal people.” There are dog people, and cat aficionados, and horse lovers. There are individuals devoted to the welfare of elephants, and people who are crazy about parrots. Heaven help you if you cross a turtle fancier. But no matter what animal has a hold on their hearts, these people share a common trait: They abhor cruelty and mistreatment. That’s the reason why 11 million Americans have pledged their active support to The Humane Society of the United States. That’s why our logo is built from the images of many animals.

Unfortunately, there is a corollary that unites those who exploit animals.

They stand together in loathsome alliance, hoping to look stronger as they do their best to steer us off course. When radicals in the trophy hunting community, for instance, object to our campaign against shooting animals inside pens in the name of “sport,” cockfighters are only too willing to rally. When we confront the puppy mill industry in Missouri, the factory farmers line up by their side, just as they did when we took on cockfighting in the Show Me State more than a decade ago. Their alliance never deterred us, but only served to show the electorate that for our opponents, it was a moral race to the bottom and they were quick to defend any and all types of abuse.

Horse rescued by The HSUS
Kathy Milani
Our major campaigns target the inhumane treatment of animals.

My real purpose today is to remind everyone about the importance of transparency and symbolism. The 19 animals on our logo signify something real—a deeply held belief that we wish to shout from the rooftops: All animals deserve protection. And when you see an HSUS truck on the road, when you receive a letter from us in the mail, when you see one of our TV ads, when you visit our website humanesociety.org, or when somebody hands you a business card with a map of the United States rendered in 19 animals—you can be assured of two things: There are animals in need. And we are there to fight for them.

If you want to see the real thing and not just the symbols, let me direct you to our new app for the iPhone and iPod touch. Go to Apple’s App Store and search for HumaneTV. It’s free. Here, you can see short news videos of our staff and volunteers in action. Among the recent headlines are these: Suspected Cockfighting Ring Busted; HSUS, Actors Take to Hill for Horses; HSI and Haitians Working Together; Cruelty Free Shopping; North Carolina Animal Rescue … There’s lots more.

The app is new, but not what it shows—not about the needs of animals or our determination to help. Back in the late 1950s, decades before the age of the Internet and before anyone could imagine the technological wizardry that goes into producing an iPhone, HSUS printed this mission statement on its membership cards: “Every Field of Humane Work—EVERYWHERE."

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