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May 10, 2010

Rescue, Reform, Results: Our 2009 Annual Report

2009 Humane Society of the United States Annual Report

Today we posted on humanesociety.org our 2009 Annual Report. (If you’re an HSUS supporter, look for a copy in your mailbox at the end of the month.) I am posting, as today’s blog entry, my opening message for the report. You can look at the full report online, and circulate it to friends and others to help them understand more about the organization and the cause of animal protection.


We are at an odd moment in history. There is more organized concern for animals than ever before, and we see more markers of progress in the realms of legislative advocacy, corporate reform, and public awareness. Yet, at the same time, there is more exploitation of other creatures, particularly in the realms of factory farming and the wildlife trade.

The HSUS stands at the intersection of these conflicting forces in society. Specifically, we aim to see that the organized effort to protect animals gains critical mass and momentum, while those who would cause harm to animals either find new ways of doing business or are compelled to cease their harmful conduct by the rule of law.

We are better equipped than any group in the world to advance these goals, and we have you to thank for providing us with the resources we need for the fight. In 2009, as you’ll read in this annual report, our Emergency Services responders undertook a remarkable array of hands-on interventions, rescuing more than 10,000 animals from puppy mills, animal fighting pits, hoarding operations, and natural disasters. Our staff and volunteer veterinarians provided treatments and sterilizations for thousands of dogs and cats—from the most remote Indian reservations in the United States to the streets of the Himalayan nation of Bhutan. And with our five direct care centers—operating from Cape Cod to San Diego—we provided treatments, safe haven, adoption, or release back into the wild for nearly 16,000 creatures whose fortunes ultimately led them into our healing and protective arms.

Yet if we only provided direct care and services, we’d fail our animal friends. Countless animals are in crisis, and we could never intervene to help all of them. If we undertook only that work, we’d just be addressing symptoms. It’s our primary goal at The HSUS to diagnose the problems that animals face, and then to achieve reforms so that cruelty is prevented in the first place. In short, we work to strike at root causes to secure lasting change.

For instance, we raided 16 puppy mills in 2009 and saved more than 3,000 dogs in the process. But even if we managed to double or quadruple the number of raids, that would not be enough to solve the broader problem. We estimate there are more than 10,000 mills in the United States, and that’s why it’s critical that we pass laws to crack down on these operations and also raise awareness with consumers so they don’t purchase dogs from the puppy mill supply chain. In 2009, we helped pass 10 new state laws to address the cruelty of puppy mills, and dozens have already been shuttered as a result of our ongoing legislative work. We’ve now taken the steps needed to push ahead an anti-puppy mill ballot initiative for 2010 in Missouri; that state alone is estimated to host perhaps as many as 3,000 breeding operations and to produce nearly 40 percent of all dogs in the pet trade. By working to pass a ballot initiative there, we can achieve with a single policy reform something more significant and enduring than all of our raids combined.

Similarly, billions of animals are at risk on factory farms. Rescuing animals from these situations might help those individual creatures, but it could not possibly begin to turn around this vast and almost overwhelming problem. Instead, we are working for fundamental reforms. In 2009, we passed legislation in California to ban tail docking, and in Michigan, we passed legislation to phase out the worst confinement practices for veal calves, breeding sows, and laying hens. We also worked to get major corporations like Wendy’s and Au Bon Pain to institute more humane purchasing practices, shifting the marketplace and compelling factory farmers to change their ways. Our undercover investigations expose awful cruelty at factory farms and slaughterhouses and shut down the worst operators, pulling back the curtain on the endemic cruelty in industrialized agribusiness and setting the stage for broader reform.

There is no group in the world like The HSUS, and our work in 2009 demonstrated that fact again and again. We employ teams of doctors, veterinarians, wildlife scientists, litigators, lobbyists, investigators, educators, advertising specialists and communicators, and other professionals who are the best in their field and who are committed to seeing change advance for animals. Together, we advocate for all animals, whether cats, dogs, horses, farm animals, wildlife, or others.

As the theme of this report indicates, all of our work at The HSUS is focused on results. We do not seek merely to be part of the debate, but rather to drive the debate and to achieve tangible advances for animals. Our national advertising campaign is literally reaching tens of millions of Americans, exposing the major forms of cruelty and inviting people of conscience to join our crusade. And already in 2010, we’ve gotten Wal-Mart and Hellman’s to modify their egg-purchasing practices, persuaded more major clothing companies to drop fur from their lines, and trained the spotlight on more cruelty through our undercover investigations.

Your steady support allows us to compete against powerful industries and interest groups that not only exploit animals but want to thwart the change we demand. This nation, and indeed the world, needs a group like The HSUS—a group that balances mainstream values with an unyielding resolve to win and to achieve systemic change. We won’t relent in the fight, and we hope you’ll stick with us as we charge forward to create a truly humane society.

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