September 2010 Blog Home November 2010


22 posts from October 2010


October 18, 2010

Hunting Down Prop 109: Wildlife Protection, Voters' Rights At Risk

The HSUS trusts the voters of Arizona. The NRA doesn’t, and it wants to take away their rights to vote on citizen initiatives on some animal welfare issues.

That’s the underlying mentality that divides the backers and opponents of Arizona’s Proposition 109, which was referred to the ballot by the politicians who are the handmaidens of the NRA.

They don’t like that we succeeded in convincing Arizona voters to outlaw cockfighting and extreme confinement of veal calves and breeding pigs on factory farms by ballot initiative. And they especially don’t like that we succeeded in persuading the electorate to ban the use of cruel and inhumane steel-jawed leghold traps on public lands—since that was a restriction on the taking of wildlife.

Bighorn sheep

Just a few years after the anti-trapping initiative, in 2000, the NRA and the rest of the trophy hunting lobby succeeded in getting state politicians to place a measure on the ballot to create a higher threshold for passing wildlife protection initiatives in Arizona—a two-thirds vote, rather than the simple majority vote that is the standard for elections in a democratic society. Even though we were outspent 20 to 1, we succeeded in alerting voters to this attack on their fundamental rights of citizenship; 63 percent of voters told the NRA to leave their voting rights alone, and its ballot measure went down in flames.

Now, the NRA-anchored coalition has come back with its latest attack on voting rights: Prop 109. It creates a constitutional right to hunt, but there’s much more to it than that. It takes power away from citizens and puts it in the hands of politicians, and its effect would be to block future statutory initiatives to protect wildlife and to establish that hunting is the “preferred means” of dealing with wildlife. It enshrines in the state constitution that no law or rule shall be adopted that "unreasonably restrict hunting, fishing and harvesting wildlife or the use of traditional means and methods." It even weakens the authority of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, and replaces sound scientific wildlife management with partisan politics.

If approved, Prop 109 could repeal the voter-approved ballot measure on trapping, legalize canned hunting, and protect outrageous practices like hound hunting of bears or even bear baiting, if someone decided to start engaging in that activity. And we could forget about any attempt to restrict the use of lead shot that is killing highly endangered California condors, since a requirement to use nontoxic shot would “unreasonably restrict hunting.”

Today the campaign launched an advertising campaign to alert voters once again to this attack on their voting rights and to this power grab by the NRA and the politicians who do their bidding.

Voters should reject Prop 109, just as they rejected the 2000 effort to accomplish the same end. The Arizona Republic called Prop 109 “a minefield of potential problems.”

Take a look at the new ad, and urge your friends and contacts in Arizona to vote "no" on Prop 109.

October 15, 2010

Not All Race Horses Have A Hollywood Ending

The life of Secretariat, as depicted in the uplifting Disney film of the same name, is a great American story: an underdog beats the odds, defies the skeptics, and rides to glory. The movie opened in theaters across the nation last week, and it is dramatic and engaging even though we all know the outcome.

Secretariat en route to winning the 1973 Belmont Stakes
Creative Commons
Secretariat en route to winning the 1973 Belmont Stakes.

Secretariat spent his life under the watchful eye of a fierce and determined owner, Penny Chenery, played beautifully by Diane Lane. After Secretariat’s unparalleled successes on the track, he had a chance at a second career. In Secretariat’s case, that meant a long life as a breeding sire. For most retired racers, a second career might involve pleasure riding, competitive show jumping, or competitive dressage. Regardless of the chosen discipline, the hallmark of the Thoroughbred breed is a desire to compete and win. Secretariat may have been the textbook example of those qualities, but they live and thrive in just about every horse who retires from racing.

Sadly, too many retired race horses are never given a chance to prove themselves off the track. As long as horse slaughter remains legal in the United States, there are unscrupulous owners, dealers, and buyers who will seek to profit from the failures or decline of any race horse. These creatures, trained to trust people, suffer the ultimate betrayal when they are sold at auction, trucked in terrible conditions to foreign slaughter plants, and then killed and butchered for consumption. Indeed, considering how many hundreds of foals Secretariat sired over his lifetime, one wonders how many hundreds or even thousands of his descendants endured that horrible fate. Even his brother, a bay horse named Straight Flush, was awaiting the slaughter truck before being rescued by a benefactor who recognized him as brother to the red chestnut racing star. And though it sounds hard to believe, even winning the Kentucky Derby is no guarantee that a horse will be spared that terrible fate: witness Ferdinand, winner of the 1986 race, who was killed and butchered in a foreign slaughter plant after failing to sire winning foals.

Responsible race track owners and trainers continue to search for ways to improve track conditions and to reduce risks to horses. The best of them do not allow injured or drugged horses to race. A growing number of tracks and racing associations have adopted a zero-tolerance policy toward horse slaughter, banning any trainer that sells horses for slaughter. Other industry groups have dedicated resources to finding good homes for retired racers. The California Thoroughbred Breeders Association, for example, has created the California Equine Retirement Foundation, dedicated to making sure that every race horse gets a second chance at another career and a good, loving home.

As moviegoers relive the dramatic spring and summer days of Secretariat’s successful Triple Crown on the big screen, we hope they will keep in mind that for most race horses, the story does not end at the finish line or the winner’s circle. For too many, the story ends in heartbreak and tragedy. It is our hope that with the release of this fine film, the American people will reflect on the effort our race horses make for us in the name of sport and entertainment, and what we owe them when they step off the track for the last time.

October 14, 2010

Talk Back: Political Roadblocks

While it’s always our preference at The HSUS to be able to recognize those in the policy-making arena who help to advance animal protection goals, there are times when we also must call out those who stand in the way—the subject of several recent blogs here. My posts about the emergence of an oddball character into the Missouri debate over puppy mills and one Oklahoma senator’s misuse of power in the Congress brought many responses from readers.

Last week, I told you about political commentator Joe the Plumber’s odd, new-found alignment with Missouri puppy millers. A few weeks ago, he started spewing false rhetoric against Prop B, the ballot measure to bring commonsense standards to large-scale dog breeding operations in Missouri. Here are some of your thoughts:

It sounds like Joe the Plumber has been paid to approve of puppy mills. It's unfortunate (and pitiful)…. I guess that 15 minutes of fame is really important! —catbug
He has not a clue what goes on in these puppy mills yet he is advocating for them under the guise of "no big government." It will never cease to disappoint me that some human beings have such a lack of empathy for another living creature. —Tonya Benigno
Hey can we ask Joe the plumber to go do what he is trained to do... Perhaps because his own perception of "normal" and "acceptable” is feces up to his kneecaps, he feels it is appropriate for animals to live that way as well. —Roxanne
The puppy mill advocates and the factory farmers are of the same ilk—they show no respect for the lives of the animals over whom they have dominion nor the lives of the humans they endanger because of the filthy, unhealthy, inhumane environments in which they raise their animals. —Lila Howland

You also wrote in response to my two blogs about Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who blocked from enactment six wildlife protection bills that have broad bipartisan support in the Senate and House. Sen. Coburn continuously stops the policy-making work of the U.S. Congress under the mantra of “fiscal restraint,” cherry-picking his targets (while supporting other legislation that massively contributes to the deficit) and misusing Senatorial rules to grind action to a halt through the use of the so-called “hold.” Among your comments:

I just wrote a polite note to Sen. Coburn using his own website's contact form, asking him to stop his misguided attempts at holding up these important bills. Maybe if enough of us do the same he will reconsider what he's doing. —Dave Bernazani
Wow. I had no idea there was even such a thing as a "hold" in the Senate. I don't understand how in a democratic government, one person can stop the process when the majority want to move forward. This seems very unfair, and in this case, it's unfair to the animals who might be saved by these bills being passed. I hope Senator Coburn receives negative feedback from his constituents and rethinks his stance… —Michelle Perez

Continue reading "Talk Back: Political Roadblocks" »

October 13, 2010

A Veterinarian's Prognosis for Stopping Puppy Mill Cruelty

Yesterday, the councils for St. Louis and Jackson counties—the two largest political jurisdictions in Missouri—endorsed Prop B, becoming the latest backers of YES! on Prop B/Missourians for the Protection of Dogs committee. And on Monday of this week, the YES! on Prop B committee, backed strongly by The HSUS along with other partners, launched two new advertisements—one featuring St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and one featuring veterinarian Connie Medling of the Humane Society of Missouri—in order to make our case to the voters and urge them to support the effort to crack down on puppy mills in Missouri.

Dogs in cage at puppy mill
The HSUS

There are 3,000 dog breeding facilities in Missouri that churn out hundreds of thousands of puppies a year as a cash crop for the pet trade. Too often, the dogs are kept in cruel and inhumane conditions, denied inadequate shelter, veterinary care, or any human kindness.

Dozens of veterinarians from all parts of the state have endorsed the ballot measure. I’ve asked one of them, Dr. Deanna Tolliver—owner of an animal hospital in Waynesville, Mo., and companion to a Yorkshire terrier puppy mill survivor—to tell us why she thinks it’s such a good idea for voters in Missouri to support Prop B.

From Deanna Tolliver, DVM:

As a veterinarian, I took an oath to protect animal health and relieve animal suffering. Unfortunately, as a veterinarian in Missouri, I have witnessed the worst kind of suffering in dogs from puppy mills—rotten and infected teeth, mammary gland tumors, ear and skin diseases, overgrown toenails that curl into foot pads, and coats matted so heavily that the animals could barely walk. Most of these conditions result from years of neglect and could have been prevented or treated with proper veterinary care.

Given what I have seen in these kennel dogs, I consider it my professional responsibility to support Proposition B, the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act. This commonsense measure on the November state ballot will provide more humane standards for the care of all dogs in puppy mills throughout the state.

Prop B would require large, commercial breeding facilities to provide dogs with sufficient food and clean water; necessary veterinary care; adequate living space, shelter and exercise; and essential rest between breeding cycles. It would also prohibit the use of wire kennel flooring and stacked cages.

The measure would also limit the number of adult breeding dogs that facilities can keep to 50 (it does not apply to breeders with 10 or fewer intact female dogs). Since each female dog is capable of producing up to five or more puppies per litter, a breeder could still sell roughly 200 to 400 puppies a year, with a potential income exceeding $100,000—much greater than that of most families in Missouri.

The recent rescue of more than 100 dogs from two operations in Camden and Greene counties undoubtedly confirms that Missouri has an ongoing problem with many of its 3,000 mass puppy-production facilities. The Better Business Bureau, the USDA Office of the Inspector General and the Missouri state auditor all released recent reports detailing insufficient oversight of our puppy mill industry and the grave suffering it causes—both for the dogs and for their future families.

Continue reading "A Veterinarian's Prognosis for Stopping Puppy Mill Cruelty" »

October 12, 2010

A Thanks to Readers: Chance to Win $400 in Humane Domain Gift Certificates

For more than three years now I’ve been writing a blog every weekday, sharing information about the depth and breadth of HSUS programs, challenging the false claims and phony arguments of our opponents (who hate how effective we are and that we work to protect all animals), and posting opportunities to push our cause ahead. I’m especially grateful to those of you who have been following my blog since the beginning, but also to my new readers, and I’ve enjoyed watching the blog grow.

With hundreds of posts on almost every subject archived and easily searched, you should consider my blog a first source of information for helping to advance our mission. Those who subscribe to receive my daily blog are among our most informed and engaged constituents—a powerful bloc taking positive actions for animals. I invite any new readers to join in this collective force by subscribing and following my posts. Neither The HSUS nor the larger cause of animal protection can succeed without your active involvement in the cause.

Just a few of the products available from Humane Domain
Just a few of the products available from Humane Domain
Just a few of the products available from Humane Domain.

And, if you subscribe to the blog today, you’ll have a chance to win a shopping spree to our online store Humane Domain—I’m giving away $400 in gift certificates to three random winners (one $250 gift certificate, one $100 gift certificate, and one $50 gift certificate). If you haven’t yet visited Humane Domain, we have a variety of great products for pets, for pet lovers and for those who want to show their support of animal protection issues, and for the home.

To enter the giveaway, just subscribe to the blog by email or RSS (or indicate that you’re already subscribed) and submit the form below [Editor's note: Contest is now closed], letting me know if there are any topics you’d potentially like to see covered on the blog. As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

The contest closes at 6 p.m. ET next Tuesday, Oct. 19 (one entry per person; see the official rules).

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October 11, 2010

Priceless: Low-Cost Pet Health Clinics in Gulf Coast Communities

Last month I featured a guest blog from Amanda Arrington, The HSUS’s manager of spay/neuter initiatives, spotlighting one of the pet health clinics that are part of our larger Gulf Coast initiative. By bringing low-cost spay/neuter services into the community, often with free vaccination and microchipping, we are eliminating the main barriers—cost and access—that many people face in providing veterinary care to their pets. With this kind of work, we are chipping away, community by community, at the larger problem of pet overpopulation and euthanasia.

We recently hosted another clinic in Jefferson Parrish, La., in coordination with the Jefferson SPCA and the Jefferson Parrish Animal Shelter. Thousands of cats and dogs received free vaccinations, hundreds received free microchips and discounted spay/neuter vouchers and, thanks to a generous donation by FreeKibble.com, five tons of Halo Spot's Stew pet food was distributed to attendees.

I am posting video from the event. Be sure to watch—the smiles and gratitude from community members whose pets we helped to serve are sure to brighten your day.

This is just another part of The HSUS’s hands-on work, manifest every day across the nation. That work has so many forms, both inside our own animal care centers and in communities like the one depicted in the video.

A note: If you’re visiting my blog today, you’ll notice it has a new look. I hope you like it, and that you find this layout helps you to better engage in the content and in our efforts to protect animals. To celebrate, and to thank you for being readers of my blog, tomorrow I’ll announce a special giveaway—stay tuned.

October 08, 2010

Doing the Right Thing for Whales

North Atlantic right whales are struggling to survive and, thanks to action by The HSUS, their chances just got a bit better.

North Atlantic right whale with calf
Florida FWC/NOAA
North Atlantic right whale with calf.

The stats are sobering. In some years, as few as a single calf is born to the population of less than 400 whales in the Atlantic. In one 12-month period, three pregnant females were killed when they were hit by ships as they migrated between their only known calving area off the southeastern United States and their feeding grounds in New England and Canada.

To save these whales, it’s vital that their feeding and birthing and migratory areas be protected. The National Marine Fisheries Service is charged with protecting the whales and their critical habitats, and their own scientists have recommended that larger areas of habitat be protected from activities that could harm whales or their habitat. The whales needed a strong voice to speak up for them, and that’s where we came in.

In 2009, The HSUS and our allies filed a legal petition with the Fisheries Service to expand critical habitat for the whales. We presented substantial evidence showing areas most in need of added protection. Rather than responding within the time required by law, the Fisheries Service ignored the petition. After months of waiting, our attorneys took the agency to court and demanded action.

This week, we got the good news that, rather than fighting us in court, the Fisheries Service has agreed to revise the boundaries of critical habitat areas. This is a victory for the imperiled whales, and means that this remnant population has a fighting chance. Potentially harmful activities such as oil and gas exploration in these crucial areas will undergo greater scrutiny, and vessels will be required to operate more slowly to prevent collisions with these giant and vulnerable animals as they travel to their feeding and breeding grounds.

Our team of lawyers, scientists and other experts are working around the clock to make sure that state and federal laws protecting animals are fully and faithfully applied. In this case, thanks to the staff, members, and supporters of The HSUS, the future looks a little brighter for one of the largest animals in the world with one of the smallest remaining populations.

October 07, 2010

Playing Politics with Puppy Mill Abuse

You can never find a plumber when you need one, it sometimes seems, but that hasn’t been a problem for the puppy mill crowd in Missouri. Joe the Plumber, who found his name repeated again and again by Barack Obama and John McCain during one of the 2008 presidential debates, has somehow bubbled up, like some kind of backflow, into the debate over Proposition B, the ballot measure to bring commonsense standards to large-scale dog breeding operations in the largest of the puppy mill states. He’s casting himself as a Tea Party man, and the talk is that the Missouri Tea Party wants to beat Prop B.

Matted dog at a Missouri puppy mill
USDA
Matted dog at a Missouri puppy mill.

In siding with the puppy millers and doing so with false and white-hot rhetoric, Joe the Plumber has made it clear he’s not actually interested in the welfare of dogs. He needs to roll up his sleeves and look carefully at the report we issued this week on Missouri puppy mills—short-haired dogs shivering in the cold, dead dogs among the living, feces-caked enclosures, animals matted beyond belief, and all of it documented by government inspectors at state and federally licensed large-scale dog breeding facilities. Kind of hard to argue that all is well with the industry, with these inspection records staring you in the face.

Joe’s an opportunistic crank, and that’s being charitable. But what’s really odd is that the puppy millers and their allies are rallying under the banner of the Tea Party, which has, as a general matter, expressed more than its fair share of skepticism about public officeholders. Apparently, the Tea Partiers have a short memory about their new-found friends in the puppy mill industry.

It was the puppy mills and their pals in agribusiness that lobbied state lawmakers to refer a measure to the ballot to take away voting rights in the state and make sure only politicians, not citizens, could make decisions on animal issues. They unsuccessfully tried to block the puppy mill initiative from appearing on the ballot and to prevent any future initiative that would restrict the raising of domesticated animals. If there’s any group that should believe in unfettered access to the initiative process, and to vest power in the people rather than the legislators in the pay and in the pocket of special interests, it should be the Tea Party. Putting all their faith in politicians and denying the voice of the people seems precisely the opposite of what they stand for.

The names of the people and the parties have changed, but the situation reminds me of the debate over cockfighting 12 years ago. Then, as now, state lawmakers failed to do the right thing, and it required the action of the people to push ahead with a ballot initiative to correct an awful abuse. In their campaign against the cockfighting measure, the cockfighters, the puppy millers, and agribusiness said a ban on cockfighting would be the first step to outlaw all animal uses, invoking rhetoric that Joe the Plumber uttered last week. In the 12 years since Missouri voters approved the ban on cockfighting, all of the critics’ predictions proved false and overblown. That will be true 12 years from now again if voters approve Prop B, as they should.

Joe the Plumber’s clumsy entrance into the Missouri debate isn’t likely to amount to anything more than a clown act, but it has made for good sport for bloggers and other commentators, including my colleague John Balzar, who had a few choice words for Joe.

Missouri voters—whether they are Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Tea Party enthusiasts, or others—love their pets. And they wouldn’t treat their own dogs like the mills treat theirs. They want to see a correction, and that’s what Prop B is all about. It’s not a party issue for them. It’s an issue of decency, and what’s at stake with Prop B is a baseline principle on which all people of conscience agree.

October 06, 2010

Third Quarter Blog Favorites

This quarter on the blog, chickens ruled the roost—from July through September the blog deemed most popular based on your clicks was the news that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation applying the animal welfare standards contained within California’s Proposition 2 to all shell (whole) eggs sold in the state starting in 2015. (Ironically, however, Schwarzenegger marred his record badly this past week by vetoing four animal protection bills, and for no compelling reason.)

Egg-laying hens at a cage-free facility
The HSUS

Coming in at number two is my post about rocker and brash hunter Ted Nugent’s poaching activities (in August, Nugent pleaded no contest to baiting a deer and not having a properly signed hunting tag).

Three blogs on animal crush videos and the U.S. House’s passage of more narrowly tailored federal legislation to prohibit trade in these videos also make the top ten list. These repugnant acts of cruelty continue to hold your focus—last quarter, my blog on the Supreme Court decision invalidating the 1999 federal law banning their production and sale was the second most popular blog.

State humane issues—Florida’s ban on the gruesome practice of releasing a fox or coyote inside a pen to be chased and often torn apart by dogs, the senseless slaughter of geese in New York, and the dangerous and sometimes deadly private keeping of exotic animals in Ohio—round out the list. The inventory of 55 potential action items for those who want to become more involved in animal protection also made the list, as did the good news that women’s apparel retailer Talbots will retain its original fur-free policy following pushback from customers and HSUS constituents.

  1. Breaking: Gov. Schwarzenegger Signs Landmark Egg Bill
  2. Poaching Doesn't Rock: Ted Nugent Caught In Illegal Hunt
  3. Animal Crush Videos Make Comeback; Senate Must Act
  4. Senate Hearing Paves Way for Crack Down on Crush Videos
  5. After Long Chase, Florida Bans Cruel Fox and Coyote Pens
  6. 55 Actions for Animals and The HSUS
  7. Gaggle of Problems with N.Y. Plans to Kill Canada Geese
  8. U.S. House Votes to Crack Down on Animal Crush Videos
  9. A Mother’s Plea: Ban Private Ownership of Exotic Animals
  10. You Spoke, Talbots Listened: Fur Pulled from Shelves

October 05, 2010

A Dozen More Reasons for Supporting Missouri's Prop B

I stepped down from a platform a couple of hours ago at the Humane Society of Missouri headquarters in St. Louis to announce the results of The HSUS’s latest investigative report—“Missouri’s Dirty Dozen.” This painstakingly documented report synthesizes information gleaned from state and federal inspection reports, including enforcement records, animal care violations, and photographs, and reveals shocking abuses and mistreatment of dogs at the state’s largest puppy mills. You can read the entire 27-page report here, or look at a summary of the report.

HSUS researchers identified these Dirty Dozen puppy mills and eight “dishonorable mentions.” Some of the violations described in kennel inspection reports include:

  • Thin-coated breeds shivering in temperatures as low as 9 degrees; others found trying to lick frozen water in their bowls or break it with their paws.
  • Sick or dying puppies who had not been treated by a vet.
  • Dogs with open, oozing or bleeding wounds that went untreated by a vet.
  • A proposed program of veterinary care by one operator who intended to dispose of unwanted dogs “by clubbing the dogs.”

One of Missouri's "Dirty Dozen," this puppy mill has a history of problems
The HSUS
One of the "Dirty Dozen," this mill has a history of problems.

Many of the puppy mills have racked up more than 50 federal or state animal welfare violations over the last few years, yet remain licensed. One from the Dirty Dozen list remains both federally and state licensed, despite having more than 500 pages of Animal Welfare Act violations and enforcement records on file with the USDA. A kennel operator on the dishonorable mentions list had her license revoked by the USDA for repeatedly violating the Animal Welfare Act, yet she remains state-licensed and continues to sell puppies over the Internet.

None of this should be surprising. In May the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General issued a scathing report about the lax enforcement of the federal law. Three reports by Missouri state auditors confirm that the state inspections program has been plagued by gaps through the years. And earlier this year, the Better Business Bureau offices of Kansas City, Springfield, and St. Louis issued a damning report revealing a mass of consumer complaints about dogs bred at Missouri mills.

If voters approve Prop B, we can turn this situation around. Conditions leading to distress and suffering in dogs, such as painful wire flooring, lack of proper veterinary care, overcrowded cages, and scant protection from the elements, will be more clearly and consistently addressed under the law. Prop B will stop mills from keeping more than 50 intact dogs used for breeding, and this will help because it is the large-scale puppy mills that cause the greatest problem for dogs.

Opponents of Prop B have lots to say, but it’s so much claptrap. Their coalition talks about an end to animal agriculture, even though the only species mentioned in Prop B is the domesticated dog. And they say that The HSUS and its coalition partners in Missouri, the biggest pet-advocacy organizations in the United States, want to eliminate pets—a laughable and absurd comment. This same coalition of naysayers fought against the 1998 ballot initiative to outlaw cockfighting and they made the same far-fetched claims then that they are making now. No one is trying, or has tried to eliminated hunting or livestock agriculture, and it’s just nonsense talk from the Farm Bureau and other entities that should know better.

Yesterday The HSUS and our coalition partners launched the first TV ad urging Missourians to vote YES! on Prop B. This ad will help broadcast the images of puppy mill cruelty to millions across the state. Any amount you might be able to contribute to help it air would be much appreciated.

Paid for by Missourians for the Protection of Dogs / YES! on Prop B, Judy Peil, Treasurer.