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January 03, 2011

2010 in Review: A Remarkable Year for Animals and The HSUS

The approach of charity watchdog groups is typically to measure the work of nonprofit organizations by looking at spending ratios, comparing programmatic expenditures to fundraising and administrative costs. That provides some valuable information (and The HSUS performs well by these measures), but those kind of numbers alone do not give a full picture of the true effectiveness of a charity. In my opinion, the key measure is impact. What is a charity getting done in the real world?

The HSUS performs exceptionally on the big issues that affect the lives of animals, working in four big arenas: public policy, corporate reforms, education and awareness, and hands-on animal care. In several months, we’ll be releasing our annual report for 2010, and here are some of the accomplishments that we’ll highlight.

Public Policy

Kitten
iStockphoto

In the U.S. Congress in 2010, we worked to put three major priorities on President Obama’s desk: passing narrowly crafted legislation to stop the sale and distribution of obscene animal crush videos; requiring the labeling of all fur garments by species type and country of origin, regardless of the value of the fur; and strengthening the law banning shark finning. We also helped to block efforts to delist wolves from their endangered status in the Northern Rockies and Upper Great Lakes—protecting our wins in the federal courts to prevent sport hunting of imperiled wolves. The House passed nine other HSUS-backed animal protection measures, but they stalled in the Senate. We’ll get behind these measures again in the 112th Congress.

We also saw positive action on 24 elements of our 100-point “Change Agenda” with federal agencies, including stronger Horse Protection Act enforcement, implementation of wild horse contraception programs, a proposal to ban large exotic constrictor snakes as pets, and improved enforcement on puppy mills and humane slaughter. Following pressure from The HSUS, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Animal Protection of New Mexico, and others, the National Institutes of Health has suspended the transfer of 186 chimpanzees from a facility in New Mexico to an active research laboratory in Texas, where they would be made readily available for invasive research. The NIH has indicated that no chimpanzees will be transferred while the National Academy of Sciences reviews chimpanzee research policies.

On Nov. 2, we scored two major state ballot measure victories, driving the passage of Proposition B in Missouri to crack down on puppy mill abuses in the top dog-breeding state in the nation and defeating an NRA-backed amendment in Arizona to create a constitutional right to hunt and to block future wildlife protection initiatives. We also helped pass 96 other state laws and regulations and blocked several dozen anti-animal bills from passing. California passed legislation to ban the sale of whole battery cage eggs when Prop 2 takes effect in January 2015. Florida banned fox penning, Illinois banned keeping primates as pets, and Hawaii banned the sale of shark fins. Iowa and Oklahoma also passed legislation to create new standards for puppy mills.

Pig in gestation crate
USDA

The HSUS worked with Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and agriculture industry leaders in the state to negotiate an agreement that is expected to result in eight major animal welfare improvements, including phase outs of veal crates and gestation crates and new restrictions on the keeping of dangerous wild animals as pets.

We also work to enforce animal protection laws, both by assisting law enforcement with criminal matters, and by filing civil actions in the courts. In New York, we won a major water pollution case against Hudson Valley Foie Gras. In addition, we won our lawsuit against several of the nation's largest department stores and brands over false advertising and mislabeling of fur garments. In August, we won our lawsuit to stop the slaughter of wolves and reinstate federal Endangered Species Act protections. The ruling prevents wolf hunting from going forward in Montana and Idaho. And recently, the Ninth Circuit Court handed us a major win when it halted the killing of federally protected sea lions at the Bonneville Dam in response to our lawsuit against this senseless program.

This year, we also petitioned USDA to crack down on cruel horse soring practices, and filed an action to stop illegal political payments by the Ohio Gamefowl Breeders Association.

Our legal efforts also resulted in new habitat protections for right whales, a halt to a new migratory bird hunting program at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, a decision by the Park Service to cancel a program to poison crows, a ruling by a federal appeals court rejecting a constitutional challenge to the newly enhanced federal animal fighting statute, and a ruling holding that there is no constitutional right to operate a puppy mill free of humane regulations.

On the farm animal welfare front, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court injunction blocking a California law banning the use of sick and disabled ("downed") animals in the human food supply, and two former slaughter plant operators in Vermont were convicted on felony and misdemeanor animal cruelty charges in the wake of an HSUS investigation at a dairy calf slaughtering facility. The HSUS also launched several new farm animal cases, including an action to stop factory egg farm Rose Acre Farms from making false claims about its treatment of animals, and a petition asking the Department of Justice for a criminal investigation focusing on egg industry executives who fixed egg prices by operating a questionable animal welfare certification scheme. We also announced a major class action lawsuit against Perdue Farms over the false advertising of factory farmed chicken products as humane.

Our international affiliate, Humane Society International, continued to extend our influence and secure gains for animals’ welfare in the European Union, India, China and many other countries around the globe  through our work in international wildlife conventions and other relevant international organizations in the areas of wildlife protection, animal testing, trade, stray dog welfare and management, and more.

Corporate Reforms

Dogs rescued from puppy mill by The HSUS
Michelle Riley/The HSUS

We gained our 1,000th pledge from pet stores committing to make it their official policy not to sell puppies, thereby taking a stand against puppy mills.

Canada’s seal hunting did go forward in 2010, but with a dramatically reduced kill for the second year in a row. The allowable kill was 380,000, but the actual kill was about 66,000. The drop in the value of the pelts, driven by our efforts in Europe and other continents to close markets for seal products, has been the biggest factor in the low kill rate.

Compass Group began its Be a Flexitarian initiative; Hellmann’s Light switched 100 percent of its eggs to cage-free and Hellmann’s is converting the rest of its products to cage-free, too; Kraft and Sara Lee started using cage-free eggs; Wal-Mart adopted a cage-free policy for all its private line eggs; Chipotle became the first major American restaurant chain to introduce vegetarian chicken to its menu in numerous locations; Subway committed to go 100 percent cage-free, starting with four percent; AMTRAK, Virgin America, and Ruby Tuesday switched to 100 percent cage-free eggs; Quiznos doubled its cage-free egg volume; Sonic, Golden Corral and Cracker Barrel each started using cage-free eggs; Sonic also started using gestation crate-free pork; and Safeway committed to double its percentage of cage-free eggs by 2012 and to increase to 15 percent gestation crate-free pork by 2013.

We also made remarkable progress in 2010 on our fur-free campaign. JCPenney confirmed it will remain fur-free for 2010 and 2011 (the company dropped animal fur and has been fur-free for several years after our investigators uncovered labeling problems); Talbots reconfirmed its fur-free policy after beginning to sell rabbit fur and receiving complaints from HSUS members; Lord & Taylor and Andrew Marc both agreed to phase out raccoon dog fur and Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s Inc. agreed to improve their fur advertising and labeling—all as part of lawsuit settlements; Gilt Groupe agreed to not sell raccoon dog fur; Bluefly will phase out raccoon dog fur; and we continued to build and promote a list of brands and retailers who were or have committed to being fur-free.

Education and Awareness

From fall 2009 through October 2010, we secured about $32 million in donated media for our Shelter Pet Project public service awareness program, in the form of television, radio, newspaper, and billboard advertising. This first of its kind national campaign urges people around the country to make animal shelters their first choice for bringing dogs and cats into their homes. In the Gulf Coast, we continue to promote spaying and neutering through a regional advertising program, and there are 10 new high-volume spay/neuter clinics conducting 40,000 to 50,000 surgeries a year, with a good number of them funded in part by The HSUS. Since the program’s launch in April 2008, we’ve generated 67.8 million media impressions, helping to drive pet owners to use these low-cost services.

Hens in battery cage at Rose Acre Farms facility
The HSUS

In April, we released the results of our latest investigation into industrial agribusiness and exposed rampant abuse at two of the nation’s largest egg producers. Late in the year, we conducted an investigation exposing the abuse of laying hens at Cal-Maine Foods, the top egg producer in the nation. We also exposed the mistreatment of turkey hatchlings at the Willmar Poultry plant in Minnesota and the awful confinement of breeding sows at a Smithfield hog confinement facility in Virginia. All of these investigations garnered major national attention, and reminded the American public four more times that agribusiness is systematically mistreating animals in agriculture.

An undercover HSUS investigation exposed the cruel practice of “bear baiting” in South Carolina, where captive bears are defanged, declawed, tethered to stakes and attacked by dogs.

We’ve now expanded our End Dogfighting program to Philadelphia, adding to our programs in Atlanta and Chicago, where The HSUS works with reformed dogfighters to steer at-risk youth away from dogfighting.

Rescue and Direct Care

HSUS animal rescue teams deployed more than 60 times and worked with other agencies to save more than 12,000 animals in crisis across the country. We led the rescue of more than 100 dogs housed outdoors in sub-freezing temperatures in Alabama. We helped rescue nearly 90 dogs from a puppy mill in New Jersey, rescued 120 cats from a suspected hoarding situation in Tennessee, removed 163 dogs from an overwhelmed nonprofit organization in Mississippi, and saved 49 starving horses in West Virginia. We rescued nearly 50 neglected equines from Texas, conducted a major cockfighting raid in which 197 birds were seized and 85 people arrested in South Carolina, led the rescue of more than 200 animals from a puppy mill in Tennessee, managed hoarding cases with nearly 100 dogs and cats in Virginia and 134 cats in California, and responded to many other cruel situations. We also unveiled our new Mobile Animal Crimes Lab, a vehicle manufactured to contain the latest forensic equipment to help law enforcement at animal fighting or abuse crime scenes. 

In addition to rescuing thousands of animals, The HSUS and our affiliated organizations cared for more animals than any other animal protection organization in the country. More than 14,000 of those animals are either permanent residents or were treated and released from our network of five animal care centers. Another 8,369 animals were treated by veterinarians through our Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association.

Horse receives care in Haiti
HSI

Humane Society International has stationed a full-time staff member in Haiti, to establish our long-term presence in the country in the wake of the January 2010 earthquake, and help to build an animal welfare capacity in the western hemisphere’s poorest nation, including the first animal care and veterinary training center in the country, just outside Port-au-Prince.

We ended the year by winning the Pepsi Refresh Challenge, coming in first among more than 1,100 charities. We‘ll use the $250,000 prize to advance our animal rescue programs, focusing on puppy mills, hoarding operations, and many other crisis situations for animals.

We’ve also conducted wellness clinics in Louisiana and Mississippi, and transported homeless pets from areas affected by the Gulf oil spill. We worked with Louisiana corrections officials in opening an innovative new shelter in Jackson, La., and we helped build a new shelter in St. Bernard Parish.

An HSUS assessment team traveled to the Gulf Coast to examine the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on coastal wildlife. We also helped to deliver more than 12 tons of pet food to animal shelters and pet owners who were impacted by the oil spill, and we transported more than 100 dogs from overburdened Louisiana shelters to help them get adopted on the east coast.

Sounds like plenty? Actually, these are just highlights. In our dedication to the welfare of animals we cover a broad swath of landscape. By the most important measure of all of a charity—its tangible accomplishments—we met the test in 2010. We’re pushing ahead on the challenges of 2011. And we’re counting on you to help us.

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