December 2010 Blog Home February 2011


20 posts from January 2011


January 31, 2011

More Misdirection from Scammers at CCF

The many industries that profit from animal abuse attack HSUS not because we don’t do enough, but precisely the opposite — because, especially from their perch, we do too much. The last thing they want is an organization like HSUS with a strong public reputation, the courage to confront cruelty, and the campaigning tools to match.

Some of these groups have organized to counter our efforts in an open way, as the Associated Press reports today. Others, however, hide behind shill organizations with civic-sounding names, like the so-called Center for Consumer Freedom and its website HumaneWatch. Two years ago, CCF/HumaneWatch launched a brand-attack against HSUS, and the group has been at it ever since. Their latest spending spree is a cluster of billboards in Times Square charging that HSUS doesn’t give enough grants to animal shelters.

Dog before being rescued from a puppy mill 
Michelle Riley/The HSUS
A puppy mill dog before being rescued by HSUS in 2010.

Their basic strategy has been to try to smear the reputation of HSUS to see that animal abusers don’t run into any interference from us. Now two years into their little gambit, however, it’s not turned out too well for them. HSUS not only had a great year in 2010 programmatically, scoring countless successes throughout the year, but our family of organizations increased its annual revenues in 2010 by about $25 million — in order to meet the programmatic and animal-care challenges that confront us.

There are a few reasons for this. Foremost, HSUS represents mainstream values. Americans detest cruelty, and there’s too much of it in society. Our campaigns to crack down on puppy mills, end animal fighting, improve the treatment of farm animals, and all of our other anti-cruelty work resonate with fair-minded people everywhere.

Second, we’ve assembled an incredible staff of dedicated professionals, a veritable learned faculty on animal welfare issues, ready and able to address the many threats animals face. We’ve also built an extraordinary membership base, ready to spread the word, to give generously in support of our work, to use their purchasing power in the marketplace to drive better corporate conduct, and to exert impact to propel policy reform for animals.

It also helps that our supporters know there’s something important at stake here. When you are attacked by animal-use industries and their front groups, as HSUS is on a daily basis, people realize we must be doing something right. Public support increases for nonprofit organizations, just as it does for political candidates and other public figures, when they are threatened or in a righteous battle. If the waters were still and the stakes were low, people wouldn’t have much reason to care or to give.

Ironically, our opponents at CCF/Humanewatch are in many ways right out of central casting for us. They now try to masquerade as defenders of animals, but they are perhaps the first-ever self-proclaimed “animal advocates” who defend chaining of elephants in circuses, confinement of mother dogs in small cages on puppy mills, the near-immobilization of some animals on factory farms, the clubbing and shooting of baby seals, and just about every form of abuse you can imagine. Support for a group like that unravels pretty quickly once people realize where they stand.

On top of that, their leaders aren’t boy scouts. The man at the center of the scam is Rick Berman, a man who runs a network of so-called “nonprofit” organizations, but who lives in a multi-million dollar mansion and drives a Bentley to work. One year, Berman paid himself and his for-profit PR and lobbying firm more than 92 percent of all of CCF’s tax-exempt revenue. 60 Minutes labeled him “Dr. Evil,” and his own son wrote online, “[M]y father is a despicable man. My father is a sort of human molester. An exploiter. A scoundrel.”

Then there’s Berman’s blogging confrere David Martosko, who doubles as CCF’s “director of research.” PR Watch recently reported that Martosko has had numerous run-ins with the law, including convictions for driving while intoxicated, reckless endangerment, and reckless driving. Now mind you, this prince among men is one of the primary public spokesmen for Berman, whose front groups have attacked not only HSUS, anti-smoking advocates, and medical and scientific organizations fighting obesity, but also the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

And time after time, when CCF/HumaneWatch buys up advertising (as it must, since mainstream press outlets stay away from this thoroughly discredited source), some people who see the ads and don’t know us contact us and ask about the outlandish claims. We tell them that we are the nation’s leading advocate for animal shelters, and describe the litany of ways we help companion animals. And then we share that we also help farm animals, animals in laboratories, horses, wildlife and other creatures — and, generally speaking, these folks really like what they hear. We’re a lot more than they ever thought, and many of them sign them up as new members.

So in short, CCF/HumaneWatch actually draws people to our website and to our staff and our work, and once they see the real HSUS, then they get mightily interested.

So whether it is the Canadian Sealers Association, the puppy millers, the horse slaughter crew, the circus industry, the cockfighters, the factory farmers or other animal-use industries that fund CCF’s campaigns —  or all of the preceding — let me point out that you’ve hitched your wagon to some real winners in Berman and Martosko. We are not deterred, and their campaign just allows us to grow stronger and faster, underscoring we are on the right track and rallying our supporters to meet the crises that animals face in society.

January 28, 2011

Worth a Thousand Words

The last Tuesday of each February is Spay Day, a worldwide event organized by The HSUS, Humane Society International and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association to highlight the importance of saving animal lives by spaying or neutering pets and feral cats. Bringing together hundreds of spay/neuter events, we create a wave of activity and awareness around the globe during the month of February.

Gadget the cat 
Liz Bergstrom/The HSUS

In 2010, our Spay Day Online Pet Photo Contest entrants raised more than half a million dollars to support the spay/neuter programs of The HSUS, HSVMA, Humane Society International and nearly 300 local organizations around the globe. Year-round, The HSUS operates progressive initiatives to support spay/neuter efforts and provides these life-saving surgeries at no cost in underserved rural areas through HSVMA’s Field Services.

If you have a great photo of your pet, don’t forget to enter it for free in the in the Spay Day Online Pet Photo Contest, presented by Zazzle, by Friday, Feb. 25. Then, ask your friends and family to vote for your pet — $1 per vote — and help raise funds for spay and neuter programs that help end pet homelessness. 

The pets with the most votes will win prizes, like a trip to the 2012 Genesis Awards or a painting by pet portrait artist Janie Coleman.

And don’t worry, even without votes you can win prizes in the Judged Category, like a shopping spree from our online store Humane Domain or a feature on the homepage of humanesociety.org.

January 27, 2011

Healing and Hope for Rescued Animals

This week, we had the directors of our five animal care centers at our headquarters, along with the head of our Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association Field Services division.  A lot of our supporters hear about our puppy mill, factory farming, animal fighting, or seal hunting campaigns. Or they may hear about our emergency deployments or our Shelter Pet Project advertising campaign. 

But our dedicated staff at our animal care centers handle, heal, and release or adopt out thousands of animals a year — and it all adds up the largest network of hands-on animal care centers in the nation. 

Here's a short video profile of our Fund for Animals Wildlife Center, narrated by its director Ali Crumpacker, and starring Hannah Shirley the hippo and many of our other wildlife friends who get a second chance thanks to your support.

January 26, 2011

Talk Back: Lawmakers Off the Deep End

Dogs in a pool 
Brian Black

Last week I wrote about three outlandish and reckless pieces of legislation proposed by a handful of lawmakers in Nebraska (to establish criminal penalties for shelters and rescues that do not take in every unwanted horse), Montana (to repeal the federal Endangered Species Act), and Utah (to allow the shooting of feral cats).

Many of you weighed in about what you thought was the worst proposal — with the most votes going to Montana’s draft legislation to nullify the federal Endangered Species Act.

Here is a sampling of your thoughts: 

 

Killing feral animals? What if that "feral" animal is my dog who got out the door and was shot before I could catch him? Dumping animals on shelters and forcing the shelters to care for them or suffer a criminal charge IS criminal. Nebraska should fund shelters who do this work, not punish them for being humane and compassionate…I guess I am most offended by the attempt to nullify the Endangered Species Act. When you kill that last representative of an endangered species, it becomes an extinct species. True lunacy. –Cindie White-Weiss

These are all "lunatic bills," but the WORST one is Nebraska's LB 306. If Sen. Larson is this irresponsible as a freshman, I can hardly imagine his damage-creating potential if he ever "graduates"!   –Craig Cline

…For its promotion of violence, total disregard for life, and overall lunacy, I think Utah's HB 210 takes the cake. Shame on them! –Kim Curtis

Of course, if they don't want to adhere to the laws of the nation of the United States of America, then Montana no longer gets representation in the United States Congress. They can send an ambassador to Washington, DC…The mindset of the State of Montana legislative members and citizens, who actually believe they can nullify federal laws, is the pinnacle of arrogance. –Cindy Crone

They are all beyond my worst imaginations.  Let's go against them all. –Bob

I also wrote about attempts in Missouri to repeal or gut the core provisions of Proposition B, the anti-puppy mill ballot measure that a majority of Missouri voters approved just two months ago. This blatant disregard for the will of the voters sparked rebukes, too:

As a Councilman in O'Fallon, I am very much aware of the "will of the people.” I again now, as I have in the past, promise that I will work my tail off to help defeat any elected official who gets on board with this repeal effort. I have a long memory! –Jim Pepper, O’Fallon, Mo. city councilmember

Continue reading "Talk Back: Lawmakers Off the Deep End" »

January 25, 2011

Thanks to You, Another Fur-Free Victory

The HSUS’s Fur-Free campaign recently discovered that Stein Mart, a nationwide department store with more than 260 retail locations, was selling a mislabeled fur-trimmed sweater that lab testing revealed to be raccoon dog.

Raccoon dog
Sheffield Tiger

Yesterday, we encouraged our members and supporters to contact Stein Mart and ask the company to stop selling any animal fur. Within hours, Stein Mart made the decision to go fur-free. We’re grateful to all our supporters who spoke up for the animals, and we applaud Stein Mart for making the humane decision to adopt a fur-free policy.

It reminded us of the quick and similar response from Talbots a few months ago, after our constituents reached out in large numbers to make known their disappointment with the company for selling fur.

There’s no excuse for selling fur today, given the abundant presence of high quality alternatives. We’ll continue to work with clothing retailers to shed their fur and to incorporate animal welfare into their efforts to be socially responsible corporations.

January 24, 2011

Young Advocates Stand Up for Seals

Kids have an incredible connection to animals, and it’s always inspiring for me to see them act on it in a global way. The next generation of animal advocates is finding creative ways to make a difference for animals, including campaigning against one of the world’s worst spectacles of cruelty to wildlife — the Canadian seal slaughter.

In just a few weeks, the eyes of the world will again be focused on Canada as baby harp seals are born onto the ice floes off the eastern coast. Despite widespread condemnation from around the globe, the Canadian government continues to subsidize the slaughter of these newborns, many who have yet to take their first swim or eat their first solid meal. It’s a despicable horror.

That’s why all of us involved with the campaign are encouraged by two determined 10-year-olds, Jackie Evancho and Martin Welych-Flanagan, who learned about this senseless cruelty and resolved to work with The HSUS to do something about it.

Talented young singer Jackie Evancho, who was a finalist on America’s Got Talent, recently performed at our Chefs for Seals event in California. This event brought together more than 60 chefs and celebrities in a show of solidarity for seals. These chefs joined The HSUS’s Protect Seals boycott, promising not to buy some or all Canadian seafood until the commercial seal hunt ends for good.  

"I just feel really great to know that now that I have a voice, I have the ability to help the seals," says Jackie. You can watch some of Jackie's performance in the video below, and see what an unbelievably articulate advocate she is for the seals.

 

Another dedicated animal advocate, Martin Welych-Flanagan from Syracuse, N.Y., turned his passion for seals into action by founding a club at his school to stop the seal killing. He first organized his fellow students to petition the Canadian government to end the commercial hunt.

Martin now designs and sells bead bracelets with messages like "Save a Seal" to support The HSUS's Protect Seals campaign. Martin’s campaign has raised more than $5,000, and he says he’ll keep making the bracelets until the hunt is stopped. Martin even came down to HSUS’s headquarters, and I was so pleased to meet him and show him around. He, too, is so precocious and smart. He’s not waiting in the wings — he’s knee-deep in the fight already.

“I was outraged that such a beautiful animal was being killed for no good reason,” he says.

Martin has shared his message with lawmakers and on Facebook, and he was featured in a recent issue of HSUS's All Animals.

January 21, 2011

End Dogfighting Program Expands to Philadelphia

Yesterday, we carried out the public launch for our End Dogfighting Philadelphia program. It’s a program that employs community organizers to identify kids involved in dogfighting or at-risk for involvement, turns them on to a positive way of thinking about animals, and pulls them into a program of pit bull training that opens up a new world for them. In the program, they work with our professional dog trainers and learn to value the physicality of the dogs differently, and they can treat the dogs as loving companions and not as fighting machines. Our community organizers and trainers work at both ends of the leash — offering a better outcome for both people and dogs by strengthening the bond of compassion between them.

Pit bull Yukon Cornelius 
Animal Farm Foundation
Rescued pit bull Yukon Cornelius

It’s now our third city for this pioneering anti-dogfighting program, and we introduced the players and the program yesterday at the Hunting Park Recreation Center in North Philadelphia. For anyone that gets involved in the sordid enterprise of dogfighting, the only outcomes are bad. For the dogs, it’s injuries and death. For the people involved, it’s incarceration, occasional violence, and a deadening of their spirit and a loss of empathy. 

The highlight of yesterday’s event for me was getting a chance to hold Yukon Cornelius, who has been getting tender love and training from the folks the Animal Farm Foundation, after The HSUS rescued him from a suspected dogfighting operation a few months ago in rural Ohio. He’s enjoying his new life, and a more gentle and loving creature you’ll not find. Yukon is a symbol of the redemption, growth and opportunity that is at the center of this program.

The HSUS attacks animal fighting from every angle, and our program on the streets is one of the most important of our current approaches to preventing cruelty and to saving the lives of dogs and men. It’s the primary mission of HSUS not only to intervene when cruelty is taking place, but to prevent cruelty from happening in the first place, and that’s why our End Dogfighting program is so important. Here’s a write-up in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. We’re grateful to our friends at Animal Farm Foundation for their support, and to the Pennsylvania SPCA for its participation and its strong enforcement work against animal fighting.

P.S. You can also check out this story about how a local high school student, Morgan McCafferty, is lending a hand to our End Dogfighting Philadelphia program. 

January 20, 2011

Legislative Lunacy

I wrote earlier this week about the arrogant efforts of Missouri politicians to undo Prop B just two months after the electorate adopted the anti-puppy mill ballot measure — and 10 months before the initiative takes effect (since Prop B gave large-scale dog-breeding operations a full year to comply with the new humane standards of care). While the anti-Prop B efforts are an appalling snub of voters and the democratic system of majority rule, there are some other legislative proposals in other states that are truly off the wall. A handful of lawmakers in a few states are setting a new standard of reckless and dunderheaded behavior in introducing these bills. We hope none of these measures will advance beyond the introduction stage, but we’ll be keeping close tabs.

Horse 
Kathy Milani/The HSUS

Nebraska LB 306

Sponsored by freshman Sen. Tyson Larson, this bill requires humane societies and horse rescues to accept and care for any horse that is presented to them, and would make it a crime, a class IV misdemeanor, if the group doesn’t have enough space or money to take in an animal dumped on their doorsteps. Sen. Larson’s unbelievable bill turns moral responsibility on its head, allowing reckless animal owners to casually dispense with animals they’ve acquired without proper forethought and shifting the care and cost burdens onto struggling local organizations, who are already up to their ears cleaning up the messes of other irresponsible animal owners. For the government to require these local organizations to care for every animal presented to them, and to create a crime if they are unable to take them in, that’s akin to requiring the Sierra Club to cover the costs of every environmental polluter and to require nothing of the very polluters who create the problem in the first place.

Utah HB 210

This session, the Utah legislature will consider a bill to allow people to shoot any animal they believe to be feral — essentially green-lighting the shooting of feral dogs and cats, and giving people a pass if they shoot someone else’s pet. It’s the Wild West, and there are no rules when it comes to the care of animals, if this lawmaker gets his way. This crazy idea comes at a time when there are more effective efforts than ever to address the management of feral dogs and cats by humane means, such as trap-neuter-return.

Montana LC 1839

And in Montana, legislation is being drafted with the goal of “nullifying and voiding the Federal Endangered Species Act.” Imagine if states had the authority to willy-nilly void any federal law they don’t want to follow! Don’t like the federal Endangered Species Act? Just nix it. How about the federal Controlled Substances Act? Nullify it. Civil rights, labor laws, environmental protection laws? Brushed aside as some sort of outrageous federal intervention. Forget about the tripartite system of lawmaking, with power vested in local, state and federal governments. In this aberrant construction of government, the states are supreme and they don’t need any stinking ideas from local or federal lawmakers.

I know it must be a tough call, but let me know which of these ghastly ideas you think is the worst. I’ll report back to you next week with the results.

January 19, 2011

Cage-Free Campaign Takes Wing in Washington State

Today, Washingtonians for Humane Farms—a coalition led by The HSUS and Farm Sanctuary—filed a proposed initiative petition in Washington state to halt the use of battery cage confinement in egg production. The measure, which would take effect in 2018, would also stipulate that eggs sold in the state must meet that same standard once it goes into effect.

Cage-free chickens

For three years, we met with egg producers in the Northwest to try to hatch a compromise. But the state’s egg producers, who confine about 6 million birds, could not get to a place where they supported a serious-minded animal welfare reform in egg production. This initiative is the outcome of those failed discussions.

In 2008, HSUS and a large coalition of groups passed Proposition 2 in California to phase out the cage confinement of laying hens. In Ohio, we filed a similar petition, but eventually reached agreement with agriculture groups and we together supported a broad eight-point animal welfare agenda in the state. We are still in the midst of seeing those provisions adopted, but I remain hopeful that we’ll get there in the Buckeye state.

We are generally reluctant to proceed with ballot initiatives, and prefer negotiated agreements, as we achieved not too long ago with agricultural leaders in Michigan. But when talks fail, we are left without other options. There is a major moral issue at stake here. It is cruel and inhumane to cram and crowd together for life laying hens in small cages. The birds are so tightly packed that they are unable to move much at all and entirely unable to nest, dust-bathe or perch. It is a life of privation and frustration. 

Perhaps the key point is, there is a commercially viable alternative: cage-free production. Many egg producers maintain cage flocks and cage-free flocks, so they know they can raise animals without keeping them locked in tiny cages. With so many retailers, such as Burger King, Safeway and others increasing their share of cage-free egg purchases, or going entirely cage-free, like Whole Foods, it’s clear that this is the trajectory of this industry. A stubborn refusal to change old and inhumane ways is not going to help the industry. All industries must adapt and innovate with changing times and attitudes, and the writing has been on the wall for a long time with this industry. 

Environmental, public health and animal cruelty violations in Washington battery cage operations date back more than a decade. In 1999, Amberson Farms was fined by the state’s Department of Ecology for discharging Salmonella-polluted runoff into a salmon-bearing tributary of Lake Stevens while plaguing the neighboring community with swarms of flies and a stench that affected nearby schoolchildren. Fecal bacteria levels in the afflicted waterway were 15 times the state’s contamination limit, leading the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to threaten the egg factory with penalties of up to $27,500 a day. A cruelty complaint led sheriff’s deputies to the ghoulish discovery of thousands of hens dead or dying of starvation in a rat-infested shed with inoperable feeding and watering systems. The owner pleaded guilty to animal cruelty, yet paid only a $500 fine.

Though Amberson Farms is now gone, the problems associated with battery cage operations continue. At one massive cage facility designed to hold 1.8 million birds, Washington State University researchers found: “The fly population was rated 5 on a scale of 1 to 5…A score of 5 reflected a fly population so high that the workers could not talk to each other for fear of flies getting into their mouths.”

We have fewer than six months to gather more than 300,000 signatures of Washington voters. If you are a Washington resident and want to help, please sign up on our site. We’ll need thousands of volunteers on the ground to make this work. And for the sake of the 6 million animals we’re seeking to help, we must make it work.

January 18, 2011

The People Have Spoken

Last week, I spent a couple of days in Missouri, speaking to lawmakers about the merits of Prop B — the ballot measure approved by voters in November 2010 that provides stronger humane standards for the care of dogs on large-scale dog-breeding operations. Even though voters approved this anti-puppy mill measure just two months ago, there have been eight bills introduced in Jefferson City to gut or repeal Prop B (with more on the way). I traveled to the state capitol to urge lawmakers to respect the will of the people — the very same people who elect the governor, senators, and representatives in the state.

Missouri puppy mill dog 
The HSUS
A dog in the snow at a Missouri puppy mill in 2010.

It’s not the first time we’ve dealt with an attempt by Missouri lawmakers to substitute their way of thinking for that of the people. In 1998, at the urging of HSUS, voters outlawed cockfighting in the Show-Me State, which was one of just five states at the time to have legal cockfighting. Right after the election, just as with Prop B now, there was a raft of bills introduced to undo the anti-cockfighting law, principally from legislators representing rural areas where a majority of people voted against the anti-cockfighting initiative. In the end, those repeal efforts were turned back, and the anti-cockfighting law has succeeded in dramatically reducing the prevalence of this barbaric activity in Missouri. 

If lawmakers had supported efforts to outlaw cockfighting or impose strong standards for the care of dogs on puppy mills, HSUS and its allies would have never needed to join concerned Missourians conduct a ballot initiative. We did it as a last resort precisely because lawmakers would not confront these two major animal welfare problems in the state. And that’s exactly why the right to conduct initiatives exists in the Missouri Constitution – as a safety valve when lawmakers bow to special interests and don’t act consistently with the wishes of the people. In this case, Missouri has perhaps 3,000 large dog-breeding operations, and they have stymied efforts for decades to have reasonable standards of care.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture has stepped up its work and begun to address the problem of unlicensed breeders, and has been shutting some of them down. We applaud those efforts.

But there is a deeper, underlying problem that Prop B sought to correct. The existing dog-breeding regulations, in place since 1992, are inadequate. For instance, current law allows stacking of dogs in small wire cages. It does not require a veterinary examination of dogs. In some circumstances, it allows dogs to be outside in the freezing cold (when I was in Jefferson City, the high one day was 5 degrees Fahrenheit). It does not require that the animals ever get out of their cages. In fact, if a dog is 24 inches long, the current law requires that the cage be only 30 inches long.

Do those standards sound adequate? They do not. And that’s precisely why The HSUS and other organizations pushed to qualify Prop B, and it’s why about 1 million Missouri voters favored the measure.

Now, even before the measure has taken effect (breeders have one year to come into compliance), some lawmakers are trying to undo it. That subverts the will of the people, and it’s wrong.

Prop B passed statewide, after proponents and opponents made their arguments. The winning side in an initiative gets to see the law implemented, presuming there are no constitutional problems with the measure. That’s the way our system works. You have an election, and there is a winner. You don’t bellyache after an election and immediately attempt to undo it, like some banana republic government in some other part of the world. In the United States, we respect elections. Elections mean something. The rule of law means something.

Prop B won by a decisive margin. It passed in a majority of state Senate, state House, and Congressional districts. It is time for commercial dog breeders to heed the message, and come into compliance with the law. And lawmakers, themselves elected by the citizens of Missouri, should heed the message of the electorate.