April 2011 Blog Home June 2011

21 posts from May 2011

May 16, 2011

Doris Day Center Opens its Doors to Rescued Horses

“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man,” Winston Churchill is said to have remarked about the domesticated animal that’s had perhaps a more significant impact on the human experience than any other. I sure felt better on the inside after rubbing the forehead, neck, and nose of a few horses at the brand-spanking new Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center this weekend.

Wayne Pacelle at the Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center in Texas
Amanda Massey
At the Doris Day center this weekend.

The center is named in honor of the legendary actress and animal advocate, whose foundation helped jump-start construction of a beautiful arena and stable that are the heart of the new facility. It’s designed to be a safe haven and rehabilitation and adoption center for horses who previously experienced some terrible misfortune at the hands of some callous people. It’s situated on the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, which in itself is the largest animal sanctuary in America, and both facilities are now run by The HSUS and The Fund for Animals.

The weather was perfect, the crowds were large, and the horses were fit and sharp. Several people who came to the official ribbon-cutting for the new Doris Day center felt the tug of the bond and decided they wanted to adopt some of the horses, and we were off to a great start with the new center.

Both the grounds and the animals at Black Beauty and the new Doris Day center looked marvelous, and the people who flocked there, mainly from East Texas, seemed to agree, with long lines for the tour buses taking visitors around to see the chimps, the buffalo, the horses, and the dozens of other species who now call this wonderful place their home.

Earlier in the week, I had visited HSUS’s South Florida Wildlife Center, which is probably the largest wildlife rehabilitation facility in the nation, taking in more than 12,000 injured or orphaned wild animals last year alone. Under the direction of executive director Sherry Schlueter, this facility looks great, too.

HSUS’s high-flying campaigns to crack down on puppy mills, factory farming, animal fighting, and the Canadian seal hunt get a lot of public attention. But day in and day out, HSUS cares for more animals than any organization in the nation. Last year, we provided direct care to more than 100,000 animals. We have teams deployed now in multiple states helping animals who are victims of tornadoes and floods.

If you love animals, you’ll want to put Black Beauty, the new Doris Day center, and the South Florida Wildlife Center on your travel itinerary. They are great places to see, and they represent just part of our commitment to helping animals in need.

May 13, 2011

Talk Back: Help for Horses

After I became CEO of The Humane Society of the United States a half-dozen or so years ago, I saw the need to create a department devoted to protecting horses—in part, amazingly enough, because there are no national anti-cruelty organizations devoted to the protection of horses. We needed to plug that gap. Since that time, there’s been just a dizzying array of issues and crises to confront—from horse slaughter to soring to wild horse and burro protection.

Recently I’ve posted several stories about horses saved from neglect and cruelty, some who were on the brink of starvation and others who were being transported to a slaughterhouse for the horsemeat trade. In Maryland, Arkansas, and Texas, The HSUS Animal Rescue Team has helped rescue and care for hundreds of horses in the last few months.

Many of you wrote in with special concern for these animals and with appreciation for The HSUS and other groups nursing them back to health. Below is a video from our recent rescue of more than 130 Arabian horses in Queen Anne’s County, Md.

I’ve just arrived in Texas, after a round of book events in Florida. This weekend, we are celebrating the grand opening of our Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center in Murchison, Texas. I also have book reading and signing events in Tyler and Houston this weekend, and I am hoping for great turn-outs of our supporters.

Here are a few of your comments about the Maryland horses:

When I read stories such as this, I'm sad, naturally, to be reminded how uncaring people can be. But I'm also immensely proud of HSUS and deeply grateful to you, your staff, and allied organizations like Day's End Farm Horse Rescue and the ASPCA. In this imperfect world, we all face difficult decisions and painful compromises. But time and again, in situations such as the one described here, HSUS demonstrates that it's one organization I can trust to do what's right and compassionate and to know how to make good happen within the framework of the real world.  A million thanks to you all. Keep up the good work, and know that I'll be doing whatever I can to support your efforts. —Devon Smith

Continue reading "Talk Back: Help for Horses" »

May 12, 2011

Rescuing Animals in the Wake of Floods and Tornadoes

The Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team has been on the ground for more than a week helping pets and other animals affected by devastating tornadoes and flooding in the South and Midwest. Many pets have been lost or left behind in the wake of the storms. As the Mississippi River continues to crest in several states including Mississippi and Louisiana, it’s an important reminder to include your pets in disaster plans, should some misfortune ever strike.

HSUS staff are in Alabama rescuing cats and dogs from devastated neighborhoods, giving out pet food and supplies to residents, and helping to reunite pets with their families. We’re also operating emergency shelters in Missouri and Mississippi to care for hundreds of animals. Even as many people have lost their homes, the safety of their companion animals is so important to them. As one Alabama resident wrote in a posting looking for her missing cat, “I lost everything in this storm including my home but she's the only thing that mattered.”

Our rescuers in Tuscaloosa, Ala., have been catching cats using humane traps in hard-hit areas (watch the video here). First responders have seen many cats roaming through the wreckage, but the animals are understandably frightened and disoriented after the disaster. We’re primarily setting traps in locations where high numbers of cats have been seen and where residents have lost their pets. Our team has been working through the middle of the night for several days, and several cats have already been happily reunited with their families.

We also recently helped set up an expanded temporary shelter at the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter. The facility had filled up with displaced pets, so we assisted in reorganizing the space and adding kennels. We’re continuing to give out donated pet food and supplies at Alberta Baptist Church to a steady stream of storm victims.

Our team has been glad to see animals being reunited with their families or finding new homes. Just yesterday, a little yellow cockatiel named Tweety was picked up by his owner, after someone found the injured bird in the rubble of a house and brought him to our pet supply station.

Another pet, a German shepherd puppy named Spooky, was surrendered by his owner last week—but he didn’t have to go far to find a new home. A member of the National Guard who’s been helping with disaster response and relocating displaced animals decided to adopt this lucky pup.

A kitten being bottle-fed at our emergency shelter in Mississippi

Meanwhile in Missouri, we continue to work with the ASPCA, Code 3, and United Animal Nations to care for several hundred animals at a temporary shelter in Kennett, Mo. Our team has been helping with animal care, field operations, and intake of displaced pets, and the animals are receiving veterinary exams. Every day, owners are coming to pick up their animals after they find a safe place to stay or are able to return to their homes.

In Mississippi, the temporary shelter we set up in Natchez is now fully staffed and caring for several litters of kittens and other pets who’ve been dropped off at the shelter. The shelter will continue to take in pets from families as evacuations take place over the next few days. HSUS and United Animal Nations volunteers are caring for these animals, and PetSmart Charities has donated pet food, crates, and other essential supplies. HSUS staff are also rescuing stranded pets in Tunica, Miss.

When disaster strikes, helping animals is a crucial part of the response and recovery, so that people can begin to rebuild their lives with their companion animals. We’re grateful for all our volunteers and for your support that makes these rescue missions possible.

May 11, 2011

Tougher Anti-Cockfighting Laws Are Needed in the Lone Star State

Last night, ESPN viewers saw the results of one of our many cockfighting investigations carried out in Texas. In April, our investigators took an ESPN crew member undercover to a fight in Gunter, Texas, a small town about 45 minutes from Dallas, where he filmed roosters bloodied, battered, and killed in these spectacles of entertainment and violence.

We thank ESPN E:60 for showcasing the true, ugly nature of cockfighting and what it translates into for the beautiful, innocent birds hacked up in these staged fights. We’re also grateful that the network featured our work in cooperation with local law enforcement to bust the well-entrenched fighting ring last Saturday, where dozens of suspects were arrested and dozens of roosters seized.

Footage from numerous HSUS investigations was peppered throughout the show, and the Gunter Chief of Police, Bryce Kennedy, expressed an important sentiment about cockfighting—that it is a blight on the communities where it exists, and that weak laws in Texas make it particularly difficult for law enforcement to crush it.

Our undercover investigations unit has infiltrated dozens of illegal fights in Texas over the last year, releasing undercover footage taken throughout the state and prompting three major raids in six months that led to the apprehension of more than 60 suspected cockfighters. We’re always ready to assist law enforcement to shut down these cruel operations and help the birds.

Unfortunately, cockfighting thrives in Texas because of loopholes in the law. Every state that borders Texas outlaws the possession of a bird that is being prepared to fight. In Texas, that remains legal. Nearly every bordering state outlaws attending cockfights. That also remains legal in Texas even though spectator admission fees fuel this criminal industry. Even worse, during raids cockfighters will claim they were only present to watch, using the spectator loophole to avoid prosecution.

Now it’s up to the Texas legislature to close these gaps by passing HB 1043 and SB 939. Gambling, guns, and drugs are all deeply interwoven with this bloody enterprise. Children, too, are often brought to the fights—no doubt becoming desensitized to suffering and accustomed to illegal activities. As the legislative session approaches its close, Texas elected officials must act quickly to end the embarrassment of being a haven for this depraved activity.

May 10, 2011

End Dogfighting Program in the Spotlight Today

This morning, in an uplifting four-minute segment, The Today Show featured The Bond and The HSUS’s End Dogfighting program that's working to combat the rise in urban street fights through community-based outreach to at-risk kids and young men. Ours is a program that saves dogs and saves kids and young adults, too. The dogs are the biggest victims, but the descent into dogfighting never has a good outcome for the people involved either. It’s a dead-end street, with a trail of animal victims left in the wake.

End Dogfighting participant Peanut with his dog Tiger
Laurie Maxwell/The HSUS
An End Dogfighting in Chicago participant with his dog.

Here’s a link to watch the Today Show piece.

Junebug stole the show and won the hearts of viewers, as a kind of goodwill ambassador for dogs of her type and for the training and educational program we sponsor.

Our work against dogfighting also focuses on strengthening laws and seeing that those laws are properly enforced. We’ve systematically upgraded anti-animal fighting laws state by state and in Congress. In the 50 states, there is no legal refuge for organized animal fighting, and that’s as it should be. Dogfighting is a felony in every state, and participants should beware.

Our rewards programs and tip lines, as well as our training of law enforcement, are making a difference every day. Recently, we paid out our 90th reward for information leading to the arrest of an illegal animal fighter.

In the process of stopping dogfighting, we also hope to redeem the image of pit bulls, so wrongly sullied by people who mold them in all the wrong ways. The truth is that they are wonderful dogs, and, as Junebug demonstrated in the Today Show piece, their best qualities flourish when they get the love and affection they so richly deserve.

P.S. If you have a car or other vehicle you’re no longer using, please consider donating your vehicle to support our End Dogfighting program.

May 09, 2011

Florida 'Ag Gag' Bill Fizzles

With the close of Florida's legislative session this past weekend, we were heartened to see that lawmakers chose not to enact agribusiness' proposal to criminalize taking photographs or videos of farm animals.

Dairy calves at the Bushway slaughter plant in Vermont, where an HSUS investigation uncovered disturbing abuses
A 2009 HSUS investigation found abuses of young calves.

In several other states however, some lawmakers are shilling for animal-abuse industries and seeking to turn back reform (conspicuously, the repeal of Prop B in Missouri) or to cover up animal mistreatment (with bills in several states to outlaw taking pictures at factory farms by undercover animal welfare investigators).

In the wake of so many important cruelty exposés across the nation, the industry should be trying to prevent cruelty to animals rather than preventing Americans from learning about it.

It's our hope that lawmakers in Iowa and Minnesota—the two other states with similar bills pending—will follow Florida's lead and reject these bills as an attempt to close the curtain on routine abuses (particularly cruel animal handling or slaughter) and food safety problems within these industries.

May 06, 2011

Important Reprieve for California Bears

Yesterday, the California Fish and Game Commission tabled an effort to expand the state’s already aggressive black bear hunting program, rejecting a proposal to increase the allowable kill from 1,700 to 2,000 animals. The centerpiece of the state’s hunting program has long been to allow trophy hunters to use packs of hounds to chase and tree bears and allow hunters to shoot the animals from trees.

As we have in each of the previous two years, The HSUS led the effort to block this expansion of bear killing. Our team submitted substantive legal and biological comments, testified before the Fish and Game commission, met with Department officials, and made state legislators aware of the pending proposal.

Black bear in the grass

Twenty state leaders joined Assemblymember Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, to sign a letter to the Commission opposing the quota increase, concluding, “These new regulations are in no way justified or fiscally prudent. This annual cycle of unjustified expansions will chew up constituent and Department staff time.”

The Los Angeles Times editorial board last Saturday agreed with us that all hound hunting of bears should be outlawed, and also suggested the Commission “should try to get estimates of regional bear populations before moving to increase the quota.”

A statewide survey conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc. has revealed that three in four, or 74 percent, of California voters oppose expansion of black bear hunting while only 17 percent support it. The survey results were consistent in every geographic region of the state and in every political and gender demographic, with all regions and political affiliations represented.

The poll also revealed that 83 percent of California voters oppose allowing packs of dogs to chase and kill bears—with 75 percent of voters saying they would support a statewide ballot measure to end this trophy hunting method that puts bears, dogs, and other wildlife in jeopardy of serious harm, suffering, and death.

For the moment this wrong-headed idea of expanding the bear hunt has been tabled, and that’s where it should stay.

May 05, 2011

A Safe Space for Songbirds

With spring in full bloom, there’s so much aflutter in the skies as millions of birds migrate north in their annual pilgrimage to their nesting grounds. At The Humane Society of the United States’ office near Washington, D.C., we have parula warblers and many other avian visitors stopping by on their long flights to their summer homes, and house wrens and others staying to nest.

While birds have an astounding ability to navigate these cross-continental journeys, the buildings and other structures that fill so much of the landscape are often foreign to them—and deadly. Collisions with plate glass windows are one of the most serious threats to songbirds in North America. As many as one billion birds may die from collisions with windows every year, mistaking the transparent glass for open space and often crashing into these solid surfaces at full speed.

Over the years, HSUS wildlife staffers have monitored our buildings and used and tested a wide variety of strategies and devices that are promoted as effective in limiting bird-window strikes. Last month, we completed the installation of special screens for some of the windows at our headquarters.

The screens eliminate almost all of the reflectivity in the glass they cover, causing birds to see the windows as opaque barriers. They are also conveniently removable for cleaning, replaceable, and efficient in helping to regulate building temperatures.

This solution was researched, tested, and made possible by our building maintenance team. It’s a source of pride to me that everyone who works here has the well-being of other creatures foremost in their minds as they go about their work to make the world a better place for animals. We’ve also helped the wild animals around our office building by putting up bird houses, establishing a natural meadow, and relocating groundhogs and other animals from a nearby construction site.

We have a long way to go in addressing the multiple threats that exist to birds. In addition to the devastating toll taken by habitat loss and collisions with glass (and other man-made objects) are problems such as poisoning from pesticides and lawn chemicals, hunting, and predation by free-roaming cats.

You can help birds in your backyard by using this bird-safe window guide and by keeping your cats safely indoors. At our office, we’ll be watching the rush of spring migration, glad to know that we’ve taken another step to help our wild neighbors.

May 04, 2011

Helping Animals in Half a Dozen States

Since Hurricane Katrina, The HSUS has grown its emergency response capabilities, and the program has become an enormous one, responding to animal crisis situations all over the country to rescue dogs, cats, horses, and other animals from dire situations. It’s worth spending a moment just to capture how diverse the needs are and how varied and complex the response must be, with so many of our Animal Rescue Team members in the field right now.

Helping Pets in Alabama

Since the devastating tornadoes hit last Wednesday, we’ve been assisting animal control and humane groups in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala. Several HSUS staff members have deployed to Alabama, helping to set up a hotline for lost-and-found pets out of the Greater Birmingham Humane Society and to set up staging areas to distribute pet food. We’ll continue to help with sheltering and rescue needs in the most hard-hit areas.

Tami Santelli of The HSUS with a rescued Arabian horse
Mike Buscher
Please help support our rescue work today.

Missouri Flood Response

We’re also on the ground in southeast Missouri assisting with the rescue and sheltering of animals affected by monumental flooding. HSUS and ASPCA staff are caring for more than 330 displaced pets at an emergency shelter in Kennett, and that number is expected to increase as waters keep rising.

Maryland Horse Rescue

After joining with the ASPCA and Day’s End Farm to rescue 133 neglected Arabian horses, this week HSUS staff are assisting with veterinary checkups of the horses and overseeing their ongoing care. The HSUS will be working to have all the horses assessed and trained and to plan for their care over the next few months. We’ll also help fund their food, veterinary treatment, and boarding. The horses are now at Paradise Stables, Day’s End Farm, and other stables, where they are receiving the dedicated care and environment they need to thrive. The state’s attorney is continuing to pursue criminal charges.

Florida Animal Fighting Raid

We are still caring for dozens of dogs and gamefowl seized from a Florida dogfighting raid, while the dogs are evaluated for placement by rescue groups. The court awarded custody of the animals after an HSUS animal fighting expert provided key testimony about dogfighting evidence documented at the scene. Local officials continue to pursue prosecution for multiple felony dogfighting charges.

Arkansas Horses in Greener Pastures

For more than five months, The HSUS and the ASPCA cared for 114 neglected horses seized in Arkansas by law enforcement last December. Now, all but two have been transferred to a 600-acre farm with several large spring-fed ponds, open shelter, and the room to socialize and roam. Two horses are being privately boarded because of medical issues.

We’ll continue to help fund the horses’ care and recovery while we work hard to resolve their legal disposition so they can finally find loving homes.

HSUS driver Perry Stone with his dog Duke, rescued from an Arizona hoarding case
Perry Stone relaxes with his rescued dog Duke.

Finally, I want to relay good news from Arizona, where our team worked with law enforcement to rescue more than 200 dogs, cats, and other animals from a hoarding case. The HSUS and United Animal Nations staffed an emergency shelter for several weeks to care for these pets. After a hearing secured the custody of the animals, The HSUS transferred them to our Emergency Services Placement Partners in Arizona, Colorado, and Oregon. 

To place 47 of these puppies and dogs, last week our field responder Tara Loller and driver Perry Stone drove 33 hours straight (stopping only for water and bathroom breaks) to new shelter partners in Oregon. Mr. Stone even adopted one of the dogs from the rescue, an older Labrador mix named Duke.

May 03, 2011

Sparing Chimpanzees from Suffering in Research

Even after an HSUS exposé of the disturbing mistreatment of chimpanzees at a Louisiana university research facility more than two years ago, the federal government continues to misuse millions of Americans’ tax dollars for invasive research on chimpanzees.

New federal legislation would phase out the invasive research and testing of chimpanzees and retire 500 federally owned chimpanzees to permanent sanctuary. Sens. Maria Cantwell, Susan Collins, and Bernie Sanders; and Reps. Roscoe Bartlett, Steve Israel, Dave Reichert, James Langevin, and Edolphus Towns, as well as nearly 40 other lawmakers, joined as original sponsors of the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act.

Our senior director of animal research issues, Kathleen Conlee, has seen firsthand how primates suffer in laboratories and when used in research, and how sanctuaries can provide chimpanzees and other animals the special care and environment that they need. She recently wrote about her time working at a primate research lab and later at a great ape sanctuary:

When I entered the primate research field, I truly believed that whenever a primate was used for research, it must have been necessary to advance human health. However, over time I realized that I was mistaken and that this system was truly broken. My reason for working in the field changed: I couldn’t bear to leave the animals behind.

For seven years, I worked for a for-profit research and breeding facility, where the animals were a commodity. Universities, companies, and government agencies would call in their “orders” and I had to decide which monkeys to send—20 babies to study what happens when they are deprived of their mothers, 30 adults for dental research, and the list went on and on.

Trying to meet the basic needs of the primates would often become a fight. I would sneak pain medications to animals who desperately needed them. When I asked to have a water line moved so that a sick, elderly monkey could reach it to drink, I was scoffed at.

Some of the animals were severely psychologically disturbed. One monkey would tear gaping wounds in his flesh when he saw something unfamiliar—even something as benign as an apple.

I was horrified to see this suffering, but unfortunately it wasn’t unique. Chimpanzees in labs are also subjected to terrifying procedures, and can be kept alone in small and barren cages for months on end. Chimpanzee babies are torn from their mothers at a young age. As a mother myself, I can’t even imagine how traumatic this would be.

When I left the laboratory, I made a promise to myself that I would share the stories of the animals I knew and the plight of all the other primates in laboratories—and work tirelessly to protect them.

I later had the opportunity to work at the Center for Great Apes, an amazing sanctuary in Florida that cares for rescued chimpanzees and orangutans. It was there that I learned firsthand about the incredible intelligence and complex emotional lives of chimpanzees—and they certainly gained my respect. They form close relationships and love to play, wrestle with, and tickle each other.

The sanctuary gave them the freedom to sit outside, rain or shine, or cuddle up with a friend in the nests that they made with their blankets on a cool day. I also learned the hard way that they will play tricks on humans and wait for you to drop your keys or cell phone, or make any kind of mistake that they could take advantage of.

For all the chimpanzees still in laboratories, I will keep my promise and continue to fight until this invasive research comes to an end and they gain the sanctuary they deserve. I urge Congress to do what’s right for these animals.