May 2011 Blog Home July 2011

22 posts from June 2011

June 16, 2011

Breaking News: Nearly 300 Dogs Rescued from North Carolina Puppy Mill

If you visited the website of Mason Creek Kennel in North Carolina, you'd be greeted by photos of adorable puppies--everything from Boston terriers, to Yorkies, to Pomeranians, to "designer" mixes and many other small breeds. The descriptions on the site boast about "comprehensive care," "AKC accreditation," and "healthy, happy" puppies.

But today's rescue of nearly 300 dogs from this property is a painful reminder of just how easy it is for puppy mills to hide the filthy, cruel conditions their dogs are forced to live in--a subject that I hit in The Bond, along with the fact that the American Kennel Club has sat on the sidelines while these problems have spiraled out of control. The HSUS Animal Rescue Team is there today helping Caldwell County Animal Control remove these dogs from an appalling situation.

Though photos on the website show fluffy, healthy-looking puppies, what they don't show are the buildings filled with dogs in cramped wire cages, many suffering from feces-matted fur, rotting teeth, and infections.

Our director of animal cruelty investigations, Adam Parascandola, described one building with dozens of cages where nursing mother dogs were kept with their puppies. Though at least these dogs had more protection from the elements than the others kept in outdoor cages, the accumulated urine and feces had created such harsh ammonia fumes that rescuers had to wear masks to protect their lungs. The wire floors of the cages allowed the puppies' paws to fall through the gaps and get stuck.

The scene inside another building was even more disturbing. Stepping across a dangerously rotten floor, rescuers found long rows of cages that were completely empty--except for two skeletons of dead dogs.

Customers who came to this kennel to buy puppies probably came to the house near the front of the property, where a front porch with a porch swing looks charming and appealing. But these people would have had no idea what lay at the end of the long driveway, where the barn and other buildings held hundreds of filthy, mistreated dogs. Neither would the families who bought puppies over the Internet from this puppy mill, taken in by the claims of healthy and well-treated pets.

Our team is transporting the animals to a nearby emergency shelter, where they'll receive veterinary exams and necessary care. Animal control officers from Catawba, Union, and Burke, as well as volunteers from Saving Grace Pet Adoptions, Charlotte Humane Society, North Carolina Voters for Animal Welfare, and CARA of Lee County are assisting on the scene. 

The HSUS is also working to strengthen the laws against puppy mills in North Carolina to prevent suffering like this, but special interests have stifled past legislation to license commercial dog breeders and set basic standards of care. We hope that today's rescue allows us to close the argument and to pass this legislation and protect dogs. And we're working to close a loophole in the federal Animal Welfare Act that allows puppy mills selling directly to the public, such as over the Internet, to evade even the most minimal animal welfare standards.

Finally, this case illustrates why it's so important to adopt a dog from your local animal shelter or find a reputable breeder who will show you where the dogs and their parents are kept. If you buy a puppy over the Internet or from a pet store, you may be supporting a squalid facility like this one. At least one statement on the kennel's website could not be more true: "Searching for and adopting the perfect puppy into your home and hearts is one of the most important decisions and commitments you will ever make."

June 15, 2011

Puppy Mill Debate Continues in Missouri

I had a great series of events for The Bond throughout Ohio this last week, and I talked about the themes in the book and also updated so many people in the state about progress on the eight-point animal welfare agreement reached last year between The HSUS and agriculture leaders. Today, I’m dashing around Missouri, where the big news is the continuing debate over Prop B and the legislature’s weakening of its core provisions.

Yesterday, Gov. Jay Nixon and Attorney General Chris Koster appeared at a press conference at the Humane Society of Missouri to reiterate their plan for amped-up enforcement of dog-breeding standards in the state. We must have enforcement of our animal protection laws, and there’s no doubt that more money and resolve for enforcement is a good thing. But there’s also a bit of a bait-and-switch going on here.

Yellow puppy rescued from a Missouri puppy mill in 2011
Kathleen Summers/The HSUS
The HSUS has helped care for hundreds of
rescued puppy mill dogs in Missouri this year.

Voters approved Prop B to strengthen standards governing the care of dogs on large, commercial breeding facilities, after both sides made their case to the electorate. Two things should have followed: 1) The Legislature should have been expected to respect the judgment of voters, even if they disagreed with it as a matter of policy. And 2) the executive agency–in this case, the Missouri Department of Agriculture–was to implement and enforce the law.

Instead, a narrow majority of lawmakers decided to mount an effort to gut Prop B. We and our coalition partners fought it hard, but the pro-puppy mill forces prevailed by slim margins in the House and Senate. We had hoped that Gov. Nixon would be a backstop and veto any effort to unravel a vote of the people. But instead he decided to negotiate a last-minute deal that left several core provisions of Prop B on the cutting-room floor. He did, however, push for more dollars to help the Attorney General and the Department of Agriculture crack down on bad breeders.

The effort to step up enforcement is a positive development. But it’s not an either-or situation. We can have a good underlying law to crack down on bad breeding operations and also see that the law is properly enforced.

It’s shameful that some lawmakers chose to substitute their judgment for that of voters. And it’s a major disappointment that Gov. Nixon did not stand up for the people, and chose to try to have it both ways–to allow a weakening of the ballot measure, even while laying claim to the mantle of dog protection by urging stronger enforcement.

June 14, 2011

One Phone Call to Help Horses and Wildlife

The federal government’s spending often makes headlines when there’s a looming budget shutdown or a contentious political battle. But there are also many important, less-publicized budget decisions that have a tremendous effect, including for the welfare of millions of animals.

Today, the House of Representatives is debating the agricultural appropriations bill for the next fiscal year. This complex legislation will dictate how money is spent by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and we’re paying close attention to a few major anticipated amendments: 1) we oppose any amendment that would allow horse slaughter plants to reopen in the United States, and 2) we support the Campbell-DeFazio amendment to stop the government-sponsored poisoning, trapping, and aerial gunning of wild animals such as wolves.

Horses in a pen
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
Please call your representative today.

Proponents of horse slaughter are expected to try to reinstate USDA’s inspections of horse slaughter plants in the United States. Since these inspections are required in order to export horse meat for human consumption, this amendment would allow the cruel horse slaughter industry to return to our country—where it’s been effectively shut down since 2007. The HSUS strongly opposes the slaughter of American horses, whether it's within our borders or in Canada or Mexico, and we urge the House to vote down any such amendment.

The other priority relates to funding for Wildlife Services, a branch of the USDA that contracts with local governments to address conflicts with wildlife. All too often, the agency’s main "solution" is to kill millions of birds and tens of thousands of mammals every year. Reps. John Campbell and Peter DeFazio have proposed an amendment that would cut funding for killing wolves and other predators with inhumane methods such as poisons, aerial gunning, and steel-jawed traps. Not only are these methods cruel, they don’t work—often another predator will simply move into the vacant territory. We support this amendment to remove funding for these outdated, wasteful methods and help to shift momentum toward humane, effective ways of resolving wildlife conflicts.

Please call your U.S. representative today to oppose any pro-horse slaughter amendment and to support the Campbell-DeFazio Wildlife Services amendment. Both actions would save money and spare countless animals. While decisions like these may seem technical or abstract, they have the potential to make a huge difference. These are your tax dollars at work, and your legislators need to know that you don’t want them to fund the slaughter of our American horses and wildlife. Here’s an opportunity to make a difference. Please call your U.S. representative right away and forward this blog to friends and family members.

June 13, 2011

Our Work for Animals Won’t Be Slowed by Smear Campaign

Rick Berman may be the most discredited person in the broad domain of American politics—but not because of any sexual escapades or misconduct, which have recently brought down a growing list of Republican and Democratic politicians. In Berman’s case, it’s due to his naked campaigns to undermine public health, animal welfare, and environmental protection.

Berman is a public relations operative who lives in a $3.5 million home in McLean, Va., and drives luxury automobiles to his office in downtown Washington, D.C. He’s made a mint taking money from tobacco companies, junk food companies, alcohol interests, agribusiness concerns, the tanning bed industry, and other corporate interests that are facing public criticisms over their practices. He makes his living defending and explaining away little things like hundreds of thousands of people dying from lung cancer or skin cancer, people killed by drunk drivers, individuals falling down dead from heart attacks because of widespread obesity, or billions of animals being confined in factory farms and millions of seals being clubbed to death for their fur. Surveying his father’s body of work, Berman’s own son said he’s a “despicable man” and “a sort of human molestor” [sic]. I think he understated it, but I see his point.

Tara Loller with The HSUS holds a kitten rescued from a massive Florida hoarding case
James Branaman
One of thousands of pets rescued by The HSUS this year.

For the past few years, Berman’s been running an advertising campaign against The HSUS. Our supporters have realized that we must be doing something right to spark the flow of millions of dollars from the backers of animal abuse into Berman’s coffers. We’ve won every ballot measure we’ve supported since he started, and we’ve piled up more victories than we can count. The only thing Berman has accomplished is inventing his own personal enrichment scheme, since 2008 tax records from one of his nonprofits show that 92 cents of every tax-exempt dollar raised went to Berman and his for-profit PR firm. As the New York Times reported in 2010, Berman’s syndicate of nonprofit front groups generates as much as 70 percent of his firm's revenues.

In addition to losing just about every fight with us, I’ve never seen the man get any good press, except stuff that he’s written about himself. CBS’s 60 Minutes labeled him Dr. Evil. Rachel Maddow essentially described him as a con man. And the editorial boards of The Washington Post, USA Today, and now the Los Angeles Times have called him out as a front for industry. In a Sunday editorial, which came after Berman placed two full-page ads in the Times against The HSUS, the Times editorial board called his claims “misleading” and said that he’s trying to drag animal shelters into his nefarious campaign.

Frankly, I am amazed that the food companies, tobacco companies, and animal-abuse industries pay this guy any money at all. They could not have a more tainted or flawed front man. Here’s a fellow that says that pregnant mothers shouldn’t worry about mercury in fish, that obesity and drunk driving concerns are overblown, and that any money donated to animal welfare should go only to dog and cat shelters and not to protect any other animals in crisis. No credible parties listen to him. And it’s ironic that while Berman wages his smear campaign against us, our staff across the country continue to care for animals at our sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers, rescue pets from cruelty and disasters, crack down on animal fighting, promote shelter pet adoption, improve conditions for farm animals, protect wildlife, and so much more. It’s that segment of our work that focuses on large-scale, institutional cruelty that Berman seizes as an economic opportunity for himself.

We know that our political opponents will spend money to defend animal cruelty and to fight us. That comes with the territory. Let’s just hope they keep giving such a large share of their ill-gotten gains to good old Rick. He’s the best, most ineffective, and most transparent opponent we could have.

June 10, 2011

Hope on the Horizon for Rescued Animals

Rescued cat in crate at emergency shelter in Florida
Julie Busch Branaman

Animals cling to life with all they have, especially in times of distress. When our Animal Rescue Team removed cats from a horrible existence at a so-called cat sanctuary this week, they did not face animals who were angry or aggressive, even though these creatures had a right to be suspicious and wary of humans. One cat, Velcro, was so loving and trusting, reminding us of the faith that other creatures place in us. Velcro was one of nearly 700 other cats rescued, so many of them living in filth and struggling with life-threatening health conditions.

Many of you were also hopeful about the brighter days ahead for these cats:

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the work that you and your teams do across the U.S. to help innocent animals. That the work needs to be done breaks my heart, but that animals are being helped and rescued from horrible situations, gives me hope. —Lisa Letendre

Oh, this just makes me so sad that these cats lived like this for so long. THANK YOU to your rescue team and everyone else involved! Whenever I see your team with the animals it brings tears to my eyes, they are always so compassionate! This is what makes me feel good to know HSUS and HSI are here to help our animals. May God bless everyone and the animals too! —Karen Wagner

My heart just broke when I read how all these poor defenseless cats were living, but now it is full of thankfulness for the people from HSUS and the others for hopefully giving them a better life. THANK YOU!!! —Jane McCulloch

Many thanks to all involved for saving these precious cats—best wishes with the work ahead. —Ellen Liss

I also wrote recently about Catori, a horse who survived a trailer crash on her way to a slaughterhouse and most recently withstood a severe tornado, along with her foal. Although another horse on this Oklahoma farm, Elvis, eventually died from his injuries, several of you were glad to know that he was saved from neglect and given the love he deserved during the last few years of his life:

Continue reading "Hope on the Horizon for Rescued Animals" »

June 09, 2011

Nearly 700 Cats Rescued in Florida

Today, while our efforts to help pets in Joplin, Mo., continue, other members of our Animal Rescue Team are a thousand miles away in Florida caring for nearly 700 cats we just saved from a horrible case of animal hoarding—triggering one of the largest cat rescues in American history. Alachua County Animal Services, concerned for the health of these animals, called on The HSUS to help assist in the investigation and to remove and care for the cats. Our director of animal cruelty investigations, Adam Parascandola, sent this report from the massive rescue operation:

Adam Parascandola holds an orange cat named Velcro rescued by The HSUS
Julie Busch Branaman
A friendly cat nicknamed Velcro.

When we first accompanied local officials onto the property on Tuesday, we expected to find about 350 cats based on previous reports. However, as we walked through a maze of outdoor pens and buildings, it quickly became clear that there were many, many more than that. There were cats everywhere—cats in cages in an old barn, in outdoor pens throughout the property, in additions to the house, inside cages on the front and back porches, and in gazebos. The Haven Acres Cat Sanctuary had a permit allowing for 200 cats, and they were obviously well beyond that capacity. We removed nearly 500 animals on Tuesday and about 200 more yesterday.

A wonderful veterinary team from the Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida is on the scene to examine the animals and provide emergency care. They’ve found significant disease and many medical issues, including untreated injuries, severely underweight cats, upper respiratory infections, skin conditions, and feline leukemia.

We found several cats with such severe eye infections that one or both eyes will likely have to be removed. One cat, whose condition is especially heartbreaking, has a raw, open wound where his entire top lip is missing. We have high hopes that the vet team will be able to save him. 

Most of the cats were very friendly and craving human attention. When we walked into the pens, many of them would swarm us, rubbing against us and crying for attention. We’re calling one cat “Velcro” because he climbed up the pant legs of everyone who came near him. When I entered his pen, he climbed up my leg, snuggled into my arms, and proceeded to nuzzle and lick my face. He is a true charmer, and I look forward to seeing him find a great home where he can receive the attention he craves and deserves.

Although there are so many terribly ill cats who appear to have received very little veterinary care, we are hopeful that with such an incredible team of passionate rescuers, vets, and caretakers, we will be able to rehabilitate the majority of them and find them new and loving homes. There, they can receive appropriate care and just as importantly, the love and affection they need.


The ASPCA’s forensic services team assisted Animal Services with documenting the conditions, PetSmart Charities donated essential supplies, and staff from The HSUS and United Animal Nations are caring for the cats at an emergency shelter in Gainesville until their custody is determined. Today is already a better day for these animals, thanks to your support that makes these life-saving rescues possible.

June 08, 2011

Facebook Founder Faces Food

One thesis in The Bond is that so much animal mistreatment happens because so many of us in society have become disconnected from animals—they are far removed from our daily experiences, especially those animals used in institutional settings for a wide variety of purposes. We are disconnected from the fur trade or the skin trade—we can select these products from the rack or even from a mail order catalog, and they later show up on a doorstep or at the apartment. We are greatly distant from the animal testing that goes on in the run-up to marketing of household products and cosmetics, which are nicely lined up and available to us at department stores bearing no evidence of any pain, suffering, or struggle on the part of an animal. We are certainly very removed from our meat, which comes neatly wrapped and packaged in its proper section at the supermarket, well-prepared at a restaurant, or barely recognizable at a fast food joint.

Pig in green grass
Cary Smith/The HSUS

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg faced up to this reality in announcing recently that he’d no longer eat meat unless he’d killed the animals himself. This of course means, according to him, that he’s reduced his meat consumption substantially. He then proceeded to slaughter some animals with a knife held in his own two hands. He’s presumably eaten these animals.

Many Americans expressed shock at the act and sympathized with the animals he killed. Some condemned Zuckerberg, accusing him of being cruel.

While I understand those natural reactions to the killing of these creatures, I think we owe Zuckerberg some plaudits, not only for reminding people that eating meat involves the killing of animals, but also for recognizing that it’s morally dubious to simply pass the “dirty work” off to an anonymous slaughter plant worker. Indeed, we should ask ourselves if there’s really much of an ethical difference between killing an animal (what Zuckerberg is doing) and paying others to kill animals for us (what most of us do).

Too many of us avert our eyes and prefer not to think much about how food gets to our table. It can make it easier for us to rationalize the mistreatment of animals in factory farms and slaughter plants if we believe ourselves far removed from the process—without feeling any connection or sense of obligation to the animals, or even seeing them at all.

Yet if every American were to adopt Zuckerberg’s approach—or even just witness, if not participate in, what happens to farm animals—you can bet there’d be many fewer animals suffering on factory farms.

Zuckerberg’s act, in its own way, was an act of conscience for him.  It was also a public provocation. Eating is a moral act, and it’s time we all face up to it, wherever we may ultimately land on this important question.

June 07, 2011

No Rest for Animal Rescuers as Tornadoes, Flooding Continue

The last few weeks have seen so many lives—human and animal—turned upside down as a result of record flooding and tornadoes, and today more communities are bracing for high waters. Our Animal Rescue Team has been busy traveling to Alabama, Mississippi, and Missouri to help rescue and shelter hundreds of pets, as well as assisting with disaster response in South Dakota and Montana.

Our staff at the emergency pet shelter in Joplin, Mo., sent this update and video from the scene:

It has been a little more than two weeks since a monumental tornado ripped through Joplin, and the overwhelming feelings of shock and helplessness are just beginning to fade. Hope, collaboration, and a commitment to rebuilding are taking root in this devastated city, thanks in part to nearly 100 responders who have come to the aid of the animals displaced by the storm.

The Humane Society of the United States' Animal Rescue Team is partnering with the ASPCA and has been working alongside various local and national groups from all over the country to care for more than 1,000 animals who have come through the emergency animal shelter since the tornado.

Lysa Buehler, shelter manager for the Joplin Humane Society, has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. “This is the most organized effort I’ve ever seen; the whole thing just makes your heart sing. This rescue operation is a much-needed relief from the sadness that has affected us all.”

One man in definite need of relief was Murray Fields, whose home was destroyed in the storm. Our team has been touched by Murray’s story and dedication to his four-legged companions. After braving the storm, Murray began calling out for his dogs. Murray’s calls were returned by silence and he began to lose hope of finding his pets alive. Then several good Samaritans began lifting walls off of the rubble and miraculously uncovered three of the missing dogs.

Although they were quite shaken up, Pinkie, Skunk Nose, and Mitzie were unharmed and are now being cared for at the emergency animal shelter. While he is now busy rebuilding his family’s life, Murray comes by the shelter every evening to comfort and play with his dogs. Seeing these dogs cuddle into Murray's chest and cover him in happy kisses is the ultimate reward.

Each day more and more animals are being reunited with their families—more than 400 dogs and cats have already gone home since the storm. The HSUS is dedicated to continuing our assistance to the people and pets of Joplin.

Meanwhile in South Dakota, where many people are evacuating due to flooding, we’re assisting with an emergency animal shelter in Yankton. In Massachusetts, the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society was seriously damaged by the tornado last week, and The HSUS is sending a $5,000 grant to help them rebuild. We’ll continue to help animals in the wake of these tragic disasters, joining with other animal protection groups to care for pets and help reunite them with their families.

June 06, 2011

A Humane, Healthy Plate

The U.S. Department of Agriculture should never have been in the business of promoting nutritional guidelines. It took over the task many decades ago, and it’s a built-in conflict for the agency, since its primary mission is to promote agricultural commodities. I cover this ground in The Bond, and take aim at the many dietary frameworks it’s pushed American consumers to follow through the years.

USDA's previous food icon, MyPyramid
USDA's previous food icon, MyPyramid

Under pressure from groups that do focus on nutrition and public health, the USDA has been slowly modifying its dietary frameworks, making marginal improvement with each iteration. Last week, with the help of First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been campaigning for healthy eating and childhood fitness, USDA promoted new federal guidelines on the ideal diet, and I’ve asked our own public health expert Michael Greger, M.D., for his thoughts. Here’s what he had to say:

The pyramid has been replaced by the plate. Last week, the First Lady unveiled the federal government's new food icon—MyPlate—shaped like a dinner plate, to serve as a reminder to help consumers make healthier food choices. Unlike MyPyramid, the previous version, which used unlabeled vertical stripes to represent various foods, MyPlate is clearly labeled: half fruits and vegetables and the other half grains and protein. Although some nutritionists are concerned that Americans might equate protein with meat, the USDA defines the protein group as including meat, beans and peas, eggs, soy, nuts, and seeds, and specifically highlights beans and peas as unique foods that also happen to count as vegetables. The dairy group also includes soymilk.

The mandate of the U.S. Department of Agriculture includes both promoting agribusiness and, at the same time, giving dietary advice. This may explain why in the 30 years agency officials have been issuing dietary guidelines, their “eat more” messaging has been clear: “increase intake of fruits and vegetables,” whereas their “eat less” recommendations only refer to biochemical components: “Reduce intake of solid fats (major sources of saturated and trans fatty acids).”

USDA's new food icon, MyPlate
USDA's new food icon, MyPlate

To translate, one would have to know what those major sources are. According to the National Cancer Institute, the USDA’s saturated fat recommendation amounts to code for “Reduce intake of cheese, pizza, cakes, cookies, ice cream, chicken, and mixed chicken dishes,” and its trans fat admonition would read “Reduce intake of processed foods like cakes and cookies, animal products, and margarine.” Given the powerful influence of agribusiness lobbying groups, though, it is understandable why the USDA doesn’t just come out and say so.

The 2010 guidelines are an improvement, though, and the MyPlate icon more accurately reflects the official advice of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to “Shift food intake patterns to a more plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.”

Why are federal dietary guidelines so important? Among other things, they do shape how billions of dollars are spent in programs like the School Lunch Program, but more importantly they have the potential to dramatically influence the health of Americans. Currently, 94.7 percent of Americans exceed the recommended daily limit of solid fat intake, which includes butterfat, lard, tallow, and chicken fat from the nearly 10 billion animals raised for food in the United States, many of them in crowded, inhumane conditions.

After World War II, Finland joined the United States in packing on the meat, dairy, eggs, and processed junk. By the 1970’s, the mortality rate from heart disease of Finnish men was the highest in the world, so they got serious. Even back then we knew that heart disease—our number-one killer—is caused by high cholesterol, and that high cholesterol is caused by high saturated fat intake, and so the main focus of the strategy was to reduce their population’s intake of animal fats. Villages were invited to participate in a cholesterol-lowering competition. Farmers switched from dairy production to berry production.

So how’d they do? The World Health Organization Director of Noncommunicable Disease Prevention and Health Promotion summarized: “With greatly reduced cardiovascular and cancer mortality the all cause mortality has reduced about 45 percent, leading also to greater life expectancy: approximately 7 years for men and 6 years for women.” Bottom line: Prevention works.

Now it’s segments of the U.S. population that have the highest heart disease mortality rates in the world. The MyPlate release is a good first step toward weaning more people away from the Standard American Diet with its heavy dependence on animal products, and its attending implications for human health, the environment, and animal welfare.  

Our website offers more information and recipes about how you can reduce, refine, or replace meat and other animal products in your diet.

June 03, 2011

Update from the Golden State

Thanks to my national book tour, I’ve been spending more time in California lately; I have another visit to the state in a couple weeks. I’m constantly impressed by the energy and commitment of California’s humane advocates and shelter leaders.

From right, Assemblymember Jose Solorio, HSUS's Jennifer Fearing, Sutter, and Steve Glazer
Carol Chamberlain
Supporting animal-friendly bills in Sacramento.

We have a lot of supporters in California, and we stay busy running the Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in San Diego County, assisting with animal fighting investigations and busts like a recent Butte County operation, and partnering with local organizations on large-scale rescue pursuits like last fall’s 2,000-rat hoarding case in San Jose, to name just a few of our hands-on activities.

We’re also busy in Sacramento at the State Capitol. Last year we helped spur the formation of a new legislative animal protection caucus. This bipartisan coalition supports common-sense, humane animal welfare laws. In its second year, the caucus boasts 26 members and is co-chaired by a Republican and a Democrat in each house.

Today marks the halfway point in this year’s legislative session, and I’m pleased to report that all of the animal protection reforms we are supporting are moving forward. The following Senate bills have passed that chamber but await passage by the Assembly and vice-versa for bills that originated in the Assembly.

Here’s some of what we’ve been working on:


  • Increasing animal fighting penalties (Senate Bill 425 and Senate Bill 426) – These bills by Sen. Ronald Calderon, D-Montebello, establish minimum fines for all animal fighting crimes and define animal fighting as a public nuisance. Since 2008, there have been more than 110 law enforcement incidences involving cockfighting in 35 of California’s 58 counties. More than 21,000 birds have been found dead or alive in connection with the blood sport during that time.
  • Protecting sharks and oceans (Assembly Bill 376 and Assembly Bill 1299) – AB 376 championed by Assemblymembers Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, prohibits the possession, sale, trade, and distribution of shark fins—hoping to quell the cruel deaths of up to 73 million sharks per year owing to the worldwide demand for shark fin soup. AB 1299, also by Assemblymember Huffman seeks better management of California’s smallest ocean critters. Together these bills recognize the important role predators and forage fish play in maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems.
  • Supporting local animal shelters (Assembly Bill 1121, Assembly Bill 1279, Senate Bill 907) – AB 1121 by Assemblymember Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, would reduce the barriers to dog licensing in California, helping to save dogs’ lives, reduce sheltering costs, and generate revenue to support shelter operations. AB 1279 by Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher, R-La Jolla, which is the brainchild of San Diego Humane Society and SPCA, changes all references in California law to “pounds” to “animal shelters” —better reflecting and supporting the current role of local animal care agencies. SB 907 by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, would require the microchipping of all dogs and cats released from animal shelters as a life-saving pet identification measure.
  • Generating funds to support spay/neuter (Assembly Bill 564 and Assembly Bill 610) – AB 564 by Assemblymembers Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, and Cathleen Galgiani, D-Livingston, re-establishes the voluntary contribution fund on California personal income tax forms to support the Municipal Spay/Neuter Fund, which issued more than $400,000 in grants during the two years it was on the form previously. AB 610 by Assemblymember Jose Solorio, D-Anaheim, improves the process for specialized license plates, which would help launch the proposed spay/neuter license plate to fund local spay/neuter programs.
  • Stopping animal abuse and protecting consumers (Senate Bill 917) – This bill, also by Sen. Lieu, prohibits the sale of animals in roadsides, parking lots, and other unregulated venues and also corrects a disparity in the criminal penalty between animal cruelty and animal neglect.
  • Allowing rabies vaccine exemptions for health-compromised dogs (Assembly Bill 258) – This bill, sponsored by the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association and championed by Assemblymember Curt Hagman, R-Chino, would allow a dog owner to license an unvaccinated dog if a veterinarian certifies that the anti-rabies vaccine would be a life-threatening health risk for the dog.

These bills have all passed one chamber with bipartisan support, and most with strong margins. But they still need approval by the full legislature, and ultimately a signature from Gov. Jerry Brown. If you are a resident of California, please take a moment to contact your state Senator and Assemblymember in California to thank them for their humane leadership and request continued support.