July 2011 Blog Home September 2011

23 posts from August 2011

August 17, 2011

Talk Back: Dogs Freed from Fighting, Pets Coming to the Rescue

150x125 nc dogfighting rescue -  mriley Recently I wrote about 50 dogs and puppies The HSUS helped rescue in North Carolina from two suspected dogfighting operations, who are now receiving dedicated care at our emergency shelter with the help of volunteers from Hello Bully.

Many of you were moved by our video from the scene, and happy to know the dogs are on their way to better lives:

I watched the video and ended up crying like a baby. It was so difficult to see those poor dogs in these horrible conditions. I can just imagine how the workers felt. So glad that these beautiful dogs will have a new chance at life with shelter, toys, food, and most of all love! Thanks for all you do. —Linda Amad

I want to cry every time I read about the savagery against man's best friend. But my rescued pits remind me that happy times can be had so keep up the good work, HSUS and helpers. —Arden Allen

This just always brings me to tears. To know what so many of these dogs have gone through...it is so heartbreaking. I also know that they are on their way to a new, wonderful life, and that is what makes me so happy. To be free from their abusers and off those huge, heavy chains must make them feel so much better, too! I love seeing the rescue team with all the dogs. They are so kind and loving. The dogs are so happy to see them! THAT is what warms my heart! Thank you to all on these two rescues. ALL of you are so amazing! May God bless all of you and the animals too!—Karen Wagner

In addition to this work of our Animal Rescue Team, I also wrote recently about animals aiding people. We asked our Facebook community to share how animals have helped them, and here are a few of your personal stories:

I always say I may have rescued my cats, but they saved my life. However, in keeping with this theme, back around 1989 I was living in an apartment and one of my cats (who had no voice) woke me up to let me know there was a fire in the complex by jumping from the window to my bed until I looked out the window. —Jeanne Stuart

Continue reading "Talk Back: Dogs Freed from Fighting, Pets Coming to the Rescue" »

August 16, 2011

A Day of Rest for Wildlife and People

Peace and quiet in the outdoors, the opportunity to flee the city grid or the orderliness of the suburbs, and an opportunity to take in the soothing tonic of the natural world—these are values that Americans hold dear, and millions more of them each year, in fact.

I’m speaking of birdwatchers and hikers and wildlife photographers, as well as those everyday housebound souls who just want to take a stroll in a state forest or charge down a hiking path—fleeing the settlements and designs of humanity and recharging their spirits in our ancestral home.

Just around the bend, autumn is an especially nice time for these outdoor experiences, with, in so many parts of the country, the cooling temperatures and the bright hues of the changing forest defining seasonality itself. But while it’s peacefulness we seek in the woods, it’s not always what we find. For those out to see or watch wildlife, and to do it safely, it just doesn’t feel safe with so many hunters also trudging around the woods.

Deer in autumn field
Chad Sisneros/The HSUS

Most states allow hunters to take to the field with rifle, shotgun, or bow-and-arrow all week long during hunting seasons. My concerns right now are the 11 states that provide other outdoor users freedom to enjoy the outdoors, or at least partial freedom to do so, on Sundays—with a ban on Sunday hunting providing some measure of balance, albeit limited, for outdoor users.

Considering that hunters are a diminishing segment of our population, you’d think that such a lopsided allocation—being allowed to kill wildlife six of every seven days—would be enough to satisfy them. But no. In Pennsylvania today, and before long, in the other 10 remaining states, lobbyists with the National Rifle Association are setting their sights on opening hunting seasons on Sundays too. They want it all.

A more selfish demand than expanding hunting season to include Sundays is hard to imagine. Between the stifling heat of summer and the cold of winter, autumn is a season we all can cherish, and fundamentally, it is one that ought to be shared.

Birdwatchers, wildlife photographers, horseback riders, families out for a picnic—these audiences, these people, often don’t feel comfortable wandering in the fields and the woods when every day is open season. Seeking out nature and looking for wildlife shouldn’t require this kind of risk assessment. You shouldn’t have to dress your children in fluorescent orange and cross your fingers if you want to go look for the season’s migrating birds at a state park or other public lands.

What makes this such an outlandish political power grab is that hunters are a dwindling part of our culture. In Pennsylvania, they are outnumbered better than 3-to-1 by others who want a larger share of outdoor recreation. Nationwide, the ratio is nearly 6-to-1—and the ratio is skewing more and more in favor of the non-hunters every year.

Adding further insult to these outrageous demands by the NRA and its radical allies, such as the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Safari Club International, and the U.S. Sportsman’s Alliance, are survey numbers from the Pennsylvania legislature which show that nearly half of state hunters themselves oppose Sunday hunting. To them we say, right on. We often work with sensible and responsible hunters against the zealots of the NRA.

Here’s another astonishing number from the legislative survey: 82 percent of Pennsylvania landowners oppose Sunday hunting.

In the debate over Sunday hunting, you’ll hear all kinds of nonsense about the economics. But the fact is that wildlife watchers pump twice as much money into the economy as hunters, according to the most recent survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. And that ratio has been on the upswing for years. Keeping those people out of the woods and at home on Sundays hurts the economy. End of argument.

Figures like these tell a convincing story. But there is something deeper at stake. Re-kindling our innate connection to nature is more vital today than ever. Stress and its toxic byproduct, the hormone cortisol, melt away in the quiet glades, the shadowy forests, the riverbanks and prairies of our great open spaces—that is, unless the crack of gunfire shatters the quiet, or until you look up into a tree and see that the movement that caught your eye isn’t a porcupine but a human in greasepaint camo with a bow and quiver of arrows at the ready.

You’ll be hearing more from The HSUS as the NRA tries to bully state lawmakers into ramming this unpopular idea down the throats of the many millions of Americans who hope to enjoy autumn Sundays in the woods. This year, we've already held off similar proposals to open Sunday hunting in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, and Virginia, and two more are being debated in Massachusetts and New Jersey.

When the time comes, please join with us in telling lawmakers and others that enough is already too much. If you live in Pennsylvania, take action here, and Massachusetts residents can take action here. Make yourself heard. The outdoors belongs to us all.

August 15, 2011

Our Best Instincts Point Us Toward Compassion

While selfishness is part of our profile as a species, we also have a deep reservoir of empathy, and our capacity to understand the vulnerability and pain of others motivates so many good works in our society. That trait allows us to have an emotional connection with other species, too—with dogs and cats in our homes, and with animals facing cruelty or crisis. We are a nation of pet lovers and wildlife watchers, and we have laws against malicious cruelty.

We've also long used other creatures for food and clothing and, more recently, for experimentation, testing, sport, and entertainment. We raise billions of animals on factory farms and kill millions of animals for their fur.

HSUS's Inga Gibson feeds a kitten rescued from Alabama tornadoes in 2011
Chuck Cook
Feeding a rescued kitten after tornadoes in Alabama.

When you look at the full range of our behavior, you'll see that our treatment of animals is a challenging and confounding moral issue. We struggle with the boundary between cruelty and economic interest, between caprice and necessity, and between callous disregard and careful use.

It's within our power to reach for a higher standard. It was the United States that docked the whaling boats, replacing them with a fleet with new ships meant for watching whales. We can marshal the creativity of the human mind to find better ways, with other industries, to generate income without leaving so much cruelty and suffering in our wake.

We are born with instincts that give us a head start in doing the right thing for our fellow creatures. Harvard scientist E. O. Wilson calls it "biophilia," and others now theorize that an underlying biochemistry explains the powerful bond.

But we must act on this feeling of kinship. It's not a question of the rights of animals, but one of human responsibility. Fundamentally, it is more about us than about them.

The callous mistreatment of animals has a corrosive effect on society. In homes where there is animal cruelty, there is likely to be spousal or child abuse. Food-borne pathogens may occur when animals are severely overcrowded on factory farms. Capturing wild animals and trading them like mere commodities—for food in live animal markets or for the pet trade—spreads diseases such as AIDS, SARS, and avian influenza that threaten public health and cost us untold billions of dollars.

Ultimately, a conscious concern for animals is necessary for our moral progress and our economic success. A civil society must sync up its economy with its values and ideals, and opposition to cruelty is among them. Animals are not a backdrop of our own story; they are at the center of the whole drama, and how we treat them is one of the great themes of the human experience.

August 12, 2011

Support for the Important Work of Shelter Medicine

One of the best developments in animal care and sheltering during the past 20 years has been the advent of shelter medicine, both as a feature of community-based humane work and as a focus of the curriculum in our nation’s veterinary schools. Today, shelter medicine represents a potential career pathway for young veterinarians and a tangible contribution to the work of animal protection at all levels. Shelter veterinarians are playing an increasingly important role in caring for animals every day, shaping practices and policies at local humane societies, addressing complex public health issues involving animal concerns, providing expert testimony, and supporting high-volume spay/neuter and other initiatives. Shelter veterinarians are also helping to forge an even stronger relationship between professional veterinary medicine and the animal protection community.

LSU vet school volunteer trimming dogs' nails at an HSUS Building Humane Communities clinic in Louisiana
Tim Mueller
An LSU vet school volunteer lends a hand at an HSUS
Building Humane Communities pet clinic.

This week, The HSUS made a $200,000 grant in further support of the shelter medicine program at the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine, which the school launched a few years ago as part of the effort to improve animal care and control work in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. To date, we’ve provided $800,000 in support to the school—a meaningful portion of the more than $30 million we’ve invested in the Gulf Coast and disaster response since the hurricane struck. Shelter medicine is one of LSU’s most popular elective rotations now. A few hundred students have passed through the program, which works with approximately two dozen shelters in Louisiana, and LSU students have evaluated 3,500 animals, as well as participating in 1,400 related surgeries in shelters and 1,500 surgeries at the veterinary school itself.

In just a few years of existence, the program at LSU has made a demonstrable difference, working with local shelters in the state to address their challenges, providing direct care and service to animals, helping to launch a unique program at Dixon Correctional Institute, and introducing a generation of veterinary students to the expanding range of opportunities that await them in humane work.

Wherever there is a shelter medicine program, we also find a growing number of veterinarians committed to companion animal welfare. In many cases, The HSUS has directly benefited from their interest, like the growing number of veterinarians and veterinary students participating in the work of the HSVMA and its Rural Area Veterinary Services program to provide hands-on care to pets in underserved communities.

It will be a long time before we can hope to see such a dream realized, but it should be our goal to ensure that, one day, there will be a veterinarian on staff at every major animal shelter in the United States, as part of the continuing improvement of professional service and expertise in our field. Proper veterinary care is—with food, shelter, and socialization—one of the fundamental responsibilities we have toward animals, and it deserves even higher priority in the years to come, as we work toward an era in which local societies can provide still greater service and attention to the animals in their communities.

August 11, 2011

Time to Retire Chimpanzees from Harmful Research

In an op-ed in today’s New York Times, U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., a former primate researcher with the U.S. Navy, made an outstanding case to the nation to phase out the use of chimpanzees in invasive research. He called for enactment of his bill, H.R. 1513—co-authored by Reps. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., Dave Reichert, R-Wash., James Langevin, D-R.I., and Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y.—arguing that’s it’s the right policy from a moral, scientific, and cost perspective. Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have introduced a companion bill, the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act of 2011 (S. 810).

The federal government is in turmoil over how to reduce our national debt, and straining to find programs to cut. Here’s a small cut, but an easy one: stop experimenting on chimps and retire the current population into sanctuaries. It will save tens of millions of tax dollars in the years ahead. Every new chimpanzee that comes into the federal research industry costs taxpayers another $1 million.

Young chimpanzee at New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana

There’s just no need for the use of chimps in research, something the rest of the world has already acknowledged. As Rep. Bartlett wrote, “many new techniques are cheaper, faster and more effective, including computer modeling and the testing of very small doses on human volunteers. In vitro methods now grow human cells and tissues for human biomedical studies, bypassing the need for whole animals.”

In fact, just this week the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, is meeting to discuss alternatives to invasive chimpanzee research and the need for any such research. Speaking at the meeting, renowned primatologist Jane Goodall emphasized that it is unethical to keep these intelligent animals confined under current conditions in laboratories and that we must find a better way forward. Our senior director of animal research issues, Kathleen Conlee, also spoke at the meeting about the many effective alternatives available and the opportunity to advance human health by ending reliance on chimpanzees.

In an undercover investigation two years ago, The HSUS exposed the sad face of chimpanzee research. Most of the chimps aren’t even being used in experiments, but are just warehoused, at taxpayer expense. It was bad then, and it’s worse now to continue these programs in the face of our nation’s fiscal calamity. There’s always someone out there ready to make an excuse for the mistreatment of animals, but here’s one form of animal abuse we just cannot afford as a nation.

Please contact your two U.S. Senators and urge them to cosponsor S. 810, and call your U.S. Representative today and urge him or her to cosponsor H.R. 1513.

August 10, 2011

Graduation Day for Humane Society University Students

If our cause is to succeed, it cannot rely on passion alone. We must have an army of personnel and volunteers who can effectively carry the message and provide high-quality services for animals. The animals deserve the highest performance, and that’s achieved through concentrated study, practical training, the application of best practices, and sound marketing and business management principles.

Would-be engineers, scientists, lawyers, and writers typically don’t just launch into their fields; they compete for top jobs only after they excel in their studies and training. The same thinking should apply for the cause of animal protection. But there have been very limited resources and opportunities for people to prepare for a profession in our field.

Student Christiana Remick accepting her Bachelor of Science Degree from Humane Society University president Andrew Rowan
Bill Petros
Christiana Remick receives her B.S. in Animal Studies
from HSU President Andrew Rowan.

In 2009, we founded Humane Society University as the first higher educational institution in the nation with a curriculum focusing exclusively on human-animal studies and on animal welfare.

This unique institution offers classes online and in Washington, D.C. On July 16, HSU held its first commencement ceremony with a dozen students earning Graduate Certificates and one student earning the first Bachelor of Science Degree from HSU’s College of Arts and Sciences.

The graduation was a chance to celebrate the hard work of these students, and a first sampling of the thousands of students will who ultimately elect this coursework and graduate from this program.

We’ve seen strong interest in HSU’s animal-centered, academically rigorous curriculum, and in response the university will now offer master’s degrees in addition to bachelor's degrees, graduate certificates, and professional certificates. Its expert faculty members provide hands-on knowledge and skills that can help launch a career in animal protection—for example, one of the first students to receive a graduate certificate from HSU has begun a new career managing an animal shelter in Maryland. Christiana Remick impressed everyone who encountered her as a student with her devotion to learning, her passion for animal-related coursework, and the originality of her own scholarly work.

Students can choose to focus on the fields of Humane Leadership, Animal Studies, or Animal Policy and Advocacy, taking a variety of innovative courses such as Understanding the Human-Animal Bond, Animal Protection and the Environment, Animal Health and Behavior in the Sheltering Environment, and Animals and Public Policy.

HSU also continues to add new course offerings, like the recently announced Graduate Certificate in Animal Assisted Intervention. This certificate program teaches healthcare professionals how to successfully integrate animals into therapeutic treatment for physical, developmental, and mental health conditions.

If you’d like to expand your knowledge, earn a degree, or pursue a career in animal protection, take a look at our course offerings and registration for the fall term beginning Sept. 3.

If it is to succeed, every major profession and discipline in society must have a training and studies component. HSU is going to be there to provide new opportunities for people who want to devote their time and even their career to the cause of animal protection.

August 09, 2011

Nigel Barker and Kristen Bell Nominated for Do Something Awards

In the work of spreading humane values throughout our society and our culture, The HSUS gets a lot of welcome help from taste-makers in the art and entertainment industry. We’re lucky to have two celebrity friends of The HSUS nominated this year for prestigious Do Something Awards from VH1 and DoSomething.org.

Fashion photographer Nigel Barker
Please vote for Nigel here.

One of our most dedicated collaborators in recent years has been fashion photographer Nigel Barker, who has put his energy into several of our most important campaigns to protect wildlife and especially marine animals, including the drive to end the Canadian seal hunt, and more recently, our Shark-Free Marina Initiative.

That’s why it’s great to see that Nigel has been nominated for a Do Something Award in the Style category. It’s a much deserved recognition of his great devotion to charitable work, and if he wins this year’s Do Something: Style award, he’ll have even more opportunities to help spread the word for seals, sharks, and other creatures.

If Nigel wins he'll have a chance to talk about wildlife and shark issues with a nationally televised audience on VH1. Please cast a vote for him today and help him reach an even broader audience with his anti-cruelty message.

Nigel’s work on shark protection began when he attended the Monster Shark Tournament on Martha’s Vineyard in 2008 with HSUS staff, and he helped to document the terrible cruelty and destruction that takes place in killing contests of this type.

Nigel’s focus on shark tournaments and shark protection in general has helped us to achieve great results as some tournaments have been canceled and others have moved to a catch-and-release format. While shark finning and commercial fishing are responsible for the majority of worldwide shark mortality figures, shark tournaments and contest killing are also implicated in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of sharks each year and the global decline in shark populations.

When we decided to meet this challenge head-on, Nigel stepped up. Most recently, Nigel’s participation in a Shark-Free Marina Initiative celebrity PSA—supported by The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, the Pegasus Foundation, The HSUS, and major recreational and scientific organizations—is helping to encourage hundreds of marinas throughout the United States and the Bahamas to go “Shark-Free” or “Shark Friendly.”

Actress Kristen Bell
Please vote for Kristen here.

Nigel’s philosophy is briefly summed up as, “A shark is a shark, a human can be humane.” Please take the time to vote for Nigel at the VH1 site, in recognition of the great work he has done in support of The HSUS, and for his special focus on sharks.

Another great friend of The HSUS is actress Kristen Bell. Kristen served as a judge in last year’s Dogs of Valor competition as well as hosting a special segment of The HSUS’s Genesis Awards devoted to dogs.

After rescuing an 11-year-old dog left homeless by Hurricane Katrina, Kristen became committed to helping pets with special needs. She’s now raising money to help us provide for special needs pets rescued from puppy mills, hoarding cases, or other cruelty situations. She’s also an advocate for sharks, and recently signed a letter in support of a California bill to protect sharks from finning. Please vote for Kristen in the Movie Star category. In our book, both Nigel and Kristen are winners.

P.S. The awards will air Thursday, Aug. 18 at 9/8 p.m. Central on VH1.

August 08, 2011

Hands-On Care: Bringing Free Veterinary Services to Underserved Communities

Here’s a fact that should jolt every critic of The HSUS in the worlds of factory farming, the puppy mill trade, the seal-killing business, and every other industry that dislikes us for our relentless advocacy work: The HSUS provides direct care to more animals than any other animal protection organization in the United States. We maintain our five animal care centers (including one of the nation’s largest wildlife rehabilitation centers and one of the nation’s largest horse sanctuaries), our emergency response efforts to human-caused and natural disasters for animals (like our two dogfighting raids in North Carolina last week), our veterinary service programs, and a raft of other direct care activities.

An HSVMA field clinic helping pets in Nevada
David Paul Morris

I am proud of all of these services that we provide, and today, I want to cast a spotlight on the Rural Area Veterinary Services program of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. This five-minute video focuses on our work on a Native American reservation in rural South Dakota, where our professional veterinary teams and volunteer vet students help pets and the people who care about them in an impoverished community.

In so many underserved areas in America, veterinary resources are exceedingly thin, and so many pet owners have limited resources to care for them. So many of these people are so excited to have access to our vets and vet students. Our team conducts free check-ups, vaccinations, sterilizations, and so many more animal health services in dozens of U.S. communities and abroad. Vet students get practical training outside the classroom, and they help so many animals—more than 8,300 animals in 2010—along the way. In the coming months, HSVMA field teams will also visit Peru, Ethiopia, the Dominican Republic, and several other countries.

It’s tough to describe the work of The HSUS, largely because we are active on so many fronts. But here’s one program that surely should get your attention, and one that’s worthy of your support. Be sure to tell your own vet about HSVMA and urge him or her to sign up today.

August 05, 2011

Chain Reaction: Two Rescues in One Day Save Dogs from Fighting

Our animal fighting experts had been working hard to assist the Pamlico County Sheriff’s office with a suspected dogfighting investigation, after officials alerted The HSUS to information that matched up with our database of alleged participants in this bloody pastime. Law enforcement had not prosecuted many animal fighting cases before in this rural southeastern area of North Carolina.

Yesterday, the sheriff’s office raided the property near New Bern, N.C., and found suspected dogfighting equipment as well as 17 pit bulls, many of them bearing scars and tethered to heavy chains outside.

Dog rescued from alleged dogfighting ring in North Carolina
Michelle Riley/The HSUS
One of the dogs, happy to be rescued.

Staff from The HSUS and the pit bull rescue group Hello Bully were on the scene to safely remove the dogs and transport them to our emergency shelter, where we’ll care for them and provide toys, socialization, and other enrichment.

But just as these dogs were getting settled in their temporary home, finally free from their chains, a tip came in about another dogfighting ring two counties away. The information came to light as a result of the first raid, and the Jones County Sheriff’s Office called on The HSUS for urgent assistance.

Making sure that the first 17 dogs were cared for, our Animal Rescue Team sprang into action and drove to the second location in Pollocksville. There, we found dozens more dogs suffering from serious wounds and infections. There were animals missing parts of their ears and lips, and one German shepherd with severely infected ears covered in flies. We worked with law enforcement late into the evening to remove these dogs, carrying them one by one across a narrow plank bridge over a ravine on the property.

Now, all 50 dogs are safe from this miserable treatment, including puppies from the second operation. Not only did the first investigation and raid help uncover a second operation, but local law enforcement agencies have expressed their desire to prosecute other cases like these, after seeing the conditions these dogs were in and knowing that The HSUS and other groups are ready to help. Multiple charges have been filed in the two cases.

As Chris Davis, the deputy sheriff in Pamlico County, said: “Dogfighting and this type of cruelty to animals will not be tolerated in Pamlico County. We are thankful for all the help from The Humane Society of the United States; their dedication and expertise were invaluable in this case.”

The HSUS will continue to be relentless in its battle against dogfighting, fighting it on every front and with all the tools at our disposal. And we will continue to work with our shelter partners and pit bull rescue groups to redeem the breed and find loving homes for rescued dogs.

P.S. As an update on another case I mentioned recently on the blog, 20 dogs we helped rescue from an alleged fighting operation in Indiana are doing well at our emergency shelter with plenty of individual attention and enrichment from The HSUS and Casa Del Toro Pit Bull Education and Rescue. If you’d like to support our End Dogfighting program that helps prevent young people from getting involved with urban dogfighting, you can learn more here or donate your vehicle.

August 04, 2011

One Step Closer to Ending Canada's Seal Slaughter

Help end Canada's commercial seal slaughter
Marcus Gyger

As I’ve traveled around the country on the book tour, so many people have asked me whether we’ll ever succeed in ending the commercial seal hunt in Canada. They’ve been following our global campaign, spreading the news about the cruelty, and dutifully spreading the word about the boycott of Canadian seafood.

I tell them that seeing the end of the hunt is one of my greatest wishes, but we’re not there yet. I do, however, remind them that we’ve made remarkable progress from the time we launched the campaign in 2004 and 2005, when there were more than 300,000 baby seals killed each spring and so much of the ice in Atlantic Canada was stained with the blood of these newborns. In 2011, there were fewer than 40,000 seals killed, and that’s down from about 65,000 the year before (see chart below showing the government’s quota and the number of seals killed). That’s dramatic and real progress. Lives have been saved—hundreds of thousands of them each year.

The biggest factor is that people around the world are declining to buy fur pelts from baby seals. Markets are closing. Pelt prices are dropping. And seal hunters have no financial incentive to kill the babies.

So we are 80 percent there. But we cannot relent or relax. It’s a stubborn industry, and it’s been revived before. It’s our moment to finish off the hunt and end it once and for all. Let’s continue to fight for the end of this barbaric killing.

Seal kill chart