September 2011 Blog Home November 2011

21 posts from October 2011

October 17, 2011

Rhapsody's Story and the Ugly Truth about Horse Slaughter

In my book, The Bond, I write about how animal-abuse industries have cast aside their old, transparent arguments that animals don’t matter or don’t feel pain and that we humans don’t have any responsibilities to them. Today’s apologists for cruelty are most sophisticated and deceptive, now laying claim to the argument that they are the best defenders of animals, and that when it comes to caring for them, they know best.

Horse being transported to slaughter
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
Thousands of American horses are sent to slaughter.

You see the evidence when trophy hunters claim they are killing polar bears or leopards to aid their conservation–rather than as a selfish head-hunting exercise. You hear it from factory farmers who claim that the best science supports their position, and that animals in warehouses are protected from predators and disease threats–as if it’s a trifling matter that the animals cannot even turn around or engage in normal behaviors. But giving them a run for their money, in terms of self-centered rationalizations, is the horse slaughter crowd–whether it’s the folks at the American Quarter Horse Association, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and even the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Yesterday, Tim Carpenter of the Topeka Capital-Journal wrote about the debate over horse slaughter, and in the lead of his piece, he reported on the case of Rhapsody Rhose. She was a beautiful Arabian, well-loved by her owner, Jaime Cowan.

Rhapsody was reportedly sold by a temporary caretaker without Jaime’s permission, and it wasn’t long before she found herself on the floor of a Mexican slaughter plant to be killed, cut up, and shipped to Asia or Europe for a luxury meat product. It wasn’t a hardship case, or an unpleasant necessity. It was just deception for someone’s personal profit, and an innocent life was chewed up in the process.

If you know the details of the horse slaughter industry, there’s an inescapable conclusion that it’s a disreputable, predatory industry, gathering up horses from all sorts of sources and turning them into meat exports for profit. These people have not a thing to do with responsible animal ownership or proper care. They actually get in the way of responsible care and re-homing of horses when they outbid horse rescue groups at auctions, because there's a profit to be made in exporting the animals for slaughter. They see horses as commodities on the hoof, and they take nothing more than a utilitarian attitude toward our fellow creatures. Thank God there’s no active slaughter industry for dogs and cats, since we’d all have to watch our pets around these people all the more.

So when you hear high-minded arguments from the horse slaughter crowd, remind them of Rhapsody Rhose and thousands of perfectly healthy horses who deserved so much more than greedy, opportunistic, unethical, ruthless people.

October 14, 2011

Montana Malamutes: More than 160 Dogs Rescued

Puppy mills are a plague. The dogs are often small breeds like Yorkshire terriers, poodles, Chihuahuas, or “designer” mixes. Sadly, the mills abuse larger dogs, too. This week, we joined the Lewis and Clark Humane Society, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, and the Jefferson County Attorney to rescue more than 160 Malamutes from a Montana puppy mill.

Similar in appearance to huskies, these dogs were living in outdoor pens with little or no food or water, and many of them are severely underweight. Consumers who reportedly bought sick puppies from the mill were the ones who alerted local authorities, who then called in HSUS and our Animal Rescue Team.

Our deputy manager of animal cruelty investigations, Ashley Mauceri, sent this report from the scene.

To reach the property, we drove up a long, winding driveway on the side of a steep hill. The dogs were kept in what seemed like an endless maze of chain-link pens, with no food in sight and only buckets full of moldy, black water. Many of the pens were filthy and strewn with metal debris and trash.

We didn’t even find food bowls inside the pens, leaving us to wonder if anyone ever came inside the enclosures. The dogs seemed desperate for attention as well as food—many are emaciated under their thick, unkempt fur. They came up to the edge of their pens, a little unsure of what was happening, but as soon as we had them in our arms, most of them immediately relaxed as if they knew everything would be all right. As I lifted one dog after another, I felt how disturbingly light they were for such large dogs.

I saw several litters of puppies shivering in the chilly weather. If we hadn’t gotten there before winter, they may not have survived. We found animals with parts of their ears missing, open sores, and other injuries. While the owner of this puppy mill was selling dogs as “show-quality” over the Internet and through newspaper ads, the truth is they were lacking even basic care. These dogs deserved so much better. The owner has been arrested and charged with animal cruelty and other crimes.

Many of the female dogs were pregnant—we found one cowering in a corner, her body almost skin and bones, her belly huge with puppies. We rushed her to a veterinary hospital for urgent care. As more puppies are born, the number of dogs will continue to rise, and we’ll be providing financial support to the Lewis and Clark Humane Society as they care for the dogs at their shelter. Their lives have already improved with a warm place to sleep and food to eat, and we hope that things will only keep getting better for them.

P.S. This Montana mill was selling puppies over the Internet and underscores once again the need for more oversight of puppy mills selling directly to the public. Please sign our petition today urging the Obama administration to close a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act regulations that allows Internet puppy sellers to escape federal oversight.

October 13, 2011

The City of Brotherly Love Shows its Love for Pets

To help improve pet welfare and address pet homelessness, The HSUS has been expanding our Pets For Life community outreach programs in Chicago, Baton Rouge, Atlanta, New York, and Philadelphia. Just a few weeks ago, we held our first pet wellness event in north Philadelphia that provided free rabies vaccinations and spay or neuter vouchers for dogs and cats, and the turn-out of people looking for these services was extraordinary.

Free pet wellness event in Philadelphia
Kathy Milani/The HSUS

While our Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association brings free vet services to rural communities in the United States and abroad, there’s also a great need for affordable pet care in many urban neighborhoods, and we are helping to answer this call with our stepped-up and expanded programs. A culmination of our ongoing neighborhood outreach efforts, including free dog training and other assistance, these events meet a growing need for affordable and accessible pet care in underserved communities.

Our survey work has shown that the vast majority of people support spaying and neutering, but for some pet owners, they don’t have the money or the access to make it happen. “In a tough economy, people sometimes don’t have the resources or the means” to get veterinary care, says our Pets For Life Philadelphia Manager Kenny Lamberti. “So we come into the community so they don’t have to look for it. We bring it to them.”

You can see in our latest video how excited people and their pets were on the day of the event. Local residents who come to these clinics obviously care deeply about their pets and are thrilled to be able to get them the care they need. Our program coordinates with veterinarians and local animal welfare groups, such as the Pennsylvania SPCA, to make these events possible. We’ll continue to expand our outreach in Philadelphia and beyond to help more pets and people.

October 12, 2011

Third-Quarter Blog Favorites

Jack, a chocolate Lab rescued from a Vermont puppy mill by HSUS
Jack, rescued from Vermont, has been adopted
by an HSUS staff member.

At the end of each quarter, I look back and rank-order the blogs that generated the most traffic—and therefore the most interest from readers. It’s no surprise again that you like action and forward progress for our cause. Two of the three top blogs related to major puppy mill raids we conducted, in Vermont and in Quebec. And two of our top campaigns—to end the use of chimpanzees in invasive research and to phase out the use of barren battery cages for laying hens—were also represented among the top five blogs of interest. Our work on dogfighting—whether two raids in North Carolina or a visit by Michael Vick to Capitol Hill to lobby for A federal ban on attending an animal fight—also generated click-throughs and comments. So did our announcement that Allergan, the company that produces Botox©, is going to phase out the use of animals for the testing of this anti-wrinkle treatment.

These look-backs are always are always a reminder of the progress we’re making, and how we’re shifting the terms of the debate in our nation and abroad. The agreement with the United Egg Producers, the announcement by Allergan, and Michael Vick’s continuing participation in anti-dogfighting campaigns shows that we are engaging with former adversaries and working to turn them into allies.

  1. Dozens of Dogs Saved from Deplorable Conditions in Vermont
  2. Feds Set Stage for Critical Action to Help Chimps
  3. Saving More than 500 Suffering Dogs in Canada
  4. Landmark Agreement to Help Millions of Hens
  5. Animals and People, Saving Each Other
  6. Campaigning Against Animal Fighting on Capitol Hill with Michael Vick
  7. Contagious Concerns about Health Risks of Factory Farming
  8. Animal Testing Policy Gets a Facelift
  9. Two Old Dogs on their Way to New Lives
  10. Chain Reaction: Two Rescues in One Day Save Dogs from Fighting

October 11, 2011

Talk Back: Victories for Sharks and Bulls

Last Friday, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation banning the sale and possession of shark fins in the Golden State, brushing aside a well-financed lobbying campaign by the finning industry and a segment of the Chinese-American community who argued that the measure was racist. (Brown also signed six other bills backed by HSUS, but vetoed two bills we had urged him to sign. See the details here.) The defenders of shark finning said that only Chinese-Americans consumed this soup, and that the legislation amounted to an attack on their tradition and their heritage.

Tiger shark swimming

Anybody who follows The HSUS knows that our anti-cruelty work is culture- and color-blind. We take on cockfighting, even though some Latinos, Cajuns, Filipinos, Thais, Vietnamese, and others embrace it as part of their cultures. We do the same with dogfighting, whether the people involved are rural whites or urban-based African-Americans. We fight sealing in Newfoundland, even though these sealers in Atlantic Canada identify sealing as part of their tradition and a centuries-old practice. We take on cruelty wherever we see it, and we don’t suspend our scrutiny because of the color of the skin of the perpetrator; we are more concerned with the bright-red blood on the skin or fur of the animal victims.

A couple of weeks back, I celebrated the news that Catalonia, a province in Spain, had outlawed bullfighting, putting to rest the notion that Spaniards are not opposed to this sort of barbaric spectacle. Compassion for animals is a universal value and a measure of heart and wisdom, not ethnicity or heritage. And this is what defines the broad community that is The HSUS—such as, to name just one, the thousands of Chinese-Americans who took the side of sharks, not soup, in California.

Readers of this blog had plenty to say on the bullfighting ban, and here are a few of your reactions.

Thank God this horrendous sport has finally come to an end in Catalonia. I hope this nightmare will end in the rest of Spain and all other countries which permit this cruelty to take place. —Patricia D. Brodie

I was elated to hear about Catalonia's new law going into effect to ban the cruel industry of bull"fighting." This sadly misnamed brutality actually involved no fighting, no sport, nor anything resembling ethical behavior; just plain, inhumane torture of innocent animals for entertainment. I say good riddance to it wherever it still exists, and may it be relegated to History's Great Dumpster of Really Bad Ideas, along with slavery, gladiator fights, and witch burning. —David Bernazani

Slowly...but's humanity dispels his inhumanity. "Culture" cannot be a barrier to compassion and reform. —Joanne Hedge

Continue reading "Talk Back: Victories for Sharks and Bulls" »

October 10, 2011

Video: Singing and Dancing for Shelter Pets

A rescued puppy in North Carolina
Michelle Riley/The HSUS

If we keep doing things the same old way, we shouldn’t be surprised to get the same old results.

That’s why it’s so inspiring to see exciting, out-of-the-box thinking from peers within our field. The prize for innovative marketing this week goes to the folks at the SPCA of Wake County in North Carolina, who recently debuted a sensational, fun, and uplifting video [Editor's Note: The video no longer includes the song] that makes you want to join the organization and support its life-saving work.

The new video features staff and volunteers with the organization lip-syncing to the number-one single “Take a Chance on Me” from the 1970s supergroup ABBA and taking the viewer and listener on a virtual tour of the shelter. There’s no cruelty, no painful imagery, just a great and familiar beat, smiling faces, confetti, streamers, and animals safely cradled in loving hands and arms. The performers must have practiced a lot, because the video was unedited! It was one continuous performance with about 50 people and half as many animals, all playing their parts.

There’s been a revolution in the sheltering field in recent years—newer, more attractive facilities, conducting their operations in better, more professional ways. And the goal must be single-minded: stopping the euthanasia of healthy and treatable dogs and cats. As is the formula: more adoptions and more spaying and neutering. We are pushing this message out nationwide in the first-ever national public service advertising campaign of its kind, The Shelter Pet Project, with our partners at Maddie's Fund and the Ad Council. I’ve got to believe that this new video is going to lead to a spike in adoptions in Wake County and more public support for this organization.


Have a look for yourself [Editor's Note: The video no longer includes the song] and share it with friends, to tell a story of a forward-thinking shelter and its work to save dogs and cats.

P.S. The little puppy in the final shot, with the “Chance” sign hitched to him, came from a recent HSUS dogfighting bust in North Carolina. The SPCA of Wake County has been one of our dedicated Emergency Placement Partners.

October 07, 2011

Alleged Cockfighting Ring Busted in Rural New York

This week, we hosted a benefit—the “To the Rescue Gala” in New York—to raise awareness and critical funds for our field rescue operations, and it was a smashing success. As I told the 500 or so people gathered, their financial support for these direct response programs allows us to save animals from deplorable circumstances—whether it’s puppy mills, animal fights, hoarding cases, horse neglect, natural disasters, or cruelty cases—and to prevent so much suffering.

Rooster seized from suspected cockfighting operation in New York
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
One of the more than 70 roosters seized last week.

Last week, we conducted a raid in central New York on a major suspected cockfighting operation. The animal fighting unit of our Animal Rescue Team deployed to a site where an overturned truck, overflowing trash cans, and all sorts of debris were strewn all over the property. But first and foremost, there were animals in need there.

In New York, The HSUS had just closed a major loophole that allowed dogfighters and cockfighters to escape punishment by masquerading as spectators—the first major upgrade to the state’s animal fighting laws in nearly 30 years. Just weeks ago, we provided training in animal cruelty and fighting investigations for New York’s top law enforcement supervisors at the annual conference of the New York State Sheriffs’ Association.

After investigating suspected cockfighting activity at this rural location for months, law enforcement tapped HSUS to help. Amid pouring rain and mud, we joined them on the scene to help document evidence and set up emergency shelter for the roosters. What we found there was all too typical of the underground world of cockfighting: an enclosure spattered with blood, sharp knives usually tied to roosters’ legs to inflict wounds during a fight, and other equipment associated with this blood sport.

Birds were living inside a filthy school bus and in cages all throughout a large barn, some of them young animals just growing their adult feathers. Law enforcement agents seized more than 70 roosters from the property and arrested four people, as well as seizing illegal drugs and guns. The suspects have been charged with cockfighting felonies and other felony charges. The operation was so secluded that Chris Schindler, our manager of animal fighting investigations, said, “Nobody would ever even know that there have been [possibly] hundreds of animals suffering out here, and now that’s ended.”


Last week, our staff joined the state police at their barracks in Fonda, N.Y., to announce the details of this successful bust. We thank the New York State Police for pursuing these charges and for calling on The HSUS to help stop this cruelty.

October 06, 2011

HSUS Shelter for Rescued Cats Celebrates 2-Year Anniversary

Our staff are on the ground every day sheltering pets, in addition to our campaigns to protect all animals and combat cruelty on a broad scale. Our Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in Ramona, Calif.—where we rehabilitate wildlife and provide permanent sanctuary for formerly neglected animals—is also home to a special group of cats who would otherwise have been euthanized. In 2009, we worked with state and federal agencies to rescue these animals from San Nicolas Island, one of the remote Channel Islands off the coast of California.

270x240 san nicolas cat  -credit ray eubanks
Ray Eubanks/The HSUS
One of the San Nicolas cats in their special habitat.

San Nicolas is home to unique wildlife such as nesting seabirds and the endangered Channel Island fox. A population of feral cats had also become established there after people brought unsterilized pet cats to the island. Officials were planning to trap and kill the cats to protect this especially sensitive ecosystem, until The HSUS stepped in to fly more than 60 cats to the mainland and provide them with a new home.

We now operate a permanent shelter especially for these San Nicolas cats. With support from, we built a spacious outdoor enclosure at our Ramona facility with plenty of trees to climb and sunny spots for napping. We started introducing the cats to their enclosure in fall 2009, and in the two years since, these initially shy felines have come a long way. We’ve worked to socialize them and have found good homes for 15 animals. Those rescued as kittens easily adapted to people, while the adults were more skittish. But with regular meals, toys, and interactions with their caretakers, many of the adult cats are warming up to attention, and several have been adopted by loving families.

You can take a live look inside the cats’ enclosure and see what they're up to right now using our new, interactive webcam here.

In addition to our cat shelter in California, our other staff are often busy with the behind-the-scenes work of caring for pets at our emergency shelters. Our staff have been caring for as many as 697 cats in Florida since June, currently sheltering more than 170 cats who have not yet been adopted. We’ve been sheltering dozens of dogs rescued from fighting in North Carolina since early August, and we took care of more than 50 Labrador retrievers for about 7 weeks after saving them from a Vermont puppy mill. Our international staff continue to shelter more than 500 dogs rescued in Quebec last month. When you add all this up—along with our work to rescue and rehome horses through our Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center and to adopt out rabbits, guinea pigs, and other pets through our South Florida Wildlife Center—our work is making a big difference for all kinds of companion animals.

October 05, 2011

Supreme Court to Consider Protections for Sick, Injured Farm Animals

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court took up a case relating to animal protection for the first time in two decades—ruling that a federal law banning the sale of videos depicting extreme acts of cruelty, including animal crush videos, was overbroad and therefore unconstitutional. The Court’s fairly narrow ruling made it possible for Congress to develop and pass a more carefully tailored statute to ban the sale of animal crush videos so we would not see the crush video industry revive itself and torture countless animals. President Obama signed the revamped measure into law in December.

Now, the Supreme Court is set to hear a second major animal protection case in as many years. After suffering defeat in a federal appellate court, the National Meat Association, a meat industry trade group representing major packing and slaughter plant companies, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an HSUS-backed 2008 California law that bans the sale, transport, or purchase of sick and disabled “downer” livestock in an attempt to squeeze profit from these animals, who are so weakened they are unable to walk.

Downed cow at Hallmark/Westland slaughter plant
Our investigation of a California slaughter plant in 2008.

The California law was passed in the wake of The HSUS’s investigation at the Hallmark/Westland slaughter plant in order to ensure that the horrific abuse suffered by dairy cows at the plant—including repeated electrical shocks, shackling and dragging, ramming with forklifts, and high-pressure water hosing in the mouth and nose—would no longer occur in the state. In barring the sale, transport, or purchase of downed livestock, including cows and pigs, the California law removes the industry’s financial incentive to force these sick and disabled animals to slaughter.

In the wake of the Hallmark investigation, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service declared that it would refuse to purchase any meat from downed animals for its commodities program, which is a vital component of the National School Lunch Program, comprising 20 percent of commodities used in school lunches. Billy Cox, an AMS spokesperson, explained the purpose of the change to Meatingplace, a meat industry trade journal: "These newly required procedures are directly aimed at ensuring there is not a repeat of the conditions animals were subjected to at Hallmark/Westland." So although USDA refuses to buy an ounce of pork from non-ambulatory pigs, it inexplicably allows the meat industry to drag collapsed pigs and other animals through the slaughter process and to direct the meat onto American’s plates. The state of California as well as The HSUS and other animal protection groups have filed briefs urging the court to reject the NMA challenge, but the meat industry and the Obama administration are on the other side.

Continue reading "Supreme Court to Consider Protections for Sick, Injured Farm Animals" »

October 04, 2011

The Work of St. Francis

Today is St. Francis Day, and this past Sunday churches across the country celebrated the saint by welcoming pets inside sanctuaries, courtyards, and gardens to receive blessings. The HSUS has participated in the blessing service at The Washington National Cathedral for the past four years. Each year, in addition to the many animals brought by their loving companions, there were dogs from the Washington Animal Rescue League and the Washington Humane Society also present. Reverend Mary Selerud, who presided over the service, blessed many of these dogs and recognized them as needing a home.

Pet blessing service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
Donovan Marks

First Saint Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chicago also held a blessing service and invited the city’s Anti-Cruelty Society to bring adoptable dogs. Pastor Tom Johnson welcomed the homeless animals and encouraged members to consider adopting them.

Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) is the patron saint of animals. More than 3 million people visit his tomb each year, making him one of the most beloved saints of all time. He called animals his brothers and sisters and expressed a deep gratitude for their being.

Francis’ legacy lives on in many faith leaders and their communities today. The HSUS recently met with Dr. Charles Arand, a professor at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Mo., who served for a number of years on the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. The LCMS is a conservative Protestant denomination in the United States with 2.3 million members. Arand worked on the Commission's report, Together With All Creatures, which develops the thesis, "God calls us to care for His earth as creatures among fellow creatures." In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Arand travels the country and speaks at universities and congregations about the implications of Martin Luther's statement that "God made us together with all creatures."

Arand is among many faith leaders who are carrying on the work of St. Francis in the 21st century, playing a crucial role in spreading the message of compassion for animals as well as people.

I had the pleasure of speaking at a conference for pastors in Portland, Ore., this past April. The annual Q conference addresses many of the most critical issues facing society, among them poverty, human trafficking, hunger, education, and the church’s role in the future. I was very pleased to be invited to speak and to shine a light on the urgent needs for animal advocacy today. You can watch part of my presentation here, or the full video here.

St. Francis is perhaps the best known exemplar of the animal care ethic within the numerous faith traditions worldwide, but it is also nice to know that every one of these traditions expresses a deep concern for animals.