November 2011 Blog Home January 2012

21 posts from December 2011

December 30, 2011

Progress on Many Fronts, Thanks to You

The HSUS works on a big scale, but like all other animal protection organizations, we help one animal at a time. Every life is precious, and every creature has a heartbeat and his or her own will to live. That’s why all of us—you, me, and everybody who is part of our movement—works so hard to come to the aid of animals in crisis and to prevent cruelty.

Dogs running in the grass
Watch a video of our 2011 victories.

This year, I traveled to more than 100 cities on my tour for The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them. It was wonderful to meet so many thousands of extraordinary people who imagine a better, more humane world and who are working to do something about it, and to get us there. If there was one overriding impression I gained during the book tour, it was of the growing sense of community that envelops humane work in the 21st century. We are all part of the same enterprise, whether we fight for dogs, cats, horses, farm animals, marine mammals, or whatever kind of creature. 

We at The HSUS have a special responsibility, largely because so many of you invest your hard-earned dollars in us and in this work. All the time, but especially as we reflect on the end of 2011, I am mindful of the responsibility to report on our progress—not only to show that our progress is tangible and real and to inspire hopefulness, but also to be transparent and accountable to you, our investors. In the last few weeks, I wrote blogs about our Top 10 accomplishments, about our successes in the media, and even about what our adversaries in some sectors in agribusiness had to say about us.

Today, in my final blog for the year, I want to connect you to good news in some of the specific program areas in which the organization is most active. The HSUS is really the only group in the world that has invested such substantial resources and energy toward protecting horses, farm animals, companion animals, wildlife, and animals in research. Here are just a few summaries about what your generosity has enabled us to accomplish.

Your year-end support makes it possible for us to continue this important work in the new year and beyond.

Horses and other equines

Ranger the horse
An adoptable horse at Doris Day Horse Rescue and
Adoption Center.

This year, we opened the Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center at Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, which takes in neglected or abused horses and uses training and focused care to help them get ready for adoption. We’ve already seen many horses make so much progress and go on to wonderful homes. In September, The HSUS airlifted more than 100 wild donkeys in a cargo plane (thanks to a generous donor) from Hawaii's Big Island to a California sanctuary. Read more about the good news for equines this year. Even Steven Spielberg, the producer/director of the new movie War Horse, criticized horse slaughter and called for a greater measure of kindness.

Farm animals

It’s been a landmark year for farm animal welfare, as this issue moves squarely into the mainstream and into daily discourse in our society. Our accord with United Egg Producers aims to phase out barren battery cages for millions of egg-laying hens; the country’s largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods, recommitted to a definite timeline to phase out cramped gestation crates; and our promotional efforts, including our participation in Meatless Mondays, are reaching millions. We also saw this year the final enactment of standards we’ve been seeking in Ohio since our 2010 campaign for farm animals in the Buckeye State. The new standards include phase-outs of veal crates, gestation crates, tail-docking of dairy cows, and a moratorium on new battery cage confinement facilities.


It’s been a jam-packed year in protecting pets—from our anti-dogfighting campaigns to our puppy mill efforts to our Shelter Pet Project to the milestone of spaying or neutering 30,000 street dogs in the Asian nation of Bhutan. Take a look at how we’ve helped dogs, cats, and other companion animals.

Prairie dogs
Kathy Milani/The HSUS


We made important progress in our campaigns to protect vulnerable wildlife and fight egregious abuses. We helped crack down on shark finning on the state and federal level, brought attention to the cruelty of captive hunting, blocked efforts to kill California sea lions in the Northwest, and fought for wolves, lions, polar bears, prairie dogs, and so many other kinds of wild creatures in the United States and abroad.

Animals in research

It was a banner year for relieving the suffering of so many animals in research. Thanks to the work of The HSUS and other animal advocates, we saw the manufacturer of Botox announce it will start using a new cruelty-free testing method; the U.S. Army announced it will replace live monkeys with non-animal alternatives in future chemical warfare trainings for soldiers; and a new report from the Institute of Medicine concluded that there is no area of invasive biomedical research that requires the use of chimpanzees.

Animals in crisis

Our Animal Rescue Team saved more than 6,000 pets and other animals this year from puppy mills, animal fighting, devastating natural disasters, and neglect. A special highlight was our rescue of nearly 700 cats from a deplorable hoarding situation in Florida, one of the largest cat rescues on record. Working with volunteers from around the country, we cared for the animals for five months, found homes for 258 cats at a single adoption event, and eventually found placement for every single treatable, adoptable cat. Possum, a cat who lost his sight from neglect but now has a loving home, symbolizes the new lives of all these animals.

None of this work to help animals would be possible without you. Please give as generously as you can online before the year ends. We’ll put your dollars to work to make lasting change in the world.

December 29, 2011

Help Us Win the Tough Fights for Animals

White chickens - iStockphoto

The HSUS works to provide hands-on care to tens of thousands of animals a year. But our greatest charge is to prevent cruelty, so that animals are not harmed in the first place and so that we can improve the lives of billions of animals at risk. And we do that by tackling large-scale, institutionalized cruelty such as seal killing, extreme confinement on factory farms, captive hunting, and puppy mills.

My old boss, Cleveland Amory, liked to say that you can tell a lot about someone by his friends, but also by his enemies. That’s definitely true of The HSUS. There are millions of self-sacrificing people who support our animal welfare work. But we’ve also got a good, long list of companies and individuals who profit from animal abuse and who sometimes tell it like it is. They all strike a similar tone, and here’s just what some of our traditional adversaries in the agribusiness sector have to say about the organization they dread most. 

"Of all the animal organizations, HSUS has the money and the political savvy to be problematic for my clients going forward," said Michael Boccadoro, a poultry industry lobbyist. "They are on another level. We are aware of it and are watching in terms of their actions." - The Associated Press, Nov. 13, 2011

“HSUS is by far the most powerful animal rights organization in the country…” - Summary of comments by Animal Agriculture Alliance, an agribusiness lobbying group, in Capital Press, Nov. 23, 2011

“HSUS is clearly the nine-million-pound gorilla. They are powerful, sophisticated and rich and they are good at what they do. They are good at building the agenda, good at framing issues, they know how to talk about issues, which is why they are effective.” - Wes Jamison, communications and public relations professor, Meatingplace, Jan. 8, 2010

“‘The Humane Society of the United States is one of the largest, richest and most powerful organizations in the country,’ Michigan state Rep. Brian Calley (R-Portland) said. ‘They can shove a ballot initiative down your throat like they did in California.’” [Referring to Prop 2, California’s widely supported ballot initiative to phase out cramped cages and crates for farm animals] - Ionia Sentinel-Standard, Sept. 18, 2009

“The big problem today is the Humane Society [of the United States].” - Rick Berman, frontman for agribusiness and other industry groups, in September 2009 Meatingplace magazine

“Fifteen years ago we were confronted by about 150 animal rights organizations, subject to infighting and competition. Today, the movement is defined by the Humane Society of the U.S. and its president, Wayne Pacelle.” - Steve Kopperud, agribusiness lobbyist, Cattle Network, Nov. 7, 2008

More than anything, animals need a powerful force that can stand up and tackle the biggest problems that affect them in society. When you support The HSUS, you enhance our strength and provide a greater measure of hope that the circumstances for animals can change for the better. I hope you will consider making a generous year-end gift supporting our programs to improve the lives of all animals, no matter what powerful and entrenched interests try to stand in the way of common-sense reforms.

December 28, 2011

Your 10 Favorite Blog Posts of 2011

Within the last few weeks, I wrote about The HSUS’s top 10 accomplishments for 2011 and also the biggest news stories related to HSUS campaigns and programs. The information contained in these recent blogs is a catalog of our progress and awareness-building, and should give you hope amidst the crises that animals face every day.

African elephant

Today, in another look back on 2011, I'm sharing the top 10 blogs for the year—those that had the most views and the biggest reaction from readers. I write a blog every weekday, so I produced more than 250 this year, and these are the readers’ picks.

Two of the top five blogs focus on individuals who work against the interests of our cause. The top blog was my counter-attack against then-CEO of, Bob Parsons, after he trekked to southern Africa to slay elephants and other beautiful creatures while claiming the whole trip was done as a humanitarian enterprise. It was a stunning blend of animal abuse and human rationalization. Fourth place goes to the biggest hypocrite of all—Rick Berman, who has constructed more than a dozen phony front groups to attack some of the most noble and life-affirming charities in America, including The HSUS. I think the self-serving behavior of Parsons and Berman and their utter contempt for animal protection values drew your ire and special focus.

Puppy mills also drew attention—not just the outrageous efforts of Missouri lawmakers to undo the ballot measure on puppy mills that voters approved just more than a year ago, but also our rescue of 500 dogs from a mill in Quebec, our Vermont dog rescue, and the adoption of a puppy mill dog by a freshman Congressman from New York.

A cat resting after the disaster in Japan
Photo: World Vets

You also focused on our other priority efforts—our progress on getting chimps out of labs, but also the setbacks we experienced on the horse slaughter front. And you had empathetic responses to natural disasters—hoping that animals could be saved in the aftermath of the earthquake that rattled Japan and the tornadoes that scoured so much of the South.

I write the blog as a chronicle of our work, and as a way of tracking in real time the trajectory of animal issues in society. It is a platform I use to drive reform, to advance ideas, and also to answer our critics and deconstruct their arguments. And it’s good to see the ones that have meant the most to readers.

I hope you’ll keep following the blog closely in 2012. I will continue to focus on the most important issues of the day, and I always welcome hearing from you here or on my Facebook page.

  1. GoDaddy elephant killing - CEO Under Fire for Killing African Elephant
  2. Japan disaster response - Help for the People and Animals of Japan
  3. Prop B repeal passes the Missouri Senate - Missouri Senate Passes Bill to Eviscerate Prop B
  4. “Humane Society for Shelter Pets” - More Deception from Con Man Richard Berman
  5. Endangered Species Act protections for chimpanzees - Feds Set Stage for Critical Action to Help Chimps
  6. Vermont puppy mill rescue - Dozens of Dogs Saved from Deplorable Conditions in Vermont
  7. Rep. Grimm adopts a puppy mill dog - A Tiny Dog Makes a Big Splash Against Puppy Mills
  8. Horse slaughter could reopen in the U.S. - Urgent Action Needed to Save American Horses from Slaughter
  9. Bertie the puppy’s adoption story - Rescue Story: A Tiny Puppy Plucked from the Rubble
  10. Quebec dog rescue - Saving More than 500 Suffering Dogs in Canada

December 27, 2011

New Survey of Shelter Leaders Shows Strength and Unity of Animal Movement

The animal welfare movement is growing, diverse, and deeply embedded within mainstream American life and values. It grows dramatically each year, and one recent study by Tom’s of Maine featured in USA Today found that animal welfare is the number-one cause for volunteerism in America. Although there is no official registry, there are estimated to be as many as 20,000 groups, big and small, engaged in the vital work of sheltering and helping animals and halting cruelty and neglect. There is not a community in America that is not better because of the work of self-sacrificing, other-centered people who drive the work of these humane organizations.

Arizona hoarding rescue
Kathy Milani/The HSUS

At The HSUS, we have known all along that no single group can do it alone, and we recognize the need for pluralism in this work. There’s somebody fighting for every kind of creature, and it’s an amazing thing. There’s a dizzying array of organizations involved in hands-on care work, and there’s also crucial work focused on the prevention of cruelty in all of its forms.

The HSUS partners with local animal shelters and rescue groups on a wide range of issues—from Animal Care Expo and Animal Sheltering magazine to The Shelter Pet Project and—and we celebrate their life-saving work in local communities. Not long ago, we commissioned a survey of animal shelter and rescue personnel around the country—most of them CEOs, executive directors, or individuals serving in other leadership positions within their organizations—to hear their thoughts. The survey was conducted between Dec. 7 and 17 by the Humane Research Council, an independent research firm that works with local and national animal protection organizations, and about 300 animal shelter and rescue leaders participated.

Among other findings, the survey confirmed that there is overwhelming agreement among local organizations that they view the humane movement broadly as taking on large-scale cruelties to pets, wildlife, and farm animals. They also value the services that The HSUS provides to local animal shelters and rescue groups, and they see The HSUS as having an important role as a powerful organization battling the root causes of cruelty nationwide. Here is a summary of the survey responses from local shelter and rescue leaders:

  • Nine in ten respondents (90 percent) say it is “very important” to have national animal welfare organizations working to prevent cruelty and confront national problems. Another 9 percent say it is “somewhat important,” meaning that overall 99 percent think it is important to have national organizations.
  • A very high 89 percent of respondents (or someone else from their organization) have used at least one HSUS service or program.
  • Among those who have used The HSUS’s services and programs, 59 percent find them “very” valuable and 38 percent say they are “somewhat” valuable; overall, 97 percent think the services and programs are valuable.
  • Nearly all respondents (96 percent) agree with the statement, “Both local and national organizations are important parts of the animal welfare community and both are essential to create lasting change for animals.”
  • A very strong majority of respondents (86 percent) DISAGREES with the statement, “National organizations should scale back their campaigns to combat factory farming, puppy mills, animal fighting, and other cruelties.”
  • A strong majority of respondents (70 percent) agrees with the statement, “Organizations like the HSUS are a benefit to local animal shelter and rescue groups because of the services and resources that they provide.”
  • A very strong majority of respondents (86 percent) agrees with the statement, “Organizations like the HSUS are a benefit to local animal shelters and rescue groups because they work on statewide and nationwide policy issues such as puppy mills and dogfighting, which also benefit local groups.”
  • More than two-thirds of respondents (68 percent) say it is “very important” to have a diversity of groups that make up the animal welfare movement. Another 28 percent say “somewhat important,” meaning that overall 96 percent think it is important to have a diversity of organizations.
  • More than three-fourths of respondents (79 percent) say it is “very important” that the animal welfare movement has a broad focus including pets, wildlife, and farm animals. Another fifth (20 percent) says “somewhat important,” meaning that overall 99 percent think it is important to have a broad focus.

There are natural divisions and fault lines in any social movement.  But what’s remarkable about our cause is the notable unity of purpose—the recognition that all animals matter and the fact that there are so many good works being carried out by so many people committed to getting the job done for animals. We are proud to play our own important role, and to stand shoulder to shoulder with the many individuals and organizations who share our passion for a better lot in life for our animal friends.

December 23, 2011

The HSUS’s Top 10 Victories for the Year

In 2011, The HSUS was named the number-one organization by Philanthropedia (part of GuideStar) in the latest rankings of national animal protection groups, based on the highest impact for animals. The rankings were compiled by outside experts throughout the field of animal protection—including shelter directors, veterinarians, senior staff members of animal nonprofits, and professors and researchers. Consistent with that rating, and our general approach of working to secure tangible, game-changing results for animals, here’s a list of what I believe are the top 10 victories we achieved in 2011. (Click here to watch a special 2011 victories video.)


  •  End of invasive experiments on chimpanzees within sight. The HSUS and other groups blocked the transfer of 187 chimps from a warehouse in New Mexico to a laboratory in Texas, where the animals could have been used again for invasive research. When the National Institutes of Health bowed to pressure and halted the transfer, it also agreed to a Congressional request to create an expert panel to assess the necessity of chimp research. In December, the Institute of Medicine determined that experiments on chimpanzees were “largely unnecessary” and NIH halted any new funding for chimp experiments. Bipartisan bills in Congress to phase out the use of chimps have broad bipartisan support, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, following submission of an HSUS-led petition, is reviewing whether to list captive chimps in the U.S. as an endangered species, which could end their use in invasive research, entertainment, and the pet trade. We hope to see all of the surviving chimps sent to sanctuaries.


  • The HSUS reached an historic accord with the United Egg Producers to work together to enact federal legislation that would phase out barren battery cages for all 280 million laying hens in the United States. The proposed legislation would give hens nearly twice as much space and would mandate labels on egg cartons to inform consumers about how the eggs were produced. The legislation will be introduced in January. This year, General Mills, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Barilla, Whataburger, and SAGE Dining Services announced that they will switch a portion of their eggs to cage-free. In addition to numerous universities, the U.S. Army base in Fort Lee, Va.—one of our largest bases in the word—switched entirely to cage-free eggs this year after working with The HSUS. Our campaigns in India to ban force molting and our other efforts to improve the lives of laying hens in other countries are also gaining great momentum.


  • Smithfield recommitted to phasing out the use of gestation crates by 2017. After an undercover investigation by The HSUS, and a shareholder resolution and legal action with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Smithfield—the world’s largest pork producer—got back on track with its commitment to end the extreme confinement of breeding sows in tiny cages. Ohio became the eighth state to enact rules to phase out gestation crates. We are now planning a campaign to get major retailers to stop buying pork from operations that use these crates.


  • Year of the Shark: California, Oregon, and Washington banned the sale and possession of shark fins, following action by Hawaii the previous year, as a way to curb the killing of sharks for their fins for soup. In January, President Obama signed the Shark Conservation Act into law as a means of cracking down on shark finning in federal waters. We saw good movement on legislation and administrative regulation in Canada, China, the European Union, Latin American, the Pacific Islands, and the European Union as well. In related work, we filed a lawsuit for the protection of porbeagle sharks and advanced our shark-free marina efforts, to stop the killing of sharks in contest kills.


  • Botox agreed to phase out animal testing for its enormously popular anti-wrinkle treatment. After The HSUS and Calvert Investments filed several shareholder resolutions urging Allergan to replace the Lethal Dose 50 test, the company announced a new procedure that avoids using animals in testing batches of Botox© products. The LD50 test for Botox causes animals considerable suffering and results in death by suffocation. Allergan expects the new method will reduce its use of animals in Botox testing by 95 percent within three years.


  • The Russian Federation, Khazakstan, and Belarus banned imports of seal products from Canada. Since we launched our campaign to end the seal hunt in 2005, markets throughout the world have closed to seal skins and other products, and the annual kill has declined by 85 percent. The kill quota for 2011 was 400,000 seals, but just 38,500 were killed, and 361,500 seals were spared from slaughter.


  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a final rule to tighten the ban on the use of double-decker trailers to transport American horses to slaughter. These trailers have caused horrific injuries and death for many horses. The HSUS is building support for federal legislation to outlaw any slaughter of American horses for human consumption, and the House and Senate bills have more than 175 cosponsors. Also, Congress approved the first funding increase in decades (a nearly 40% jump) to strengthen USDA enforcement of the Horse Protection Act, which prohibits the cruel practice of “soring” show horses—deliberately inflicting pain on their legs and hooves in order to make it painful for them to step, so they’ll exaggerate their gait and win prizes.


  • The HSUS paid out its 100th reward to citizens who provide information that results in the arrest and convictions of illegal animal fighters. The HSUS released undercover video footage exposing 17 illegal cockfighting rings across Texas. That investigation resulted in lawmakers strengthening the state’s law, to ban possessing fighting roosters or being a spectator at any animal fighting event. Hawaii also passed a law banning attendance at dogfights.


  • The HSUS changed the lives of tens of thousands of animals through direct care. Spay Day, organized by The HSUS and Humane Society International, sparked nearly 700 events worldwide to spay or neuter more than 48,000 dogs and cats. The HSUS’s Animal Rescue Team worked with local law enforcement and agencies to save more than 8,000 animals from life-threatening cruelty and natural disasters. The HSUS provided hands-on care to more than 60,000 animals at our animal care centers, medical units, at temporary shelters we set up after intervening with law enforcement agencies in puppy mill, hoarding, and other cruelty cases.


  • Combating Puppy Mills and Protecting Pets: We achieved record funding in Congress for enforcement of federal laws to protect animals, including an annual increase of $5 million for oversight of the Animal Welfare Act; that was on top of an additional $4 million in FY 2011 specifically targeted for large-scale commercial puppy mills. The Shelter Pet Project—a collaboration of The HSUS, the Ad Council, and Maddie’s Fund—released a new collection of game-changing TV, print, radio, online, and outdoor ads to promote adoption of shelter pets nationwide and to reduce the euthanasia of healthy animals. The ad campaign has generated $50 million in advertising since its launch in 2009, and is expected to generate an additional $50 million with the latest round of ads. Since the campaign started—coincident with so many good efforts from other organizations working on the problem, and our own campaigns targeting all aspects of the pet overpopulation challenge—the euthanasia of shelter pets has declined by 10 percent, and in two years, the percentage of pets adopted from animal shelters and rescue groups into loving homes has risen from 27 percent to 29 percent.

This is just a snapshot of some pivotal accomplishments. There are so many other examples of progress—everything from 90 new laws passed in the states to protect animals, to 30,000 street dogs sterilized in Bhutan by our international veterinary teams, to the staging of an international conference on purebred dog health, and the introduction of an international resolution setting the stage for the elimination of animals in product testing. It was an exciting year for our work.


Of course we saw some setbacks and tragedies in 2011, too, such as removing federal protections for wolves in the lower 48 states and the release and shooting of dozens of exotics animals at a private farm in Ohio—the latter incident reminding the nation about an out-of-control exotic animal industry that puts animals and people at risk every day. We all grieved for the people and animals of Japan after the calamity that struck there, but immediately went to work to build up the infrastructure for animal protection there, as we did after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. We hope and expect to make 2012 a banner year for animals, with still greater success on all fronts. We look forward to working with so many individuals and organizations committed to animal protection. The HSUS will do its best to work together with others of like mind and to help lead the fight to protect all animals in the days ahead.

December 22, 2011

Double-Barreled Attack on Wolves

Yesterday, the Obama Administration, via the U.S. Department of the Interior, announced a final rule de-listing wolves in the Great Lakes Region, officially removing all federal protection for wolves in the states of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. State wildlife management officials, along with the trophy hunting, trapping, and ranching lobbies—and the politicians beholden to them—have been clamoring for years to de-list wolves, and only a series of successful HSUS lawsuits have prevented that from happening. We’ll now be examining our legal options and may again urge a federal court to block this premature removal of wolves from the list of threatened species. 

Wolf in snow

The HSUS and a coalition of conservation groups succeeded in a series of legal actions to block de-listing in the Northern Rockies, but eight months ago, Congress de-listed that population through the unprecedented step of attaching a rider to a massive budget bill. As we predicted, sport hunters and trappers have proceeded, hastily and recklessly, to slaughter wolves in Idaho and Montana, and the killing is now set to ramp up next in Wyoming.

Wolves in the United States have suffered a long history of human persecution, with state and federal officials and private citizens amassing a grisly and enormous body count. These actions over time resulted in the extirpation of wolves from everywhere in the Lower 48 except the far northern reaches of Minnesota and Isle Royale National Park in Michigan. Now, with wolf populations allowed to reclaim just a small portion of their habitats, the same anti-wolf hysteria of the 19th century that nearly exterminated them has resurfaced, with irrational claims being made about the impacts that wolves have on deer, elk, and livestock populations. These notions are not grounded on fact, but upon the mythology of the wolf as a rapacious predator that slaughters everything in its path.

Even with protection under the Endangered Species Act in place for some wolves over the last 35 years, wolves now occupy less than five percent of their historical range in the lower 48 states. There are some 4,000 wolves in the Northern Great Lakes and fewer than half that number in the Northern Rockies. The listing of these wolves under the provisions of the ESA has shielded them from run-away exploitation, but the political pressure to de-list them has been great, and the resolve of the Bush and Obama administrations to protect these animals proved weak.

The anti-wolf crusaders have staked out an anti-science, anti-ecological posture. There is superabundant scientific evidence that wolves have had an enormously beneficial ecological impact in the range they inhabit. They cull weak, old, and sick animals from populations, reducing total numbers of prey populations, and thereby mitigating the browsing on vegetation and bringing great vitality to the entire ecosystem. With less grazing pressure, new saplings have taken hold to form young groves. Stream flow and quality has improved. Other predators, like coyotes, have also been reduced in density, and there’s been a cascade effect that’s restored many of the original characteristics and dynamics of the animal and plant and forest communities.

Still, wolf recovery in the Great Lakes region is far from complete. And hostile state management plans in the region—some of which would allow a nearly 50 percent reduction of the region's wolf population—make it likely that the recovery that has thus far been achieved could be reversed by high levels of trapping, poisoning and recreational hunting.

Claims of wolf depredation on livestock are often sensationalized. Last year in Wisconsin wolf depredations occurred on only 47 farms out of 7,000 in the state, and only 63 cattle and 6 sheep were killed. Many people complain about impacts from abundant deer populations—whether deer-auto collisions or browsing on commercial or ornamental shrubbery—but somehow the beneficial social and economic factors of having predators in the ecosystem are omitted from their analysis. It’s plain that the economics work in favor of wolf protection, not against it.

A small, vocal segment, driven by an irrational hatred of wolves, is driving the decision-making. Political leaders in these states are all too ready to bow to the pressure and to buy into the rhetoric and false framing, and it’s the wolves who suffer. It’s yet another example of adverse policy actions by this Administration on animal welfare and conservation. It talks a good game of science-based decision-making and sound policy, but in the end kowtows to traditional special interests (most of which will never vote for Obama). There’s not much “change” to be found, but just more of the same old ways of Washington.

December 21, 2011

Changing the World for Animals in 2012

A moral concern for animals is not a far-off, abstract, or ethereal concern. It’s as tangible as it gets—intersecting with so many aspects of our daily lives. We may see stray or homeless animals in our community, or learn of a case of malicious cruelty that causes us to cringe or to get our heart racing with anger or righteousness. But as significant as those problems are, they’re just the most obvious expressions of the deeper problems that animals face in contemporary society.

Young chimpanzee at New Iberia Research Center

There are billions of animals in crisis today, but so many people just don’t recognize this fact as a problem. The use of animals is enmeshed in so many parts of our economy—in food production, fashion, animal testing, wildlife management, the pet trade, sport, and in so many other contexts—that these uses are normalized and, at some level, morally invisible. Many people assume or hope that some government agency is watching over the situation and acting to restrain excesses that would cause cruelty. Others listen to the assurances of industry and put their faith in the notion of adequate self-policing.

But there are big gaps in the law when it comes to the treatment of animals, and there are too many people who view them as objects, or commodities, or resources in the waiting. Animals are used in fashion—for fur, ivory trinkets, exotic leathers, or other purposes in the wildlife trade. Many household products, cosmetics, or chemicals are tested on animals before they go to market. Gamblers go to the track to watch horses or greyhounds race. They take to the field to hunt for trophies, and a small group even sets up trap lines in an activity that blends recreation and commerce in fur pelts. Americans eat more than 10 billion animals a year, most of them raised on factory farms. And even if we are physically removed from abusive or exploitative behavior, we are still connected to it up or down the supply chain. In short, there are moral problems all around us—but that means that there are also moral opportunities all around us, too.

We live in an incredible moment of contradiction, when it comes to our relationship with animals—with so many expressions of love and appreciation, yet so many varieties of cruelty and harm. And The HSUS is working to remind people that cruelty is wrong, and that we must logically apply these principles in the real world. They don’t just kick in with some animals, or in some settings. It’s a broader ethic that must be applied logically and consistently. We cannot simply subvert animal welfare to short-term economic and cultural concerns. Values related to mercy and compassion ground any civil society.

We must see society move past certain abuses and find a new way forward:

  •  Increasing adoptions of homeless pets as a means of dropping euthanasia rates across the country, and seeing that puppy mills stop abusing dogs. In developing countries, it means humanely managing street dog populations.
  • Phasing out the use of extreme confinement practices on factory farms; transitioning to more humane farming practices; and exhibiting consciousness about the food we eat. Eating is a moral act.
  • Passing federal legislation to phase out the use of chimpanzees in invasive experiments, reducing pain and distress in the laboratory, and choosing alternatives when it comes to the use of animals for research and testing
  • Cracking down on the trade in dangerous exotics for pets, and passing laws to forbid this trade and associated auctions
  • Putting an end to the commercial hunt of seals in Canada and Namibia and convincing Japan and Norway to end their commercial slaughter of whales

In the last few years, there’s been great progress. We are on a clear trajectory—more awareness, more action, and more progress for animals. But we cannot relent, we cannot hesitate.  We must call cruelty by its name, and demand the change that we want to see in society.

Léalo en español (Read this blog entry in Spanish).

December 20, 2011

How Doris Went from Neglect to a Loving Family

We estimate that there are 20,000 animal protection organizations in the country—offering care, services, or advocacy for just about every kind of animal out there. It’s a remarkable army of staff and volunteers seeking to help animals in crisis and call people to a higher level of responsibility in their dealings with other creatures. And no matter what the focus of any particular individual or group, we are all part of the same fundamental enterprise.

Doris with her new family
Doris with her new family
photo: Jacques Favre/The HSUS

While there are perhaps 600 horse sanctuaries and rescue organizations throughout the nation, there are very few groups working at the national level to protect horses and to prevent cruelty to them. That’s why we formed an Equine Protection department at The HSUS several years ago. To add to it, we have just formed an Equine Leadership Council, with Georgina Bloomberg as chair. We are taking on the issues of horse slaughter for human consumption, the soring of Tennessee Walking horses, the mismanagement of wild horses and burros, and a range of other equine welfare problems.

But we also do anti-cruelty work on the ground for horses. It’s been just a little more than a year since The HSUS joined with law enforcement and local groups to rescue 43 severely neglected horses in East Texas. It was a heartbreaking scene—many of the animals were seriously underweight with overgrown hooves and parasite infestations, and it was too late to save some animals.

Then this spring, I told you how well these horses were recovering after several months of food, water, and care, and that we were continuing to care for five of them at our new Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center, in Murchison, Texas. One palomino horse who had been nearly skin and bones was among these five. She had begun to fill out and her coat had regained its shine after a few months, but she still needed training and one-on-one attention to fully recover.

We named her Doris, after the tireless animal advocate and the center’s namesake, and when she was ready, we began looking for her permanent home. A family with children who adore her adopted Doris a few months ago. Now you can see her journey in our latest year-end video. Please take a look and if you can, support our work to rescue more animals like Doris who still need our help.

December 19, 2011

Ten Accomplishments for Pets in 2011

While deeply valuing the essential work of local animal-care organizations, The HSUS’s founders saw that the nation needed an organization that had the power to fight for all animals—one that could change the dynamics of animal protection and strike at the root causes of cruelty. That was their main reason for founding The HSUS.

Today, we live up to that credo by challenging the biggest forms of institutionalized cruelty, whether it’s seal clubbing, organized animal fighting, factory farming, puppy mills, the trade in dangerous exotics as pets, unnecessary and painful experimentation, or captive hunts.

But our largest broad programmatic focus has always been helping companion animals, as well as the people who care about them.  It’s our relationship with our pets that is the keenest expression of the human-animal bond in society.

The HSUS and its affiliates protect dogs, cats, and other pets every day of the year, through education, rescue, veterinary services, support to local shelters; by backing better public policies concerning puppy mills, dogfighting, and animal cruelty; and by promoting improved animal care and control throughout the United States and abroad.

It’s tough to boil it down, but here are 10 areas where we made big progress for pets in 2011.

shelter dog
Laura Bevan/The HSUS

The Shelter Pet Project changes the landscape of adoption

The Shelter Pet Project—a collaboration of The HSUS, the Ad Council, and Maddie’s Fund—released a new collection of game-changing TV, print, radio, online, and outdoor ads to promote adoption of shelter pets nationwide and to reduce the euthanasia of healthy animals. The ad campaign has generated $50 million in advertising since its launch in 2009, and is expected to generate an additional $50 million in future advertising. During the same period, the euthanasia of shelter pets has declined by 10 percent, and in two years, the percentage of pets adopted from animal shelters and rescue groups into loving homes has risen from 27 percent to 29 percent, with the number of healthy and treatable pets euthanized dropping from 3 million to 2.7 million.

48,000 dogs and cats spayed and neutered in 700 Spay Day events worldwide

The 17th annual Spay Day, organized by The HSUS and Humane Society International, sparked nearly 700 events worldwide to spay or neuter more than 48,000 dogs and cats. Our Spay Day online pet photo contest raised nearly $220,000 to benefit participating shelters and rescue groups.

Free veterinary care for thousands of pets in community clinics

The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association’s Rural Area Veterinary Services program provided free vaccinations, sterilizations, check-ups, and other high quality preventative health care to 9,300 animals in 42 communities in the U.S. and around the world in 2011.

Bhutan spay/neuter initiative reaches 30,000 mark

Three years into a five-year program, Humane Society International has sterilized 30,000 of a targeted 50,000 street dogs in the Himalayan nation of Bhutan. HSI is providing similar services for thousands of animals at risk in India, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, the Philippines, Haiti, and other nations.

The HSUS saves thousands of dogs from squalid puppy mills and cruel dogfighting operations

This past year, The HSUS rescued and cared for hundreds of dogs from puppy mills in Montana, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Vermont. Humane Society International saved more than 500 dogs from poor conditions at a commercial breeder in Quebec and cared for them for months at an emergency shelter. We also helped care for close to 200 dogs from Missouri puppy mills.   We worked with law enforcement to raid dozens of dogfighting operations and rescue dogs, including Honey and so many others injured or destined to die in the pit. In North Carolina, we worked with law enforcement to raid two properties in one day as well as assisting on raids in Indiana, Florida and West Virginia, rescuing more than one hundred dogs.

The HSUS pushes a pet protection agenda in Congress and in the states

The HSUS pursued a full agenda of pet protection at the federal level, helping to obtain an increase of $5 million in annual funding for Animal Welfare Act enforcement efforts (pet breeders make up the largest share of regulated entities under the AWA), and this was in addition to $4 million specifically designated to strengthen oversight of puppy mills in FY 2011. The HSUS supported four companion animal-focused federal bills:  H.R. 2492/S. 1947, the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, to prohibit knowing attendance at organized dog fights and cock fights, and impose additional penalties for causing a minor to attend such events; H.R. 835, the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act, to close a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act that allows large, commercial breeders who sell puppies online or directly to the public to escape licensing and regulation; H.R. 2256, the Pet Safety and Protection Act of 2011, to eliminate Class B animal dealers who round up dogs and cats—often fraudulently obtained, including pet theft—and sell them for experimentation; and H.R. 198/S. 1838, to create a pilot program for training dogs, including shelter dogs, as a form of therapy to help treat veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and other post-deployment  mental health conditions. The HSUS helped to secure 68 new state laws relating to dogs and/or cats, including measures relating to dogfighting, puppy mills, antifreeze poisoning, spaying and neutering, and domestic violence orders.

The HSUS packs a purebred punch

In April, The HSUS drew together behaviorists, dog breeders, epidemiologists, geneticists, and veterinarians for a landmark conference on unhealthy breeding practices that affect millions of dogs. “The Purebred Paradox” brought needed focus to genetic and health conditions related to inbreeding, a serious animal welfare issue that has frequently surfaced in debates over puppy mill regulation, irresponsible breeders, and lemon law initiatives focusing on the pet trade. A cover story, “Can the Bulldog Be Saved?," in The New York Times Magazine, struck another blow in the fight to expose reckless breeding’s harmful effects, and a December investigation by The HSUS exposed an Internet puppy mill sales operation now the subject of a class action lawsuit for misleading the public about the origins and health of the puppies it sells.

"Puppy Friendly Pet Stores" program surpasses 1,600

There is now not a single state in the country (including Washington, D.C.) where you can't find a store that has signed The HSUS's Puppy Friendly Pet Store Pledge. To date, 1,615 stores have committed not to sell puppies, but instead support local pet adoption programs.

$200,000 veterinary school grant supports underserved shelters in Gulf Coast

The HSUS made a $200,000 grant to support the shelter medicine program at the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine. The program helps under-resourced animal care and control entities throughout Louisiana with direct care and counsel. To date, we’ve provided $800,000 in support to the school—part of more than $30 million The HSUS has invested in the Gulf Coast and disaster response since Hurricane Katrina struck.  We donated millions more to other organizations in the region working to protect companion animals – from local shelters to anti-puppy mill groups to legislative advocacy coalitions.

The HSUS carries out one of the largest cat rescues on record

In June, our Animal Rescue Team joined Alachua County Animal Services to rescue nearly 700 cats from deplorable conditions in Florida. Caring for them for several months at our emergency shelter, we helped find homes for more than 250 cats at a huge adoption event, and eventually found placement for every single treatable, adoptable cat—as well as feral cats—with a shelter or rescue group. We also rescued thousands of cats and dogs from hoarding or neglect in Alabama, Arizona, California, and other states.

Learn more about how we help pets»

December 16, 2011

Texas Cockfighting Raid Shows Strength of New Anti-Cruelty Law

Yesterday, while we were celebrating the important Institute of Medicine report on chimp research, a team of cockfighting experts from The HSUS joined Galveston County, Texas, law enforcement in a raid on a large operation allegedly raising roosters for cockfighting.

Rooster at Galveston County, Texas raid in December 2011
Kathy Milani/The HSUS

Oleander Game Farm has existed for decades, but law enforcement could not shut it down because of loopholes in the Texas cockfighting law. This year, The HSUS convinced the Texas legislature to strengthen the law so that possessing a rooster with the intent to fight is now illegal in Texas. In a holiday gift to roosters, Lt. Joel Caldwell of the Galveston Police Department became the first law enforcement official in Texas to use the part of the new law that targets these operations that exist to raise birds for fighting.

Caldwell assembled an impressive team of officers and executed a search warrant on Oleander Game Farm, leading to the discovery of a cockfighting pit, dozens of knives typically used in cockfights, numerous cockfighting magazines, and schedules from at least three cockfighting pits (see photos). One should no more be allowed to have a production facility for fighting roosters than a person should be allowed to run a cocaine manufacturing plant. We won’t ever be able to stop illegal animal fighting if we don’t crack down on the people who breed and sell, and set the animals to fight.

Under the old Texas law, it was perfectly legal to be a spectator at cockfights or to raise roosters for fighting. We conducted a lengthy investigation into the cockfighting industry in Texas, showing that this criminal activity was pervasive.

Our investigation led to raids on cockfights in Dallas, Tyler, and Gunter, as well as exposés in The New York Times, The Texas Tribune, and on ESPN’s E:60. While the old law was deficient, these raids put a spotlight on the issue and demonstrated the need for legislation that would allow law enforcement to challenge and cripple the industry. The new law classifies cockfighting as a state jail felony and outlaws attending fights, possessing animals with intent to fight, possessing cockfighting weapons, or allowing one’s property to be used for cockfights.

The Galveston County cockfighting raid is only the first of many more to come. The HSUS has shared information about other cockfighting operations with law enforcement agencies throughout Texas and we continue to provide trainings for law enforcement agents.

Passing strong animal cruelty laws is an important first step. Putting them into effect is the necessary second step—and we are grateful to work with humane leaders in the ranks of police and sheriff’s departments nationwide to get these laws enforced.