May 2012 Blog Home July 2012


19 posts from June 2012


June 29, 2012

Foie Gras Ban About to Take Effect in California

Yesterday, a Los Angeles Times editorial told foie gras fans bellyaching about the imposition of a sales ban that starts on Sunday, “Eat up while you can–and then get over it.”

The Times has the second part exactly right.

California’s ban on selling foie gras from force-fed animals–passed by state lawmakers in 2004, and signed into law by Gov. Schwarzenegger–takes effect after more than a seven-year grace period for diners and for the state’s one producer, Sonoma Foie Gras. Almost on the eve of a ban, a small gaggle of chefs announced their intention to overturn the ban in the state legislature. 

But the bill’s original author, former Sen. John Burton, took to the airwaves and told them to stuff it. Leaders in the California legislature said they’d not give the issue any floor time. For the time being at least, their effort is dead.

Ducks at a California foie gras facility, Sonoma Foie Gras
Photo by Animal Protection & Rescue League
Force-fed ducks at Sonoma Foie Gras in Calif.

In recent days, in the run-up to the ban, there’s been a spate of news stories about high-end restaurants offering engorged liver by the heap, as a sort of last supper for foie gras lovers. Their mawkish laments and righteous indignation about the injustice of it all is the central message of these news stories. 

What are these people really being ask to give up? Foie gras comes from animals fed far beyond normal, and only with the assistance of a pneumatic force-feeding pipe jammed down their esophagi multiple times a day. Their livers swells to 10 times their normal size. This method and volume of feeding creates a disease state in the animals–known as hepatic lipidosis. They’re often debilitated by the disease, unable to walk.  And all for a luxury item, or as author Matthew Scully rightly labeled it, “a table treat.” 

Life will go on for lovers of foie gras. And for the chefs who prepare it. They have a super-abundance of choices in life.   

Is it so much to ask them to forego the product so ducks don’t have to go through the pain that comes along with this abnormal practice of force-feeding?

We tell dogfighters that we care more about the welfare of dogs than their peculiar form of recreation. We tell wearers of seal skin that they can bathe themselves in faux fur without any reduction in warmth or style. We tell those who eat shark-fin soup that there are many alternative soups to choose from.

These are small trade-offs for us, with big implications for animals. Minor matters of choice or even an occasional inconvenience for us are life-and-death matters for the animals.   

Making the right choices is at the heart of our movement for animal protection. These are life-affirming choices, and given the ingenuity and creativity of the human mind, we have so many options and alternatives–alternatives that are not only better for animals, but often better for us, too.

June 28, 2012

Talk Back: There’s Still Hope for Hens

I wrote recently about an important lost opportunity in the Senate as certain lawmakers, working on behalf of the meat industry, worked to block our egg industry reform amendment from consideration when the farm bill came to the Senate floor. The Senate did ultimately allow consideration of an amendment―from Sens. David Vitter, Maria Cantwell, and Richard Blumenthal―to criminalize attending or bringing children to an animal fight, with the Vitter amendment passing by an overwhelming count of 88 to 11.

White and black hen

The action on the farm bill now moves to the House of Representatives, where it becomes all the more urgent that we get a favorable vote on the legislation to begin the phase-out of barren battery cages in America. (We’ll also seek to attach the animal-fighting amendment to the House farm bill, and given that the House animal fighting bill, H.R. 2492, has 200 cosponsors, we’re confident we’ll win a vote if one is allowed). If the House approves the egg industry reform amendment, we’d hope that lawmakers in a House-Senate conference committee would agree to keep the House-passed egg provisions in the final bill. Again, it’s important to remember that the Senate did not reject the amendment―a few key lawmakers did not allow it to come up for a vote, so we don’t have a measure of where the full Senate stands on the issue.

A lot of you asked how the egg industry reform amendment was excluded from consideration, and there’s no easy way to explain that. Senate procedure can be very complicated and subjective. The key point is, we must succeed in attaching the amendment to the House bill, or we’ll lose a very logical vehicle (the 2012 farm bill) for consideration of this issue. We now have nearly 100 co-sponsors on the House bill, H.R. 3798, and we are encouraging our supporters to contact their Representatives and to urge them to co-sponsor the underlying bill, as a way of building support for the amendment.

We have more than 1,000 farmers who have endorsed the legislation, and newspapers throughout the country have weighed in and urged support for the landmark agreement from two long-time adversaries. Here are a few of your comments about the battery-cage reform being excluded from the farm bill:

Many thanks for continuing to fight the good fight and know there are millions of us who stand with HSUS on this. I live in North Carolina (where factory farming continues to have an iron-clad grip) and am reminded of the legendary Jim Valvano's iconic words from 1993: “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up!” For those of us who care, that will never be an option. ―Julie Griffith

Very sad news, and it once again proves that Congress is dominated by "people of power and money," rather than "people of conscience and compassion." I hope that HSUS can somehow "inflame" the American public about this issue, and have them cry "UNACCEPTABLE" at the travesty that the Senate has underwritten on behalf of the cattle and pork lobbies. DISGUSTING! ―Craig Cline

Thanks for all that you and The HSUS do. Without you, I cringe to think of how far we would be in our efforts! As a consumer, I speak with my wallet and encourage others to do the same. I just wish it could do more, faster, to overcome the strength of politics. ―Kim

Are any of these politicians shown actual pictures of the conditions of these factory farms? They should be required to walk through one....one that has NOT been cleaned up for the surprise visit. ―Marilyn Morgan Holzerland

How did our country become so corrupt that a handful of big meat industries can lay down the law and our Senate bows under it? This is shameful. The only way they can keep winning this is to keep the majority of the American people in ignorance of their inhumane factory farming systems. This is where HSUS comes in―getting the word out. I am truly ashamed and disappointed today but I have NO DOUBT that we will prevail on the side of right and compassion in the end. ―Ann Nevans

At the same time, many of you were happy to hear that the animal fighting measure did pass as part of the Senate farm bill:

My admiration for your/ HSUS's energy and focus to keep up these battles runs deeper than I can express. Thank you for keeping us informed and part of process. I was pleasantly surprised that my two senators from Georgia voted for the amendment! I even emailed them a thank you… ―Ellen

This is great news! It's nice to see the good guys win for a change. ―Anthony S. Andrews

No important and significant reform ever comes easily. Our negotiation with the United Egg Producers was very challenging, and now our work with Congress comes with its challenges. But we are steadfast in knowing that this pathway is best for hens and for the country. We need to let the American public know what’s at stake, so they demand the right response from their lawmakers.

June 27, 2012

Learn, Network, and Re-Engage for Animals at TAFA

From July 27-30, 2012, animal advocates from around the nation will come together in Washington, D.C., to sharpen their skills and knowledge at our Taking Action for Animals (TAFA) conference. This is one of the best training and teaching conferences offered in our movement, and it is The HSUS that puts on the show. At this dynamic and lively event, you can meet like-minded advocates, hear from leaders and specialists in our movement, and make your voices heard on Capitol Hill by attending Lobby Day.

Taking Action for Animals 2011
Photo: Pete Marovich

This year, TAFA will feature leading advocates from The HSUS as well as luminaries including author/activist Kathy Freston, Jane Velez-Mitchell of CNN Headline News, and Congressman Sam Farr of California―and entertainment by musician Nellie McKay. You can choose from a great variety of workshops with important, practical, and timely information on topics like animal testing, farm animal protection, dog chaining, media outreach, horse welfare, wildlife protection, and international animal cruelty issues. Register online for all or part of the conference here, and find more details about the location and schedule.

On Monday, July 30, please join us on Capitol Hill for Lobby Day in partnership with the ASPCA―an opportunity to meet federal lawmakers or their staff to let them know how important animal issues are to you. You’ll learn advocacy skills you can later apply at your local or state level. You can lobby on issues related to horse slaughter, chimps in invasive experiments, animal fighting, banning battery cages, and more.

To save money at TAFA (and reduce your carbon footprint), you might also consider using SpaceShare to share a hotel room, carpool, share a taxi, or connect with others on a flight. Sharing a room can cut your hotel bill in half, and traveling together is a great way for advocates to start networking.

Thanks to our sponsors Big Cat Rescue, Animal Farm Foundation, ASPCA, and E - The Environmental Magazine for making this event possible. And if you can’t make it to D.C. this summer, check out our list of 55 ways to help animals in your community.

June 26, 2012

Adoption Story: Pit Bull Goes from Fighting Ring to Loving Home

I love redemption stories. Last summer, I wrote about our Animal Rescue Team helping to rescue dogs from two fighting rings in North Carolina. It was a blazing hot day, and most of the animals were chained outside in the woods. The HSUS and Hello Bully set up an emergency shelter and cared for these dogs, with staff sleeping on cots at the shelter to make sure the animals were safe as Hurricane Irene barreled into the region. Through the Dogfighting Rescue Coalition, several shelters and rescue groups then took in the dogs to place them for adoption.

One brown pit bull-type dog named Gizmo had been attached to a heavy chain, was denied water and sufficient food, and seemed destined for the fighting pit. When he arrived at our emergency shelter, Gizmo didn't trust people yet. Over time, and with the right amount of human patience and a lot of dog toys, he got better, step by step.

Gizmo the dog on the day of the rescue   Gizmo the dog after being rescued

   BEFORE: Gizmo was tied to a heavy chain.                             AFTER: Gizmo enjoying a toy.

Next, Gizmo traveled to the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania, where a dedicated volunteer helped him get used to unfamiliar things like stairs, riding in the car, television, and grass to play in. The dog went to obedience classes and saw that life offered more than a heavy chain and being forced to fight. Finally, one day a family came to meet Gizmo and decided to adopt him. He got along great with the family and their other dog, and now this formerly mistreated pit bull-type dog has a new bed, even more toys, and a heaping of love and attention from his new human companions.

I know there are truly millions of stories and adoption and redemption in communities throughout the country. But it's through these intentional acts of kindness and redemption that we can give so many creatures their fair shot at a rich and full and happy life.

P.S. This video shows the conditions where Gizmo was rescued:

June 25, 2012

Time to Call Off the Hounds in California

Last week, I wrote about the U.S. Senate passing an amendment to fortify the federal law against animal fighting, during consideration of the farm bill. If we are serious about eliminating all forms of animal fighting, as we should be, then a California Assembly committee should pass S.B. 1221―a bill to ban the inhumane and unsporting practice of hounding bears and bobcats―tomorrow. That practice inevitably leads to battles between dogs and their quarry. The state Senate approved the bill last month, and it’s now time for the Assembly to focus on the problem and eliminate an unacceptable practice in the leading humane state in the nation.

Hound puppy
The HSUS
HSUS's Jennifer Fearing took in this hound puppy
and four others bred for hounding in California.

Many states, including Colorado, Montana, and Oregon, maintain major bear hunting programs, but they outlaw the use of packs of dogs to hunt the animals because of concerns about hunting ethics and inhumane treatment of animals. The dogs in this form of hunting are used to stack the odds even more in favor of the hunter, with the dogs eventually driving the animal up a tree to set up an easy shot for the houndsmen.

We know it’s inhumane for the dogs to chase the bears for miles and exhaust them, and, in the end, for the houndsmen to shoot the frightened and exhausted bear out of a tree. 

But what about what happens during the chase and before the final act of shooting an animal off of a tree limb? Well, that’s where animal fighting comes in.

The dogs lock on to whatever wildlife they find and then give chase. If it’s a bear, they’re coming up against a powerful creature, with the tools and muscle to fight back. Eventually, most bears, realizing they are badly outnumbered by a pack of 12 or 15 dogs, will climb a tree to escape the dogs. But before that happens, the dogs may overtake the bear and a bloody fight may ensue. In other cases, the harassed bear may simply stand his ground and fight the dogs.

There’s no pit and there are no spectators or wagers on the outcome. But it’s an animal fight nonetheless, with all the combat, blood, flesh wounds, and trauma associated with animal fights.

And all for what? So a hunter can claim a trophy of a predator―an animal not generally used for the pot? 

Given that major hunting states have outlawed hounding and still conduct successful seasons, what possible rationale can one offer for its continuation, other than allegiance to tradition and their own warped sense of good fun?

California has stronger laws to protect animals than any other state. Voters there have outlawed trophy hunting of mountain lions, the use of steel-jawed traps to catch fur-bearing animals, stopped horse slaughter, and even voted to phase out extreme confinement of animals on factory farms. Lawmakers have passed dozens of laws, especially in recent years, related to dogfighting, cockfighting, shark finning, and other forms of abuse.

It’s time to pass S.B. 1221, to put a plug in a gaping hole in the state’s animal protection policies. If you are a Californian, call your Assemblymember and urge him or her to favor S.B. 1221 to stop unstaged fights between animals in the woods.

June 21, 2012

Animal Fighting Progress in the Senate, and More News on the Legislative Front

Two days ago, I wrote―with barely contained indignation―about members of the Senate declining to take up two key animal welfare amendments during floor consideration of the farm bill. One amendment, from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., mirrored the language of S. 3239/H.R. 3798, the vitally important legislation to phase out confinement of more than 250 million laying hens in barren battery cages. The second came from Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and it was nearly identical to S. 1947/H.R. 2492, a measure to strengthen the existing federal anti-animal fighting law by making it a crime to attend or to bring children to an animal fighting spectacle, closing loopholes in a strong statute that we’ve fortified several times through the years.

Black dog rescued from fighting operation
Kathy Milani/The HSUS

I am pleased to report that the animal-fighting amendment, through a series of deft maneuvers by lawmakers committed to cracking down on this particular scourge, did get a vote last night. The amendment was folded into another amendment by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., with strong involvement from Sens. Blumenthal, Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Agriculture Committee chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. The Vitter amendment, also backed by Sens. Kirk, R-Ill., and Scott Brown, R-Mass., passed by a commanding vote of 88 to 11. You can find out how your senators voted here.

“Raising dogs and other animals to fight, maim, and kill each other is reprehensible,” said Chairwoman Stabenow, who helped engineer the new pathway for the amendment. “It is already illegal for animal owners to force their animals to fight, and it only makes sense that those who financially support animal fighting should also be held accountable. I’d like to thank all of those who helped me pass this important amendment as a part of my 2012 farm bill.”

This is a very good development, and it puts us in a great position to get this legislation enacted―since the House is expected to approve that same language, given that the House companion bill, H.R. 2492, already has almost 200 cosponsors.

We would have worked with our allies in the Senate on another amendment to the Animal Welfare Act, dealing with Internet sales of dogs from puppy mills, but the Obama administration announced a rule that mirrors some core provisions of H.R. 835 and S. 727, which together have more than 230 bipartisan cosponsors. We hope that the administration takes final action on that issue after the comment period closes on July 16.

While we celebrate progress on animal fighting and puppy mills, we remain deeply disappointed that the egg industry reform bill did not get a vote in the Senate. It’s time to concentrate our energy on the House and to make the case that extreme cage confinement systems for laying hens have no future in this country. The question before the nation should be, how does that transition occur? State by state, or company by company, with all of the clumsiness of that piecemeal approach? Or with a national standard that the egg industry can get behind, allowing producers to have regulatory certainty and to make the necessary investments in new housing systems to improve the lives of these animals?

That legislation also has a provision establishing a national labeling standard that will give consumers more information about animal welfare conditions in making choices in the marketplace, and that provision is particularly exciting to us. Who can argue against that kind of transparency and informed decision-making?

The House is expected to take up the farm bill sometime in July. To succeed, though, we’ll need your help.

P.S. On the subject of farm animal protection, I am so pleased to announce that Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee last night signed two bills to ban gestation and veal crates and the practice of tail docking. Rhode Island becomes the ninth state to ban gestation crates, the seventh to ban veal crates, and the third to ban tail docking of cattle.

P.P.S. This week, there were also two important wins on animal protection issues in key committees. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed the Captive Primate Safety Act (S. 1324)―sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Vitter, and Blumenthal―which would ban the interstate trade in primates as pets. We hope the full Senate takes it up soon. And the House Appropriations Committee took up an amendment by Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., and voted to bar USDA from inspecting any horse slaughter plants in the U.S., which should give pause to the foreign-owned companies who want to re-open slaughter plants on American soil and stain it with the blood of the noble animals who helped settle this country.

June 20, 2012

Meat on the Menu, But Not the Agenda, at Rio?

This past weekend, a Washington Post opinion piece by Frances Kissling and Peter Singer raised a question that is on the minds of many who work at the intersection of animal welfare and sustainable development: Why―when the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has highlighted animal agriculture as “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale”―is meat so frequently on the menu but not on the agenda at international conferences and events relating to climate change and sustainable development?

Rio+20―the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development―will bring together world leaders from governments, NGOs, and the private sector to discuss ideas for reducing poverty, creating a more equitable society, and ensuring long-term environmental sustainability. Our undue global appetite for meat belongs on the agenda, as the just released GEO-5 (Global Environment Outlook) report from the United Nations Environment Program suggests. But there appears to be a dismissive attitude toward this issue, perhaps because it requires some level of personal reflection and a modification of eating habits.

HSUS's Guide to Meat-Free Meals
You can help animals and the environment with
our Guide to Meat-Free Meals.

We know, for example, that the world’s ever-increasing appetite for meat, eggs, and milk places an undeniable strain on the earth’s natural resources, especially since animal agriculture also encompasses feed grain production, which requires substantial inputs of water, land, and energy. Globally, more than 60 percent of our corn and barley crop and more than 97 percent of soymeal are fed to farm animals, who then inefficiently convert that plant matter into animal protein.

A growing body of research suggests that the projected growth in meat production will help push the planet to the brink of several sustainability boundaries, including greenhouse gas emissions and water availability―thereby placing wildlife, farm animals, and human communities around the world at varying degrees of risk. A recent article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences stated that farm animals alone are projected to emit more than two-thirds of the amount of greenhouse gases considered safe by 2050.

From our perspective, climate change is an animal welfare issue as much as an environmental one, and it’s an increasingly important focus of work for both The HSUS and Humane Society International. Rising meat consumption is also a significant driver of factory farming, which threatens food security (especially for the poor), water security, public health, and the sustainability of rural communities.

If you’d like to help animals and the environment, it’s as easy as starting with your next meal. Visit The HSUS’ Guide to Meat-Free Meals, sign up to get a meatless recipe delivered to your inbox once a week, and check out our Meatless Monday video.

June 19, 2012

Senate Farm Bill Throws Animal Welfare Under the Bus

It’s emotionally difficult to deal with the reality of animals being harmed, especially for those acutely alert to their plight.  In my capacity as president of The HSUS, I get a front-row seat for it all. It’s my job to learn about cruelty to animals in its many forms, and to work with my colleagues to try to figure out a way to turn around these problems.    

I cope with it by knowing that we are doing something about it. Indeed, that’s the reason groups like The HSUS exist. We are here to organize people of conscience and to encourage them to exert their collective influence.

Hens in battery cages at Kreider Farms during an HSUS egg investigation
The HSUS
Animals deserve better than extreme confinement.

There’s proof of progress all around us. Look at the raft of bills made into laws at the state level, corporate progress, and public awareness in recent years. We are a strong, vibrant, and ascendant movement.

One particular cause for hope is that opposition to cruelty is not a strange or alien value. It’s at the core of our humanity. While we humans have the capacity to be selfish, we also have the capacity for empathy and other-centeredness. When it comes to institutionalized cruelty, the hope is that empathy can triumph over greed and selfishness. With the creativity of the human mind, we can figure out ways to conduct our business in society and not leave behind a trail of animal suffering in the process.

That’s why it’s so distressing when a small number of people―in this case, a handful of members of the U.S. Senate―band together to retard progress.

Since last July, I’ve written many times on this blog about the landmark agreement forged between The HSUS and the United Egg Producers to phase out the barren battery cage and to create a labeling program that would give consumers more information about how laying hens are treated. In the scheme of things for our nation, it may seem like a small matter. But there are 285 million laying hens in America, and the vast majority of them live in privation, in small wire cages that don’t even allow them to stretch their wings. Eggs are a staple in the American diet, and it’s nearly a $15 billion industry when you add up sales and all of the related activity. For those reasons, it’s a subject that should warrant the serious attention of lawmakers, especially when the farm bill rolls around for consideration.

The HSUS and UEP agreed that it would be unworkable for this pact to be voluntary, because there would be outliers within the egg industry who would not make investments in improved housing systems and would then try to undercut producers doing the right thing, and because it wouldn't prevent the patchwork of conflicting state laws on the subject. The Congress would have to codify the agreement to set a uniform, national standard.

I knew enactment of this measure in the Congress would be no slam dunk. But I did believe that a majority of lawmakers would embrace this good faith process of collaboration and problem-solving between traditional adversaries. I thought they’d be eager to ratify an agreement that showed such demonstrable progress on animal welfare, yet also provided certainty and security for American egg producers.

Last night, much to my chagrin, the Senate approved an agreement to allow a finite number of amendments to the farm bill (73 in total), and the major measures related to animal welfare were excluded from consideration. Among the provisions omitted were Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s amendment to codify the egg industry accord, as well as an amendment from Sen. Richard Blumenthal to build on the existing federal law against animal fighting by making it a crime to attend or to bring a minor to a dogfight or cockfight.

The long and the short is, key lawmakers bowed to pressure from the meat industry, specifically the pork and cattle industries. Now mind you, these industries have zero stake in the egg industry, and no economic interest in animal fighting, either. They simply want to obstruct any and all progress for animal welfare, believing that any Congressional action on animal welfare will eventually reflect poorly on their practices and put more pressure on them to change.

With respect to the 200 major egg producers in the United States, we could say that they were outmuscled by the cattle and pork lobbies. In American politics, we now have a new truism: meat breaks eggs, just like rocks breaks scissors.

So there’ll be no debate in the Senate on the egg industry and its future during consideration of the farm bill. And that’s simply because some senators just won’t act in the national interest. Their fealty to the pork and cattle industries led them to throw the egg industry and animal welfare interests under the bus.

Now, we’ll see how the same issues play out in the House, and we will be working hard to get consideration of legislation on animal fighting and egg-laying hens on the House floor. It’s our hope that they let the debate proceed. If we win there, we still have a chance on a long-awaited reform that can help hundreds of millions of animals.

June 18, 2012

Cockfighting Bust in California Seizes Hundreds of Birds, Cache of Fighting Equipment

The HSUS has a zero-tolerance policy on animal fighting, and we work closely with law enforcement agencies to root out the practice in whatever dark corners it still persists. Last week, The HSUS’s’ Animal Rescue Team deployed to Tulare County, Calif., to help bust what appears to be one of the largest distributors in the United States of knives, gaffs, and other equipment used for illegal cockfighting. Our animal fighting investigators had previously shared information with local authorities about Sanchez-Mendoza, a Mexico-based company suspected of selling cockfighting paraphernalia.

Birds at the California cockfighting raid
Photo: Alex Gallardo
Birds at the cockfighting raid in Tulare County, Calif.

In stultifying heat, topping 100 degrees, our team assisted Tulare County Animal Services and the Tulare County sheriff (see video) in seizing more than 380 roosters and hens, as well as gathering up about 1,200 knives along with an extensive cache of records about buyers of this equipment.

Cockfighters generally strap small, curved knives or gaffs to roosters’ legs before putting them into the pit to fight. With the addition of these sharp weapons, the birds can pierce each others’ lungs, eyes, or other organs―causing horrific injuries and often death. It’s a federal crime―under a law which The HSUS worked to enact―to possess or sell these implements.

Juan Carlos Gonzalez and his wife, Leticia Aguilar Gonzalez, were arrested and each charged with 1,107 misdemeanors and felonies for possession of animal fighting paraphernalia, conspiracy, and many other charges related to cockfighting. Officials seized more than $33,000 worth of knives alone, in addition to other paraphernalia typically used for cockfighting. The operation had concealed many of the blades inside potato chip cans and was allegedly shipping them all over the country for sale.

We hope this raid puts a dent in this trade, and plays its part in the death by a thousand cuts to the cockfighting industry.

 

June 15, 2012

A Safe Haven for Victims of Domestic Violence

Thanks to one dog’s heroism and a community’s outpouring of support, victims fleeing violent homes no longer have to choose between seeking safety for themselves or protecting their pets.

Joe Maxwell and Hank
Joe Maxwell, former Lieutenant Governor
of Missouri and The HSUS’s Director of Rural
Development and Outreach, with "Hank"
photo: Amanda Good

In a blog post this March, I told you about a dog named "Hank," the Great Dane from Missouri who we named Valor Dog of the Year and People’s Hero in our Fifth Annual Dogs of Valor Awards for helping shield and save his owner from a violent domestic abuse attack. When Hank’s owner, “McKenzie,” sought refuge from the violence in her own home, she couldn’t find a shelter that would allow her trusted companion, Hank, to stay with her. Because of the dangerous situation, however, officials at the Rose Brooks Center, a domestic violence shelter in Kansas City, Missouri, made an exception to their no-animal policy and opened their doors to the pair.

The bond between Hank and McKenzie was so powerful that it inspired the folks at Rose Brooks Center to take their lifesaving work one step further. This week they extended their humane reach into the community by opening Paws Place Pet Shelter, a new safe haven for animal victims of domestic violence. The second of its kind in the country, the facility will provide housing for up to eight pets belonging to families staying at the Rose Brooks Center.

This Wednesday’s opening celebration of the Paws Place Pet Shelter was the perfect place to honor Hank and the bond he and McKenzie share. Joe Maxwell, former Lieutenant Governor of Missouri and The HSUS’s Director of Rural Development and Outreach, presented Hank with two handcrafted sterling silver tags, a crystal statue created in the canine hero’s likeness, and a crystal trophy to commemorate his Valor Dog of the Year and People’s Hero titles. 

There’s no doubt that because of Hank’s inspiring courage and devotion, there are some Missouri animals and their families who will be much safer tonight.

P.S. For a nation-wide list of safe havens for animals and a list of pet shelters for those fleeing domestic violence, please visit humanesociety.org/safehavens.