September 2012 Blog Home November 2012

23 posts from October 2012

October 17, 2012

Californians Can Protect Animals and Support Law Enforcement by Passing Proposition 30

At The HSUS, we spend a lot of energy working to secure the passage of meaningful reforms to state laws around the country—believing that when the laws reflect our values, animals not only benefit, but that our society becomes increasingly more humane.

Sutter Brown - Yes on Prop 30
Gov. Brown's dog, Sutter, barks Yes on Prop 30.

But for our animal protection laws to be meaningful, they have to be enforced. We have to have enough funding for police to investigate cruelty and make arrests, for humane law enforcement officers to act on complaints of cruelty and neglect, for wardens to go after wildlife poachers, and for prosecutors to bring cruelty cases to justice and hold offenders accountable.

California is surely not the only state to have suffered from serious budget crises causing drastic reductions in public safety funding, but it’s one where voters have an opportunity right now to forestall another round of cuts.

That’s why The HSUS has endorsed Proposition 30, the Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act. Passage of Prop 30, championed by Gov. Jerry Brown, is critical for providing support to law enforcement to properly combat poaching, animal cruelty, and other crimes in California.

Prop 30 proposes to generate $6 billion in revenues and to establish a guarantee for public safety funding in the state constitution, a guarantee of support which could only be reduced by voter approval. If Prop 30 passes, it would halt $6 billion worth of “trigger” cuts adopted by lawmakers in the current year’s budget—including approximately $25 million worth of cuts to programs affecting law enforcement generally and wildlife and habitat protection specifically.

In just the past few years, Californians have successfully lobbied their elected officials to upgrade the state’s animal protection laws. Since January 2009, not long after voters approved Proposition 2, The HSUS—backed by humane citizens—has weighed in on 62 pieces of legislation (55 supported and 7 opposed). Together, we have changed the legal landscape for animal protection in California, and now it’s vital we work to enforce these laws.

The HSUS has worked with great energy to support these measures. Perhaps most notably, we helped to persuade a majority of the legislature and Gov. Brown to ban the shark fin trade, make California the 14th state to prohibit the cruel and unnecessary use of packs of dogs to pursue bears and bobcats. But without the funds for proper enforcement—and with a state forced to take $6 billion of additional cuts—we’ll be falling short of our actual goals of helping to prevent cruelty.

California already has the lowest ratio of wardens per capita in the country—patrolling vast amounts of wilderness with fewer and fewer law enforcement resources. And the HSUS is doing what we can, providing funding for the past four years in support of the Department of Fish and Game’s K9 program, where trained dogs assist wardens in the investigation of poaching and pollution crimes and apprehension of criminals. We offer rewards for successful prosecution of poachers. Recently, The HSUS coordinated with state and federal law enforcement agencies in the successful “Operation Cyberwild” to provide information leading to the arrest of traffickers peddling illegal wildlife parts.

Californians, as you cast your ballot, please vote in favor of Proposition 30 to stop millions of dollars of cuts to programs critical to enforcing your state’s strong animal protection laws. And if you live outside California, our website also has information on bills to help animals in your state.

Paid for by The Humane Society of the United States

October 16, 2012

The HSUS to Sue to Reverse De-Listing of Wolves in Great Lakes

Yesterday, on the same day that The HSUS and The Fund for Animals announced their intention to sue the federal government to reverse its decision to prematurely remove wolves from the list of protected species, trophy hunters killed at least four wolves on the opening day of the first wolf season in Wisconsin in decades. Minnesota’s hunting and trapping season is set to launch on Nov. 3. Wisconsin awarded 1,160 permits through a lottery, and Minnesota awarded 6,000 permits. Both states issued more hunting permits than there are wolves within their boundaries

Gray wolf
Live in Michigan? Help protect wolves today.

If there was any doubt about the intentions of the hunters involved, an Associated Press story written by Steve Karnowski and Todd Richmond made them plain. The reporters talked to hunters about why they bought wolf hunting permits.    

Joe Caputo of Spring Green, Wis., plans to pay more than $3,000 for two dozen new wolf traps, and he said killing a wolf “is the ultimate challenge…You’re talking the largest-scale predator on the landscape.”

Beverly Kiger, a trophy hunter from Grand Rapids, Minn., wants to add a full-size wolf mount to her collection. She told the Associated Press reporter, “To get a (wolf) as a trophy would be awesome.”

Mark Dahms of Waukesha, Wis., said he plans on using an electronic calling device with 400 sounds mimicking wolves and distressed animals. “First time in modern-day history is why I entered,” he said. “The big thing is (getting) the hide.”

The HSUS's legal claims rest on the notion that state authorities have developed reckless plans, enabled by state lawmakers who rushed to approve hunting and trapping seasons. But on the moral case, it’s plain that this hunt is wrong, and there’s nothing to justify it on practical grounds either.  It’s not about killing for food, since nobody eats wolves. It’s not about management, since state and federal law already allows the targeting of individual wolves who threaten livestock or public safety. And it’s not about protecting ecological systems, since a robust presence of wolves has a beneficial cascade effect through the ecosystem. 

It’s really about killing for fun, and killing individuals of a species whose ancient ancestors warily took the first steps of friendship toward humans 15,000 years ago, ultimately leading to the domestication of dogs and changing the entire human experience for the better. 

October 15, 2012

The Cruel Trade in Beluga Whales Needs to End

On Friday, the National Marine Fisheries Service held a public hearing for a permit application by Atlanta’s Georgia Aquarium to import 18 wild-caught beluga whales from Russia. Educators, researchers, a former SeaWorld trainer, animal advocates, homemakers, a TV producer, a pilot, lawyers, and social workers spoke out against the import request.

Beluga whales swimming
Help protect whales by taking action.

The Humane Society of the United States’ Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist, and several others speaking against the permit focused on aspects of the import proposal that will violate the law, or run counter to sound conservation principles. The rest spoke passionately and personally about their belief that confining these magnificent white whales in small tanks thousands of miles from their Arctic home is inhumane and wrong.

The speakers favoring the proposal came principally from the zoo and aquarium community—employees of the Georgia Aquarium, the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums, or the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, as well as several Atlanta educators. Most of these speakers seemed to think this was a referendum on the public display of whales and dolphins—they focused on the Aquarium’s education program, the bond people form with the belugas at the facility, and all the other supposed practical benefits of people connecting with wildlife in an urban setting. They omitted mention of the whales languishing in a holding facility on the Black Sea, where they were sent after their capture—4,000 miles from their home in the Sea of Okhotsk. And they did not address the trauma the whales suffered by being wrestled away from their family groups by men wielding nets and ropes, oblivious and uncaring of the social bonds being destroyed.

Make no mistake: this import proposal is not about the Georgia Aquarium’s research or public education. It is not about the value of zoos and aquariums to society. It is not even—sadly enough—about the 18 whales in Russia. Those animals were doomed to a life in captivity as soon as they were captured at the request of the Georgia Aquarium—if they don’t come to the United States, they will go somewhere else, like China, Egypt, or Turkey.

This import proposal is really about the trade in live whales from the Sea of Okhotsk, a region also affected by unsustainable hunting and climate change. It is about the capture of 21 belugas on average every year from this population since 2000 (that’s more than 250 whales) by a company that doesn’t care who its customers are or whether it is decimating beluga families by conducting its captures in the same location year after year. It is about the hundreds of whales who might be saved in the years ahead from a similar fate if we can stop this trade.

The United States must not become a market for these whales. It’s about global supply and demand, and the only way we get these captures to stop is to shut down purchases of these animals. The HSUS’s international arm, Humane Society International, is working in China to end the demand for live belugas there. We must ask the same of the United States, which has not allowed imports of marine mammals deliberately captured for public display by U.S. facilities for more than two decades.

The Georgia Aquarium and its partners in this application, SeaWorld and the John G. Shedd and Mystic Aquariums, have become part of the problem by buying these 18 whales. They have attempted to cast this inhumane decision as an act of conservation, but the National Marine Fisheries Service must not allow this self-serving rationale to prevail. We as a nation, and the zoo and aquarium industry in particular, must hit the reset button and begin to exhibit a zero-tolerance policy for capturing and trading whales for captive display.

October 12, 2012

Ensuring Veterinary Care for All Pets

HSVMA Rural Area Veterinary Services volunteer vet student with puppy
Windi Wojdak/HSVMA

For several decades, local and national animal protection organizations have worked with focus to reduce euthanasia of homeless pets. In the mid-1970s, there were as many as 15 to 20 million cats and dogs euthanized every year in the United States. Though we still have a long way to go, today those numbers have dropped to less than 4 million, thanks particularly to increased access to spay/neuter and vigorous adoption promotions, and new marketing efforts such as our Shelter Pet Project campaign.

For many families, basic veterinary care such as spay/neuter, basic vaccinations, and other services are simply out of reach both geographically and financially. Betsy McFarland, the vice president of The HSUS’s companion animals department, sent this update about a recent victory in Alabama to protect spay/neuter clinics and critical services for local pet owners:

In The Humane Society of the United States' Pets for Life program, we are learning that in the under-served communities where we work, 53 percent of owners of unaltered pets surveyed had never seen a veterinarian before. Nonprofit spay/neuter programs help remove the barriers to veterinary care and increase general pet wellness care. They also introduce many pet owners to the value of veterinary medicine.

So it was a surprise to many when The Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners recently proposed a preposterous rule that would have forced nonprofit, low-cost spay/neuter clinics in the state to close. The rule would have required that the owners of these nonprofit organizations be licensed veterinarians, and it would have restricted ownership of veterinary materials and equipment to licensed veterinarians. Though veterinarians perform the spay/neuter surgeries, it’s unreasonable to require the groups they work for to be composed entirely of vets.

As The HSUS and The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association argued in its public opposition to this plan, not only would the rule have had a tremendous negative impact on progress to reduce pet homelessness, but it would have contradicted state and federal law, and was submitted in violation of Alabama’s Administrative Procedure Act. After much outcry from the public, local organizations, national organizations, and even veterinarians in the state, on Wednesday evening the board made an about-face and unanimously voted against the measure.

We applaud the veterinary board for getting back on track. Nonprofit spay/neuter clinics have made a tremendous impact on reducing our homeless pet population. Dedicated nonprofits like Humane Alliance have perfected the high-volume-low-cost spay/neuter clinic model, and thousands of nonprofit operations are helping pets across the country—from stationary clinics, MASH-style clinics, programs that use volunteer veterinarians and shuttle services, mobile clinics, voucher programs, and partnerships with veterinary schools and veterinary technical schools.

And The HSUS’ own hands-on programs are providing spay/neuter across the globe—from our Pets for Life program in Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles, to the Rural Area Veterinary Services program of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, and Humane Society International’s Street Dog Program. 

To achieve the goal of a home for every pet, now is the time to increase access to spay/neuter, not reduce it. By removing barriers to veterinary services, we can strengthen the human-animals bond and empower people to provide the best care possible for the animals in our communities.

October 11, 2012

No Need to be Spooked by Bats this Halloween

Little brown bat

It is inevitable that people and wildlife will bump up against one another. The question for us at The HSUS, and for everyone else in society, is how we manage those encounters. Do we exhibit tolerance and try to find ways to solve problems without harming animals, or do we simply kill other creatures because that seems like the most convenient thing?

At The HSUS, we are devoted to all animals, including wildlife. One part of our work is to help resolve human-wildlife conflicts and to show a better way forward—whether that work involves elephants or gophers, raccoons or deer, bears or bats.

With some species—such as bats, where there are long-standing prejudices or fears—there are times when people have a hard time getting past those preconceptions and demonstrating a willingness to try humane approaches. Bats are not only amazing animals, but they help farmers and homeowners by consuming so many insects. Now, these valuable environmental services could be lost as White-Nose Syndrome has decimated bat populations throughout the East and continues to spread through the Midwest on its westward trajectory. Protecting bats has never been more important.

Please take a look at the new video of our Humane Wildlife Services team resolving conflicts with bats who had found their way into the siding and attic of a home. It’s uplifting and instructive work.

October 10, 2012

Speaking Up to Protect Gray Wolves

I got up this morning in St. Paul, Minn., and the temperature reading on my iPhone was a brisk 34 degrees. It was a chilly fall day, and in the Midwest and throughout the country, that means hunting seasons are in progress or set to begin soon. At my several stops in Minnesota since I arrived yesterday, I have been talking about the lunacy of the wolf hunt set to start in the state on Nov. 3–the first hunt here targeting timber wolves in more than four decades. Neighboring Wisconsin will open its season, originally planned to include night hunting and the use of dogs, on Oct. 15.

270x240 wolf in snow istock

The plan in Minnesota is to allow trappers and hunters to kill as many as 400 wolves, out of a population estimate of somewhere between 2,100 to 3,500 animals. In Wisconsin, there are only about 800 wolves, and the state is going to allow sport hunters and snare and leghold trappers to kill 201. They are taking a big chunk of these populations, and the result will be a lot of suffering and death for so many of these amazing creatures, who want to live as much as we do.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisted the Great Lakes wolf populations this year, in spite of vigorous opposition from The HSUS and local wolf advocates. In prior years, we blocked de-listing efforts by both the Bush and Obama administrations, but this time around the USFWS has done a better job of covering its tracks. Both the Minnesota and Wisconsin state legislatures rushed through measures to authorize wolf hunting under emergency rule-making procedures; in Minnesota, the original management plan called for a five-year moratorium on hunting and trapping after de-listing. So much for sticking with the plan. 

It’s a dark time for wolves in the Great Lakes region, with only Michigan holding the line against hunting of the animals. But at least one lawmaker is pushing for a season there, too.

In the Northern Rockies region, the scene is just as grim. Wyoming has also opened a hunting season on wolves, to catch up to the killing plans in Idaho and Montana. Wyoming has designated wolves as “predators” across the vast majority of the state, a designation which subjects wolves to unrestricted hunting and trapping and allows wolves to be shot on sight. We’re doing our best to stay this expansion of wolf killing—last week, The HSUS sent the USFWS notice of our intent to sue the agency over the decision to delist wolves in Wyoming.

It’s so wrong. We know that wolves are intelligent, family-oriented animals, and when members of the pack are killed, it not only causes grief for the survivors, but it disrupts their entire social structure.  What’s more, the animals are not abundant–in fact, they just got off of the list of federally protected animals under the Endangered Species Act! And all for what? For a trophy or a fur pelt. Nobody eats dogs in this country, and wolves aren’t on the dinner menu. This is recreational killing at its worst–as bad as opening up a season on bald eagles.

All of the states have programs to allow for the killing of individual wolves who threaten livestock or public safety.  So there’s no management need here–that’s already taken care of.    

I’ll be raising my voice against this hunt in Rochester, Minn., tonight, and our staff in the affected states will keep our voices loud and clear to reach the sensible center in America that should deplore the idea of the killing this apex predator for reasons related to thrill killing, irrational fear, and naked prejudice. 

October 09, 2012

Another Hallmark/Westland Investigation Milestone

In early 2008, The Humane Society of the United States released an investigation showing appalling and unacceptable treatment of dairy cows too sick or injured to walk at the Hallmark/Westland slaughter plant in Chino, Calif. The case set off riots in South Korea (the number-two importer of U.S. beef), prompted the largest meat recall in American history, and shook public confidence in the claims by agribusiness that Proposition 2 was unneeded because producers would never mistreat animals. (That ballot measure asked voters in 2008 to ban cramped cages and other confinement methods.)

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

The investigation also prompted California lawmakers to pass a new anti-downer law, which was then challenged by the pork industry on the grounds that only the federal government could regulate slaughter practices. That case ultimately went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which struck down portions of the law. 

Despite that setback, the Hallmark investigation has proved to be a watershed, creating massive awareness of cruelty to farm animals, propelling the enactment of new laws to protect them, and providing a window into the harsh and unforgiving behavior of some in industrial agriculture.

There have been a few seminal cases of animals in situations of cruelty or crisis that have touched the American conscience and provided a wake-up call. The rescue of stranded pets in the wake of Katrina spoke to the power of the human-animal bond in a time of distress. The Michael Vick case reminded people that dogfighting was not a settled issue and that cruelty can happen in the most unlikely places.

For its part, Hallmark provided a front-row seat into the realities of industrial agriculture. 

It’s a case that many Americans are still paying attention to. Millions saw the footage on television, and The HSUS has just passed a milestone with the one millionth view on YouTube of our investigative video. That’s a landmark in its own right.

There are other ways in which the case lives on. There are ongoing court proceedings relating to the filing by The HSUS of a groundbreaking multimillion-dollar government fraud case under the False Claims Act against the plant owners and investors who enabled and made possible the horrific cruelty we documented. The lawsuit, which is the first of its kind, alleges that Westland/Hallmark defrauded the federal government by violating the terms of its school lunch program contracts requiring the humane handling of animals. And in a rare move, the Department of Justice elected to intervene in the case and join The HSUS in seeking to recover millions in taxpayer money spent on potentially tainted ground beef during the period covered by the recall.

We’ve come a long way since early 2008, both for downed cattle and other farm animals. In the broadest sense, we’ll continue to throw back the curtain on animal abuse in all of its forms, and we’ll not turn away from even the biggest problems or the most powerful industries that defend callous mistreatment of other creatures.

P.S. This is the third HSUS-sponsored video to reach the 1 million mark. I wrote previously about the story of Stallone, the true face of dogfighting, and the "Sand Box" PSA, part of our Shelter Pet Project campaign with the Ad Council and Maddie's Fund.

October 08, 2012

Pigs Are Made to Move, Not to Live in Solitary Confinement

Domesticated pigs have been around for thousands of years. Gestation crates, which are small metal cages used to permanently immobilize pregnant sows, have been a standard industry practice for just about 40 years. Yet industrial-style pork producers actually want to mislead Americans into thinking that extreme confinement of sows is somehow necessary for their health—a point they asserted in a weekend New York Times article that amplified their view that if pigs are allowed to move, they could get injured.

Pig closeup
Matt Prescott/The HSUS

Animal scientist and farm animal expert Dr. John Webster points out that this defense of crates “rests on the premise that it is acceptable to prevent an undesirable pattern of behaviour by restricting all forms of behaviour.” He goes on to explain that “it would be as valid to claim that prisons would be much more manageable if all the inmates were kept permanently in solitary confinement.”

Indeed, it’s a ludicrous argument. As I mention above, pigs have lived in group settings for thousands of years. They’re herd animals, and farmers who are actually knowledgeable about pig husbandry can raise sows without resorting to such extreme confinement. In fact, even as far back as 2004, National Hog Farmer published an article about group housing entitled, “Sows Flourish in Pen Gestation.”

Further, according to the National Pork Producers Council, the trade association for the pig industry, at least 17 percent of sows are currently in group housing. In fact, NPPC's incoming president uses group housing for sows himself. There are about a million sows in group housing already, and you don’t hear the pork industry complaining about them.

Instead, you hear animal scientists like Dr. Ted Friend at Texas A&M Animal Sciences, a former proponent of gestation crates, striking a new note. Dr. Friend tells pig farmers in a commentary covered by Feedstuffs just this week that if 17 percent of sows are in group housing, obviously people know how to raise sows in group housing. He concludes that a transition will indeed work, and that producers seem to be getting dragged "kicking and screaming into another inevitable change."

And it’s not just scientists arguing for this transition. The pork industry’s biggest buyers are demanding it. From McDonald’s and Burger King to Safeway and Costco, the writing on the wall is clear. It’s so clear that Meat & Poultry magazine wrote in a recent article about the success of The Humane Society of the United States’ gestation crate campaign: “This is no longer a debate about the viability of gestation crates in hog production, but rather a discussion about how producers will respond to meet expectations.”

The fact is, the pig industry moved toward gestation crates as a matter of ruthless efficiency, not animal welfare. Putting the sows side by side in gestation crates allowed them to fit more pigs in a barn. And it made feeding and handling easier, since the farmers really didn’t have to farm. They became confiners, nor farmers.

I have seen pigs in crates, and I have seen them in group houses and in pastures. These animals want to express their normal behaviors, including turning and walking around. Immobilizing them in a cage is wrong for the animals, and it’s time to speed up the transition away from these crates.

October 05, 2012

The 10 Most Important State Laws Enacted for Animals in 2012

The HSUS works for all animals, and on so many fronts—building public awareness, driving corporate progress, and conducting hands-on care of animals in crisis. We also work to see that laws are enforced and to lobby for stronger animal welfare policies.

Bobcat at the Fund for Animals Wildlife Center
Photo: Ray Eubanks

There are still a number of state legislatures in active session this year, so I can’t give you any final conclusions yet on our 2012 progress. But to date, we’ve seen 69 new animal protection laws enacted on a host of issues, and we expect to see other important measures pass before the end of the year in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and several other states.

Looking back on the first three quarters of the year, here is my list of the 10 most important animal protection bills to pass at the state level. As you can see, the list encompasses a wide range of topics, and it shows progress for us on so many fronts.

1. California enacted protections for dogs and wildlife by banning the cruel hound hunting of bears and bobcats. This was perhaps the most-discussed bill in the California legislature this year, and hundreds of animal advocates and hound hunters trekked to the Capitol to make their case, while tens of thousands of animal advocates wrote and called in favor of the legislation. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill on Sept. 26.

Black and white calf

2. Rhode Island added to the momentum of our farm animal protection campaign by passing legislation to phase out the use of gestation crates and veal crates, and to outlaw the tail docking of cattle without anesthesia.

3. Ohio restricted the ownership of dangerous exotic animals. This came after the horrible tragedy in Zanesville in October 2011. Ohio became the 44th state to place some restrictions on the ownership of dangerous wild animals as pets.

4. Illinois banned the shark fin trade, building on the laws we’ve helped to pass in California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington.

5. Idaho established some felony-level penalties for cockfighting and other forms of malicious cruelty. Idaho became the 48th state to enact felony penalties for egregious acts of animal cruelty. Measure 5 is on the ballot in North Dakota to make that state the 49th to do so.

6. Arizona protected greyhounds by enacting a law that would allow the last remaining greyhound racing track in the state to end live dog racing. This industry has shrunk dramatically in the last decade, as a result of animal protection campaigns and competition from other forms of gambling.

Shelter dog in carrier
Michelle Riley/ The HSUS

7. Minnesota stopped the sale of shelter pets to laboratories. Only a handful of states still allow pets to be seized from shelters and sold to research labs.

8. New Jersey banned horse slaughter for human consumption and the transport of horsemeat for human consumption. Horse slaughter enthusiasts are trying to open plants in several states, and the Garden State must now be stricken from their target lists. New Jersey joins California, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas in effectively banning slaughter of these creatures for human consumption.

9. Louisiana stopped the sales of pets from the side of the road. This builds on our efforts to protect dogs from reckless breeders, among other problems.

10. New York limited live animal slaughter markets by extending a four-year moratorium forbidding the licensing of any new live animal slaughter markets within 1,500 feet of a residential dwelling in New York City.

October 04, 2012

Honoring Wildlife Law Enforcement for Their Heroic Work

Almost anything is available for sale over the Internet now—and tragically that includes rare and protected animals, their parts, and products made from their parts like fur coats, boots, and trinkets. Given the convenience and relative anonymity of online sales, markets for illegal wildlife and their parts are flourishing.

Wildlife law enforcement agents and prosecutors receive Humane Law Enforcement Awards from The Humane Society of the United States

While this proliferation of illegal wildlife items in online marketplaces is life-threatening and often species-threatening for so many animals, there are people fighting these abuses. Wildlife law enforcement agents and prosecutors have been ramping up their efforts, and we are helping them. And we are also taking notice of their much-appreciated efforts.

Much of the tireless, and often thankless, work to crack down on wildlife crime happens behind the scenes—wildlife law enforcement agents go undercover to purchase illegal wildlife items, and prosecutors methodically build cases as the evidence is gathered. On Tuesday, The HSUS gratefully acknowledged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, and the California Department of Fish and Game with our prestigious Humane Law Enforcement Awards for their involvement in Operation Cyberwild.

Operation Cyberwild was a successful investigation into illegal online wildlife trafficking that pulled 46 wildlife items from the marketplace and resulted in 12 people being charged with state and federal wildlife crimes.

These wildlife law enforcement agents and prosecutors don’t owe their effectiveness to any abundance in resources—quite the opposite, actually. They do their work on a shoestring, trying to combat a multi-billion dollar industry.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife has just about 250 special agents to cover the entire country and its ports. The California Department of Fish and Game has the smallest warden force per capita of any state. There are just small units of prosecutors dedicated to environmental and wildlife crimes.

Operation Cyberwild was unique because it got an invaluable assist from specially-trained Humane Society of the United States volunteers who searched for and found online violations. We were so grateful to U.S. Fish and Wildlife team lead, Special Agent Ed Newcomer, and USFWS' leadership and creativity to bring in The HSUS to augment their professional capacity with volunteers, allowing these wildlife criminals to be brought to justice.

Wildlife law enforcement agents and prosecutors receive Humane Law Enforcement Awards from The Humane Society of the United States

U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, André Birotte, spoke at the ceremony on Tuesday and praised this unique collaboration. While it was too late for many of the animals seized as part of Operation Cyberwild, justice had to be served. And this sort of crack-down puts other potential traffickers on notice that they, too, will eventually be caught and that our moral concern extends to animals in the wild. We will do our best to defend these creatures.

Those honored on Tuesday with 2012 Humane Law Enforcement Awards include:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife: Deputy Resident Agent in Charge Ed Newcomer, Resident Agent in Charge Erin Dean, Special Agent Elvin Monge, Special Agent Scott Allee, Special Agent Jimmy Barna, and Special Agent Gregg Burgess.

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California: U.S. Attorney André Birotte. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph O. Johns, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rupa Goswami, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Bettinelli.

Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office: Deputy District Attorney Dan Wright.

California Department of Fish and Game: Lt. Rebecca Hartman accepted on behalf of an undercover warden.