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533 posts from Actions to Help Animals

April 15, 2014

Seal Slaughter Resumes in Canada

Canada’s bloody commercial seal slaughter resumed yesterday, although with many fewer boats and participants than in past years. The offseason fishermen who seek to kill seals do so only because the federal government provides subsidies to help buy up the pelts. But their actions lead to an extraordinary loss of life in this seal nursery.  Today, I offer my latest video blog and commentary.  

You can help stop Canada’s senseless seal slaughter by making a donation to The HSUS’ Protect Seals campaign, which is hard at work to shut down the commercial sealing industry.

April 07, 2014

See World From Orca’s Eyes

It’s been just a little over four years since the captive orca whale Tilikum killed SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in Orlando. But largely due to a powerful documentary, “Blackfish,” so many Americans now see the issue of cetaceans in captivity from a different perspective, and there are serious questions about whether a business model built around captive display of orcas is either economically sustainable or morally acceptable.

Orcas are noted for their striking appearance, their intelligence, and their very strong social bonds

The HSUS has long opposed the display of captive whales and other marine mammals for entertainment, and in the early 1990s we created a program to make our case to the public. Orcas, in particular, are noted for their striking appearance, their intelligence, and their very strong social bonds, which rival those of elephants and higher primates.

Yet we could not have imagined the sequence of events that has unfolded since Brancheau’s tragic death in February 2010. In May 2012, a federal judge affirmed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) determination that SeaWorld had exposed its trainers to a hazardous environment, violating federal law, and affirmed OSHA’s recommendation that trainers never again be allowed in close contact with the animals unless protected by a physical barrier.

In 2012, St. Martin’s Press published the riveting book “Death at Sea World” by David Kirby, who spoke around the nation about the hazards for trainers and orcas at SeaWorld. “Blackfish” added the visual details to the narrative, and when it aired on CNN a number of times during 2013, it drew huge audiences, especially among young people. When I spoke just a month ago at the University of Oklahoma’s business school, it seemed as if all the students had seen the film.  The film had become a cultural phenomenon, and we recognized its director, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, at our Los Angeles 60th anniversary gala a little more than a week ago.

We believe the book and the film provided an important backdrop as The HSUS and other groups pushed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2013 to reject a bid by the Georgia Aquarium and SeaWorld to import 18 wild-caught beluga whales from Russia.  And they also set the stage for the introduction of legislation to end the captive display and performance of orca whales in California. 

In fact, on Tuesday, California state lawmakers serving on the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee in Sacramento will conduct a hearing on AB 2140, the Orca Welfare and Safety Act, introduced by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, to phase out orcas in captivity in California.  Assemblyman Bloom’s legislation, if approved, would end the captivity of orcas for the purpose of entertainment in California. The HSUS supports AB 2140, and California residents can use our online alert to contact their Assembly members.

Scientific opinion over the last two decades or so has coalesced behind the case against keeping orcas and other marine mammals in captivity. We are too aware now of their intelligence, social needs, longevity, ranging habits and size, and it’s just harder and harder to accept their turning tricks for audiences day after day.

A few days ago, there were news accounts that attendance at SeaWorld facilities is down 13 percent. The company’s owner since 2009, The Blackstone Group, is filing to sell another 15 million of its shares in SeaWorld (SEAS), after selling off 18 million in December 2013.  That would make Blackstone a minority shareholder, which must make its ownership feel better given the run of events.  In the meantime SeaWorld is acquiring some of those shares, in effect trying to buy itself.  At this point, that may be the only option, since I cannot imagine many companies investing in an enterprise built around the controversial practice of captive display of orcas.  I don’t expect the public will want much to do with such an industry in the years ahead, and the sooner SeaWorld embraces a new model for doing business, the better.

March 21, 2014

Spring Forward -- for Wildlife

The calendar says spring, but winter doesn’t seem to want to release its hold in some parts, with snow forecast again for next week in Washington, D.C.. But rising temperatures and other signs of spring cannot be held off for many more days. 

The first two baby squirrels of the season arrive at the Cape Wildlife Center. These two were brought in after someone found them and disturbed their nest and was not able to reunite them with their mom. See a slideshow of the spring animals at the animal care centers here.

As the air and soil warm, animals also get more active, bringing life with a new season. At our wildlife care centers, that means babies, and lots of them.  In March, April and May last year, our three affiliated wildlife care centers  (in California, Florida, and Massachusetts) took in more than 1,600 animals – from barn owls to turtles to foxes. To help animals at this time of year, there are some ways you can help, or some rules to pass on to neighbors and friends.

Ten Ways to Spring for Wildlife this Spring

  • Create a Humane Backyard. Perhaps the best way to help wildlife this spring is to create your own sanctuary for them in your own backyard, patio, or balcony.

  • Postpone your spring tree cutting. Squirrels and raccoons den in tree hollows with babies, and trees become nest sites for woodpeckers and all manner of songbirds. Your trees may be occupied, so before cutting, survey as best you can for active dens or nests. Learn more about humane spring cleaning here.

  • Scrap the trap. Spring and summer is when wild animals search out secluded dens and nest sites for raising young – and some of those sites may be in your attic, chimney, or under your deck. Whether you are having issues with prairie dogs, skunks, or pigeons, there are resources available to help you and them.

  • Re-nest baby birds. It’s a myth that if you touch a baby bird, the parents will abandon their baby. There are signs to look for to see if they need help here.

  • Don’t kidnap fawns. People don’t realize that it’s entirely normal for deer to “park” their fawns in yards or other “hiding” spots.  The doe will only visit and nurse her fawn a few times a day to avoid attracting predators to her scent.  Unless you know that the mother is dead, or if the fawn has been crying and wandering around all day, leave him or her alone. 

  • Leave baby rabbits. If the nest is intact and the babies are not injured, leave them be. Mother rabbits only visit their young 2-3 times a day. If you’re concerned, you can put an “X” of sticks or yarn over the nest to assess if the mother is returning to nurse them. If the X stays perfectly in place for 12+ hours, they may be orphaned and need to go to a wildlife rehabilitator.

  • Put up your woodchuck fence. Set up protection for your vegetable garden now - see our tips for preventing conflicts with woodchucks here.

  • Contain your trash. Many wild animal “problems” are actually created by poor garbage disposal practices. Keep trash indoors until the morning of pick-up, use an outdoor storage container (available at home building stores), or use Animal Stopper garbage cans, which have built in bungee cords and are virtually raccoon proof.

  • Don’t rush to judgment about rabies . It’s false that seeing raccoons, foxes, or coyotes active during daylight means they have rabies.  Only if they are acting strangely --- circling, dragging themselves, acting injured or unusually aggressive or tame, should you call an animal control officer for assistance.

  • Support your local wildlife rehabilitator and follow our animal care centers. In addition to volunteering or providing financial support, you can help by donating towels and blankets and other items to wildlife care centers. You can get other tips and learn of rescues and release stories by liking Humane Wildlife Services and our affiliated animal sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers on Facebook: South Florida Wildlife Center, The Fund for Animals Wildlife CenterCape Wildlife CenterDuchess Sanctuary, Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch and Doris Day Equine Center.

The HSUS is our nation’s largest animal care provider, and much of that work involves protecting wildlife. Wildlife need our help, especially during the spring.

March 18, 2014

Sounding the Alarm on Horse Soring


A horse at the National Celebration in Shelbyville in 2013, one of many wearing chains and stacks.

This week, The HSUS rolled out a new television advertisement calling on lawmakers to crack down on the illegal, unethical, and inhumane practice of horse “soring” – where trainers injure the feet and legs of horses by mechanical or chemical means to force them to perform an exaggerated high-stepping gait (known as the “Big Lick”) at competitive shows. The ads started running in Kentucky this week, and urge viewers to call on Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul to support the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, which has 51 cosponsors and was introduced by their Republican colleague Kelly Ayotte. (The House bill, introduced by Kentucky Republican Ed Whitfield and Tennessee Democrat Steve Cohen, has a remarkable 268 cosponsors.) We’ll be expanding the reach of these advertisements to other media markets around the country in the coming weeks.

Sen. Paul sounded off recently in a news story and said he was considering introducing a companion to Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn’s pro-soring bill, H.R. 4098, which would put authority to oversee the practice of soring under the control of the very people engaging in criminal conduct. The Blackburn bill is sham reform, and it would make enforcement of the current weak rules even more difficult.

Sen. Ayotte’s bill, on the other hand, would end the failed industry self-policing system; ban the show-ring use of chains, stacks, and excessively heavy shoes (devices that are part and parcel of the soring process); and increase penalties for violators.

Footage from the undercover investigation revealing shocking abuse. You can ask your legislators to support the PAST Act here.

Sen. Paul would only bring shame on himself to stand in the way of legislation to root out this form of illegal, malicious and intentional cruelty to horses. It’s my hope that he sees that the industry is attempting to deny that abuses are widespread and to protect the “Big Lick” scofflaws. No one should be able to get away with burning chemicals on the legs of horses to cause them pain and misery in order to win ribbons for themselves.

The entire issue was thrust into the spotlight after a 2011 HSUS investigation into Tennessee walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell’s (no relation to the Senator) stable in Collierville, Tenn. The investigator recorded horses being whipped, kicked, shocked in the face and intentionally burned with caustic chemicals. The new commercial shows footage from this investigation.

McConnell is not just one bad apple. He was a leader in the industry and a Hall of Fame trainer, and insiders have said that just about everybody in the “Big Lick” segment of the industry is abusing horses. If they don’t, they feel the other trainers will have an unfair advantage. The rot within the industry has set in for decades, and they are fighting this effort to clean out the decay and criminal subculture.

If they weren’t doing it, why would they fear the PAST Act? And why are they saying the PAST Act would destroy their industry? If there were just a handful of bad operators, they would have nothing to worry about.

The PAST Act is endorsed by the American Veterinary Medical Association, every state veterinary medical association (including the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association), the American Association of Equine Practitioners, and the American Horse Council, along with a host of other national animal protection, veterinary and horse industry organizations.

It is noteworthy that such a diverse and powerful array of organizations have come together to call for a legislative solution to a problem – and some of these groups disagree on other welfare issues, such as horse slaughter. But all of them see soring as torture, and agree that the law must speak and it must be enforced.

Watch the ad below, and then take action by contacting your legislators here


March 04, 2014

The Tweet Heard Round the World

Ellen DeGeneres never ceases to amaze me, with her unparalleled wit and talent, generosity of spirit and passion for animal protection. But she really reached a new high in my book, by directing $1.5 million to The HSUS after Samsung decided to give a dollar to her designated charity for every re-tweet of her now-famous selfie with some of the biggest stars in attendance at Sunday night’s Oscars awards. Her picture, which she tweeted that night to her 27 million followers, became the most re-tweeted in history, with more than three million people pushing out the picture, snapped with an assist from Bradley Cooper and capturing Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, and others in it.

We are going to divide her donation among three of The HSUS’ remarkable programs: Pets for Life, our Shelter Pet Project and our Animal Rescue Team. I’ve written about all of these life-saving programs before, and you can read all about them on our web site. The Animal Rescue Team has particularly been on my mind this week after its heroic rescue of 183 animals, living in filth and suffering from a lack of basic care, at a suspected puppy mill in Jefferson County, Ark. Tia Pope, manager of puppy mill response for The HSUS, said, "No animal should ever be forced to live in conditions like this…Now, they'll get the opportunity to live happy, healthy lives."

Arkansas puppy mill 240x270
Chuck Cook/ The HSUS
A dog rescued from Jefferson Co. Arkansas

Indeed, that’s what we try to do for all animals – provide them with happy, healthy lives. Ellen has always been on board with our strategy. She, too, cares about all animals. She’s had me on her show to talk about our campaigns a half dozen times, including back in 2008 in the run-up to Proposition 2, the landmark ballot measure to ban the extreme confinement of laying hens, breeding sows, and veal calves in the Golden State. That law, and a follow up law to apply Prop 2 standards for hens to eggs sold in the state, is under attack from the Missouri Attorney General, so our work is never done.

We’ve talked about the lives of privation and misery that animals on factory farms endure, and also about defending Missouri’s anti-puppy mill ballot measure from attacks in the Legislature, and about blocking ag-gag bills that try to silence our undercover investigations.

She’s the leading celebrity voice for animal protection in our nation, and we are so lucky to have her on our side. And all of us at The HSUS are so honored she chose to invest in our work, given all of the other worthy charities that serve animals and people.

Her support comes at an especially significant time as we are making preparations for our first 60th Anniversary gala event in Los Angeles later this month – to raise money for our companion animal and anti-factory farming work. There, California Gov. Jerry Brown, who has signed a raft of animal welfare legislation since becoming governor in 2011, will receive our Humane Governor award. We’ll also be recognizing Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the director of Blackfish, and two other celebrities who have done so much to advance the cause of animal protection – James Cromwell and Paul Wesley.

Because we’ll have a whole bunch of other celebrities at the event, I may go out and buy a Samsung Galaxy Note and go into the crowd and take a selfie with them. Bradley, can you help me, like you helped Ellen? We need you, man. March 29, Beverly Hilton, 6:30 p.m.

Ellen oscar selfie
Associated Press/ Ellen DeGeneres

February 27, 2014

Modern Family (Planning) for Animals

Spay Day comic
Mutts ©2014 Patrick McDonnell

It’s a year of milestones for The HSUS.  It’s our 60th year, and my 10th as CEO.  Tuesday marked the 20th anniversary of World Spay Day (started by our affiliate the Doris Day Animal League) which involved more than 600 organizers in all 50 U.S. states, and almost 50 countries hosting events. Our Pets for Life teams in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia hit the streets, transporting dozens of pets to the spay/neuter appointments at our partner clinics. In all, thousands of dedicated individuals worked to limit dog and cat reproduction as a way to prevent pet homelessness and euthanasia across the globe.

It took The HSUS, more than any other group, to normalize the practice of spaying and neutering by starting that discussion decades ago.  Especially over the last three decades, our movement has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in sterilization as a humane population control strategy. And there’s been a big pay-off -- euthanasia rates that perhaps once eclipsed 15 million now hover at around 3 million. Of course, that’s still 3 million too many, but the trends favor us. We now know, with an investment of additional resources in spay and neuter, promotion of pet adoption, and other companion animal protection strategies, we can drop that number even further.

Through the years, veterinarians and advocates have become extremely efficient in perfecting the spay/neuter surgery process – with more than 100 high-volume, high-quality, low-cost clinics running across the country. All the while, we’re all looking for a better, faster, easier and cheaper method for sterilizing cats and dogs.

Just last week, on February 17th, Ark Sciences commercially launched Zeuterin™, the only FDA-approved nonsurgical sterilant for male dogs. Veterinarians and veterinary technicians around the country have been receiving training and certification in its use, and for the first time in World Spay Day history, ten communities—from San Francisco to Orlando to Chattanooga—hosted “Zeuter-a-thons” where dogs were sterilized without surgery.

Zeuterin™ (zinc gluconate neutralized with arginine) is approved for use in male dogs between 3-10 months, and is administered by intratesticular injection. Unlike surgical castration, Zeuterin doesn’t require anesthesia, just a light sedation if necessary, and dogs treated are alert within 15 to 20 minutes of the procedure and ready to go home.

The introduction of Zeuterin is an exciting innovation, and we hope the first of many non-surgical sterilization methods for animals.  Just as the pill revolutionized women’s health and family planning, contraceptive strategies for animals can be game-changing.  Other organizations, like the Alliance for Contraception in Cats & Dogs (ACC&D), are continuing the important work to expedite the successful introduction of such new methods for sterilization. 

The HSUS has worked for years to develop a workable immunoconceptive vaccine for horses and white-tailed deer in free-roaming settings.  In fact, next week, in partnership with the Village of Hastings-On-Hudson in New York, The HSUS will launch the first ever immunocontraception study conducted on a free-roaming deer population living in an open, suburban area in the U.S. If successful, we hope the project will serve as a model for municipalities in New York to replicate, and throughout the country.

And with Zoo Montana, we’ve worked to see the use of contraceptive vaccines to control reproduction for dozens of species on exhibit in zoos.  Another sometime collaborator has been Innolytics, a company that has a non-surgical reproductive inhibitor (Ovocontrol) for pigeons; what a revolution that would bring in the management of this urban species, if it could be widely used.  

Imagine the possibilities if we as a movement can perfect chemical sterilization methods for dogs, rats, pigeons and other animals where the current strategies are lethal.  New technologies and innovation will provide a pathway to see animal protection values soar in the years ahead.

February 26, 2014

Shelter Pets Coming to a TV Screen Near You

Last week I visited the Maryland SPCA in Baltimore, where I participated in a national satellite radio and television media tour to publicize the launch of a new series of public service advertisements on behalf of The Shelter Pet Project campaign. The campaign is a joint project involving The Humane Society of the United States, Maddie’s Fund, and the Ad Council. Maddie’s Fund president Rich Avanzino and I, along with The HSUS’s Betsy McFarland, did interviews in 28 media markets to trumpet the new ads and to remind millions of viewers about the importance of helping shelters and saving the lives of companion animals by choosing adoption.

Shelter pet project
Find the shelter pet for you at
 Photo by HSUS

In these wonderful ads, fetching dogs and cats practically reach through TV screens, imploring audiences to play with them. The new TV, outdoor and web PSAs take a playful approach to breaking down shelter pet adoption barriers. The individual personalities of real-life adopted shelter dogs and cats are showcased, with the pets playfully licking or pawing at screens seemingly in an effort to reach pet lovers on the other side.

All of the animals featured in the ads—cats like Maui and Stetson, and dogs like Arnie, Jules, and Kuma—were adopted from shelters and rescue groups. The goal of the ads is to remind prospective pet parents that at any one time there are hundreds of thousands of amazing shelter pets ready to meet them in the nation’s local animal shelters. Each PSA concludes with the message that, "The only way to find out how amazing shelter pets really are…is to meet one," and invites viewers to visit to learn more.

Since we launched this campaign in 2009, The Shelter Pet Project has worked to lift public perception of animal shelters and shelter pets and has played a part in driving down the number of pets euthanized in shelters by 12 percent. Three to four million shelter pets get adopted each year, which means just 29 percent of dogs and 33 percent of cats in American homes were adopted from shelters or rescue groups. Still, 2.7 million healthy or treatable pets are euthanized each year in shelters, and we will not rest until that number stands at zero.

So far, the Shelter Pet Project has generated more than $167 million in free public service advertising to promote local shelters and rescue groups – and this is a way that The HSUS not only helps animals, but also the animal shelters that would not otherwise be able to afford or place this kind of advertising. More people are walking through their doors, more homeless pets are getting homes, and euthanasia rates are on the decline.


We hope these videos inspire animal lovers around the country to support their local animal shelters and that they encourage their friends to adopt a pet in need of a home. Take a look at the new ads here, and please share them widely.  You can also ask your local TV and radio stations to run the ads as a way to help animals.


February 25, 2014

The Rule of Law, and the Criminal Enterprises of Cockfighting and Horse Soring

Recently, a group of cockfighters made some noise in Kentucky, threatening to oust U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell in his 2014 re-election bid because he voted in January for the Farm Bill, which included an HSUS-backed provision to make it a federal crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fighting spectacle.  I think it’s fair to say that these fellows have brought single-issue politics to an historic low.

A Tennessee Walking Horse at the National Celebration in Shelbyville, TN
Photo by HSUS

Because of a weak state anti-cockfighting law and no federal enforcement of the ban on fighting animals in the Bluegrass State, Kentucky cockfighters have staged animal fights with impunity. Now with the upgrade in the federal law, they know there’s trouble ahead. Instead of finally complying with federal and state law, and ceasing their ruthless and barbaric activity, these organized criminals are threatening political retaliation in its defense. My head spins at their gall.

It’s pretty much the same thing with the horse soring crowd. It’s been illegal under federal law for more than 40 years, and also illegal under the state laws of Kentucky and Tennessee, to intentionally injure the hooves and legs of horses to cause them to exaggerate their gait during horse shows. It’s called horse “soring” and it involves the infliction of torment upon horses – by chemical or mechanical means -- as a way to get a leg up and win ribbons at competitive showing events.

These people, like the cockfighters, are scofflaws. They are actively working in the political domain – in this case, lobbying against pending federal legislation, H.R. 1518 and S. 1406, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act -- to protect their criminal enterprise.

As with the cockfighters, the walls are closing in on the horse soring crowd. There’s a growing list of endorsing organizations, including groups that don’t always see eye to eye on other issues, such as horse slaughter for human consumption. In the fight to end soring, The HSUS is aligned with the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Horse Council, and more than 100 other major equine and veterinary groups. More than ever, veterinarians and other prominent individuals who have seen soring first hand are speaking up and demanding that Congress pass this legislation.

Among the most prominent voices announcing his support for the PAST Act in recent weeks is Bill Harlin, a man The Tennessean describes as “synonymous with Tennessee Walking Horses,” and the owner of Harlinsdale Farm where some of the most famous grand champions in the breed originated. “Self-regulation,” he said in recent comments to The Tennessean, “will never work.” 

horse with stacks
Horses are still subjected to cruel stacked shoes and chains while we wait for Congress. Take action today.

We’ve known for a long time that there’s a cult at work in this industry, determined to cover-up and excuse their crimes. Harlin has said that passing the bill -- which would eliminate the self-policing system, ban the cruel use of chains and stacks associated with soring, and strengthen penalties for violators -- is the only way “to save our breed.” His son Clay, who has been involved in the industry for 47 years, said the Big Lick crowd, as they’re known, was “unwilling to completely stop the abuse of show horses.” He, too, called on Congress to pass the bill.

Veterinarian John C. Haffner recently related that his increasing exposure to ever more blatant abuse of horses compelled him to sell his veterinary practice. After years of witnessing trainers’ efforts to make sure their horses were in enough pain to perform the Big Lick but not so much that they’d fail inspections, he found that he was unable to stomach the corruption and cruelty any longer, and joined the effort to protect walking horses from this outrageous treatment.

There are now more than 300 cosponsors of the PAST Act – a majority of the Congress (45 Senators and 264 House members). We must demand that congressional leaders take up this bill, with its overwhelming support, and not let a band of organized criminals on the Big Lick circuit block a vote. I hope you’ll contact your two U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative today and urge them to cosponsor the PAST Act, H.R. 1518/S.1406, and do all they can to get it enacted quickly. I hope you’ll forward this e-mail to friends and ask them to do the same.

Cockfighters and horse soring enthusiasts should have no more influence on the political process than drug dealers or car jackers.  Any legislators who stand with these criminals and against progress for animals won’t face just hollow threats from the lawbreakers, but an actual revolt among upstanding citizens and voters. With election to public office comes a duty to uphold and preserve the rule of law, all the more compelling in light of the moral rot associated with these two cruelties.

February 24, 2014

Discover Easy Ways to Help Animals

There are so many ways to help animals, such as volunteering for an animal protection group, contacting lawmakers about pending legislation, or making choices in the marketplace that reflect an awareness of animal testing, the trade in wildlife parts or pelts, or factory farming.

I also find myself so inspired by the people who work to help The Humane Society of the United States, especially young people who devote themselves to the cause and who use the many new tools we’ve created to enable them to magnify their impact and to make a difference for animals. Indeed, the millions of supporters of The HSUS, working collectively and channeling their energies and talents through the organization, are driving transformational change for animals the likes of which our movement has never seen.

One new tool we’ve developed is myHumane, a personalized platform to allow animal advocates to raise money to support the critical work of The HSUS. Many people now devote their birthday “presents” to The HSUS, asking friends and family to donate in lieu of making personal or material gifts to them.  Others set up such pages as an alternative to a wedding or baby registry. Still others set up pages to support fundraising marathons or other challenges, to gather support for the cause. It’s also possible to set up a personalized memorial to honor a beloved friend, family member, or companion animal who has passed away.

I recently heard from 10-year-old Shira Zeiberg, who has been raising money for The HSUS on her birthday for the past few years, and is a determined advocate in her Connecticut community. By using myHumane, she raised over $2,000 to support HSUS recently! Shira and her older sister Brianna have personally raised more than $5,000 for The HSUS since they put their mind to the task, and their mom is now serving on our Connecticut State Council.

There’s another outstanding tool to help us in our work, and you don’t have to wait until a birthday or some other major occasion rolls around. We announced last week a relationship with Discover, so that any purchases you make on our new HSUS Discover Card will help animals. It’s the only HSUS credit card that supports the mission and programs of The HSUS.

Here’s how it works: Discover will give to The HSUS each time you use the card, and you’ll help support our efforts to shut down puppy mills, rescue animals after disasters, end the Canadian seal slaughter, expose the abuse and suffering of animals in factory farms, stop dogfighting and so much more. You can even convert your existing Discover Card over to an HSUS Discover Card – my wife did this for us earlier this week and it was easy as could be. Learn more and apply for the card today at or call 1-800-204-1336 and use invitation code KC3J to sign up so we get credit for sending you their way.

Our supporters are the driving force behind The HSUS, (take a look at what your support made possible in 2013 alone here) and we wouldn’t be able to do our work without you. I hope you’ll check out these new ways to help, and share them with your friends as well.

PS If you’re looking for even more ways to help animals, like donating an old vehicle to HSUS, I’m sharing my list of 55 ways to do just that here.


February 19, 2014

Give a Hoot About Wildlife

We have so many touches with animals in our lives, from pets in our communities to wildlife in our backyards or open spaces. When it comes to the animals we encounter in our daily doings, the first principle is “do no harm.” The HSUS and other groups also provide many services for animals in need, but we also depend on private citizens being sentinels for animals and supporting groups like ours that provide a safety net for animals in need or even in crisis. 

The Snowy Owl patient at our Cape Wildlife Center. See more Snowy Owl photos here. Photo by Kelly Coffin.

Sometimes, even in communities where we are very intimately familiar with the entire cast of characters – human and non-human – there are some occasional surprises. The greatest example of this in recent weeks has been the influx of Snowy owls -- made famous by Hedwig in the Harry Potter series -- well south of their normal range. Boston has charted the largest number of Snowy owls ever recorded. The owls have also been spotted this winter in the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Virginia and even as far south as Arkansas, North Carolina, and Florida.

Some Snowy owls have been hit by cars, or run into power lines or aircraft. Several were shot at New York’s JFK Airport in December 2013, until an outcry forced humane trapping and removal of the birds instead. Fortunately that was not the case at Boston’s Logan Airport, where the birds are being trapped and moved out of harm’s way.

Our Cape Wildlife Center, one of five animal care centers across the country operated by The Fund for Animals and The HSUS, is currently treating a Snowy owl who was hit by a car as he glided across a roadway in search of food. Local groups are caring for an owl struck by a bus in D.C.

While it’s difficult to mitigate the effects of human activities for surprising visitors from the north who are unaware of the hazards of populated, temperate climates, we can be more much conscious of our behavior toward more familiar and common wildlife in our communities.

Sometimes we do things with the best of intentions, but our behavior contributes to the suffering of animals. For example, thousands of water birds, including ducks, geese and swans, die annually from “angel wing,” a condition caused by feeding them white bread and other “people food” that is unhealthy for them.

Those providing the bread believe they are helping the birds survive; tragically, most experts contend this unhealthy diet is the major cause of angel wing, which unnaturally and permanently twists birds’ wings outward, making it impossible for them to fly. Affected birds can’t escape predators and are often maimed or killed. Those that manage to survive spring and summer usually die by winter, since they are unable to escape snowstorms, hurricanes and other life-threatening weather conditions. Virtually no adult birds with angel wing can survive in the wild for long.

A swan with angel wing at our Wildlife Care Center. Read about some of the reasons feeding wildlife can do more harm than good. Photo by Deborah Robbins Millman

Our Cape Wildlife Center, and most wildlife centers across the country, see many angel wing cases every year. The highest incidence of admission is usually late fall and winter, when the affected birds have grown enough for the condition to be fully and painfully apparent. If the patients treated are very young, angel wing can sometimes be reversed by splinting and repositioning the affected wing and feeding a proper diet. Even then, recovery is a challenge. For rehabilitators, it can be frustrating and emotionally taxing to see so many birds who could have survived if people knew how harmful “people food” can be for them.

If you want to feed the local ducks and geese, then please think about what is best for them. Provide treats, not full banquets. We should not make these birds dependent on handouts and we should realize their natural diets are generally best for them. Leafy kale, seedless grapes cut in half and even commercially available duck food will provide nutritious snacks for adults and children alike to view and enjoy these wild neighbors.