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534 posts from Actions to Help Animals

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.  

February 05, 2014

No Medal for Sochi When it Comes to Animals

The Olympic Games promote international competition, but also cooperation and respect among individuals and nations. As billions of people tune in to the Olympics, they typically have a swelling of patriotism for their own country and its athletes, but at the same time they experience feelings of greater tolerance and appreciation for all peoples of the world. 

However, as the Winter Games launch in Sochi, there’s a backstory that threatens to mar this global spectacle. A form of animal cleansing is taking place on the streets of Sochi as the games get underway. Authorities there have undertaken the mass killing of street dogs in a horribly misguided effort to “beautify and sanitize” Sochi as they welcome athletes and visitors from all over the world to their city.

Despite promises from the Sochi government that street culling of dogs would not be part of preparations for the Olympics, it has reneged and hired a private "killing" company that is currently hunting and poisoning the dogs its spokespersons call "biological trash."

The number of dogs to be slaughtered is unknown, but according to news reports, the company was told to kill "as many as possible" before the opening ceremony.

A street dog in Bhutan, where HSI has already sterilized and vaccinated nearly 50,000 animals.
Take action here to speak out for the street dogs in Sochi.

Humane Society International has long rejected mass culling as unethical and ineffective. Instead, HSI works around the world to humanely address street dog populations and problems. For nearly two decades, we’ve successfully implemented spay/neuter/vaccination programs. Working with governments and communities, our initiatives incorporate mass animal sterilization, vaccination and community education.

And last year, when word about a possible cull first started to spread, we offered to conduct such a program in Sochi.  While we received no response to the offer, we were heartened that authorities said they’d not go down the path of mass killing. It’s really sad that they decided to do so after all.

Russia dedicated $50 billion to ensure the success of the games. If even a fraction of those funds had been allocated to addressing the street dog issue in Sochi in a humane and sustainable manner, this cruel and short-sighted scheme could have been avoided – and the nation could have engendered goodwill, not moral condemnation.

If this is to be Sochi’s opening act, this year’s Olympics will be tarnished. It is my sincere hope is that President Vladimir Putin will hear the global pleas to stop the cull, and work with us to provide a better life for the dogs of Sochi, to ensure the safety of its citizens and visitors, and to earn its place among the dozens of communities worldwide that have chosen to do their very best for animals and people alike. 

Take action today and urge President Putin to stop the cull and use humane methods of managing the street dogs in Sochi and throughout Russia.

January 27, 2014

HSUS Undercover Investigation Shutters NJ Slaughter Plant

This morning, The HSUS publicly released footage of our latest undercover investigation into slaughterhouse abuses and the continuing mistreatment of downer calves – in this case, at the Catelli Bros. slaughter plant in suburban Monmouth County, New Jersey. The HSUS provided footage and other investigative materials to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, urging enforcement action, and as a result the Department shut down the plant last Friday.

Our undercover investigator documented calves being forced to rise to their feet by men who wrapped the calves’ tails around their hands – lifting the entire weight of the calf by this appendage.  One calf with a broken leg was dragged by a chain around his neck and other calves were struck, kicked, pulled by their ears, and sprayed with water. The plant manager warned workers not to take some of these actions when the USDA inspector was around – an indirect admission that he knew that workers were breaking the law on animal handling.  

You may recall our 2009 investigation of Bushway – a calf slaughter plant in Grand Isle, Vermont, where we found calves too weak to walk being kicked, shocked, thrown, and dragged to slaughter. That case prompted The HSUS to file a petition with the USDA asking that the agency close a loophole in the regulations that allowed these downed calves to be set aside to see if they could recover enough to walk onto the kill floor.  The USDA requires euthanasia for downed adult cattle at slaughter plants, but the rule excludes calves.  Where humane handling is concerned, the problems are the same; no bulls, cows, or calves should be subjected to this treatment, regardless of their age or gender.

Our investigator captured still-conscious calves trying to right themselves on the bleed line. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA) – which The HSUS works to secure substantial funding for each fiscal year -- requires that animals be unconscious before they are shackled and hung upside down so their throats can be slit. Our investigation also found that some calves undergoing shechita (ritual slaughter) remained conscious for more than two minutes after their necks were opened up. Unfortunately, the HMSA doesn’t specify how soon ritually-slaughtered animals should reach an unconscious state.

Bernie Rollin, distinguished professor of animal science at Colorado State University watched our video and wrote, “Of all the atrocity videos I have viewed, the current video of the slaughterhouse at Catelli Brothers must be ranked among the three worst.” The treatment of the calves at Catelli outraged Dr. Rollin enough to write: “The conclusion to be drawn from this video data is self-evident. This plant should be closed down immediately”

It took an HSUS undercover investigation released in 2008 to prompt USDA, a year later, to act on our long-standing demand that downed dairy cows not be abused.  That investigation at the Hallmark slaughter plant in southern California showed “spent” dairy cows being shocked, water-boarded, and, in some cases, tormented by being tossed around on the sharp tines of a front-end loader.

It’s been more than four years since our Bushway investigation about downer calf abuses.  Our Catelli Bros. investigation shows that similar abuses are still occurring. There is a federal law prohibiting cruelty in slaughter that has been in place for more than half a century  - it was the first campaign of the HSUS at the time of its founding in 1954.  But in too many quarters we see its basic requirements being ignored by those charged to observe and to enforce it, and in this case, we see a glaring deficiency in the law that needs to be corrected regarding the abuse of downer calves.  While we applaud USDA for shutting down this plant,  we should not need HSUS investigations to call out these abuses plant by plant. Stronger enforcement and more consistent legal standards on downers are what USDA should serve up.


January 22, 2014

Japan’s Shameful Butchery of Dolphins

Since the release in 2009 of the chilling documentary “The Cove,” and thanks to a much-welcomed tweet last week from newly minted U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy condemning the “drive hunt,” the herding and butchering of dolphins in the small inlet in Taiji, Japan is unlikely to go unnoticed.  Last week, fishermen captured and trapped 250 bottlenose dolphins, and they killed 30 of them just yesterday.

Dolphins in the Cove photo courtesy of the Cove/Participant Media

The drive hunt is barbaric. The fishermen use small motorized boats to locate pods of dolphins and other small whales, and begin herding the animals toward shore, using the noise of the boats' engines and the banging of pipes underwater. There are reports, too, of the use of underwater explosives. Once the animals are on the shore or in the shallow bay, fishermen then get into the waist-deep water and move through the pods, stabbing animals to death, in full view of the other pod members. These highly intelligent animals are slaughtered for meat, pet food, and fertilizer. The fishermen spare the best specimens and sell them to marine parks, consigning them to a less violent but still grim fate, abducted from their families, never to return to their natural homes, and sentenced to life in concrete tanks.

In the late 1980s, marine parks and aquariums (including U.S. parks) and the U.S. Navy began purchasing live animals from Japan, paying many thousands of dollars for each animal. This contributed to the profit-making of the Taiji hunters. In 1993, a California marine park sought to import several dolphins from Japan, but the U.S. government stipulated that the dolphins could only be imported if they had been captured "humanely."  Because the capture violated the conditions of the permit, the government prohibited the import. Since then, no dolphins have been imported into the U.S. from Japan.  However, there are other markets and willing buyers to take the animals, mainly in Asia and the Middle East. 

A bottlenose dolphin and her calf. Dolphins of all ages are slaughtered in the brutal hunt.
Photo credit: NOAA

In response to all this, there have been global demonstrations, boycotts, congressional resolutions, the global distribution of “The Cove,” and most recently, Ambassador Kennedy’s courageous statement. All the while, Japanese officials have defended the slaughter and capture as their cultural right, retorting that U.S. citizens eat beef and hunt animals for sport. The Taiji hunt, whilst the most notorious, is one of a number of hunts of dolphins and small whales conducted in Japanese waters. In any one year, in combination, these hunts may claim the lives of some 20,000 cetaceans. 

But there has been some progress in Japan. A growing number of supermarkets in Japan have stopped selling whale and dolphin meat, including AEON, Ito-Yokado (7-Eleven’s parent corporation), Seiyu, and more. In addition, our supporters have helped us end the sale of dolphin meat on Internet market sites like Amazon and Google. However, Yahoo! Japan continues to sell whale and dolphin meat products. 

The government of Japan is ultimately responsible for the killing of these highly intelligent marine mammals, known well to us for their heroic efforts to protect drowning seafarers or to protect swimmers from sharks. We can help repay these creatures for their long-standing, documented record of altruism by continuing to bring pressure on those who profit from this spectacle in Japan.  In the end, we must act together make it plain that it’s only a tiny fraction of people in the world who would exhibit such callousness and cruelty to animals who deserve so much better from our species. 

January 15, 2014

Paying Top Dollar to Kill the Rarest Mammals

Today in Hanoi, Vietnam, buses are carrying the message that buying, selling, and transporting rhino horn is illegal – a crime punishable by up to seven years in prison in that country. The messages are part of Vietnam’s National Rhino Horn Demand Reduction Campaign, initiated and implemented by the government of Vietnam in cooperation with The HSUS’ international arm, Humane Society International. This multi-faceted communications campaign, which began in August 2013, has reached millions of Vietnamese citizens, with a special focus on messaging to young people about the importance of not consuming rhino horn products. With only about 28,000 rhinos of five species left in the wild, and millions of potential rhino horn users, reducing demand for horn is the key to saving rhinos from extinction.  Indeed, the poachers only kill the rhinos because they make money from it.  No demand, no dollars.

RHINO_AND_BABY_HORIZONTAL_CHRISTOPHE_CERISIER_ISTOCK_92345Our constructive, strategic activities to protect rhinos are in stark contrast with the tactics of the Dallas Safari Club. On Saturday night, the club auctioned off a permit to hunt an endangered black rhino in Namibia, which is home to fewer than 2,000 of these prehistoric-looking beasts. The winner of the auction agreed to pay $350,000 for the right to kill a black rhino, something highly desired by trophy hunters who seek to add the rarest animals to their trophy collections. Because the black rhino is listed as an endangered species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA), the winner will need to get an import permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to bring the trophy home.

The ESA makes it clear that such permits should only be granted when the import will enhance the survival of the species in the wild. Once the winner applies for the import permit, there will be a 30-day comment period. We plan to provide evidence to the FWS that trophy hunting a member of a critically endangered species is harmful to that species. We invite you to sign a petition that we will submit along with our comments showing that people do not support issuance of the import permit. The U.S. government needs to understand that the American public does not support the Orwellian idea of killing endangered species to save them – even if it comes with a big cash pay-out.  Where will it end?  Will a Safari Club International (SCI) member offer $1 million for the opportunity to shoot an orangutan, $2 million for an Asian elephant, and maybe even more for a Siberian tiger?  The first rule of protecting the rarest animals in the world is to protect each living member of that species.

Groups like HSI are putting money into rhino protection – in the range states and in the states where rhino horn is sold, and we aren’t demanding an opportunity to shoot, capture, snare, terrorize, or baste a rhino.  We just want them to live unmolested, protected from human harm and spared from sacrifice for any purpose – spiritual or material.

The black rhino auction and hunt provides a window into the world of competitive trophy hunting – where SCI members are in a global race against one another to rack up more trophies, of rarer and rarer animals, in order to gain more recognition within the pantheon. 

Earlier this week, these trophy hunters got a gift from the Congress. Tucked with the $1.1 trillion spending package was a rider allowing for three endangered antelope species –scimitar-horned oryx, addax and dama gazelle – to be killed in captive hunts here in the United States without any oversight. These “canned hunts” are the antithesis of fair chase, where shooters kill captive animals for trophies, often spending thousands of dollars to do so.

While the FWS currently allows captive hunting of endangered antelope, the agency requires any would-be hunters to obtain a federal permit, and these permits are only issued when the killing is found to enhance the survival of the species in the wild. It’s a not-so-subtle attempt to shoot a hole in the ESA, for the benefit of a handful of trophy hunters. The fight to protect endangered species continues against many perpetrators, including competitive trophy hunters who value animals more dead than alive. People like these apparently gain some measure of self-worth by filling their dens with frozen faces of the world’s most glorious, and often rarest, mammals.

December 31, 2013

HSUS: Animal Care Around the Globe

Animal care is a core part of our organization, whether it’s the deployment of our animal rescue teams or our disaster responders, our setting up of emergency shelters to help animals in crisis, our urban and rural outreach and veterinary work in underserved communities, our international street dog management, our wildlife response, or the daily sanctuary and rehabilitation provided to animals at our network of animal care centers. Here are 10 examples of such work from 2013 – work that saves lives, and work that would probably not get done but for The HSUS and its affiliates.

Animal Care Centers Helping Thousands in Need

Our animal care centers – operated by our affiliates, The Fund for Animals, the South Florida Wildlife Center, and Humane Society International – provided sanctuary and rehabilitation to more than 20,000 animals in 2013. At the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, we acquired an additional 61 acres of land, opened a new veterinary hospital and equine handling center, and continued to provide outstanding care for nearly 1,000 domestic and exotic animals rescued from research laboratories, roadside zoos, captive hunting operations, factory farms, horse slaughter plants, the exotic pet trade, and Bureau of Land Management round-ups.

CABBR burro
Jean-Paul Bonnelly
Burros at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch
in Murchison, Texas.

The South Florida Wildlife Center built two new pools for migratory and shore-birds. The Duchess Sanctuary finished its 4,464 square foot hospital barn thanks to the Ark Watch Foundation, and offered resident horses an additional six miles of fencing – completing the 1,000 acres of pastures for the horses to roam. The Cape Wildlife Center continued to expand its educational offerings to veterinary and other professionals, and further distinguished itself as a provider of care to fishers, bats, and New England cottontails, among other species. The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center near San Diego, Calif., opened its new 5,400 square foot medical, rehabilitation, and operations center, and recorded more than 12,000 volunteer hours of wildlife rehabilitation work.

HSI Latin America completed improvements and construction of wildlife rescue centers in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, we partnered with local wildlife groups to build rescue centers from the ground up, providing an alternative for confiscated wildlife to be rehabilitated and re-released. We increased the animals coming into the rescue centers by 300 percent, resulting in nearly 5,000 animals received. In this past year, we successfully released 240 animals back into the wild in Guatemala.

Contracepting Horses and Other Animals

During 2013, we darted and successfully treated more than 100 mares in Colorado’s Sand Wash Basin Herd as part of our efforts to show the value and impact of the PZP (porcine zona pellucida) vaccine for contraception of animals in specific situations where population management is warranted. We have also contracepted approximately 300 elephants in South Africa in an ongoing program that’s shown impressive success since its inception.

Delivering Street Dog Management That Matters, Worldwide

Humane Society International directly reached more than 61,000 street dogs, providing spay/neuter services, general veterinary treatment, and humane education in Asia, Africa, the South Pacific, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Helping companion animals in developing nations, where there are few animal shelters, presents challenges not seen in the United States. HSI’s street dog programs stand at the leading edge of the trend toward humane management of the world’s 300 million-plus street dogs.

Gopher Tortoises Get to See the Sunlight

Gopher Tortoise Relocation Project
Julie Busch Branaman/The HSUS

In our ongoing efforts to prevent endangered gopher tortoises and other creatures from being entombed at development sites in Florida, we moved 428 tortoises and 368 commensal species in 2013. As a result of our team’s work, 4,000 gopher tortoises have been spared the fate of being buried alive since 2006.

HSVMA-RAVS Teams on the Go

The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association-Rural Area Veterinary Services program provided free spay/neuter and veterinary care, valued at more than $1.2 million, to more than 7,000 pets in underserved rural communities in the United States and Latin America, and trained more than 400 veterinary students. In the United States, RAVS staged small animal field clinics in 20 communities on 11 Native American reservations, and veterinarians and technicians logged 40,000 volunteer hours of donated service. Abroad, RAVS provided services to animals in six countries (Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Peru).

Humane Wildlife Services on the Rise

Over the last year, Humane Wildlife Services solved conflicts (or carried out rescues) involving more than 2,700 animals, encompassing 21 different urban wildlife species. This program has singlehandedly sparked a shift in the nuisance control industry, which can no longer readily deny that professional services can effectively exclude animals from homes and other structures without doing them harm.

Prairie Dogs Get to Live on the Prairie

We’ve rescued nearly 600 prairie dogs from crisis situations at five sites, including the floods that devastated northeast Colorado. We continue to fight the widespread poisoning and land conversion in the western states have imperiled this keystone species and thereby the health of our northern grasslands ecosystems.

Pets For Life Expands its Groundbreaking Outreach

Pets For Life Atlanta Event
Andres Salazar

Pets for Life brought vital pet care services to 12,000 pets, providing 8,773 spay/neuter surgeries in underserved communities in Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. In the first year of the Pets for Life training and mentorship program, funded by PetSmart Charities, we provided mentorship to animal shelters and rescue groups in 10 new cities. The first-year grants made it possible to provide service to more than 9,500 pets and to perform 4,200 spay/neuter surgeries. We’ve now helped with implementation of Pets for Life-style programs in 22 communities nationwide.

Response Teams Coming to the Rescue

The HSUS Animal Rescue Team deployed 19 times and rescued more than 2,500 animals from desperate circumstances. Of the animals rescued, 724 were from puppy mills, 489 from animal fighting operations, and 1,567 from situations tied to hoarding and neglect. On the disaster front, our Philippines-based HSI team led an effective animal-related response after Typhoon Haiyan.

World Spay Day Reaches Unprecedented Levels

World Spay Day, a legacy program of the Doris Day Animal League, continued to expand worldwide. This year’s action featured 616 events, 453 event organizers, 38 countries, and 58,572 spay/neuter surgeries worldwide.

In the future, we’ll be conducting even more of this work. And we know that we can count on you to help these animals in crisis. At The HSUS, we work to prevent cruelty to millions and even billions. But we never forget the individual animals and the people who care about them.

December 30, 2013

Law & Order: Special Victims APL Unit

After I was elected president of The HSUS nearly a decade ago – and right on the heels of our corporate combination with The Fund for Animals – one thing I set out to do was to create a dedicated unit of animal protection lawyers to push forward the organization’s humane agenda in the courts, and to support our legislative and corporate campaigns with the best possible legal advice and analysis.

Over the last eight years, our Animal Protection Litigation team has filed more than 130 legal actions, secured 110 favorable rulings for animals in state and federal courts around the country, and won millions of dollars in judgments, settlements, and attorneys' fees from animal abusers. Our in-house team has been able to leverage relationships with more than a dozen of the biggest law firms in the United States, and they deliver millions of dollars’ worth of pro bono services – multiplying our impact many times over. We are especially grateful to the incredible roster of high-profile firms that do incredible pro bono work day in and day out for animals, including Hunton & Willams, Latham & Watkins, Milbank Tweed, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, Schiff Hardin, Weil Gotshal, and many other firms that contributed to this year’s legal successes.

These accomplishments, and more, led animal law expert David Wolfson to tell the Huffington Post that The HSUS is “definitely the leading shop for litigation for animal protection.”

This year has been another landmark year, with our litigation team helping endangered whales, delaying horse slaughter plants from opening in the United States, and securing the largest court judgment for animal abuse ever entered in a U.S. court.

Here is our top 10 highlights for 2013:

Multi-Million Dollar Judgment for Slaughterhouse Cruelty

Hallmark investigation

After more than six years of intensive litigation working side-by-side with federal prosecutors, The HSUS’ legal team secured the largest penalty for animal abuse ever: a $155 million judgment against the now defunct Hallmark Meat Packing Company, where HSUS investigators exposed shocking cruelty to downer cows in 2008. The owners and investors can only pay $3.1 million of the judgment, which constitutes the bulk of their remaining assets.

World Trade Organization Ruling Upholding European Union Ban on Seal Trade

In November, the World Trade Organization issued a long-awaited ruling holding that countries can ban the import of animal products based on public moral objections to cruelty. Perhaps the most important legal ruling for animals in a decade, the decision upheld the European Union’s ban on trade in products of commercial seal hunts. HSUS and HSI attorneys filed extensive briefing in the case, which could have wiped out many of our key domestic legislative victories.

Upholding California Laws Banning Extreme Confinement, Foie Gras, Trapping, and Shark Finning

Throughout 2013, The HSUS’ litigation team had to grapple with nearly a dozen new lawsuits seeking to overturn the fruits of our legislative victories for animals. In California, we faced down six different lawsuits, bested every challenger, and won rulings upholding the state’s historic bans on cruel trapping methods, force-feeding of ducks for foie gras, shark finning, and abusive confinement of farm animals.

Bringing Captive Chimpanzees Under the Protections of the Endangered Species Act

In June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granted a legal petition filed by our lawyers seeking to list all chimpanzees, whether wild or captive, as endangered. Once finalized next year, the regulation will significantly curtail the use of captive chimpanzees in invasive research and the pet and entertainment trade.

Delaying the Resumption of Horse Slaughter in the United States

Horse slaughter
Kathy Milani/The HSUS

After Congress restored funding for domestic horse slaughter inspections in the fall of 2011, our legal team set out on a two-year legal campaign to forestall the resumption of horse slaughter in the United States. The team filed two legal petitions with USDA and FDA, and then took USDA to federal court. We won a temporary injunction in August, seeking to buy time for Congress to pass proposed legislation to defund horse slaughter. In December, the injunction was lifted, but ongoing state legal actions by the New Mexico Attorney General and others have so far stymied the plants from opening.

Securing Safe Passage for Endangered Whales

Our lawyers scored two major legal victories for some of the world’s most endangered whales. In August, the National Marine Fisheries Service settled our lawsuit over the deadly entanglement of endangered whales in fishing gear. The NMFS will issue new rules to prevent entanglements, and consider closing areas to fishing when whales are present. In December, the NMFS issued a final rule reauthorizing ship speed limits in the habitat of endangered whales in response to a legal petition filed by The HSUS in June 2012. Some of the busiest shipping areas coincide with feeding, breeding, and nursing grounds, and mortality from ship strikes is one of the two primary threats to these species.

Upholding New Federal Regulations Cracking Down on Horse Soring

In July, a federal court upheld new federal regulations to prevent the practice of “soring,” in which trainers abuse horses to force them to perform an unnatural high-stepping gait for competitions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations, which were adopted following a 2010 legal petition filed by HSUS attorneys, require that USDA-certified horse industry organizations impose mandatory minimum penalties for violations of the Horse Protection Act, and authorize the agency to decertify organizations that do not comply.

Blocking Trophy Hunting of Endangered Polar Bears and Antelope

Polar bear

Our litigation team squared off with extreme trophy hunting groups seeking to shoot some of the world’s most endangered animals. A federal court struck a blow in August by throwing out a challenge to a federal rule listing the Scimitar-Horned Oryx, the Addax and the Dama Gazelle as endangered. And then the Court of Appeals turned away the Safari Club’s bid to import trophy heads of endangered polar bears shot in Canada. The hunters’ outlandish arguments triggered a hilarious Colbert Report segment lambasting their absurd 'shoot animals to save them' argument.

Holding Puppy Mill Dealers Accountable

In a rare day of reckoning for an unscrupulous puppy mill dog dealer, the owners of a South Florida puppy business were set to stand trial in December for repeatedly selling sick or dying puppy mill dogs to unsuspecting consumers. A last-minute settlement avoided trial, and required the defendants to stop sourcing dogs from puppy mills, follow strict new recordkeeping requirements, and set up a six figure settlement fund to compensate their victims.

First Amendment Victory for Gestation Crate Advertising Campaign

When the Raleigh Transit Authority in North Carolina refused to run our bus advertisement depicting the life of pigs in gestation crates because it was “too negative,” our legal team filed suit under the First Amendment to ensure that consumers would hear our animal welfare message. Shortly thereafter, the city settled the case, agreeing not only to run the single bus ad we requested, but offering to have our ad featured on two city buses for six months.

Indeed, enforcement of the law is as critical as the laws themselves. Our Animal Protection Litigation unit is a fierce force for good, and HSUS backers can take comfort in the knowledge that the best and brightest attorneys are on the case for animals every day of the year. For more information, or to join our legal team for animals, visit our Animal Protection Litigation Facebook page at

December 20, 2013

Nation Needs to Quit Horsing Around - Protect Horses

This has been a big and challenging year for horses, with many equine issues covered in the news throughout 2013. There was the horse meat scandal in Europe, a move by the horse slaughter industry to resume killing on U.S. soil, continued excessive and often harsh round-ups of wild horses and burros in the West, Congressional hearings on the abuse of Tennessee walking horses and high-profile prosecutions of abusive trainers, and drugging of horses within the horse racing industry. There are so many challenges, and these issues are in great flux, but I want to point to progress we’re making, or at least the promise of change when it comes to the mistreatment of horses.

Defunding Horse Slaughter in the Congress

Horse slaughter
Kathy Milani/The HSUS

We successfully advocated for passage of amendments in the House and Senate Appropriations committees offered by U.S. Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va., and the late Bill Young R-Fla., and U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La. and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C, respectively, to defund horse slaughter inspections – language requested for the first time by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the president’s budget. The Congress is expected to take up the final FY 2014 spending bill in January, and if lawmakers retain the anti-slaughter language, we’ll restore the ban on horse slaughter in the United States, which had been in place from 2007 - 2011.

Playing it SAFE

We worked with U.S. Reps. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Sens. Landrieu and Graham, to introduce the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, which would ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the United States and prohibit the export of horses abroad for that purpose. The House and Senate bills have nearly 200 cosponsors between them, and they enjoy strong bipartisan support. While defunding helps prevent slaughtering on U.S. soil, only the passage of the SAFE act will prevent the slaughter of our horses throughout North America.

Taking on the USDA on Horse Slaughter Permits

When the USDA issued grants of inspection to domestic horse slaughter plants, we filed a lawsuit under the National Environmental Policy Act and obtained a temporary restraining order, delaying horse slaughter plants from opening in New Mexico, Iowa, and Missouri. Those lawsuits blocked the opening of plants for four months, and now we are working at the state level to stop them from ever opening.

Putting PZP out on the Range for Wild Horses

Wild horses
Jacquelyn Pyun/The HSUS
A wild herd of horses in Colorado that The HSUS is
managing using immunocontraception.

We have continued our push to get the Bureau of Land Management to scale back its wild horse round ups, and to increase its fertility control efforts. A National Academy of Sciences report issued in May called for an increased use of on-the-range management tools, including the fertility control drug PZP. The Environmental Protection Agency granted approval of an equine immunocontraceptive vaccine developed by the USDA. The vaccine will be applied to adult female wild or feral horses and burros, and is the first single-shot, multi-year wildlife contraceptive for use in mammals.

Protecting Burros through the Platero Project

We launched the Platero Project to promote the protection of wild burros managed by the BLM. The aim of the project is to develop partnerships and programs to research the effectiveness of contraceptive vaccines on wild burro herds and to reduce the number of wild burros currently living in BLM holding areas, by increasing adoptions and relocating difficult to place burros to sanctuaries.

Finding Allies among Responsible Horse Breeders

We formed the Responsible Horse Breeders Council in recognition of the key role breeders can play in reducing horse suffering. The council has enlisted the support of more than 1,000 horse breeders from around the country who have pledged to assist with horses they’ve bred in the event that they become homeless or at-risk for slaughter.

Pushing the PAST Act

In April, U.S. Reps. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., introduced H.R. 1518, the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, and in August, Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Mark Warner, D-Va., introduced the companion bill, S. 1406, to finally rein in the cruel soring of Tennessee walking horses and other related show horse breeds. The House bill had a successful hearing in the House Energy & Commerce Committee in November. The PAST Act has nearly 300 cosponsors in the House and Senate – more than any other animal protection bill in Congress – and it is endorsed by a host of horse industry groups, including the American Horse Council and the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

New Rules Adopted by USDA to Crack Down on Soring

A federal court in Texas upheld anti-soring regulations adopted by the USDA following a legal petition filed by The HSUS, requiring that USDA-certified horse industry organizations impose uniform mandatory minimum penalties for violations of the Horse Protection Act. The USDA successfully defended its mandatory minimum penalty protocol under the HPA in federal court.

Wheelon Indicted and McConnell Guilty – Again

Horse soring
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
Horse "soring" should be a thing
of the PAST.

On Dec. 2, walking horse trainer Larry Wheelon and three of his employees were indicted by a Tennessee grand jury on charges of violating the state’s law against soring. The HSUS had previously assisted the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, Blount County SPCA, and Horse Haven of Tennessee with the seizure of 19 horses allegedly subjected to soring in Wheelon’s training barn. In July, Tennessee walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell and two associates entered guilty pleas to charges of abusing horses in violation of Tennessee’s cruelty to animals statute. McConnell pled guilty to 22 counts of animal cruelty, and to avoid jail time, agreed to a sentence of one year’s house arrest followed by four years of supervised probation, a $25,000 fine, and a prohibition on his owning and training horses for 20 years.

Rewards and Recognitions Programs

The HSUS announced a new reward program to help expose corrupt activities within the “Big Lick” faction of the Tennessee walking horse show industry. The reward offers up to $5,000 for any tip leading to an arrest and conviction for bribery, intimidation, fraud, or other corrupt activities related to the inspection of Tennessee walking horse shows. The HSUS also rolled out the “Now That’s a Walking Horse!” grant and recognition program to recognize humanely trained flat shod Tennessee walking horses.

We are battling round-ups of wild horses, slaughter of tens of thousands of American horses, and soring of walking horses. The HSUS is committed to continuing the fight on all fronts, and turning around all of these problems. We’ll need your help in each case. Horses have served humanity for centuries, and it’s time to treat them with dignity and respect; not as vermin on our public lands, slabs of meat in the waiting, or instruments for trainers to manipulate and abuse to win ribbons at horse shows.

December 19, 2013

Scurrilous Treatment of the Top Dog

We humans like to be top dog. We feel threatened by other predators, especially wolves. Though they are the forebears of the domesticated dog – and we’re in their debt for this contribution to civilization, family life and to countless human hobbies and enterprises – we’re still threatened by the wild, non-domesticated canids who’ve managed to survive our sustained onslaughts. Like us, they are powerful, wide-ranging, and leave much in their wake. Wolves also travel in packs, and that form of social organization, which we admire as an example of loyalty and cooperation, is also all the more forbidding because it is mobile and it concentrates their power.

Grey Wolf

Wherever you live in the United States, there’s a good chance gray wolves once roamed your state. But year-round killing allowances and bounty programs, combined with an army of government hunters who killed wolves by land and air with an array of poisons, traps, and firearms, put an end to that, except in a fraction of their original range.

But a greater understanding of the value of apex predators, along with the federal Endangered Species Act, put them on the road to recovery in certain parts. But intolerance runs high, and federal and state officials have withdrawn protections in the last few years and unleashed an orgy of wolf killing, concentrated in the northern Rockies and the upper Great Lakes. Just this week, the public comment period closed on another proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove federal protections in just about every other part of the country.

We know what will happen if wolves are de-listed nationally, because we’ve seen how we as a species have behaved in the West and Upper Midwest. In Wisconsin, hunters chase down wolves with packs of dogs. In Michigan, they bait the animals and use predator callers to lure them into the open. In Minnesota and other wolf-killing states, most wolves die in the vise grip of a trap, freezing in sub-zero temperatures as their legs are crushed within the unforgiving jaws of a steel trap or a noose tightens around their neck as they vainly try to escape.

The cruelty of the wolf killers knows no bounds. This week, in the small, remote town of Salmon, Idaho, some ruthless people are hosting a “wolf derby.” The contest, which runs Dec. 28-29, will reward teams of two with cash prizes and trophies for shooting the largest wolf or killing the most coyotes. Children as young as 10 years old are encouraged to participate in the killing, and even have their own prize categories. Fur buyers will be at the event to purchase pelts.

This is a wolf massacre. Rewarding shooters (including young children) with prizes takes us back to an earlier era of wanton killing that so many of us thought was an ugly, ignorant and closed chapter in our history.

There is no law or regulation on the books in Idaho that prohibits contest kills like this one. Idahoans can contact the Idaho Fish and Game commissioners and ask that they pass regulations that prohibit events like this one. If you live outside of Idaho, please contact the sponsors of this event and politely ask them to pull their sponsorship.

Whether in Idaho or elsewhere, it will take the collective voices of all of us to shame people who have irrational fears of wolves and who act with malice toward these noble creatures.

Idahoans: Tell the Idaho Dept. of Fish & Game to Stop This Cruel Event >>

December 12, 2013

Will Somebody Please Buy Him a Drink…of Water?

The HSUS reaches out to meet the needs of all animals, including those thriving on wild lands throughout the United States and abroad. The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, our affiliate, works to ensure the permanent protection of lands that support wild animals, and helps landowners to ensure that wildlife will be forever safe on their properties.

Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust
Milt is a pronghorn who serves as Greenwood’s official
ambassador, and the campaign’s honorary chairperson.

The Greenwood Preserve and Wildlife Sanctuary in Lakeview, Ore., started with a generous donation of 2,271 acres of undeveloped land in 2008. In the summer of 2011, the WLT acquired an adjoining 720 acres after two anonymous donors funded the project. They recognized the value of the land as a safe haven for wildlife, where there will be no development, no destructive logging practices, and where recreational and commercial hunting and trapping will always be prohibited.

The sanctuary comprises a diverse range of valuable wildlife habitats and is home to more than 400 wildlife species, including amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals such as pronghorn, elk, black bears, badgers, and mountain lions.

This holiday season, the WLT has launched a crowdfunding campaign to provide a critical water source to the wildlife that visit the Sanctuary. Crowdfunding invites participation in projects that can make a difference for wildlife. I hope that you’ll consider making a small contribution to protect this land, and share the website link with friends and your social networks. 

More broadly, I like reminding blog readers about the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust. The HSUS’ work is so broad and encompasses all animals. This is one of our vital programs, with properties in 32 states, doing work every day to provide homes for thousands of species and millions of wild animals.