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August 14, 2014

Turtle Diaries, Tortoise Travails

In true Hollywood style, the success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie has produced plenty of hype about turtles and tortoises. But unlike the reptilian heroes Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello, real-life turtles and tortoises move at a slower pace and are less aggressive. While these wild creatures do not have to face antagonists like Shredder, they do face enormous challenges, including real-life enemies who intentionally drive over them on roadways or, out-of-site-out-of-mind, bury them under development projects.

snapping turtle
A snapping turtle hit by a car, being cared for at our Cape Wildlife Center in Barnstable, Massachusetts.
Photo: Heather Fone

Among the many threats faced by turtles and tortoises in America’s ponds, rivers, oceans, beaches, deserts and other habitats today are:

  • An unsustainable and inhumane American “turtle farm” industry that captures wild turtles and breeds them to supply pet stores and Internet sales. Millions of water turtles are confined and their hatchlings are “sanitized” and shipped in boxes containing several hundred babies piled on top of each other.

  • Pet turtles are often forced to live in dimly lit and deficient and tiny tanks and denied adequate nutrition. This treatment results in malformed shells, salmonella-laced sludge, and vitamin/mineral deficiencies. Pet turtles are often released into public waterways or abandoned at zoos and wildlife centers when people get tired of them. Many, unable to adjust to local temperatures and find food, die slow, miserable deaths. When they survive, they can carry pathogens into the ecosystems in which they were released. 

  • Rapid habitat loss due to development, road projects, drought, pollution, global warming and disease (e.g., Ranavirus) threaten the viability of turtle populations. Turtles also face threats from fishing nets and hooks that drown them. In 1987, the United States became the only country to require the shrimp industry to use Turtle Excluder Devices that allow sea turtles to escape when caught in nets. But enforcement has been lacking on this mandate and another requirement, passed in 1989, that all shrimp imported to the United States should be caught in nets equipped with these devices.

  • Sea turtles are killed across the globe to make trinkets for tourists, and are farmed for tourism and meat in the Cayman Islands.

  • It is still legal in most U.S. states to capture and eat an unlimited number of snapping, soft-shelled and other freshwater turtle species. Millions of North American turtles are also raised for food and shipped live internationally.

  • There are still snapping turtle capture and killing contests in the United States offering prizes for the most turtles and the largest turtle. Events often end with turtle soup.

Here at The HSUS, we work every day to save turtles and tortoises, and to face the challenges enumerated above. Until recently, Florida allowed gopher tortoises to be killed -- often buried alive – for construction projects. Now we assist with rescue and relocation of tortoises, like this recent dig in Apopka, Florida. Our wildlife centers also often assist in the rescue and rehabilitation of turtles. And at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, we have one resident alligator snapping turtle, three sulcata tortoises and one African leopard tortoise (all ex-pets), and hundreds of native red-eared sliders in ponds.

Just last week, we received the good news that Montana now prohibits the import, sale and ownership of red-eared sliders.

With the closing of the federal Desert Tortoise Convention Center in Nevada because of federal budget cuts, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has asked us to help rehome special-needs tortoises who cannot be released back into the wild. The HSUS is helping to find homes for 400 such tortoises that need a safe place to live for the remaining 10 to 80 years of their captive lives.

Turtles are alluring creatures, but it is important to remember that they belong in the wild. We hope that the success of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will not result in a mass movement to acquire turtles as novelty pets. Instead, the film should inspire more Americans to become aware of turtles’ needs. We must all safeguard the habitats for these creatures that move at their own pace and whose protective shell is no match for the array of threats humans throw at them.

August 13, 2014

Acting Like Hammer Heads When It Comes to Sharks

This week, Shark Week returned to Discovery Channel as it has every summer since 1988. Shark Week’s programs tend to portray the shark as aggressive predators, mainly to titillate viewers – though not nearly as sensationally as the 1970s movie Jaws, which did deep and lasting damage to the image of sharks.

Tiger Shark
Sharks have roamed the oceans for 400 million years and survived multiple mass extinctions, but they face their greatest threat ever today, from humans. Photo: Vanessa Mignon

I’ve been pleased though at the rehabilitation of this image in recent years. More people than ever are not only fascinated by sharks, but recognize their critical role as apex predators in marine ecosystems. And an emerging consciousness about sharks cannot happen soon enough, given that dozens of shark species are threatened with extinction. According to best-guess estimates, as many as 100 million sharks are killed each year to supply the global market for shark products, including 73 million for their fins alone.

Shark fins are considered a delicacy in Asia where they are used mostly in shark fin soup to showcase one’s wealth and honor one’s guests. A bowl of shark fin soup can run as high as $100. This leads to unscrupulous fishermen engaging in shark finning – where fins are sliced off a shark, often while the animal is still alive, and the mutilated, bleeding body is thrown overboard.      

The United States is the largest market for shark fins outside Asia. The HSUS and Humane Society International have been engaged in a sustained battle here to shut down this cruel and ecologically unsustainable trade. Last month, Massachusetts became the ninth and the latest state to prohibit the sale and trade of shark fins. It joins eight other major shark fin trading states that have already enacted similar laws, including California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Washington, and the three Pacific territories. Next year, The HSUS will press forward similar legislation in Texas and other states. 

The world’s largest market for shark fins is China, and for the past few years HSI has been collaborating with a number of animal welfare organizations there on a range of public education and policy advocacy campaigns to reduce shark fin consumption. Our joint initiative with The Jane Goodall Institute China and other groups has reached more than 50 million people in 27 cities across China. Efforts by HSI and other conservation groups have contributed to the Chinese government’s issuance of guidelines prohibiting the serving of shark fins at official functions.

We are already seeing the positive effects of this work. Earlier this month, the conservation group WildAid found that prices and sales of shark fins in China are falling by 50 to 70 percent, because of declining demand. This is encouraging news, but we still have a long way to go before this cruel practice is ended forever.

Sharks have roamed the oceans for more than 400 million years, surviving multiple mass extinctions through the long periods of pre-history. But they face their greatest threat ever today, with the onslaught of commercial slaughter at the hands of man, and the jury is still out on whether they can survive it. One fourth of the world’s shark species are facing the threat of extinction and many shark populations have experienced a drastic decline, making the global campaign to save sharks a race against time. Whether or not you watch Shark Week this week, join me in advocating for the place of these creatures in our world’s oceans and help put an exclamation point on the end of the era of demonizing and mass-slaughtering sharks.

August 12, 2014

‘The Agitator’ Speaks

Precisely because The HSUS is so effective, it is the target of disinformation campaigns from our political adversaries. That shouldn’t surprise any of you, and it’s perhaps one of the best indicators that we are pressing reform in effective and strategic ways on the biggest issues facing animals – from factory farming to seal clubbing to dogfighting to puppy mills to bear baiting and hounding.

Oklahoma investigation
Attorney General Scott Pruitt has a cozy relationship with the Oklahoma Farm Bureau which has fought The HSUS' work on ending factory farming abuses, cockfighting and horse slaughter. This photograph was taken during an HSUS undercover investigation of a factory farm in Oklahoma.

The king of disinformation is Rick Berman, the guy 60 Minutes dubbed “Dr. Evil,” who has created a spider web of phony front groups at his for-profit public relations and lobbying firm to attack The HSUS. He’s spent upwards of $30 million on his brand attack against The HSUS. But despite this onslaught, we’re stronger than ever.

In addition to shilling for animal cruelty interests, he’s fought on behalf of dummy groups, to block reforms to crack down on drunk driving, smoking, tanning beds, trans fats, and consumption of mercury-laden fish by pregnant women. He fights efforts to raise the minimum wage, and much more. What kind of person would compile such a disreputable record?

We expect government leaders to be discerning and not to fall for the claptrap from Berman. Sadly, it seems that Oklahoma’s Attorney General Scott Pruitt is repeating Berman’s false claims and doing so publicly, before he’s even read the materials he’s requested from The HSUS.

Dirty Tricks in Oklahoma

Beware: Oklahoma's Mini-Nixon »
Anatomy of a Smear Campaign »

Roger Craver, one of the thought leaders in the realm of non-profit governance, management and fundraising, became concerned about Pruitt’s false claims and took on the issue in his widely read blog, The Agitator. Craver called into question the attorney general’s motives because of his cozy relationship with the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and that organization’s attempts to smear The HSUS as well, largely because of our global work against factory farming. This is the same organization that fought our effort in Oklahoma to outlaw cockfighting, and fought to overturn the state's longstanding ban on the slaughter of horses for human consumption.

Craver’s pieces are worth reading, not only as an answer to the current circumstance, but also as perhaps the most recent example in a sad litany of cases where government leaders have tried to suppress ideas they didn’t like and used their offices to advance their political goals.

August 08, 2014

Dog Meat Transport Trucks in China Intercepted, Evacuated

I’ve got a dog rescue story out of China that will warm your heart – and also demonstrate that the cause of animal protection is gaining traction in the biggest nation in the world. 

Volunteers and activists in China pulled over five trucks and rescued 2,400 dogs bound for the dog meat market.

On Sunday evening, an activist with one of our partner groups in Beijing spotted a truck loaded with more than 400 dogs on the Beijing-Harbin Expressway. The truck was heading to Jilin in China’s far northeast, one of the country’s major dog meat markets. The dogs on board—some even wearing collars indicating they were stolen pets—were undoubtedly destined for that horrific fate too when this activist swung into action.

She tweeted about the truck and within the hour 30 volunteers had appeared in cars, chasing the truck and prompting local police to pull it over.  The volunteers surrounded the truck and lifted all 400 dogs to safety. The next day, they pulled over four more trucks, rescuing another 2,000 dogs.

Dog eating is not illegal in mainland China. Yet it is increasingly controversial, and the volunteers—most in their 20s or early 30s—are among the group of Chinese animal advocates leading a shift in attitudes toward dogs. There is reason for optimism with the government in this case aligning with the dog advocates, not the dog traders.

By Monday afternoon, thousands of volunteers from as far away as Inner Mongolia stepped up to help with the rescue or to adopt the rescued dogs. Some brought food and medicine for the dogs, while others recited Buddhist prayers over the 30 dogs who had not survived the journey. Some people were even reunited with their stolen pets. By Wednesday evening, more than 1,900 dogs had been adopted or handed over to shelters for intensive care and future rehoming.  

A dog rescued from the truck bound for the Jilin dog meat market in China.

This successful rescue is an amazing credit to our partner groups— Capital Animal Welfare Association, VShine Group, On the Same Journey with You and Love First in Guangdong—that worked together to respond to the crisis. It’s also a credit to the people who saw animals in need and answered the call of mercy.

Humane Society International played an important role in the rescue operation. We responded to the first calls for help from the volunteers: we helped dispatch a group of 10 volunteers from a partner organization to the rescue battleground. And, in collaboration with our partner groups, we helped alert Chinese journalists to cover the rescue.

Going forward, we remain committed to attacking the root causes of the dog meat trade, and ending it. We’re helping governments to reform the lax laws and enforcement that allow the trade to flourish. In China, we are working with law enforcement and the animal protection community to improve urban animal management with the aim to thwart the nation’s dog meat industry. In Southeast Asia, we recently joined with other animal groups to host a conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, where officials agreed to consider a five-year moratorium on the cross-border dog trade.

Dog eating as a culinary sub-culture in now facing an unprecedented challenge in mainland China. This year HSI was present at the Yulin dog meat festival, where more people than ever before protested the slaughter of dogs. And we visited another city in Guangdong notorious for its dog meat market in June and found that only one restaurant was still operating in a street that used to be crowded with dog meat restaurants.

Of course millions more dogs aren’t as lucky as the 2,400 rescued this week. An estimated 15 million dogs are slaughtered in China, Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam each year.

We are about to open an office in Vietnam, thanks to an outpouring of support at our Washington gala, with the first leadership gift made by National Council member Arthur Benjamin. A primary focus of that office will be to end the dog meat trade. We invite you to join this campaign, and the broader effort to end the dog meat trade across the globe, so that one day we’ll never see dogs jammed in trucks on a one-way trip to an abattoir.

August 07, 2014

Not Mute on Malamute Cruelty

Montana’s Supreme Court this week upheld the conviction of Mike Chilinski, an American Kennel Club-inspected breeder who subjected more than 160 malamute dogs to terror, abuse and starvation before they were rescued by The HSUS, law enforcement and a local animal shelter in 2011.

The HSUS' Animal Rescue Team worked with the Lewis and Clark Humane Society and law enforcement officials to remove dogs like this one from Chilinski's puppy mill.
Photo: Kathy Milani/The HSUS.

We just had to intervene and bring these dogs into a safe haven, despite the enormous costs of long-term care for animals in terrible health.

Chilinski was sentenced in October 2012 to 30 years in the Montana Department of Corrections with 25 suspended, after a jury found him guilty of 91 counts of animal cruelty. He was also barred from owning animals for 30 years. The court’s decision yesterday to uphold that conviction was a victory for our Animal Rescue Team and our Animal Protection Litigation program. Our legal team worked with pro bono partners at the law firm Latham and Watkins to file a “friend of the court” brief, urging the court to confirm the validity of Montana’s animal cruelty law and uphold the forfeiture of all of the abused animals. Chilinski had argued that the cruelty law was unconstitutionally vague and that he had a right to maintain ownership of the dogs not identified as victims of animal cruelty in the case.

When our rescue team arrived at the puppy mill Chilinski ran for years in Montana, what they found was “horrendous,” as one of the members described it.  Many dogs had visible scars, missing or damaged ears, wounds and infections. Many were extremely underweight and others showed signs of malnourishment. The dogs were immediately put under the care of the Lewis and Clark Humane Society, with The HSUS paying over $500,000 for their care.

Most of the dogs have since found good homes, and with Chilinski remaining in prison, as he should, this sad case has had a happy ending all around.

This case provides yet another judicial imprimatur for our push to establish core anti-cruelty standards at the state and federal level.  At the federal level, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the federal law banning the sale of cruelty depictions was constitutional – a critical case just two months ago (Latham helped us with that case, too). And we’ve had two federal appellate courts uphold the federal anti-animal-fighting law, which The HSUS has worked to fortify several times within the last 12 years.

My other take-away from the Chilinski case is that his puppy mill had the stamp of approval from the American Kennel Club. An HSUS report released in 2012 found that numerous puppy mill operators who have been charged with animal cruelty have been selling AKC-registered puppies and some of them, like Chilinski, even passed AKC inspections. If the AKC wants to continue to brand itself as “The Dog’s Champion,” it’s got a long way to go.


Watch a video of Operation Montana Malamute Rescue:

August 06, 2014

Amendment 1 Decided by Less Than 1 Percent

* This version includes a correction to the last paragraph.

We and our allies nearly defeated Amendment 1 yesterday in Missouri, with the Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Pork Association, and others in Big Agriculture apparently getting the barest majority on their “right to farm” measure.  There were 498,751 “yes” votes, or 50.1 percent, and there were 496,223 “no” votes, or 49.9 percent.

Republican state House and Senate lawmakers put the measure on the ballot, and they tried to doll it up to make it sound appealing to voters. Indeed, their early polling showed it had 70 percent support, largely because it had a feel-good ring to it. 

Proponents also poured in more than a million dollars to push it, outspending our side by more than two to one. Politicians aligned with Big Agriculture ran around the state on their behalf, touting the merits of the measure, including Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster (who has also brought a lawsuit to try to overturn California’s ban on the sale of eggs that come from battery cages).  Some Missouri politicians even donated to the Yes on 1 campaign from their own campaign accounts.  They needn’t fret though -- I’m quite sure their campaign coffers will be replenished by Big Agriculture soon.

Gestation crate
Family farmer groups opposed to Amendment 1 have asked the USDA to investigate the potentially illegal use of check-off funds by the Missouri Pork Association.

It appears there were other questionable fundraising and spending activities by the "Yes on 1" campaign, and the biggest one was the possible illegal use of federal pork check-off dollars to promote Amendment 1. The Missouri Farmers Union and the Missouri Rural Crisis Center – two family farmer groups opposed to Amendment 1 – have formally requested that the USDA investigate the potentially illegal use of check-off funds by the Missouri Pork Association. The association and its affiliated political action committee gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the “Yes on 1” campaign, despite an IRS filing showing virtually no membership contributions from rank-and-file pig farmers. That IRS filing did reveal that the association received more than half a million dollars from the pork check-off program. The catch is that money cannot be used for any political or lobbying activity – that’s strictly forbidden. The Missouri Pork Association has some explaining to do.

Despite corporate agriculture’s advantages in money and ballot language and its having so many politicians doing its bidding, our coalition of humane advocates and family farmers just about won, even after the proponents started with a 40-point lead. The other side is losing hearts and minds, and there’s no way it can consider this a victory, except in the strictest legal sense.

I believe that animal protectionists have a working electoral majority in Missouri. We won both prior animal welfare ballot initiatives in the state – banning cockfighting in 1998 and cracking down on puppy mills in 2010.  In the case of Amendment 1, it was a primary vote in an off-year election, and turnout was less than 25 percent. If the measure had been on the ballot in a general election, rather than in a primary, we would have prevailed. There’s still much apathy among the American electorate, and that’s in evidence most in our primary elections where more than three of four registered voters stay home.

It was heartening, however, to see so many Missouri voters who did turn out see through the deceptive, vague language, and to understand that this was a play by Big Agriculture to amend the state constitution in order to insulate itself from any future animal welfare, environmental and other standards. The “yes” crowd wants a free pass for its factory farms, puppy mills and captive hunting pens. Majorities of voters in 14 Missouri counties – including some rural counties -- saw through this charade and said “no” to the corporate interests that harm animals, consumers, and family farms.

For many of Amendment 1’s proponents, it was all about stopping The HSUS from driving reform in the future. But in the process, we built a vibrant grassroots campaign, and we’ve formed a strong coalition in Missouri.  We are stronger than ever in Missouri, and the demographic trends are with us.  Our work there is not done, and we are emboldened by the awareness we’ve created and the support we’ve built.

August 05, 2014

Update on Missouri's Amendment 1

12.10 a.m.: 
With all precincts reporting, it is 50.1 percent for and 49.9 percent against Amendment 1, with a 2,528-vote margin. I will provide more details tomorrow.

11.45 p.m.: Amendment 1 is ahead by the narrowest of margins – about 10,000 votes out of one million cast. There are still thousands of votes to be tallied, and the race is too close to call. The “no” side appears to have won in 14 counties – Boone, Callaway, Christian, Clay, Greene, Jackson, Jefferson, Kansas City, Platte, Scotland, St. Charles, St. Louis City, St. Louis County, and Stone – where voters rejected the deceptive “right to farm” power grab. There are provisional ballots, and given that the margin is within 1 percent, there may be a recount. I will provide an update tomorrow, but The HSUS and Missouri’s Food for America are not conceding the race tonight.

10.55 p.m: The margin on Amendment 1 is razor thin. It’s now about 50.5 percent in favor of Amendment 1, and 49.5 percent opposed.  Just a small percentage of votes still trickling in. It’s going to be tough to make up that ground, but not impossible.

9.45 p.m.: It’s looking tough on Amendment 1. We are still 75,000 votes behind, but with very few votes reported in St. Louis or Kansas City.  It will be difficult, in this low-turnout election, to make up that kind of ground.  My guess is, a lot of voters got hookwinked by language that sounded good, and they didn’t probe further.

9.15 p.m: Results are coming in from the Missouri elections, and at the moment, the race is competitive on Amendment 1, the so-called “right to farm” amendment.  We are performing better in rural counties than we did when voters approved Prop B, the November 2010 ballot measure to crack down on puppy mills. We are also up very significantly in Boone and Greene Counties, but not winning by nearly enough in the urban counties.  The results though are still coming in.  At this time, we are down by more than 50,000 votes.

Stay tuned for another update in about 30 minutes.

No Ivory Auctions at Christie's

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation today to forbid his state from participating in the international trade in elephant ivory and rhino horns. This is the first law in the country to prohibit any imports or intrastate sale of such items, and it comes with the knowledge that the United States is the second largest ivory-trading nation in the world, after China. Together, these two consumer markets are driving the killing of tens of thousands of elephants, principally in Africa, by marauding, terrorist-funded poaching operations.

The New Jersey law is the first in the country to ban the import and intrastate sale of ivory. Photo: iStockphoto 

We are anxiously awaiting a signature from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on nearly identical legislation. We hope his signature comes in the days ahead, and once it does we will have locked down two major ivory trading posts in the United States.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering a proposed rule to close loopholes in federal law on the import of ivory, but it’s facing heat from the trophy hunting and gun lobbies, and from the music and antique industries, which still want to sell items with ivory on them. Amazing to think we’d jeopardize the fate of the largest land mammal in the world just so that someone gets an opportunity to resell a gun or a guitar with a little ivory on it. Where is the sense of broader responsibility and other-centeredness in people?

In other news, polls close at 7 p.m. central time in Missouri, and The HSUS is pushing hard to defeat Amendment 1, a so-called “right to farm” measure that was written to prevent future reforms of factory farms, puppy mills or captive hunting facilities. One rural paper called the measure a “farce,” and 16 of 17 major daily papers in Missouri have urged its defeat – including papers throughout the state’s countryside. So, too, have the Missouri Farmers Union, the League of Women Voters of Missouri and the Humane Society of Missouri, along with a big, broad cross-section of people concerned about corporate farms driving small farmers out of business and disregarding the needs of animals, the water and the land.

I’ll blog about the results in real time tonight after 8 p.m. Central Time, and post updates. Early reports from polling stations in Columbia and Joplin show voters trending “no” on Amendment 1, but these are unscientific samples.

August 04, 2014

MyBirthday, MyHumane

Lily says Happy Birthday!
My dog Lily gets the celebration started.
Photo: Crystal Moreland

Like most people, as I get older, there’s consistently decreasing excitement about my birthday. 

Of course, I cannot turn back the clock, so instead, I am focusing this birthday on spreading the word about The HSUS’ myHumane program.

As others have recently done, I have set up a fundraiser page where friends and family – and HSUS supporters –can donate to The HSUS’ many lifesaving programs, instead of their customary giving of birthday gifts. All of the money raised will go to help advance the wide range of critical animal protection work at the organization. Animals should get more birthdays.

From horses subjected to barbaric soring, to dogs forced to endure lifelong confinement in puppy mills, or the animals on factory farms who know only privation, there is no animal issue that we do not confront and tackle at The HSUS. Funds raised by the MyHumane Birthday pledge campaign will go toward fighting all of these cruelties, and others such as battling dogfighting, poaching, and seal killing.

A birthday greeting from HSUS staff and animals. Photo: Jennifer Fearing

Already, since the myHumane Birthday Pledge was announced in June, more than 4,300 supporters have pledged their big day and made it count for The HSUS. We are hoping thousands more will join, as part of making a lifelong commitment to supporting and protecting animals. On the myHumane page, you can ask for donations in honor of other life events, including weddings and memorials. You can also fundraise for animals during athletic events, as a classroom or as a community group.

All you need to do today is visit myHumane to pledge your birthday. When your big day rolls around, we’ll send you a reminder email to set up a fundraising page on myHumane. Then, instead of gifts, ask your friends to donate to your page. That’s it!

Birthdays are milestones in our lives. But they can get a little boring, and we can add value to them as they add up by doing good and sharing them with animals who need our help so desperately.

P.S. I received a special gift today, in the form of recognition from the Non-Profit Times, a major journal for the charitable sector. I was named one of the 50 most powerful and influential people in the non-profit world. Given that there are well over a million charities in the United States, and an extraordinary number of people who do non-profit work, I am honored to receive this recognition.

July 31, 2014

Red Nor Blue: United We Stand for Dogs and Cats

Are we a cat nation or a dog nation? It’s, of course, more of a mixed situation, with a good number of households, like mine, having representatives from both camps. But as The Washington Post reports, there are some geographic variances at work in our nation. According to data from the American Veterinary Medical Association, cats outnumber dogs in the Northeast, Upper Midwest and on the West Coast, while dogs outnumber cats across the South. Massachusetts and Maryland are the most cat-friendly states, with almost two cats for every dog, while Arkansas and New Mexico vie for the title of most dog-friendly state.

Lily and zoe
New data show cats are more popular in the blue states while dogs are more popular in red states. With my cat Zoe and my dog Lily, I am trying to stay bipartisan.

These numbers also line up quite neatly with voting performance, especially on the red-blue state divide. Cats are typically more popular in blue states, while dogs are more popular in red states. That led the Post to coin the terms, “demo-cats” and “re-pup-licans” (with my cat Zoe and my dog Lily, I’m trying to stay bipartisan).

Overall, though, we’re a nation that loves cats and dogs pretty equally. Just under a third of U.S. households live with cats, while just over a third live with dogs. But there are more cats overall because each cat household typically has more cats. All up, Americans now live with an estimated 74 million cats and 70 million dogs (not to mention 3.7 million birds, 1.8 million horses and millions of other creatures great and small).

That so many Americans have welcomed animals into our homes is cause for celebration. We now share our homes with four times more companion animals than we did in the 1960s (the human population has only doubled since then). And we share a deeper bond with them than ever before: 90 percent of us consider our cats and dogs family members, while 80 percent of us would risk our lives for them.

But cats and dogs still face far too much cruelty, neglect and abandonment in this country. Puppy mills aggravate this problem, by breeding hundreds of thousands of puppies and bollixing up the adoption pipeline, while often relegating the mothers to lives of deprivation and suffering.

Consider these statistics:

• Every year, as many as eight million cats and dogs end up in animal shelters where, tragically, roughly 2.7 million healthy and treatable animals are euthanized.
• Cats make up about 70 percent of animals euthanized in shelters, with many relinquished for solvable behavior problems.
• Dogfighters chew up tens of thousands of animals in pursuing their vicious and barbaric form of “entertainment” and gambling.

Here at The Humane Society of the United States, we’re committed to confronting the biggest threats to cats and dogs. Our puppy mill campaign works to shut down abusive breeding operations across the country. Late last year we scored a major victory, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture promised to start regulating the online sale of puppies (our litigators are now defending this rule in federal court). We are anxiously awaiting a final rule from the USDA banning imports of puppy mill dogs from foreign nations.

Zoe after a vigorous game of chasing her favorite toy bug. At The HSUS, we won't rest until every adoptable cat and dog in America finds a home as loving as those millions of cats and dogs already enjoy.

We’re also working tirelessly to reach our goal that no adoptable cat or dog is ever euthanized. In partnership with Maddie’s Fund and the Ad Council, we run the Shelter Pet Project to make adoption the first choice for every cat and dog lover. Already the Project has generated more than $170 million of donated ad time to spread this compassionate message.

We’re scaling up our work to keep dogs and cats in homes, fighting against relinquishment and abandonment and deficient care for pets. And we’re expanding our innovative Pets for Life Program into more underserved areas, to provide reduced cost spay and neuter, and outreach and services on compassionate pet ownership. We are now touching 27 communities quite directly with this program, and celebrating the human-animal bond in communities where people often don’t have the means or access to important services for animals. Our work to keep pets in their homes also includes tools for pet owners, shelters and rescues to resolve problem cat behaviors – the reason most often cited for cat relinquishments – and we are working to protect outdoor community cats and provide solutions to conflicts between cats and wildlife.

The trend is positive: euthanasia rates have fallen several times over since the 1970s, when an estimated 15 million cats and dogs were put down in shelters every year. But we won’t rest until every adoptable cat and dog in America finds a home as loving as those that millions of cats and dogs already enjoy, and we also won’t rest until we put the dogfighters and mills out of business. As a nation of cat and dog lovers, that’s the least we owe these animals.