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65 posts from PS Dogster

February 13, 2013

NBC Today Show Puts Spotlight on Pet Adoption

The Shelter Pet Project, a collaborative public service advertising campaign between The HSUS and Maddie’s Fund, and the leading producer of PSAs, the Ad Council, has partnered with NBC’s TODAY Show for a series of television ads featuring TODAY’s anchors advocating on behalf of four social issues — shelter pet adoption, fatherhood involvement, hunger prevention and emergency preparedness. As part of a weeklong series, “TODAY Takes Action,” The Shelter Pet Project PSA features a personal look at TODAY show anchor Natalie Morales and her adopted shelter dog, Zara, voiced by Jenna Elfman. Morales adopted Zara after doing a pet adoption segment for TODAY in April 2011, and she’s become a passionate advocate for pet adoption.

Natalie Morales' adopted dog Zara.

The full segment, which aired on TODAY this morning, includes a behind-the-scenes “making of the PSA” segment on the brainstorming effort during the campaign development process and the premiere of the PSA, created pro bono by the Draftfcb ad agency in Chicago.

The Problem: While the percentage of pets adopted has risen since 2009 (from 27 percent to 29 percent), approximately 2.7 million healthy and treatable pets are still euthanized each year due to a lack of available homes. Despite the many loving animals available for adoption, with only 29 percent of household pets adopted from a shelter or rescue group in 2012, the remaining 71 percent were obtained from friends, pet stores, breeders or other sources. If we just had a modest uptick in adoption and rescue – in concert with continued efforts on spaying and neutering and information for new pet owners to make sure they can address some of the behavioral challenges that dogs and cats present – we could solve the problem of euthanasia of healthy animals.

The HSUS, Maddie’s Fund and the Ad Council launched the Shelter Pet Project PSA campaign in late 2009 to help drive up pet adoption numbers. The campaign emphasizes the loving relationship between pets and their owners and encourages people to make shelters and rescue groups their first choice when seeking a beloved companion. All of the PSAs direct people to, an interactive website with a search tool to help users find their new companions at a nearby shelter or rescue group.

November 14, 2012

Progress for Ohio's Puppy Mills

Today, the Ohio House of Representatives passed legislation, 89 to 5, to crack down on puppy mills. The bill is short of what we want it to be, but it marks progress, with the Senate expected to concur later this month and send it to Gov. John Kasich (who earlier this year signed a landmark bill to restrict ownership of dangerous exotic animals). If it is enacted, as I expect, it will be the seventh of eight animal welfare reforms called for in a 2010 agreement reached between HSUS and Ohio’s leading agricultural groups (the remaining issue that has yet to get close to enactment is the upgrade of the state’s anti-cockfighting law).

Paul Vernon for The HSUS
One of 250 neglected dogs we rescued from a
puppy mill in Shelby, Ohio
, in August 2012.

Over the past several years, we’ve worked to pass laws in many top 10 puppy mill states, including Pennsylvania, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Texas. Ohio has become a center of the puppy mill industry in the East, rivaling Missouri. In 2010, we launched a ballot initiative, Prop B, in Missouri, because that state had the greatest number of licensed dog breeders. With the passage of that law, and the shuttering of about 800 mills in the two years since, Ohio became one of the biggest unregulated states for puppy mills.

As a consequence, the Buckeye state has become a destination for scofflaws who operated some of the worst puppy mills in nearby states — including Lanzie “Junior” Horton, busted in Virginia by HSUS and local law enforcement for keeping more than 900 animals in substandard conditions. Horton was convicted of 25 counts of animal neglect and 14 counts of animal cruelty due to conditions at his puppy mill in Virginia in 2008. He moved to Ohio after Virginia passed a law to crack down on puppy mills. So, too, did a mill operator from Georgia, Tom Coleman, whose kennel license was revoked in that state. This past summer, near Shelby, Ohio, our rescue team rushed to save 250 sickly and neglected dogs belonging to yet a third kennel operator who moved to Ohio after being convicted of animal cruelty twice in New Jersey. Clearly, these dealers moved to Ohio to take advantage of its lack of oversight. Sources tell us that both Horton and Coleman now operate new kennels housing hundreds of dogs.

Senate Bill 130 is far from perfect, but in a state that has become a gathering place for mill operators, with some even migrating there, it’s critical to begin to turn around the problem. With the looming enactment of this law, kennels will now be held to minimum standards. Dogs who were once kept hidden from all eyes but those of mill owners will now be seen by inspectors, including licensed veterinarians. We’ll work hard with a diverse group of organizations to close it out, and get a law on the books.  

October 31, 2012

On the Ground to Care for Animals Affected by Hurricane Sandy

The images of the devastation wrought by Sandy, especially on Long Island and on the New Jersey coast, are firmly fixed in our minds. While the hurricane itself has moved on, communities are still very much in the throes of dealing with its terrible effects. So many lives are turned upside down, and that includes animals.

Today, our HSUS Animal Rescue Team staff, along with disaster-trained volunteers, are in New York and New Jersey to help animals in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. In Monmouth County, N.J., our staff members are on-site at an emergency animal shelter, and more are on their way to help care for animals there. PetSmart Charities is donating essential pet supplies for Monmouth County. In Nassau County on Long Island, N.Y., we’ll be helping to care for animals at another emergency shelter where evacuating families brought their pets before the storm. Both areas were hit hard by the hurricane, and we expect to see more people and pets in need in the coming days, especially with more than 6 million people still having no power and with many communities flooded and uninhabitable for the near future.

In New Jersey, a large percentage of the evacuees are senior citizens or have disabilities, so we’re especially glad that we’re able to help care for their pets, including some dogs with special medical needs. And in both locations, the evacuation shelter for people is located right near the pet shelter, so that families can visit their pets and the animals can see a familiar face.

Rescued storm petrel at Cape Wildlife Center
A rare storm petrel recovering at Cape Wildlife Center.

In New York City, The HSUS’s Patrick Kwan, Brian Shapiro, and Michelle Icahn have all served at the city’s hurricane operations center helping to coordinate response to meet the needs of pets and pet owners, as well as advocating for pets and their owners, and Patrick is taking calls on the 24-hour hotline established to report pets left behind after evacuations (347-573-1561). We urge evacuees who were unable to bring their pets with them before Hurricane Sandy hit to call this hotline (hosted by the New York City's Office of Emergency Management Animal Planning Task Force) for assistance with reuniting with their animals.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, Hurricane Sandy’s winds blew an unusual species to our Cape Wildlife Center—a storm petrel, one of the rarest and smallest seabirds in the United States. Last night, a rescuer found the bird close to shore, upside-down and struggling in the water. Cape Wildlife Center staff stabilized the small petrel overnight, then set up a special habitat in a saltwater-filled bathtub until the animal is well enough to move to the center’s 3,500-gallon saltwater aviary. The bird is underweight and exhausted, but otherwise healthy, and we hope to be able to return the animal to the wild after recovery.

This was an enormous and deadly storm, and we’ll all be dealing with its negative impact upon people and animals for weeks and months to come. You can find the latest news about our Hurricane Sandy deployment on our Twitter feed, and I hope you’ll help support our disaster relief efforts. Or you can donate $10 to our Disaster Relief Fund by texting ANIMALS to 20222 (message and data rates apply).

October 25, 2012

Our Commitment to End Dogfighting

For those of you who follow this blog, you know that public-relations hit man Rick Berman has raised a lot of money from animal-abuse groups to conduct a brand attack on The Humane Society of the United States through his spider web of front groups, including the Center for Consumer Freedom. We’re not alone among nonprofits in being a target. He’s attacked anti-smoking groups on behalf of Big Tobacco. He works for the alcohol industry. For junk food makers. For tanning bed companies. But given the focus he has on The HSUS, some of his most lucrative work is no doubt on behalf of animal abusers.

Michigan dogfighting rescue 2012
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
One of many dogs we've helped rescue from fighting.

Let’s face it: it’s perfectly logical that a guy like Berman would attack The HSUS. We are the greatest threat to animal cruelty. And the people who profit from cruelty don’t want us to make progress. This just comes with the territory.

While not unexpected, we won’t hesitate to call him out, or anyone else who stands in the way of progress for animals. Berman has taken out dozens of full-page ads in national newspapers and in other publications attacking us, under the banner of the Center for Consumer Freedom and its HumaneWatch project (spending millions in the process). It’s all been very lucrative for Berman, who lives in an enormous mansion and siphons off a huge share of funds directed to his phony “nonprofits” for himself and his for-profit PR company, Berman and Company.

So today one of Berman’s groups dropped another $100,000 or so to attack us for putting Michael Vick to work against dogfighting. He could have put that money into rewards programs for dogfighting, or rehabilitating fighting animals, or paying for investigations of illegal animal fighting operations–as The HSUS does every day. But helping animals isn’t his thing–in fact, it’s just the opposite. 

Three years ago, I knew it would be controversial to enlist Michael Vick in our outreach work in inner-city schools. But today this is hardly news, since I’ve talked about it on 60 Minutes and ABC's Nightline, wrote a chapter on it in The Bond, and discussed it in so many other platforms, as a way to raise awareness of the problem of dogfighting in our society. Since Vick's case came to light, we’ve upgraded laws against animal fighting in 40 states, and passed a new federal law to ban possession of fighting animals and to make it a federal felony.

I’ve also spoken, together with Vick, to thousands of inner-city kids about the evils of dogfighting. The point was to have a guy like Vick, who grew up on inner-city streets and got drawn into the world of dogfighting, warn these kids away from the activity. His target was not our base of supporters, but kids and others who don’t normally get exposed to our messages. Now those kids have become converts to our cause, and many of them are speaking out against dogfighting in inner-city neighborhoods and starting animal protection clubs at their schools.

Now Berman is trying to make an issue of Vick acquiring a dog for his daughters. The HSUS had nothing to do with Vick getting a dog, and we didn't know about it until it was reported in the media. But Vick’s probationary period is over, so he is legally allowed to get a dog.

There are thousands of dogs still suffering in fighting pits who need our attention. The HSUS works every day to put dogfighters in jail and to protect tens of thousands of dogs chewed up in this industry, pulling dogs out of fighting rings and working with our partners in the pit bull rescue community to give them care and new homes. We work to protect millions of dogs suffering in the puppy mill trade. And we are working to end euthanasia of dogs by promoting spay-and-neuter and shelter adoption.

There are millions of dogs at risk, and we need to focus on them. It’s understandable to be upset about Vick’s crimes that led to his arrest. What he did was terrible. We were also outraged, and that’s why we demanded his prosecution. There is nothing more that can be done with regard to Vick’s crimes, and we need to refocus our anger and turn our attention to efforts to help the millions of animals still at risk due to the ongoing issues of animal cruelty in our nation.

Rick Berman has opposed our campaigns to end seal clubbing, factory farming, puppy mills, and just about everything else we do. He’s shilling for corporate entities that don’t like our agenda to take on the biggest forms of animal cruelty in the world.

No discerning person should get caught up in his con or masquerade. Join us in fighting ongoing abuses that matter and kick him and his silly little stunts to the curb. 

October 23, 2012

Saving Pets in Pennsylvania and Beyond

I’m in Pittsburgh today, and the day started on the CBS television affiliate with me and former Survivor winner and HSUS spokesperson Jenna Morasca talking about animal issues in the community and the nation. Jenna has recorded PSAs for us about the importance of including pets in disaster planning, and we’re hoping to see her at our To the Rescue gala in New York City on Nov. 2.

Staff of the Animal Rescue League in Pittsburgh with Wayne Pacelle and Gizmo
Gizmo with his adopter, Wayne Pacelle, and
representatives from ARL and the mayor's office.

I toured two shelters here in Pittsburgh doing life-saving work—the Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center and Animal Friends. These groups and so many others are working hard to drive down euthanasia rates in Allegheny County and the surrounding counties that constitute the biggest human and animal population center of western Pennsylvania.

It is a particularly exciting day to be in Pennsylvania, with Gov. Tom Corbett expected to sign an HSUS-backed bill today or tomorrow to ban the use of carbon monoxide gas chambers for animal euthanasia in the state. I got a chance to see Rep. John Maher, the author of the bill and a stalwart HSUS ally who we named Pennsylvania Humane Legislator of the Year in 2012. He toured the Animal Rescue League shelter with me, where I also met a dog named Gizmo who The HSUS helped rescue from a dogfighting ring in 2011. After care at an emergency shelter from HSUS staff and Hello Bully, the Animal Rescue League (an HSUS Emergency Placement Partner) took Gizmo in and found him a great home.

We all want the day to come soon when no healthy and treatable pets are euthanized in shelters—and that can only be accomplished with an increase in adoptions and spay and neuter surgeries, along with a host of other community-wide programs to save the lives of dogs and cats. But until then, The HSUS is determined to end euthanasia via carbon monoxide gas chambers, which are inhumane, outmoded, and unacceptable. Pennsylvania will be the 20th state to ban these devices. We’ve also supported similar bans in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, and other states. To help phase out this method, The HSUS offers training and assistance to shelters committed to switching away from these chambers.

We’re making progress on this issue, and meanwhile shelters like the Animal Rescue League and Animal Friends are helping to get us closer to our broader and more lasting goal: an end of euthanasia and a home for every dog and cat. It’s always inspiring for me to see how many people are working so hard to achieve this goal, which is within our reach if we focus on the goal and make the right moves in the months and years ahead.

October 19, 2012

The Empire (State) Strikes Back – Against Animal Fighting

New York officially closes a major loophole in its animal fighting laws this week, and it comes months after The HSUS and our friends at the New York State Humane Association partnered to enact legislation to strip animal fighters of the necessary tools for their sickening enterprise. In effect now, the new law provides misdemeanor penalties for violators with imprisonment of up to one year and/or a fine of up to $1,000 for the possession, use, and trafficking of animal fighting paraphernalia such as specially designed, razor-sharp knives known as “slashers” that are affixed to the heels of roosters in cockfights.

Rooster seized from suspected cockfighting operation in New York
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
At a cockfighting rescue in New York in 2011.

This is the latest victory in The HSUS’s effort to combat the cruel and criminal enterprise of animal fighting on every front—from lobbying for stronger laws to crack down on animal fighters, to rescuing animals, to educating youth, to providing support and training prosecuting attorneys, judges, and other law enforcement.

It is the second upgrade of the New York’s law in two years. The HSUS led a four-year effort to increase penalties—from a traffic ticket-style violation to a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine—for animal fight spectators. Signed into law by Gov. Cuomo in 2011, it was the first major upgrade in New York’s animal fighting laws in nearly 30 years.

As the tougher law took effect, we conducted a training on investigating animal fighting and cruelty and to highlight the new law at the New York State Sheriffs’ Association Institute’s 10th annual “Law Enforcement Supervisors' Training Conference” for dozens of top New York law enforcement professionals from more than 30 counties.

Meanwhile, in Congress, we have legislation to make it a federal crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fight. The Senate approved this measure as an amendment to the farm bill by a vote of 88 to 11, and the House Agriculture Committee backed a similar amendment. We are hoping to complete the job in the lame-duck session of Congress, which resumes on Nov. 13. The underlying House bill has 226 cosponsors—more than half the membership of the U.S. House.

October 12, 2012

Ensuring Veterinary Care for All Pets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 03, 2012

Third-Quarter Favorites: Protecting Dogs, Horses, Pigs, and Animals in Labs

I like to look ahead on the blog, report on major action items, take on our critics, or opine on a major fault line or controversy within our field. It’s also my custom, each quarter, to look back and provide a summary of which blogs got the most eyeballs from readers.

HSUS South Carolina puppy mill rescue
Photo: Allen E. Sullivan
A dog rescued from a South Carolina puppy mill.

Because I range far and wide on the blog, it should be no surprise that you show interest in an array of topics—in this last quarter, from dogfighting to chimps in research to horse soring to gestation crates. But there is a definite theme in the most-visited blogs in the third quarter: dogs. You loved news of our recent puppy mill raid in South Carolina, our exposé on the sale of dog fur, our dogfighting raid and rescue in Michigan, the story of redemption for a dog enlisted into the world of dogfighting, and Congressman Steve King’s record of attempting to block anti-dogfighting legislation and other modest animal welfare reforms.

Feel free to click through to refresh on these topics. One more quarter of blogging for 2012, and I hope, lots of good news to impart.

  1. Breaking News: Hundreds of Dogs and Other Animals Rescued in South Carolina
  2. For Sale in the United States: Domestic Dog Fur
  3. Dog Days of Summer for Congressman Steve King
  4. Unchained: Nearly 50 Dogs Rescued from Suspected Fighting Rings
  5. A Dogfighting Victim’s Tragic Story Spreads the Message of Combating Cruelty
  6. 110 Chimpanzees from New Iberia Research Center Will Be Safe from Testing
  7. Rep. Steve King, Defender of Animal Fighting
  8. The 'Big Lick' Shows Big Changes Are Needed to Stop Horse Soring
  9. Cosmetics Companies Backslide on Pledge to Be Cruelty-Free
  10. Companies Move to End Gestation Crate Confinement, while Big Pork Drags its Heels

September 27, 2012

Bringing Hope to 139 Dogs, Cats, Horses, and Birds in North Carolina

There’s never a respite for our Animal Rescue Team. This Tuesday, the Humane Society of the United States’ ART helped animal control officers and local groups in Person County, N.C., save more than 130 animals from miserable conditions in a hoarding situation.

Roberta Wall with white dog at North Carolina hoarding rescue
Roberta Wall, co-founder of Susie's Law,
helping with the rescue.

Kimberley Alboum, our North Carolina state director, described trash littering the property and the inside of a trailer and two outbuildings. Inside the buildings, about 60 dogs ranging from Chihuahuas to American Staffordshire terriers were confined in wooden boxes soaked with urine. Rescuers also found cats and a litter of kittens, as well as parakeets and other birds. Alboum said that this rescue was emotionally traumatic even for our experienced HSUS staff and volunteers because of “the hopeless look on the face of the animals when we arrived.”

The owners were apparently selling some puppies over the Internet. “These animals were not only living in absolute garbage and filth, but they were breeding,” Alboum said.

This was yet another case in North Carolina where stronger policies could have helped authorities stop these cruel conditions earlier. In a separate setting, close by the hoarding site, we also helped rescue almost 40 horses and ponies, many of them seriously underweight. The Guilford County Animal Shelter, Saving Grace Animal Adoptions, Faithful Friends Animal Sanctuary, Safe Haven Equine Rescue & Retirement, Paws Ranch, Central Virginia Horse Rescue, and Allen’s Place also helped remove animals from the property.

Local officials have arrested the owners, who agreed to surrender custody of the animals. After about 10 hours of work on the property, our amazing network of Emergency Placement Partners and equine rescue groups had picked up all the dogs, cats, horses, and birds. Now, these formerly neglected creatures finally have a brighter future, and freedom from the suffering and neglect that had been their lot.

September 26, 2012

Victory: California Gov. Brown Signs Bill to End Hounding of Bears and Bobcats

I just learned that Gov. Jerry Brown this afternoon has signed S.B. 1221 into law–to ban the unsporting and inhumane practice of hound hunting of black bears and bobcats in California. I am so thankful to the governor for his support, and grateful to the 68 California Assembly and Senate members who backed the bill, especially to the extraordinary duo of Ted Lieu and President pro tem Darrell Steinberg–our two leaders in the state Senate who were masterful at every turn in advocating for the bill, answering the critics, and helping to gather up the votes from colleagues who respect them so much. 

Of course, this type of support from elected officials would not have happened but for the broad public support for The HSUS and our worldview. Nothing like this happens without an active and engaged constituency who write letters, send emails, make phone calls, attend hearings, talk to neighbors, and do the hard, persistent work required to achieve meaningful social reform. Special thanks to our entire team at The HSUS who worked so hard, especially to Jennifer Fearing, our California senior state director who was so determined and strategic in lobbying the bill from beginning to end in Sacramento.

Hound puppy

This was a tough fight, with The HSUS and our organizational allies battling the NRA, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, the California Houndsmen for Conservation, and every other major player in the hunting lobby. Every step in this process–through each committee, to the Assembly floor, and twice to the Senate floor–was difficult and nerve-wracking, but we cleared every hurdle. It’s especially sweet for me because I’ve been wishing for this day now for 20 years, since I first starting working on this issue as a very young man in 1989. It’s been a long time coming, but it shows that persistence pays off.

It was the publishing in early February this year of a grisly photo of his mountain lion kill in Idaho by the then-president of the California Fish and Game Commission that thrust the issue of hounding into the spotlight. The photo came to light after it was published in a hunting newspaper, and it prompted The HSUS to talk to Sen. Lieu about taking care of this unfinished business. It was hardly a new issue for us, since we’ve fought the hunting lobby on this in Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington, and other states to end this form of wildlife cruelty.

Today it is so satisfying to see representative government work, and to have lawmakers and Gov. Brown heed the will of the people in California and to protect these dogs, bears, and bobcats from this abuse.

All animal advocates should let out a roar of approval to Gov. Brown. And you should all relish this evidence of progress for our cause. It’s an exciting moment.