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65 posts from PS Dogster

September 20, 2012

Clock Ticking in Effort to Protect California Bears and Bobcats from Hounding

In late August, the California Senate gave final approval to legislation authored by state senator Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, to stop the inhumane and unsporting practice of hounding bears and bobcats. For a variety of reasons, California had long withstood the trend in the West to outlaw this inhumane form of hunting; Colorado, Oregon, and Washington banned the practice in the 1990s (along with bear baiting), even as California lawmakers and voters enacted a bevy of animal protection statutes to make their state the most animal-friendly in the nation based on a wide range of policies. So I’m truly pleased to see that the days for hounding in California are numbered, especially if Gov. Jerry Brown signs S.B. 1221 within the next week.

Black bear in tree
Help protect wildlife and dogs in California.

Much of the discussion from The HSUS and others backers of the bill has focused on how unfair the final act is—a hunter, using a large pack of dogs and radio telemetry equipment to drive and corner a bear upon a tree limb,  kills the poor creature who has no pathway for escape.

But to me, what’s even worse than that terrible end is the constant harassment, fear, and terror that precedes it. A pack of 20 or so hounds may chase the bear for hours, and these large-bodied animals overheat and burn an enormous amount of calories. And, again, this says nothing of the fear they must feel as the dogs go after them in what amounts to a race for their survival.

Sometimes the bear turns and fights, or the dogs may overtake the quarry. Here’s footage of one hunt where the dogs caught up to the bear, and literally tore the animal up. I caution you, it’s very difficult to watch.

This footage reminds us what’s at stake for these animals. We are so often removed from the reality and detail of such abuse. And the apologists for this cruelty try to attach some social benefit to it, or to excuse it, or they try to soften what they do—in this case, by calling it “catch-and-release” hunting, because they don’t always kill the bear! They only shoot some of them, to be sure, but they terrorize all of them by setting the dogs upon them to chase them down.

If you haven’t contacted Gov. Brown, don’t wait any longer. This atrocious form of hunting must end, and you can do your part to see that California casts it aside as other states have already done.


September 17, 2012

Update: Helping Rescued Dogs Recover and Learn to Trust

Last month, The HSUS helped rescue nearly 50 dogs from two suspected fighting operations in Michigan. Our policy is to treat every rescued dog as an individual, not as a category, and our hope is that they can eventually be placed with rescue groups or adopting families. Daisy Balawejder, coordinator of the HSUS Dogfighting Rescue Coalition, sent this report last week from our emergency shelter in Kalamazoo, where she’s overseeing the care of the dogs from the raid and rescue.

I'm back in Kalamazoo and I just wanted to share a little bit about my experience here with these rescued dogs.

I am always checking myself and trying to put the brakes on when I start having expectations of the dogs. Like I tell the volunteers, we're dealing with trauma victims. They need our patience and care. They don't need us to draw conclusions or have expectations that they may or may not live up to. We just need to observe them and try to meet their needs.

Marshall, a brindle dog rescued from a suspected dogfighting ring in Michigan
Photo: Julie Baker
Marshall, one of the rescued dogs.

There were many dogs here who were very flat, emotionally shut-down, unsure, afraid, weary, and wary. Many dogs were reviewed over and over again by behaviorists, looking for any measurable progress.

One of the dogs, Marshall, is a big brindle boy who was very traumatized. You could see the confusion in his face. His life had been hell—but it was the only life he'd ever known. He must have been wondering, was he safe here? Could he trust us? He eventually settled into the routine and began to relax. It was a long process, but every week, he was a little less nervous. The notes from his socialization and interaction with volunteers showed his progress—the nervous, cowering, unsure dog was becoming a curious, loving, gentle, friendly dog.

Two weeks ago we made a huge, fenced indoor play area. Marshall's kennel door faces the front of that area. Marshall is so happy to sit and smile and wait his turn. He goes for walks daily and is blossoming into a really wonderful boy.

I appreciate and understand that these operations take a lot of resources. Recently I posted this on Facebook: "Does giving a chance to survivors of dogfighting take a lot of resources? Yes. It is proportionate to the amount of abuse and exploitation they have suffered, and to the loyalty and love they have to give." It's such a great thing for me to know that the organization I work for shares that sentiment. 

I just wanted to share this with you, along with a photo of Marshall taken last weekend. His smile pretty much says it all. Thank you for the opportunity to be here with these dogs, to help them find their way. I can't tell you how proud and honored I am to be a part of this. The extra time here has been such a blessing.

We rescue animals to prevent cruelty and spare them suffering. But we also do it to give them a second chance.

September 11, 2012

Breaking News: Hundreds of Dogs and Other Animals Rescued in South Carolina

I’ve written before about many websites that sell puppies over the Internet with cute photos and resolute assurances about healthy, happy dogs. But all too often, these claims hide the back story: the dogs are sourced from cruel puppy mills where breeding dogs live out their entire lives without basic care or attention. That’s why we’re urging the Obama administration to finalize a rule to regulate these online puppy sellers.

South Carolina puppy mill rescue
Photo: Allen E. Sullivan
Matted dogs await rescue in South Carolina.

Today in South Carolina, The HSUS’s Animal Rescue Team came to the aid of more than 200 dogs and puppies, along with dozens of birds and nine horses, living in awful conditions at a facility that sold puppies online using the name Calabel’s Designer Dogs.

The dogs range from tiny breeds such as Chihuahuas and Yorkies to larger golden retrievers and Doberman pinschers. The mill “has almost every breed under the sun,” says HSUS responder Ashley Mauceri. Nearly all the dogs, including pregnant females and mothers with nursing puppies, were living outdoors in overgrown pens and rabbit hutches encrusted with feces. Many had only filthy water to drink, little or no food, and inadequate living spaces.

Some dogs had open wounds covered in flies, and one poodle was especially emaciated and matted from head to toe—but Ashley says that like many of the animals, he seemed happy to get out of his pen and be carried to safety.

This rescue was set into motion when residents concerned about the animals’ welfare contacted The HSUS. Our anti-cruelty team coordinated with law enforcement, and today the Edgefield County Sheriff’s Office served a warrant to seize the animals. Weak laws against puppy mills make it possible for cruel conditions like these to go on for far too long .

Local agencies in Edgefield County simply don’t have the resources to care for hundreds of additional animals, so our Animal Rescue Team deployed to help. Our Shelter Services program also recently visited shelters in South Carolina to help support their work with additional resources and training. We’re grateful to the sheriff’s office for taking action, as well as to the Humane Society of Charlotte for assisting in the rescue and sending veterinarians to the scene. The HSUS is funding care for the horses, and we’ve set up an emergency shelter where we’ll care for the dogs and birds. There, they’ll receive clean food and water, veterinary checkups, and affection from our staff and volunteers to help put them on the path to better lives.

September 05, 2012

Help Protect Dogs in Maryland

This August, the state of Maryland’s Court of Appeals ruled that “pit bull” dogs are “inherently dangerous,” creating one of the most dog-unfriendly policies in the entire country. The ruling essentially states that if a “pit bull” dog injures someone, not only is the dog owner liable, but so is the owner of the property where the incident occurred.

Md pit bulls graphic

Right now in Maryland, landlords, veterinarians, dog daycares, and groomers are being forced to consider banning pit bull type dogs from their properties, based on a false assumption about the aggression of these animals. The HSUS has spoken out against this ill-informed and destructive court decision and urged the state legislature to remedy it, but lawmakers did not take remedial action this summer.

This ruling is problematic in so many ways. At its core, it will be nearly impossible to enforce; mixed-breed dogs and pit bull mixes are excluded from the law. But “pit bull” is a generic name attached to an entire class of dogs, not one specific breed--leaving the door open for confusion and overzealous action by insurers and property owners who want to comply with the law. To preserve their families, some Maryland renters are looking to move out of state, instead of surrendering their beloved dogs. Families without the resources to move are facing the heartbreaking possibility of giving up their pets, and Maryland shelters are already seeing an uptick in dog surrenders.

While we prepare for the next legislative opportunity in January, we are proactively distributing information to Maryland residents. Today, we announced the launch of the Protect Maryland Dogs project, aimed at reaching out to dog owners, landlords, and other stakeholders in the recent court ruling with a variety of resources. The Protect Maryland Dogs helpline, 1-855-MDDOGS1 (1-855-633-6471) offers recorded information about the ruling, renters’ rights, and landlord resources. We’ve also created a website dedicated to Protect Maryland Dogs at, and a Facebook graphic you can share to help get the word out.

Please share this information with Maryland dog owners or property owners. For non-Marylanders, this action is a wake-up call, and we hope you’ll be alert to similarly ill-considered ideas.

You can also sign our pledge to stand with Maryland families and let the state legislature know they have made a decision that is bad for dog owners, bad for businesses, and bad for Maryland. In the meantime, we'll keep on working to help keep pets and their families together.

September 04, 2012

Pets Weather the Storm of Hurricane Isaac

Hurricane Isaac hit the Gulf Coast last week–almost seven years to the day that Katrina struck that same area. Isaac’s heavy rains brought severe flooding in inland areas, and high winds and storm surges overtopped some levees, such as in Plaquemines Parish. Many people were forced to evacuate from their homes, and tens of thousands lost power.

Rowdy holding dog being transported after Hurricane Isaac
Frank Loftus/The HSUS
One of 200 dogs and cats that The HSUS transported.

The HSUS kept a close eye on Hurricane Isaac before it made landfall--encouraging residents to take their pets with them if evacuating, providing information through social media about pet-friendly shelters, evacuation routes, and other animal-related resources, and staying in touch with emergency management officials about the needs of affected communities. 

In the years since Hurricane Katrina, the enactment of a federal pets and disaster bill (the Pet Evacuation and Transportation Safety Act) and public education campaigns by The HSUS and other groups have brought important progress in preparedness and achieved a broad change in consciousness how about pets and the human-animal bond are accounted for in disasters. Last week, a video news report from WWL-TV in Louisiana commented on the changes since Katrina as they showed rescuers saving a man and his four dogs trapped by severe flooding from Isaac. 

When our Animal Rescue Team received a call from Jefferson Parish, La., we deployed to assist animals at risk. We worked with Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter to help care for pets separated from their families as well as stray animals. PetSmart Charities also assisted by donating pet food and supplies. And over Labor Day weekend, our team transported more than 160 homeless pets from the shelter to our Emergency Placement Partners in several states. The Humane Society of Charlotte, N.C., also generously provided its facility as a central location for other placement partners to pick up Isaac animals from our transport. The HSUS is transporting more than 60 additional pets to Maryland where we're providing emergency care for them until they can be adopted.

In Mississippi, we worked with McComb Animal Control officers and local volunteers to rescue more than 20 horses from flood waters that would have soon overtaken the animals, and we joined with the Okaloosa County Disaster Animal Response Team to transport homeless pets from the McComb Animal Shelter to the Montgomery Humane Society in Alabama. Transports like these ease the burden on local shelters affected by disasters and give these animals a better chance of finding loving homes.

Take a look at our video below from our Isaac deployment in Louisiana, and please consider supporting our Disaster Relief Fund so that we can continue to help animals and communities impacted by disasters like this one.


August 27, 2012

Victory in the California Legislature for Wildlife and Dogs

The California Senate, in a tense and close vote of 22 to 13, just approved S.B. 1221, sending a bill to ban the hound hunting of bears and bobcats to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature or veto. The bill needed 21 votes to pass, and it got to the magic number with the votes of Sens. Ed Hernandez and Mark DeSaulnier. The Assembly passed the bill 46 to 30 last week.

Senate pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and bill author Ted Lieu did incredible heavy lifting to get the bill passed, and I want to extend my public and personal thanks to them. They were the two leads on the bill, and rarely have I seen this kind of leadership and skill exhibited by lawmakers in all my years of advocacy. Sen. Tony Strickland of Ventura County was the only Republican to back the bill, and my special thanks to him, too.

Hound puppy
S.B. 1221 to ban hound hunting of bears and 
bobcats now goes to California's Gov. Brown.

After a series of close votes in committee, on the Assembly floor, and on the Senate floor (twice), the bill goes to Gov. Brown. Brown has signed other pro-animal protection bills during his tenure, including a hard-fought bill last year to outlaw the trade in shark fins. However, animal advocates cannot take his support for granted, and he must hear from thousands of Californians, so that he knows exactly where the electorate stands on this issue.

The NRA and other hunting groups pulled out all stops to try to defeat the bill.  But the time has come for this despicable practice to end in California. We are now one signature away from that happening. Tomorrow, California residents can call Gov. Brown at (916) 445-2841 and communicate your hope that he signs the bill.

These are the senators we can thank for voting to protect bears, bobcats, and hounds:

  • Sen. Elaine K. Alquist, D-13
  • Sen. Ron Calderon, D-30
  • Sen. Ellen M. Corbett, D-10
  • Sen. Kevin De León, D-22
  • Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-7
  • Sen. Noreen Evans, D-2
  • Sen. Loni Hancock, D-9
  • Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-24
  • Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-39
  • Sen. Mark Leno, D-3
  • Sen. Ted Lieu, D-28
  • Sen. Carol Liu, D-21
  • Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-27
  • Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-32
  • Sen. Alex Padilla, D-20
  • Sen. Fran Pavley, D-23
  • Sen. Curren D. Price, D-26
  • Sen. Joe Simitian, D-11
  • Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-6
  • Sen. Tony Strickland, R-19
  • Sen. Juan Vargas, D-40
  • Sen. Leland Yee, D-8

August 24, 2012

Lawmakers Must Act to Stop Puppy Mills in North Carolina

In 2010, The HSUS led a coalition campaign to secure a ballot measure (Proposition B) in Missouri, and although it was unfairly and wrongly weakened by state lawmakers, the law that remained is still one of the strongest in the country, and it’s resulted in more than 800 puppy mills being shut down in the top dog-breeding state in the nation. It shows the power of policy work in curtailing animal abuse of the worst kind.

Recently, we urged the Obama administration to bring large Internet sellers of dogs under the regulatory authority of the USDA, and between The HSUS and other groups, advocates generated an amazing 350,000 supportive letters and signatures in support. We hope the administration makes that rule final in the coming weeks.

Puppies rescued from a puppy mill in Wilson County, N.C.
Dogs The HSUS helped rescue this week in N. Carolina.

We are also working diligently in several other big puppy mill states, and in one of these, North Carolina, we’ve put a lot of boots on the ground. There, lawmakers, working at the direction of the North Carolina Pork Council and the North Carolina Farm Bureau, have blocked sensible standards for the care of dogs. These agribusiness interests have cynically tried to block even basic animal welfare reforms unrelated to their industry. The absence of standards has led to a race to the bottom and to appalling conditions for dogs.

How do we know that? Because this week marked the 10th raid on a puppy mill operation in North Carolina in the last 18 months!

The HSUS’s Animal Rescue Team helped save dogs in Franklin County, Caldwell County, Perquimans County, Stokes County, Jones County, Brunswick County, and Wilson County, returning just yesterday to help 28 more dogs. We also provided financial assistance for a Lincoln County rescue, and another rescue in Wake County brought the total to more than 1,000 rescued dogs in all.

You might ask, why is a bill needed if there have been 10 raids? The reason is, conditions for these animals have been so awful that law enforcement officials were able to invoke the state’s anti-cruelty statute, with the assistance of The HSUS. We shouldn’t have to wait until the situation deteriorates to this level to warrant this sort of intervention and crisis management. Commercial dog breeders should play by the rules and treat the animals decently, and there should be a routine inspections program to sift out the bad breeders and prevent this kind of cruelty.

These anti-cruelty raids impose an unfunded mandate on local law enforcement agencies, on The HSUS, and on local animal welfare groups. Each raid costs us collectively in the tens of thousands of dollars, since we need to nurse ill or injured animals back to health, provide for short-term sheltering, and then find them loving homes. Lawmakers need no more evidence of the problem than this litany of cases.

What’s happening with dogs in North Carolina is shameful, and lawmakers need to take stock of what’s happened time and again and put workable, meaningful standards in place to prevent more suffering.

August 21, 2012

A Dogfighting Victim’s Tragic Story Spreads the Message of Combating Cruelty

Our mission statement is short and to the point: “Celebrating Animals/Confronting Cruelty.”

Stallone, a dog rescued from fighting
Kathy Milani/The HSUS

Holding these two powerful ideas in balance is a perpetual challenge for those of us who care about animals and devote ourselves to their welfare. On one hand, there is so much cruelty to confront. On the other, animals are an incredible source of joy—whether they are our pets or the wild animals who share our landscapes.

This balance of imperatives is on my mind today because of a very special video produced by our staff. It is the most viewed video that we have ever placed on YouTube. It is also one of the saddest. It is the story of Stallone, a dog who was trapped and ultimately doomed by the scourge of organized animal fighting. It is not an easy video to watch. But it is a video that has drawn a huge audience of more than 1 million views because so many of us feel that it must be watched.

So today, let’s celebrate Stallone. For all the horrors inflicted on him by people, he paid back with a tail wag and a lick, as you can see in the video. And then, in his brave name, please join me in doubling down on our determination to confront dogfighting and other threats to animals.

August 07, 2012

Unchained: Nearly 50 Dogs Rescued from Suspected Fighting Rings

Yesterday, I mentioned that The HSUS’s Animal Rescue Team helped Michigan officials raid two suspected dogfighting operations in Kalamazoo and rescue nearly 50 dogs. At one property set back in the woods, dozens of dogs were living outdoors on heavy chains or in chain-link pens, without regular access to drinking water or shelter. One black dog was tethered to a chain weighing almost as much as she does.

Michigan dogfighting rescue
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
One of 46 dogs saved from suspected dogfighting rings
in Michigan.

Inside, the team discovered a basement with blood splattered on the walls and floor, along with equipment typically used for dogfighting. In spite of being valued only for their capacity to engage in violence, the animals were so friendly and happy to see us, as you can see in our video and photos from the rescue. At another location in a residential neighborhood, we helped rescue more dogs and document another area stained with blood.

All these dogs are starting new lives thanks to the work of Kalamazoo County Animal Services and Enforcement, which began an investigation after receiving tips from the community. We were glad to assist with the investigation, provide the services of our mobile crime lab, and set up an emergency shelter. Local law enforcement and SWAT teams were also on the scene, as well as Kalamazoo Humane Society and Hello Bully providing assistance.

The animals from both suspected fighting rings are now at the emergency shelter, some receiving veterinary care for broken bones or illness. Some are elderly; many have scars consistent with fighting. All of them are getting plenty of care and attention, and we’re already seeing shyer dogs start to open up to people. We’ll have each dog professionally evaluated for possible adoption through our Dogfighting Rescue Coalition.

The owners of both properties were arrested and charged with multiple felonies—one had been convicted on dogfighting charges in the past. It’s this sort of work that we do that makes our communities safer for animals and people. No one can participate in this sport and be an upstanding member of society. People who disregard the law and enjoy watching this kind of violence won’t confine that behavior to the pit bull ring. It will spill over into the rest of their lives, and into the lives of innocent people and their communities.


P.S. It’s people who turn these animals into combatants, and there’s not something inherent in pit-bull type dogs. That’s why The HSUS is working in the Maryland legislature to fix a recent court ruling that declares all pit bull-type dogs as “inherently dangerous,” and is supporting an effort in Miami-Dade County in Florida on next week’s ballot to repeal a ban on keeping pit-bull type dogs. Such rules are unenforceable, since so many animals have mixed ancestry. And it penalizes people who raise them properly. The Miami Herald got it just right in an editorial endorsing the Miami-Dade measure today. We need strong anti-dogfighting laws and dangerous dog rules, so we can concentrate on the callous, cold-hearted people who take pleasure in fighting animals.

P.P.S. We are also pushing legislation in Michigan to crack down on dogfighting as an organized criminal enterprise. It’s critical that lawmakers there pass that legislation soon.

August 06, 2012

Helping Pets in Need, And Also Fighting Large-Scale Cruelty

As this year’s general election approaches, candidates are already airing millions in attack ads. It’s that season.

For us at The HSUS, it’s always that season. Puppy millers, sealers, factory farmers, and others attack and criticize us about everything we do–not because we don’t use money efficiently, but precisely the opposite. They even try to tell us how to spend our resources–do more of this, and less of that. “That,” in a practical sense, means not spending any money to get after their inexcusable and abusive treatment of animals.

Michigan dogfighting raid
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
The HSUS rescues pets from dogfighting rings,
puppy mills, and other cruelty.

The biggest offender of them all is the multi-millionaire public relations flack Rick Berman. Last Friday, Berman's so-called Center for Consumer Freedom took out another full-page ad in USA Today attacking The HSUS, with the false charge that we don’t do enough to help animal shelters. I estimate CCF has spent perhaps $10 million in its attacks against us since he took up the case in earnest. During the opening ceremonies for the Summer Olympics in London, CCF aired one of its phony television ads in the Washington, D.C., market, burning hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to smear the nation’s most influential animal protection organization.

And here’s the irony. Last Friday, on the very day of CCF's USA Today ad, our Animal Rescue Team came to the aid of more than 140 dogs at a North Carolina puppy mill. Our affiliate, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, sent veterinarians to an American Indian reservation in South Dakota, treating animals in need and helping the people who care about them. Our Pets for Life team was on the ground in communities working with hundreds of people in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, giving out spay-and-neuter vouchers and other critical pet care services to help people and their animals. Our team was also on the ground to raid a suspected dogfighting operation in Kalamazoo, followed by a second raid today. And that just scratches the surface of what we do every day.

Some of that work may not qualify as making grants to animal shelters (which we do often), but was it life-saving work? Did it help dogs and cats? Were we the last, best hope for these animals? The answer in every case: absolutely yes.

With his spider-web of front groups, Berman is best known for defending smoking, junk food, obesity, trans-fats, tanning beds, drunk driving, and a host of other social blights.

He’s also an apologist for animal exploitation. CCF has fought Prop 2 in California and Prop 204 in Arizona (to ban extreme confinement on factory farms), Prop B in Missouri (to regulate puppy mills), the egg industry reform bill in Congress, our corporate campaigns against gestation crates, our campaign to end the seal hunt, and so much more.

CCF's advertising and social media campaigns notwithstanding, we keep racking up victories and progress. But that’s not to say Berman doesn’t have an effect: He’s lined his pockets very well by trading on the fear that some of the people responsible for today’s widespread abuses of animals have of The HSUS. According to federal tax filings, in 2008, 92 percent of the money raised for the Center for Consumer Freedom went to Berman or to his for-profit Berman and Company public relations outfit. 

CCF and Berman never deter us from taking on the biggest forms of large-scale, industrialized cruelty. When I see CCF's ads, it makes me, as CEO, want to invest more in these fights. Because more than anything, CCF's presence is a sign we are winning and that change is around the corner. That’s what we do here at The HSUS: drive the biggest forms of social change for animals and take on the perpetrators of animal cruelty and their front-men who stand in the way.