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192 posts from Talk Back

October 18, 2013

Going Belly Up in Vegas

People sometimes ask me if HSUS opposes zoos.  I say that we oppose unaccredited zoos, and that I consider the 200 or so zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to be critical allies in our fights against private citizens keeping dangerous wild animals as pets and against reckless and inhumane conditions at roadside zoos, as well as allies in our efforts to protect endangered species, to ban lead ammunition, and other wildlife protection campaigns.  For every accredited zoo, there are perhaps 10 roadside operations, almost all of which are unprofessional, underfunded and dangerous for animals.

Tiger at GW Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma

This year, we acquired several tigers at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, operated by our affiliate The Fund for Animals, because of roadside zoos we worked with law enforcement to shut down. That will costs us hundreds of thousands of dollars during the natural lifespan of these animals. There are other big cat sanctuaries across the nation, spending millions of dollars to clean up the messes left by reckless owners of exotic animals and commercial menageries.

Relocation to a sanctuary is the only good turn in the lives of these animals.  Typically, in the hands of non-professionals, they are either kept in inhumane conditions, or discarded or killed when they become too costly or inconvenient.  That’s why we work to prevent these places from getting started in the first place.

So many of these road-side zoos are fly-by-night operations.  And that’s true of one place I’ve visited twice, and publicly criticized—the Las Vegas Zoo.  After employees there said the situation had become intolerable, they resigned en masse.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture and a number of animal protection groups stepped in, with the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries helping to relocate the animals. For example, Terry, the lone chimpanzee, will now find sanctuary with our partner Save the Chimps.

I also wrote about the owner of 200 tigers in Oklahoma who allows photos to be taken with the younger animals who are bred for that sole purpose. It’s essentially a tiger cub petting zoo.

Today, I close out the blog with your comments.

If we can get the states who are involved to pick up the tab when these roadside zoos run into trouble and go belly up, wouldn't they be more eager to get their laws changed to tighten up restrictions? Thank you for letting us know about this incident.
- Marcia Keller
One of the claims I've read from Joe Schreibvogel is that he has rescued 1,400 animals and placed 1,200 at other facilities. This seems like a [smoke]screen for breeding and selling/trading animals. What does your research show?
- K.J. Reeves
Poor tiger! Deprived of everything natural, what a living hell it must be for him. Roadside zoos should be illegal for many reasons.
- Karen Hackey
When and what do we need to do to change this practice?
- Gwen Parsley
Great news, hopefully all these "roadside zoos" will become a thing of the past thanks to Wayne & the Humane Society. It would be nice to know where the animals are being relocated. Any chance of updates on that?
- Deborah Dunn-Tremblay
Are we sure that we live in the "civilized" nation? What on earth is wrong with people and why does this country allow these "roadside" animal shows?
- Susan Huth-Beckley
How in the world these roadside animal facilities still exist is beyond me. I guess it will take a few more bites and probably a death or two to really crack down on them. It is also amazing to me that parents actually trust these people when they say it's safe to have their child's picture taken with them. The really sad thing is it's the animals who suffer, caged, probably mistreated and when the inevitable happens, they are punished. Thank you for being our watchdog HSUS!
- Avis Holt

September 13, 2013

Talk Back: New Rule the Beginning of Efforts to Crack Down on Puppy Mills

Earlier this year, The HSUS and local authorities removed 58 dogs from Royal Acres Kennel in North Carolina. The animals we found there included blind and paralyzed dogs; dogs with dental decay so severe that several of their jaws were disintegrated and they could no longer keep their tongues in their mouths; animals with tumors and infections; and a paralyzed Dachshund who had injured his private parts by dragging them along the dirty ground for so long on nonworking legs. Field responders said the ammonia levels in the facility burned their eyes. This facility, which sells many small-breed and "designer" puppies, took advantage of a loophole in Animal Welfare Act regulations that exempted online sellers.

Meredith Lee/The HSUS
A Chihuahua that was rescued from Royal Acres Kennel
in North Carolina.

It’s because of cases like this that the new federal rule, announced on Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is so important. The USDA is now moving to close that loophole, which allowed large-scale operations like Royal Acres to continue selling dogs without a license or inspections. Without any oversight at the federal level, there were so many puppy mills cutting corners and mistreating dogs.

The number of commercial dog breeders regulated by the USDA has declined about 40 percent since 2007, precisely because breeders who could not or did not want to meet USDA standards were simply dropping out of the program and changing their business model to sell puppies over the Internet.

The Animal Welfare Act outlines basic standards of care for puppies, kittens, and other small mammals sold as pets. The standards require protection from the heat and cold, veterinary treatment for illness or injury, nutritious food, and clean enclosures, among other rules. When facilities repeatedly fail to meet these standards, the USDA has the power to suspend or revoke a license, or to impose fines and penalties. Last year a number of dealers and breeders were fined or had their licenses suspended or terminated.

The USDA has clearly stepped up enforcement since a damning 2010 overview of its inspections program by the agency’s own inspector general.  But now the USDA really has to show its resolve by shutting down operations that are flagrantly violating the law. 

So many of you expressed great enthusiasm for this policy advance, but also some skepticism that the USDA would handle its new responsibilities with vigor.

As someone who has adopted a puppy rescued from a puppy mill, I know firsthand the devastating, lifelong effects these facilities can have on the poor animals who were born there. Thanks to everyone who acted on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves!

- Susan Jenkins
It is good news that the USDA is adopting a rule to extend federal oversight to online sellers of animals. What concerns me is the fact that the USDA has long exhibited, as your blog says, "deficient exercise of authority by USDA where it had authority." It is one thing for the agency to have the authority, but quite another to get it to actually apply that authority in a meaningful way.  Progress has been made, at least. Now to find a way to hold the USDA's feet to the fire and have it actually use its enforcement authority.

- Craig Cline
This is awesome. This is a blessing for these poor animals and I heartily applaud it! It is heartbreaking to see how the parent animals are treated. Now at least they have a chance and people will able to report situations that need to be investigated.

- Sylvia
Will there be additional personnel to handle this new load of work? I am afraid it will just look good on paper and there will not be enough staff to really make a difference and visit all of the puppy mills.

- Tracy Landes
This is a monumental step toward getting some of the most egregious perpetrators out of the loop! Thank you HSUS - you really made this supporter happy today! I look forward in our work together on making this campaign even stronger in the future.

- Kathy Spera
So when does the USDA plan on going after the Amish? They are running mills, dog auctions... This has been an issue since I was a child and I'm now 58 years old and there’s been no change. What about the thousands of back yard breeders in the U.S.? So much talk from the USDA and next to no action. Animals are the lowest priority in this country.

- Donna Bessette

May 23, 2013

Talk Back: Fork in the Road for Michigan Wolves

Hundreds of you wrote me after I asked your opinion about the road ahead in Michigan, where the state legislature is hell bent on allowing trophy hunters and pelt trappers to kill wolves. All but two of you urged The HSUS to pursue a second referendum campaign to block hunting of wolves.


Let me remind you of the details. In 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed federal protections for wolves in the Great Lakes and handed off management responsibility to the states. State wildlife agencies in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin quickly took steps to open up hunting and trapping seasons, with Michigan lawmakers passing a bill in December 2012 to give the Natural Resources Commission the go-ahead for a fall 2013 season.

The HSUS and pro-wolf organizations, part of a broad coalition that also included Indian tribes in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, launched a referendum drive, and within 67 days those petitioners collected more than a quarter million signatures of registered voters who believe it is cruel and premature to open a season. Yesterday, the Michigan secretary of state certified the petition and approved the referendum for the November 2014 ballot, staying the December 2012 law and allowing voters to nullify it by voting against a wolf season 18 months from now.

But in between the signature submission date of March 27th and yesterday’s certification, state lawmakers rammed through a second law in an attempt to subvert the referendum and make it moot. Their second measure, SB 288, gives authority to the NRC to open hunting and trapping seasons on any protected species, except mourning doves.

We believe the vote of the people on the original referendum in November 2014 should be binding, and that the NRC and the Michigan legislature should heed the will of the state’s citizenry. But, as a legal matter, they may not be bound to follow the vote. Thus, we are faced with the idea of launching a second referendum, to send an unmistakable signal about the legislature’s abuse of power and the people’s wish to keep Michigan wolves protected. We are still getting feedback from our supporters and donors, but here is a sampling of your opinion:

It is absolutely important to mount another effort to protect wolves and to have the rights of American citizens respected. Legislators need to be reminded that they work for ALL of us, rather than exclusively for a handful of special interest groups who have no concern for their fellow citizens or wildlife.
- Annoula
Absolutely pursue this again! This is beyond the wolf hunting issue now, our democratic rights are being endangered... and we are furious. We were volunteers and collected 3,175 signatures from 67 counties in Michigan and 10 counties in the Upper Peninsula. People wished to vote on this issue and now that’s been taken away from us.
- Judy and Curt Brock, Northville, MI
First, a most heartfelt and sincere thanks for the effort mounted by you and The HSUS. I live in Michigan. My home is downstate in a rural area, but I kayak and camp in the Upper Peninsula, which is the home of our beleaguered wolves. I respect living near wild animals, and I like and respect my fellow citizens in the U.P. I know a number of responsible hunters who are appalled at the idea of a wolf hunt. I have followed the issue of the wolf as a game animal and the important need to allow the citizens' right to petition via ballot referendum, which was cynically circumvented. We need, and must, fight back on all these issues. WE ARE FIRED UP & READY TO GO! I pledge my support and my actions to circulate a second round of petitions.
- Deborah de Lorenzo, Superior Twp MI
This fight has become more than just a fight for wolves, but a fight for all wildlife and for democracy. We cannot let the Michigan legislature think that every time they want to silence the will of the voters that they can just pass new bills to circumvent them.
- Don Hughes
I am very angry at what the Michigan governor and state legislature have done signing SB 288 into law. They show a lack of compassion for wolves in addition to their lack of regard for the more than a quarter of a million of us who signed the petition, and for those who worked with great dedication to collect the signatures. They cheated so they could have a wolf execution season outside the oversight of voters.
- Jenny Sykora
In regards to mounting the second wave of protests against killing these majestic animals, I do believe we have to continue doing everything in our power, since they cannot speak for themselves. It does get incredibly frustrating working with some of these organizations & politicians who do not listen to what the people are screaming for. Some of these horrors & injustices stay in my mind for what seems like an eternity, until I hear we have made a difference, and there are those of us who will continue the fight.
- Jody Armstrong, Pollock Pines, CA
I am in awe of your ability to not tire in the wake of defeat such as this! You have my support; monetarily, emotionally, and energetically. I pray for our majestic wolves consistently, as well as all other sentient beings that share this planet we live on. While it may appear daunting and impossible, I am a staunch believer in the power of people banding together for a cause (even if that means multiple times). I feel that we (HSUS and supporters) cannot afford to back down and sit this one out.
- Stacey Bolar
I wholeheartedly support and encourage you and The HSUS to mount another initiative and do everything possible to protect wolves. I do not live in Michigan, I live in Montana, where wolves have been hunted and trapped for 3 years now. It is horrible what our FWP is allowing to happen to this keystone species. I do, however, have many friends in the great state of Michigan who not only hit the pavement to help gather signatures, but most certainly will do the same again. I even sent financial contributions to help with their efforts, and will do so again.
- April Lane, Whitefish, MT

April 19, 2013

Speak Up For Animals

Recently I wrote about two outrageous campaigns against animal protection. In the Michigan legislature, there’s a bill designed to derail our wolf protection referendum, to repeal a 2006 referendum that banned the target shooting of mourning doves, and to cede authority to allow hunting and trapping seasons for any protected species to the seven-member Natural Resources Commission. And just the other day, in Tennessee, an ag-gag bill designed to thwart investigations of, and picture-taking at, horse stables and factory farms was passed by the legislature.

California undercover investigation

In Michigan, we ask you to contact your state legislators and oppose S.B. 288 and H.B. 4552. Today, we released a new television advertisement to air throughout Michigan aimed at drawing public attention to this abuse of power.

In Tennessee, S.B. 1248, the ag-gag bill, is on its way to Governor Bill Haslam’s desk. Please call him today and urge him to veto the bill.

So many of you have sent me comments about this, and I want to share just a few of them:

One thing I know that I can do is withhold my tourist dollars from Tennessee, and I will.

To me this is taking animal welfare back to the dark ages - who will speak for them now? How can we protect them? Only those who have something to hide would even contemplate this evil law, and those who do should be required to stamp their products with “ag-gag law in place.” We must stop it now as it is gathering momentum and undoing all that the animal activists and organizations have achieved in the past. 
- Valda Purvis 

What a shameful, underhanded way for any kind of so-called lawmaker to represent themselves! I am furious and appalled at the bill that's been introduced to give the seven appointees (hunters & trappers mostly) at the Natural Resources Commission authority to open up hunting season on any species they want, no matter how the people feel! This is an ignorant, careless and oblivious attitude toward God's creations.  In addition, Jackie McConnell is a monster and completely transparent within his pathetic.

Blatant disregard for animals, the will of the people and for democracy.
Debbie Johnson

S.B.288 in Michigan's legislature is another attempt to destroy democratic government and hand the law over to a gang of bullies.
Arden Allen

As more and more citizens turn to a humane way to treat animals, our government officials and politicians need to remember that we the people vote for them or not. Let's become a more humane nation!
Doreen Bauer

It is proven every time - if a certain portion of society wants power in government, they run for office. We need to get our people in and we must vote these people out.
Rita De Ferrary

February 08, 2013

Talk Back: More on the Controversy of Cats and Wildlife

The Nature Communications report attempting to quantify the toll that cats take on wildlife made front-page news this past week. The HSUS weighed in strongly, as an organization deeply committed to wildlife and to cats. We have closely examined this very question and suggested best practices for years (see our white paper on the topic). Two editorial writers from the Los Angeles Times had decidedly different views on the controversy (here and here), and their different framing puts on display the divided opinion that exists on the topic.

270x240 moxie cat - credit liz bergstrom
Liz Bergstrom

In the interview I did earlier this week on WHYY’s Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane, I challenged the criticism, leveled by some wildlife biologists and other wildlife advocates, that Trap-Neuter-Return programs are part of the problem and should be ceased. I underscored that cat rescuers are participants in one of the biggest underground movements in the United States. These self-sacrificing individuals would never participate in a mass trap-and-kill program for feral or free-roaming cats; instead, so many countless numbers of them help and lead TNR efforts. Without them, there would be no volunteer labor pool for trapping cats, so the very notion of trap-and-kill on a large scale is fantasy. It’s better to work with TNR advocates and other cat allies so they can continue to invest countless productive hours in humane control and cat care and carry out their work in a way that stabilizes or reduces cat colony populations.

TNR practitioners did not create the outdoor cat problem – but they are the tip of the spear in attacking that problem. To blame them seems like an inversion of reality and culpability. 

For decades, the humane movement, and particularly The HSUS, has been urging pet owners to keep their animals indoors – for the sake of both pets and wildlife. The percentage of cats in homes that are not let outside is increasing, and that suggests our campaign is working. Let’s continue that effort.

As a movement we should continue to promote spay-and-neuter, keeping cats indoors, using collars and visible ID and TNR programs for outdoor cats. Those are the best strategies for attacking the very real problem of cat predation on wildlife. 

Lots of you wrote in to me on this topic, and I’m happy to share a sampling of your opinions on the blog:

Thank you for writing this. I was rather dismayed by the media coverage of the published study because it did seem to place the issue squarely on the shoulders of the cats, demonizing them in the process. Cats who are allowed outside or who have no choice but to be outside are acting like cats – natural predators. We should be advocating keeping our cats indoors, spaying/neutering and TNR programs.
- Tina Barbour
I have always kept my cats indoors. I want to protect wildlife from them, but I also want to protect them from other predators and humans. This is also another reason why it is so important for people to spay and neuter their pets.
- Kelli Hall
I actually looked at the original "systematic review" by Marra and am finding that the authors are using estimations of the overall feral cat population. This includes large numbers of managed city cats with no access to songbirds, and all unfed country felines whose survival depends on catching protein & calories with the least amount of effort and the most meat. This must have led to an inflation of the actual numbers and I wish Marra would have collaborated with a behavioral ecologist who could have pointed out some errors in (animal) 'logic.’
- Zeitentgeistert
Wayne, I agree with your conclusion that domestic cats are a major cause of small wildlife predation, and I won't quibble with the numbers. I'm glad you reminded everyone of the problem. However your blog did bring up an interesting point: can cats be "owned", or "semi-owned", or perhaps not at all? I've lived with cats my entire life (50 years) and have never considered myself an "owner" of them. At best, I’m a guardian – at least for the younger ones. In fact, sometimes it seems like they're the ones who are masters of the house – and of me!
- Dave Bernazani
By all means you better get the word out and get the same front page headlines with your white paper that the anti-cat folks did. Their report is all over the news, and from what I'm reading it gives the haters just the excuse they have been looking for to kill felines. The HSUS has a lot of clout, now is the time to use it.
- Diana
I object to the notion that keeping indoor cats happy, healthy and entertained requires "hard work." No one wants to do anything that requires "work," let alone "hard work." Providing a cat-friendly indoor environment, with lots of vertical options to perch, tossing crumpled up receipts on the floor, letting them play in empty boxes – none of that is hard work. Plus it's a chance to bond, have fun and admire your cat's acrobatic talents. Adopting in twos is a great way to avoid work altogether, since two cats of approximately the same age will romp, frolic and play all by themselves. Converting a cat from outdoors to indoors may require some effort to prevent door-darting and more play sessions, but most cats adapt quite well. With cats, very little effort provides tremendous rewards in affection, entertainment and companionship.
- Andrea
After hearing the report yesterday, I was deeply concerned about the numbers involved in this issue of cats who hunt prey. I realize accuracy is difficult, but I immediately questioned the reality of these numbers. I have indoor cats, most of whom once lived outside. My family and neighbors also care for a feral colony and we have employed the Trap-Neuter-Return program. Because of our relationships with these cats, we have been able to observe their behavior carefully. Much to our surprise, most of them are not interested in hunting. They have catnip mice that they love to play with instead. Also, we feed squirrels and birds and the cats never hurt them. I wanted to share these observations with you because I'm sure that these are not isolated situations. It's clear that not all feral cats are killing birds and small animals. Thank you for the wonderful work you do.
- Patricia Moran

January 28, 2013

Talk Back: A Tribute To Billy


I received an outpouring of responses upon announcing the untimely passing of Billy, the little Chihuahua rescued from a North Carolina puppy mill and adopted by Animal Rescue Team leader Adam Parascandola. The video showing a playful Billy with Adam became an Internet sensation.

I am posting just a few of your comments today in response to the news. I hope that the vast majority of you, in addition to expressing your rightful sorrow about Billy’s demise, will also use the memory of this troubled little dog to motivate your involvement in ongoing legislative and public awareness campaigns to crack down on puppy mills and establish humane breeding standards. We expect anti-puppy mill bills in more than a dozen states this year, including North Carolina, where The HSUS has conducted more than a dozen raids on mills in recent years. Lawmakers should realize that this sort of cruelty can be prevented with the adoption of humane breeding standards.

By the time many dogs are rescued from a mill, they are suffering from ailments as severe as Billy's, or worse. Often, it's almost too late by the time we find them. Please check out our Stop Puppy Mills page for ways you can help.

Thank God this dear little dog at least had some time in his life where he received humane treatment and lots of love and affection. I think your humane rescuers are great people and it makes me think that there are some good people left in this world. - Judy Pizarro
Wayne, sorry to hear about Billy, but I am glad he was rescued and had a happy life until his unexpected death. You have my sympathy at his passing. May Billy rest in peace knowing he was free. - Cynthia Brown
Please end the suffering of those that cannot help themselves! These animals deserve laws that will protect them. - Lynn Stowers
Billy was happy in the end and we are so grateful to you! May God bless you for all you do and may He keep Billy safe and free from pain and suffering. Puppy mills suck! Please adopt from shelters! This just broke my heart. - Elba
I'm so sad...for a little guy I didn't know personally. The video of him being rescued made me cry, and I can't stop crying now. I am glad he had the love of a family, and didn't succumb in that rusty cage. I hope Billy is now free to live his true life in eternity. - Felicia
Rest in peace you beautiful little guy, Billy. I am so sorry you suffered so much but am thankful you did get some much deserved love from Adam. May you rest in peace little Billy. - Ruth Loutchan
I am so, so saddened to read this blog about Billy's passing. - Luvcats5CT
Sorry to hear of your loss. At least he went with a happy heart and a smile! - Mary Reid
I hope whoever did this to Billy lives out the rest of their life in a cage... jail is the only place for them. - Diane
So sorry for your loss! Billy was so adorable and I'm happy that you and your family rescued him and he was able to be so loved for his last few months. I also hope you can rescue another fur baby soon... God Bless. - Mary
Wayne, sorry to hear about Billy, but I am glad he was rescued and had a happy life until his unexpected death. You have my sympathy at his passing. May Billy rest in peace knowing he was free. - Cynthia Brown
Oh Lord, have mercy on us. Rest in peace, Billy. - Lilia Cruz
I've posted this on Facebook. Too many innocent loving creatures suffer like this, without hope of rescue. Keep up the good work! - Rebecca
OMG this made me cry! How sad that Billy passed, but at least he's not in pain anymore and had a great family that cared for him in the end. - Blake

November 21, 2012

Talk Back: End the Wolf Hunts

The news for bears and wolves, I’m afraid to report, isn’t good — in fact, it’s damn distressing. The Obama Administration has endorsed a perfectly miserable federal bill, S. 3525, that is a grab-bag for the hunting lobby, and Congress seems hell-bent on passing the so-called “Sportsmen’s Act of 2012.” The bill before the U.S. Senate has a provision that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from restricting the use of toxic lead shot ammunition, and one other that would allow American hunters to import the heads and hides of polar bears they shot in Canada, even though the species is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. The New York Times panned this atrocious bill in an editorial, in an attempt to shame the many Democrats and Republicans who seem intent on supporting this political sop to the hunting lobby.

Gray wolf in snow
© iStockphoto

Meanwhile, the hunting fraternity’s assault on predators and rare species occurs on other fronts, too. It was reported this week that hunters in Idaho and Montana have shot and killed at least seven radio-collared wolves from Yellowstone National Park (they were being monitored by wildlife scientists in a study of the predators). The wolves are among more than 500 shot and trapped this fall in the Northern Rockies and the Upper Great Lakes in the greatest assault on the species in the lower 48 states in more than 75 years. The HSUS is battling to prevent a wolf hunting season in Michigan, while some lawmakers there strain to pass a bill in the final weeks of the year. “It has taken nearly 40 years to restore the state’s gray wolf population to an estimated 700 animals,” wrote the Lansing State Journal in an editorial this week opposing the season. “Initiating a hunting season so quickly, when there are other measures that can be taken, would be overreacting.” In fact, according to Jill Fritz, HSUS state director for Michigan, on Nov. 27, citizens will gather at the state capitol to tell lawmakers Michiganders oppose a wolf hunt in their state.

That sentiment is equally true for the hapless wolf victims in Minnesota and Wisconsin and in the Northern Rockies. But pandering politicians in the administration, Congress, and a handful of state legislatures don’t seem to care about wolves. They somehow think the American public sides with the hunting lobby on this issue. You don’t seem to agree, and have had a lot to say about our past and announced efforts to stay the hunts:

With the money behind them (DNR, NRA) how in the world can we possibly stop this backward step of cruelty? I am so saddened and angry over this killing for fun. —Alice Miller

We need the wolves alive. They balance nature and the deer and elk herds. —Ann Marie Kelly

This senseless killing must stop — it is cruel and denotes an unfortunate sadistic tendency in human beings. Congratulations and keep up your wonderful work. —Jorge-Luis Batista

Thank you HSUS and Fund for Animals for filing the lawsuit; I live in northern Minnesota … I cannot believe that anyone would want to kill such a magnificent animal for its hide. I have seen wolves in the wild, and there is nothing to describe it except I get goose bumps every time! —Cindy Doe

I'm desperately sad about the current wolf killing sprees in this country. How can people be so heartless? —Lor Woods

Total insane tragedy. It breaks my heart, especially thinking about the sadness of their families. That is a very powerful discussion. We all know about family tragedy, and it's so easy to transfer your emotions to the pain we can imagine for the wolf's family. You have become the conscious for all of God's families…a special angel of mercy. —Andrew Bello

This wolf hunting and trapping is just sickening. The picture of that 14-year-old girl with a dead wolf in front of her really saddened me. This is not even an animal they killed to eat — not that it is necessary to eat our wildlife. This wolf had a pack, a mate, and possibly pups. Also wolves are necessary in the ecological picture. What are people thinking? —Ann Nevans

I wish this administration would put wolves back on as endangered and end trophy hunting of wolves. —Caroline

I was reading the article about hunting of wolves and we now have a hunting and trapping season here in Minnesota. It’s really disgusting to hear people talk about wolves like they are preying on people and should be wiped off the earth. It makes me sick and now the latest movie out has wolves in it as going after people...when will we ever learn they will not harm us. —Sheila Cunningham

I think the livestock industry is mostly responsible for this push to hunt wolves as they have a fear of predators, even though their losses to predators are less than one percent of their entire industry. They also benefit from almost free grazing on public lands. I think if they are not satisfied with free grass, then remove their cattle from public space and pay for grazing somewhere else. Public lands are shared by all …[they] are not for the primary production of beef cattle. Predators belong there, cows do not! —Claudia

September 28, 2012

Talk Back: A Good Week for Pigs, Chimpanzees, Bears, and Hounds

Pig face
Take the pledge to help more pigs.

It’s been a week filled with meaningful achievements on the animal protection front. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed more than a half-dozen animal protection bills backed by The HSUS, including a ban on hound hunting of bears and bobcats. Three major food companies–ConAgra Foods, Dunkin' Donuts, and Chili’s–made pledges to phase out their purchases of pork from factory farms that confine pigs inside gestation crates.

And last week, the National Institutes of Health made 110 chimps housed in a Louisiana laboratory “permanently ineligible” for research. We also conducted a whole series of animal rescues–and when you add it all up, you get a sense of the breadth and impact of our work.

This good news heartened many of you:

I've been waiting so long for some more good news on this front. The day [the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act] becomes law I will throw a huge party! Thanks for sharing this and making my day, Wayne! —Dave Bernazani

Thank you for never giving up on freeing the chimpanzees. Keep us posted. —Carol Tomlinson

I like to think that the emails and messages we've been sending about chimpanzee testing [are] finally starting to pay off. This is good news indeed—a great step in the right direction. Thank you! —Jackie Reina

California was long out of step by continuing to allow packs of unsupervised dogs to be let loose in forests to pursue bears and bobcats—chases that often last hours over miles of rugged terrain and frequently result in a point-blank shot from a tree by a hunter, who caught up with the dogs using radio telemetry collars. Gov. Brown signed S.B. 1221 this week, making California the 15th state to protect bears from this unsporting practice and the 14th stopping the cruelty inflicted on bobcats. The fight over S.B. 1221 was a tough one, and it adds to the unbelievable litany of policy achievements we’ve secured in California since we pushed successfully for the passage of Prop 2 in 2008:

Way to go Wayne! I share the same passion for animals as you do. I was present at the Capitol for one of the hearings. This victory has brought me to tears of joy. Keep up the good work! —Angela Milla-Lauridsen

Great! That was a cruel, cruel sport for the dogs and the hunted animal. So glad it is banned. —Elizabeth Dinges

Thank you, Gov. Brown. This is such an inhumane practice. —Polly Leggans

And there’s something transformational going on when a cascade of food companies say they want a divorce from the gestation crate business. Just this year alone, more than 30 major companies, with more than 90,000 retail restaurants or outlets, have said they’re on the path to go crate-free.

Thank you ConAgra for taking some action. Please take it [seriously] and move the entire industry forward toward free range pigs! —Cindy Falvey

I have a potbellied pig for a pet so I don't eat pork…I do realize that farm pigs are for food but there is no reason to be cruel to them. They should roam free in a very large area. Pigs are very smart animals. They do have feelings. I have learned that with mine… —Lennie Violante

The pig has given so much to us, we can at least let it enjoy what life it has. They are very intelligent creatures. No living thing should be crated like that its whole life. —Lynne Laboy

September 14, 2012

Talk Back: Bill Introduced to Strengthen Horse Protection Act

Yesterday, Congressmen Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., introduced legislation in the U.S. House to strengthen the Horse Protection Act and allow for a stronger crackdown on the widespread abuse within the Tennessee Walking Horse show world. There’s been a fever pitch about this abuse, since The HSUS released undercover footage months ago showing an industry Hall of Fame trainer abusing horses in order to get them to step high in the show arena.

Big_lick_at_2012_celebrationThe industry’s reaction to yesterday’s bill introduction suggests it has something to hide. Jeffrey Howard, communications director for the Tennessee Walking Show Horse Organization, denounced the bill in a statement to the Tennessean, stating that “It is shameful that elected officials would attack an industry that means so much to small communities across the country, all for political gain. He added, “Have they ever talked to anyone who rides a walking horse, to anyone who lives in the communities to which this animal and the sport means something?”

His comment begs the question: if they are not soring horses, what is he worried about? And how does fortifying a law to end a criminal practice hurt the Walking Horse industry? In fact, this bill is just what the industry needs to prevent a continuing erosion in public credibility. The small crowds at this year’s Celebration in Shelbyville showed the consequences of a growing concern about inhumane treatment of horses within the industry.

So many of you have written to me about this topic, and today, I share some of your comments. (If you haven't already, please take action by contacting your federal lawmakers and urge them to support H.R. 6388 to crack down on horse abuse.)

How can anyone be cruel to these gentle creatures? As a Tennessee Walker owner and animal lover, how can anyone be cruel to any animal? Beyond comprehension.... —Fran Townsend Okrei

Thanks to all the real horsemen out there who are boycotting these shows. This is one of the most horrid and shameful acts on a magnificent creature. Time for the LAW to enforce this practice that keeps happening right in their faces...Thanks, Wayne for going. —Deborah Daquila

I can't think of another legal "tradition" or "pastime" or whatever you want to call it that America can do without more than the Tennessee walking horse travesty. If, as [convicted] trainer Davis said, "They've got to be sored to walk," then let's outlaw it altogether, and put an end to the whole silly business. I've seen footage of the spectacles, and the bizarre, unnatural way they make those poor horses walk is grotesque and appalling. It strikes me as the same vein as horse "diving" or making circus bears ride motorcycles. Only a relatively few wealthy individuals participate in this cruel and degrading activity, and surely they can think of something better to do with all their money. I guess the only reason it hasn't been banned already is because of that same wealth—money is power. —David Bernazani

Owners and trainers that participate in this cruel practice should get a LOT more than just a year in jail. —Victoria Kay Johnson

Thank you for being concerned for horses’ well-being. As a former AQHA parent of an exhibitor, I know abuses happen in all breeds and venues. What happens to Tennessee Walkers is beyond anything a civilized society can accept. AQ has had its really bad problems too, and I just am so glad HSUS is looking out for these wonderful animals that give us their all every time we ask. If it had not been for horses, we would not have this world we have and we should and must respect them for what they have done for us and for what they are, intrinsically. My horses make me happy every day just by being there, and I do my best to make sure they have the best of care. Thank you for your efforts. —Anne Foster

I am just learning of the abuse that goes on with the Tennessee walking horse. It just breaks my heart that this abuse can happen to one of the most beautiful animals on the planet. Why are people so cruel and money hungry? Why must they torture an innocent, sweet and spectacular animal such as the horse? I hope to get an email when this cruel horse show is OVER. I am so tired of hearing about or reading about the torture of animals who don’t have a voice. —Pamela Kaczynski

I have been so saddened by the undercover tapes. I was so relieved to see you are still fighting this battle. Thank you. —Gladys Amherdt

Increase the size of the reward for tips and take out more billboard ads. Undercover video is critical too. Let them know that the eyes of the world are watching them. —Laura Meltzer

Just like dogfighting, these people will continue this barbaric behavior like a thief in the night. The people working undercover and the people with the ability to make changes will have to stay long-term vigilant to even make and reinforce ANY kind of permanent changes. Even then, you'll have your old school good ol’ boys who will never conform no matter the penalty. I'm keeping the faith though that HSUS and everyone who can make a difference will not forget or abandon these abused and mistreated horses. I'm also hoping more whistleblowers come forward and use their conscience as their guide. —Paula Sklar

Thank you HSUS for fighting all the atrocities humans are inflicting on animals. When it comes to the Tennessee walking horse show, we can put pressure on the powers to be, by NOT ATTENDING! If no one shows up, then there is no "celebration." Don't support it by buying tickets or anything—money talks. Keep the fight going. Make this more and more public. Maybe someday the tide will turn, even if it is slow. —Patricia Blackie Tolbert

How awful. To cause pain for no need. —Linda Clauson Eskew

All of this abuse, torture, and nauseating training for an elite prize and reputation...if these owners and trainers had a conscience, or the slightest amount of dignity and respect for animals, then they would be more proud to announce that they may not have gotten the award for the best horse but train them the right and humane way. This needs to end...the trainers shouldn't receive a few years of probation from the shows....they should never be allowed back, or near another horse; that is the only way this will truly stop! —Kendall Aufmuth

July 20, 2012

Talk Back: A Sea Change on Gestation Crates, and Outrage against King Amendment

It was a big moment, earlier this year, when McDonald’s made a joint announcement with The HSUS that the best-known restaurant chain in the world would start the process of phasing out purchases of pork from producers who confine sows in gestation crates. We’ve seen similar announcements in the months since from a raft of companies―including Burger King, Safeway, and Kroger, just to name a few. But earlier this week, we made what may be the biggest announcement yet―among the biggest in terms of pork purchasing and sales. Costco announced that it, too, would join the cascade of companies who are now paying attention to animal welfare issues and recognizing that gestation crates are unacceptable. Costco is the second-biggest food seller in the U.S., right after Walmart.

White hen
Please take action today to help hens.

Big Pork is taking it on the chin, week after week, with these changes in corporate policy in the food sector of our economy. That industry refuses to listen to reason or science or its customer base, and stubbornly clings to extreme confinement practices as a customary practice. Its defense is futile, and it’s being exposed as an industry without much of any conscience when it comes to animal welfare. It’s losing reputational capital in the short-term and in the long-term.

Contrast that with the egg industry, which has proposed federal legislation to phase in changes for its industry and to eventually eliminate the barren battery cage. The egg industry's leaders sat down with The HSUS and hammered out a mutually beneficial agreement to advance animal welfare (H.R. 3798/S. 3239). Now the industry is making investments in codifying the plan, which is an antecedent to the actual transformation of its entire infrastructure.

When you have traditional adversaries who come together on a plan like this, you would think that the Congress would enthusiastically embrace it, especially because it asks for no financing from the federal government. Many lawmakers see the wisdom of it, but a few are still in the grip of the corporate pork and beef lobbies, which want to see no improvement on animal welfare policy and which are trying to kill the agreement. Their minion in Congress is Iowa’s Rep. Steve King, who is also an apologist for dogfighting, cockfighting, horse slaughter, and plenty of other appalling practices. Last week, King offered a retaliatory amendment to the egg-laying hen agreement. His proposal attempts to scuttle the agreement and it could also overturn a raft of state laws on animal welfare, food safety, and worker and environmental protection.

His desperate effort cannot preserve the use of gestation crates―that shift toward improved housing systems is inevitable, given the cascade of corporate decisions since January 2012. But he can thwart our progress for improvements in the lives of 280 million laying hens.

King is the worst sort of politician―someone who works against our nation’s interests and who does so at the bidding of special interest groups. It’s no wonder why the public holds so many members of Congress in ill repute.

Many of you had a lot to say about King and his amendment, after I wrote about them twice in the last week:

[Rep. King] needs to be replaced with someone that cares about animal welfare. We need more in Congress that love animals because the sad part is the animals don't have a voice in any situation they are in. NO to horse slaughter in the USA now or ever. I am tired of my tax dollars being wasted when they need to go help the people and animals in need. ―Shirley Smith

We cannot sit still for this. I am writing a letter to the editor of the [San Francisco Chronicle] and encourage all HSUS members to write to their local papers in protest of the King amendment. Please take the time this weekend to sit down and write an intelligent, brief letter. ―Tai Moses

What a poor example of leadership in Iowa. Such a great state and Mr. King dismisses humane and ethical treatment of such wonderful animals. Please don't support any of his initiatives. ―Jennifer Hanson

I am appalled that anyone would be so narrow-minded, cruel and selfish as to oppose anything related to keeping our environment and animals safe. He's got to be getting some good political contributions to act like this. ―Karen Valerio

Who voted to put this guy in office? I suggest they vote him out! No wonder people are disgusted with politics. The politicians cater to special interests. ―Mary Oster

What is the name of the King amendment and who voted in favor of it? The consumer has spoken―ask Kroger, etc. People who care about animals vote with their pocketbook and the companies who buy from suppliers now understand that and are insisting on humane practices from their suppliers no matter what King and his bought-and-paid for cronies try to undo. A good example of Rep. King's vaunted market forces at work. ―Laura Meltzer

If the powers that be in our government don't care about animal welfare, one would hope that they would "at least" care about food safety, and what Americans, what children are eating...they obviously just don’t care about the American people or our animals period! Very sad, very telling. Thanks for the update Wayne, grim as it may be. Keep up the fight! ―Michele Bolinger

My stomach literally feels sick hearing this news. Wayne, what can we do to help? We can NOT let these abuses continue! Every day my heart aches for all the animals. We're supposed to be the most "civilized" country in the world and yet by the way we treat animals, you'd never know it! ―Joan Dick

It’s critical that our supporters write to Senators and Representatives in support of the HSUS-UEP egg industry reform legislation, but also in opposition to the King amendment. And let’s take up Tai’s suggestion: writer letters to the editor. Create a stir. It’s our government, and we can’t allow retrograde politicians like King to prevail and to retard progress that’s good for animals, for consumers, and even for the industries themselves.