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July 09, 2014

Howling for Wolves and Voting Rights in Michigan

Almost three decades ago, I spent a summer as a Student Conservation Association ranger at Isle Royale National Park, in the farthest reaches of northern Michigan. I hiked through the beautiful boreal forests of this World Heritage site, drawn there because of the stories I’d read as a child about the relationship between the wolves and the moose on the island. Not for a moment did I ever worry about a wolf attack – in fact, I yearned for a glimpse of these elusive creatures.

Wolf
Michigan's small population of wolves has to be protected from trophy hunters. Photo: Alamy

I’m back today in the lower peninsula, enjoying the Michigan summer and speaking up for wolves as the human population of 10 million grapples with the question of how it handles the 650 or so wolves who’ve reclaimed a small portion of their range, in the state’s Upper Peninsula.

Immediately after the federal government removed wolves from the list of endangered species, a majority of state lawmakers voted to open up a trophy-hunting season for wolves. The HSUS joined a larger coalition, called Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, and conducted a referendum to give voters the opportunity to nullify the legislature’s precipitous and controversial action. We’re pleased to stand with the Detroit Zoo, Michigan’s native American tribes, Audubon chapters, the Michigan Sierra Club, hundreds of other groups, businesses, veterinarians, wolf scientists, and thousands of volunteers working on the ground who favor the restoration of basic protections for the state’s small population of wolves.

Before the public could even vote on the issue, lawmakers found a different means of allowing trophy hunting – by ceding authority to the seven-member Natural Resources Commission to establish hunting seasons for almost any species. They clearly feared that the voters would side with us, and tried to derail our referendum.

We responded with a second referendum, to give voters the chance to nullify the second legislative maneuver against wolves. We met their attempt to suppress voting rights with more citizen democratic action and a new opportunity to vote.

This time, the trophy-hunting lobby gathered signatures for its own wolf-hunting measure, ironically and counterintuitively as a third attempt to thwart a vote of the people. Their measure is called the “Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act” – a well-dressed-up wolf hunting measure – and they have publicly stated that they want the legislature to approve it later this month or in August. The trophy-hunting lobby, by various means, wants legislators to control this issue, so they can have their way with wolves.

There’s one overriding conclusion I’ve come to in talking to people in this state. We at The HSUS and Keep Michigan Wolves Protected have confidence in the people of Michigan to weigh the issues and make the right decision. Our opponents don’t trust the citizens of the state, and they are making extraordinary efforts to block a public vote in a fair election.

Our system of government is grounded on the principle that regular people are entrusted to make election decisions, whether for candidates or issues. Thomas Jefferson said it best: “Men by their makeup are naturally divided into two camps: those who fear and distrust the people and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of higher classes; and those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them the safest and most honest, if always the wisest repository of the public interest.”

It’s a sad circumstance when lawmakers and their allies in the trophy-hunting community try to squelch the voting rights of citizens, in their zeal to kill animals who are rare, who’ve harmed no one, and who have a rightful place in this great state.  

July 01, 2014

Jon Bernthal: 'Walking Tall' for Animals

AD_BERNTHAL_12_13_HIGHRES_183043I was a Jon Bernthal fan before he burst onto the screen in the fabulously successfully, award-winning first two seasons of AMC’s The Walking Dead. He played the tightly wound and fiercely protective former law enforcement officer who helps lead a band of people fighting for survival against hordes of zombies overrunning the human race in a post-apocalyptic world.  I knew that he was a big animal person, thanks to a tip from his dad, Rick Bernthal, who is the chairman of the board of The HSUS.  I met Jon’s two dogs, Boss and Venice, at Rick’s house and knew of Jon’s passionate advocacy for pit bulls and his support for our efforts to crack down on puppy mills, dogfighting and other forms of abuse. 

Jon and I caught up on Saturday, just before the start of our 60th anniversary gala in Washington, D.C., and talked about his views on animal issues, his animal-loving dad, and just a bit about his movies. The gala, hosted by actor Ben Stein and also featuring CNN’s Jane Velez-Mitchell, was both inspirational and motivating, and we were so pleased that Jon took the time from his movie making and other activities to join us.  Here’s the trailer for one of his movies, Fury, with Brad Pitt, due out November 15th across the nation.  And here’s my interview with him for today’s video blog. 

June 26, 2014

Rescue, Rehab and Release

The animal care team at our affiliated Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in Ramona, California, last year took in a red-tailed hawk who’d been found at a trolley station. Her wing was heavily damaged, after coming out on the losing end of a collision with a mechanized vehicle or an overhead power line. Trolley Girl, as she came to be known, had surgery on her wing and burned feathers removed. She lost a lot of muscle strength, but over time and with proper care she was declared fit for flight exercises in March and expect that she is now counting down the days until released into the wild.

Trolley Girl is just one of about 15,000 creatures every year who come, broken, into our wildlife rehabilitation centers where our staff and volunteers work tirelessly to mend their wounds and broken bodies and to give them a second chance at life in the wild.

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These orphaned red fox kits are being cared for at the Cape Wildlife Center in Barnstable, Massachusetts.
Photo: Heather Fone/The HSUS

It’s something that happens not only at our facilities, but at hundreds of other wildlife rehabilitation centers quietly but critically operating in communities throughout the nation.  That’s why I am so pleased that Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and 11 cosponsors introduced a resolution today (H. Res. 651) in the U.S. House of Representatives to recognize the importance of wildlife rehabilitation and the dedicated individuals who devote their lives and expertise to it. 

Wildlife rehabilitation has probably been around as long as kids have been bringing orphaned baby animals home and asking moms and dads how to care for them. But over time, the needs in this sector have increased as wild animals face increasing peril from roads, power lines, glass windows, poisons, wind turbines and other human-made constructs and hazards.

The quality of the centers focusing on these concerns has risen to meet these demands and today we have increasingly sophisticated and specialized facilities staffed by specialists – veterinarians, administrators, husbandry experts and even nutritionists in some cases. These facilities have broadened the mission of rehabilitation and they often serve as early warning centers to monitor the health and status of our wildlife communities.

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A red-footed tortoise enjoys a strawberry at the South Florida Wildlife Center in Fort Lauderdale.
Photo: Amber McPherson/The HSUS

The three wildlife rehabilitation centers operated by The HSUS and its affiliates, located in California, Florida, and Massachusetts, see animals ranging from baby birds and squirrels and opossums to bald eagles and mountain lions. Our experts not only help the animals but they also spend a lot of time working within their communities, and particularly with kids, teaching them about wildlife and about minimizing impacts on wild animals and respecting them.

Rep. Smith said today, “Every year, hundreds of thousands of wild animals are orphaned, injured or become sick. This resolution recognizes the work of wildlife rehabilitation centers and their self-less efforts to protect our wildlife. Today, we thank these individuals and organizations for what they do on a daily basis.”

As I travel around the country, I try to visit many of these wildlife rehabilitation centers, where I have been delighted to meet the selfless people providing a remarkable safety net for animals in crisis.  It’s a network of emergency care centers not nearly as numerous and well-funded as the array of dog and cat shelters and centers, but every bit as critical for animals. We join Congressman Smith and other lawmakers in saluting them and their life-saving work today.

June 25, 2014

Capitalism With a Conscience – for Animals

All over America, and around the world, corporations are listening to their customers and taking intentional steps to contribute to the new, emerging humane economy, one that lightens the burden of suffering for animals. I recently announced that Cargill, the largest private corporation in the United States, has set a timeframe for purging gestation crates from its supply chain. Earlier this year, Smithfield Foods and Tyson Foods, two other major meat producers, made announcements of a similar nature. And over the last two and a half years, we’ve seen 60 major American food retailers – the companies that sell the product to consumers -- agree to phase out their purchase of pork from operators using gestation crates. 

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Safeway earns the Spira award for its work to end the use of gestation crates in its food supply chain. In the pork industry, most breeding pigs are confined for virtually their entire lives in these inhumane crates. Photo: The HSUS

Across the whole breadth of the economy, we are seeing a raft of companies from Whole Foods Market to Hampton Creek to Beyond Meat and LUSH Cosmetics providing opportunities for their customers to act on their values in the marketplace – on issues ranging from factory farming to animal testing to fur selling. 

One pioneer who contributed so meaningfully to our present-day successes is the late Henry Spira.  Between the mid-1970s and the 1990s, he spearheaded campaigns to end animal testing and pushed better treatment for farm animals, forging alliances between major corporations and animal protectionists. Spira recognized that the attentiveness of corporations to animal welfare concerns was central to our movement’s future success. In fact, Spira biographer and campaign partner Peter Singer published a very useful synopsis of Spira’s rules for effective corporate engagement on animal protection issues.

In recognition of his pathbreaking work, we worked with Professor Singer and others to create the Henry Spira Humane Corporate Progress Award, to recognize businesses, innovators and entrepreneurs committed to advancing progress on animal issues. In 2013, the inaugural year for the award, we recognized Aramark, Burger King and Sodexo for working to eliminate some of the worst factory-farming practices from their supply chains; CeeTox, Inc. for its work to replace the use of animals in chemical and other product testing; and the Consumer Specialty Products Association, which brokered an industry-wide agreement to add a bittering agent to antifreeze and engine coolant to prevent accidental poisoning of children and animals.

Fur-free fashion 2
John Bartlett, Inc. earns the honor for its celebration of fur-free fashion and for its work to raise awareness about the inherent cruelty of an industry that each year kills 75 million animals for fashion. Photo: Greg Vaughan

This year, we honor the country’s second largest grocery store chain, Safeway, and fashion designer John Bartlett, Inc. with the Spira Award. Safeway earns the honor for its work last year to end the use of gestation crates in its food supply chain and for moving toward group housing for pigs. In the pork industry, most breeding pigs are confined for virtually their entire lives in these inhumane crates that are barely two feet wide, essentially immobilizing the animals for the duration of their lives.

Our second awardee this year is John Bartlett, Inc., which earns the honor for its celebration of fur-free fashion and for its work to raise awareness about the inherent cruelty of an industry that each year kills 75 million animals for fashion. In 2012, my friend John Bartlett, the namesake of the company, made fashion week history with the debut of his 100 percent cruelty-free menswear collection.  His work makes plain that style and fashion won’t suffer in the least when we shed fur from our garment choices.

Safeway and John Bartlett, Inc. are trailblazers leading the way in a private sector that is becoming more aware of animal issues and more humane with each passing year.  While it’s true that a small number of companies and trade associations continue to cling to their business models grounded on cruelty and exploitation of animals, attacking The HSUS and fighting reforms supported by the public, they are really the outliers in a sea of change that’s bringing our economic lives and practices into greater alignment with our values. Their stubborn commitment to the status quo of cruelty and indifference to animals is bound to be swept away by the swell of support for humane values everywhere.

We’re dedicated to transforming our economy for the better, helping animals in the process.  The HSUS is the number one provider of animal-care services among humane organizations, through its own hands-on programs for pets, wildlife and other creatures in crisis.  And we are the nation’s number one, high-impact animal advocacy organization, driving change in the realms of public awareness, public policy and, of course, corporate reforms.  Today, we celebrate the corporations joining our movement and doing right by animals.  These companies would make Henry Spira proud, and we thank them.

June 16, 2014

Federal Court Ruling on 'Crush Videos' Just the Latest to Affirm Value of Animal Protection Legislation

It's still a crime to sell videos showing appalling forms of animal cruelty, after a federal appeals court upheld a federal anti-cruelty law Friday. This is just the latest in a string of federal court decisions, upholding the authority of Congress and the states to take action on a wide range of abuses against animals. I sat down this weekend with Jonathan Lovvorn, The HSUS’ senior vice president and chief counsel for Animal Protection Litigation, and discussed Friday’s ruling and a string of other important federal court cases – and how The HSUS’ work with legislative bodies and with the courts has been transformational for our movement.

Wayne: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday reinstated a federal law that bans the sale of "animal crush" videos—horrific videos where men force women to torture animals for their sexual pleasure.  We know that state laws against cruelty are grounded on a solid legal basis, but it seems to me that this is meaningful to have this appellate court ruling on a federal anti-cruelty statute.

Jonathan:  Yes, this is one of the most important court decisions of 2014.  You'll remember that a few years ago the Supreme Court struck down a 1999 federal statute banning the possession and sale of animal crush videos in United States v. Stevens.  In response, The HSUS’ federal affairs and litigation teams worked with our allies in Congress to pass a new, constitutionally-sound ban on animal crush videos.  But last year a Texas district court struck that law down on First Amendment grounds as well.  So we joined with our pro bono partners at Latham & Watkins to persuade the Court of Appeals that the district court erred badly in assessing the law and this case. Last Friday, the court affirmed that Congress has a legitimate interest in preventing the “wanton torture and killing” behind animal crush videos and “that, as demonstrated by federal and state animal-cruelty laws, society has deemed worthy of criminal sanction.” The ruling bolsters the authority of the federal government and the states to set standards to prevent cruelty to all animals. 

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The HSUS' litigation unit is focused on making sure that state and federal laws against staged animal fights are fully enforced.
Photo: The HSUS

Wayne: The HSUS and the Humane Society Legislative Fund, our lobbying arm, have worked methodically to fortify federal and state laws against dogfighting and cockfighting.  The original federal animal fighting law, enacted in 1976, was weak, and not enforced at all for a quarter century.  But we worked with Congress to upgrade that law in 2002, making all interstate and foreign transport of fighting animals a federal crime, and we started working with federal officials on some cases.  In 2007, we worked to upgrade penalties – to a felony – for the underlying crime, and in subsequent upgrades, banned the possession of fighting animals and the interstate transport of cockfighting implements.  This year, we worked with our allies in Congress to make it a crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fight. Of course, that rapid progress has rattled cockfighters, who have brought a series of constitutional challenges to the animal fighting laws.  

Jonathan:  Just a decade ago, it was legal in some states to attend a dogfight or stage a cockfight. No longer, because of the efforts of The HSUS, HSLF, and other organizations. Our litigation unit has now been focused on making sure these state and federal laws against staged animal fights are fully enforced, and also on fending off a series of constitutional challenges against the laws. Last year, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a key ruling upholding Congress’ authority under the Commerce Clause to ban even localized animal fighting due to the interstate nature of organized cockfighting rings.

Wayne: In the states, animal welfare groups, led by The HSUS and HSLF, have helped to pass about 1,000 laws in the last decade.  But as we succeed in passing these laws, it is inevitable that our opponents will try to get judicial review and to invalidate them by invoking a range of legal theories. Just take California in the last few years. Shark fin dealers challenged the ban on the possession and sale of shark fins, foie gras producers challenged the ban on the sale of foie gras from force-fed birds, and now some states are challenging the ban on the sale of cruelly-produced eggs.  We helped pass all of these laws, so it’s so important that we defend them.

Jonathan: It’s an important indicator of our movement’s progress that we now spend most of our time enforcing the law and defending our legislative victories. In these cases, someone is usually claiming some type of constitutional right to abuse animals—whether it’s the “right” to cram animals into tiny cages, the “right” to fight animals for gambling, or the “right” to crush animals to make obscene videos. Our opponents march into the courts because they have already lost in the court of public opinion and in the nation’s legislatures. Ironically, this was traditionally the recourse of the animal protection community—shut out of the political process, and focused primarily on difficult legal challenges to policies that had already been decided against us. This noticeable inversion in position—wherein those who profit from animal cruelty and abuse are now the ones stuck filing the last-gasp legal challenges — is an unmistakable sign that we are winning.

Wayne: The courts have also sided with us on the power of the states to ban the sale of horse meat for human consumption.  While we’re working tirelessly in Congress to ban the slaughter of all American horses, it’s so important that we maintain the state protections for horses.

Jonathan: We got our first big win on horse slaughter in 2007, when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Texas’ ban on horse slaughter. Later that year we helped close the last horse slaughterhouse on American soil when we helped lead a coalition to pass and defend a ban on horse slaughter in Illinois.  In upholding that law, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that “States have a legitimate interest in prolonging the lives of animals” and promoting the “humane treatment of our fellow animals.” Last year, when horse slaughter threatened to resume in New Mexico, Iowa and Missouri, we filed a series of legal challenges that managed to halt these plans long enough for our legislative team to secure a Congressional rider to block any plants from opening in the United States. This type of integrated legal and legislative strategy is something only The HSUS has the capacity and sophistication to deploy successfully, and one of the major reason for our successes.

Wayne: Tell us what kind of human resources The HSUS has assembled to draft well-crafted bills, to enforce the law, to defend our gains in court, and to challenge overreaching and restrictive statutes by our adversaries.

Jonathan: In 2005, after the corporate combination with The Fund for Animals, we started building up in our house and pro bono legal team. It now consists of 25 attorneys, who specialize in many different areas of the law – wildlife, farm animals, anti-cruelty and international law. Our in-house experts partner with hundreds of cooperating attorneys, and many of the biggest, most respected law firms in the country.  This combined public interest and private practice legal “team” is the most important aggregation of legal talent that has ever been assembled in our movement, and you can see some pretty remarkable results from this investment of donor dollars and pro bono engagement. We are grateful every day that our supporters have enabled this new, critical legal capacity for a movement that has rather dramatically moved into the realm of public policy and law enforcement. The federal courts have proved essential on a wide range of other social reform movements – from the earliest civil rights victories to the enormous string of recent judicial decisions affirming marriage equality – so it’s logical that this would be a critical arena for our movement, too.

Click here for more information on The HSUS’ litigation program.

June 02, 2014

Ending Tyranny Against Animals

There are people whose lives and work dramatically affect the trajectory of history, and Mohandas K. Gandhi was surely among the biggest agents of change in the last century. He helped to usher in an end to colonialism, to drive the spread of democracy as a form of governance, and to stir the conscience of people throughout the world on issues ranging from prison reform to economic justice to animal protection.

On Saturday, we felt the presence of Gandhi’s ideas and celebrated his continuing influence today – more than 60 years after his death – at the unveiling and dedication of a life-size statue of him within view of Manhattan, in the small New Jersey city of Secaucus.  The HSUS co-hosted the event at the Sadhu Vaswani Center of New Jersey.  Two federal lawmakers – Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Frank Pascrell, D-N.J., both leading animal protection advocates – joined the ceremony and offered remarks.

Vaswani quote
Photo: Kathleen Schatzmann

The Rev. Dada Vaswani, at the age of 95 years, gave a deeply moving keynote speech about the father of the nation of India, noting that “Mahatma Gandhi was born in India, but he belonged to all of humanity.”  The Rev. Vaswani devoted a large share of his speech to the systemic mistreatment of animals, noting that we as a society are continuing to engage in a “tyranny” against animals, especially in the form of the institutionalized cruelty of factory farms.

Gandhi never sidestepped the question of animal cruelty.  And his work reminds us that the principles of justice and decency are indivisible.  That same fire inside him that burned so hot against colonialism and poverty also propelled his work against animal abuse and so many other injustices.

There were so many occasions when even Gandhi’s allies told him that the cause of disassembling British rule was impossible.  It was impossible only until it was inevitable.

That’s the way I feel about animal cruelty.  How can rational people defend clubbing seals for their fur when we can keep ourselves warm with plenty of other garments?  How can they tolerate testing on helpless animals for cosmetics when so many companies already market their products without resorting to animal tests?  And how can people throughout the world stage fights between animals when we humans can choose so many other forms of entertainment that do not leave behind the battered bodies of animals?

For me, this weekend’s event was a reminder of the strong Indian traditions of compassion and mercy for animals and the impactful life of one great Indian leader.  But it was also a reminder that great causes require not only leaders but mass struggle and determination, and if those causes are right and the adherents resolute, they cannot be forever contained or denied.  Right and decency will triumph, as the Rev. Vaswani noted, as past movements for the rights of man, the end of slavery, and suffrage for women have shown.  One day, the end to all forms of animal cruelty will be added to that list.

May 30, 2014

There Oughta Be a Law – for Animals

Every decent person should be mindful of animals, and we should live in a way that reflects a conscious concern for them. But unfortunately, there are outliers in our society --- people who know few or no limits when it comes to their mistreatment of animals. It’s for these people that the law must speak, creating a bright-line standard of care and treatment for animals. The HSUS and its affiliate, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, do work in so many domains, but one of them is public policy and enforcement. On today’s video blog, I speak to the critical importance of policy-making in our movement.

May 28, 2014

Tip of the Hat to the Mahatma

On Saturday, May 31st, I will be in Secaucus, New Jersey, for the unveiling of a life-size statue of a great leader who made an indelible contribution to, among many urgent causes, animal protection – the legendary Mahatma Gandhi, father of the nation of India.  I’ll be speaking there, along with a major Indian spiritual leader, the Rev. Dada J.P. Vaswani.  If you live in or around New York and northern New Jersey, I hope you’ll consider joining me, the Rev. Vaswani, and other religious and political leaders to discuss Gandhi’s legacy of nonviolence and social justice, and its relevance to our present-day challenges with animal cruelty.

Vaswani and GandhiWe at The HSUS, through our Faith Outreach program, are committed to working with religious people and reminding them of their own longstanding scriptural and other traditions of human responsibility and compassion toward all animals. Last month, at Liberty University in southwestern Virginia, we had a showing of Amazing Grace, a movie that profiles the quest for social justice and reform pioneered by the remarkable 19th-century evangelical leader William Wilberforce, who co-founded the Royal SPCA.

On Saturday, at the event cosponsored by the Sadhu Vaswani Center of New Jersey, we’ll be announcing the new HSUS Dharmic Council, an affiliate of our national Faith Council.  The Dharmic religions, which include Hinduism and Jainism and now have more than one billion adherents, have long histories of ethical treatment of animals.  Ahimsa, or nonviolence toward all living beings, is a central pillar in these religions, and it’s just one reason why, after Humane Society International opened offices in India where these traditions are influential, we’ve seen a cascade of national animal protection policies enacted.  Gandhi, who helped create such fertile terrain for animal protection, felt that Ahimsa was the highest possible moral value and believed that it should encompass all interactions, not only between people but also between humans and animals.  Based on the principle that all life contains divine spiritual energy, Ahimsa inspired Gandhi in both his passive resistance movement against an oppressive political system and in his commitment to vegetarianism. Gandhi’s legacy of nonviolent engagement, based on the religious concept of Ahimsa, also influenced Martin Luther King, Jr., Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela, John Lennon and the Dalai Lama, and has played a powerful role in the trajectory of global events over the last century.

Gandhi’s compassion and nonviolence are values we at The HSUS admire and share, and they are so relevant for us as the United States benefits from the extraordinary Indian diaspora that includes more than three million Indian-Americans. Many are community leaders, doctors, engineers and other professionals contributing so much to our country and to India.  We look forward to partnering with them to advance animal protection values at home and abroad.

P.S. If you are interested in attending the May 31st dedication ceremony and town hall meeting, please RSVP on The HSUS website.  This event is free and promises to be both informative and inspirational.  I look forward to seeing you there.  In addition, we also have partnered with the Hindu American Seva Communities (HASC), which is hosting its fourth national conference at the White House during Gandhi’s birthday week of October 2nd.  If you would like to attend the HASC conference, which is entitled “Dharmic Dialogue:  Seva & Social Justice,” please register at the HASC’s website

May 23, 2014

Jackson Galaxy and the Hero Cat

Last week, I previewed for readers that Jackson Galaxy, the colorful host of My Cat from Hell on Animal Planet, was to be a keynote speaker at the opening session of the HSUS Animal Care Expo. The event this week attracted animal advocates from 40 countries and all 50 U.S. states.  I sat down with Jackson for an interview after his speech and we had a conversation about the high rates of euthanasia for cats, why cats still don’t get the respect they deserve, and why the “hero cat” (who put a quick end to a dog attack on a child by hurling his body at the dog, as well as the best movie action star could have done) tells us more about the brains than the brawn of cats.

May 21, 2014

The Pet Offensive – New Strategies to Combat Puppy Mills

At The HSUS’s Animal Care Expo, the largest animal protection conference in the nation, I announced yesterday that Maddie’s Fund has pledged $4 million to The HSUS, over three years, to conduct an online campaign against puppy mills. The campaign will focus on discouraging people from purchasing dogs from puppy mills through the Internet, and redirect them to responsible avenues to acquire a companion animal, mainly through shelters and rescues.  It’s a tremendously exciting new element to our already existing, multifaceted anti-puppy-mill campaign. 

Rich Avanzino, president of Maddie’s Fund, addressed 2,000 attendees at Animal Care Expo, announced the grant, and explained his organization’s commitment to battling the mills and finding a home for every adoptable dog and cat.  We are proud to partner with this leading animal welfare foundation, which started due to the generous commitment of David and Cheryl Duffield.  They’ve committed hundreds of millions of dollars – more than any other individuals in our movement’s history -- to help companion animals in honor of their beloved late dog, Maddie.

Puppy mill dogs
The HSUS
This movement against puppy mills is gaining momentum at many levels.

Governor Mark Dayton of Minnesota also gave us reason to cheer yesterday when he signed into law a bill that will establish more humane breeding standards in a state notorious for some of the most abusive puppy mill operations in the nation.  Minnesota is home to several of the problem puppy mills cited in The HSUS’ recently released “101 Puppy Mills” report.

Minnesota is the 25th state in the last six years to adopt state standards for more humane care of dogs at large-scale breeding operations. The new law, which goes into effect July 1, requires commercial dog and cat breeders to obtain a state license and to submit to annual inspections by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, and imposes administrative and criminal penalties against those found guilty of violations, among other improvements.  

The movement against puppy mills is also gaining momentum at the local level.  Recently, I wrote on the blog about both Chicago and Cook County, Illinois, restricting the retail sale of puppy mill dogs. In recent years, 47 cities, municipalities, and counties have said they’ve had enough with small businesses peddling puppy mill dogs, and have helped to drive the market toward shelters and rescue groups and responsible breeders. 

Pet supply stores can be part of the solution, not the problem, by pursuing the adoption model for homeless animals. At Expo, we are happy to have the support of PetSmart Charities, Petco Foundation and Petfinder.  Among them, these charities have helped millions of dogs and cats find adoptive families in the last few years alone. 

It takes a multipronged approach, and much more, to turn around the seemingly intractable problem of puppy mills.  But this year’s Expo, the announcement about the Maddie’s Fund grant and the new Minnesota law are reminders of the great progress we are making – with more progress and momentum to follow in the months and years ahead.