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482 posts from The Movement & Beyond


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.

May 20, 2014

I Want You for the (H.S.)U.S. Army

For much of this week, I’ll be in Daytona Beach, Florida, for The HSUS’s Animal Care Expo, the nation’s biggest animal protection conference. Leaders and advocates from across the nation will come together to accomplish many good things, not the least of which is to participate in seminars and exchanges about best practices and innovations in carrying out our work, and generally to further professionalism in our field.  We’ll have some major announcements to unveil at the event, including an exciting new component of our anti-puppy-mill campaign, thanks to a major grant from Maddie’s Fund.

EXPO (1)
Gabe LeBlanc
The HSUS' Animal Care Expo opens today and I will ask every attendee to get more actively involved in our grassroots network, including the District Leader program

But one thing I’ll ask every individual in attendance to think about is to become more actively involved in our HSUS grassroots network.  It’s the same thing I ask of you today – please consider getting involved more deeply and meaningfully.

The many people at Expo will be there to represent a wide variety of organizations.  But no matter which group you associate with the most, every one of us is part of one movement – the movement to protect all animals in our society.

We all have a stake in seeing clear lines drawn in making acts of animal cruelty a crime, at the local, state and federal level.  Indeed, earlier this year, South Dakota became the 50th state to establish felony-level penalties for malicious cruelty – a milestone for our movement.  No longer is malicious cruelty treated as a minor offense, dealt with by a slap on the wrist.

But there are other forms of cruelty that are not encompassed by these state anti-cruelty statutes.  That’s why we have separate and distinct laws to criminalize dogfighting, cockfighting, horse soring, captive hunts, ban private ownership of large wild animals as pets, and many more unacceptable activities.  These laws are critical in our broader fight to stamp out cruelty and reckless treatment of all animals.

In the last 10 years, we’ve helped to pass about 1,000 laws at the state level to upgrade protections for animals or to set up funds or structures to do more animal protection work.  But that task must continue because there are still big gaps in the law.

Lawmaking is not simply a process of making a logical argument and hoping that legislators accede to the request.  We are in a struggle, with animal fighters, factory farmers, bear baiters, horse slaughterers, and so many others offering a different set of social, cultural, and political narratives and perspectives.  In such a competition between different parties contesting ideas about animals, it’s about science and logic, but it’s also about power and organization. 

The fact is, we have adversaries – people who run businesses or engage in certain forms of recreation –who want to retain the status quo and who want to protect their right to harm animals.  To win, we have to organize. In fact, we have to out-organize our adversaries.

The HSUS already has professional staff in all the states, we now have state councils in 22 states, and it’s our goal to have 50 state councils within 18 months.  By this time next year, we also want to have 435 District Leaders – one leader for every congressional district in the country.

I want you to consider applying to the District Leader program or to serve as a volunteer within each district.

These District Leaders will engage in ongoing legislative advocacy at the federal, state and local levels, and they will work with dozens of other volunteers in their district to drive awareness among lawmakers and the general public concerning critical animal protection issues.  They will also assist The HSUS in growing the movement through membership recruitment and fundraising.  They will promote concern for farm animals and “eating with conscience.”  And very importantly, they will partner with local shelters, wildlife rehabilitation centers and other animal welfare groups to bring greater focus to the critical issues they’ll be working on.

District leaders will work with HSUS staff to tailor the program to their community.  Some of the activities they might engage in include helping a local school district join Meatless Monday; co-hosting a World Spay Day event with a local shelter; participating in their state’s Humane Lobby Day; or working with neighbors and communities to create more wildlife-friendly backyards.

It’s a lot to do as a volunteer, but so many people I run into ask me, “Wayne, how can I help?  How can I get more involved in helping animals?” 

Well, here’s one way – apply to become a District Leader volunteer.  The HSUS’ Grassroots Outreach staff will interview you and make sure you’re trained and prepared, so that we can take animal protection to the next plane of policy-making and awareness-raising. One of the great benefits of the program, as our current District Leaders would say, is that it helps connect you with like-minded advocates all over the country.  If thousands of people get involved in their communities, as I sincerely hope they will, our movement will be better and stronger than ever, and we’ll see tangible outcomes for animals that will usher in a new era of animal protection in our nation. 

May 13, 2014

Animal Welfare Monsoon in India

About 18 months ago, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was the headliner for the official launch of Humane Society International – India, at a jam-packed event in Mumbai.  Since that time, under the leadership of HSI-India director N.G. Jayasimha, our Asian director Rahul Sehgal and the rest of our staff, we’ve seen a raft of gains for animal protection:

Bunnies
Dmitry Kalinovsky/iStock
India has banned animal testing and proposed a ban on the import of cosmetics tested on animals. 

The latest advance, driven by the Blue Cross of India and other animal protection organizations, came last week when India’s Supreme Court issued a ban on the use of bulls in entertainment. It was a landmark verdict that will put an end to bullock cart races, horse and bull races, and a cruel event called Jalikattu, held annually in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. During Jalikattu, crowds of men pursue and taunt bulls by throwing chilli powder in their eyes, hitting them with nail-studded sticks, and pouring alcohol down their throats. The bulls are wrestled to the ground and their tails are twisted and often broken by the frenzied crowds.

We are now working on the next step on the animal testing front, by seeking to ban imports of cosmetics into India that were tested elsewhere – just as the European Union did last year at our urging.  We’re gathering signatures to support a draft rule just published by the Indian Health Ministry, and in a few months we hope to report India as South Asia’s first cruelty-free cosmetics zone.

INDIA_DOG
Erin Van Voorhies
HSI recently started using a mobile app to count street dogs in India.

India has a large population of street animals and HSI, through a street dog welfare program, has been providing expertise and guidance to create programs that focus on sterilization and vaccination. A recent innovation was the use of a mobile app for completing a census. Every day, each of our teams was given a mapped area with assigned roads to cover. Using a tracker application downloadable from Google, they tagged each dog observed: female or male ear-notched (i.e. sterilized) or un-notched, lactating female, unknown adult or puppy. Then, they submitted a file to be analyzed with all the other teams’ data. The technology, which allowed surveyors to be more efficient and access more locations, showed that more than 75 percent of dogs observed in the study area were ear-notched—a good marker of success. We are also innovating with our humane handling techniques, which involve catching street dogs by hand instead of with nets.

India has pretty remarkable religious and cultural traditions when it comes to animals—something I was struck by when I traveled throughout the country and joined His Holiness and our HSI team for the launch of our offices in the subcontinent.  As the Dalai Lama said, We must know their pain. We should nurture this compassion through education.”  And that’s exactly what we are seeking to do in the biggest democracy in the world.  

May 09, 2014

Mourning Mowat, Extending His Legacy

On May 6, the world lost a giant presence in the defense of animals and the environment, Farley Mowat. The Canadian author denounced some of the worst cruelties and abuses in the wildlife sector, rising to the defense of bears, seals, whales, and wolves, among other species.  Mowat was a courageous, heroic figure who will long be remembered for his principled stands against the mistreatment of Canada’s indigenous peoples, and for his stalwart resistance to the wanton killing of wildlife.  He was a true-blue animal person and we mourn his passing. 

Farley Mowat
Photo: George Pimentel /Getty Images
Farley Mowat wrote with hope and clarity for a future in which wild animals would be safe from the depredations of thoughtless humankind.

The beautiful thing about Mowat’s legacy is not simply that his works will live on and continue to inspire future generations of wildlife protectionists.  It’s also that every time we speak up or take action for the world’s wild creatures, we’re extending his compassionate vision. Mowat wrote with hope and clarity for a future in which wild animals would be safe from the depredations of thoughtless humankind, and it’s our job to extend his vision and build upon it. 

Indeed, at The HSUS, we’re doing all that we can to achieve still greater gains for the animals that Mowat so loved and sought to help.  Right now, The HSUS is engaged in some of the most important contemporary battles to protect wolves. It is work that rests substantially upon the re-envisioning of wolves Mowat undertook in Never Cry Wolf (1963), a book that sought to overturn prevailing negative stereotypes about these animals.  We’re fighting on their behalf in Michigan and campaigning to allow the states’ voters to overturn the legislature’s trophy-hunting season of wolves, a ballot measure campaign that could propel a national effort to end the trophy hunting and trapping of these animals nationwide.  We’ve also filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in connection with its delisting of the western Great Lakes wolf population, and are working through litigation to restore federal protections under the Endangered Species Act for wolves in the state of Wyoming.

Prior litigation brought by The HSUS and other organizations has stopped previous attempts to eliminate federal protections for wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains and western Great Lakes regions.  In 2006, The HSUS won a court battle to prevent the broad-scale killing of wolves in Wisconsin under the cynical and contrived theory that allowing the killing of some wolves would increase social tolerance for the species on the whole. We’re vigilant in defense of these remarkable animals, and our campaign operates on multiple fronts.

We’re also actively working to help seals, whales and other marine mammals whose cause Mowat took up in A Whale for the Killing (1972) and Sea of Slaughter (1984).  Our campaigns against commercial killing and exploitation of marine mammals are long-term commitments, designed to check, curtail and eliminate every human-caused threat to these long-persecuted species.

There is no greater tribute we can pay to a champion like Farley Mowat than to see his work through to the finish, redoubling our efforts to secure the future of remarkable animals everywhere.

May 05, 2014

Puppy Mills and 101 Damnations

In January, an inspector from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found a four-week-old shih tzu puppy lying dead -- frozen solid -- in the outdoor portion of an enclosure of a puppy mill in Stover, Missouri – the state with the notorious distinction of being the hub of the puppy mill industry. On the night the dog apparently succumbed, temperatures overnight had dropped as low as 2 degrees Fahrenheit and there were imprints from the wire flooring across the puppy’s body. The inspector noted there were no footprints in the snow to indicate someone might have checked on the outdoor portion of the enclosures that night.  A dog not built for a frigid night in the depths of a Missouri winter became yet another casualty of an industry that treats adult females like breeding machines and puppies like a cash crop.

CHRISTIANSEN_KENNELS_BEAGLES_WHO_WERE_KILLED_2_IL_DE_189501
Photo: Illinois Department of Agriculture
Christiansen Kennels in Poplar Grove, Illinois, had these beagles killed when a state inspector asked that they be moved somewhere warmer.

This is just one of the 101 horrific cases highlighted in our annual report, “101 Puppy Mills,” that we release today for the start of The HSUS’ eighth annual Puppy Mill Action Week—where we spotlight harsh truths about puppy mills and the abuses of dogs occurring on a widespread scale within the pet industry.

In this year’s report, Missouri dominates the list, with 22 Missouri dealers making the list of the 101 mills identified in the report. Kansas is second, followed by Nebraska, Arkansas and Iowa. At least three dealers in this report have supplied dogs to the Hunte Corporation, believed to be the largest national broker selling puppies to pet stores. You can read the full report here, but be forewarned that it’s chock-full of unpleasant details.  That’s the consequence of the industry’s general callousness toward animals, along with its commitment to fighting meaningful government and industry humane standards at every turn.

BILL_NORED_71B0170_HUNTING_DOGS_202295
Photo: USDA
At Dryfork Kennel in Prim, Arkansas, the USDA found veterinary care violations for a dead puppy and "extremely thin" dogs

Here at The HSUS, eliminating puppy mills is a job we take very seriously all year round: our legislative and regulatory staff works with lawmakers to regulate puppy mills, we conduct investigations and litigation, and we promote public awareness and education. Our Puppy Mill Campaign staff and Animal Rescue team assist local law enforcement to help shut down the most abusive puppy mills. In recent years, we have assisted in rescuing more than 10,000 dogs from approximately 60 puppy mills across the country, including the rescue of 180 animals recently from a mill in Jefferson County, Ark.

But we still have our work cut out for us.  Although Prop B in Missouri has helped to shutter more than 600 mills in Missouri alone in the last three years, there are still thousands of mills operating across the United States.

CHIEN_D_OR_KENNEL
Photo: Oakland County Animal Control, Michigan
Chien d'Or Kennel in Farmington Hills, Michigan, which sells golden retrievers, failed many state inspections and was the subject of complaints. 

In addition to state laws like Prop B, there are other fronts of action and signs of progress.  Last year, the USDA finalized a rule to require dealers who sell large numbers of puppies online to be federally licensed and inspected. When fully implemented, the rule will potentially double the number of puppy mills nationwide that will be federally regulated. And, in a tremendously exciting development, nearly 50 local governments in the United States have recently restricted the retail sale of puppy mill dogs, with more added every month. This past week, the governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, worked with his allies in the state legislature to introduce a bill to forbid the sale of dogs and cats from pet stores and to make homeless animals available from shelters and rescues – the first state-level bill of its kind.

The HSUS' report from last year, “A Horrible Hundred” appeared to have an impact as well, with 15 of the named facilities having shut down or having dropped their licenses. We are seeing better reporting in the media on unethical dog breeding, like a recent segment on CNN’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, which focused on continuing obstructionist efforts by the American Kennel Club to improve dog breeding throughout the country.

We’ll ultimately succeed in eradicating puppy mills, but only when masses of people stop buying dogs from pet stores or over the Internet, and instead deal only with animal shelters, breed rescues or small, responsible breeders.  We have a long way to go before no dog will die, unloved after spending a lifetime in a crate, because some irresponsible breeder did not care enough to feed or water her, or bring him inside in sub-zero temperatures. But step by step, we are gaining ground.  The vast majority of citizens agree that these mills are unacceptable, and the task before us is to organize their voices and to have them speak collectively to drive the reform that is long overdue and that will stop the suffering of countless dogs who deserve much better than this.

YORKIE
Click here for the full report, "101 Puppy Mills"

April 28, 2014

Give Me Shelter From Euthanasia – in California and Beyond

Our movement has made steady progress in reducing the euthanasia of healthy and treatable pets in shelters. In the mid-1970s, the nation was euthanizing about 15 million dogs and cats each year, and that number is now down to three million, thanks to aggressive promotion of pet adoption, spay and neuter and pet retention programs. It’s still three million too many, and The HSUS is committed to getting that number down to zero for healthy and treatable animals.

 

CAT_IN_SHELTER
The HSUS
Giving shelters the option to move faster on adoption and transfer to rescues when they are handling cats without identification is a novel, progressive step forward.

Even in progressive animal welfare states, such as California, we have a long way to go. California shelters euthanize perhaps half a million dogs and cats annually, and it’s not just in the Central Valley and the rapidly growing Inland Empire of San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Half of all dogs and cats arriving at public and private shelters in California are euthanized, despite the efforts of governments, groups and individuals working to turn the situation around. They’re addressing the challenge through free or low-cost spay-and-neuter services, transfer of animals, stronger leadership, and reinforcement of activities focused on keeping animals from landing in shelters and getting them out alive when they do.

Any strong movement must engage in serious problem-solving on the big issues it confronts, and that goes for shelters and euthanasia. One particular problem relates to the euthanasia of cats. Of those who enter the shelter system, sadly, an overwhelming majority – 70 percent in California alone – do not come out alive.

Giving shelters the option to move much faster on adoption and transfer to rescues when they are handling cats without identification is a novel, progressive step forward. Cats in this class are very unlikely to be reclaimed by owners – for 15 years, the reclaim rate in California has stood at two percent. We can give 10 times that number of cats a much better chance at survival by moving them out soon after intake, rather than forcing shelters to hold them for a set number of days before making them available. This will reduce overcrowding, disease, and result in more lives saved.

That’s one reason why we supported California Assembly Bill 2343 introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, who through his bill also wanted to address the chronic funding challenges associated with sheltering in the state.

Unfortunately, advocates in California were divided on the issue, with much of that dissension based on a false understanding of the bill and the political process. As a result we understand why Gatto decided to withdraw the bill on Friday. When lawmakers are put in the position of having to choose between different segments or players in the animal movement, it doesn’t inspire confidence in our cause, and it leaves lawmakers confused.  Keeping the status quo, and failing to develop and apply new strategies, is very unlikely to help animals facing euthanasia in the months and years ahead. 

For years, California’s budget shortfalls have resulted in no funding for key portions of the Hayden Law – a 1998 state statute named for the bill’s author, former California Senator Tom Hayden – that sought to strengthen the state’s animal sheltering laws and establish some important mandates. The shortfalls led officials to suspend laws that trigger payments to local governments, and for seven of the last 16 years much of the Hayden Law has not been in effect.

Even during years when there was funding for compliance, there have been challenges.  According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, “shelters that euthanize the most animals receive the most state funds. Shelters that are the most successful in promoting adoptions receive the least state funds.”

AB 2343 would have created a grant program to replace the funds previously reimbursed to cities and counties for complying with the Hayden Law. These funds would have been distributed among agencies that complied, supporting agencies in a proportional way based on the number of animals leaving their facilities alive (through adoption, transfer or return to owner). An infusion of $10 million a year by the state would have incentivized the saving of animals, rather than euthanasia.

Gatto’s bill would also have given local agencies more tools to address the challenges they face every year during the summer months, when they often euthanize otherwise healthy kittens for reasons of space and capacity.  

California’s still-suspended state sheltering laws embrace an important goal that remains critical everywhere -- to end the euthanasia of healthy and treatable companion animals. And AB 2343, which would have rewarded hard work and dedication on the part of shelters by supporting cost recovery for lifesaving outcomes – instead of reimbursing for euthanasia – represented the kind of approach we hope to see spread far and wide.  It’s a goal we’ll continue to support.

April 25, 2014

The Animals’ Republic of China?

Chinese students-- seals
Photo: Xiamen Animal Protection Group, 2012
The banner signed by schoolchildren condemning seal slaughter was sent to the Canadian Embassy in Beijing.

A photo that caught my eye this week was this picture of a group of elementary schoolchildren in China holding up a banner that demands: “Stop Seal Slaughter! Stop Seal Trade!”

The banner was one of many recent signs of protest across the country, culminating in an admission by Gail Shea, Canadian fisheries and oceans minister, that animal advocates had essentially succeeded in preventing Canada’s bid to sell seal meat in China from going through. It was a significant victory for Chinese animal activists, who have been working hard to mobilize public and government sentiment against the trade, and for the staff of Humane Society International (HSI).

That’s just one example of the change happening in the way people in China view – and treat – animals. The work of those involved with animal welfare in China spans areas ranging from wildlife issues to protecting companion animals, farm animals and animals used in laboratories.

The Be Cruelty-Free team at HSI and its local partner, Capital Animal Welfare Association, have been pursuing the goal of a complete Chinese ban on animal testing of cosmetics. They have been meeting with Chinese policymakers and regulators to advance the acceptance of non-animal tests and accelerate the move away from animal testing. Late last year, HSI welcomed an announcement by China's Food & Drug Administration that from June 2014, China plans to remove its mandatory animal test requirements for domestically manufactured cosmetic products.

Event in Beijing
Photo: HSI 2011
Rebecca Aldworth, director of HSI/Canada, and Peter J. Li, China Policy Specialist for HSI, at a Beijing event to oppose seal product trade.

There’s also been groundbreaking work aimed at ending the dog meat trade – a trade that most Chinese now oppose. The latest development on this front was a startling incident this week, in which two dog thieves were beaten up by dog owners after being caught stealing dogs to sell them to restaurants. We at The HSUS don’t condone violence to fight animal abuse, but this incident demonstrates that the Chinese will no longer ignore dog trafficking.

Last year, HSI and its local partners rescued hundreds of dogs headed for the butcher’s knife at the Yulin dog meat festival. HSI has participated in raids on trucks crammed with dogs headed for slaughter, saving the lives of hundreds of animals, and provided funding for veterinary attention and to help shelter victims while loving new homes are found for them.

Other examples of work done by HSI and its partners in China include sharing expertise on wildlife issues with zoo directors and conservationists to help improve welfare and care of zoo animals (including inviting two zoo directors to spend time at the Houston Zoo), stopping American rodeos from entering the country, scuttling a proposed foie gras plant, and successfully persuading the government to stop serving shark fin soup at official functions.

China school students
Photo: Xiamen Animal Protection Group, 2012
Chinese schoolchildren learn about seals

In 2010, after learning of Canada’s intention to make mainland China a “dumping ground” for seal products that had already been rejected by citizens of Canada , the United States and the European Union, Chinese activists mobilized to form the Chinese Coalition Against Seal Trade, with practical assistance from HSI. Rebecca Aldworth, director of HSI/Canada, traveled to mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to meet with members of the group, as well as with Chinese officials, business leaders and reporters.

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese saw HSI’s graphic videos of seal slaughter, and a special online report on Canada’s seal hunt attracted nearly 30,000 messages of condemnation from the Chinese people. The Chinese Coalition Against Seal Trade wrote to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Canadian Senate and Wang Qishan, who was in charge of China’s international trade.

The banner signed by the schoolchildren condemning the seal slaughter was sent to the Canadian Embassy in Beijing. These young people are part of an effort that has really paid off, for the seals, and for the activists and organizations working to end the abuse of these beautiful animals, and it was great to see these schoolchildren sending out a message—loud and clear—that they will not tolerate cruelty to animals. These are markers of success in the biggest nation in the world, and some of its most important.

P.S. China has just announced that people who eat animals listed as rare or endangered – including the panda, golden monkeys, Asian black bears and pangolins – could face 10 years or more in prison. Knowingly buying any wild animals killed by illegal hunting will carry a maximum penalty of three years in jail. This is yet another very significant development for animals in the most populous nation in the world.

April 22, 2014

The HSUS’ 2013 Annual Report: Helping Animals in Crisis, Driving Transformational Change

We are deep into 2014 already with several successes under our belt, including the defeat of the King amendment, major announcements from Smithfield Foods and Tyson Foods about phasing out gestation crates for breeding pigs, a ruling from a United Nations court reeling in Japan’s illegal whaling, and major gains in Congress on ending the use of chimpanzees in government laboratories and new prohibitions on attending animal fighting spectacles.  But 2013 didn’t turn that long ago, and today I release our annual report for last year on our accomplishments and activities. 

As you’ll see, we continued to make gains in all of the areas where we made major investments, and we fortified the financial position of the organization in a meaningful way through wise stewardship of your donations, with 81 cents of every dollar going directly toward animal protection programs.

Transparency is one of our core values, and we tell our story every day in A Humane Nation, All Animals, HumaneSociety.org, on Facebook, and through other communications platforms.  But for a single document, our annual report provides the most comprehensive overview of our work.  I hope you’ll dig in, as a way of gaining a richer understanding of our work. I’ll leave it to you to review my President’s essay and the pages that follow it. 

We do have the most comprehensive programs in the United States and throughout the world to help all animals.  Here’s just some of what we do:

  • Aiding shelters, especially when natural disasters and cruelty cases overwhelm their capacity to respond.
  • Leading the nation’s most ambitious projects to reduce pet overpopulation and thereby reduce pressure on local shelters and rescues.
  • Providing sanctuary, rehabilitation, veterinary treatment, and other direct care for more animals than any other group – more than 118,000 animals assisted in 2013 alone.
  • Combatting puppy mills, organized animal fighting, wildlife poaching, Canada’s commercial seal slaughter and many other large-scale animal abuses.
  • Managing a coast-to-coast network of nature preserves, through our Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust.
  • Working to end the suffering of street dogs in countries around the globe.
  • Combatting the trade in wildlife here and abroad, whether it’s sharks, elephants, rhinos or other creatures whose parts put them at risk. 
  • Joining with hundreds of America’s major corporations in food retail (e.g., McDonald’s, Safeway and Costco), fashion (e.g., Armani and J.C. Penney), cosmetics (e.g., Lush, Aubrey Organics and Jack Black) and household products sectors (e.g., Procter & Gamble and Unilever) to conduct more humane procurement, production or testing practices.
  • Fighting factory farming and providing a new vision for agriculture, including supporting sustainable family farmers who answer to higher animal welfare standards – both in the United States and the developing world.

The HSUS’s critics caricature our work, reinvent it as something it’s not, or complain that we should be doing more of one thing or another.  Mainly, they just don’t want us focusing resources on animal cruelty problems of their making. I understand their perspective, and you should too.

Because we are tackling the biggest problems for animals, we get big results.  But we also face fierce resistance from those committed to the status quo.  That’s unfortunate, but inevitable.  It’s the price of progress.

I hope this annual report inspires you to deepen your engagement, and reminds you to act as a practitioner of animal protection and as an ambassador for our organization.  We cannot do this work without the participation of people like you, throughout the country and now throughout the world.

April 16, 2014

Full-Court Press in the Courts

HSUS member card 60Back in the late 1950s, The HSUS printed this mission statement on its membership cards: “Every Field of Humane Work—EVERYWHERE."  But even our founders could not have anticipated how today The HSUS and its affiliates bring so many tools to the fight. 


The recent landmark legal victory in the International Court of Justice against Japan’s commercial whaling activities in the Southern Ocean has had me thinking about our work in the courts. In 2005, my colleague Mike Markarian and I reached out to Jonathan Lovvorn, then an attorney at a public interest law firm, about heading and building a dedicated legal unit for animals. Less than a decade later, we’ve grown our team to 24 litigators—aided by a network of over 1,000 pro bono lawyers from the nation’s top law firms—and this team is working like never before to help all animals, on both the domestic and international stages, and to bring new levels of firepower to our cause.

Fifteen years ago, the Humane Society International’s legal team helped devise the theory under which Australia would take Japan to court over its illegal whaling.  But it’s our current legal team that is developing a skilled approach to animal law, developing ideas about how to defend animals under contemporary legal frameworks, and putting those ideas into play in the courts.

Harp Seal
THE HSUS
Our international legal team has been working to defend the European Union’s historic ban on the sale of seal products

Our international legal team has been working to defend the European Union’s historic ban on the sale of seal products. Canada and Norway have challenged Europe’s ban at the World Trade Organization (WTO), in yet another attempt to prop up their collapsing sealing industries. It hasn’t been enough to close markets for seal products; we’ve had to work hard to defend those trade restrictions in the international sphere.  We’ve already scored one big victory in the WTO’s recent ruling upholding Europe’s ban–the first time that a WTO panel has upheld a law on moral grounds for animal welfare reasons, and a fantastic precedent for future action to stop the global trade in exotic wildlife, ivory and other cruelly produced products. Now the case is on appeal, and our team is there, fighting for all commercially hunted seals.

On the domestic front, our team has been working to block a lawsuit trying to roll back California’s protections for egg-laying hens. In 2008, we passed landmark reform for California’s farm animals through Proposition 2, and two years later we persuaded California’s legislature to extend Proposition 2’s protections to all eggs sold in the state. That infuriated factory farmers, who have persuaded six states—Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and the Governor of Iowa – to sue California in a last-ditch effort to overturn its protections for egg-laying hens. Our litigators are determined to stop them, and we’ve brought in heavyweight pro bono partners from the law firms Latham & Watkins and Schiff Hardin to help our team defend this farm animal protection law.

Foie Gras ducks
Ariana Huemer/Farm Sanctuary
Out litigators successfully defended a California law banning the sale of foie gras, and the cruel practice of force-feeding geese and ducks so their livers blow up to several times their normal size

In fact, our litigators have been very active in protecting humane progress in California recently. In the last few months, they’ve successfully defended California laws banning the sale of both shark fins and foie gras. We advocated strongly for the passage of both laws which ban two cruel practices—cutting the fins off live sharks before dumping them back into the ocean to drown, and force-feeding geese and ducks so their livers blow up to several times their normal size. But once we helped to pass these laws, we faced inevitable lawsuits from special interests who claimed, incredibly, that they had a constitutional right to continue these abusive practices. In the end, our litigators helped persuade federal courts to reject both challenges, with both courts ruling that the laws expressed California’s legitimate interest in combating cruelty.

That sentiment was strengthened by a $155 million judgment that our litigators secured in California (though the defendants were only able to pay $4 million of that amount to the federal government, and a smaller share to The HSUS). The judgment came in a government fraud lawsuit filed by The HSUS and later joined by the Department of Justice, stemming from our 2008 undercover investigation into the Hallmark Westland slaughter plant in Chino, California. That investigation revealed shocking and widespread mistreatment of “downed” dairy cows – cows who are too sick or injured to walk.

Horses held for slaughter
Kathy Milani/THE HSUS
Working with our federal affairs team, our litigators stopped any horse slaughter plants from opening in the United States and are now working to adopt a federal legislative ban on exports of live horses for slaughter to Canada and Mexico

And, of course, our litigators have continued to fight in our long-running battle to end the slaughter of American horses. When the ban on the federal inspection of horse slaughter expired last year, they partnered with Front Range Equine Rescue to save horses from slaughter. While our federal affairs team advocated on Capitol Hill for a legislative solution, our litigators successfully stopped any horse slaughter plants from opening here. That teamwork resulted in a ban on horse slaughter on American soil, and we are now working to adopt a federal legislative ban on exports of live horses for slaughter to Canada and Mexico.

Our legal team consults with law enforcement, drafts state and federal legislation, advises community advocates on legal strategies to help animals, brings critical cases and so much more.  It’s as if the animals have a major law firm working for them every day, helping drive reform and bringing new and critical gains to the cause of protecting all animals.