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A Humane Nation : May 2012
2 years ago

May 01, 2012

They’re Back

The state of Ohio announced yesterday that Marian Thompson will get back the five wild animals who escaped the massacre after her unhinged husband set free dozens of other animals in Zanesville last October. Remember, Terry Thompson acquired more than 50 dangerous wild animals and housed them on his property, traded firearms to acquire some of them, recklessly released them after getting out of federal prison for gun charges, and then scattered chicken parts around his driveway before he shot and killed himself, leaving the Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office to deal with the large and powerful creatures as dusk approached. Thompson, who had a previous cruelty conviction, kept tigers, lions, and bears in what officials described as "big dog cages."

bear

Marian Thompson allowed these inhumane and substandard conditions to persist and escalate, and her association with this incident should disqualify her from re-claiming these animals. Hasn’t her family created enough trauma for these poor animals, and placed the community of Zanesville in enough risk?

It’s now been 22 months since The HSUS signed an agreement with agriculture leaders and key officials in Ohio that included a call to ban private ownership of dangerous wild animals. We insisted on that provision because the state has been such an outlier on this issue. Last week, finally, the Ohio Senate passed legislation to crack down on casual ownership of wild animals as pets. But the House still needs to take action and pass a bill without any further weakening amendments, in order for Ohio to have any meaningful policies on this issue.

We should not have to wait for another fatal incident or passively stand by while a collector like Marian Thompson reacquires leopards, a brown bear, and monkeys that she and her late husband should never have had in the first place. It makes no sense for private citizens to keep dangerous wild animals. There are almost never good outcomes for these animals or for the people around them.

Speaking of bad judgment and unfiltered persistence, a gaggle of San Francisco chefs is belly-aching about California’s looming ban on the sale of foie gras from force-fed ducks. Somehow, these people say that the state’s restaurant industry will be adversely affected if the sale of foie gras derived from the process of force-feeding is prohibited. Do they not realize that foie gras is a table treat? If people don’t eat it, they’ll eat some other morsel, and the total financial picture for the state won’t change worth a whit.

State lawmakers passed this legislation seven years ago and the state’s sole foie gras producer supported the compromise bill, even urging the governor to sign it into law. The foie gras industry argued for a seven-and-a-half-year phase-out period to enable it to find an alternative way to produce foie gras that doesn’t involve force-feeding. Rather than spending the time productively, the industry has waited until the eleventh hour in an effort to manufacture an artificial crisis. It’s time to see the law go into effect, and the chips and foie gras fall as they may.

The man who has it spot-on is former Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, who authored the 2004 bill against force feeding. "I believe that force feeding is a very inhumane practice,” he wrote in a letter to lawmakers yesterday. “It is very painful to the animals. If these chefs have any doubt about that, they could sit at a table and have someone cram whatever food they like, including foie gras, down their throats and see how they like it."

May 02, 2012
2 years ago

Caption Contest: California’s First Dog Hits the Road

Today Jennifer Fearing, The HSUS’s California senior state director, is heading to Los Angeles with a very special passenger: a Welsh corgi named Sutter, the dog of Gov. Jerry Brown. Sutter is a popular dog with his own Twitter account and Facebook page, and he’ll be helping promote California's new spay/neuter license plate at a press conference this afternoon. Proceeds from the plate will fund programs to reduce pet overpopulation in the state.

Jennifer sent over this photo of California's First Dog with her this morning. What do you think Sutter would say about their road trip, or about helping other animals? Let me know by submitting a comment or sending an email to blog@humanesociety.org. I’ll feature some of my favorite captions next week.

For California drivers, now is the time to pick up the new license plates. If we hit the right number, we should be able to take a big bite out of euthanasia in the state.

P.S. Yesterday, I was in Salt Lake City and toured the dramatic expansion of the shelter of the Humane Society of Utah. When complete, it’s going to give the organization tremendous new capacity. Last week, I toured the Wisconsin Humane Society, one of the finest humane organizations in the country. Both groups are doing such life-saving work, and it was a great privilege to visit with their leadership and their staff and the best of the humane movement. We’ve got great people in our field fighting every day to drive down euthanasia rates and to promote the bond with animals.

http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2012/05/sutter-dog-photo.html

May 03, 2012
2 years ago

Tune in for a Star-Studded Celebration for Animals

Each year, The HSUS hosts The Genesis Awards to recognize journalists in the news business and producers and directors in the entertainment industry for their contribution to building awareness of animal protection issues. The exposure of animal issues has become richer and more probing, it seems, and the history of The Genesis Awards is actually a remarkable chronicle of our progress as a movement.

uggie

Tim Long Photography
Host Carrie Ann Inaba with dog Uggie

This weekend, you can catch the awards on TV if you didn’t attend in person. Don’t miss The HSUS’ inspiring 26th Genesis Awards to see Ellen DeGeneres, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, Ian Somerhalder, Colbie Caillat, and other stars celebrating this year’s winners. The awards ceremony airs on Animal Planet this Saturday, May 5, at 4 p.m. and Sunday, May 6, at 8 a.m. (both Eastern/Pacific time).

Our host is dedicated animal advocate and "Dancing With the Stars" judge Carrie Ann Inaba, with a little help from Uggie―the canine hero from the Oscar®-winning film "The Artist." Don't forget to set your DVRs to join in the celebration. You can also RSVP for our Facebook event and find recipes, ballots, and place cards on our website to throw your own Genesis viewing party. And you can text GENESIS to 30644 for a text message reminder to tune in (message and data rates apply).

P.S. I also wanted to share good news from California on the foie gras issue, which I’ve written about a couple of times in the last few weeks. Yesterday, after a gaggle of chefs traveled to the state capitol in Sacramento to urge a repeal of a law banning the sale of foie gras from force-fed ducks, Senate president pro tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez announced that they wouldn’t take up any bill advanced by critics of the law. It’s a truly fabulous outcome, and we are so grateful to California’s legislative leaders. See our statementissued last night. The ban is set to go into effect on July 1.

http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2012/05/genesis-awards.html

May 04, 2012
2 years ago

Baby Foxes Saved from Path of Construction (Video)

Whether we realize or not, wild animals are all around us. Wildlife face threats every day from human development, roads, vehicles, and intolerant or poorly informed property owners―as well as abusive practices like poaching.

fox

That’s why our urban wildlife, or human-wildlife conflict, work is such an important part of our animal protection portfolio at The HSUS. The personnel associated with this work provide solutions to these conflicts and seek to foster great tolerance of our wild neighbors.

I wrote earlier this week about a federal government program that kills predators and other wildlife with your tax dollars, but at The HSUS we focus on finding humane and non-lethal solutions to wildlife conflicts.

Recently, our Humane Wildlife Services program set up remote video cameras, not far from The HSUS’s Maryland office, to monitor wildlife activity in a forested area about to be leveled for a new housing development. The cameras captured a remarkable sight: a red fox caring for her young. Take a look at our video of the baby fox kits exploring and being fed by their mother, just a stone’s throw from a busy highway. It’s a marvel to see how adaptable wild animals are, and how they can survive in the presence of such human-dominated landscapes.

Because of this development activity, our staff―following state law―carefully relocated turtles, snakes, and other small animals from the property. Working with the developer and a local wildlife rehabilitation center, we were also able to make sure these fox kits are out of harm’s way. If you find baby wildlife, our website has tips on how to help them (and when to leave them be).

http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2012/05/fox-video.html

May 07, 2012
2 years ago
Stop the Killing of Wildlife with Americans’ Tax Dollars

At The HSUS, we believe that there must be standards of behavior enshrined in the law, since there are people who would otherwise choose to take advantage of animals and exploit them for profit and other motives. Animal fighting, horse soring, and killing of endangered species are just a few examples of why the law must speak and prevent people from engaging in cruel acts. Obviously, the government must enforce the law―through the work of regulatory agencies, law enforcement, prosecutors, and the courts. We cannot have a successful animal protection movement without a strong and meaningful government presence.

coyote

Lindsey Sterling Krank/The HSUS
Take action to help stop wildlife poisoning.

But government can also be put to use to facilitate the killing of animals. In Canada, it is the provincial government of Newfoundland and the federal government in Ottawa that are keeping the seal hunt alive. No one wants to buy seal pelts in the marketplace, but the government is doling out millions of dollars to buy pelts, put them in storage, and prop up the industry.

In the U.S., examples of detrimental government action or subsidy include using chimpanzees in laboratory experiments, military testing on animals, payouts to factory farmers, and so much more. 

Yesterday, The Sacramento Bee provided the final news report in its three-part investigative series on USDA’s Wildlife Services program―one of the most destructive and indefensible government programs that causes untold suffering to animals.

As reporter Tom Knudson wrote in yesterday’s piece, “Since 2006, employees have trapped, shot and poisoned more than a half million coyotes and other predators, along with 300-plus other species, from non-native starlings and pigeons to red-tailed hawks, prairie dogs, beaver and other native birds and mammals. In the process, they have also accidentally killed more than 50,000 non-target animals, from domestic dogs to golden eagles to black bears.”

In short, our federal government is running a wildlife-killing program to benefit private ranchers, trophy hunters, and other special interests. This mischief continues because it gets political support in Congress from ranchers, the hunting lobby, and state agriculture and fish and game departments. Efforts to block it have failed for years, because of the alliance of defenders who benefit from this de facto subsidy.

We at The HSUS have said there’s a useful government function to be had here, mainly in developing non-lethal methods of wildlife management and helping private citizens and businesses apply them. The HSUS has a whole program designed to put best practices to work to humanely resolve conflicts with wildlife. But the way Wildlife Services is run is archaic, cruel, and wasteful. As Knudson points out, it doesn’t even work―it’s just a psychological salve for ranchers and other resource users who dislike wildlife and don’t want to have to contend with wild creatures.

In the same edition of the paper, the editorial board of the Sacramento Bee urged Congress to end lethal predator control. It’s high time that happened. At the very least, the government’s use of poisons, leghold traps, and aerial gunning is an outrage, and the public shouldn’t stand for it. Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif., asks, why continue a program that is "not very effective, has a number of unintended consequences and costs millions of dollars"?

If you haven’t already, please contact Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and urge him to stop the use of two especially cruel poisons by Wildlife Services.

May 08, 2012
2 years ago
Abhorrent Abuse of Mother Pigs and Piglets Uncovered at Tyson Foods Supplier

[Please note: Includes graphic descriptions of animal abuse.]

pigs

The HSUS
Take action to help pigs today.

Time and again, The HSUS’s undercover investigators have exposed appalling abuses of animals―at animal fighting pits, at puppy mills, at slaughter plants, and, with unnerving frequency, at industrialized factory farms. Our investigators have seen it all, or so we thought. The investigation  we announced today―conducted at Wyoming Premium Farms, a supplier to the meat industry giant Tyson Foods―is a case of sickening and blatant cruelty. It cannot be excused and should not go unpunished either by law enforcement, by regulators, or by the food retailers, including Tyson, that do business with this factory farm―to say nothing of the company’s management, which ought to feel shame and revulsion.

At this gestation crate confinement facility (see video), workers punched and kicked mother pigs. They kicked piglets like soccer balls, whipped them around by their hind legs, smashed them into concrete floors, and threw them high into the air. A few even threw piglets’ testicles at each other and fed them back to the mother pigs for “fun.” The people who engaged in this behavior should be prosecuted, and the callousness they exhibited should be a matter of serious concern to everyone, not the least of all their co-workers, neighbors, and family members.

Pregnant pigs with rectal and uterine prolapses were refused proper treatment. Pigs died in their gestation crates and were left there for days. One dead pig was half-buried in grain from an automatic feeder. One dying pig, barely even able to move, was desperately trying to inch her way to water, and the only hydration she received came as an act of mercy from our investigator. There were other cases of sadism and cruelty that I’ll leave unsaid here.

Why does it take The HSUS to expose this cruelty? Where are the company executives who run this factory farm? Where are the responsible leaders in this industry? Are they actually paying the least bit of attention to how their employees are behaving or what’s happening to the animals in their facilities? This is one major problem with the movement away from family farms to industrialized factory farms—the owners are nowhere to be found, and often a bunch of poorly paid, untrained, desensitized, and violent people are watching over the animals—with horrid consequences.

Just yesterday, Safeway—the nation’s second-largest grocery chain—announced that it will work to eliminate these gestation crates from its supply chain. And since February, other major food companies like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, and Compass Group have made similar announcements. This series of decisions should be a signal to the pork industry that there’s a crisis in conscience not just among members of the public, but among leading food retailers.

How about the images that we are transmitting today? Why would Tyson Foods buy from a wretched place like this? And where is the National Pork Producers Council, the trade association for the industry? How many cases of extreme cruelty must we uncover before the industry acknowledges that there’s something rotten at some considerable number of industrial pig farms throughout the nation?

And what about the NPPC's frequently trumpeted Pork Quality Assurance Program? The pork industry says self-regulation is working and there is no need for new humane standards, but time and again our investigators are uncovering unspeakable cruelty in a broken system. Rather than spend its time and resources trying to thwart legislation in Congress backed by The HSUS and the egg industry to improve the treatment of laying hens, the NPPC should clearly turn its attention to cleaning up the problems in its own industry.

cont.
2 years ago

In fact, I can’t think of a single time when the pig industry called out one of its own. Instead, the leaders in the industry spend their money and their political capital defending extreme confinement. They even oppose efforts by other industries, notably the egg industry, to create national standards to improve the treatment of laying hens. They and their political allies seek to suppress the activities that reveal and document such cruelties by every means necessary, including ag-gag bills in our state legislatures. How can they show such disdain for animals, even though they make their livelihoods from them?

What kind of people are they, and are they so arrogant as to think that the drumbeat of exposés, as well as the routine images of extreme confinement, will go unnoticed by the American public?

http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2012/05/wyoming-pig-investigation.html

May 11, 2012
2 years ago
Investigation Exposing Cruelty at Tyson Pig Supplier Stirs Outrage, Response

This week, we announced our latest agribusiness undercover investigation—the fourth factory farm investigation The HSUS has released in 2012 alone. The response to the sickening cruelty we documented and exposed at a Tyson pig supplier was visceral and overwhelming.

pigs

More than 100,000 people so far have taken action by contacting Tyson Foods and urging the company to stop lagging behind its competitors on the gestation crate issue. Thank you to every single one of you who’s spoken up for pigs by contacting the company. In addition to TV broadcasts of this story all across the country, in the days since the investigation broke, about 200,000 people have watched the video on YouTube. I just returned to my office a few minutes ago from CNN where I taped a segment for tonight’s Jane Velez Mitchell’s show on Headline News.

At first, Tyson misleadingly claimed that it had no connection with Wyoming Premium Farms, the facility we investigated. However, the information we assembled proved that a wholly controlled subsidiary of Tyson Foods did indeed buy pigs from this factory farm―which Tyson admitted. The company then pledged to temporarily suspend purchases while its own investigation goes forward.

Tyson temporarily suspending purchases from one factory farm in Wyoming is a start, but not nearly enough. Rather than defending gestation crates and allowing its suppliers to cruelly confine animals in them, Tyson should announce an end to its support for these torturous and archaic devices. On Monday, prior to our investigation, Safeway announced it is the latest company to commit to purging its supply chain of pork from operations that rely on gestation crates. With this week’s investigation, Tyson has no excuse to delay any longer in making a similar announcement.

May 14, 2012
2 years ago
A Wing and a Prayer: Rescuing More than 100 Parrots

Our Animal Rescue Team works with local law enforcement and humane agencies to help and rescue animals in distress, whether from puppy mills, animal fighting rings, natural disasters, or other cruelty and neglect situations. Our team is used to dealing with all kinds of challenging scenarios, and last week was no exception.

parrots

Kathy Milani/The HSUS
Many parrots form strong bonds; this conure refused
to leave his crippled mate.

In this case, the great folks at the Humane Society of Greater Dayton called The HSUS in to help seize more than 100 parrots and other birds from alleged neglect and cruelty in Moraine, Ohio―a suburb of Dayton. The birds were living in filthy, nearly barren cages in a rodent-infested storefront. Many lacked access to clean water and fresh food; others appeared to suffer from chronic illness and injury.

Adam Parascandola, director of animal cruelty investigations for The HSUS, told me that the air inside Wings Over the Rainbow was so noxious that he had difficulty breathing. Parrots have extremely sensitive respiratory systems―it’s hard to imagine how they could live in this kind of filth and squalor, day in and day out.

HSUS rescuers worked with volunteers to carefully remove each of the birds from the building and load them onto our rescue vehicle for transport to the emergency shelter, where they’re now receiving veterinary care. Adam described several heartbreaking scenes from the several hours they spent inside that store: a mitred conure who would not stray from his severely crippled mate; a parakeet with what appeared to be a tumor half the size of her body; dozens of nearly featherless birds; and one cockatoo missing her entire upper beak.

How many of these conditions and ailments were due to neglect or cruelty at Wings Over the Rainbow is still unknown. But it’s fair to say that many were the unfortunate outcomes of a life in captivity.

When I visited the Central Virginia Parrot Sanctuary in 2009, I met several birds who habitually plucked their feathers from psychological stress they’d endured at some point while someone’s pet. Sanctuary executive director Matt Smith (also on the scene at the Ohio rescue last week) says that parrots are highly intelligent and social. They have complex language and problem-solving skills and form deep emotional bonds with other birds.

It’s their beauty and their keen minds that capture the imagination of would-be owners. Yet these birds often live in terrible conditions even with a well-intentioned caretaker. Without adequate psychological and emotional stimulation, parrots frequently develop psychological disorders. Frustration, feather-picking, and other behavioral issues are common.

The presence of bird-mills and bird sellers catering to an expanding market for exotic birds has resulted in a large-scale animal welfare and practical challenge for the humane movement. Parrot rescues and sanctuaries are overwhelmed with birds relinquished by owners who had no idea about what they were taking on in getting a highly intelligent, demanding animal with a life expectancy of 80 years. Wings Over the Rainbow brands itself as a sanctuary, and Matt believes that many other similar operations exist around the country: independent groups that may have begun with the best of intentions, but they lose control of the situation and things turn for the worse. In just a few years, it has become a problem of epidemic proportions.

“Part of the answer is accreditation,” according to Matt. “Because the number of parrots in need has grown exponentially in the past decade and because there is comparatively very little financial support for even the best of organizations operating in a limited capacity, parrots will continue to find themselves languishing in cruel and neglectful situations.”

You can help parrots by supporting carefully vetted sanctuaries and rescues. And if you’re interested in providing a home to a parrot, consult with a reputable rescue group.

http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2012/05/parrot-rescue.html

May 15, 2012
2 years ago
Could Pork Become the New Veal?

The HSUS and Denny’s today announced that this popular restaurant chain―with annual sales of more than half a billion dollars and more than 1,600 restaurants―will take immediate steps to get gestation crates out of its pork supply chain. Combined with the similar announcements we’ve made this year―with McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Compass Group, Bon Appétit, and Safeway―this represents a sea change in what’s going on in the food retail sector with respect to animal welfare. Each one of these gestation crate announcements is a landmark, and taken collectively, they add up to breathtaking change in the world of factory farming.

Even just from a public relations perspective, it’s shocking that the pork industry continues to fight this trend and to defend gestation crate confinement, while so many of its largest corporate customers are making it clear that gestation crates must go. In the absence of dramatic reform, pork may well be on its way to becoming the new veal―with one abusive practice (think gestation crates for veal crates) coming to define the broader domain of industrial farming and confinement agriculture. The release of images from The HSUS’s latest undercover investigation last week, showing deeply disturbing mistreatment of pigs at a gestation crate facility run by Wyoming Premium Farms, made the point more dramatically than words could ever convey.

sow

The HSUS
Many breeding sows are forced to live in cramped
gestation crates for almost their entire lives.

The American Veal Association recently released data showing that more than 70 percent of veal calves raised by AVA member farmers—which represent a majority of U.S. veal production—are now housing their calves in groups, instead of individual confinement crates long derided by veterinarians and animal advocates as inhumane.

Images of calves locked inside tiny crates defined what’s wrong with factory farming: a harsh, unforgiving business, where animals are treated as machines, and just about anything goes in order to drive production. For years, the veal industry defended its practices, but when we helped pass a law in Arizona in 2006 to ban veal crates, some foresighted people within the industry made a rapid turn-around. Within months, the AVA was urging its producers to phase the crates out, and leading veal producers were converting their operations to group housing.

As the veal industry makes animal welfare progress, the question must be asked: why is Big Pork defending the losing issue of gestation crate confinement? Doesn’t its rigid, unethical, and scientifically unfounded defense of gestation crate confinement―along with its effort to subvert legislation backed by The HSUS and the egg industry to transition away from barren battery cages―threaten its core business model in the long run? Do pork industry leaders think consumers are not paying attention?

It’s time for this industry to realize that it operates within a broader cultural and economic setting, in which consumers—including corporate consumers—care about animals and don’t want to see them treated like machines. Until the industry makes the switch and recognizes where mainstream sentiment exists, it will continue to draw down its finite political capital, and we’ll see if the damage to its brand will be as enduring as the images of veal calves in crates were for a sister industry in the domain of animal agriculture.

May 16, 2012
2 years ago
HSUS Breaks Investigation Today of Nation’s Largest Exotic Animal Owner

With the Congress and the state of Ohio considering bills to restrict private ownership of dangerous exotic animals, CBS This Morning broke news of another HSUS undercover investigation―this one focusing on perhaps the largest private owner of tigers in the nation, GW Exotic Animal Park in central Oklahoma. The facility may have as many as 200 tigers, and according to its owner, it has more than 1,000 other animals.

tiger

The HSUS
One of many tigers at GW Exotic Animal Park.

It is not a professionally run facility, it operates without legitimate accreditation or the necessary technical staff, and broadly speaking, it is a facility that could spawn a terrible tragedy―for the animals and the residents of the surrounding community. It is a mix of a roadside menagerie and a petting zoo, masquerading as a rescue operation and a conservation center. If something goes wrong here, it could be five times worse than what happened last fall in Zanesville, Ohio.

Our undercover investigation found the breeding of tigers, sale of tigers to substandard facilities, dangerous interactions between children and juvenile tigers, and a range of other suspect and potentially illegal practices. The HSUS filed complaints with an array of federal and state authorities seeking swift action to address these problems, and called for strengthening the laws dealing with dangerous exotic wildlife. See our press release and report for more details.

While GW Exotics bills itself as providing homes for "abandoned, misplaced and abused animals," it's currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the deaths of 23 tiger cubs from 2009-2010. And its owner, Joe Schreibvogel, continues to breed tigers as well as controversial hybrids. Staff reported that once some tiger cubs outgrew their usefulness to the park, Schreibvogel had "donated" them to other facilities in exchange for donations to GW Exotics. During our investigation, five tigers died.

Just weeks ago, Schreibvogel went to Ohio to oppose legislation to restrict private ownership of dangerous exotics and he had a lot of provocative things to say. He made wild claims about how animal advocates supposedly killed Terry Thompson and then released his animals in order to drive more public attention to efforts to ban private ownership of dangerous exotic animals.

And today on CBS, Schreibvogel charged that The HSUS manufactured an incident where a child was knocked down and scratched by a juvenile tiger at GW Exotics. He also openly threatened that if anyone tries to take his animals, then it would be another Waco―referring to the fire and mass killing that occurred after federal authorities tried to raid the Branch Davidian complex in Waco, Texas, 19 years ago.

Congress is considering legislation to ban breeding of big cats for private ownership (H.R. 4122), ban imports and interstate transports of nine species of large constricting snakes (H.R. 511), and to ban the interstate transport of primates as pets (H.R. 4306 and S. 1324). The HSUS is backing all of these measures on the basis of animal welfare, public safety, and fiscal prudence.

If we don’t have policies to address these problems, our nation will continue to deal with the consequences of reckless animal owners without the commitment, expertise or resources to provide lifetime care for these animals. The network of hundreds of big cat sanctuaries and other wild animal sanctuaries speak to the failures of so many private animal owners. Every year, it all adds up to tens of millions in costs to the animal movement.

P.S. Tonight, ABC’s Nightline is scheduled to release video from another HSUS investigation into horse soring. Stay tuned for what promises to be a shocking exposé of appalling and inhumane practices in the world of Tennessee walking horses and horse shows.

http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2012/05/gw-exotic-investigation.html

May 17, 2012
2 years ago
Investigative Video Shows Culture of Cruelty in Walking Horse Industry

Today, HSUS representatives are in Tennessee to release a powerful undercover investigation video that exposes animal abuse in the Tennessee walking horse industry, as practiced by one of its most infamous trainers, Jackie McConnell. I wrote about this investigation earlier this year, but we chose not to release the video until now. Last night, ABC’s Nightline aired the video footage for the first time, in a dramatic and compelling in-depth investigative report, which featured reporter Brian Ross tracking down McConnell at his home as part of a broad exposé that demonstrates how thoroughly corrupted the walking horse industry has become.

horse

Some months ago, we shared the results of our investigation with federal prosecutors, and in February a federal grand jury indicted McConnell―a highly decorated trainer of Tennessee walking horses―and several of his associates, on 52 counts of violating the Horse Protection Act. Congress passed this act more than 40 years ago to end the cruel practice of horse soring, which involves the application of painful chemicals (such as mustard oil or kerosene) and chains to horses’ front legs, with the pain inducing them to lift their feet in an exaggerated way. The result is the artificial, high-stepping gait that wins titles and prizes at Tennessee walking horse competitions, and also brings higher horse sale prices and stud fees.

McConnell recently filed a notice of intent to plead guilty to Count I of the indictment—felony conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act. A federal judge will hear his plea on Tuesday. He and his associates were also charged with numerous violations of the Tennessee Cruelty to Animals Statute in a case that is still pending.

The shocking, blatant abuse uncovered by our investigator was the basis for many of the charges in these cases. In addition to soring, the video shows horses being whipped, kicked, shocked in the face, and cracked across the skulls and legs with heavy wooden sticks. Some horses were in so much pain that they were unable to stand. We also documented a cruel practice called “stewarding”―training horses not to react to pain during official show inspections of their legs, by striking them in the head when they flinch during mock inspections in the training barn.

In addition, our investigation uncovered the use of numbing agents at a horse show, for the purpose of temporarily masking a horse’s reaction to pain to pass inspection. USDA recently conducted random testing at various Tennessee walking horse competitions, and the results indicate that a shocking 97.6 percent of the samples tested positive for prohibited foreign substances in 2011. Indeed, of the 52 horses tested at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, the largest and most prominent walking horse show in the country, every single horse tested positive for illegal agents. This March, The HSUS filed a petition urging the agency to prosecute such use as felony interference with the inspection process under the Horse Protection Act.

Although McConnell’s is the second case involving felony indictments under the Horse Protection Act in the last year, the law has been flouted for decades―and many trainers in the walking horse industry continue to sore horses even after being found in violation of the Act repeatedly and even after having been suspended from showing. Jackie McConnell was on a five-year federal disqualification from showing at the time of this HSUS investigation. It’s been a competitive race to the bottom in the walking horse industry, with trainers believing that success requires this sort of law-breaking.

The USDA, under Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, has stepped up enforcement of the Horse Protection Act. But the law, now more than 40 years old, needs to be overhauled and fortified by Congress. This industry has accepted lawlessness as the norm, and given its track record, the Horse Protection Act must be amended to give USDA the tools it needs to root out and eliminate this criminal culture once and for all. Please take action today to help protect horses from soring.

http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2012/05/horse-soring-video.html

May 18, 2012
2 years ago
Shortly After Cruelty Allegations, Tyson Foods Calls for Pizza Party

After first denying connection to the factory farm, Tyson Foods severed its relationship with Wyoming Premium Farms after an HSUS investigation documented appalling cruelty to pigs. A spokesman for the world’s second-largest meat producer publicly declared that the treatment of the animals was “deplorable.” Good for Tyson Foods.

But a somewhat less public announcement provides perhaps a more telling insight into the company’s actual thoughts about animal welfare. We got a look at a memo this week from Tyson executives encouraging its employees to join a pizza party—an idea cooked up by other leaders in the pork industry—to celebrate the decision by Domino’s pizza to reject a shareholder proposal to urge the company to stop buying pork from farms that confine sows in gestation crates.

crates

The HSUS
Sows in gestation crates at Wyoming Premium Farms.

With McDonald’sBurger KingWendy’sSafeway, Denny’s, and others having made pledges to cleanse their supply chain of pork from operations relying on gestationcrates, it didn’t seem like an outlandish ask.  But Domino’s didn’t go for it and chose to continue to support gestation crates

It wasn’t surprising to us. But it was a cause for jubilant—if disproportionate—celebration within the pork industry.  They’ve been looking for any port in the storm. The industry has been buffeted on the shoals not just because its major corporate customers are demanding changes in production practices, but also because of the series of adverse publicity associated with these announcements. It’s hard to find anyone outside of the pork industry who thinks that imprisoning sows in these crates is okay these days. 

At some level, you can understand why Tyson executives are so happy with the Domino’s decision. The company, best known for its chicken sales and production, is big into pig production. And unlike other leading companies in the sector, including Smithfield Foods, Cargill, and Hormel, which have made commitments to move away from gestation crate confinement, Tyson has done nothing of the sort. The vast majority of its sows are confined in gestation crates. 

But after the pizza party at headquarters is over, there’s another matter that Tyson Foods must contend with. And that’s the complaint HSUS filed this week with the Securities and Exchange Commission accusing Tyson of misleading customers about its animal care policies. Our complaint has a lot to say about how the company’s rhetoric and its suppliers’ actual treatment of pigs are way out of step.

I, for one, was haunted by the abuse of the pigs at WPF. But I thought that the footage of the pigs going mad in their gestation crates was just as troubling as the workers kicking around piglets like soccer balls or jumping on pigs with broken legs. The whole thing suggested a detachment from the suffering of animals. And Tyson officials—and this is what unsettles me most—think part of that picture that came out of WPF was just fine.

May 21, 2012
2 years ago
Abuses Are Rampant in Tennessee Walking Horse Industry

Shelbyville Farm Center division manager Joe Green, Sr. told The Tennessean, in a story published today, that last Wednesday night’s report on ABC’s Nightline exposing illegal training practices within the show world for Tennessee walking horses painted “a bad picture.” “The good guys have tried so hard to make it right, then that bad guy comes along and tries to ruin it for everybody.”

His son―who runs the Farm Center, which does a lot of business with show horse owners and trainers―had a similar message he conveyed: “The walking horse industry has been under such a microscope for so long that most of the bad guys have been weeded out, and it was unfortunate that ABC tried to paint all of them as bad,” said Joe Green, Jr. “The way they did that TV piece wasn’t even journalism.”

horses

Photo: Lance Murphey
Take action to help horses.

These people may really believe what they say―erhaps because people within this industry have been in denial so long. You repeat something long enough that you then internalize it―like so many other people who participate in or defend animal abuse. I see it with sealers, with puppy millers, with cockfighters, and with just about every subculture that causes harm to animals.

Tennessee walking horses don’t naturally throw their front legs way up in the air, with such a strangely exaggerated gait. This “big lick” gait is artificial and regularly accomplished by the illegal practice of “soring”―the intentional infliction of searing pain with each step. By every indication, this practice is absolutely pervasive in the industry, and it is these competitive pressures that have led to a sort of arms race within the training profession―and the arms used against the horses are oil of mustard, croton oil, chains, and other foreign substances and tools. 

The now-indicted horse trainer Jackie McConnell may be a particularly ruthless and harsh man, but so many other trainers are working in the shadows and using very similar methods to get the same results. There is widespread lawlessness within this industry, and the deniers need to take note and recognize reality. Opinion leaders are saying the same thing, such as The Tennessean editorial board and columnist David Climer.

Barney Davis, who along with three others was also indicted for Horse Protection Act (HPA) violations in 2011, pled guilty to violating the Act and was sentenced to a one-year prison term after he was caught soring horses on video while out on bond. When the court asked Davis about the pervasiveness of illegal soring in the industry, he responded, “Everybody does—I mean, they’ve got to be sored to walk.” Davis used “ressure shoeing” as his soring method of choice―but the goal was to produce a high-stepping gait by inflicting pain, as McConnell did. These are standard practices in the world of training for these shows. We’re not talking about a few bad apples here.

  • cont.
    2 years ago

    Take a look at these facts:

    • The industry claims a 98 percent compliance rate with the HPA, yet 52 of the 52 horses randomly tested were found by USDA to be positive for prohibited foreign substances having been applied to their ankles, at the 2011 Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration, which is the major annual show (the Super Bowl, if you will) within the industry. Foreign substance violation rates (for soring, numbing, or masking agents) at all shows at which USDA inspected horses were 86 percent in 2010 and 97.6 percent in 2011. It doesn’t get more pervasive than that.
    • In 2006, the Celebration failed to crown a World Grand Champion of the breed when only three of the horses entered to be shown were able to pass inspection for compliance with the HPA. Industry inspectors, under the watchful eye of USDA agents, ruled most of the entries ineligible to compete―and show management decided to shut the event down, rather than hold a three-horse class for the breed’s most coveted title.
    • A recent analysis of the HPA violation history of the 2011 Riders Cup nominated trainers indicates that the top 20 ranking trainers collectively received 164 citations in 2010-2011 alone, suggesting that if you want to win big, you have to violate the law.

    There are voices within the industry condemning McConnell, and they’ve rightly excommunicated him. But if they really want the public to believe that the industry is largely complying with the HPA, they need to be much more transparent in their words and deeds―acknowledging the violation histories of key players, and allowing independent law enforcement officials to examine their training practices and the horses before the competitions. And they should be the first in line to support The HSUS’s efforts to strengthen the law, which has not been updated since it was amended in 1976, and to seek adequate funding for enforcement. 

    That’s my challenge to the leaders of the industry: join us in the efforts to modernize the law and enforce it. Send a response through this blog, and we’ll work together on it.

    May 22, 2012
    2 years ago
    Turning the Tide Against Puppy Mills

    Recently, I blogged about exciting news that the U.S. Department of Agriculture would propose a rule requiring large-scale puppy mills and kitten mills selling pets online, by phone, or by mail to be licensed and inspected for basic standards of care. This is a reform we’ve been working to achieve for two decades, and now we have an opportunity to lock it in as a matter of federal policy. The rule will be made final after a comment period that lasts until July 16. Please take a moment to contact the USDA to support this important protection.

    pups

    Kathy Milani/The HSUS
    Take action to help dogs by contacting the USDA today.

    But that’s just one front of activity for us on puppy mills. Earlier this month was our sixth annual Puppy Mill Action Week, when we launched several new initiatives to enhance our public education, policy, and enforcement-related work. Our new Puppy Mills Tip Line reward fund will pay tipsters up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a puppy mill operator for animal cruelty. Tipsters can call 1-877-MILL-TIP or report cruelty online. If you know of any good places to hang our tip line poster, such as your local animal shelter or pet supply store, please write to crueltyresponse@humanesociety.org for free copies. If you put up a poster in your neighborhood, please also send us a photo and the location information.

    As we also announced this month, you can now register for our new Humane Society University course for anti-puppy mill advocates or watch the winners of our Why Puppy Mills Stink video contest online.

    A few weeks ago, New York legislators introduced a bill to protect dogs in puppy mills, and we found out that the USDA has taken action against yet another mill identified in our Missouri’s Dirty Dozen update report. Vestal’s Kennel in Livonia, Mo., has permanently lost its USDA license and has been barred from obtaining another license in the future. Inspection reports at this facility documented filthy conditions, sick animals, refusal to grant access to inspectors on numerous occasions, and lack of proper veterinary care.

    Please take action to help dogs in unlicensed puppy mills»

    We are committed to turning around the puppy mill problem in our nation, and the actions I’ve enumerated above provide just some of the most recent evidence of the change that we are driving. Thanks for all you do to help raise awareness about this important issue and our Puppy Mill Campaign.

    May 23, 2012
    2 years ago
    News on Exotic Animals, Horse Soring, and Hounding of Bears and Bobcats

    There’s major news on three fronts where The HSUS has been demanding reform and new protections for animals. More specifically, in all three cases we are seeing substantial progress and newfound awareness on topics that The HSUS has long campaigned on, and I am excited to report the details to you.

    bears

    Ohio and dangerous exotic animals: Yesterday, the Ohio House approved a bill, S.B. 310, to ban private citizens from acquiring dangerous wild animals as pets and to require rigorous standards for housing on the part of any people who will keep these animals on their property. The House slightly modified the original Senate bill, and the Senate took little time yesterday in concurring with the House-passed version. There was little dissent in either chamber, reflecting that the Ohio public has no more tolerance for private citizens keeping dangerous wild animals after the death of Brent Kandra by a captive black bear and then the mass shooting of animals in Zanesville let out by their suicidal owner.

    The bill is now on its way to Gov. John Kasich, who has already signaled his intention to sign the bill very soon. This is an important milestone in a long journey that began in July 2010, when The HSUS insisted in an agreementwe reached with Ohio farm groups and the previous governor that the state adopt a ban on dangerous exotics. Now just six states have no rules governing private ownership of exotics―Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

    Tennessee walking horses and Jackie McConnell: Yesterday, Tennessee walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell pled guilty to a federal felony charge for crimes related to illegal soring of horses. Last week, ABC News broadcast undercover footage of McConnell beating horses, cooking chemicals into their skin, and otherwise injuring them in order to produce an unnatural high-stepping gait, known as the Big Lick. The Tennessean, the state’s largest newspaper, was critical of the terms of the plea, which will not require any jail time for McConnell. Columnists throughout Tennessee have called McConnell’s behavior barbaric and have said it’s time for the walking horse industry to turn itself around.

    horse

    By every indication, these abuses are widespread, and McConnell is hardly alone in his appalling mistreatment of the animals. The HSUS’s top goal is reform from top to bottom, and a fortified federal law properly funded so that these sorts of disgusting abuses do not recur within this scofflaw industry.

    California hounding: Also this week, the California Senate passed S.B. 1221 to ban the hound hunting of bears and bobcats. It was a dramatic vote on a bill introduced by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-28, and the final count was 22 to 15. Special thanks to Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, D-6; Sens. Lieu, Juan Vargas, D-40, Tony Strickland, R-19, and Bill Emmerson, R-37; and all of the other lawmakers who favored this humane policy. This was a politically courageous decision for many, but one that comes with the support of 83 percent of California voters who would like to see bear hounding banned. What kind of sport is it to chase a bear with a pack of dogs, fitted with radio transmitters, and then to shoot the frightened, exhausted bear out of a tree at point-blank range? That kind of pursuit is a travesty, and no self-respecting hunter or hunting organization should support this kind of abuse.

    Now the bill goes on to the Assembly, and my hope is that tens of thousands of Californians will speak out on the issue and demand action. If you live in California, call your Assemblymember in Sacramento and urge him or her to support S.B. 1221.

    May 24, 2012
    2 years ago
    Help Our Feathered Friends: Hen Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate

    Today, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, along with a number of colleagues from both parties, introduced S. 3239, the Senate companion to H.R. 3798―the bill to codify the agreement between The HSUS and the United Egg Producers to begin the process of banning the barren battery cage in the United States. I am posting this blog to urge you to contact your two U.S. Senators to urge them to cosponsor S. 3239 (you can reach the Senate Switchboard by calling 202-224-3121) and to remind you of the monumental significance of this legislation.

    hens

    Right now, more than 90 percent of the 280 million laying hens in the United States are living in barren battery cages, with perhaps 20 to 40 million of the hens living in space allotments that are even smaller than the unacceptably miserly 67-inch allotments called for in the UEP’s voluntary guidelines.

    The HSUS could fight this issue state by state over the next decade or two, with a series of uncertain outcomes, by initiating ballot measures in states that allow for direct democracy. But even if we succeed with every one of them―at a cost of tens of millions of dollars―many of the biggest egg-producing states, including Iowa (with nearly 60 million birds), would be immune, since they do not have the initiative process. As a matter of public policy, there’s just no way to get there with a state-by-state approach alone.

    As an alternative to endless, and perhaps unproductive, combat, I sat down with egg industry leaders last year, and after sometimes painful and difficult negotiations, we found a pathway forward to phase out the use of the barren battery cage in America and to establish other reforms. This is a landmark accord within the history of the animal movement because it shows a new problem-solving approach to animal welfare issues, and it will have beneficial consequences for all 280 million hens in the United States, as well as for billions of birds in the generations to come. But if the Congress doesn’t complete the job by passing S. 3239 and H.R. 3798, the whole thing unravels, and the animals will continue to live in terrible circumstances.

    Please take action to help hens today»

    The legislation has been endorsed not just by The HSUS and UEP, which represents nearly 90 percent of the industry. It is also backed by the Consumer Federation of America, the National Consumers League, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the ASPCA, Farm Sanctuary, Mercy for Animals, state egg industry trade associations throughout the country, and almost 1,000 individual farms that have formally endorsed this bill. In short, we have the leading animal welfare groups, the trade association that represents nearly the entire industry and many individual farmers, the veterinary community and other science-oriented groups, and the leading consumer groups in the country. That’s every key constituency, and we’re continuing to reach out to win support and backing from other stakeholders and concerned organizations.

    This is the sort of problem-solving the nation needs. We can lob stones at each other and perhaps not get any definitive outcome. Or we can forge solutions that demonstrably, tangibly, and meaningfully improve the lives of hundreds of millions of animals―solutions that the industry will also support. That’s the only way that a movement like ours, with finite resources and a superabundance of forms of animal exploitation we need to confront, can succeed.

    So please call your two U.S. Senators today at 202-224-3121 in support of Sen. Feinstein’s bill, S. 3239. And spread the word. We need to have the Congress inundated with calls to get this done. This should be the easiest decision of the year made by Congress―something that’s good for animals, backed by industry, and supported broadly by consumers. Good for animals, good for the nation.

    May 29, 2012
    2 years ago
    HSUS 2011 Annual Report Released Here

    We’ve just released our 2011 annual report online highlighting our activities and accomplishments during that year. Illustrated with a new infographic, the report shows why there’s no animal protection group in the world quite like The HSUS. Let me tell you why I make that claim:

    We have an unmatched depth and breadth of programs and expertise. There is no other group in the world with campaigns devoted to companion animals, farm animals, laboratory animals, marine mammals, wildlife and habitat protection, and equine protection. So many different types of animals are at risk from so many different threats and industries, and it’s critical that there’s a group with the experts and campaigners to confront these diverse problems. In 1954, our founders created the tagline, “Every field of humane work, everywhere,” and the same vision motivates the wide-ranging activity we engage in today. 

    map

    Browse our 2011 annual report online.

    We are committed to the prevention of cruelty. The HSUS and our affiliates provide direct care for animals in crisis (more than 76,000 last year), but if that’s all we did, we’d be failing in our mission, because we’d be addressing only the symptoms and not the root causes of cruelty. We don’t have enough resources to rescue all of the animals in need, and we’d burn through our resources in rapid fashion if we tried. We cannot rescue our way out of the problems associated with factory farming and animal testing either; these are legal, powerful industries. Instead, it’s our job to change the mindset of these industries, convince consumers to move the marketplace, and reshape public policy to benefit animals.

    We are 11 million strong. You and our other supporters multiply our impact by acting as ambassadors: driving thought, persuading others, demanding action by lawmakers, and pushing corporations to stop animal testing, improve the treatment of animals in the food chain, or drop fur coats from their racks, among other things.

    We are pragmatic. We are willing to work with our traditional opponents and turn them into allies. For example, we were once bitter adversaries with the United Egg Producers trade association. But we sat down with their leaders and negotiated a landmark agreement to support federal legislation banning the barren battery cage. We’ve negotiated with other trade associations, corporations, governors, and lawmakers, using facts, science, and the strength of our brand and our constituency to urge them to be part of the solution and find a better way forward.

    We are fearless. We’ll sit down with adversaries, but when they refuse to find a better way ahead, we will be relentless and strategic in carrying on the fight. Our movement has always been diverse and somewhat disconnected, and while animals need local rescue networks, they also need a group with the know-how, muscle, and courage to stand up to the biggest industries and interests causing the greatest harm. Every day, we take on animal agribusiness, the trophy hunting lobby, the exotic pet trade, the puppy mill industry, and even major governments like those of Canada (in demanding an end to the seal hunt) and the United States (in taking on government-conducted predator control, factory farming subsidies, and taxpayer-funded use of chimps and other animals in unnecessary experiments).

    We bring an array of tools to the fight. We are the best in the field at policy work and lobbying. We have a large in-house litigation unit and more than 3,000 outside attorneys ready to do pro bono work. Our undercover investigators reveal what’s going on behind the curtains at factory farms, research labs, puppy mills, and other sites where cruelty occurs. We have academics, economists, biologists, doctors, and veterinarians who are all experts in the animal protection field. We have the best magazine in the sector (All Animals), the most sophisticated website (humanesociety.org), an enormous presence on Facebook and Twitter, and a capacity to reach millions through the news coverage we generate.

    cont.
    2 years ago

    When you pull it all together, The HSUS is the most formidable advocacy enterprise ever assembled to take on animal cruelty.

    We have a global reach. Animal cruelty knows no national boundaries, so it’s vital that we have the capacity to fight problems everywhere. Our international teams sterilize street dogs and fight the fur trade in China, elephant poaching in Africa, factory farming in Brazil and India, and so many other global problems.

    I lay out these attributes to let you know what makes this organization so special and so vitally needed in this country and throughout the world. But we cannot do it alone. This whole enterprise depends on your decision to be engaged and give generously. I hope you’ll deepen your commitment to The HSUS as a means of changing the world for animals.

    May 30, 2012
    2 years ago
    Canine Military Veterans Deserve the Best We Can Provide Them

    Between The HSUS and Humane Society International, we are highly engaged with military issues involving animals―whether it’s humane concerns on military bases stateside; adoption and translocation of animals from abroad; occasional instances of cruelty by individuals; weapons testing and trauma training involving animals; the proposed anti-cruelty provision in the Uniform Code of Military Justice; and the training of dogs to be service animals as a form of therapy for veterans who have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, or sexual assault.

    army

    Photo: U.S. Army

    This year, to better ensure the future of the many four-legged heroes who have been invaluable as bomb detectors or otherwise served in Iraq and Afghanistan, champions in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate sponsored the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act to improve current laws bearing on the return of military working dogs whose service is complete.

    The House version of the bill (H.R. 4103) introduced by Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., was incorporated at the request of Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2013 and passed the House on May 18. The Senate Armed Services Committee also included some language on military working dogs in its NDAA at the request of Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, lead sponsor of S. 2134 (the Senate version of the bill).

    These legislators are great friends of The HSUS and the cause of protecting animals, and we will be working closely with them to pursue the strongest possible provision on military working dogs in the final House-Senate conference bill.

    To be sure, today’s military working dogs are not simply abandoned, as occurred in Vietnam decades ago. Nevertheless, they do not necessarily get the benefits they deserve, specifically transportation home, adoption, and appropriate medical care. In part, this is due to deployment classifications that require a designation of “manpower” or “equipment,” and since dogs cannot be called manpower, they are categorized as equipment, something like “ublic animals” were in the cavalry and draying age.

    The Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act redefines military working dogs as “canine members of the armed services,” making it easier to provide for their future medical care and help them find loving homes, all funded by charitable donations. The bill also directs the Secretary of Defense to create a decoration or other recognition for dogs killed in action or who perform an exceptionally meritorious or courageous act in service to the United States, making it possible to recognize their service without encroaching on the distinctive honors accorded to human soldiers who have served with gallantry in the defense of our country.

    Currently, the DOD, in accordance with "Robby’s Law"―enacted in 2000―enables military working dogs to be transferred or adopted out to former handlers, law enforcement agencies, or families who are willing and able to take on the responsibility. The DOD adopts out about 300 dogs per year to private homes; about 100 dogs go to law enforcement agencies outside the DOD. The Jones/Blumenthal proposal would help clear the hurdles that have made it difficult to get the dogs home, facilitate adoptions, and help adopters to pay for the health care of retired military working dogs―which, due to work-related health problems, can be expensive.

    The NDAA is going to be a highly contested package in the months to come, as the House and Senate versions differ greatly. But there should be no disagreement about the need for this provision. In an era of tight defense spending, it’s worth noting that the measures proposed for military working dogs would cost the Department of Defense and taxpayers nothing.

    This legislation does proper justice to the animals who have served alongside our troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. These heroic and valorous animals are not equipment, but partners in our national security efforts, and they deserve the best we can give them.

    May 31, 2012
    2 years ago
    Coming Together for Pets at Animal Care Expo

    I was so pleased last week to participate in The HSUS’s Animal Care Expo, where more than 1,800 people from 40 different countries gathered in Las Vegas to get trained and to network for a single purpose: To save animals’ lives.

    One great purpose of The HSUS is to educate and train people within our field. Not every local organization should have to experiment with and invent its own forms of advocacy and animal-care services. We are there to do all that we can to lift our allies in the humane community and to see best practices widely publicized and adopted, and Animal Care Expo is part of that training process.

    expo

    Photo: Ronda Churchill

    One highlight of this year’s Expo was the welcome session where we focused on how our movement can best penetrate under-served communities and reach more pets who aren’t yet sterilized or who need access to wellness services. Our Pets for Life team and other experts from the field challenged the audience’s perceptions about pet owners in under-served communities, illustrating how much pet owners at all socio-economic levels love their pets and want to do the best thing for their pets; how they often don’t have access or can’t afford veterinary care; and how if we as a movement are willing to listen and engage—rather than judge—we can make a real difference for people and their pets.

    During the session we announced the launch of a new Community Outreach Toolkit, an interactive manual created by The HSUS’s Pets for Life program and funded by PetSmart Charities. The first of its kind, we’ve designed it to guide organizations through the process of developing and implementing community outreach programs tailored to connect under-served communities with the animal welfare resources, services, and information they need.

    PetSmart Charities also announced a broader partnership with The HSUS to offer mentorship and funding to 10 organizations that want to implement or expand their community outreach programs using the Pets for Life approach. Each organization selected for the program will receive funding from PetSmart Charities and hands-on training from The HSUS, helping them to assess their community, develop strategies for understanding and reaching the desired audience, and execute successful targeted outreach events with a focus on spay/neuter.

    dog

    Photo: Ronda Churchill

    Animal Care Expo is just one of the many ways The HSUS works for companion animals, and to strengthen the institutions that serve them at all levels. We are protecting pets on every front―romoting the adoption of pets from shelters and rescues; cracking down on puppy mills, pushing for humane breeding standards; ending dogfighting; helping shelters and rescues save more lives by providing educational resources via Humane Society University, Animal Sheltering magazine, and animalsheltering.org; supporting trap-neuter-return for feral cats; and more.

    We sponsor a range of programs to propel these ideas, including World Spay Day, the field programs of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, and our street dog programs in Asia and throughout the world.

    Animal Care Expo is a great reminder that there are individuals and organizations working on these problems just about everywhere. We are now a global movement, and there are dedicated people to be found in every country helping animals. When we work together, and learn from each other, then we will be better positioned to take on the problems that threaten the lives of animals.

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