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A Humane Nation : September 2012
6 years ago

September 04, 2012

Pets Weather the Storm of Hurricane Isaac

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


Frank Loftus/The HSUS
One of 200 dogs and cats that The HSUS transported.

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

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

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

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

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

September 05, 2012
6 years ago

Help Protect Dogs in Maryland

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

pit bulls

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

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

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

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

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

September 06, 2012
6 years ago

New Day in Ohio As Exotics Law Takes Effect

Yesterday, Ohio’s exotics law, signed by Governor John Kasich in June, took effect—more than a month before the October 18th anniversary of the worst captive wildlife incident in American history. In Zanesville, Terry Thompson, a mentally troubled owner of more than 50 large mammals, including tigers, lions, and grizzly bears, cut the fences and took his own life, releasing the animals into the community in the late afternoon. In response, law enforcement officials, worried that the night would soon overtake the dusk, shot all but a few of the animals. The result was a grisly and deeply disturbing body count of beautiful creatures who themselves did nothing wrong.

The new law forbids private citizens from acquiring new dangerous exotics, such as big cats, bears, and some primates, and sets up a registration system and animal-care standards for people who decide to hold on to exotic animals currently in their possession. The hope is that once the current class of captive animals held by private citizens reach the end of their natural lifespans, then Ohio will no longer be home to bears in basements or tigers in make-shift cages in the backyard.
For years, The HSUS has been warning about Ohio’s decision to allow private menageries as large as Terry Thompson’s to thrive. The terrible incident he caused was the most extreme in terms of outcomes for the animals, but it was just one of a laundry list of incidents in which animals and people have been injured or killed because of the wrong-headed decision by private citizens to keep dangerous wild animals as pets.

Nevada is one of six remaining states with no rules governing private ownership of exotics—the others are Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. In the last month, there were two chimpanzee escapes in Las Vegas, with one male chimp gunned down by authorities who feared the powerful animal might hurt someone. 

There are people who think it’s their right to keep any animal they want. They have always been in the minority, but now, increasingly, their views and behavior are judged not just as extreme, but also dangerous. There are too many human victims, like Charla Nash in Connecticut whose face was severely disfigured when a chimpanzee attacked her at the home of the animal’s owner. And for the animals thrust into these settings, it almost never turns out well. They die from lack of care, or become casualties of attempts to control them should they escape.  Or they are set loose or discarded, pawned off on a caring person or a sanctuary operator, with all of the costs for lifetime care transferred to someone who had no role in the original reckless decision to acquire an animal. Or they lead a life of privation and loneliness in some shoddy enclosure, roadside zoo, or domestic setting. 

We shouldn’t be so selfish, or so naïve to think it’s okay to keep a powerful exotic animal as a pet. Ohio’s new law is a good one, and the other states with few regulations on exotic animals should work to pass similar legislation.

September 07, 2012
6 years ago

It's Time to Unite for Animals

Our anti-gestation crate campaign is something of a locomotive barreling down the tracks and heading in the direction of the finish line—which, in my mind, is the day that these extreme confinement crates are relegated to the dustbin of history. I don’t know when that will happen, but I do know we are getting closer to that goal every day. 

This week, we announced that fast-food giants Jack-in-the-Box and Wienerschnitzel have announced with us that they’ll transition to procure pork from operations that do not confine sows in gestation crates. Since our announcement on McDonald’s in February, we’ve worked with company after company—including Costco, Safeway, Burger King, and Sodexo and more—to sound the horn that gestation crates have no future in our society.
This progress is a watershed for our movement and for the humane treatment of animals. To me, it’s not just a “good news” story—but a great news story.  The takeaway is, all animals deserve moral consideration, including those raised for food, and some practices are simply beyond the pale and cannot be tolerated.

You can understand why many industrial pig farmers and the trade associations that represent them are unhappy with our progress. But it’s a little harder to understand why some animal advocates decry these efforts, and assert that this progress is somehow counter-productive for animals.

I’ve been a vegan for more than a quarter century, and I understand their perspective. But I don’t agree with it. I do  largely agree with the essay in Slate published today by James McWilliams, who is one of the best-published vegan writers—someone who is often critical of reformist efforts in this realm.

He notes, correctly, that no group strikes more fear in the hearts of agribusiness advocates than The HSUS. His message to vegan advocates: It doesn’t help animals to join the meat industry’s leadership in attacking The HSUS.

We must all face the fact that we live in a very diverse world, and that eating meat is one of the most ingrained activities there is. The HSUS has always been a pragmatic and realistic force in humane work, and that is why we take the positions we do on this topic. I understand there are some who want dramatic societal dietary change overnight. I respect their judgment. While meat consumption is on the decline in the U.S., dietary patterns of Americans and people across the globe are not going to turn around tomorrow, or even next year, and perhaps not in a decade or even in 50 years. Moreover, there is a range of legitimate choices people can make if they wish to be part of the solution.

Since animals are being raised for food by the billions, I am not willing to sit back and allow animals to languish in cages barely larger than their bodies, on the faint hope that some are miraculously going to turn people into vegans in vast numbers tomorrow. I am going to campaign to stop the worst abuses and align with humane-minded farmers committed to a different way, while at the same time promoting initiatives like Meatless Monday to continue the reduction in per capita animal consumption. At current levels, it is unsustainable in all respects.

Moreover, the American public just doesn’t support this type of extreme, harsh confinement, and The HSUS is doing all that it can to align American production practices more squarely with public attitudes.  These creatures are suffering horribly. They need the relief, and the incredible litany of successes—related to battery cages, gestation crates, veal crates, and tail docking of dairy cows—are a cause for celebration. It’s time to unite to finish the job.
September 10, 2012
6 years ago

How to Help Animals, from Snowcones to Used Cars

I was traveling in upstate New York this weekend and spoke to crowds in Buffalo, Ithaca, Syracuse, and Albany. In Syracuse, I saw 12-year-old Martin Welych-Flanagan, who is a great HSUS supporter and my friend. He’s raised more than $8,000 over the past four years for HSUS’s anti-seal killing campaign by selling Save the Seals bracelets. At my event on Saturday night in his hometown, he sold another $63 worth of bracelets that he, his mom, and his friend Johnny made.

used car

Help HSUS's Pets for Life by donating your used vehicle.

In Albany, I met two young boys, 6-year-old Roan and 10-year old Hayden, who gave me a cup full of money that they raised for The HSUS by selling snowcones in front of their house.

I was touched by these acts of kindness and generosity. These are kids who want to make a difference, and they are contributing in the ways that they can. These kids embody the values we want to see fostered in our society.

And it reminded me of all the ways that all of us can help. In the past, I’ve written about 50 ways to help animals and The HSUS. It would be a good time to review that list and remind yourself of the ways you can contribute–financially, in the marketplace, through volunteerism, and other ways.

There’s one relatively new way to help that I’m particularly excited about: donating an old car, truck, motorcycle, RV, or boat to The HSUS–and you can even get a tax deduction for it.

If you have an old vehicle lying around, or know a friend or family member who has one, you can donate it to The HSUS or encourage your contact to do so, and we receive, on average, 80 percent of the proceeds from the sale. All of the proceeds from donations of used vehicles go to our Pets for Life (PFL) program, which operates now in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia and targets under-served, economically disadvantaged communities where there are low rates of spay and neuter, and few veterinary practices. Our work is helping to elevate the bond between people and their pets, keep those pets in homes and out of shelters, and reduce the possibility of neglect, animal fighting, and other issues.

This weekend, our PFL team in Philadelphia invited members of an under-served community to come to a public park and receive free pet vaccinations, nail-trimming, and spay/neuter vouchers. Our team vaccinated 391 dogs and cats, gave out 212 spay-and-neuter vouchers, and also signed up 42 people for the dog training classes we conduct. Just on one day this weekend!

Imagine if we could fully fund these programs throughout the year and expand them to other cities? We would drive down euthanasia rates, improve the quality of life for dogs, and get that much closer to eradicating pet homelessness and overpopulation.

Donating a vehicle is simple, and the vehicle doesn't have to be running. You can enter the vehicle's information online, or call 1-877-836-6674 and someone will assist you. We'll schedule a time to have it towed at no cost to you. Your vehicle will be sent to auction, the proceeds passed along to The HSUS's Pets for Life program, and the title and sales paperwork will be taken care of for you. Your reward? In a few weeks, you'll get a donation receipt for tax purposes.

I hope you'll consider donating your vehicle and spreading the word about this important program that provides much-needed support for pets and people.

September 11, 2012
6 years ago

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

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

puppy mill

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 12, 2012
6 years ago

Slow and Steady Wins the Race to Save Gopher Tortoises

Our critics in various animal-use industries constantly try to define us, and try to say The HSUS should work on one narrow set of humane issues–or, not to work on humane issues at all. Rest assured, we don’t take their advice. We’ve always been about protecting all animals. And that’s what we’ll continue to do as long as you keep supporting us.


One of the gopher tortoises saved yesterday in Florida.

Yesterday, our Animal Rescue Team was in the field on a puppy mill raid in South Carolina. But our new Wildlife Innovations and Response Team was at work in Florida on another mission–digging out threatened gopher tortoises at risk of being entombed at a subdivision construction site in Tarpon Springs (you can watch a video of the project here).

In 2007, after a campaign by The HSUS, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ended a controversial policy for construction sites that allowed tortoises to be crushed or buried alive in their burrows. Although the commission improved its policy by requiringnew construction projects to move tortoises before beginning construction, the commission grandfathered all permits applied for before July 31, 2007, allowing the tortoises living at these sites to be entombed. With the economic downturn in recent years and the slowdown in Florida’s housing market, thousands more gopher tortoises are still living on construction sites where they can legally be buried alive.

Fortunately, many developers with grandfathered permits have contacted The HSUS and asked for help moving tortoises to safety out of planned construction sites. Tampa-based Deeb Family Homes did just that before moving forward with development plans at the Keystone Springs site. Thanks to their commitment in saving this ecologically important species–and thanks to the generosity of Dr. Sharon Hook and Erika Seshadri, members of HSUS’s State Council in Florida–we were able to rescue 18 gopher tortoises, estimated in age from just a few months old to 50 years old, from what would have been a horrific end. Generous grants from The Folke H. Peterson foundation have allowed The HSUS to rescue more than 2,200 tortoises since 2006. It’s an amazing feature of our work, and I’m so proud of our staff and supporters for helping these magnificent creatures.

Using a painstaking, meticulous process perfected over the years, our staff worked with a highly trained backhoe operator to carefully extract the tortoises from their burrows one at a time, then placed the animals in individual carriers for relocation.

Early this morning, our team transported the tortoises on a 7-hour journey to their new home at Nokuse Plantation, a permanently protected, 50,000-acre preserve in Walton County, where they're being checked and prepared for release tomorrow. Nokuse Plantation has been an unwavering supporter of gopher tortoise rescue, providing a permanent home to more than 3,500 tortoises and waiving its management fees to help save the animals.

The HSUS has been a leader in gopher tortoise relocations in Florida and will continue to work with developers to relocate tortoises from construction sites to safe homes. Please help us save more of these threatened animals by donating to our special gopher tortoise rescue fund

September 13, 2012
6 years ago

Federal Court Upholds California’s Historic Prop 2 Ballot Measure

Of all the victories for animal protection in recent decades, California’s 2008 Proposition 2 ballot measure stands out as one of the biggest and most far-reaching. It was one the most comprehensive farm animal protection measures ever attempted, launched in the largest state in the union and also the nation’s largest agricultural state. For all of those reasons, agribusiness groups mounted a massive campaign to defeat it, resulting in an honest test of where consumers stand on the issue of extreme confinement of animals raised for food.

With voters delivering a landslide victory for Prop 2, the Golden State became the first state to ban battery cages for egg-laying hens, and it reminded the entire agricultural sector that at least some of its routine and customary practices were way out of step with public sentiment.


After our major victory on Election Day 2008, the opponents of Prop 2 tried to interpret the measure very narrowly, or to overturn it entirely. They took their campaign to the courts, in the hopes that they could wipe away the votes of 8 million people who favored it.

I’m happy to report that yesterday, a federal judge in California brought Prop 2 one step further to implementation. An egg producer in California filed suit earlier this year contending that Prop 2’s language was too “vague” for the producer to understand. In a written ruling, the judge vehemently disagreed, finding that the amount of space required by Prop 2 “is certainly not a mystery and is capable of easy determination by egg farmers, who have been in this business for decades.” Acting on motions filed by The HSUS and the California Attorney General, the judge rejected each of the egg producer’s arguments and concluded that “Proposition 2 establishes a clear test that any law enforcement officer can apply, and that test does not require the investigative acumen of Columbo to determine if an egg farmer is in violation of the statute.”

This judge saw the opponents’ flimsy legal arguments for what they really were: an attempt to thwart animal welfare improvements in California. As the judge put it, “the mere fact that Plaintiff dislikes or disagrees with the policy or language of Proposition 2 is not sufficient to sustain a Constitutional challenge.”

For more than a year, after a sit-down with the leaders of the egg industry and a successful and difficult negotiation between the parties, The HSUS and the United Egg Producers have been working on federal legislation that would extend important animal welfare improvements beyond California and to the entire U.S. egg industry. With this ruling, it’s now clearer than ever that laying hens across the nation would benefit from a national ban on barren battery cages and that the egg industry would benefit by having a national standard that all producers would be obligated to follow. Protecting California’s 20 million laying hens is good, but it’s still better to set a minimum standard for all 285 million hens in the nation and phase out the use of the most extreme confinement cages. That’s exactly what H.R. 3798 and S. 3239 would do.

September 14, 2012
6 years ago

Talk Back: Bill Introduced to Strengthen Horse Protection Act

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 years ago

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

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

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

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

September 17, 2012
6 years ago

Update: Helping Rescued Dogs Recover and Learn to Trust

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

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

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


Photo: Julie Baker
Marshall, one of the rescued dogs.

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

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

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

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

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

This post was modified from its original form on 17 Sep, 19:44
September 19, 2012
6 years ago

$75,000 Fine and Probation Handed Down in Notorious Horse Soring Case

Yesterday, in a packed Chattanooga courtroom, the Hon. Harry S. Mattice, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee, handed down penalties in the horse abuse case involving Jackie McConnell—the Hall of Fame trainer of Tennessee walking horses, who in 2011 was captured on tape by an HSUS undercover investigator intentionally injuring the animals under his charge in order to get them to step higher and win ribbons at horse shows. 

McConnell is now a convicted federal felon. The judge fined him $75,000 and sentenced him to three years supervised probation—specifically requiring him to report “any involvement with horses” to his probation officer—and to 300 hours of community service to be performed for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s the stiffest sentence ever handed down under the Horse Protection Act.


Chad Sisneros/The HSUS
Horse soring is not only cruel, but a serious crime.

Like many, I would have liked to see McConnell do time in prison for the horrible things he did to horses–not just the ones that our investigator filmed him abusing, but all of the hapless creatures who were unlucky enough to fall under this man’s control. McConnell still faces 15 charges of violating Tennessee’s cruelty to animals statute in a pending case, and his guilty plea in federal court virtually guarantees the charges will stick. The threat of jail time still looms for McConnell in the state’s case.

But justice was done yesterday–and a signal was sent to every lawbreaker in the world of Tennessee walking horse shows that you don’t get away with abusing animals any longer. There’s no immunity for those who unlawfully torture horses to win ribbons–whether they’re the owners or the trainers. U.S. Attorney Bill Killian and Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Neff made it abundantly clear that when evidence of these crimes is reported, offenders will be prosecuted.

As the United States argued in court yesterday, there’s a defect in the underlying law—the Horse Protection Act, which has not been upgraded since 1976—that allowed Jackie McConnell to maintain some measure of freedom in spite of the crimes he committed. Last week, we took a big step toward correcting it by working with humane-minded lawmakers to introduce legislation to expand the range of prohibited acts related to soring and to impose meaningful penalties for violations of the law.

This whole controversy is about more than Jackie McConnell. He is one trainer among dozens who have operated in a professional subculture that not only tolerates soring, but believes it’s essential to win.

Punishing McConnell is needed in order to see justice served. But if we stopped there, we’d be missing the point. Just as we’d be missing the larger point if we only wished to see Michael Vick punished, understanding that he was one of tens of thousands of people involved in dogfighting.

Just as The HSUS moved on from the Vick case and relentlessly pursued a comprehensive, multi-faceted attack on dogfighting, that’s what we need with soring.

The pitiful epilogue to Jackie McConnell’s training career ended yesterday, with his sentencing in federal court. Now, it is up to us to take the lessons of the McConnell investigation and arrest and translate it into something bigger. Our singular goal is to clean up the show world of Tennessee walking horse competitions, restore integrity to the sport, and put an end to all soring.

Soring is an archaic, barbaric, unnecessary practice. It’s also a crime, and in this case, the law has spoken. Other scofflaw trainers disregard this message at their peril, but also at the peril of their entire industry. The industry should be working with us to root out this corruption.

September 20, 2012
6 years ago

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

September 21, 2012
6 years ago

110 Chimpanzees from New Iberia Research Center Will Be Safe from Testing

Today, we received a telling sign that the United States will soon see the end of invasive experiments on chimpanzees, bringing to a close a long, sad, and inhumane chapter in the history of American science and public health. Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), spoke with me this morning to tell me about NIH’s plan to move all of the government-owned chimpanzees out of the New Iberia Research Center—the site of a 2009 HSUS undercover investigation that exposed bad human behavior and poor conditions for chimpanzees.


Take action to help more chimps.

The NIH has decided that all 110 federally-owned chimpanzees will be removed from New Iberia by August of 2013. The agency plans to move 10 chimpanzees to Chimp Haven (a sanctuary in Keithville, La.) and approximately 100 others to the Southwest National Primate Research Center—a laboratory in San Antonio, Texas. NIH will be classifying all of these chimpanzees as “ermanently ineligible” for use in research, so there’s no risk that these chimps moved to Texas would be placed back into research.

This is an exciting and welcome step in the right direction. The intended transfer will directly affect the lives of about one-fifth of all government-owned chimps in labs. But the long-term solution is to get every last one of the chimps out of labs and to provide these animals with richly deserved permanent retirement in sanctuaries. Dr. Collins welcomed our offer to work with the agency on creating greater sanctuary capacity. NIH currently has a working group examining the future of chimpanzee research and the fate of all government-supported chimpanzees. We will continue to push the working group to recommend that every government-owned chimpanzee be retired to sanctuary.

We’ve been campaigning on behalf of these chimpanzees for a few years now, and the pivotal moment in this debate was the release last December of a report by the Institute of Medicine (commissioned by Dr. Collins) concluding that the use of chimps is “largely unnecessary” for human health purposes and that there are validated alternatives for the types of experiments they are now subjected to.

We hope that Dr. Collins’ announcement will give added momentum to the effort in Congress to enact the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act by the end of the year. This legislation, which has broad bipartisan support, would phase out invasive research on chimpanzees and retire government-owned chimpanzees to sanctuary—while saving taxpayers about $25 million per year.

Chimps are our closest living relatives. We can thrive as a species without subjecting them to invasive experiments. And by getting them out of labs and ending invasive experiments, we’ll make a greater claim for the humanity of our species.

September 24, 2012
6 years ago

Reckless Bill in Congress Would Harm Polar Bears and the Environment

Make no mistake, there’s a lot of support for animal issues in the U.S. Congress. The anti-animal fighting bill, H.R. 2492, making it a federal crime to be a spectator at animal fights has 226 cosponsors (a majority of the House), and the Senate version of that bill was approved as an amendment by an 88 to 11 vote. A bill to regulate large-scale commercial dog breeders (puppy mills) who sell via the Internet has 216 cosponsors in the House and 33 in the Senate, and President Obama plans to take care of a core provision of that reform through the rule-making process. 

The bill to phase out the use of chimps in invasive experiments and retire all government-owned chimpanzees from laboratories to sanctuary has 200 House and Senate cosponsors, and Dr. Francis Collins, the director of NIH, announced last week that 110 chimps at the New Iberia Research Center (which The HSUS investigated in 2009) would be “ermanently ineligible” for research—a big step forward in our campaign to see chimpanzees retired to sanctuary. There are many other bills with broad support.

polar bear

But the Congress sometimes loses it head when it comes to dealing with hunting issues, and for the most recent evidence of this, you need look no further than the Senate’s final action after midnight on Saturday morning, before leaving town to campaign, regarding S. 3525, the so-called Sportsmen’s Act.

It’s a grab bag of favored policy wishes for the hunting lobby, including provisions to allow for imports of sport-hunted polar bear trophies from Canada and to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from ever limiting the use of toxic lead shot, even if available science warrants such action.

The Democratic leadership, in election mode, wanted to do a favor for Montana Sen. John Tester, who is the author of S. 3525. He was also the architect of the effort to de-list wolves in order to open up sport hunting and trapping seasons on these animals in the Northern Rockies. That action is part of the explanation for a change in policy that has left hundreds of wolves dead, and the populations in the Northern Rockies battered and diminished.

With S. 3525, Tester pleaded the case for a handful of millionaire American trophy hunters who trekked to Canada and shot and killed polar bears for their heads and hides. However, the Marine Mammal Protection Act was originally written to ban imports of polar bears and other marine mammals, and now the polar bears are listed by the Interior Department as a threatened species, and the federal agency has banned imports of the parts. That’s why Sen. Tester needs Congress to override the law and the executive agency.

In a procedural vote that clears the way for final passage of Tester’s bill in November or December, the Senate voted 84 to 7 in favor of the bill. A handful of conservatives voted against it because of cost, and a few Democrats—Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Robert Menendez, and Jack Reed—opposed it because they think it’s wrong to promote the trophy killing of polar bears. But the majority of the Senate went along, viewing this as a “ro-sportsmen” vote.

This isn’t the first time the Congress has engaged in this kind of capitulation to the trophy hunting lobby. Since 1994, it has allowed for imports of polar bear trophies in order to appease the Safari Club International and the NRA, and certain of their wealthy members who travel to northern Canada to kill bears in their quest to win hunting achievement awards like “Bears of the World.” 

We’ve heard a lot of talk about the “one percent” and the “99 percent” this year when it comes to the economy and politics. But here’s a case of the 0.001 percent, and how the Congress is appeasing a handful of people who spend lots of money just for the chance to kill and possess the world’s largest land predator—and one of the most threatened—for purely selfish purposes.

But it’s not just the Senate. Earlier this year, the House Natural Resources Committee included the polar bear provision in its own sportsmen’s package, and the House rejected—by a vote of 155 to 262—an amendment offered by Rep. Gary Peters to strike the polar bear provision.

It’s one thing to support sportsmen. It’s another thing to cave in to the most extreme demands of the most extreme elements of the hunting lobby. That’s what Congress did on Saturday morning. It was not, needless to say, that assembly’s finest hour.

September 25, 2012
6 years ago

More Progress on Gestation Crates, and Uncovering the 'Ham Scam'

It is an axiom in the world of business management that “the customer is always right.” The pork sector apparently doesn’t subscribe to that principle. The industry’s leadership continues to deride its biggest buyers, most of which are declaring that they want to eliminate gestation crate confinement of pigs in their supply chains.

Case in point: This week, Nebraska-based ConAgra became the latest food industry giant to announce that it will become gestation crate-free, in making a cooperative announcement with The HSUS. In response to this news, Steve Nelson, president of the Nebraska Farm Bureau, slammed the company: “This pressure is coming from people that don’t understand how animals should be cared for.” You’d think that with the biggest names in the food retail world making similar announcements—including McDonald’s, Burger King, Safeway, Costco, and more—the pork industry would wake up and start recognizing just how far out of step it is with mainstream American values about how animals ought to be treated. Put simply, most Americans know that it’s cruel to lock a 500-pound, social, intelligent animal in a cage barely larger than her own body, immobilizing her.


Many companies are moving to phase out cramped
gestation crates for breeding sows.

Nelson even howled, “The use of gestation crates is really a better way to care for hogs than to care in other methods.” So much for the industry’s respect for science, which is clear that gestation crate confinement is a terrible way to treat these animals. Renowned animal scientist Dr. Temple Grandin puts it bluntly when she says of gestation crates, “Confining an animal for most of its life in a box in which it is not able to turn around does not provide a decent life.”

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is so out of synch with trends in agriculture that it not only defends immobilizing pigs in tiny cages for essentially their whole lives, but it’s actively lobbying to kill federal legislation to improve the treatment of egg-laying hens, despite the fact that the bill is backed by the egg industry’s leadership and would have no impact on the pork industry.

It’s partly for that reason that The Humane Society of the United States yesterday filed a lawsuit along with an independent pig farmer and on behalf of HSUS pig farmer members in federal district court, charging that the National Pork Board struck an unlawful backroom deal with the NPPC for the purchase of the iconic “Pork: The Other White Meat” slogan. This “ham scam” of a deal allows $60 million in pork producers’ money collected for marketing purposes to be diverted into industry lobbying efforts aimed at harming animal welfare and small farmers.

While we can’t force NPPC to care about animals or family farmers, through this lawsuit we can work to stop money from being unlawfully funneled straight to its lobbyists who work to kill essentially any legislation aimed at preventing cruelty to animals.

I’m heartened that some industry insiders are starting to get the message about wayward practices in the pork sector. Meat & Poultry magazine ran a major feature on The HSUS’s campaign to end the use of gestation crates this month. Its editors certainly see where the future is headed far more clearly than the NPPC and Nebraska Farm Bureau are able to do. Rather than trying to excuse the abuse inherent in gestation crate systems, the magazine’s editors declared to a seemingly reluctant industry: “This is no longer a debate about the viability of gestation crates in hog production, but rather a discussion about how producers will respond to meet expectations.”


September 26, 2012
6 years ago

Victory: California Gov. Brown Signs Bill to End Hounding of Bears and Bobcats

I just learned that Gov. Jerry Brown this afternoon has signed S.B. 1221 into law–to ban the unsporting and inhumane practice of hound hunting of black bears and bobcats in California. I am so thankful to the governor for his support, and grateful to the 68 California Assembly and Senate members who backed the bill, especially to the extraordinary duo of Ted Lieu and President pro tem Darrell Steinberg–our two leaders in the state Senate who were masterful at every turn in advocating for the bill, answering the critics, and helping to gather up the votes from colleagues who respect them so much. 

Of course, this type of support from elected officials would not have happened but for the broad public support for The HSUS and our worldview. Nothing like this happens without an active and engaged constituency who write letters, send emails, make phone calls, attend hearings, talk to neighbors, and do the hard, persistent work required to achieve meaningful social reform. Special thanks to our entire team at The HSUS who worked so hard, especially to Jennifer Fearing, our California senior state director who was so determined and strategic in lobbying the bill from beginning to end in Sacramento.



This was a tough fight, with The HSUS and our organizational allies battling the NRA, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, the California Houndsmen for Conservation, and every other major player in the hunting lobby. Every step in this process–through each committee, to the Assembly floor, and twice to the Senate floor–was difficult and nerve-wracking, but we cleared every hurdle. It’s especially sweet for me because I’ve been wishing for this day now for 20 years, since I first starting working on this issue as a very young man in 1989. It’s been a long time coming, but it shows that persistence pays off.

It was the publishing in early February this year of a grisly photo of his mountain lion kill in Idaho by the then-president of the California Fish and Game Commission that thrust the issue of hounding into the spotlight. The photo came to light after it was published in a hunting newspaper, and it prompted The HSUS to talk to Sen. Lieu about taking care of this unfinished business. It was hardly a new issue for us, since we’ve fought the hunting lobby on this in Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington, and other states to end this form of wildlife cruelty.

Today it is so satisfying to see representative government work, and to have lawmakers and Gov. Brown heed the will of the people in California and to protect these dogs, bears, and bobcats from this abuse.

All animal advocates should let out a roar of approval to Gov. Brown. And you should all relish this evidence of progress for our cause. It’s an exciting moment.

September 27, 2012
6 years ago

Bringing Hope to 139 Dogs, Cats, Horses, and Birds in North Carolina

There’s never a respite for our Animal Rescue Team. This Tuesday, the Humane Society of the United States’ ART helped animal control officers and local groups in Person County, N.C., save more than 130 animals from miserable conditions in a hoarding situation.


Roberta Wall, co-founder of Susie's Law,
helping with the rescue.

Kimberley Alboum, our North Carolina state director, described trash littering the property and the inside of a trailer and two outbuildings. Inside the buildings, about 60 dogs ranging from Chihuahuas to American Staffordshire terriers were confined in wooden boxes soaked with urine. Rescuers also found cats and a litter of kittens, as well as parakeets and other birds. Alboum said that this rescue was emotionally traumatic even for our experienced HSUS staff and volunteers because of “the hopeless look on the face of the animals when we arrived.”

The owners were apparently selling some puppies over the Internet. “These animals were not only living in absolute garbage and filth, but they were breeding,” Alboum said.

This was yet another case in North Carolina where stronger policies could have helped authorities stop these cruel conditions earlier. In a separate setting, close by the hoarding site, we also helped rescue almost 40 horses and ponies, many of them seriously underweight. The Guilford County Animal Shelter, Saving Grace Animal Adoptions, Faithful Friends Animal Sanctuary, Safe Haven Equine Rescue & Retirement, Paws Ranch, Central Virginia Horse Rescue, and Allen’s Place also helped remove animals from the property.

Local officials have arrested the owners, who agreed to surrender custody of the animals. After about 10 hours of work on the property, our amazing network of Emergency Placement Partners and equine rescue groups had picked up all the dogs, cats, horses, and birds. Now, these formerly neglected creatures finally have a brighter future, and freedom from the suffering and neglect that had been their lot.

September 28, 2012
6 years ago

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


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

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

This good news heartened many of you:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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