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A Humane Nation : August 2013
1 year ago

August 01, 2013

A Safety Net for Dogs in Need

I am always inspired and empowered by the devotion of advocates who fight for animals. One day it may be volunteers who are helping to prevent the needless trophy hunting of wolves, another day it may be grassroots organizing to ban horse slaughter. Today, I want to highlight the work of dozens of groups and thousands of hardworking people – though there are too many to name – changing the lives of large mixed-breed, pit-bull type and senior dogs.

These dogs have found two angels in a pair of long-time animal advocates, Dwight and Kimberly Lowell, who are steadfast in their devotion to helping senior, pit-bull type and mixed breed dogs, in particular. It all started with a shelter dog named Chrissie who, Dwight will quickly tell you, “changed my life.” Driven by the love discovered in that special relationship, Dwight and Kimberly vowed to help other dogs in need, and that’s exactly what they’ve been doing.

Lowell Fund

iStockphoto
The Lowell Fund provides grants for organizations that
help large mixed-breed, pit-bull type and senior dogs.

They’ve been quiet in their giving and want all focus on the dogs and the great work of so many people who are helping dogs in need. But, I want them to know how much their generosity is valued by all of us who share their love of dogs. Dwight and Kimberly have made a generous donation and long-term commitment to The Lowell Fund, which plans to continue to give grants to support organizations over the years to come.

Today, The HSUS announced grants, funded exclusively through The Lowell Fund, to 31 groups in 21 states. There’s Bama Bully Rescue in Birmingham, Ala., which helps dogs who have been abandoned, abused, neglected, or fallen victim to other situations in their lives. Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary in Mount Juliet, Tenn., gives senior dogs, especially those with medical problems or disabilities, a place to live out their lives as a loved family member. Ruff Start Rescue in Princeton, Minn., is an all-volunteer group that fosters animals in homes until they are adopted, and New Mexico Dogs Deserve Better, based in Rio Rancho, N.M., focuses on helping to free chained dogs through owner education, outreach and rescue. These are just a few examples of the many great groups, often all-volunteer run, that are changing the lives of so many dogs. 

There is a remarkable network of dog rescue organizations, operating in thousands of communities across the country. The Lowell Fund grants cannot help them all, but they make a difference for dozens of organizations, and therefore for thousands of dogs. I know the Lowells join me in celebrating these wonderful folks taking care of so many creatures in need. Congratulations to the grant awardees, the Lowells, and all of you who change the world for the better.

August 02, 2013
1 year ago

King Delivers Legislative Kudzu in Farm Bill

As members of Congress leave Washington today and return to their districts for the August recess, opposition to the Farm Bill amendment introduced by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, is swelling. The King amendment is a sort of legislative kudzu, so invasive and dangerous it could crowd out hundreds of state and local laws setting appropriate standards for agriculture. For the animal welfare movement, to put a fine point on its impact, King’s measure could very easily repeal all the state laws against shark finning, puppy mills, extreme confinement of farm animals, and the slaughter and sale of meat from horses, dogs and cats. 

gestation

Written by one of the most radical Members of Congress – and a man who has also opposed federal measures to crack down on animal fighting and horse slaughter, opposed federal animal welfare standards for laying hens, and was even against a federal policy to help pets in disasters – the amendment is an attack on the states’ rights to impose reasonable standards on agriculture to protect animals, workers, the environment and consumers. In King, we have a person who, for all practical purposes, opposes all laws for animal welfare.

In a bipartisan show of force against the King amendment, 166 House lawmakers wrote to the leadership of their chamber’s Agriculture Committee and expressed opposition to the King amendment. The letter from Democratic Members, led by Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and Gary Peters, D-Mich., noted that “[t]his provision threatens to undermine an untold number of duly-enacted state laws and regulations affecting agricultural production.”

The letter from House Republicans, led by Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif., explained that the “King amendment is very broadly written to nullify state laws that impose ‘a standard or condition’ on agricultural products and to establish federal supremacy.”  They added, “[t]he federal government should play a complementary role to the states on agriculture policy, rather than rendering them powerless … ” and that the “King amendment … could jeopardize the entire Farm Bill.”

With many lawmakers conducting public events in their district or by conference call with constituents, it would be a good time to personally reach out to them in their districts in the coming weeks and to urge them to reject the King amendment and to oppose the Farm Bill if it contains the King amendment or anything like it. Contact each of your members of Congress and ask his or her office staff if there are any public events this August, since you want to speak with your lawmaker about the threats posed to animals by the King amendment.

August 06, 2013
1 year ago

Search Results: Cultured Meat and Horse Sense

Sergey Brin, the Google founder, innovator, and billionaire, craved a burger, but wanted to hold the suffering and the slaughter. Yesterday, the news broke that Brin – a primary driver in one of the most revolutionary developments in the modern era, developing new ways of aggregating information and searching for it – funded research to create meat in a laboratory setting by growing animal tissue from stem cells. In short, he has designs for a new way of growing meat, without the killing, the inefficient use of feed grains, and the waste generated by billions of animals. He said the high costs of meat, especially when it comes to the environment, are not workable for our society.

And yesterday, the slaughter lines didn’t get revved up in Sigourney, Iowa, or Roswell, N.M. – but it wasn’t as a consequence of a scientific breakthrough. It was a legal proceeding that stayed slaughter. On Friday, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order, in favor of The HSUS and Front Range Equine Rescue, along with New Mexico Attorney General Gary King, former Governor Bill Richardson, and Robert Redford, and halted horse slaughter plants from opening operations in the United States for the first time in six years.

transport

Kathy Milani/The HSUS

That federal court action provides a reprieve, but not a final answer. The judge will see the opposing parties in court about a month from now, and take a deeper dive into the arguments. Meanwhile, Congress has language pending in an annual spending bill to defund federal inspections of horse slaughter plants. And there are also bills in the House and Senate to ban the slaughter and export of American horses for human consumption at home or abroad.

The HSUS has an interest in all of these matters. On horse slaughter, we’ve long opposed it. Horses aren’t raised for slaughter, and we don’t favor the way they are gathered up from random sources or how they’re treated throughout the long-distance transport and slaughter process. We think people who acquire horses should be responsible owners.

Regarding the tissue-culture meat, we’ve long been concerned about the nation’s 50-year, failed experiment with factory farming. While it has provided cheap meat to consumers (while externalizing its aggregate costs to society), it’s been a calamity for animals, for the environment, for family farmers, and for rural communities. We’ve got to find our way through it, with a combination of putting more traditional family farmers on the land, getting the animals out of extreme confinement, eating more plant-based foods, and, perhaps, switching to more tissue-cultured meat, when it becomes commercially viable.

There won’t be any single antidote to factory farming. But we do have a major problem, and we need creative attention to it. Treating billions of animals like commodities, jamming them into small cages and crates, feeding vast amounts of grains to them, allowing them to generate massive amounts of waste or gases, and driving family farmers out of business is neither humane nor sustainable. We need a new way forward.

August 07, 2013
1 year ago

Belugas, Orcas, and Doublespeak

You probably heard the news that SeaWorld recently hired a big-league PR firm to try and counter the bad publicity resulting from the movie expose “Blackfish.”

Well, let me say that SeaWorld’s image troubles cannot be addressed in their entirety by throwing money at public relations. Even with the best spinmasters in the world, it’s very hard to reverse the growing public perception that whales should not be contained in sterile swimming pools.

More and more, the public is becoming aware that SeaWorld, which is an innovator in so many ways, has fallen behind the times – decades behind, and more with each passing year. As a consequence, majestic animals suffer in environments that cannot meet their behavioral and social needs. In short, SeaWorld clings to a 19th century-approach to putting animals on exhibition, and it’s high time to change the business model. There’s some strong nature education that SeaWorld conducts, but that doesn’t offset the archaic treatment of the whales.

belugas

Tyson Paul/iStockphotography

For one thing, SeaWorld executives are quick to note that the orcas they put on display are not taken from the wild. That statement is, in itself, recognition that the only thing worse than trying to keep such large, intelligent and social animals on display in miserably small, artificial containers of water, is capturing them in the wild. But if SeaWorld recognizes that fact, then what can we say about the recent effort by the Georgia Aquarium and other partners, including SeaWorld, to import wild-caught beluga whales, another majestic marine mammal, to put them on display in parks?

Here’s what we can say: Thank heavens for yesterday’s decision by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. After tens of thousands of Americans raised their voices, the agency refused to bend the nation’s two-decade old policy of “no wild capture” of whales. As a result, the import permit for 18 wild-caught belugas, some of them destined for SeaWorld, was denied.

And we can also say this: The movie “Blackfish,” plus David Kirby’s important book “Death at SeaWorld,” build on years of work by The Humane Society of the United States and other respected organizations to bring an end to the captive display of whales by eliminating breeding and allowing whales the opportunity to live in large sea pens. The public would learn more about whales by seeing them in more natural settings. Never in our nation’s history has there been a better time for the promotion of humane, environmentally sustainable education about marine mammals. As SeaWorld should know by now, that is earned with real leadership not with a PR contract.

And for those of you familiar with the great Canadian children’s songwriter Raffi, let’s give him the last word on what to say. He knows where beluga whales belong, and it’s not in a cement pool:

   Baby beluga in the deep blue sea,
  Swim so wild and you swim so free.

August 08, 2013
1 year ago

Fur Better, Fur Worse

Earlier this week, the Federal Trade Commission handed down a final decision on a false advertising and labeling petition filed by The HSUS: for the next 20 years Neiman Marcus and two smaller retailers (DrJays.com and RevolveClothing.com) will be on a short leash when it comes to advertising and labeling animal fur garments sold in the United States. These companies were selling animal products as “faux” to unknowing consumers, and thanks to The HSUS, they were caught red-handed.

Through the years, our investigations have exposed other fraudulent sales of animal fur – sometimes fur from domestic dogs or raccoon dogs – mislabeled or advertised as “faux fur.” These investigations led to the passage of the federal Truth in Fur Labeling Act and enforcement actions against major retailers. We have worked with major department stores and designers, including JCPenney, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Kenneth Cole, and Overstock.com, to go fur-free. This has helped to drive down the sales and imports of animal fur in the U.S. by more than one-third in the last decade.

fur

This Marc by Marc Jacobs brand coat with real animal
fur was inaccurately advertised at Revolveclothing.com
as having "faux fur."

The latest FTC action is an occasion to take stock of where the anti-fur movement stands.

The anti-fur movement surged in the 1980s, a decade before the advent of the Internet and streaming video allowed everyone to immediately access footage of routine and inhumane practices conducted by the fur industry. At that time, there was a vibrant anti-fur movement on the streets – with the biggest crowds gathering in front of retail fur sellers the day after Thanksgiving (“Fur-Free Friday”, with banners, posters and leaflets depicting the cruelty of steel-jawed leghold traps and the privation of animals on fur factory farms, along with the ready alternatives for consumers who want stylish, warm outerwear garments.

There was some thought that the entire industry might tank, with global sales cut in half by the combination of animal advocacy, the stock market crash of 1987, and fashion trends in society. But the industry weathered the crisis. In fact, the fur trade, working with top-end designers who show off fur in their collections, claimed something of a renaissance in the 1990s and said fur had regained its prior market share.

But with an animal protection movement that has gained far greater power in the last decade, and with the public not tolerating such frivolous uses of animals, the industry has been reeling in the United States, even as animal protection groups focused most of their firepower on other targets. Between 2002 and 2012, sales levels dropped by more than a third. The combination of steady anti-fur education, a series of warmer winters, and a move toward casual dress by Americans, have taken a toll on the sale of full-length mink coats – still the garment responsible for the majority of animals killed for the fur trade worldwide.

The problem is globalization. If demand has declined in the U.S. and the European Union, it has surged in China and Russia, where the animal protection movement has been weak. For years, China was the top manufacturer of fur garments, but now it’s the top consumer as well. All reports indicate that sales of animal fur products in China are staggeringly high as new consumers invest in luxury products.

It’s yet another reminder that the animal protection movement must be a global enterprise. While it’s vital we press the anti-fur case in the United States, we also have to nourish the movements in China and Russia to help all animals, including those killed just for their pelts.   

August 09, 2013
1 year ago

Yes, That’s the Tolling of a Wake Up Call…Again.

For years, The HSUS warned Ohio policy makers about the madness of allowing private citizens to keep dangerous wild animals as pets. They ignored the issue, or what to me is more incriminating, they bowed to the influence and pressure of the rowdy band of exotic animal owners who claimed it was their right to have any animals they want.

Pretty much every sane person got clarity on the issue in 2011 after Terry Thompson released nearly 50 large dangerous wild animals in Zanesville, just before taking his own life. Law enforcement personnel dramatically hunted the creatures down as dusk enveloped the eastern Ohio town, in an attempt to protect the community from the tigers, grizzly bears and cougars that were on the loose.

python

William Warby/Flickr

The question is, why risk the lives of people and animals just so someone can claim bragging rights by having a big powerful animal in his control? Hey, I get the human-animal bond as well as anyone, but that can be satisfied with a domesticated dog or cat. Getting your animal fix need not require a chimp or a tiger or a boa constrictor. The risks far exceed the rewards for society. And yes, we are members of a society, with a collective set of rules. It’s not a free-for-all, where we do anything we wish, regardless of the consequences.

So this brings me to Monday's incident, where a 100-pound African rock python escaped from a New Brunswick apartment above a pet store and found its way into an adjacent room and killed two little boys by asphyxiating them.

Even though it occurred over the national border in Canada, will this be our wake-up moment in the United States on the reckless trade in large constricting snakes? Do we have to have a mass release of pythons or anacondas in a community, a colonization of a fragile ecosystem and destruction of the native wildlife, the death or injury of more innocent people, the demise of thousands of more large constricting snakes in trade, in order to get clarity on this situation?

Eighteen months ago, the Obama administration took a half step on the issue, banning trade in just four of nine large constricting snakes that the U.S. Geological Survey had recommended for listing under the Lacey Act. Amazingly enough, it was the hollering of reptile breeders and snake owners – and their false claims about an outrageously large economic impact – that prevented the White House from taking stronger action.

With the election now in the rear-view mirror, it’s time for the Obama administration to complete the job. One of Vermont’s largest papers, The Brattleboro Reformer, weighed in on the issue today with authority and clarity. The paper has it just right, and it’s my hope that the new interior secretary and the White House will act with all deliberate speed to get a new policy in place. There’s no compelling rationale for inaction. We should not wait until crises happen before we enact sensible policies. We should prevent problems before they occur.

August 12, 2013
1 year ago

Not Giving Up the Fight for Wolves

I’m in Lansing today—with leaders of Native American tribes, environmentalist, and local humane organizations—to announce a new referendum in Michigan to protect wolves and other wildlife. This weekend, we barnstormed the state and talked to HSUS supporters, Audubon society members, hunters, and other concerned citizens about the reckless plans of the state to allow trophy hunters, and in future years trappers, to kill wolves from the small, still recovering population of fewer than 700 animals in Michigan. Hunters won’t be targeting problem wolves, but randomly killing animals in national forests and other wilderness areas in the Upper Peninsula.

Keep Michigan Wolves Protected

Wayne with Aaron Payment, the tribal chairman
of the Sault Tribe of the Chippewa Indians.
photo: Julie Baker

Earlier this year, HSUS and other groups—under the banner of the committee coalition, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected—collected 255,000 signatures for a first referendum to nullify the act of the Legislature to declare wolves a game species, just after they got off the federal list of “threatened species.” In response, Lansing politicians then moved a second bill to give all authority to the unelected, seven-member Natural Resources Commission to declare hunting and trapping seasons on any protected species, including wolves, sandhill cranes, and lynx. That forced our hand to launch a second referendum, and to restore voting rights here in Michigan.

It’s already legal in Michigan to kill problem wolves in the rare instances when livestock or pets are threatened. They can also be shot for public safety purposes, though there has not been a documented attack on a person by a wolf anywhere in the lower 48 states in the last century.

Those people who are in a frenzy to kill wolves have it all backwards. Wolves are an economic and ecological boon to the state, promoting tourism to the Upper Peninsula and providing a healthy check on prey populations. Wolf predation will help maintain healthy deer population, probably lowering the frequency of deer-auto collisions and the prevalence of crop losses. This has the potential to save humans lives and tens of millions of dollars for the state.

And there’s just no good reason to kill wolves for trophies or pelts. Responsible hunters eat what they kill, and because wolves are inedible, most hunters have no interest in killing them. Responsible hunters also don’t go for the use of steel-jawed leghold traps, hunting over bait, and even using packs of dogs to chase down and kill wolves—and all of that may be in store if the Natural Resources Commission decides to allow these cruel methods.

Lansing politicians wrongly gave the unelected members of the Natural Resources Commission authority to open hunting seasons for wolves, lynx, sandhill cranes, and dozens of other species. Our referendum would restore the right of citizens to maintain their ability to influence wildlife policy, and stop this abuse of power.

August 13, 2013
1 year ago

Vets, Quill, Sioux

The mid-day rush of clients and their dogs and cats had just passed last Monday when members of the intake team from the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association-Rural Area Veterinary Services clinic peered out the door of the community gymnasium and saw a medium-sized brown and black dog with what appeared to be thick white whiskers all over her face.

The clinic had set up operations the day before in rural North Dakota and, as it has for the past 10 years, was tending to the needs of the animals on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Almost 50 veterinary students, technicians and veterinarians had traveled from all parts to volunteer to help these animals and the people who love them. One veterinarian even came with her new husband to volunteer on her honeymoon.

quills

Molly / photo: Holly Hazard

Similar to what occurs with The HSUS’s Pets for Life programs in urban settings, the HSVMA team has developed a relationship with the people of the Standing Rock community. Some bring their pets there year after year, all the records in hand, ready to get a rabies vaccine or just have a veterinarian look at a case of mange or fleas. Others were there for the first time, kids or grandkids in tow, anxious to have the family pet spayed or neutered or dewormed.

The brown and black dog waiting at the entrance came with two other family dogs. Her guardians explained that she had come home over a month ago with a face full of porcupine quills. They’d tried to pull them out with some pliers but she wouldn’t let them. They were worried because her appetite seemed off and her energy down. With the closest veterinary care an hour drive away, the dog’s family did not have the resources to get her there. They had waited all month for the clinic to arrive.

The HSVMA team completed a full examination of the dog, whose name was Molly. They found ticks all over her, and signs of other parasites. Our skilled anesthesia technicians anesthetized Molly and one of our most senior veterinarians, with students assisting, carefully began pulling out the quills. The surgical team then spayed Molly, who had already had one litter, and found her pregnant again.

Later that afternoon, another elderly couple came in with a large German Shepard suffering from a probable case of hip dysplasia. Two small dogs appeared infested with fleas but so badly matted, the veterinarians needed to sit with them and shave them to get them any relief. All told, the team treated about 675 animals on this one-week trip.

The veterinary students who join these trips often say it changes their lives. The veterinarians come back year after year, some negotiating with their regular bosses to ensure that each year they can have one week to give to this program. The students learn basic surgical techniques from some of the best veterinarians in the country. The veterinarians are inspired by the energy and commitment of the students. One vet was overheard complimenting a student as everyone sat on the curb in the parking lot to eat the tomato soup and garlic bread dinner a volunteer mother of one of the students had cooked, “I was impressed with the time you took explaining the aftercare that family needed to give that dog [who had just come out of surgery]. It was so late in the day and you acted like you had all the time in the world.”

The team then helped clean up the kitchen and surgical area, unrolled their sleeping bags and mats and went to sleep for the night on the floor of the gymnasium, listening to the eight or so patients in cages next to them, including Molly, who were kept overnight.

The next day, the veterinary team released Molly to the care of the family, her tail wagging again. And they started the clinic all over.

August 15, 2013
1 year ago

Obama Administration Seeks to Nullify Critical State Animal Cruelty Laws

sharks

Yesterday, in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, a panel of three federal judges heard argument from a Chinese-American business association and from other shark-finning interests that a California law to ban the sale and possession of shark fins – which passed the state legislature with strong bipartisan majorities, and was then signed by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown – should be declared preempted by federal law, and declared unconstitutional because it is discriminatory. The state of California and The HSUS and other groups defended the law as an appropriate exercise of state authority. None of this is all that surprising, except for the other party involved in the proceedings: the Obama Administration, through the Department of Justice, weighed in with an amicus brief and asked that the federal court overturn the law, largely because the National Marine Fisheries Service regulates shark fishing in U.S. waters and attests that it has also exclusive authority to say whether states can regulate the sale of shark-based products in state markets.

This is the second time that the Obama Administration has tried to invalidate a California animal protection statute.  The Administration submitted an amicus brief in support of the meat industry’s’ challenge to California’s anti-downer law, which passed in the wake of The HSUS’ Hallmark investigation exposing the inhumane treatment and slaughter of animals too sick or injured to walk. The Administration argued that the Federal Meat Inspection Act preempted California’s law, and that only the federal government could regulate the care and handling of downer pigs at federally inspected slaughter plants. This case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, and it overruled the 9th Circuit ruling in our favor and nixed core portions of that California anti-cruelty law. Today, downer pigs still continue to be abused and slaughtered at federal meat processing facilities, including in California.

sharkfins

Shark fins on display in Beijing, China

The burning question is, why is the Administration aligning itself with the meat industry and shark finning interests on these important questions? Any why does it argue that only the federal government, not the states, can speak on these matters?  It’s hard to know, but in both cases, the agencies involved, the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the downers and the National Marine Fisheries Service on finning, have developed cozy relationships with the industries they regulate. The USDA goes out of its way to promote industrial animal agriculture, and NMFS works hand-in-hand with many sectors of the fishing industry, including people who kill sharks and then want to trade in their parts. In this case, the state isn’t regulating shark fishing or fisheries; it’s simply stating that it does not want to allow an in-state market for detached shark fins and shark fin products, which fuels the cruel and unsustainable practice of finning worldwide. The states can and should be allowed to set that kind of standard, just like it should be able to ban the trade in ivory or rhino horn in the state.

Just as with the King amendment – where the Congress, in an even more sweeping way, is trying to nix state anti-cruelty laws in the form of an amendment to the Farm Bill – this Administration is threatening very meaningful animal-welfare lawmaking at the state level. Traditionally, it is the states that have provided the strongest standards against cruelty, and that work is critical because the Congress and the federal executive agencies are often too timid to tackle these policies questions, or even worse, they are too beholden to animal exploitation industries. When you add up the votes in eight state legislatures that passed bans on shark fin products, it was 914 “ayes” and 87 “noes.”  Why would the Obama Administration substitute its judgment for that of nearly a thousand state lawmakers who acted in the interest of their own states and citizens?

Dozens of federal lawmakers wrote to the Administration and told them to back off on their attacks on state anti-shark finning laws. It does not appear, based on yesterday’s proceedings in federal court, that anyone at the White House or the NMFS is heeding that message. 

August 19, 2013
1 year ago

"Walking" of the Bulls

bull

A decade ago, I was on site as an observer for the first American “Running of the Bulls” in a small town outside of Las Vegas.  Despite the hype from the huckster promoter – who said he’d be recreating the drama and danger of the Pamplona, Spain event where bulls run down the cobblestone streets and head into the fighting arena – the American spectacle was an incredible snooze.

The promoters of the Nevada event released cattle from a pen and they trotted or walked down the dirt track, as attention- and thrilled-starved runners tried to dash in front of them to incite them.  It was an embarrassment to all, the bulls comporting themselves with more dignity and smarts than the people.

South Park got it just right when it broadcast this piece on the American version of the running of the bulls.

That said, if the event gets too boring, the promoters of bull running events planned for this year might try to increase the risk quotient, and that means they may harass or incite the animals to fabricate more drama. We want to anticipate that kind of escalation, and that’s why we wrote to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who in his official capacity enforces the standards of the Animal Welfare Act.

The Act requires that anyone hosting an animal exhibition for compensation or entertainment is required to obtain a USDA license. Failure to do so can lead to fines of up to $10,000.

By all accounts, it does not appear that the promoters have secured the necessary licenses, and their event is unlikely to be in compliance with federal law in any event, since they do not appear to be following the Animal Welfare Act regulations concerning public safety. The first one is slated for the Richmond area on August 24th.

I can understand thrill-seeking.  But this event is absurd.  For thrill seekers, there are limitless opportunities, from rock climbing to bungee jumping to deep sea diving to skiing to triathlons to a variety of water sports. 

Whereas the Spanish event takes place on narrow city streets and involves a rougher type of bull, the proposed events will take place on circular race tracks in an open field with a dirt surface.  I expect it will be about as entertaining as people charging into a cow pasture.

But whether it’s boring or exciting, it requires licensing from the USDA.  We recommend that sensible people stay away.

P.S. If you live in Virginia, please take action against the bull run scheduled for this Saturday, August 24th.

August 20, 2013
1 year ago

Sun(ny) Should Shine Light on Federal Dog Policies

Let us add our congratulations and best wishes to the newest First Dog, Sunny. Cheers all around.

As the keeper of a new rescue—a six-year-old beagle mix named Lily—I know the joys of having a new pet in one’s life. Lily has doubled the number of daily smiles and laughter in my life. Only occasionally are there more exhales and other signs of exasperation!

Sunny

Sunny
Official White House Photo

The White House announcement that Bo now has a little sister to romp with did not provide detail about Sunny’s background, except to say she is 14 months old and was born in Michigan.

As we always say in such circumstances, we hope the Obamas considered adoption or rescue as the first choice in obtaining a pet. We are pleased to learn that the First Family made a donation in Sunny’s name to the Washington Humane Society, which shows the family’s awareness of and concern for the problem of homeless dogs and cats in our nation.

With Sunny in the limelight today, we take the opportunity to express to the President our hope that he will make dogs not just a family priority, but a national policy priority too.

His Administration has promulgated two rules to reduce the suffering of dogs who wind up being sold in retail commerce. One rule would prevent the importation of dogs from puppy mills in foreign countries for sale here until they are at least six months old (part of its regulatory responsibility after The HSUS worked to include a provision banning imports in the 2008 Farm Bill). The other would close a loophole and requires Internet sellers of puppy mill dogs to be licensed and inspected by the USDA—which came at The HSUS’s request in the wake of a searing USDA Office of Inspector General review of deficiencies in federal Animal Welfare Act enforcement efforts.

Both are small steps that can make real differences in the lives of dogs who are not so fortunate as Bo and Sunny. We’ve been anxiously awaiting the final rules, and they’ve been a long time in coming. It’s time for the White House to make these policies law. No more delays.

For those not familiar with the economics of dogs, remember that puppy mills are the primary source of dogs sold in pet stores and online, and also a source of great misery. A far better alternative for those who want a pet is to find a responsible breeder or, better yet, visit a rescue or shelter—where dogs of specific breeds or mixed-breeds, as well as dogs with special qualities—are waiting for a home.

August 21, 2013
1 year ago

Leading on Lead

While The HSUS provides an extraordinary amount of direct-care to animals, our biggest impact is felt through our cruelty-prevention programs—whether that’s done by cracking down on puppy mills, factory farms, or Canada’s seal hunt, or other initiatives that take aim at institutionalized or systemic forms of animal exploitation.

Such as ending the use of lead ammunition in hunting. Specifically, in California, we are backing a bill to phase in a requirement that hunters use non-lead ammunition. The Assembly passed the bill, A.B. 711, by a two-to-one margin, and if the Senate follows suit and Governor Jerry Brown signs the bill, California will become the first state to require the transition to ammunition made of copper, bismuth, steel or other non-toxic metals.

coyote

John Harrison

Lead has been removed from paint, gasoline, and other consumer products because lead kills. There’s no known safe exposure level, and that’s why it’s time to remove lead from hunting ammunition.

When the NRA and other groups fought efforts more than two decades ago to ban the use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting, they said that a legal prohibition on its use would result in the end of duck and goose hunting. Such outlandish claims, which we can now evaluate in a very tangible way, have proven false. Millions of waterfowl hunters made the transition to non-toxic shot.

The naysayers made the same claims when California lawmakers considered a bill to ban the use of lead shot in the range of the California condor—in the vast area between Los Angeles and San Francisco. There, too, hunters made the switch, and there’s been no decline in the sale of deer hunting licenses.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation—the trade association for gun and ammunition makers, based in Newtown, Connecticut of all places—is now running ads in California saying HSUS is working to ban all hunting by pushing for AB 711. We’ve been down this road before, and their claims will be proved false over time.

Here’s the reason for our support of this bill: A preponderance of scientific evidence demonstrates that there are significant public health, environmental and wildlife health risks associated with lead from ammunition. One estimate says that there are more than 10 million doves a year who die from lead poisoning. When you consider that there are more than 130 species known to die from lead poisoning, it’s quite a staggering toll. Scavenging birds like condors, owls, eagles, and hawks as well as mammals like coyotes are all at risk and known to be suffering. Death from lead poisoning is painful, and even when lead exposure isn’t high enough to kill an animal, it doesn’t take much to weaken an animal to the point that it succumbs to predation or other diseases.

It’s also better for hunters and their families, who won’t be at risk of consuming lead fragments in the meat from wild game.

With an alternative product available, why not make the switch?

Editorial support for AB 711 from newspapers across California has poured in—The Los Angeles Times, the Monterey County Herald, the San Jose Mercury News, the Fresno Bee, the Sacramento Bee, the Riverside Press-Enterprise and the Bakersfield Californian, to name a few. More than a hundred California veterinarians support the policy of removing lead from hunting ammunition. Even the president and vice president of California’s Fish and Game Commission back the bill. More than 30 environmental, children’s health, and animal protection organizations have sent in letters of support, including Aubudon California and Defenders of Wildlife.

If you haven’t weighed in with your state Senator, now is a good time to do so.

August 23, 2013
1 year ago

Cruelty Nothing to Celebrate

The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration held the first evening classes of its 75th anniversary event on Thursday night.

This spectacle has become synonymous with the exhibition of stacked, chained Walking horses, and, unfortunately, a showcase for the cruel practice of soring, in which trainers and exhibitors cause intentional pain to the legs and hooves of horses in order to make them step higher to perform the show ring gait that wins ribbons and trophies.

walking horses

photo: BGB Chat Blog

On Wednesday, The HSUS extended its commitment to bring an end to soring by announcing we’ve expanded our tipline program to include a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of horse industry officials for bribery, intimidation or corruption in the enforcement of the federal Horse Protection Act. Callers to our soring tipline have told us they fear retaliation for reporting violations of the law, and that much of the problem in the industry stems from a failure by horse industry organizations (HIOs) and officials to cite and penalize violations when they occur.

One such group, the SHOW HIO, which oversees inspections at the Celebration and claims to have the toughest penalties in the industry, sued USDA because it didn’t want to impose minimum penalties on its participants who violate the law, as the agency mandated in a June 2012 regulation.  SHOW lost its suit last month, and just days before the Celebration began, announced it would not challenge the court’s ruling and finally agreed to comply with the mandatory penalties.  SHOW also related that those individuals who had pre-paid to show their horses could request a refund if they didn’t like this decision. That’s a positive step, and more evidence of the growing consensus that cruelty and cheating have no place in horse shows.

With a turnout already greatly reduced in recent years, we can anticipate that this move will drive even more competitors to drop out, rather than face penalties for HPA violations cited. The thing is, if their horses were sound and in compliance, they’d have nothing to fear.

We’ll be watching to see how the industry group handles its responsibility in meting out the penalties it’s now committed to enforce, and watching to ensure that USDA holds them accountable. An analysis of the violation records of the industry’s top competitors in its Riders Cup program has revealed that while they may rack up a rap sheet of violations, they’ve seldom if ever been penalized. Is it any wonder this behavior continues, rewarded rather than penalized?

Ultimately, as USDA’s own Office of Inspector General, the American Association of Equine Practitioners and dozens of horse industry and veterinary groups around the country have concluded, self-regulation in the Walking horse industry has failed, and the only remedy is for USDA to resume sole responsibility for HPA enforcement. This is one of the major provisions of the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 1518/S. 1406, and we urge Congress to pass this legislation when it returns next month from recess. Be sure to take action and ask your federal lawmakers to relegate soring to the past and free the Tennessee Walking horse to step soundly into the future.

P.S. All Animals, The HSUS's magazine, recently published this story about our work to tackle horse soring in the Tennessee walking horse show circuit.

August 26, 2013
1 year ago

HSUS Helps Lead 2nd Largest Ever Dogfighting Raid

In my role as president and CEO of The HSUS, I regularly see the best and worst of humanity. That was never more true than on Friday, as I participated in a rescue of dogs from an alleged dogfighter in southern Alabama. Federal and state law enforcement, along with The HSUS, the ASPCA, and other local and national animal welfare groups, assembled for a major multi-state operation on Friday in cracking down on a network of alleged dogfighting operations in the South. Specifically, the FBI arrested alleged dogfighters in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas, seizing dogs in 13 locations in Alabama and Georgia.

rescue

One of the rescued dogs receives attention at the
emergency shelter. photo: Kathy Milani/The HSUS

My colleague Chris Schindler is speaking for The HSUS at a press conference in Montgomery, Alabama today, organized by the U.S. Attorney based there, to report on the events of the last few days. I'd like to report to you on what I saw.

Many of the alleged dogfighters targeted in this anti-dogfighting operation had been known to each by gathering at fights throughout the Southeast. Their arrests did not occur at fighting pits, but at their homes, where they maintained “dog yards,” with pit bull type dogs on short, heavy metal chains staked into the ground, with minimal protection from the searing heat.

At the yard I was assigned, our HSUS team pulled 20 dogs, while five other HSUS teams fanned out to cover yards in that state and in two others. Despite being neglected and kept in substandard conditions, these dogs were friendly and very happy to see us. They welcomed the food, water, veterinary care, and love that we provided. Many of them were emaciated. Several had scars on their faces and forelimbs. Our teams also discovered supplements and other standard items found at dogfighting operations.

The dogs are now recovering at undisclosed locations. You, along with other caring people, have made that possible. It’s through your support that we can conduct long-term investigations like this one, deploy dozens of key personnel for rescues, and then handle and care for dogs for weeks or months on end.

A three-year investigation of these alleged dogfighters led to Friday’s series of interventions. Police in Auburn, Alabama started the investigation, with HSUS experts participating every step of the way, though the case was ultimately led by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney. All told, there were 367 dogs rescued on Friday in what is thought to be the second largest dogfighting raid in U.S. history (the biggest one was an 8-state operation centered in Missouri that HSUS also participated in that resulted in the seizure of more than 500 dogs).

Ten suspects were arrested and indicted on felony dogfighting charges. Federal and local officials also seized firearms and drugs, as well as more than $500,000 in cash from dogfighting gambling activities that took place over the course of the investigation. Remains of dead animals were also discovered on some properties where dogs were housed and allegedly fought. If convicted, defendants could face up to five years in prison, as well as fines and restitution, under the provisions of the federal anti-animal fighting law that The HSUS worked with federal lawmakers to upgrade in 2002, 2007, and 2008. We are working with lawmakers on an additional upgrade this year, to penalize spectators at animal fights, and both the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill contain the reforms we’re seeking to secure.

I vowed that when we upgraded the federal law, we would do everything in our power to ensure its enforcement. That’s exactly what we did on Friday. We are grateful to the committed men and women in federal and state law enforcement who helped make this happen. And we are grateful for the labors of our peer organizations in animal protection for providing such meaningful help in a complex, multi-state, multi-jurisdictional enterprise.

If dogfighters think they’ll evade the attention of law enforcement personnel, they are mistaken. The U.S. Attorney in Montgomery, with these actions, has indicated that he won’t tolerate this crime and cruelty, and neither will the FBI.

We are committed to eradicating dogfighting in every dark corner where it festers. This series of raids should remind dogfighters everywhere that they are not beyond the reach of law and their day of reckoning will come.

August 27, 2013
1 year ago

Dogfighting Bust a Marker of Transformational Change

There are 367 dogs whose lives turned around so fast they may have whiplash. On Thursday night, in small hamlets in Alabama and Georgia, these animals who were staked to heavy chains, had passed another sweltering day - many without protection from the sun, without enough food, and with too much fetid water staring them in the face. The older dogs had been scarred from the fights. One dog had been vomiting and then scrounging on the remains to get enough energy to stand.

Wayne w Rescue

Kathy Milani
Me, with one of the rescued dogs.

By Friday night, they were in a well-ventilated building, off of their chains and living in kennels, with sawdust beneath their feet, plenty of clean water and healthy food, and Kongs for enrichment. Vets had fixed their wounds and cleared away the fleas. They were with people who would remove their waste so they could be comfortable and breathe the air. Most importantly, they were with people who would rather die than see dogs in a fighting pit.

Such is the power of ideas, the acceptance of ideas, and the rule of law.

Dogfighting has been a curse for a long time, but it was either considered a low-level concern that rarely warranted intentional action in a world brimming with problems, or it was just a sight unseen. The victims couldn’t speak out, and if we can’t see the problem or mistakenly believe the matter has already been settled, then who can hear and who will care?

We at The HSUS care, and over the last quarter century, we’ve changed the legal framework in this country, working to make dogfighting a felony in all 50 states. In the mid-1980s, only about five states had felony level penalties. By 2008, it was all 50 states. In 2007, it became a federal felony.

And year after year, we’ve worked to train thousands of law enforcement personnel on investigating this criminal behavior and to remind law enforcement and prosecutors that when you see dogfighting in action, you see people who typically have no quarrel with breaking the law. Turn over the rock, and you’ll find drugs, guns, and violence.

Wayne w Hettie

Kathy Milani
Me, helping Delaware State Director Hetti Brown with
evidence gathering.

On Friday, after rising at 3 a.m. to ready ourselves for the raids and seizure, it was sure nice to have the Federal Bureau of Investigation, county SWAT teams, and the U.S. Attorney for central Alabama on the same schedule and on the same team. With our colleagues at the ASPCA and local animal welfare agencies, the team seized dogs from 13 locations.

The law was on our side.

And just as the dogs lives changed overnight, so did the lives of the alleged dogfighters. They had been living in comfortable homes. Now they are in prison, waiting for their cases to be heard, without freedom and all that comes with it.

That’s the consequence of cruelty today. And it’s as it should be.

We are working to build the legal framework to stop other despicable, unacceptable acts, whether it’s cockfighting, shark finning, seal clubbing or captive hunts. These are all forms of cruelty. Yesterday, they were sanctioned and accepted. Tomorrow, in an enlightened society, they will be illegal and considered morally bankrupt. They will be the markers of selfishness, greed, and the old, archaic ways of the world.

August 28, 2013
1 year ago

“Fintastic” Outcomes for Sharks

Yesterday, a federal appellate court rejected arguments from business groups that are challenging California’s ban on shark fins as discriminatory and at odds with federal fisheries laws. Surprisingly, the Obama administration had filed a brief in support of the shark fin dealers and their bid to immediately enjoin implementation of the California law. The panel from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s January decision to keep California’s shark fin law in place until a final judgment on the legal claims from shark finning proponents is issued. It’s a big preliminary win for the state of California and for The HSUS, which considers the sale of shark fins to be in the same category as selling ivory trinkets or elephant tusk – all cruel, unnecessary and deeply wasteful of animals who are vital to their ecosystems and to ecotourism.

blue shark

Alamy

Meanwhile, we are making great gains globally on the shark finning issue through Humane Society International. Two days ago, India’s Ministry of Environment and Forest, which operates under the authority of the Central Government of India, brought into force a ‘fins naturally attached’ policy to prohibit shark finning. The policy makes it illegal for any fishermen to land sharks anywhere on the coasts of India without their fins naturally attached to the body.

Given that India has been recognized as the second largest shark fishing nation – from individual fishermen hauling all the sharks they can accommodate onto narrow hand-built catamarans to large fishing fleets with dedicated shark fishing trawlers – this is a monumental victory. 

This victory came about because earlier this year, HSI India began dialogue with India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests in collaboration with the Association of Deep Sea Going Artisanal Fishermen, the country’s largest shark fishing community.

More than 66 species of sharks are reportedly found in the Indian seas. Fishermen have killed millions of sharks each year in Indian waters to export the fins to East Asia, Southeast Asia, and even Europe and the United States. Reports from India’s Marine Products Development Authority have shown that India’s export of shark fins in the year 2010-11 to China alone was 101 metric tons.

In spite of what may be unsustainable levels of killing, India had not put into place any concrete measures for the management of its shark populations. Even India’s Wildlife Protection Act, which offers the highest level of protection to 10 species of sharks, including the whale shark, had so far proved insufficient for safeguarding these animals from commercial killing. By imposing the highest level of penalties upon any fishermen found with detached fins, the Ministry has taken bold steps forward in safeguarding sharks.

While the government of India has made a bold proclamation, the Obama administration is moving in the opposite direction, specifically by seeking to nullify nearly a dozen state and Pacific territory laws to crack down on the sale and possession of shark fins. The ruling by the federal courts is a boon to our efforts to defend state laws, and we hope the administration takes this important signal from the courts and gets back on the right side of this issue.

August 29, 2013
1 year ago

From Monet and Picasso to Brent and Cheetah

We do a lot of serious business at this organization, taking all kinds of cruelty head-on. But we also celebrate animals, taking stock of the diversity of life and the incredible attributes of the other creatures on the planet.

You may have received an e-mail from me a few weeks ago announcing an art contest – in this case, where the artists are very strong, very hairy, and very smart. 

Brent

Chimp Haven
Brent, a 37-year-old chimpanzee from Chimp Haven won
1st place with his unorthodox painting technique of only
using his tongue.

They are, in fact, chimps. And let’s just say they haven’t been classically trained.

We enlisted six member organizations of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance, and asked if a chimp at each facility would create and submit a piece of art. Modern, impressionist, abstract expressionist, still life with banana. It was their prerogative.

In the end, six sanctuaries submitted pieces, and 27,000 of you cast votes to choose a winner. Dr. Jane Goodall, famed primatologist and UN Messenger of Peace, also chose her favorite.

Today we announced the winners.

Brent’s masterpiece – painted with, of all things, his tongue – won the public vote and his sanctuary, Chimp Haven of Louisiana, won a grant of $10,000 from The HSUS. Cheetah of Save the Chimps in Florida, whose seriousness and concentration while painting are unmistakable, placed second in the online voting and also won the coveted selection by Dr. Goodall, winning a total of $10,000. Ripley of the Center for Great Apes in Florida won third prize, for a $2,500 grant. The paintings by Jamie of Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, Jenny of Primate Rescue Center, and Patti of Chimps, Inc., convey the unique style of each chimpanzee. 

Many people are clamoring and demanding to know how they can get their own chimpanzee art – and let me assure you, your cries will be heard, as we’re planning an online auction of the paintings this fall to benefit NAPSA, of which our own Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, operated by our affiliate The Fund for Animals, is a member.

Cheetah

Save the Chimps
Cheetah, who lived alone in a lab for 13 years and endured
more than 400 biopsies before being rescued by Save the
Chimps, won 2nd place and was Dr. Jane Goodall's selection.

We are glad that the chimpanzees at these sanctuaries have the time and security to pursue their creative genius. That was not always the case for them. Brent, Cheetah, Jenny and Jamie were all used in biomedical research. Cheetah lived in isolation for years and was subjected to over 400 liver biopsies. Ripley and Patti were used in entertainment – performing on camera or before crowds.

They are all serving as ambassadors for those chimpanzees who still languish in laboratories and are used in the entertainment industry today.

The HSUS has worked hard to get all chimpanzees out of laboratories and into safe places, and a recent decision by the National Institutes of Health to retire more than 300 chimpanzees along with a proposal by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to list all chimpanzees as endangered under the Endangered Species Act will mean a sharp decline in these exploitive activities.

We have always said that making sure chimpanzees are safe in sanctuary is just as important as ending their use. We are grateful to sanctuaries that work so hard to provide enriching lives for these animals. We will be sure to stop and celebrate the retirement of each and every one.

See the rest of the masterpieces here.

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