Americans Love Pets But Still Cruel To Animals, Advocate Says

by Lee Shearer, Contributor to Animals & Pets on

Editor’s Note from Erica Settino, ATH Editor of Animals & Pets: Humane Society of The United States President, Wayne Pacelle investigates why so many Americans love their pets, yet participate in acts of cruelty against countless animals everyday.

The United States is a nation of pet-lovers — an estimated two-thirds of our households include pets, many of them treated as cherished family members.

But according to Wayne Pacelle, we’re also guilty of widespread animal cruelty — cruelty, for example, in the way we raise animals for food or breed dogs.

“We’re in a moment of contradiction with respect to our relationship with animals,”  says Pacelle, author of the recent book “The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them” and president of the Humane Society of the United States, the country’s largest animal welfare advocacy organization.

“We’ve got to do better when it comes to how we treat animals,” says Pacelle. Workers in U.S. animal shelters euthanize somewhere between 3.5 million and 4 million dogs and cats annually, most of them healthy and potentially adoptable, he says — a huge overpopulation problem fueled in part by puppy mills that produce millions of purebred dogs each year.

The puppy mills themselves are cruel, a kind of factory farming where females are kept in lifelong confinement. “They are treated as production units rather than pets,” Pacelle continues. The proliferation of purebred dog-breeders is a big reason for the pet overpopulation that underlies the millions of cats and dogs euthanized every year.

If more Americans would get their dogs from shelters rather than breeders, the pet overpopulation problem would soon be eliminated. Breeders and dog owners have also gone too far in breeding dogs to have a certain kind of appearance, according to Pacelle.

They’re often breeding health problems into dogs, including the English bulldog breed that is the mascot for UGA’s athletic teams, he says. Because of their smashed-in snout, folds of flesh and shortened legs, the bulldogs are prey to respiratory problems and skin ailments, and can’t reproduce without human help.

“UGA is so symbolic of the breeding problems of purebreds,” Pacelle says. “The English bulldog is perhaps the most extreme example of how breeding for conformation, or exterior attributes, is undermining the health and well-being of the animals.”

So-called factory farms, or “confined animal feeding operations,” are another kind of animal cruelty, he says.

Fortunately, some in the meat industry are beginning to listen to complaints about animal welfare. The Georgia-based United Egg Producers group has now agreed to ask for new federal standards that would make life more tolerable for egg-laying hens.

Under the new rules, hens would have actual nesting boxes and cages twice as big as the ones they now have, with room to perch and scratch. The companies that mass-produce meat are also under fire from environmentalists, public health advocates and even rural economic developers concerned that the business practices of huge meat companies are driving small and medium farmers into poverty or out of business.

“There’s a real coalescing of concerns about factory farming,” saya Pacelle.

In the past two and a half years, Pacelle and the Humane Society of the United States have found an unlikely ally in another of the group’s animal welfare campaigns — Philadelphia Eagles and former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.

Convicted and imprisoned four years ago on charges stemming from his involvement in dogfighting, Vick now campaigns with the Humane Society of the United States against the practice — even though the organization successfully pushed to have Vick prosecuted and temporarily banned from professional football.

Vick’s change of heart seems genuine, Pacelle said.

“We’re now trying to use his story as a cautionary tale to steer kids away from this terrible practice,” he said.

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Deborah W.
Deborah Webb8 months ago

Please do not confuse the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) confused with the American Society For The Prevention of Cruelty To Animals. That's what HSUS wants you to do. They are in league with PETA to eliminate ALL pet and stock animals. HSUS is also an animal rights organization AND a terrorist group.

Kat Head
Katherine H.3 years ago

Why, America, why???

colleen p.
colleen p.3 years ago

then we need to make everyone think livestock and pests are loving pets.

you be nice to your friends, but yell insults and death theats to your foes. you cannot be called friendly and personable.

Matt P.
Matt P.4 years ago

How the hell can anyone torture and abuse poor defenseless animals?

Eddie C.
Past Member 4 years ago

Vick is the reason why the dog fighting has gone completely viral. There is no way to count how many lives still suffer in terror and pain thanks to him. The punishment did not come anywhere near the crime. The only way he could hope to make amends for his crimes, is if he helps authorities to arrest the slime that are still involved in the activity.

Rebecca Odle
Rebecca Noiseux4 years ago

People are cruel and deserve the same fate they give to animals. Including vick. He can say that he has changed but seriously doubt it. Its all about the money h gets from football and the fame. We as a society have not been forgiving towards others about their transgressions. Also saying he grew up observing this is total bull.... others have used that excuse and have not been given the same applause. we need to check ourselves and the people we put up on high.

Michael McKenna
Michael McKenna4 years ago

go organic vegan. best decision you can make for yourself and mother nature

Akila K.
Akila K.4 years ago

wild animal is not easy to love
but keep protect

Karen F.
Mrs. Friedman4 years ago

Interesting article.

Latonya W.
Latonya W.4 years ago

Great read.........Thanx