November 2007 Blog Home January 2008

25 posts from December 2007

December 31, 2007

Last Chance to Help Animals in 2007

It's the last day of 2007, and your last day to make a tax-deductible contribution to The HSUS this year.

The HSUS's John Goodwin at a cockfighting bust
© The HSUS/Carol Guzy

It's been an extraordinary year of achievements for animals and for The HSUS—with major gains on dogfighting and cockfighting, factory farming, the fur trade, puppy mills, animal testing, and on many other fronts. At The HSUS and its affiliated organizations, we have built capacity (with teams of lawyers, undercover investigators, lobbyists, organizers, campaigners, scientists, Internet social marketers, public relations specialists, and others) to allow us to win the big fights for animals. With additional investments from you, we can achieve even more.

It takes a big, powerful group to prevail over big, powerful opponents. And we are that group, with a mainstream reputation, 10.5 million members and supporters, and more than 1 million online advocates.

To me, it's not a question of whether change will occur, but how fast. The rate-limiting factor is resources—both human and financial. Please think about one last year-end gift and help give us the tools to catalyze change in the political and lobbying sphere, in the corporate domain, and in the court of public opinion and awareness.


If you have not seen our victories video, now is the time to watch. And make your donation by midnight EST tonight to deduct it from your 2007 taxes. Thank you again for your support and your dedication.

The HSUS's biggest victories of 2007

December 28, 2007

Humane Heroes of 2007

Surely one of the best traits that humans possess is altruism—a willingness to help others, even at some personal risk or cost to us.

Little girl and beagle
© iStockphoto

It's a powerful and good emotional response, and that other-centered behavior is at the very heart of the animal protection movement, which has broadened the application of the idea beyond just our own species.

It's good to know that purely selfish interests are not the only motivators in this world. In any civil society, there must be a healthy dose of altruism and other-centeredness.

As I survey the news stories that cross my desk and computer screen, I learn of incredible acts of human kindness. But I see no shortage of cases involving non-human animals and their own acts of altruism.

There's no doubt in my mind that other animals exhibit altruistic behavior, try as some reductionist thinkers might to explain this animal behavior in self-interested, Darwinian terms.

A story on our web site highlights five acts of altruism. Interestingly enough, two of the actors are non-human animals. It's hard to rank them because they are all extraordinary stories. But let us know which act you consider most remarkable and emotionally compelling.

December 27, 2007

Progress in Politics: Laws for Animals

The organized animal protection movement has certainly paid attention to lobbying and lawmaking through the years, but the lion's share of resources have been directed to direct animal care, such as rescue and sheltering. In the modern lobbying era—the last 25 years, where we've witnessed the rise of political action committees and organized grassroots political campaigns by interest groups—the animal protection movement has lagged behind other causes, such as labor, gun rights, and pro-choice or pro-life groups, in making investments in this domain.

When I came to The HSUS 13 years ago and started as vice president of communications and government affairs, I was bound and determined to change that equation. I felt that The HSUS and yet-to-be-formed or -acquired affiliates could become political and legislative powerhouses, and that we were failing the animals by not doing more in those spheres.

Dog with patriotic bandanna
© iStockphoto
This year, we helped to pass 86 state laws for animals.

In the early 1990s, along with The Fund for Animals, The HSUS started doing ballot initiative campaigns, and since that time, we've won more than 20 statewide ballot measure campaigns, including measures to outlaw cockfighting, bear baiting and hounding, mourning dove shooting, canned hunts, the use of steel-jawed leghold traps and other body-gripping traps, and inhumane factory farming practices. These measures have demonstrated to friend and foe alike the political strength and appeal of animal protection issues.

In 1999, I co-founded, in my private capacity, an independent, non-affiliated political action committee, Humane USA, and it has become the first major political action committee with an animal-welfare focus to invest in candidate elections. In 2004, we saw the formation of the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF), now under the direction of Michael Markarian and Sara Amundson. That group not only does lobbying, but also endorses candidates and conducts grassroots campaigns to help elect humane-minded candidates, and to oust lawmakers with a decided anti-animal bent. (Note: The HSUS is permitted to lobby within limits, but as a 501(c)(3) cannot engage in any candidate electioneering.)

Since these groups have focused on lobbying and political activities, we've seen a wave of positive lawmaking on behalf of animals. The combined power and influence of these affiliated entities in our state and national legislatures has been dramatic. This year, we helped to pass 86 new laws—shattering last year's record of 68 laws. That's 154 new laws for animals at the state level in just the last two years. And it's a total of 470 new state laws in the last 7 years.

We've also focused tremendous energy on Congress. In the last decade, we've passed well more than 25 new federal statutes for animals. This year, we've seen some good progress for animals, even though Congress has been stalemated on so many other policy matters.

This year, we've helped to pass a major upgrade of the federal animal fighting law and a separate bill to bar the National Institutes of Health from re-claiming chimpanzees who had been sent to sanctuaries. The House also passed a resolution condemning Canada's seal slaughter, which The HSUS has been working hard to stop.

Wayne Pacelle at anti-horse slaughter rally on Capitol Hill
© The HSUS
Rallying for horses on Capitol Hill.

But much other work in Congress occurs by amending larger bills, including must-pass spending bills. This year, it was the Food And Drug Administration reauthorization bill that was the vehicle for a provision to set some new standards for pet food products. This came in response to the pet food adulteration crisis that claimed the lives of an untold number of dogs and cats.

The House and Senate passed a provision, as an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act, to create a national War Dog Memorial.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the Farm bill, and how four different animal protection provisions were attached to that measure, including amendments to strengthen the federal anti-dogfighting law, to ban Class B dealers, to bar the import of puppies from foreign puppy mills, and to slow down the rush toward cloning farm animals. In addition, we succeeded in jettisoning a $12 million subsidy for the veal industry and a separate provision that would have hurt our efforts to enact farm animal legislation in the states.

But the largest number of provisions was attached to the massive year-end spending bill, referred to as "the Omnibus"—a $555 billion dollar bill that funds most of the operations of government for 2008. Included in the bill were measures or report language:

  • to limit any federal spending to inspect horses for slaughter for human consumption
  • to promote the adoption of working horses used by federal agencies
  • to prevent federal authorities from suggesting or implying that cats in federally subsidized housing must be declawed
  • to instruct the U.S. Agency for International Development not to promote trophy hunting as a rural development of conservation strategy
  • to encourage alternatives to animal testing
  • to call upon the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study "Controlled Atmosphere Stunning" as an alternative to the inhumane killing method now used for poultry slaughter

The Senate passed a measure to ban the import of sport-hunted polar bear trophies from Canada, but the House rejected a similar provision, and the Senate language was omitted in the final omnibus legislation.

In short, The HSUS and its affiliates were working hard on all of these measures and others. Many other bills will be ripe for passage when the Congress resumes its work in late January. We'll need your help every step of the way in writing and calling your lawmakers and in lobbying them in other ways, but we hope by the time the November 2008 elections roll around that we will have passed a raft of new animal protection legislation in the 110th Congress.

December 26, 2007

Winning the Fight for Animals in '07

Last week, I wrote a letter to some HSUS supporters about some of our accomplishments for the year. In many respects, it's been a remarkable year, and we've achieved many of our programmatic goals for the year. For those of you who relish the details, there's much fodder here for you. And much reason to feel like we are making progress.

Dear Friend,

As we approach the New Year, I want to let you know how proud I am of what The HSUS and its members have accomplished for animals in 2007. One of our watchwords is “effectiveness,” and the accomplishments listed below demonstrate the vital importance of your support to our mission.

Some people are skeptical about donating to large organizations because they don’t know if their dollars will make a difference. But precisely because our adversaries are themselves so large and powerful, it’s often only a comparably large and powerful group like The HSUS to take them head-on and prevail. Only because of you do we have the strength and the resources to engage them in our fight for animals—and in fights on so many fields of battle.

2007 Achievements

Dog used for fighting
© The HSUS

Animal Fighting: We passed a bill in Congress making interstate dogfighting and cockfighting a federal felony, and we banned cockfighting in the last two states where it had been legal—Louisiana and New Mexico. We provided assistance to law enforcement agencies in the Michael Vick dogfighting case, and dozens of other animal fighting cases around the country.

We participated in dogfighting and cockfighting raids from California to Virginia, with one cockfighting bust resulting in the record seizure of 5,000 birds from a criminal syndicate operating in San Diego County. We persuaded Continental, Philippine, and Korean airlines to stop shipping fighting birds. With the new laws, and the publicity we’ve generated, animal fighting raids tripled in 2007. And just this December, we helped pass language in the Senate Farm bill to further upgrade the federal animal fighting law yet again to ban training, breeding, and possession of fighting dogs, and to allow for prosecution of dogfighting crimes even if there is no interstate activity.

Kitty, a chimpanzee retired from research

Animals in Research: We persuaded the National Institutes of Health to ban the any new breeding of chimpanzees for research, and we launched our Chimps Deserve Better campaign to stop any research on these great apes. A new National Academy of Sciences report encourages scientists to move away from the use of animals in toxicity testing. We secured language in the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill that stops Class B dealers from selling “random source” dogs and cats to medical research, increases the penalties for research violations of the Animal Welfare Act, and prohibits the use of live animals in sales and marketing demonstrations.

Animal Sheltering and Support for Other Animal Welfare Groups: We provided hands-on care to thousands of animals at our network of sanctuaries and wildlife centers. We provided training and consultation for animal shelters to improve their operations. And we gave millions of dollars in grants to local organizations and institutions, making The HSUS the third largest U.S.-based grant-maker to animal protection causes.

California wildfires behind a horse in pasture
© Getty Images

Disaster Relief: We responded to the wildfires in southern California, and helped save more than 1,000 animals—dogs, cats, horses, goats, and others. We also deployed our disaster response teams to Texas and Mexico to help animals affected by Hurricane Dean. And we trained people and agencies around the country in disaster preparedness for animals. Our disaster teams also responded to a raft of other crises for animals, including hoarding, animal fighting raids, and puppy mill cases.

Events: We conducted a series of events that trained thousands of people and recognized talented individuals for their work for animals.

Our Genesis Awards honored those in media and entertainment who include animal protection in their creative works. Our Humane Law Enforcement Awards acknowledged the remarkable work of prosecutors and police to bring people to justice who commit crimes against animals. Our Pro Bono Litigation Awards honored some of the nation’s biggest law firms who donated their time and won animal protection cases. Our Animal Care Expo drew hundreds from the U.S. and foreign sheltering communities for the purpose of professionalizing the field. Our Taking Action for Animals Conference taught grassroots advocates the basics on becoming stronger advocates for animals.

HSUS staff organized and conducted hundreds of workshops ranging from Lobby 101s, to animal fighting training for law enforcement, to compassion fatigue for shelter personnel, to First Strike for social workers and law enforcement on the link between animal cruelty and human violence.

© istockphoto

Factory Farming: We passed the first bill in a state legislature to outlaw cruel confinement of farm animals when Oregon banned gestation crates for breeding pigs. Following on our successful state ballot initiative campaigns in Arizona and Florida, North America’s largest pork and veal producers—Smithfield, Cargill, Maple Leaf, Marcho Farms, Strauss Veal, and the American Veal Association—announced they would phase out crates for pigs and calves.

Food industry leaders like Burger King, Wolfgang Puck, and Compass Group adopted ground-breaking humane reforms advanced by The HSUS. More than 175 colleges and universities have now joined our cage-free campus campaign to stop using eggs from caged hens. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, bowing to HSUS pressure, gave final approval in June to a regulation banning the processing of downer cattle.

Just last week, Colorado pork producers announced that they would phase out gestation crates over the next decade, and this came on the heels of HSUS discussions with them and other agriculture leaders in the state about the need for this reform and others.

Two foxes in field
© istockphoto

Fur: We continued a major investigation into the U.S. fur apparel industry, revealing that dog fur is entering the country from China and many fur-trimmed garments are being falsely labeled and falsely advertised as “fake fur.” Our efforts persuaded leaders in the fashion industry such as Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole, Tommy Hilfiger, and Foot Locker to go fur-free, and other designers and retailers such as Burlington Coat Factory to drastically reduce the amount of fur they sell.

We passed two precedent-setting bills in the New York state legislature to require accurate labeling of all fur garments, and ban the electrocution of animals in fur factories.

Gray horse rescued from slaughter
© The HSUS

Horse Slaughter: We passed state legislation in Illinois to ban horse slaughter, and we won two federal court decisions upholding the state laws in Illinois and Texas, shutting down the three remaining equine abattoirs in the U.S.

We conducted a major investigation of horse slaughter plants in Mexico, and continued to work in Congress to ban exports of live horses for slaughter in other countries.

Humane Society International: The European Parliament voted unanimously to ban cat and dog fur, successfully concluding our eight-year campaign to halt this trade.

Fisherman clubs harp seal in Canada
© The HSUS

We secured an elephant ivory ban prohibiting the international commercial trade in ivory for nine years, pressured Iceland to end commercial whaling, and persuaded the United Nations to toughen its policy against shark finning. In the Philippines, we were instrumental in passing and enforcing a ground-breaking new law to help end the cruel commercial dog meat trade.

We continued to investigate and combat Canada’s gruesome hunt of Atlantic harp seals, and our boycott of Canadian seafood now has the support of more than 1,000 restaurants and food businesses and 300,000 individuals, costing Canadian fisheries close to $500 million since the boycott began in April 2005.

Raccoon face in grass
© istockphoto

Humane Wildlife Services and Wildlife Land Trust:We launched a new, innovative program called Humane Wildlife Services in the Washington, D.C. area and on Cape Cod, Mass. It provides direct assistance to homeowners and businesses who want humane and effective solutions to urban wildlife problems. We hope to expand the business model to other urban and suburban communities around the country.

We also launched a 5-year, multi-million dollar contraception project to humanely control the numbers of wild horses in the West as an alternative to costly and cruel round-ups.

We added a dozen properties to our Wildlife Land Trust, and now have lands and wildlife protected in 36 states.

Polar bear on ice floe
© Warren Garst

Inhumane Hunting Abuses: We continued passing laws to ban Internet hunting, with 34 states now prohibiting the practice. We defeated legislation that would have opened a dove hunting season in Iowa and allowed hunting on Sundays in several states. Our lawsuit in federal court resulted in sport hunts being stopped on National Wildlife Refuges. We passed a bill in California to ban the use of lead shot in the habitat of the endangered California condor.

In Congress, we secured language in the Senate Interior Appropriations bill to stop the imports of polar bear trophies killed by sport hunters in the Arctic, and language in the House Foreign Operations Appropriations bill to stop American tax dollars from funding the trophy hunting of elephants, lions, and other foreign species.

Innovations and New Programs: We launched a wide range of new programs, including Animals and Religion and Equine Protection. We also established Humane Capital Partners, the first and only animal protection venture capital fund that will invest and grow companies producing humane products and services.

Legal Action: Our team of a dozen in-house attorneys continued filing and winning precedent-setting cases for animals. We won court victories to protect endangered right whales from being harmed by fishing longlines, to stop invasive research on Steller sea lions, and to protect wolves and Canada lynx. We forced the USDA to begin restricting the long-distance truck transport of farm animals, so they can receive food, water, and rest at least every 28 hours. Under HSUS pressure, the Florida Department of Agriculture developed new rules for veterinary health inspections of dogs sold in the state. We blocked a U.S. Department of Commerce attempt to weaken the definition of the “dolphin-safe” label for tuna.

Protecting Pets: Our Rural Area Veterinary Services (RAVS) program provided more than 30,000 medical treatments to animals in remote areas of the country often underserved by veterinarians.

Kittens at animal shelter
© The HSUS/Bill Petros

We secured language in Congress directing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to no longer require residents in federal housing to de-claw their cats. And we launched our “After Katrina” project, granting more than $1 million to animal shelters and investing millions more in spay/neuter and other programs in Louisiana and Mississippi to build a better future for animals on the Gulf Coast.

Public Policy: We helped pass 86 new animal protection laws in state legislatures in 2007, a record year. They included mandatory disaster planning for pets, allowed companion animals to be part of domestic violence protective orders, strengthened laws against animal cruelty and fighting, prohibited the private ownership of exotic pets, and banned cockfighting, horse slaughter, and Internet hunting.

We also joined as primary supporter of ballot initiative campaigns to ban greyhound racing in Massachusetts and to prohibit the cruel confinement of animals on industrial factory farms in California. The farm animal measure has the potential to mitigate suffering for 20 million animals. We support ballot initiatives in progress in Alaska to ban aerial wolf hunting, in Florida to empower local communities to curb development, and in North Dakota to ban canned hunts.

Puppy in hands
© The HSUS

Puppy Mills: We worked with law enforcement agencies to bust abusive puppy mill operations in Maine and Texas. We conducted a major undercover investigation of puppy mill auctions, a ground-breaking probe of the puppy mill industry in Virginia where we found nearly 1,000 unregulated commercial dog breeders, and a famous Los Angeles-based pet store (Pets of Bel Air) that exposed the link between pet stores and puppy mills. We rescued more than 1,000 dogs from one of the Virginia mills, and placed them in animal shelters around the country. We worked in the U.S. Senate to include language in the Farm Bill that bans the import of dogs from foreign puppy mills.

These are some of our accomplishments achieved with your investment in 2007. We are now backed by 10.5 million supporters—one in every 30 Americans—and a remarkably talented staff. That combination of human assets gives us the strength and the means to have a profound and lasting impact on how society treats animals. I hope you will consider making a special year-end donation, so that we can accomplish even more in 2008 and beyond. We are ushering in remarkable changes, and only with more investments and action we will see more reforms.

With appreciation,

Wayne Pacelle
President & CEO
The Humane Society of the United States

P. S. We’ve produced a three-minute video that touches on these victories if you’d like to watch:

The HSUS's biggest victories of 2007

December 24, 2007

Animals in a New Light

The celebration of the birth of Jesus is the high holiday for Christians. We are told in the Gospels that he was born to a virgin mother and that he received gifts from three wise men. Also according to the accounts, Jesus was placed in a manger, in the presence of farm animals.

HSUS Animals and Religion postcard

As Christians throughout the world celebrate his birth this week, it is custom to gather around the table for a feast. Indeed, food has a central role in this celebration.

Farm animals have a visible part in the original birth narrative, and they should not be forgotten now during the celebration of that event.

Sadly, much of the food on our tables at Christmas comes from animals confined on factory farms, and most celebrants hardly give thought to the conditions they endure.

The Humane Society of the United States' Animals and Religion program calls upon people of faith to account for the animals. And this accounting cannot omit how our food choices affect their lives. At the very least, it calls upon religious people to reject meat, milk, and eggs from factory farms.

The Humane Steward is HSUS's monthly electronic newsletter about religion and animals. As so many people are poised to pray for peace on earth, it's a particularly opportune time to sign up.

December 21, 2007

Effective Philanthropy

There are a staggering 1.5 million charities in the United States. There are, perhaps, about 12,000 charities devoted to helping animals, most of them local groups performing animal sheltering or rescue work. Of all charitable giving in the United States, animals attract less than 1 percent, though the total dollars directed to the cause enable a wealth of good works.

Since its earliest days, when the first anti-cruelty societies were given state charters and, eventually, tax-exempt status, organized animal protection has been a part of American philanthropy’s historic tradition. And charitable giving is as old as the nation itself. The 19th-century French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville was one of the first to take note of the vitality of American philanthropy, and to note how deeply linked it is to the ideals of American democracy.

Americans are a remarkably generous people, and they are giving extraordinary amounts to support the vast number of charities created during the last three decades. Where would we be without private citizens and their contributions of financial support and volunteer resources to the nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations which serve the public good across a wide range of areas? It is these groups that drive social service activity, public policy changes, corporate social responsibility and, as a general matter, call us to act in ways that are decent and good and other-centered.

Yellow lab and tabby cat
© iStockphoto
Charity analysts give high marks to The HSUS's financial health
and return on donors' investments.

When contemplating a gift to an organization, you can check out or to see the group's basic information on operations and finances.

In 2006, The HSUS’s program expenses as a percentage of total expenses were 81 percent, greatly exceeding the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance standard of 65 percent or more. The HSUS also meets every financial and administrative standard set by the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, which assesses the nation’s charities to determine whether they meet some 20 voluntary benchmarks on matters like finances, donation appeals, and governance. And Charity Navigator gives The HSUS a four-star rating, the highest possible rating.

While The HSUS measures up well in the assessments of these charity watchdogs, I believe the criteria set by these groups are narrow and provide an incomplete portrait of a nonprofit’s work. An organization may have good ratios of program expense to fundraising and administration, and may have regular board meetings, but it may not be particularly effective or powerful. It may look good on paper, but it may not drive social change in any meaningful way. And that’s really what most Americans want when they donate to charities.

At The HSUS, we pride ourselves on being effective advocates and demonstrating a return on donors' investments. This year, for instance, we helped to pass 86 new state laws to protect animals—smashing the record-setting number established just a year earlier. We prevailed in the courts and helped shut down all of the U.S.-based horse slaughter plants. We helped usher in a wide range of corporate reforms, including the nation's largest pork producer, Smithfield, agreeing to phase out gestation crates, food service giant Compass Group deciding not to purchase eggs from battery cage operators, and Wolfgang Puck implementing a range of humane reforms. We helped arrest hundreds of animal fighters. And we rescued thousands of animals from puppy mills, hoarders, and disaster zones, along with caring for thousands of animals at our network of animal sanctuaries.

In looking at charities, take a look not just at their fundraising-to-program ratios, but what kind of impact they are making. By that measure, your HSUS stands tall, and that’s why I feel confident and comfortable in asking you to support our work. Support us, and we’ll show you results.

December 20, 2007

Why Your Actions Matter

With so much misery that animals endure, it is sometimes difficult to see and to celebrate the change that is occurring. Yet the indicators of that change are all around us. And with every advance, we demonstrate the possibility of additional progress.

We are finally seeing major gains on factory farming. We have the horse slaughter industry on the run. We have banned animal fighting in every state. We are exposing puppy mills. We helped to pass 82 new state laws for animals this year. And there's so much more.

This video chronicles some of the reforms The HSUS and our members helped to usher in this year. Take pride in these accomplishments. Pass it on to friends and family members. And please consider making a year-end, tax-deductible gift to allow us to build on these successes in 2008. Together, we can achieve so much more.

The HSUS's biggest victories of 2007

December 19, 2007

Fighting Puppy Mills Full-Force

At The Humane Society of the United States, we are concentrating resources on some of the core problems that our nation confronts on animal protection—including factory farming, animal fighting, the fur trade, inhumane hunting practices, the exotic animal trade, and pet overpopulation and puppy mills. The puppy mill industry has been around for a long time, but our movement has not yet succeeded in halting its many abuses.

Two breeding dogs at a puppy mill
© The HSUS
Our investigation tracked puppies sold at
Pets of Pel Air to this mill and four others.

In the last six months, we've conducted three undercover investigations into different facets of the industry—puppy mill auctions, the level of puppy mill compliance with state and federal laws (with a focus on Virginia), and the role of pet stores in the puppy mill trade (with a focus on Pets of Bel Air in Los Angeles)—and used a wide array of HSUS resources to attack the puppy mill crisis in America.

On Dec. 11, I led a press conference in Los Angeles and released our undercover footage from an investigation centered around the business practices of Pets of Bel Air, a high-end L.A. pet store that caters to wealthy clients, including many celebrities. The investigation revealed that even this high-end pet store, which claims to set the standard for the pet store industry, was trading in dogs from puppy mills in the Midwest. The investigation also revealed that store personnel were knowingly deceiving consumers about the source of its dogs and assuring customers that the dogs did not come from puppy mills. We did this investigation to underscore the connection between pet stores and puppy mills and to show that the best place to obtain dogs is from shelters or breed rescue groups. Patronizing pet stores rather than adopting dogs from shelters contributes to a cycle of mistreatment and unnecessary euthanasia. We as a nation can do much better.

In November, The HSUS released the results of a five-month investigation in Virginia. Our findings, which received widespread publicity just like our Pets of Bel Air investigation, revealed a vast industry of more than 1,000 dog breeding operations that sell commercially. Only 16 operations had been registered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While some of the unlicensed operations were operating illegally, most of them were under no requirement to register with state or federal authorities—revealing that it's not just an enforcement problem, but it's a more fundamental problem of a deficiency in the law.

Pomeranian at a Virginia puppy mill
© The HSUS
Our investigators discovered dogs living in
squalor at Virginia puppy mills.

In the case of one appalling facility, formally declared a disaster site by the county, HSUS responders assisted local officials with the removal of nearly 1,000 dogs and puppies. Today, thanks to our intervention, many of those animals have been adopted to good homes through animal shelters up and down the East Coast.

We’re going to push for an upgrade in the law so that puppy mills do not get a free pass. In Congress this year, we generated a letter from 200 members of Congress and worked to have the House and Senate agriculture appropriations subcommittees provide a record level of funding for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, which includes the  regulation of puppy mills. But federal law needs a major overhaul as well.

Only a few weeks before releasing the results of our Virginia investigation, HSUS responders traveled to Maine in October as part of a coalition of groups working on the care and removal of 250 dogs seized from another mass-breeding facility. The HSUS helped to transport some 130 animals to a Portland animal shelter and to the prospect of loving homes. And a couple months earlier, in August, HSUS staff participated in a raid on a puppy mill in north Texas. We helped to transport and care for 70 rescued dogs ranging from 2-day-old Chihuahua puppies to adult Rottweilers who had been living in deplorable conditions.

More importantly, in June we exposed a sordid but little known element of the puppy mill problem with our investigation of dog auctions, where puppy mill owners buy and sell animals like used cars, bidding on them according to their breeding capacity. This exposé also drew massive public attention to the issue.

Also in June, we filed a first-of-its-kind class action lawsuit against Wizard of Claws, a south Florida puppy dealer that traffics in a large volume of puppy mill animals. Our suit alleges that this notorious puppy dealer has defrauded customers by misrepresenting the origin of the animals it sells, and by selling dogs who suffer from severe health problems and genetic defects.

Continue reading "Fighting Puppy Mills Full-Force" »

December 18, 2007

Talk Back: Puppy Pleas

Readers responded with a slew of comments to our investigation of Pets of Bel Air, which exposed the store's deceitful tactics and reinforced the connection between pet stores and puppy mills. Among the commentary:

The puppy mill/inhumane breeder issue is out there for all to see but I still come across people who insist on buying a puppy/dog from a pet store or inhumane breeder. It is so heartbreaking to me. Frustrating, too! I want to stay positive and continue educating people about puppy mills/inhumane breeders but I have to admit, it feels hopeless at times. I look forward to the day when puppy mills and inhumane breeders no longer exist! Thank you Wayne, Jana and The HSUS for all you do. —Dana in Chicago.

I am so pleased with your fight against puppy mills. I recently adopted a 10-year-old breeder dog rescued by our local Paws and Claws, who are a wonderful group of volunteers. This dog has an ongoing eye problem and paws that fester with bloody cysts that come and go from a life in a cage. It took time for him to get used to grass and to adapt to a new home but now he is part of a pack of seven rescue dogs and shows love for the attention he gets. —Sue Kent

I just had to write after reading the above. I managed a pet store for 10 years in my area and I am proud to say that we did not sell puppies and kittens. One, I wouldn't work for a company that supports puppy mills and, two, I still don't understand the need to breed when there are so many animals in shelters that are just as worthy of our love. Working in a pet store I would see numerous people come in with new puppies and nine times out of ten these puppies (bought at other pet stores) were from puppy mills and always had Parvo. I would listen to the stories of how the store would not take these puppies back and how these people just don't have the money to "fix" the puppy. Yet, they spent a couple grand to purchase the purebred. None of it makes sense to me. I personally would never go out and purchase a puppy (or a kitten). I catch stray cats and dogs constantly, that's how I've acquired the cats I have now. However, if I was ever inclined to do so, I would make 100 percent sure that I saw where my new baby came from. It's a long battle to fight, these puppy mills, but I will be fighting it with you until puppy mills are a thing of the past. I'm hoping that's a dream that comes to fruition real soon. Thank you HSUS for all you do for animals everywhere. —Myndi Hughes

Thank you!!! Thank you!!! Thank you!!! I just wish we had dozens more people that can expose these so-called pet stores, many of which are located in major malls across the nation. I bought my precious Lhasa Apso from a pet shop in a mall in the San Diego area seven years ago and granted, I received breeder information and history of his birth, but when I went to Google these so-called breeders they seem to not exist. I may be one of the fortunate ones to have a healthy dog, but now that I know of these puppy mills, never will I ever buy from a pet store. —Carole L. Divine-Snowney

People just don't realize... and they seem to believe whatever they hear. Just about a month ago I was in a local pet shop that is under new management and noticed they were selling runny eyed, sniffling puppies when they never did before. I asked the manager where they come from and she told me "Mostly from the Midwest." So I asked if they came from puppy mills and she said "We try not to buy from puppy mills, but you never know..." I left there knowing full well where the dogs came from and what conditions they existed in. I have been thinking about the nonchalant attitude of the pet store manager often since I was in there and it gives me such a sick feeling. Is there anything an average person like me can do to stop this? Can we report it to anyone? I know the most important thing to do is NOT to buy a puppy from a pet shop and to spread the word about that, but is there anything else we might be able to do? I am all ears! —Amy Wojcik

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Compass Charts A New Course

The movement to ban battery cages had its single biggest moment yesterday as Compass Group—the world's largest food service provider, which services hospitals, corporations, universities, even the U.S. House of Representatives and Microsoft—announced that it would in time sell eggs only from cage-free sources. In its first phase, the company will start purchasing half of its shell eggs from cage-free sources within 90 days—a very fast first step by the food service giant. The first phase of implementation will translate into the purchase of 48 million eggs from cage-free producers—and result in nearly 200,000 fewer hens confined in battery cages.

Egg-laying hens in cage-free system
© The HSUS
Egg-laying hens in a cage-free system.

The Humane Society of the United States had previously dealt with some companies within the Compass network, including Bon Appetit Management Company and Wolfgang Puck, both of which have collaborated with The HSUS in adopting cage-free egg policies. But this summer in New Hampshire, my colleague Josh Balk and I had the pleasure of meeting with an even larger group of key decision makers at Compass, including Cheryl Queen, our host and Compass' vice president of corporate communications. The entire group was warm, welcoming, and open-minded, and they had an obvious commitment to corporate social responsibility. Josh and I followed up last month with a visit to Compass' headquarters in Charlotte to speak with the company's executives and also to meet with its purchasing staff. Again, I was so thoroughly impressed with all of the people I had the privilege of meeting.

Corporate social responsibility is on the minds of executives throughout this country. Improving animal welfare is one important component of a thorough commitment to social responsibility. And Compass has taken a giant step in that direction with this policy. We applaud the company, and extend our deepest appreciation to its foresighted leaders.

You can listen to NPR's three-minute "Marketplace" report on this here, which includes mention of the fact that Wendy's still isn't using cage-free eggs.