December 2008 Blog Home February 2009


20 posts from January 2009


January 30, 2009

Super Bowl Ad for the Animals

Two dogs watching TV
© llimllib/Creative Commons

I can’t think of many television events where people anxiously await the commercials, but that’s the case with the NFL Super Bowl tradition. And the good news is, animal advocates have a bit of a reason to celebrate this year—with at least one of the commercials that’s scheduled to run crafted around a humane message.

You’ve likely seen Pedigree’s adoption promotion commercials in the past few years, part of a larger Adoption Drive campaign to help find homes for dogs in shelters. For the Super Bowl, the company has opted for a more lighthearted approach; the ad envisions life with wild animals as pets (chaos ensues—a lesson in itself), then ends with the message, “Maybe you should get a dog. … Help us help dogs.” And the spot is scheduled to run in the first quarter.

We as a society must do better to help save the lives of the millions of dogs and cats who are euthanized annually, so this big-time exposure and the buzz surrounding it is good news indeed.

January 29, 2009

For Fur, It Ain't Easy Being Green

It’s hard to believe he had the brashness to make the claim, but Fur Council of Canada executive vice president Alan Herscovici said last year, “You want to help nature? Ride your bike to work, put out your blue box and buy a fur coat.” It was another salvo in the Fur Council’s deceptive campaign claiming that fur is green—akin, by their way of thinking, to organic cotton, pesticide-free produce, or solar panels.

Fox in cage at fur farmToday we shred their greenwashing arguments in a new report titled “Toxic Fur” and a Flash movie showing how fur hurts the planet.

The industry is employing a bait-and-switch strategy, invoking sustainability to distract from the public’s very obvious animal cruelty concerns about their product. With sales lagging because of the economy, and with major designers and retailers shunning fur—such as Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, BCBG Max Azria, and Overstock.com—the industry is desperate and fighting to reclaim its market share.

But our report shows that the fur industry actually makes enormous energy investments to run their fur factory farms and tanneries, while trappers set and check miles of traps in gasoline-burning vehicles. A laundry list of toxic chemicals is used to dress and dye the fur (in order to transform the animal pelts into wearable garments), contributing not just to air and soil pollution, but posing significant risks to human health. Carcinogenic chemicals like formaldehyde, chromium, naphthalene, toluene and lead may be used in the different stages of fur processing. And it’s all done for a luxury product—while causing undeniable cruelty to animals.

For more information, you can download our full report.

January 28, 2009

Talk Back: Second Chance Stories

Last week I posted our "Change Agenda for Animals"—a 100-point checklist of critical animal protection reforms—and asked you to weigh in on what you consider the top five priorities. It's been fascinating to track your varied responses. If you haven't already, remember to make your voice heard on what reforms you consider the most urgent and important; you can either offer a comment or send an email. We'll collect your votes through next Friday, Feb. 6, then share the results.

Today though I wanted to post some of your initial responses to the story of Jamaica. Once a slaughter-bound castaway, Jamaica has become a top equine athlete and was just named the 2008 United States Equestrian Federation Horse of the Year.

This story makes me wonder how many more Jamaicas are out there on the way to the slaughterhouse. This is much like stories about dogs rescued just before being euthanized, that have done heroic acts or become great service dogs. Most of these unfortunate animals have so much potential. It's sad that too many people don't want to spend the time or money to discover just what these animals have to offer. —Barbara

I am so glad that Jamaica and Beau got their second chance! I cannot believe that just because these horrible people think that the horse is old, broken, etc. that it is their right to slaughter them? All of these horses deserve their second chance where they can roam freely and be loved. I have not seen the videos only because when I read what happens to them I cry so hard my heart aches. The horse is an American icon and deserves so much better. HSUS, I know you will continue to fight for these animals and I GREATLY appreciate all that you do. May God bless all of you and the animals too! —Karen E. Wagner

Thank you HSUS…we love horses; they are so gentle, intelligent and loyal. It is an outrage that they receive the treatment that they do after a lifetime of racing, etc. Thank you for all that you do for horses as well as for all animals that suffer in this country and around the world. —Erlyn, Mark and Katie

As a member of the USEF (formerly USET), I applaud Wayne and the HSUS for their heroic efforts to save such a majestic species. My horses were always my best friends. —MA

Thanks to HSUS for pointing out that sometimes horses bound for the killers only need a special person to give them a second chance. Thanks for sharing, and congrats to Jamaica on his well-deserved award! —Virginia@cars4causes

Like Jamaica's fateful transformation, many of you know firsthand the joys of rescuing an animal and helping them to reach their full potential. We saw this in response to the tale of Granny Annie, when so many of you shared your stories. Your accounts continue to roll in and here are two more:

My cat came to me as a rescue from a vet. One-quarter of her body is missing. Her right hind leg/thigh was crushed in a car accident when she was young. Her previous owners fixed her up, declawed the remaining three paws, then when she was 10-years-old took her back to the vet for surrender!!! So, as you can understand, life has been really hard for her. The previous owners believe in their hearts that they love animals! Ok...? I guess?!? She came to me sight unseen. She has been with me for 1.5 years. She is truly wonderful; sweet, calm, chubby! She adores my 15-year-old Jack Russell terrier… they are like an elderly couple in love… so cute! She is a jewel! —Linda R. Norris

I loved the story about Granny Annie. We adopted a special needs dog (as our very first dog—my husband and I had had only cats up until then). While Trixie the beagle had her challenges (kidney, seizures) we were totally dedicated and stuck with her to the end. What we learned from Trixie was that when you take a dog that few others would take for whatever reasons, you are likely to find a wonderful soul inside and fall in love. From our experience we have decided to only adopt senior pets. We just adopted a senior collie mix who is very overweight and was found abandoned in a garage. Big Billy is a wonderful dog and just further supports our decision. —Alexandra Marshall

Continue reading "Talk Back: Second Chance Stories" »

January 27, 2009

Cock-a-Doodle-Don't

Not long ago enjoying a free pass—essentially, with lawmakers and law enforcement looking the other way—cockfighters in America are now on the run and in desperate trouble. Over just the last two weeks, law enforcement, often working with The HSUS, raided eight cockfighting pits and four farms that bred roosters. These actions resulted in the arrest of 171 suspected cockfighters, with more than 720 birds seized from people whose primary intention was to place these animals in a pit to fight to the death.

Rooster at cockfighting raid in Mississippi
© The HSUS
A rooster at a Jan. 23 raid in Mississippi.

These were just the latest law enforcement crackdowns on this despicable and barbaric practice. It was a dozen years ago—when I was heading government affairs and communications at The HSUS—that I resolved that we would wage a national fight to take on cockfighting in America. At the time, there were five states where cockfighting was legal, and a host of others with anemic penalties and no enforcement at all. To me, that was unacceptable and an embarrassment to the nation, as well as the organized humane movement. We had to change the landscape, and that's exactly what we've done.

We started with successful ballot initiatives in Arizona and Missouri in 1998 to ban the activity. Then, we did a ballot measure in Oklahoma in 2002, and closed a loophole in federal law that had allowed interstate and foreign transport of birds for cockfighting. In 2007, we passed bills in Louisiana and New Mexico to outlaw cockfighting—with the Louisiana anti-cockfighting law taking effect in August 2008. We have gone from 17 states punishing cockfighting as a felony to 37, with that number likely to go even higher this year. In that time span, we upgraded the federal law against animal fighting three times, and it is now a federal felony to fight, train, or possess fighting birds, or to traffic in cockfighting implements, bringing stiff fines and jail time of up to five years.

We still need stronger laws in several states, particularly those in the cockfighting corridor: Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and some surrounding states. We have troops on the ground in these states, lobbying hard to pass felony cockfighting laws.

With strong laws comes the need for enforcement. The HSUS has trained more than 2,000 law enforcement officers for animal fighting investigations in the past year. We have paid out more than $100,000 in reward money to informants who provided tips to police that led to the arrest and conviction of both dog and cockfighters. We have taken intelligence directly to sheriff’s departments and federal agents, prompting investigations that led to major raids.

Cockfighting was one of the first animal-related activities that lawmakers in the United States criminalized, with a majority of states outlawing the practice in the 19th century. But it was, for the most part, a token legal objection and a modest moral taboo, since the cockfighting industry continued to flourish decade by decade. Now, its growth has been arrested, and so have thousands of its practitioners in the last decade. Today, there are more people charged with cockfighting crimes than any other form of illegal animal-related activity. We won't relent until every cockfighting pit and every operation raising birds for fighting is left vacant.

January 26, 2009

A Happy Trail: From Slaughterhouse Door to Show Ring Champ

Here’s a remarkable story: A horse once on the sales block for slaughter is the recipient of one of the horse industry’s most coveted prizes.

Jamaica, USEF Horse of the Year
Jamaica, 2008 USEF Horse of the Year.

Recently, a 17-year-old horse named Jamaica won the title of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Horse of the Year. Deemed the nation’s most exceptional horse for 2008, it’s a high honor. But what really makes the designation so noteworthy is that Jamaica, now a top equine athlete, was once bound for a European slaughterhouse.

Jamaica’s rags-to-riches tale began more than a decade ago when a carriage driver purchased him from a killer buyer in Belgium. But as it turned out, Jamaica didn’t have the patience to stand still while carriage passengers loaded and unloaded, so he was resold and retrained to be part of a Four-in-Hand Combined Driving team, a rigorous equestrian sport. Jamaica flourished in this new role, racking up numerous honors and, along the way, was nominated for the coveted USEF title.

We’ve long maintained that the majority of horses who end up in the grisly slaughter pipeline are horses who, for whatever reason, merely need a second chance. They are typically not old, broken, or dangerous animals, as the horse slaughter industry and its allies in agribusiness claim. It’s our claim that the slaughter industry doesn’t provide a needed service—it merely gives unscrupulous breeders and irresponsible horse owners an easy out when they decide they no longer want to care for their horses and instead want to make a few dollars.

In order to help horses and to foster greater personal responsibility among horse owners, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and Rep. Dan Burton introduced H.R. 503, the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2009, to prohibit the horse slaughter industry from trying to set up shop in the U.S. and to prevent our horses from being exported across our borders for slaughter.

Jamaica’s turn-of-circumstance gives added momentum to a new venture we’re rolling out this week in Franklin, Tenn. The HSUS has teamed up with world-renowned natural horsemanship trainers Pat and Linda Parelli to highlight the amazing intelligence and trainability of the thousands of horses awaiting new homes at rescues across the country. At a series of seven Parelli “Celebration” events, The HSUS will work with a local rescue to provide a horse—like Beau, who was rescued by Volunteer Equine Advocates of Gallatin, Tenn. and will continue his retraining at the Franklin event—with three days of hands-on training from Pat Parelli. At the end of the event, the horse will be offered for adoption to an approved home.

Our nation’s horse rescues provide a valuable service in helping at-risk horses. Through our work with the Homes for Horses Coalition and Parelli Natural Horsemanship, we hope to help more rescued horses like Jamaica and Beau find new homes where they’ll flourish. Their stories, and the untold stories of thousands of horses who never got a second chance, are what drive us to work tirelessly to end the slaughter of American horses for human consumption abroad.

January 23, 2009

On the Scene in Mississippi

Today I'm in Olive Branch, Miss., near the Tennessee border, at an HSUS raid of a major suspected cockfighting operation. Here's a report from the field.

January 22, 2009

When Will Petland Get It?

A West Virginia television station reported earlier this week that local police seized a dog at the private home of a manager of a Petland store in South Charleston. Unfortunately, one of his dogs had already been found dead—a Great Dane left outside in the freezing cold and chained beside a dog house. One neighbor, Rhonda Pauley, told the TV station, "No dog can stand to be outside 24-7 in this kind of weather." Another neighbor, Rebecca Rickaby, said, "I find it repulsive that a human being could do this."

Great Dane found dead at home of former Petland manager
© WOWK/West Virginia Media
A dead dog is found at the home of a former Petland manager.

The store has since terminated the man, but it’s not a story that inspires confidence in the animal welfare claims of Petland employees and executives.

In fact, the same Petland employee involved in this incident was in the news right after The HSUS broke its investigation of Petland. He responded to The HSUS’s charges and assured consumers that Petland maintains the highest welfare standards.

We now know his claims were just empty rhetoric, since his own animal care standards appear to be deplorable. But our fear is that he’s not the only one from Petland guilty of empty rhetoric and false assurances.

As blog readers know, The HSUS conducted an eight-month investigation of Petland, connecting the sale of puppies at the retail outlets we investigated to puppy mills throughout the Midwest.

On Monday, Petland posted an “open request to HSUS for documentation”—in short, implicitly trying to cast doubt on the reliability of our claims.

Petland’s letter professes dismay that The HSUS has uncovered “substandard” facilities and demands that we turn our documentation over to them. Yet much of what we uncovered is already available to them on our website or through U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection reports.

But we want to make it easy. We suggest that Petland executives go to the following video, where the names and locations of several facilities supplying to Petland are identified. We can prove that each of those puppy mills, and many more, are linked directly to the Petland stores investigated. If Petland has any doubts, it can ask its outlets for their puppy-buying records.

Petland claims that some of the breeders in The HSUS’s video report are on its “do not buy” list. But list or no list, our investigators found that some of the company's stores had purchased from them. In fact, we found that at least two Petland stores bought puppies from Kathy Bauck in Minnesota, nine stores bought from MAM Kennel in Missouri, at least two stores bought puppies from Darlene Koster/Rainbow Ranch Kennels in Kansas, two stores bought from Styck Kennels in Missouri, and three stores bought puppies from Wanda Kretzman/Clearwater Kennels in Minnesota. All of these breeders' facilities are shown on our video. Since the initial report aired, we have continued to collect documentation on still more puppy mills and puppy mill brokers selling to additional Petland stores.

Petland claims that we could not have traced 17,000 puppies in eight months to just 21 stores. In fact, we investigated the sources of puppies shipped to 76 different Petland stores—more than half the Petland stores in the country. The 21 stores we mentioned were just the ones that our investigators visited in person, while dozens of other stores were linked to puppy mill dogs through transport and health records and other documents. And every store visited gave the same empty rhetoric—that Petland only deals with the best breeders in the country. Perhaps a better question is this: What is Petland’s definition of a good breeder? For me, an operation that keeps dogs in small cages or pens for years on end is most certainly not a good breeder.

Petland supplier visited by HSUS investigators
© The HSUS
One of the Petland suppliers HSUS investigators visited.

While federal law does not bar operating a puppy mill, USDA does occasionally inspect these operations. Many of these mills are so shoddy that they have been cited for violating the minimum care standards prescribed in federal regulation, and we prepared a listing of violations from mills who supply Petland. Every humane care violation we mentioned in our investigative report was taken directly from USDA inspection reports. Petland almost certainly does not have a parallel inspection program, and it appears that Petland has not even reviewed the USDA records of at least some of its suppliers.

If Petland wants transparency, we think it would be a good move for Petland to post the source of every Petland puppy for the last 12 months on its website, along with the date of Petland’s supposed inspections of these facilities.

The fact is, every Petland breeder we visited as part of our investigation is a puppy mill: a facility where breeding dogs were found confined continually to cages or pens with little or no space to play, and little or no human contact. Every one of the breeders identified by name in our video shipped puppies to more than one Petland store.

This company must do better. It should follow the lead of PetSmart and PETCO, and rather than sell puppy mill puppies, it can implement a policy of only having dogs from shelters and rescue groups available at its retail outlets. Then, it can become part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

January 21, 2009

Animal Emergency at Inaugural

184x265_parade_horse_riley
© The HSUS/Riley
Mouse awaits rescue.

Yesterday’s Inaugural was uneventful for animals, except for one glaring exception. Just before the celebration down Pennsylvania Avenue was to commence, there was a collision between a heavy duty truck and one of the parade horses, a 10-year-old named Mouse, whose leg got caught in the grill and winch of the truck.

Our Emergency Services director, Scotlund Haisley, was first on the scene. “When The HSUS first came upon the scene, things were looking dire for Mouse. I did not think he would survive,” he said. “Twelve men and women labored for nearly two hours to untangle Mouse’s leg so that he could be transported for further treatment. It is an immense relief to know that this horse is expected to recover from his life-threatening injuries.”

Take a look at our dramatic video.

The District of Columbia asked The HSUS to serve as the lead disaster response agency for animals, and prior to Katrina in 2005, that concern probably never would have arisen with a local government. It’s a good sign that governments are now planning much more thoroughly for the needs of animals.

P.S. We were pleased that First Lady Michelle Obama, Laura Bush, Aretha Franklin and other high-profile participants in yesterday’s ceremony chose not to wear fur. While there were still too many furs worn by spectators, it is encouraging that political leaders are for the most part exhibiting sensitivity to this issue.

January 19, 2009

We Need Your Vote on Components of “Change Agenda for Animals”

As a marker of a healthy democracy, there is nothing to match the spectacle of seeing a new American president sworn in. This transfer of political authority is one of the foundation stones of democratic government, and a reminder that the people of America ultimately hold the power.

Dog and flag
© iStockphoto

With the changing of the guard at the White House comes the prospect of new possibilities for moving our goals forward, and to mark this latest transfer of power, The HSUS and the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) are advancing a 100-point “Change Agenda for Animals.” Never before has the animal protection movement so carefully articulated a vast array of critical animal protection reforms in the domains of so many federal agencies—Agriculture, Interior, Commerce, Defense, Health and Human Services, State, and others. It is a road map for reform, and it reflects the remarkable experience and knowledge of HSUS and HSLF staff experts and government affairs specialists who developed the roster of items after years of study and work, and experience in the corridors of power where fateful decisions concerning the fate of animals are made—or not made.

We numbered the items from 1 to 100, but they reflect no order of priority. They are all important, from #1, the inclusion of chickens, turkeys, and other poultry under the standards of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, to #100, improving the work of a federal committee that validates alternatives to animal testing. Other reforms include ending the slaughter of American horses for consumption in foreign countries (#4), cracking down on abusive puppy mills (#5), transforming the USDA’s Wildlife Services program into one that mitigates human-wildlife conflicts through non-lethal means (#10), halting the import of sport-hunted polar bear trophies into the United States (#23), having the Environmental Protection Agency regulate factory farms and the pollution they produce, including emissions that contribute significantly to climate change (#39), ensuring that Housing and Urban Development officials don’t require tenants in public housing to subject their cats to declawing (#54), and phasing out the use of chimpanzees in invasive research and retiring these great apes to permanent sanctuaries (#74).

In the last decade, animal protection advocates have begun to flex some political muscle, winning ballot initiatives throughout the country, passing hundreds of laws at the state level, and dozens of laws in Congress. Now it is time to reach an even higher level of effectiveness, by driving forward the 100-point platform we’ve developed here and achieving still greater progress for animals during the Obama Administration.

You’ll be hearing more from us on all of these reforms, but we’d also like to hear from you. Please write to me, either by offering a comment or sending an email, and tell me what you think should be the top five priorities from this list. Just send in the numbers, in no particular order, and we’ll post the top vote-getters in a couple of weeks, and we’ll be sure to factor your thoughts as we advocate for change. Be sure to forward the blog to other animal protection advocates so we can increase participation in voting and get an accurate picture of which reforms you think are most urgent and important.

January 16, 2009

Talk Back: Puppy Protests

Lots of feedback about last Saturday’s nationwide rallies at 22 Petland stores.

281x144_petland_fairfax_va Most people are terribly disappointed that Petland continues to try to hide behind false claims. Our eight-month investigation exposed the chain as the nation’s largest retail supporter of puppy mills. HSUS investigators visited 21 Petland stores, traced the origins of about 17,000 puppies shipped to the stores, and visited many of Petland’s breeders and suppliers, discovering appalling conditions.

It’s time for Petland to do the right thing—to stop selling puppies from mills and support shelter adoptions instead. And so many have made that clear: tens of thousands of advocates have written letters, advocates are organizing more protests at Petland stores, former customers and employees have spoken out, and even your pets have joined in.

I want to thank all of you who have taken action in this campaign and for your continued support of our work against puppy mills. Here are some of your recent comments.

It was very emotional for me last Saturday to see 30 people brave the elements at the Wheaton, Ill. Petland rally. High school students who had made their own signs, a family of four who held signs and people who all believe in the elimination of puppy mills gathered together! The thumbs up and the horns honking in agreement were many. My husband and I are always amazed when we talk to people who don't know about Petland and/or puppy mills. We still need to do more work on educating the public about pet stores that sell puppies and puppy mills. —Susan Taney

The pictures of all the people standing up and protesting on behalf of puppy mill dogs all around our country makes me very happy! We've been protesting here in N.H. since April this year. We’re out there every other weekend. We need all the people we can get to continue protesting against these pet stores that sell puppies. GREAT JOB EVERYBODY!!! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! If the puppy mill dogs could talk, they'd be thanking you too.... —Sherry Bezanson

Thank you for continuing to fight the fight against puppy mills! I am a volunteer member of a pug rescue organization and know firsthand how horrifying this situation is. Many breeders are closing up shop due to the trying economy and we are doing our best to help as many dogs as we can. It is truly an epidemic. We can't do it alone… we have to rally together! Thanks again. —Lori Swett

Bravo!!! Keep up the good work and let’s shut these despicable mills down for good… —MA Moore

What a great opportunity for Petland! Obama will be adopting his new family dog from a shelter soon. Once he does this, many people will be doing the same. The timing is perfect for Petland to switch their business plan and help with shelter adoptions. People do not understand that the parents of the cute little puppy in the window are living in horrid conditions until they are killed. Stop supporting puppy mills, Petland. —Janie Jenkins, Wilmette, Ill.

Continue reading "Talk Back: Puppy Protests" »