October 2009 Blog Home December 2009

19 posts from November 2009

November 30, 2009

Talk Back: Saved

It was a busy couple of weeks for The HSUS’s Emergency Services team, with back-to-back deployments in Maryland (carriage horses), Quebec (sled dogs) and Tennessee (horses), among others. The news of rescue missions stirred your passions, and you issued encomiums of praise for our staff and volunteers who conducted these actions.

On the ongoing operation in Bradyville, Tenn. where, coordinating with the Cannon County Sheriff's Department, we rescued 84 horses from squalid conditions and continue to work to bring them back to health:

I'm so thankful for the work of the HSUS and the many volunteers who came out to make such a difference in these animals’ lives. Great job everyone! —Debra Martin
This just broke my heart; the horror these wonderful animals had to endure at the hands of lousy humans! I know the horses that were saved and are in the care of caring animal lovers will come along well. Thanks to the Humane Society for all you do!!! —Misty Hay
A big thank you to all staff and volunteers for saving these animals! How could anyone see the condition of these horses day after day and think it's okay? Watching this video and seeing the sorry shape of these horses was heartbreaking. Kudos to the sheriff for arresting these two! Being in Canada, it's hard to physically help, but I gladly help financially when I can. Thank you Wayne for keeping these stories in the forefront as I know many people are not aware of how much cruelty really goes on in our world. —Nancy Ball
I am so glad to see these horses rescued, and what helpful volunteers! I am also glad to see HSUS get on board with wild horses, and their near extinction. Seems like we don't see much about horse issues. Being a horse advocate, I am relieved to see some of these topics exposed to the animal community. —Barb Beck
As tears stream down my face as I watch the video of our fellow creatures, and on the eve of the day of giving thanks, I am thankful for the Humane Society and all who care enough to free God's creatures from suffering. —Caroline Kelly, Athens, Ga.
I can rest in peace knowing my alliance with the HSUS produces such majestic progress. We can all gave thanks for this miraculous rescue. —Aliesha Alexandar

And among your responses to the rescue of approximately 100 neglected sled dogs in Quebec:

Oh my gosh. I grew up with two huskies in our home. Such proud, brave and loving animals. I am so glad you rescued them. I will be writing and alerting my Canadian relatives to support tougher laws in Canada. Thank you for what you've done. —Lenore

Continue reading "Talk Back: Saved" »

November 25, 2009

Toward Greener Pastures for 80 Starving Horses

There really can be no relenting in our efforts at The HSUS because so many animals are at risk. We’ve got to have a marathoner’s endurance to deal with many formidable challenges we face in confronting large-scale institutionalized cruelty. But we must also have the speed of a sprinter to respond to the crises of the day.

Two of 84 neglected horses rescued in Cannon County, Tennessee on Nov. 24
The HSUS/Karla Goodson
Two of the 84 neglected horses rescued Tuesday.

Yesterday, our HSUS team was on the road again, this time in Cannon County, Tennessee, sprinting to the scene of a crime. There, our people worked with the county sheriff’s office and rescued 84 horses, two goats, eight dogs, and 15 chickens from absolutely deplorable and unacceptable conditions.

Today, as we ready ourselves for Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the life-saving work of my colleagues. I am thankful for our partners who help us conduct these operations. And I am thankful to our supporters for giving us the resources and support that we need.

I’ve asked Scotlund Haisley, our senior director of Emergency Services, to provide a dispatch from the field.

The wheels for this rescue were set in motion late last week when the Cannon County Sheriff’s Department and the Department of Agriculture called The HSUS’s Tennessee state director to request our assistance. Apparently a group of local children playing in the woods stumbled upon several dead horses, setting off this entire case. Although our team was still in Canada wrapping up the rescue of 100 sled dogs, we immediately began planning for what we expected to be a very challenging intervention.

We then called in United Animal Nations to provide sheltering support. Invaluable local assistance was provided by Volunteer Equine Advocates and the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. Once this core team was put together we wasted no time coming to the aid of these desperate horses.

One of 84 neglected horses rescued in Cannon County, Tennessee on Nov. 24

This was cruelty on a grand scale.

When our team arrived on scene Tuesday morning we found dozens of horses at the end of their rope; literally struggling to survive (see video). The Tennessee walking horses, spotted saddle horses, and quarter horses were spread across the 120-acre property in barren pastures and a dank barn. The first thing that you notice about these horses is how painfully emaciated they are.

At one time these were robust animals, but now their skin stretches tight over every bone, their bellies are swollen with worms and their hooves have grown so long that the horses are literally walking on their ankles. This was obviously not an easy sight for our team to take in. But worse were the dead horses that we were too late to save.

Once the Sheriff’s Department grasped the seriousness of the situation they obtained a seizure warrant, allowing us to remove every animal from the property. This is when our work truly began. One after another, we led nearly lifeless horses into a long line of waiting trailers.

Almost every one of these horses is suffering from severe emaciation, from a simple lack of food. But I believe today we were able to restore their hope, and it is our goal over the next few weeks to improve their vitality and strength. All 84 horses have been safely transported to our emergency shelter and are being thoroughly evaluated by veterinarians and receiving the care they so desperately need.

As I walked through the stable last night I was struck by the quiet air of contentedness that surrounded me. Animals who began the day in bleak squalor ended it with full bellies and hovering guardians. Some of the horses dozed in their clean, well-bedded stalls, while others munched fervently on sweet hay. One especially vulnerable member of the rescue—a two-day-old foal whose mother is not producing milk—will need feeding every two hours. A team member has taught this little victim to drink from a bottle, and he seems to be perking up.

Many of these horses showed love as if they were once spoiled and praised in an earlier stage of their lives. But by different paths they all made their way to a life of misery on the farm in Cannon County. Today I can feel a weight lifted off my shoulders knowing we are leading them back towards greener pastures.

November 24, 2009

A Wiser Home on the Range for Wild Horses

It’s never enough to pass a law. The agency assigned to enforce the law must work to implement it properly. And for a classic case example of how poor implementation can undermine the original intent of legislation, look no further than the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and its efforts to protect wild horses and burros under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.

Bay horse in grass pasture

Enacted by Congress in 1971, and then amended several times, the purpose of the Act has always been to protect free-roaming herds of wild horses and burros in the West, for their well-being and as living emblems of the western American experience. Yet, despite the intent of Congress, the BLM has shrunk the range of the horses by nearly 20 million acres, rounded up and removed tens of thousands of them, moved them into captive holding facilities, and used its federal appropriations to hold and feed the horses. Through the years, it has also stood by as many of the “adopters” of the horses sent them to slaughter plants for human consumption.

The Obama Administration has said it will resist any effort to allow slaughter—and that is a welcome development. The administration has also pledged to step up the use of contraception—an innovative vaccine and delivery system that The HSUS has long advocated and helped to develop years ago, but that prior Administrations treated as an experimental novelty, not as a practical management tool. And it’s tried to invigorate the adoption program, in order to shrink the captive population and the financial burdens that imposes, and talked about setting up horse sanctuaries in the East, with richer grass, that can sustain horses economically and provide a long-term, comfortable and safe setting for them.

All of that sounds great, and for those elements of the program, we at The HSUS are on board. But the massive roundups and removals of horses must be curtailed. This Administration does not appear prepared to do that—and we are seeing a pattern of behavior similar to prior Administrations. The BLM is on track to round up and remove 12,000 horses next year, and that will inflate the captive population to more than 40,000—well beyond the number of horses on the range. And it will add an incredible 25 percent to the number of horses cared for in holding, which the BLM itself has been warning is taking the program to its breaking point.

I wrote a detailed letter today to Secretary Salazar and told him that this pace of roundups, including a planned roundup of horses at the Calico Complex in Nevada, cannot continue. It is bad for horses and burros, and it is fiscally reckless, with 75 percent of the entire funding for the program going to the care of captive horses. The upward spiral of spending on captive horse management must be turned around, and the only way to do it is to severely restrict the roundups and removals.

The original Act never contemplated 40,000 captive wild horses and the use of funds to care for them. If you look at just spending priorities, it’s become the Captive Horses and Burros Act, yet the original intent of the Act was to keep wild horses on the range and humanely manage their populations. The BLM can do so with the widespread use of contraception, manipulating the sex ratios of herds, and, where possible, expanding the range lands back to their original size.

While in this crisis, roundups and removals should only occur when the welfare of the horses is in immediate jeopardy or when there is a severe ecological problem. And the removals should be carefully monitored to be limited to probable adoption opportunities, at least until the numbers in the long-term holding facilities are significantly reduced. If necessary, the BLM, and the taxpayer, would be better served by providing short-term “sanctuary on the range” programs that provide supplemental feed and water to herds in the wild, until the contraception program can stabilize or shrink the population. The on-the-range management tools should be used to keep their numbers in check, but most importantly to keep them on the range, and reverse the fiscal and animal care disaster that the current treadmill has created.

November 23, 2009

U.S. Fur Sales Lowest in Nearly 20 Years

The animal fur industry fears three things above all else: a mild winter, an economic downturn, and, most of all, an informed consumer. Much to their chagrin, the folks within the industry seem to be facing a perfect storm, and fur-bearing animals may be the lucky beneficiaries.

Fox in cage on fur farm

Analyzing numbers put out by the fur industry, our staff has determined that 2008 sales of animal fur in the United States are the lowest on record since these statistics were first made available in 1991. In addition, a well-known fur industry reporter and analyst is predicting that 2009 fur imports—coats and other items being brought in from China and elsewhere for sale here—will hit their lowest point since 1981.

Especially in this economic climate, it’s hard to think of a more frivolous, offensive, and cruel luxury purchase than a full-length mink coat—which start at $2,000 and go up from there, and start on the production end with the pelts from 40 animals. Now, there’s no excuse for such a purchase—anyone with even a mild level of awareness knows about the cruel realities of fur and the abundance of stylish and functional alternatives to fur.

There’s no getting around the fact that the fur trade is a deplorable industry, whether mink are raised on fur factory farms, foxes are cruelly killed by electrocution, raccoon dogs are skinned alive, or real fur is unlabeled or mislabeled as fake fur.

Remind your friends and family members to be more creative this holiday season than the purchase of a fur for a spouse, companion, or friend. You can help stimulate the economy, get kudos for stellar gift-giving, and spare the animals all at once.

November 20, 2009

Research Proposal: Don't Buy Dogs, Cats from B Dealers

The HSUS looks forward to the end of animal research and testing. One day, innovation and science will make the use of animals obsolete, and I trust that any decent person will welcome the arrival of that day.

In the interim, The HSUS works to curb some of the most excessive abuses of animals for research and testing, including the use of chimpanzees in invasive research. In addition, we’ve long campaigned for the end of some particularly bad enablers of animal research—specifically, Class B animal dealers. The name may sound familiar, as I’ve written before about these middlemen for animal experimentation.

Cat in cage

Class B dealers round up dogs and cats from “random sources,” including flea markets, animal shelters, and “bunchers” (who have been known to steal animals or respond fraudulently to free-to-good-home ads), then peddle the animals to research labs. This cottage industry has a record of more than 40 years of procuring dogs and cats from questionable sources and abusing them on their premises—all before these unfortunate animals go under the knife in research labs.

The system, however, is now on the brink of collapse. When demand for random source dogs and cats (a term for animals not specifically bred for research) was highest in the 1970s and ‘80s, there were approximately 200 Class B dealers. In the ‘90s, the number declined to approximately 100. Today, there are only nine in operation—with six of these under investigation for apparent violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act—plus one dealer sentenced to a 5-year license suspension. Whereas they once sold tens of thousands of dogs and cats to research each year, that number is down to fewer than 3,200.

The vast majority of research facilities now refuse to do business with these shady dealers, but propping up this dying industry are approximately 50 research institutions—mostly universities—that have been laggards in moving away from this disreputable class of animal dealers. This week, The HSUS called out every one of them. We identified them through painstaking analysis of transaction records in nearly a dozen states, coupled with surveys of the research facilities themselves. The HSUS is calling for them to stop patronizing Class B dealers.

If these universities won’t listen to us and our constituents, perhaps they’ll listen to the distinguished National Academy of Sciences, which earlier this year concluded that Class B dealers are unnecessary and that adequately regulating them is impossible. Even the American Physiological Society, which had historically been a prime defender of the Class B system, has now endorsed the Academy’s recommendations.

If the universities don’t do the right thing, we hope that Congress finally takes action, through passage of the Pet Safety and Protection Act (S. 1834/H.R. 3907). We applaud U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) for again leading the effort to eliminate the abuses these people spawn.

Take a look at the full list of universities in question and then please ask them to stop buying from Class B dealers. We’ve made it easy for you to contact them all in one step.

November 19, 2009

Three Stops in Confronting Animal Cruelty

Yesterday, I wrote about our rescue effort in French Canada that delivered nearly 100 dogs from truly miserable living conditions, just before the onset of winter and an even more dangerous time for these creatures. Today, I update you on some other actions we’ve undertaken just this week to turn around bad situations for animals.

In Florida, we responded to a former cat rescue operation gone bad. After receiving a continuous stream of complaints about a cat facility, we assisted local authorities with an investigation and the rescue of more than 600 cats from the property, many of whom were ill and neglected. It was a classic case of good intentions gone awry, where the property owners lost control of the situation and intervention was needed.


Meanwhile, in Kansas, we helped with a cockfighting raid that netted two individuals allegedly involved in the activity, and more than 150 roosters. It’s the first bust in Kansas since we elevated the penalty of cockfighting to a felony in that state—demonstrating yet again that with stronger laws comes enhanced enforcement.

And speaking of enforcement, this week we announced our partnership with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office to launch a 24-hour dogfighting tip line. In the nation’s second largest city, where police battle a wide range of other criminal conduct, we unveiled this new tool and collaborative program to crack down on this vicious crime.

I remind people that there’s not a week that goes by without major new initiatives and outcomes here at The HSUS—work of remarkable diversity, work that prevents cruelty, work that saves lives, work that betters our communities.

It happens only because of our unyielding determination and the support of our members and partners.

November 18, 2009

Race for Survival: Rescue of 100 Sled Dogs

The range of motion for The HSUS’s Emergency Services unit is wide—when you consider the many varieties of crises that animals face, the wild and domesticated animals of all kinds they assist, and the deployment locations. Yesterday, our Emergency Services team and our global arm, Humane Society International, partnered with the SPCA Laurentides-Labelle in the Upper Laurentians region of Quebec to rescue approximately 100 neglected sled dogs. The owner was unable to properly care for his dogs and released them to the SPCA LL. Rebecca Aldworth, our director of HSI/Canada, was part of the intervention and offers this dispatch from the field.

Over the years, I’ve witnessed a lot of animal suffering. But the images from our rescue yesterday of nearly 100 neglected sled dogs in rural Quebec will stay with me for a long time.

One of nearly 100 neglected sled dogs rescued in Quebec
Karla Goodson/The HSUS

The local SPCA had received tips several weeks ago about a large group of huskies chained up in the woods, without adequate food and water. But it was only in recent days that the SPCA was able to pinpoint the location. They immediately called Humane Society International for help. Our Emergency Services team deployed to Quebec, complete with trained animal handlers and a specialized vehicle to remove the dogs.

As we walked onto the property, my heart broke. The huskies had been chained to metal poles and rotting plywood structures, over barren stretches of frozen mud. Hungry and dehydrated, they were unable to move beyond the two-meter radius their chains permitted.

The emaciated huskies began to wag their tails as we approached, barking in excitement. Amidst the noise, one dog sat quietly. I went to him and he too began to wag his tail. I winced as I felt his ribs, so prominent under his fur. Looking closer, I soon realized he was blind—untreated cataracts had taken his sight. Carefully, we walked him to freedom, and the promise of a better life.

We arrived just in time. Winter is coming and many of these dogs—including a number of puppies—may not have survived without our intervention.

Thankfully, our rescue operation was a complete success. One by one, we led or carried the dogs into our Emergency Services vehicle, and transported them to our emergency shelter an hour away—space generously donated by a local businessperson. There, dedicated volunteers from United Animal Nations are providing care, and SPCA Laurentides-Labelle veterinarians have treated and vaccinated the dogs. Once healthy, these deserving dogs will be adopted out to loving homes in Canada and the United States.

As we left the property, we pulled the heavy metal poles out of the ground, pushing over the filthy plywood dog houses. This property, home to misery for so long, will not house this kind of suffering again.

While these huskies are now safe, so many animals across Canada face neglect and abuse. HSI/Canada is advocating for stronger laws at the provincial and federal level, so we can stop this kind of suffering forever.

November 17, 2009

Talk Back: Ohio’s Issue 2, Opposition

Today I share your comments on two posts from last week that take our opponents to task for their effort to retard reform.

Ohio has some of the weakest animal protection laws in the country, and that’s one reason why I traveled there recently to drum up support for new, improved policies. The prospect of a ballot initiative to phase out certain extreme confinement practices on factory farms generated anything but a sympathetic response from the Ohio Farm Bureau and many allies in the Legislature—instead, the group launched a pre-emptive measure designed to block our efforts. Voters there recently approved a measure, Issue 2, to create a powerful livestock board to dictate state agriculture policy. But it’s hardly the last word on the subject.

As an Ohioan, I was very disappointed that Issue 2 passed. I am on board with the HSUS in planning a different strategy. I will do what I can to help this process. —Loretta Sacher
Thanks for all you do for animals! I was at the town hall meeting in Cleveland last night—it was so wonderful to hear about the accomplishments of the HSUS and, like you said, it really does give a person hope for the future. I am looking forward to collecting signatures to get that amendment to Issue 2 on the ballot next year and hopefully enact some meaningful change for farm animals here in Ohio. —Maria Turchek
I want to thank Mr. Pacelle for coming to Cleveland and speaking to us last night. I believe that everybody in the room was quite deflated that Issue 2 had passed. He gave an inspiring talk that made me think about how I can further help the plight of suffering animals. It was comforting to know that the Humane Society is not giving up on Ohio and that the organization will help us work toward providing farm animals some basic life needs. I'm energized and ready to help. Thanks again. —Cynthia Wargo
I just wanted to thank you very much for coming to Cincinnati last night. As an animal advocate, shelter volunteer, and rescuer living in one of the states most backward when it comes to humane protections, it was heartening to hear your broad and expansive animal welfare address. Thank you for the ambitious objectives you are pursuing with the HSUS. I could not be more proud to be affiliated with an organization, aside from my work with our local animal loving community. PLEASE make Ohio a core HSUS focus for assisting our small but vigilant animal organizations here with bringing Ohio into the enlightened era, to legislate harsh punishments for abuse of domestic animals, as well as reforms to protect and better the lives of our food-producing animals. —Heather Harkins
Well, it looks like the Buckeye state has spoken. Animal activists need to remember that the farming community knows how to take care of their animals and the consumers showed you that they trust the farmers through their votes last night. This organization had no intentions of compromising with agriculture so we decided that this was the best course of action. I am sure that you will get the necessary signatures but you will not get the votes next November. Ohio has spoken and this organization should just see how the board is going to work before condemning it. —Theresa Howick

Money talks when it comes to Issue 2 in Ohio. Unfortunately, we are stuck by way of constitution with a committee appointed by the governor, etc., loaded with factory farmers, agriculture, etc. Nothing will change as far as confinement guidelines. We desperately need to pass legislation next year to stop this cruelty in Ohio. —Jeanie

We in Ohio were certainly bamboozled with Issue 2 and hardly had time to campaign against it. The ad for the issue looked SOOOOO inviting and like everyone should vote yes. We had no ad to state our case and therefore it looked like there was no opposition to it and it was okay to vote YES! We need to start now to try to fix what went terribly wrong on Nov. 3 in Ohio. Thanks. —Anita

And on my post about the Center for Consumer Freedom, a corporate front group that attacks individuals and organizations working for social good and seems to be a champion of animal cruelty:

GREAT BLOG! Oh, how I hope this charlatan group falls flat on its face and comes under the fire of one of the big news mouthpieces—60 Minutes, Dateline. They need to be exposed for what they really are and it causes me to choke to think that they actually receive support and funding from legitimate (though very ignorant!) businesses. Keep up the good work! —Susan T.
The extremes to which David Martosko, Rick Berman, and the rest of CCF are going are a sign that compassion and logic are winning. The sick minds who consider life a commodity, who value lives no more than any other balance sheet asset, are feeling threatened. The world is slowly evolving and leaving them behind. In the future, compassion, peace, health, and environmental stewardship will be secure foundations in every sentient beings’ life. We live that way now, and one day maybe even CCF members will join us. —KnowThankYou

Continue reading "Talk Back: Ohio’s Issue 2, Opposition" »

November 16, 2009

An Eagle Eye on Wildlife

Last Friday, I paid a visit to our newest animal care center—the SPCA Wildlife Care Center in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. It’s one of five animal care centers we operate, with three specializing in rescuing and releasing wildlife. It handles nearly 14,000 animals a year, including raptors, raccoons, rabbits, and turtles.

The goal is to nurse animals back to health and then return them to the wild, and on the morning I was there, a Cooper’s hawk was ready for release. He had come in just a couple of days before, and had been knocked unconscious, perhaps having slammed into a window. But the fast-flying bird made a lightning quick recovery, and our team of wildlife veterinarians and release coordinator Greg Adler, pictured in the video, made the judgment that he was ready to be independent again.

Captive settings should be a temporary resting and healing place for animals, except if they have a permanent disability or behavioral condition that precludes their return. So for me, it was a thrill to see this hawk take to the air again (click here to see the video).

Even in crowded south Florida, there is an abundance of wildlife. Human-wildlife encounters are everywhere, and unfortunately some of them result in harm, usually to the animals. The SPCA Wildlife Care Center is there to give the animals a second chance, and to give people a primary education in preventing harmful encounters in the first place. Please do support the work of this center. You can make a dedicated donation by going to this page.

November 13, 2009

Buyer Beware: Cruel Isn't Cool

Courtesy of Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images
The HSUS’ Sarika Reuben, Nigel Barker, and contest winner
Ingrid Bergstrom-Kendrick at the Cool vs. Cruel event.

On Wednesday night, I was at the Bowery Hotel in New York City, co-hosting the awards ceremony for our fur-free campaign's Cool vs. Cruel Competition—a joint project of The Humane Society of the United States and the Art Institutes that recognizes fashion design students who come up with creative alternatives to animal fur. We recognize the top students at the event, and each year, I am so impressed with their work, reminding us yet again that’s there’s just no reason to kill fur-bearing animals for our fashion tastes. And judging from the packed event, it seems there are many in the fashion world who are in agreement. Photographer Nigel Barker, designers Victoria Bartlett and Charlotte Ronson, and editors Mickey Boardman of Paper and Dana Wood of W were just some of the industry professionals in attendance.

In addition to exposing the cruelty associated with obtaining fur, we at The HSUS have also been sniffing out major consumer deception by the fur industry and the retail sector. Our staffers have been uncovering falsely advertised and mislabeled animal fur for a decade, and some of these retailers seem to be unwilling or unable to right the situation. Knowing our members and others don't want to be duped by unlabeled or mislabeled animal fur, we've mounted a determined campaign to fix the problem and promote transparency. We are working diligently to pass a bill in Congress that would require all animal fur be labeled; right now many trimmed items don't say anything about the fur. And our lawsuit against Neiman Marcus, Macy's/Bloomingdales, Lord & Taylor, and Saks Fifth Avenue has cleared its first legal hurdle.

Courtesy of Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images
Wayne Pacelle and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal
at the Cool vs. Cruel event.

New York Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal was one of the guests at Cool vs. Cruel, and she actually went undercover with our staff earlier this year and found some big name retailers were not in compliance with the law she shepherded to passage in New York to require accurate labeling of all garments with fur. It continues to be a major problem, and the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles just worked with us on yet another major exposé of the problem. We recently found again that Neiman-Marcus continues to be a laggard and scofflaw on this issue, and sold animal fur that was described online as faux, deceiving consumers.

Unfortunately, it's still buyer beware out there, so use our guide to telling real from fake fur and our list of which stores and designers are fur-free when you do your shopping.