February 2010 Blog Home April 2010

23 posts from March 2010

March 31, 2010

Court Rejects Meat Industry Attempt to Thwart Regulation

For decades, the federal government has not only allowed the meat industry to self-regulate, but it’s taken the hard-earned tax dollars of Americans to enrich the industry at every turn. At the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it’s historically been a revolving door, with leaders from industry occupying senior posts within the bureaucracy. Through programs often authorized by Congress, and cooked up by industry lobbyists and carried through the legislative process by representatives and senators serving on the agriculture committees on Capitol Hill, USDA has burned a hole in the pockets of American taxpayers by delivering commodity price supports, surplus commodity buy-outs, agricultural research, market promotion programs, and trade promotions and agreements that all benefit agribusiness. Americans hardly get the best service for the investment. Americans continue to be sickened by the tens of thousands every year by eating tainted food. And in addition to producing cheap meat, milk, and eggs, factory farms produce vast amounts of animal cruelty and ground and air pollution.

Downer cow at auction
A downer cow languishes at auction.

The meat processing industry and its allies within the production agriculture sectors have always fought, with hammer and saw, efforts at the federal level to address animal welfare problems within the industry, including the abuse of downers, the failure to require humane slaughter of poultry, the absence of any humane care standards for animals on farms, and the miserable trade in horses for slaughter for human consumption. As far as I can recall, they’ve never supported a single legitimate animal welfare legislative reform.

With a few exceptions—such as legislative bans on tail docking of dairy cows in California and certain confinement practices in Colorado, Maine, Michigan, and Oregon—they’ve generally taken an equally hostile view toward reform at the state level. When it comes to slaughter practices specifically, they typically argue that the states have no authority whatsoever to regulate humane treatment of farm animals and that federal law preempts the imposition of any state standards at federally inspected facilities. Unfortunately for them, the federal courts keep telling them how wrong they are, and that happened again today.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in National Meat Association (NMA) v. Brown, ruled today that the state of California is well within its authority to ban the sale, transport, or purchase of downer cows and pigs. The NMA and the American Meat Institute challenged a 2008 California law, passed in the wake of The HSUS’s investigation at the Westland/Hallmark slaughter plant, and argued that the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) preempts state authority over any aspect of slaughter. The HSUS and other animal welfare groups intervened, and today the court ruled in our favor.

“Regulating what kinds of animals may be slaughtered calls for a host of practical, moral and public health judgments that go far beyond those made in the FMIA,” wrote Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. “These are the kinds of judgments reserved to the states, and nothing in the FMIA requests states to make them on a species-wide basis or not at all. Federal law regulates the meat inspection process; states are free to decide which animals may be turned into meat.”

This is the third straight federal appellate court ruling against the meat industry. Other players in the industry sued to invalidate Illinois and Texas statutes banning the slaughter of horses for human consumption. In response, both the 5th Circuit and the 7th Circuit in separate rulings in 2007 declared it is the prerogative of the states to ban horse slaughter if they so choose. In fact, Judge Alex Kozinski wrote in today’s 9th Circuit ruling, “Its purpose [FMIA] is certainly not to preserve the slaughter of any kind of animals for human consumption.”

Robert Martin, former executive director of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, said it well in his executive summary to the report in 2008: “At the end of his second term, President Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation about the dangers of the military-industrial complex—an unhealthy alliance between the defense industry, the Pentagon, and their friends on Capitol Hill. Now, the agro-industrial complex—an alliance of agriculture commodity groups, scientists at academic institutions who are paid by the industry, and their friends on Capitol Hill—is a concern in animal food production in the 21st century.” The courts and consumers must provide a check on the excesses of industrialized agriculture because it’s not happening by other means.

March 30, 2010

Cockfighting "Cultural"? Some Hawaii Lawmakers Say So

Organized animal fighting is a federal felony, and it is a crime in every state, including Hawaii. Yet, the House Committee on Tourism, Culture and International Affairs in the Hawaii legislature yesterday took the unbelievable step of voting 4-2 in favor of a resolution recognizing cockfighting as a “cultural activity.” The resolution, introduced by state Rep. Joey Manahan and described as a first salvo in an effort to legalize cockfighting, had 260 public communiqués against it and only 20 in favor, but the committee backed it anyway.

Even while the vast majority of people at the hearing were there to express their opposition to cockfighting, there was a group of cockfighting enthusiasts. Keoni Andrews of Kalihi told the ABC television affiliate that “People of culture should be allowed to have various aspects of their culture recognized. Japanese have bon dancing. Nobody would think of denying Japanese bon dancing." Lloyd Marshall of Waianae said he raises fighting cocks, even though that is a federal felony. “I am sick and tired of them calling us a bunch of hoodlums when we are doing what we enjoy doing," he apparently told the press.

Injured bird at a cockfighting operation
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
An injured bird at a cockfighting operation.

These arguments are as flimsy as they come. There is indeed something wonderful about the preservation of cultural practices. But there are limits. Bon dancing does not leave anyone dead after the song ends. As for Mr. Marshall’s comments about his own pursuit of enjoyment, I’d simply say there are some people who enjoy engaging in criminal behavior. At the same time, enjoyment is not the test for keeping something legal.

A wide array of animal abusers use the smokescreen of culture as a defense for their depravity, whether they are bullfighters, dogfighters, or seal clubbers. It is just amazing that a group of elected officials—albeit a small group of four individuals—would provide a defense for a group of known, professional lawbreakers who enjoy the sight of animals trying to hack each other to death and like to gamble on the outcome.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time that Hawaii’s political leaders have exhibited schizophrenia on cockfighting. The state has year after year rejected upgrades to one of the weakest anti-cockfighting laws in the country. Hawaii is one of just 11 states without felony-level penalties for the crime. And the city council of Honolulu hired a leader in the cockfighting underworld for $60,000 a year to deal with rooster complaints. It is the neighbors of cockfighters who complain most loudly about the practice, partly because of the endless crowing by the roosters. The city council’s personnel choice is astonishing. It is akin to hiring a dogfighter to deal with barking and dangerous dogs—not the sort of person who is going to be proactive and solve the problems. On the contrary, he may see the job as a recruitment opportunity and work to entice new members to join the state gamefowl breeders association.

Rep. Manahan is a native of the Philippines, where cockfighting is openly practiced. But if that nation or any nation sanctioned child abuse or sexual molestation, we would not find the cultural argument the least bit persuasive. We have our own rules and codes of conduct in the United States, and cockfighting like many other forms of abuse does not make the cut. The fact is, cockfighting is opposed by people of all ethnic backgrounds; our polling in state after state shows that overwhelming majorities of Asians, Hispanics, African-Americans, and Caucasians all oppose animal fighting. It's just that a small number of scofflaws from every demographic group are all too happy to strap knives to the heels of roosters and bet on which bird will kill the other.

This resolution in defense of cockfighting now goes to the Hawaii House Judiciary Committee. Surely the members of the Judiciary Committee will have better political instincts, and will not only reject any celebration of this animal cruelty crime, but will also advance legislation to upgrade the anemic penalties. Our Hawaii state director Inga Gibson and our members in Hawaii will be there to make sure that they do.

March 29, 2010

In Ag Industry, Missouri Puppy Mills Have New No. 1 Fan

The most reactionary agribusiness groups falsely claim The HSUS is extreme, even though the reforms we work for in animal agribusiness relate almost exclusively to giving animals a modest amount of increased space during production and providing more humane handling during transport and slaughter. Those are just common sense principles, and we continue to have success in our campaigns through the ballot initiative process or in our dealings with major food retailers because average Americans consider the reforms to be sound and sensible. All the public attitude surveys I’ve seen, including those commissioned by the American Farm Bureau Federation, reveal that Americans demand the humane treatment of all animals, including those raised for food.

Dogs in cage at puppy mill
Michelle Riley/The HSUS

It’s actually these agribusiness groups acting like extremists. And there’s no better example than what’s going on in Missouri right now. There, The HSUS, the ASPCA, the Humane Society of Missouri, and the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation are the four organizational sponsors of a ballot measure, the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, to set higher welfare standards in dog breeding. It’s an attempt to crack down on the excesses in Missouri, which accounts for more than a third of all puppy production in the country. The ballot measure—which will qualify for the November 2010 election if enough Missouri voters sign the petition—would impose standards that dogs must be fed and watered, protected from extremes of heat and cold, housed in enclosures other than stacked wire cages, provided with space for exercise, and guaranteed at least one annual check-up from a licensed veterinarian. The measure would not apply to any commercial breeder with 10 or fewer reproductively intact animals, and it would not allow a single dog breeding operation to have more than 50 intact animals—which would still allow a single operator to sell upwards of 200 dogs a year.

As Matt Campbell reported yesterday in the Kansas City Star, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Missouri Farm Bureau, and the Missouri Pork Association are in a froth over the ballot measure to combat puppy mills, even though the measure has absolutely nothing to do with animal agriculture or their industries. They oppose it because it could lead, they are arguing, to future reforms in the realm of livestock agribusiness. The fact is, enacting a measure to crack down on puppy mills does nothing, one way or the other, to affect future legislation on any animal welfare topic, including reforms in the livestock industry.

It’s déjà-vu in Missouri for me. About 12 years ago, we worked with local partners in Missouri on a ballot initiative to outlaw the barbaric practice of cockfighting. The livestock groups trotted out the same false arguments then and opposed that measure, too, because they said it would be a slippery slope to banning all animal agriculture and hunting. Well, voters approved that measure in a landslide vote in November 1998, and there have been no hunting or factory farming ballot measures in Missouri advanced by The HSUS or anyone else since that time. Their claims were false, and the evidence is there to prove it.

So here’s the question: With animal agribusiness trade groups effectively working to block legislation to outlaw cockfighting and puppy mills—and in the past, they have also fought the enactment of even the most basic anti-cruelty legislation—should we really have confidence that they are a force for animal welfare within their industry? If they have no problem with staged animal fights, or if they have no problems with the rampant cruelty we’ve documented time and again at puppy mills, do they really merit the public’s faith in either their judgment or their own animal welfare standards and practices? With certain factory farming producers also defending the lifelong confinement of animals in cages and crates barely larger than the animals’ bodies, the strangling of animals on the farm, and the dragging of sick and lame animals unable to walk into slaughterhouses, I’ll let you answer that for yourself. For me, it hardly inspires my trust.

March 26, 2010

Faith in Caring for Animals and the Environment

Concern for animals is Biblical, Dr. Matthew Sleeth told me during a 30-minute interview I recently conducted by telephone. Christine Gutleben, The HSUS’s director of Faith Outreach, told me I must talk to this brilliant and passionate Evangelical Christian, and I was absolutely energized by our discussion. A former physician, Dr. Sleeth left medicine behind to devote himself to healing others in a different way. Importantly for The HSUS, which has a rich tradition of clerical leadership, he is at the forefront of an emerging movement within contemporary American Evangelical Christianity that is reclaiming Christianity’s history of animal protection.

The Gospel According to the Earth by Matthew Sleeth

Sleeth lives in Kentucky with his wife and two children, but travels a considerable amount of time to minister to tens of thousands of people about Christian principles and the importance of caring for animals and all of God’s creation. On March 30, his latest book, “The Gospel According to the Earth,” will be published, and it is certain to have an impact in drawing more people of faith to the cause of humane concern.

"What we do to animals, we do to ourselves,” he told me. And, as a man of deep faith, he reminds us, “If we don’t care for animals, we let God down.”

Dr. Sleeth’s new book will be one of the resources in our Faith Outreach program’s St. Francis Day in a Box campaign (a multimedia tool kit for clergy and faith community leaders), and he has also provided us with an exclusive link to his stirring 10-minute video, “Hope for Creation: Animals,” which you can watch here.

Founder of Blessed Earth, an educational nonprofit dedicated to promoting better stewardship, Dr. Sleeth is bringing awareness of animal cruelty to faith communities nationwide with an incredible blend of passion and a deep understanding and familiarity with the Bible. On April 21, the eve of Earth Day, his organization will host an international simulcast from Northland Church in Orlando, Fla. that thousands of churches nationwide are expected to tune into. A short HSUS video will be shown during the beginning of the broadcast.

I mentioned that some prominent writers within the field of animal protection have argued that the Judeo-Christian tradition has been harmful to the cause. “They are not reading the Bible,” he told me. “Concern for animals is Biblical, and we don’t get a choice on this. We have a responsibility. There are patterns in the Bible that illustrate care for animals. Moses, Joseph, Jacob, you can see that they take care of their animals. I share these stories when I am speaking.”

He told me that young people are hearing his message, and he said they get the connection between food and their faith—that it is one of the ways they connect their faith to the daily lives and activities. “I am in churches and colleges, and for a college student, food is everything. When I talk about food, and how it gets from the farm to the cafeteria, they are horrified. Talking about food creates an immediate connection.”

Matthew Sleeth, Evangelical Christian, author and founder of Blessed Earth

Dr. Sleeth grew up on a dairy farm, and he laments the trend toward intensification in animal agriculture. “The way that we treated animals is very different from today,” he said, in arguing against the confinement of animals on factory farms and the treatment of animals as little more than meat-, milk-, and egg-producing machines. “When considering how we feed and house animals, we should remember that Christ was born among farm animals. He spent his first night in a manger. Jesus is often called the Good Shepherd. The first visitors to attend him took care of sheep.”

Sleeth mentioned Deuteronomy 25:4, perhaps one of the best known biblical passages about animal care: “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.” He explained that it would be cruel to have an animal help to make grain and to deny the creature a taste of it, and went on to say that agricultural practices that please God are not about short-term profits but about showing our love for his creation.

I mentioned the ballot initiative campaign in Ohio, backed by The HSUS, that would phase out confinement systems that essentially immobilize animals for their entire lives. I told him that one of the major arguments from the agricultural community is that they cannot switch to more humane systems because of cost, even if it is just mildly more expensive to treat the animals better. “It costs more to do the right thing, and it always does,” he said. “When you have the mindset to have the cheapest price, you end up with slavery and animal cruelty. We choose to make the society we want.”

March 25, 2010

CITES Summary: Wildlife Win Some, Lose Some

Last November, I wrote about our efforts to crack down on the international wildlife trade. I focused in particular on our preparation for the fifteenth meeting of nations participating in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Doha, Qatar. The meeting ended today, and the results were mixed, I am sorry to say. Still, I am pleased to report that we achieved new or improved protection for dozens of species affected by international trade. As a result, tens of thousands of individual animals will stay in the wild each year instead of being captured or killed.

Ray Eubanks/Fund for Animals Wildlife Center

Gaining CITES protection from the international exotic pet trade are four species of critically endangered spiny-tailed iguanas from Honduras and Guatemala, five species of Central American tree frogs, and a critically endangered species of salamander from Iran known as Kaiser’s newt. You see, we at The HSUS care for all of God’s creatures, no matter how low they rate on the charisma scale.

The CITES Parties rejected proposals from Zambia and Tanzania to reduce CITES protection for their populations of African elephants and to trade in ivory, and also voted down a proposal from the United States to eliminate CITES protection for the bobcat, 50,000 of which are trapped and their fur exported annually.

New initiatives to protect dwindling wild tiger populations were adopted, including a renewed call for countries that allow breeding of tigers for commercial trade in their parts and products, like China, to phase out such activities, and new measures to address poaching and illegal trade of rhinos were approved. CITES Parties also rejected proposals to allow international trade in captive-bred birds of 15 threatened and endangered parrot species, including the yellow-shouldered macaw, great green macaw, Moluccan cockatoo and yellow-crested cockatoo (all listed on CITES Appendix I, which are species that cannot be commercially traded under normal circumstances).

But there were setbacks—some tremendously disappointing. European Union opposition was decisive in the defeat of a strong U.S. proposal to list the polar bear on Appendix I, which would have banned international commercial trade in polar bear parts such as skin rugs. Currently, about 300 adult polar bears are killed each year and their parts traded internationally. Polar bear numbers are predicted to decline by two-thirds in the next 40 years due to melting sea ice habitat, and trade in their parts is compounding trouble for the giant bears.

Unfortunately, too, strong opposition from Japan, China and their allies defeated every single proposal for commercially valuable marine species, including the hammerhead shark, whitetip shark, porbeagle shark, spiny dogfish shark, bluefin tuna, and pink and red corals. For these species, economic interests trumped serious and well-documented conservation concerns, casting doubt on whether future CITES proposals for similar species would stand a chance of achieving the necessary support.

Our CITES team also expressed concerns that at this meeting politics edged out precaution for many of the proposals seeking greater protections for animals. It’s a trend we’ll work to reverse.

Our HSUS team of wildlife scientists and experts prepare for months in advance of the meeting and they ably represent the interests of wildlife throughout the world. It’s part of our commitment to all animals. The next CITES meeting will be in 2013 in Thailand. You can count on The HSUS and our global arm, Humane Society International, to be there.

March 24, 2010

How The HSUS Helps Local Shelters

Since The HSUS’s founding in 1954 we have been clear about our mission: tackling the large-scale cruelties beyond the reach of local humane societies. But our direct care activities are also unequaled in the field of American animal protection. In 2009, more than 70,000 animals received hands-on care through HSUS sanctuaries, rehabilitation centers, mobile veterinary clinics, emergency response programs, and sponsored spay/neuter events. When you combine our hands-on animal care with our programs that support local animal shelters, The HSUS spends more than $20 million annually. One of our many goals is to further the work of local shelters and to end pet homelessness, and that work takes many forms.

Cat at animal shelter
Michelle Riley/The HSUS

In the 1970s, shelters across America euthanized 12-20 million dogs and cats when there were 67 million pets in people's homes. Today, nearly 4 million animals are euthanized in shelters annually, while there are more than 171 million dogs and cats in people's homes. Great strides are being made, but we still have a ways to go. U.S. shelters cannot save and support the huge numbers of accidental litters, strays, and family pets brought to their doors every day. For the animals who do not get a second chance, the situation is dire. We must strike at the roots of this problem.

The HSUS celebrates the life-saving work of our colleagues and partners on the local level and supports them in their efforts to save pets. Coming up May 12-15 in Nashville, Tenn., we’ll host Animal Care Expo, the preeminent education and trade show for animal shelter professionals and volunteers. In addition to our workshops on animal sheltering, fundraising, emergency response, and more, this year we’ve added an entire track on equine protection and Emmylou Harris will join us for an exciting Welcome Session to kick off the conference, speaking about her experience in animal rescue.

But Animal Care Expo is just one of the many ways we help local animal care organizations every day. Ending pet homelessness takes a multi-prong approach and The HSUS will be there every step of the way, as we have been for more than 50 years. Here are a few of the other ways we support the work of local shelters and rescues in their efforts to make the world a safer and better one for our cherished companion animals:

  • Our award-winning Animal Sheltering magazine is the only print journal devoted exclusively to animal care professionals and volunteers—from humane society directors and city animal control managers to kennel staff, volunteers, and private individuals working as advocates, breed rescuers, wildlife rehabbers, veterinarians, and more. We also offer publications on a variety of topics and multimedia tools to help shelters and rescues improve their work for shelter animals and their outreach to the community.
  • animalsheltering.org is widely considered to be the most comprehensive online resource for shelter professionals and volunteers, with a multitude of information on animal care topics from A to Z.
  • Our Shelter Evaluation Program provides affordable, in-depth animal shelter evaluations to shelters across the country, and our Shelter Services staff respond annually to almost 3,000 constituent emails, phone calls and letters with guidelines and recommendations on shelter standards, care, and operations.
  • The HSUS has partnered with the Ad Council, Maddie’s Fund, and the entire sheltering community on The Shelter Pet Project, a national public service advertising campaign to encourage pet lovers throughout the country to make shelters their first choice for acquiring companion animals. This is the first national PSA campaign to bring together the largest animal welfare organizations and shelters across the country for the unified goal of increasing pet adoption and ending the euthanasia of healthy and treatable homeless dogs and cats. The PSAs have been distributed to more than 33,000 media outlets nationwide and resulted in millions of dollars worth of advertising—an unprecedented level of exposure for pets and shelters.
  • Our Pets for Life New York City program, based at New York City Animal Care and Control, is a relinquishment prevention program to help people who have come to the shelter as a last resort. Our coordinators and volunteers offer advice on everything from controlling pet-related allergies to resolving landlord-tenant conflicts. As a result of these proactive efforts, 3,000 pets have stayed with their families—and out of New York City animal shelters.
  • The HSUS is working tirelessly to expand public access to affordable, high-quality spay/neuter services. We’ve invested millions in our Gulf Coast Spay/Neuter Project, helping to develop low-cost spay and neuter programs throughout Louisiana and Mississippi and driving pet owners to these services through multi-media advertising. The program has been so successful that we’re planning to take it to other states and have made the marketing materials available for other organizations to use and customize for their communities.
  • The HSUS also runs the world’s largest annual spay/neuter event: Spay Day. This year, the Spay Day Online Pet Photo Contest raised $527,000 to support the lifesaving spay/neuter programs of The HSUS, Humane Society International, and more than 200 participating animal shelters and organizations around the world. So far, 40,532 cats, dogs and other animals were spayed or neutered around the world in conjunction with Spay Day 2010.
  • Throughout the year, our Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association staff and volunteers work around the globe bringing no-cost spay/neuter and other veterinary services to rural communities where regular veterinary care is not available. In 2009 the HSVMA Field Services unit conducted spaying and neutering surgeries and/or wellness examinations for more than 8,000 animals, at an estimated value of $1,271,400.
  • We provide disaster assistance, including on-the-scene leadership in the collection and care of animals during crises. Plus, The HSUS assists in the rebuilding of animal shelters damaged in disasters, and supplements local budgets for unexpected disaster expenses. In recent years, these support efforts have channeled millions of urgently needed dollars to local animal shelters. From 2005-2007, we gave $20.7 million in grants to dozens of other organizations in need of such support. Our foreclosure grants funded programs across the country designed to help struggling families hold on to their pets. And this year we’ll debut another life-saving grant opportunity for sheltering and care organizations.
  • Humane Society University offers a wealth of classes for shelter leaders and staff. And we continue to offer dozens of on-site workshops and online courses on disaster animal response training, emergency animal sheltering, compassion fatigue, trap-neuter-release, the animal cruelty-human violence connection, solving conflicts with wildlife, and other topics.

March 23, 2010

Talk Back: 400 Rescue Tails

The HSUS is active on so many fronts—passing public policies to protect animals and helping to enforce the laws, encouraging corporations to include animal welfare as part of their commitment to social responsibility, and educating the public about animal issues and engaging them in solutions. What’s more, we provide direct care to more animals than any other organization in the nation—through our five animal care centers, the management of wildlife habitats in 40 states through our Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, our Humane Wildlife Services programs, our spay/neuter operations in the United States and abroad, our rural area veterinary services work, and our emergency response deployments. Earlier this month, The HSUS traveled to three states over four days to give a second chance to nearly 400 dogs and cats living in deplorable conditions. Today I post some of your responses to these missions.

About the rescue of 90 dogs from a puppy mill in New Jersey and 120 cats from a suspected hoarding situation in Tennessee:

Where would these beloved creatures be without the help of the Humane Society. As a shelter worker, it is beyond my comprehension why as a society we continue to allow these puppy mills to prosper. While local governments are strapped, I would like to see more national legislation address these issues. That is one cause that I would appreciate my tax dollars at work. Thanks HSUS! —Lois Silvanovich
These darn puppy mills are exactly why there is overpopulation. There needs to be a law to shut these factories down. It's just horrible. —MAE777
My husband and I give donation money to HSUS every month. We know that this money will help so many animals that have been abused in some form or another. These poor animals have done nothing wrong, and they deserve so much better. People ask me all the time, why do you spend so much of your time and money helping animals—they're just animals! I help them because I love them. —Cynthia Viar

Kathy Milani

And in response to our removal of 180 dogs and three cats from a squalid, overwhelmed nonprofit organization in Mississippi:

Wonderful work getting these poor animals out of this horrible environment. Your endless compassion and commitment truly shines. Though the photos are sad, knowing that these animals will receive a second chance is heartwarming. Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you do. —Sonja, Arizona
The picture that you posted, taken by Kathy Milani, of the dog about to be rescued by an HSUS worker—the dog is licking the HSUS man's nose through the cage as another dog looks on in approval—well that's just the most precious picture I've seen, and to me it represents everything the HSUS stands for and all that the HSUS does to help animals caught in miserable plights such as this. Thank you for rescuing the dogs and cats at Raven's Hope in Mississippi, and for all the rescues done by the HSUS every day of the year. You are truly doing God's work. —Bonnie Shulman
HSUS, you never cease to amaze me! Your rescue team is truly the BEST and please thank them for all their hard work. It is always so wonderful to see the animals treated with such love and kindness from your rescue team! They truly are wonderful, kindhearted souls and when I saw these pictures and the update it once again warmed my heart to know there are such great people out there to help our animals in need. May God bless all involved in these rescues and the animals too! —Karen Wagner
Sadly, this is just one of your stories of saving animals from deplorable conditions. Just looking at the pictures is sickening, I can't imagine animals or humans living like this and thinking it's OK. I want to send a big thank you to all the rescuers involved and to the HSUS for taking fast action on this and so many other stories you've shared with us. My heart fills with pride every time I see these pictures of animals being saved—great job...again! —Nancy Ball
Thank you so much for all you do. I can see my donations working in the rain and mud. —Vicki W.

March 22, 2010

Animal Ovations: Our 24th Genesis Awards Winners

At The HSUS, our mission statement is “Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty,” but a corollary principle is celebrating people who do remarkable things for animals. The Genesis Awards is built around that idea, specifically by recognizing people in the media and entertainment industry who incorporate animal protection themes in their reporting and creative works.

Genesis Awards Lifetime Achievement Award winner Tippi Hedren with HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle
Long Photography
Lifetime Achievement awardee Tippi Hedren.

At the event Saturday night in Beverly Hills, Teri Hatcher, Keely and Pierce Brosnan, Jon Lovitz, Kristen Bell, and about 20 other presenters handed out awards to winners in 19 categories. The winners are listed below, and among them were “The Cove” for documentary film, “Bones” in dramatic series, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” for talk show, and “Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell” for TV newsmagazine.

I was also so pleased to provide our Lifetime Achievement Award to my friend Tippi Hedren. Tippi has devoted so much of her adult life to the cause of animal protection, and together we worked very hard to pass the Captive Wildlife Safety Act in 2003. That legislation banned the interstate transport of big cats for the pet trade, and Tippi’s life work to rescue big cats from these situations provided plenty of evidence of the ill effects of this trade on big cats and often on the people who handle them. Tippi’s daughter, Melanie Griffith, provided the introduction, and her son-in-law, Antonio Banderas, was on hand for the ceremony, too.

If you are on Facebook, keep an eye on The HSUS's fan page, where we'll soon be posting some behind the scenes video and photos with stars and award winners. You can also follow us on Twitter to get frequent updates from HSUS events like the Genesis Awards.

Tippi Hedren

(tie) "Hotel for Dogs" - Dreamworks Pictures, Nickelodeon Movies
(tie) "Up" - Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios

"The Cove" - Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions, Oceanic Preservation Society


"Family Guy," Dog Gone - FOX TV Animation, Fuzzy Door Productions, 20th Century FOX

"Bones," The Tough Man in the Tender Chicken - FOX

Continue reading "Animal Ovations: Our 24th Genesis Awards Winners" »

March 19, 2010

Alaska's Aerial Gunning of Wolves Should Be Grounded

I’ve always had a special feeling for wolves, even before I was lucky enough to spend several months at Isle Royale National Park in Michigan in the mid-1980s. There, wolves have lived on the 210-square-mile archipelago since they crossed an ice bridge in the 1950s, and they survive by killing moose. The predator-prey dynamics have long been studied there by professional scientists, and one of many lessons we’ve learned from this study is that wolves don’t wipe out their prey base, even on a small island. Because it is a national park, there is no killing of wolves or moose by hunters or other people.

Wolf in snow

Maybe it’s my particular affection for wolves that causes me to be so outraged by the state of Alaska’s aerial wolf gunning program which resumed this week. After a fresh coating of snow to make the aerial spotting and shooting even easier, personnel from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game took to fixed winged aircraft and helicopters to kill large numbers of wolves in the upper Yukon-Tanana region near Tok—with the goal of killing 80 percent of the wolves in the region. It’s not done because the wolves in this area threaten livestock or people; in fact, there are hardly any people, and no livestock, in this vast wild area. The offense: wolves doing what wolves do—they hunt and kill caribou and moose in order to survive. It would be like Isle Royale officials killing the wolves on the islands because they kill moose, even though that’s the only option the animals had. It’s madness, and it underscores so much that’s wrong with modern wildlife management today.

Many state fish and wildlife agencies cater to sport hunting enthusiasts by managing deer, elk, moose, and caribou for elevated population levels. They treat wild areas as open-area wildlife game ranchers, viewing wild ungulates like cattle and sheep, and killing the predators that threaten them—just like ranchers do. More predation by wolves, bears, or mountain lions means fewer game animals for hunters to shoot. They’ve got an economic stake in the matter: with inflated populations of hoofed game mammals, they can sell more hunting licenses and generate revenue for their bureaucracy.

The Protect America’s Wildlife Act, H.R. 3381 by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and S. 1535 by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), would close the loophole in the federal Airborne Hunting Act and stop the destructive actions of state officials in Alaska. It’s a good time to call your elected officials in Washington and remind them to cosponsor this legislation.

March 18, 2010

He’s Our Winner, Dagnabit

Dagnabit, a rescued dog in a wheelchair from New Orleans, La., has captured the grand prize in the Judged Category of the 2010 Spay Day Online Pet Photo Contest. It’s no wonder the judges were moved by his story—in his previous home Dagnabit’s ears had been cut off and he may have been forced into dogfighting. Then, after Kim Dudek helped to rescue him in 2004, he required emergency surgery for three ruptured discs in his back.

Dagnabit, grand prize winner in the Judged Category of the 2010 Spay Day Online Pet Photo Contest
Rescued dog Dagnabit. See all the winners>>

Post-surgery, Dagnabit became immobile and dejected. But Kim was determined to see him recover and, after treatment with a canine massage practitioner, a veterinarian acupuncturist, and a veterinarian specializing in chiropractic and homeopathic medicine, Dagnabit was able to stand again. A wheelchair was made special for him and, while Dagnabit’s winning photo was taken during his rehabilitation, we’re pleased to learn that he’s now out of the wheelchair and learning to walk again.

Dagnabit’s photo was one of more than 32,000 submitted to this year’s contest, which all told raised $527,000 to support the lifesaving spay/neuter programs of The HSUS, Humane Society International, and nearly 300 local animal shelters and organizations around the world. In the Fundraisers Category the top vote-getting photo—of Ciao, a former gas station dog in Bucharest, Romania—raised more than $32,000 for Romania Animal Rescue Inc.

Take a few minutes to browse our Judged Category winners and Fundraisers Category winners. Then get your cameras ready for 2011.