November 2010 Blog Home January 2011

21 posts from December 2010

December 30, 2010

1,000 Reasons to Celebrate

We’ve reached a milestone here at HSUS. In 2008 we launched our Puppy Friendly Pet Stores program – to encourage pet-shop retailers to make it their corporate policy not to sell puppies and to educate interested customers about how to get a puppy from a shelter or reputable breeder instead. Some years ago, PetSmart and Petco – the two largest retailers in the sector – took the lead in shunning the sale of dogs. They realized they didn’t need to sell dogs and cats to make a profit, and they showed a new way.

dog Following their lead, HSUS launched a campaign to have the entire industry embrace this business model, and grassroots advocates joined in. I am pleased to say we just signed on our 1,000th Puppy Friendly Pet Store – an accomplishment that I thought would be months or even a year ahead. When a store signs our Puppy-Friendly Pet Store pledge, it promises not to sell puppies. Each store also receives a sign proclaiming, "We love puppies; that's why we don't sell them," to display in the store and free materials for their customers about how to adopt or find a pet from a humane source. 

Please join me in making a New Year's resolution to shop only at pet stores and Internet sites that don’t sell puppies, such as our Puppy-Friendly Pet Stores, which can be found in more than 40 states. Look up your local puppy friendly pet stores by state at You can also email us at and we’ll be in touch with you about how you can help expand this important program.

December 29, 2010

The Bull with a Lion’s Heart

The HSUS has the nation’s only unit devoted exclusively to combating illegal animal fighting crimes.  And this past August, we responded when 200 dogs from a suspected fighting operation were discovered by law enforcement in southeast Ohio. We helped to secure the surrender of the dogs and are now working with local authorities on a criminal prosecution. 

Daisy Balawejder/Hello Bully.
Despite his background, Ferdinand is a gentle soul.

For more than two months after the surrender, we worked with rescue volunteers to care for the dogs in a temporary shelter and—since that time—more than 140 have been placed in foster care, with a shelter, or in an adoptive home (in October I told you about an all-night journey HSUS staff undertook to transport 18 of the dogs to various locations along the East Coast). The HSUS supports the evaluation of every animal confiscated from a fighting operation—a policy change we adopted in light of the rehabilitation of many of the dogs from the Michael Vick case.  And it was the approach we took in the handling of the animal survivors of the Ohio bust.
This great success story would not have been possible without the many staff and volunteers from Hello Bully, a pit bull advocacy, education, and rescue group based in Pittsburgh. They worked beside us every day at the shelter, and they continue to foster dogs from the case. I’ve asked Daisy Balawejder, president of Hello Bully, to give us an update. From Daisy:
The 200 dogs rescued from Ohio lived almost their entire lives at the end of a chain. This goes against everything a dog needs to be a well-socialized, well-adjusted dog. Somehow, against all odds, the dogs we have from the “Ohio 200” are everything wonderful pet dogs should be. They behave as though they were built with the singular purpose of loving people.
One of these dogs is the aptly named Ferdinand the Bull. (Ferdinand the Bull is the main character in “The Story of Ferdinand,” the 1936 children’s book about a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight in bullfights.)

When we met him in Ohio, he was very timid and overwhelmed—so much so that he could not stand upright and walk. Instead, he would belly-crawl. Within one minute of meeting this dog, we realized what heart he had. He would crawl to every single person in sight.
When Ferdinand came to Pittsburgh and became a more confident dog, we noticed there was something off in his gait. We took him to a veterinary specialist and found he had luxating patellas in both of his knees. Thanks to a grant from The HSUS and donations from Hello Bully supporters, on Dec. 20, Ferdinand had his first surgery to repair this painful condition. He is recovering in comfort in his foster home, and we expect to schedule his second surgery in February.
Since his rescue, Ferdinand has graduated from obedience class, started work toward his Canine Good Citizen title, and found a wonderful foster family that is helping him on his journey to finding a forever home. 

December 28, 2010

Thanks to You, Animal Survivors Thrive in 2010

Preventing cruelty is The HSUS’s number one charge.  But we also rush in to help animals in crisis, typically when local groups don’t have the resources to handle large numbers of animals in dire circumstances.

One of the most rewarding parts of our work is seeing the happy faces of formerly abused animals in their new homes. Getting to this stage is no easy task; each HSUS emergency response operation begins with countless hours of research, resource gathering, collaboration, and grunt work.

Plum was rescued from a dogfighting operation.
Anne Sterling/The HSUS
Plum was rescued from a dogfighting operation.

The actual rescue itself can be harrowing and exhausting. But in the end, it’s the support of local rescue groups and foster homes that helps us complete the mission, ensuring that every adoptable animal has a safe place to rest his or her head at night.

In 2010, The HSUS intervened in more than 50 puppy mills, animal fighting operations, animal hoarding situations, and the like. Of the thousands of animals rescued, each has his or her own unique story. Over the past few weeks, I’ve shared the survival stories of Boomer, Powell and Second Chance.

There’s also Gremlin, a sweet but completely deaf pit bull rescued from a dogfighting operation, who’s now learning sign language in her foster home!

Another one is Sugar the schnauzer, whose fur was such a matted mess when we found her living in filth that we couldn’t even identify her breed at first. 

Possibly the smallest survivors are the 2,000 rats rescued from a hoarder in California. (If you’ve got a soft spot for these small pets, see how you can help the army of volunteers still caring for them in foster homes.) 

I hope you enjoy seeing how these and some of our other rescued animals from 2010 are spending the holidays. And take heart in the animals you’ve helped us save this year, as we look ahead to fulfilling our charge to do more of this work in the next.

December 24, 2010

Holiday Greetings and Gratitude

It’s a tradition this time of year to pause and reflect. It’s also a time to look ahead. For me, it’s a moment to convey my pride in you—in each of you who stood up for animals in 2010.

I begin by expressing my great pride in the staff of The Humane Society of the United States. These colleagues are special, and I mean it. They are up early. They labor into the night. They carry their concerns into the small pockets of spare time that exist in their lives. They do it because they understand if they don’t stay focused and give everything they can, somewhere an animal will pay the price.

If you want to know a little more about people who work here, take a look at the off duty series on our website. You’ll see what I mean about devotion.

Please join with me when I say to them well done.

Dog rescued from puppy mill
Michelle Riley/The HSUS

Looking beyond this organization, I express my profound pride in those of you—so many countless legions of you—who are on the front-lines of combating cruelty.

You volunteer to help rescue and care for animals in need. You argue the case for kindness at every chance—whether speaking with your neighbors or with policy makers. You consider animals a priority in your consumer choices. You vote compassionately on election day. You don’t take a pass or turn your heads when suffering stood in the path.

In other words, you take action. And that action, multiplied millions of times over, is making ours a better society. That’s not rhetoric. That’s fact.

I think about those of you who labored in Missouri to qualify and then secure passage of Prop B. Thanks to you, there will be puppy mill dogs who see a veterinarian for the first time in their lives. There will be dogs who have a shelter over their heads to protect them from rain or sleet for the first time.

I think of all who defend animals on message boards and blogs and in newspaper letters and at town halls. Your voices ring true.

I think of the multitudes of Americans, coast to coast, and the citizens of other nations who generously support our work for animals with your donations. And our files are full of testimonials to just the kinds of people you are. Allow me to share two items from a bulletin board that our Membership department maintains.

Here is the first, a note by one of our Membership staff: Received a call from her mother, and Debra is in her late 20s and has brain and lung cancer. But she LOVES animals. She needed to stop the $50 monthly pledge. But she wants a new authorization form to donate $25 a month.

Debra, our prayers are with you.

Here is the second: Dear Humane Society, I am sad about the bears used as bait. I am giving you 33.03 from my pigy (sic) bank to protect the bears. Thank you for helping the bears. LOVE, Andie.

Andie, I’m matching your $33.03 and asking 10 friends to do the same. You’re right, the bears deserve our help.

Friends, this is real stuff. It matters. It matters by the ones and the twos, by the $33.03 and by the millions.

There is a moral line etched across the expansive terrain of our culture. It is a bright line, not the least fuzzy. On one side are those who care about how we treat animals—because this is a fundamental measure of our humanity. On the other side…well, on the other side are the people we need to reach.

This holiday season, your contribution will make a difference. I promise it will. And I speak for hundreds of people at The HSUS in extending their promise to do everything they can with the resources you provide. I think I can also speak for the millions of Americans who say we all need each other if we are going to continue with the awesome charge to build a truly humane society.

God Bless You, and Happy Holiday

December 23, 2010

Our Detractors' Wishes Aren't Granted... Again

We’ve been officially notified that The HSUS was the top vote-getter in last month’s Pepsi Refresh challenge, where more than 1,100 outstanding charities competed for cash grants in several categories to advance their good works. The HSUS developed an animal rescue proposal—to allow us to continue our dizzying range of activity to rescue starving horses, animals in hoarding situations, and dogs packed into puppy mills.

Bradley J. Boner

Thanks so much to those of you who voted and helped us win. The HSUS took the lead just a few days into the voting and came in first in the most competitive category—winning $250,000 for our rescue efforts. The HSUS provides more hands-on care to animals than any animal welfare organization in the nation, having carried out 59 emergency deployments and rescues this year alone (not counting our continuing deployment in Haiti), operating five animal care centers (including the nation’s biggest sanctuary, the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch), and providing veterinary services all over the country to thousands of animals at no charge.

While there are so many worthy human services and environmental charities in the nation, I was pleased to see that animal causes and charities picked up a majority of cash awards—13 of 24. It shows the depth and passion that so many Americans feel for helping animals in need.

Of course, after the voting started, the typical detractors—the puppy millers, seal clubbers, cockfighters, and their pals at the so-called Center for Consumer Freedom/HumaneWatch, the front group run by millionaire public relations flack Rick Berman—reared their heads and tried to rig the outcome against us. Their efforts, as usual, failed miserably. The Pepsi Refresh challenge is yet another sign of some important trends: the growing popularity and strength of The HSUS, the fraying or nonexistent grassroots support of industry trade groups that not long ago dominated the political landscape, and the anemic work of Berman and his phony front groups for hire.

Berman goes around with his hand out to businesses invested in the status quo of cruelty and tells them he’ll mount a compelling brand attack on The HSUS, as long as they pay him enough. “The big problem today is the Humane Society [of the United States],” Berman told, a meat industry website, about a year ago.

Indeed, we are the big problem for animal abusers.  But that’s about the only thing that Berman has right.

He’s been thoroughly ineffective since he launched his campaign to defend cruel practices (along with his other corporate shilling campaigns to block reforms to curb drunk driving, teen smoking, childhood obesity, trans fats, and non-recyclable bags). Let’s look at the record.

  • The HSUS has doubled in size since CCF launched its campaign soon after I became CEO in 2004. Now, we have a legion of supporters all over the nation, with so many of them understanding that we are prepared to take on the biggest forms of animal cruelty in existence. The Pepsi Refresh win is just one more sign of that grassroots strength.
  • Despite CCF’s efforts, we have won six consecutive ballot measure campaigns since it launched its campaigns: In 2006, we banned extreme confinement of veal calves and breeding sows in small crates and kept the ban on mourning dove hunting in Michigan; in 2008, we passed Prop 2 in California to ban the extreme confinement of veal calves, breeding sows, and laying hens, and joined our friends at Grey2K to pass a ban on greyhound racing in Massachusetts; in 2010, we passed Prop B in Missouri on puppy mills and defeated an NRA-initiated measure to block future wildlife protection initiatives. During this same period, we helped to pass more than 400 other state laws to help animals.
  • Berman and his ilk have staunchly defended Canada’s seal slaughter, but the hunt is teetering. Sealers fell 500,000 seals short of their kill quota the past two years, thanks to our efforts to close down markets for seal skins across the globe.
  • We've convinced many companies to stop selling fur or certain fur products and our published list of fur-free companies stands at more than 300 and growing. And we have convinced hundreds of universities and food retailers to require farm animal welfare improvements of their suppliers.

But while Berman’s ads, blogs, and bluster have not helped his corporate paymasters in their efforts to defend themselves against charges of cruelty, Berman has turned this into a fabulous personal enrichment scheme. He lives in a multi-million dollar home in the wealthy suburb of McLean, Va., and operates a fleet of automobiles, including a Bentley. According to the 2008 tax filings of the Center for Consumer Freedom, 92 percent of all income the group took in went to Rick Berman and his for-profit PR company. That’s about as fraudulent as it gets for a so-called nonprofit charity.

And what did the vested interests who profit from animal abuse and neglect, the ones who fund CCF and HumaneWatch, get: at best, a Sunday drive in Rick Berman’s Bentley.

So Rick and company at CCF, today, have a Pepsi on me. Very refreshing.

December 22, 2010

2010 Victories Video: See What You Helped Make Possible

What the animals of this world need more than anything is a powerful, strategic, and tireless organization that responds to the needs of animals in crisis, but also works to prevent cruelty from happening in the first place by addressing its root causes and seeking systemic change. That’s the sort of group you have in The HSUS, and that’s why all the leading opponents of animal protection have The HSUS in their trigger sights—whether it’s front groups for cruelty like the so-called Center for Consumer Freedom or the more transparent animal-industry trade groups for the cockfighters, puppy millers, fur traders, or factory farmers. There is no organization that delivers stronger or more positive outcomes for animals than The HSUS, or puts more of a shudder down the backs of people causing harm to helpless animals.

See the year's biggest wins for animals, then please give to our 2011 Animal Survivors Fund
See the year's biggest wins for animals, then please give.

Our victories are many, but our progress is only possible because of you. We are a membership organization, and we draw our strength from you. By supporting The HSUS and its affiliate entities, spreading awareness about animal issues, and speaking up to lawmakers or corporations when action is needed, you are part of, and you help us to remain, a powerful collective force in achieving fundamental and lasting social reform for animals.

Today, I share with you this four-minute video featuring some of our major achievements this year. Please watch, knowing that you are behind all of these outcomes. And if you have friends or family who support The HSUS or the cause of animal protection, pass it along with pride and ask them to get involved.

Then please also consider a special contribution to our 2011 Animal Survivors Fund. Only through your generosity can we continue this life-saving work, unleashing the creativity and goodness in the human spirit in order to achieve a better day for all animals.

December 21, 2010

Advances Against Gruesome Shark Finning, Animal Fighting

Another December Victory: The Congress today gave final approval to legislation to stop the gruesome practice of shark finning in American waters. It’s the third great outcome for our cause in the lame-duck session of this Congress. I reported on Monday that President Obama signed the HSUS-backed Truth in Fur Labeling Act into law this past weekend, right on the heels of his signing into law a ban on the production, sale, or distribution of animal crush videos. Now, this third bill is on its way to the president, and not a moment too soon. There are 100 million sharks killed worldwide each year, and many millions are killed for their fins, which are used in shark fin soup.

The HSUS is at work for animals every day—pushing for public policies, advancing our ideas to citizens, and helping animals in crisis. No group puts more resources into the battle against illegal dogfighting and cockfighting than The HSUS, or does so with greater effect. This past weekend, HSUS investigators sniffed out yet another illegal animal fighting enterprise and worked on the ground with law enforcement to raid the operation. It was a cockfighting ring operating right on the outskirts of the city of Dallas—with lawbreakers, broken birds, and the knives and other weapons of bloody pastime all on display. Please take a look at what your support makes possible—in this case, a raid of a cockfight in progress and a first step toward putting the perpetrators in prison.

December 20, 2010

President Signs Fur Labeling Law; See Second Chance's Survival Story

News Alert: President Obama this week signed the Truth in Fur Labeling Act, which The HSUS advocated for after a series of our investigations revealed that major retailers and manufacturers were selling fur-trimmed garments that were unlabeled, incorrectly described as faux fur, or labeled as the wrong animal. It was more than a decade ago that The HSUS discovered the killing of millions of dogs and cats for their fur, which was then sent to western markets as trim. Now, with President Obama’s signing of this bill—on the heels of the signing of the crush video legislation—we have scored a second major victory this month, requiring that all animal fur trim be labeled by species and country of origin.

Watch  rescued horse Second Chance's amazing story

On Friday I told you about 43 horses saved from starvation in Texas thanks to the coordinated efforts of The HSUS and local authorities and humane organizations. The case was eerily similar to another equine rescue mission for us this year, removing 49 horses, donkeys and mules from barren pasture, with no water or food, on a West Virginia farm in May.

Amidst a crowd of equines suffering from emaciation and serious untreated wounds and medical ailments, perhaps the most startling victim of neglect on that West Virginia property was the horse now named Second Chance.

In grave condition—with his bones jutting out from his skin and his brown coat dull and matted—he looked like a walking skeleton. A veterinarian we work with said she’d never witnessed a horse so thin; she couldn’t believe he was still alive.

Today, you wouldn’t recognize Second Chance as he grazes contentedly in the pastures of his new loving home, back to a healthy weight and having regained his strength.

Second Chance’s story is the third and final installment in our Survivor series for this year. Please watch in this video as Summer Wyatt, our West Virginia state director, tells of Second Chance’s rescue and recovery, and then please consider making a donation to our 2011 Animal Survivors Fund to support our work coming to the rescue of even more animals, prosecuting those who abuse animals, preventing these types of cruelty before they occur, and our many other efforts to help animals.

December 17, 2010

Saved from Starvation: 43 Horses Rescued in Texas

The HSUS is constantly in motion—whether the goals are public policy reforms, improved corporate practices, public awareness, or animal care and rescue.  In The HSUS’s latest animal rescue deployment, this week we helped to remove 43 horses in dire need in east Texas—emaciated, ailing, and neglected. We were too late for some of the animals there, I am sorry to report.

We've just posted a slideshow of images from the rescue that you have to see, and a video documenting the operation, which was a collaborative effort between us and the SPCA of East Texas, the Humane Society of North Texas, Safe Haven Equine Rescue & Retirement Home Inc., the Smith County District Attorney’s Office, the Smith County Sheriff’s Department and the Texas State Fairgrounds.

This was our 58th emergency deployment of the year—more than one major rescue or emergency response every week—and we are so grateful to you for enabling this vital work.

December 16, 2010

Michael Vick and Having a Pet

It’s too soon for Michael Vick to have a dog. Pet-keeping is a privilege and he lost that privilege when he committed atrocious acts of cruelty in the months and years before his arrest in 2007. As part of his federal sentencing, the court rightly determined that he should not be allowed to have a dog until his probation ends. It’s too early in terms of his own rehabilitation, and that’s the principle behind the restriction on pet-keeping in the Vick household that the court meted out.

All of that said, I do think that if his rehabilitation progresses and he handles the probation period flawlessly, it could be a good thing for Michael Vick’s family to have a pet at the end of that process. To adopt a pet is the most cherished desire of countless millions of children everywhere, including Michael Vick’s two little girls, London and Jada. It’s the most natural thing in the world for a parent to want to grant that wish.

Michael Vick speaks to D.C. youth
Michelle Riley/The HSUS
Michael Vick speaks to D.C. youth.

At many of the more than two dozen public appearances at schools to speak against dogfighting and all animal cruelty—typically, with hundreds of kids at each gathering—Michael Vick has also mentioned how difficult it has been to explain to his children that they cannot have a pet because of the terrible things he’s done. This is a burden he brought upon himself, and he has to face up to that.

It’s now a well-established principle within our movement that those convicted of malicious cruelty should not be permitted to have pets, at least for a number of years after a cruelty conviction, and sometimes even for life. It’s a precautionary policy, grounded on the notion that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior and that it’s just very hard to know if someone has been rehabilitated. Together as a society, we are responsible for placing animals in homes where they are loved, and where they are safe.

That’s my policy for Vick, too. I agreed with the judge’s ruling that he should not have a dog for at least a three year period after his incarceration. But the court did not decide to impose a lifetime ban, and based on the work for animals he has undertaken since his release from prison, I don’t  believe he should be forever banned from adopting a dog for his two daughters.

Vick has been undergoing weekly psychological counseling for the last 18 months. He’s also been speaking out against dogfighting, and in his public appearances alone he’s reaching thousands of young people with a cautionary tale about dogfighting and animal cruelty. He and I recently did a program in late November in New Haven, and together we spoke to 2,000 at-risk kids. They heard a powerful message, and one they probably would never have heard if Michael Vick had not been convicted for illegal dogfighting. In the past two weeks, he’s conducted two more programs in Philadelphia in concert with The HSUS and the Philadelphia Eagles, with 600 more kids. While the most important aspect of this work is the education it provides for these kids, it is also part of Michael Vick’s own rehabilitation and his process of relocating his reservoir of empathy, and exercising it and building it up.

It would be a natural next step for him to interact positively with animals in a public setting. It’s my hope that eventually he’ll spend regular time at our End Dogfighting training programs and meet with the kids and the animals active in our program. These are kids who have pit bulls and are either involved in dogfighting or at risk of involvement. The program is designed to turn them around, and to give them a new way of valuing the physicality and majesty of their dogs—through gentle training of the animals, under the watch of a professional behaviorist. In this process, he’ll feel the unconditional love that animals offer. I hope in the process that it also further builds that reservoir of empathy.

If at some point in the future—after his probation ends, with his counseling continuing, and with him having demonstrated an ability to interact in a positive way with animals in a supervised setting—then it would be time to confront the question of Vick being allowed to bring a dog back to his family. It’s too soon now, and that’s the way I’ve felt all along, even though my position in one news story posted online yesterday was boiled down to the simple “yes-no” question about whether he should have a dog.

I have a better window to see Vick’s rehabilitation unfold than just about anyone. I’ve been watching it carefully, and I’ll continue to do so. It’s a lot more complex than a yes-no question. It’s a progression, and he’s under a microscope at every turn, and rightfully so. If a perpetrator serves time and gets counseling, and if they show they can be an upstanding member of society, then maybe, under the right circumstances and after several years of not being allowed to have a pet, then they could have their pet-keeping privileges reinstated. Where the human-animal bond has been broken, we want it to be restored.

So far, Vick has made the most of the second chance life has given him, on the field, where he has been successful, and off the field, where he has invested himself in speaking to young people about the dead-end of dogfighting. He has found new meaning and purpose, and come to terms with the awful things he did to animals.

There may be some who would forever deny Michael Vick the opportunity to have a pet. I understand that sentiment. But there is a larger principle at stake here. We at The HSUS are about the business of change—personal and societal change. Our work with Michael Vick is helping to change the view of pit bulls in urban communities from fighters to friends. We must be open to the possibility that rehabilitation is possible, and faithful to our hope that people can change. When that rehabilitation succeeds, it’s to the good for all involved—people and animals alike.