January 2011 Blog Home March 2011

19 posts from February 2011

February 28, 2011

Pigeon Shoots a Black Eye for Pennsylvania

More than two decades ago, when I first became active in animal protection, I went to protest what was then the nation’s largest pigeon shoot — in Hegins, Pennsylvania. The organizers trapped thousands of live pigeons from cities and other areas where the birds lived and then trucked them back to Hegins. There, they released them from boxes just yards away from a line of waiting shooters, who maimed and killed the birds as a target shooting exercise — and as a horrible excuse for a fundraiser for the local fire department.

It was a sickening spectacle, and I write about the issue in detail in my forthcoming book, The Bond (Harper Collins/William Morrow, April 5). The ugly and painful experience changed me forever, and revealed to me the lengths that some people go to rationalize their cruelty — even something so indefensible as live pigeon shooting.

If you live in Pennsylvania, take action here.

Witnessing the cruelty of pigeon shoots also changed the life of HSUS’s current senior vice president of campaigns, Heidi Prescott. At the time, she was a volunteer and a wildlife rehabilitator. At her first shoot, it didn’t take her long to come across a wounded bird who had been suffering for hours and was gasping for breath. The bird’s injuries were so severe that she helped to humanely euthanize the animal. She says that after this experience, she made a pledge to campaign against pigeon shoots until they were ended for good. Unfortunately, the practice continues in Pennsylvania — one of the last states where these terrible shoots are openly staged. Fortunately for the birds, Heidi hasn’t given up and she’s still lobbying in the halls of the state capitol in Harrisburg to end this cruelty.

The NRA is the impediment to progress. The fact is, though, that so many rank-and-file NRA members don’t support this cruelty. NRA member W. Scott Yoder grew up serving as a trapper boy in Pennsylvania pigeon shoots. He was assigned to shoot the half-dead pigeons who weren’t killed outright by the first barrage of bullets. He recalls that even as a child, he knew on some level that these events were wrong. He saw wounded birds flop around helplessly and saw other boys throwing dead pigeons into a dumpster.

He writes: “...I spent many sleepless nights mulling this over in my brain. The final straw for me was going for Sunday breakfast at one of these clubs, the day after the shoot, and watching the wounded birds from the day before hopping pathetically around the parking lot, and looking up to the roof of the Gun Club, where many half-dead birds were perched waiting for certain death, or if they were lucky, to get picked off by a passing hawk.”

Today, Yoder is a board member of the Humane Society of Berks County in Pennsylvania and speaks out passionately against pigeon shoots. 

Over the years, The HSUS and The Fund for Animals have helped to end many shoots, including the infamous Hegins event. Yet it’s not enough to stop some shoots; all of these shoots must be forbidden by law. Just last week, a new bill was introduced in Pennsylvania to finally bring an end to these events. With the publication of my book, I hope we’ll shine a new spotlight on this abuse, and see a permanent end to such a barbaric and despicable and unnecessary practice.

February 25, 2011

Feeble Laws Allow Cockfighting Cruelty to Persist

On the heels of the release of our undercover investigation into cockfighting in Texas, The HSUS teamed up with WPMI, the NBC affiliate in Mobile, Ala., to expose the enormous criminal underworld of cockfighting in the state with the most anemic law against the practice. Anyone arrested for cockfighting in Alabama faces a maximum fine of only $50. This penalty was set in 1896 and has not been adjusted since. 

On Wednesday night, WPMI aired this exposé, shocking many viewers who probably had no idea that their state has become a hotbed for this vicious blood sport.

Rooster from cockfighting operation
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
A rooster during a cockfighting raid in South Carolina,
one state where HSUS is working for stronger penalties.

In 2007, Louisiana became the 50th state to outlaw cockfighting. This was a significant milestone in the advancement of our cause. Yet this crime remains widespread in the states that have weak penalties for cockfighting, or major loopholes for spectators or breeders of fighting roosters.

While 39 states provide felony penalties for cockfighting, it remains a mere misdemeanor in the other 11. Of the 39 states with stronger penalties, a handful have loopholes that hamper effective prosecutions.

It is a top priority of The HSUS to enact strong anti-cockfighting laws in all 50 states. Our undercover investigations continue to show the scope and severity of the problem. When you watch the newscast you’ll see that the roosters were forced to fight to the death with steel weapons tied to their heels. The motivation for this cruelty is one part gambling, one part sick thrill.

Passage of a felony cockfighting law is part of the eight-point animal welfare package negotiated last year in Ohio between HSUS and the state’s leading agricultural organizations. Legislation to make cockfighting a felony has also been introduced in South Carolina and Tennessee. A bill to set stronger penalties for people betting on animal fights has passed the state Senate in West Virginia, while legislators in California and Texas have bills on the move to make it clear that cockfight criminals are not welcome in their states. These are welcome developments, and we’ll be pressing to make an even greater proportion of the public aware of the problem, to secure approval of these legislative initiatives, and to spur stronger enforcement all around.

Millions of roosters are killed in cockfights each year in the United States alone. Another half-million roosters are bred here and shipped to countries like Mexico and the Philippines for use in fights there. Muscular laws in states like Oklahoma and Virginia have caused cockfighters to give up their hobby or to flock to states where the practice is effectively decriminalized, like Alabama. It is our goal to see that there is no refuge for cockfighting. It is a barbaric, inhumane practice with no place in modern society.

February 24, 2011

A Gleam of Hope for Our Wild Horses

Even before the U.S. Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act in 1971, The HSUS had been advocating for the protection of America’s mustangs. In recent years, we’ve been pressing — with Madeleine Pickens; Congressmen Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), Dan Burton (R-Ind.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), and other lawmakers; and wild horse advocates throughout the nation — for reform of a seriously broken wild horse management program administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Now, there’s cautious reason for hope concerning America’s mustangs — and it relates to today’s announcement by the BLM to revamp some of its policies to better align this program with the sentiments of the American public.

Wild horses
Kayla Grams/The HSUS
Please contact the BLM to say thanks and urge further
reductions in removing horses from the range.

Last July, I urged you to submit comments on the BLM’s draft strategic plan in an effort to persuade the agency to create a more humane, fiscally responsible, long-term sustainable approach to managing wild horses and burros on our public lands. Your response was overwhelming — more than 40,000 of you submitted comments to the BLM. Many tens of thousands of others responded to a similar plea from Madeleine Pickens.

Today, in part as a result of your efforts, the BLM has announced its intent to open “a new chapter in the management of wild horses, burros, and our public lands” by fast-tracking “fundamental reforms” to its current policies and procedures. The changes include:

- reducing the number of wild horses removed from the range by 24 percent (or from 10,000 to 7,600 annually) for at least the next two years;

- increasing the number of mares treated with fertility control annually, from 500 in fiscal year 2009 to 2,000 in each of the next two years, with the “ultimate goal” of making fertility control “the primary means” of maintaining healthy wild horse populations on the range;

- improving BLM’s care and handling procedures to ensure humane treatment of animals; and

- improving transparency in all aspects of the wild horse and burro program, with “increasing public viewing opportunities during gathers and at short-term corrals and long-term care facilities.”

It is important to acknowledge and praise the BLM for its efforts to reevaluate failing practices and policies and to take a step in the right direction to build a humane and sustainable management program. I am especially pleased about the ramp-up of the fertility control component, which must be the centerpiece of such a population control effort.

That said, HSUS cannot ignore the fact that even with these proposed changes, by the end of fiscal year 2012, the government will remove an additional 15,000 wild horses from our public lands. Since there are already 40,600 wild horses and burros living in government holding facilities today — and, on average, the agency is only able to find homes for approximately 3,000 animals a year — that means by 2012, there could be more than 50,000 animals in captivity. That’s almost twice the number of wild horses and burros living in the wild on our public lands today. This is not economically sustainable and it is bad policy; BLM needs to slash the numbers of horses rounded up and removed from public lands far beyond its announcement today.

We’ve all encouraged the BLM to do better, and today’s announcement is a reaction to your concerns about this program. We now must call on the agency to live up to these preliminary promises. At the same time, we must urge the BLM to consider this a work in progress. A paradigm shift is needed in this program, not just a course correction. The U.S. House of Representatives recognized this during a floor debate last week leading up to approval of an amendment offered by Rep. Burton to cut BLM’s budget by $2 million and send a signal to the agency about the urgent need for an overhaul in its wild horse and burro management program.

The agency will post a detailed proposed implementation strategy on its website and will be accepting public comments on this strategy until March 25, 2011. Please take a moment to thank the BLM for its efforts to reform its wild horse management program, and urge the agency to further reduce the number of animals it plans to remove from the range over the next two years. The BLM can do this by increasing the number of mares treated with fertility control and released back on to the range.

February 23, 2011

Dishonest Attempts to Strip Protections for Missouri's Dogs

A goodly number of lawmakers in Missouri have told the press and their constituents that they have no interest or desire in repealing Prop B, the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, and only want to “fix” Prop B. But “fix” in this instance seems to be a synonym for “gut,” and the whole ham-handed effort unfolding in the Show-Me State is an insult to the 997,870 Missouri citizens who voted “yes” on Prop B and affirmed the broader principles of humane treatment of dogs and democratic decision-making. The current legislative vehicle for this subversion of voters' will is SB 113, and if it passes into law, you won’t even be able to recognize Prop B. SB 113 would strip Prop B of ALL of its core provisions.

Prop B would require that dogs have continuous access to water — SB 113 removes that provision and substitutes current law. Prop B mandates an annual visit by a veterinarian to every puppy mill  and requires that the veterinarian actually examine each dog — SB 113 removes the requirement that he or she examine each dog.

Undemocratic efforts to gut Prop B
Pat Byrnes

Prop B outlaws the use of stacked cages and painful wire flooring for dogs, sets parameters for the temperatures to which dogs can be exposed, sets humane enclosure standards and uniform standards for outdoor access, limits breeding frequency, and limits the number of reproductively intact dogs used for breeding that a puppy mill operator can have. But SB 113 removes all of these provisions from Prop B and reverts back to existing law — the same law that allowed for the cruel and inhumane treatment of dogs, the same law that precipitated the campaign to qualify and pass Prop B in the first place.

So there are two things at work. First, lawmakers are seeking to undo a voter-approved law, just a few months after it was passed and before it’s even taken effect (that will be in November 2011). And second, they are lying to the people about their shenanigans in Jefferson City. There’s no fix going on, but a wholesale repeal. It’s the equivalent of going to the doctor to remove a mole, and he takes out your heart, lungs, and kidneys. There’s not much left of you after it’s all said and done — just the skin and a hollowed-out body.

And let’s remember that Prop B came in response to the inaction of Missouri lawmakers over nearly two decades of choosing not to deal with the puppy mill problem in the state and instead putting their blind faith in the commercial breeding industry. It is ironic that a legislature that could never find the time to address the inhumane treatment of thousands of dogs in the puppy mills across the state has now found a superabundance of time, in the midst of serious economic issues that need to be dealt with, to “fix” the puppy mill problem – with 12 bills, multiple hearings, and much politicking behind the scenes. As a separate matter, several lawmakers have introduced legislation to bar any future ballot measure relating to the producing of domesticated animals or the killing of wildlife. They seem to have no boundaries in thumbing their nose at the people.

When lawmakers are sworn in, they take an oath to protect the laws of their state — regardless of whether those laws were passed by them or by the people. In the case of Prop B they are violating the spirit of that oath by ignoring the will of the almost 1 million Missourians who voted for Prop B. We can’t let them succeed.

It’s time to alert Gov. Jay Nixon to veto any legislation from these lawmakers that violates the spirit of Prop B. You can e-mail him here and call him at (573) 751-3222. And if you live in Missouri, please write to your lawmakers and ask them to respect the will of the voters on Prop B.

P.S. You can see in the chart below how SB 113 would gut the protections of Prop B.

Prop B chart



February 22, 2011

Today (and Every Day) is Spay Day

Today is the 17th annual Spay Day — a worldwide event organized by The HSUS and Humane Society International, in partnership with the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association — to promote sterilization of dogs and cats as a means of reducing euthanasia and pet overpopulation.

My cat Mungo
My cat Mungo in the Spay Day Online Pet Photo Contest.

Throughout the month of February, more than 700 Spay Day events are taking place all across the United States and in nearly 50 other countries (find an event near you). These events are centered on providing free or low-cost spay/neuter surgeries and veterinary care, raising funds for these life-saving programs, and educating the public about the importance of spaying and neutering.

Here are some highlights of events that have already taken place.

The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association worked with veterinary students and feral cat organizations in Oregon and Wisconsin to fix free-roaming cats — providing an important service to the community while training students to perform these surgeries.

This past weekend in New York City, we were proud to join the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals and the ASPCA to host the I Love NYC Pets Month’s Spay Day event. The event offered more than 100 free spay/neuter surgeries through the ASPCA’s mobile clinics, free vaccinations and microchips, local pets available for adoption, 5,000 pounds of free pet food donated by Freekibble.com, and giveaways of pet supplies.

In all, more than 1 million pets have been spayed or neutered in conjunction with Spay Day since legendary performer Doris Day founded it in 1995. Here are a few ways you can be a part of the solution on Spay Day and beyond:

- Enter your pet in the Spay Day Online Pet Photo Contest by this Friday, Feb. 25 at 5 p.m. Eastern. Donations to vote for your pet will raise funds for your choice of nearly 300 participating animal welfare organizations. The contest, presented by Zazzle and judged by professional photographers Robert B. Haas, Amanda Jones, and Lori A. Cheung, is free to enter and you could also win great prizes. (Though of course I’m not in the running for prizes, my cat Mungo would love it if you sent her some votes here.)

MUTTS Spay Day 2011MUTTS © 2011 Patrick McDonnell

- If you haven’t already, spay or neuter your dog, cat, or rabbit and encourage everyone you know to do the same. Our website offers more information about why this procedure is so essential and debunks some of the common misconceptions about spaying and neutering.

- Check out the special Spay Day-themed MUTTS™ comic strip created by HSUS board member Patrick McDonnell, running today in newspapers nationwide.

-You can help feral cats in your community by getting involved with trap-neuter-return programs. Feral cats, the offspring of lost and abandoned pet cats or other feral cats, are not accustomed to contact with people and are typically too fearful to be handled.

With the help of pet owners and communities, we can work to end pet overpopulation and save animals’ lives.

February 18, 2011

Thinking Outside the Cage in Washington

On Wednesday night, I did a “telephone town hall” with several thousand HSUS members in Washington state. All of the “attendees” who asked questions on the line were excited about my announcement that within days, Washingtonians for Humane Farms would be hitting the street to launch the signature-gathering phase of a new statewide initiative petition to phase out the confinement of laying hens in battery cages and to stipulate that all shell eggs sold there would also need to meet that modest standard. Humane advocates had been in discussions for nearly three years with the biggest egg producers in Washington, and also in Oregon, about finding a compromise, but they haven’t been able to see their way to a cage-free future.

At some level, I understand that certain egg producers cling to what they know and what’s been status quo for them. That’s a natural instinct, and it may seem like the safe business move. But it’s important for them to understand that they operate within a dynamic economy, and the values of Americans are changing on the question of animal welfare.

Battery cage hens
Farm Sanctuary
Hens confined in a battery cage in Washington.

Factory farming practices are no longer out of view, and people are rightly concerned by what they’re seeing. More and more consumers are recognizing that battery-cage eggs are a product of cruelty, and that’s not a good long-term outcome for these businesses.

It won’t be long before producers of eggs from hens in intensive confinement are left behind, with their capital and infrastructure and intellectual investments caught up in a production system that is inherently harmful to the well-being of birds.

The world is changing when it comes to animal welfare. Voters are decidedly in favor of more humane production practices, as evinced by the lopsided vote on Prop 2 in California a little more than two years ago. Michigan producers saw this trend, and they negotiated a long-term phase out of cage systems in order to avoid a similar ballot measure. Ohio agricultural leaders, too, agreed to work with us to place a moratorium on new battery cage facilities and phase out confinement of other farm animals. More retailers are committing every day to increase their share of eggs they purchase from cage-free producers. And so much of this behavior is driven by the fact that there is an alternative: cage-free production works, it is only slightly more expensive than cage production, and it is demonstrably better for the birds and for food safety.

Consumers are still going to buy eggs, so that means that these producers are still going to be able to sell their product. But a cage-free egg is a product of a system that does not cause such privation and misery for the birds.

The right business strategy for egg producers in the Northwest, and also around the nation, is to start building infrastructure for the new, humane economy. If instead the industry resists that and chooses to put tens of millions into political campaigns to forestall reform, its leaders are not only squandering capital, but their credibility. And they are setting themselves up for long-term failure, carrying a basket of eggs to market with no consumers who will want that product in five or 10 years.

It’s time to move forward, recognizing that consumer sensibilities and animal welfare do matter, and that old ways of doing business must change. Change and innovation are the watchwords of the American economy, and no business is immune from evolving with the times and adapting its practices to match the values of American consumers.

To get involved in support of the Washington ballot measure, go to www.YesOn1130.com.

February 17, 2011

Talk Back: Celebrating Shelter Pets, Investigating Cruelty

HSUS' Heather Sullivan with her shelter dog Pepper
Michelle Riley/The HSUS

This week, I wrote about two different programs of The HSUS that embody our mission statement: celebrating animals and confronting cruelty.

The Shelter Pet Project, a national campaign we launched with the Ad Council and Maddie’s Fund, promotes adopting animals from local shelters and rescue groups. You can help us spread the word about shelter pet adoption by liking the Shelter Pet Project on Facebook.

Many of you wrote in about your own vivid experiences in adopting a homeless animal:

There's no doubt the next animal we bring into our home will be from a shelter! We have a cat that my daughter rescued from two young boys that were putting her into a pillow case and now she is our pride and joy! I cannot fathom what would have happened to her if my daughter didn't bring her home to us. It saddens me that there are soooo many still euthanized, that number is astronomical! So yes, let's all give love to our shelter animals and bring them home! —Karen

We just adopted China, a 7-year-old beagle/yellow Lab cross that was found as a stray in January from a local humane society. She is absolutely awesome. It is great not having to train a puppy again. —Jeanette

I adopted a dog who had been rescued from a puppy mill after spending five years in that puppy mill. He had been traumatized and was very withdrawn at first, because of his past five years of abuse. He is now a happy 8-year-old dog who is the light of my life. —Loretta

For anyone contemplating adding a member to your family, please consider this alternative — adoption is so rewarding to yourself and the life you save. —Mari

In response to our most recent undercover cockfighting investigations in Texas, along with other investigations, you wrote about why this function of unearthing cruelty is so important:

I am so thankful for the work of these undercover investigators. What amazing and heroic individuals they are! To be willing to witness such cruelty and risk their own safety in order to document and share (and provide proof) of these atrocities is something I'm not certain I could stomach. Thank God for their strength and courage...please pass my thanks along to them all! —Cari

Continue reading "Talk Back: Celebrating Shelter Pets, Investigating Cruelty" »

February 16, 2011

California’s First Dog Makes Official Debut

At HSUS, we celebrate the bond between humans and animals, and we’re excited whenever the cause of companion animal adoption gets a boost. That’s why we back the Shelter Pet Project with Maddie’s Fund and the Ad Council, among other adoption-promotion programs.

And it’s also why we’re delighted to learn that the 7-year-old Corgi known as Sutter (@SutterBrown on Twitter) has been designated California’s First Dog. On Valentine’s Day, Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife Anne Gust Brown made the decision to keep the canine companion who has been accompanying them to work at the Capitol every day since Governor Brown’s term began. Older dogs make great companions, and this sends the right signal to people on the lookout for a new best friend.

HSUS California senior state director Jennifer Fearing with Sutter the corgi
Jennifer Fearing with Sutter.

The announcement of Sutter’s adoption came at an impromptu “meet and greet” held on the Capitol steps yesterday. HSUS senior state director Jennifer Fearing, co-author of Dogs at Work: A Practical Guide to Creating Dog-Friendly Workplaces, was on hand to welcome Sutter to the Capitol community.

Jennifer gave a signed copy of her book to California’s first family in early January, and she was as excited as anyone about the news. “At the moment, Sacramento’s leaders are making tough decisions about the state’s budget, and Sutter’s presence in the building is a welcome morale boost for everyone.”

Jerry Brown is not the first governor to take his dog to work every day. In the early 1920s, Maine’s Percival Baxter took his Irish setter Garry to the office with him, and, on the occasion of his faithful companion’s death, had the state flag outside the Maine Capitol flown at half-mast. 

At HSUS, we love having dogs around, and we know the tangible value of their presence. Dozens of dogs “come to work” in our offices every day, and they’re now an essential part of our workplace environment. In 2007, to assist in the spread of the dogs at work program, Humane Society Press, the publishing division of The HSUS, published the definitive guide to creating a successful dog-friendly workplace.

If a dogs-at-work policy is something you’d like to pursue, you can order a copy of Dogs at Work for $21.95. And if you’re successful, we’d love to hear about it.

Any highly visible adoption or rescue of a companion animal by a public figure is a wonderful gesture, resulting in a happy ending for all parties involved, and setting a strong example for others to follow. We’re grateful to the Brown family for making their commitment to Sutter real, and for making it known to the world.

February 15, 2011

Breaking News: Investigation Finds Cockfighters Flocking to Texas

At The HSUS we employ a devoted team of undercover investigators who document and expose cruelty and abuse that is hidden in the shadows, and unknown to most Americans. For more than a year, our investigations department has infiltrated numerous cockfighting pits in Texas, uncovering abuses at locations where fights are held from border towns like McAllen to cosmopolitan cities like Dallas.

Today we released shocking video footage from our investigation at the state capitol in Austin, in the company of Rep. Wayne Christian and Patricia Stepp of the Texas Animal Control Association. Together we are working to pass H.B. 1043, a bill that would close loopholes in the state’s cockfighting law and bring it in line with its dogfighting law, which bans being a spectator at a dogfight, possessing a dog with intent to fight, and possessing dogfighting paraphernalia.

The cruelty we discovered at Texas cockfighting pits was severe and widespread. We sent undercover operatives into nearly 20 cockfights, and learned that approximately 100 locations statewide are host to these gruesome spectacles.

We documented numerous cruelties. Roosters were forced to fight to the death even when they were hobbled with broken legs. One rooster that lost his fight was hung upside down by his leg and clubbed with a tree branch. Injured roosters were tossed into the back of a pickup truck to die, where some cockfighters tormented them by pulling at their heads and beaks to see if they had any fight left in them.

You can see some of our investigative footage below:

At nearly every fight, children were present. Cockfighters seem to have no qualms about exposing young people to graphic animal abuse, desensitizing them to the suffering these birds endure for an activity that has no socially redeemable value.

This blood sport is widespread in Texas because the law is riddled with loopholes. While cockfighting can be punished as a felony in the Lone Star State, the law does not cover spectators. Time and time again, police have raided cockfights in Texas only to see hundreds of people escape with no charges because of the difficulty of proving who was there as a spectator, and who came to fight. In contrast, three of the four states that border Texas criminalize attending cockfights.

Texas law also does not prohibit the possession of fighting birds, denying law enforcement agencies a great tool in preventing cockfights before they happen. In contrast, all four states that border Texas ban either the possession of a bird with the intent to fight or training and preparing a bird to fight.

As hard as it is to believe, cockfighters flock to states with weak penalties or gaping loopholes in their animal fighting laws. Weak cockfighting laws act as a magnet, attracting not only the criminals that stage animal fights, but also setting the stage for other crimes in which cockfighters are routinely involved. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration recently pointed out that cockfights and dogfights are being used as networking opportunities for drug traffickers. Cracking down on cockfighting is a win-win for both animals and human communities.

Rep. Christian’s H.B. 1043 would strengthen the cockfighting ban in Texas. We are pursuing strong cockfighting laws in other states as well, including Alabama, California, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee. 

It takes a lot of courage to go undercover into organized cockfighting rings. Our team witnessed a great deal of suffering and death at the cockfights. We are hoping that the images captured on tape will further raise public awareness of the immorality of animal fighting, and help pass meaningful legislation that makes Texas inhospitable for cockfighters.

February 14, 2011

Find Love at Your Local Shelter

At animal shelters and rescue groups across the country, millions of healthy, well-socialized, and thoroughly adoptable dogs and cats are perfect pets-in-waiting. They may be energetic or mellow, affectionate or hard-to-get, clever or completely transparent. They may be young or old, purebred or mixed breed, spotted or striped, big or small. But they all have one thing in common: They will almost certainly give back even more love than their new keeper will give them.

Typically, animals don’t find their way to shelters through any fault of their own. The explanation typically lies with a human failing or hardship, perhaps a failure to understand the commitment involved, an inability to understand basic animal behavior, a move to an apartment with a no-pets policy, or a lost job, divorce, or medical condition that disrupted the person’s life and caused them to shed their responsibility.

Shelter dog
Michelle Riley/ The HSUS
A dog at the Washington Animal Rescue League.

Although the number of animals being euthanized in shelters has gone down dramatically over the last few decades, there are still too many put down — about 3 million healthy and treatable dogs and cats.

To help put a stop to this entirely preventable killing, we launched the Shelter Pet Project with Maddie’s Fund and the Ad Council. This campaign raises awareness that shelters are full of wonderful pets just waiting to be a part of the family.

This Valentine’s Day, please sign our pledge to adopt your next pet from an animal shelter, and invite your friends and family to do the same. 

With thousands of shelters and rescue groups nationwide, a would-be pet owner can find the pet to match any profile. Anyone can search for adoptable pets online at theshelterpetproject.org. You can also adopt rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small animals from many shelters. 

If we convince enough people to adopt from shelters — just a modest incremental increase in the percentage of people acquiring dogs and cats — we can eliminate needless euthanasia in America. It’s no hardship for would-be pet owners. Shelter pets are the best bargain in America, and once enough people realize it, we’ll have solved one of the most vexing problems our movement has confronted through the years.