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16 posts from HSUS Adoption Stories

January 16, 2013

A Tribute To Billy

Billy, the endearing puppy mill Chihuahua who touched hundreds of thousands of people when he appeared in a YouTube video with his rescuer and new caretaker Adam Parascandola, died peacefully but unexpectedly over the holidays. More than 600,000 people watched our YouTube video, released months after The HSUS’ Animal Rescue Team took him from a mill in North Carolina, where lawmakers have resisted imposing any state-based humane breeding standards. HLN’s Jane Valez Mitchell featured Billy and Adam on her show just weeks ago.

Like so many breeding animals confined for years at puppy mills, Billy had many chronic health conditions. He was scarred both physically and psychologically as a consequence of living in a cage for years, denied veterinary care or any meaningful human attention or affection. When I met Billy a few weeks ago at an event at the Washington Animal Rescue League, I saw a bundle of joy, but with obvious problems – most noticeably, his repetitive circling (dozens of times) before he would urinate or defecate. A portion of his lower jaw was missing due to years of chronic untreated periodontal disease, and he had other ailments. Our rescue team, and Adam specifically, provided him with the best vet care and endless doses of affection, but he succumbed despite those acts of kindness.

At this point, he becomes something of a timeless ambassador for what happens to dogs in puppy mills, memorialized in the video that features him. At the same time, his own happy spirit, despite his travails, reminds us of the capacity of animals to forgive and to love. We, as a species, can learn more than a thing or two from Billy about putting those principles into action.

Please watch Billy’s tribute video and learn more about how The HSUS will continue the fight to stop puppy mills in Billy’s name. Thanks for all you do to help us rescue animals like Billy.

December 06, 2012

Internet Star Turn for Billy, Rescued Puppy Mill Chihuahua

With increasing frequency, the amazing work of the Humane Society of the United States videographers goes viral, and today it is a video about Billy, a rescued puppy mill dog from North Carolina adopted by Adam Parascandola, the director of animal cruelty investigations. The video is at nearly 200,000 views and counting on our HSUS YouTube channel, and has been featured on websites such as, Jezebel and Jane Velez-Mitchell.

In many respects, Billy’s story is not so unique – The HSUS Billy2estimates that upwards of 2 million puppies are sold from puppy mills every year. But it is unique to have one dog’s plight tell the story of puppy mills so poignantly and compellingly to the American public. 

We are working hard to turn around the problem of puppy mills in our nation. These mills are inhumane to dogs, subvert adoption efforts by shelters and rescues, and cause hardship and grief for animal owners, who often buy dogs at exorbitant prices who are ill or saddled with genetic or hereditary problems. 

I could speak about what this video means to me, but watch it yourself, and see Billy’s inspiring story of resilience.

Be sure to catch a live stream event with Adam and Billy at 1 p.m. EST, Friday December 7, here.

P.S. Have a question for Adam, or want a reminder to tune in? Text BILLYCAM to 30644

December 20, 2011

How Doris Went from Neglect to a Loving Family

We estimate that there are 20,000 animal protection organizations in the country—offering care, services, or advocacy for just about every kind of animal out there. It’s a remarkable army of staff and volunteers seeking to help animals in crisis and call people to a higher level of responsibility in their dealings with other creatures. And no matter what the focus of any particular individual or group, we are all part of the same fundamental enterprise.

Doris with her new family
Doris with her new family
photo: Jacques Favre/The HSUS

While there are perhaps 600 horse sanctuaries and rescue organizations throughout the nation, there are very few groups working at the national level to protect horses and to prevent cruelty to them. That’s why we formed an Equine Protection department at The HSUS several years ago. To add to it, we have just formed an Equine Leadership Council, with Georgina Bloomberg as chair. We are taking on the issues of horse slaughter for human consumption, the soring of Tennessee Walking horses, the mismanagement of wild horses and burros, and a range of other equine welfare problems.

But we also do anti-cruelty work on the ground for horses. It’s been just a little more than a year since The HSUS joined with law enforcement and local groups to rescue 43 severely neglected horses in East Texas. It was a heartbreaking scene—many of the animals were seriously underweight with overgrown hooves and parasite infestations, and it was too late to save some animals.

Then this spring, I told you how well these horses were recovering after several months of food, water, and care, and that we were continuing to care for five of them at our new Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center, in Murchison, Texas. One palomino horse who had been nearly skin and bones was among these five. She had begun to fill out and her coat had regained its shine after a few months, but she still needed training and one-on-one attention to fully recover.

We named her Doris, after the tireless animal advocate and the center’s namesake, and when she was ready, we began looking for her permanent home. A family with children who adore her adopted Doris a few months ago. Now you can see her journey in our latest year-end video. Please take a look and if you can, support our work to rescue more animals like Doris who still need our help.

December 19, 2011

Ten Accomplishments for Pets in 2011

While deeply valuing the essential work of local animal-care organizations, The HSUS’s founders saw that the nation needed an organization that had the power to fight for all animals—one that could change the dynamics of animal protection and strike at the root causes of cruelty. That was their main reason for founding The HSUS.

Today, we live up to that credo by challenging the biggest forms of institutionalized cruelty, whether it’s seal clubbing, organized animal fighting, factory farming, puppy mills, the trade in dangerous exotics as pets, unnecessary and painful experimentation, or captive hunts.

But our largest broad programmatic focus has always been helping companion animals, as well as the people who care about them.  It’s our relationship with our pets that is the keenest expression of the human-animal bond in society.

The HSUS and its affiliates protect dogs, cats, and other pets every day of the year, through education, rescue, veterinary services, support to local shelters; by backing better public policies concerning puppy mills, dogfighting, and animal cruelty; and by promoting improved animal care and control throughout the United States and abroad.

It’s tough to boil it down, but here are 10 areas where we made big progress for pets in 2011.

shelter dog
Laura Bevan/The HSUS

The Shelter Pet Project changes the landscape of adoption

The Shelter Pet Project—a collaboration of The HSUS, the Ad Council, and Maddie’s Fund—released a new collection of game-changing TV, print, radio, online, and outdoor ads to promote adoption of shelter pets nationwide and to reduce the euthanasia of healthy animals. The ad campaign has generated $50 million in advertising since its launch in 2009, and is expected to generate an additional $50 million in future advertising. During the same period, the euthanasia of shelter pets has declined by 10 percent, and in two years, the percentage of pets adopted from animal shelters and rescue groups into loving homes has risen from 27 percent to 29 percent, with the number of healthy and treatable pets euthanized dropping from 3 million to 2.7 million.

48,000 dogs and cats spayed and neutered in 700 Spay Day events worldwide

The 17th annual Spay Day, organized by The HSUS and Humane Society International, sparked nearly 700 events worldwide to spay or neuter more than 48,000 dogs and cats. Our Spay Day online pet photo contest raised nearly $220,000 to benefit participating shelters and rescue groups.

Free veterinary care for thousands of pets in community clinics

The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association’s Rural Area Veterinary Services program provided free vaccinations, sterilizations, check-ups, and other high quality preventative health care to 9,300 animals in 42 communities in the U.S. and around the world in 2011.

Bhutan spay/neuter initiative reaches 30,000 mark

Three years into a five-year program, Humane Society International has sterilized 30,000 of a targeted 50,000 street dogs in the Himalayan nation of Bhutan. HSI is providing similar services for thousands of animals at risk in India, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, the Philippines, Haiti, and other nations.

The HSUS saves thousands of dogs from squalid puppy mills and cruel dogfighting operations

This past year, The HSUS rescued and cared for hundreds of dogs from puppy mills in Montana, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Vermont. Humane Society International saved more than 500 dogs from poor conditions at a commercial breeder in Quebec and cared for them for months at an emergency shelter. We also helped care for close to 200 dogs from Missouri puppy mills.   We worked with law enforcement to raid dozens of dogfighting operations and rescue dogs, including Honey and so many others injured or destined to die in the pit. In North Carolina, we worked with law enforcement to raid two properties in one day as well as assisting on raids in Indiana, Florida and West Virginia, rescuing more than one hundred dogs.

The HSUS pushes a pet protection agenda in Congress and in the states

The HSUS pursued a full agenda of pet protection at the federal level, helping to obtain an increase of $5 million in annual funding for Animal Welfare Act enforcement efforts (pet breeders make up the largest share of regulated entities under the AWA), and this was in addition to $4 million specifically designated to strengthen oversight of puppy mills in FY 2011. The HSUS supported four companion animal-focused federal bills:  H.R. 2492/S. 1947, the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, to prohibit knowing attendance at organized dog fights and cock fights, and impose additional penalties for causing a minor to attend such events; H.R. 835, the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act, to close a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act that allows large, commercial breeders who sell puppies online or directly to the public to escape licensing and regulation; H.R. 2256, the Pet Safety and Protection Act of 2011, to eliminate Class B animal dealers who round up dogs and cats—often fraudulently obtained, including pet theft—and sell them for experimentation; and H.R. 198/S. 1838, to create a pilot program for training dogs, including shelter dogs, as a form of therapy to help treat veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and other post-deployment  mental health conditions. The HSUS helped to secure 68 new state laws relating to dogs and/or cats, including measures relating to dogfighting, puppy mills, antifreeze poisoning, spaying and neutering, and domestic violence orders.

The HSUS packs a purebred punch

In April, The HSUS drew together behaviorists, dog breeders, epidemiologists, geneticists, and veterinarians for a landmark conference on unhealthy breeding practices that affect millions of dogs. “The Purebred Paradox” brought needed focus to genetic and health conditions related to inbreeding, a serious animal welfare issue that has frequently surfaced in debates over puppy mill regulation, irresponsible breeders, and lemon law initiatives focusing on the pet trade. A cover story, “Can the Bulldog Be Saved?," in The New York Times Magazine, struck another blow in the fight to expose reckless breeding’s harmful effects, and a December investigation by The HSUS exposed an Internet puppy mill sales operation now the subject of a class action lawsuit for misleading the public about the origins and health of the puppies it sells.

"Puppy Friendly Pet Stores" program surpasses 1,600

There is now not a single state in the country (including Washington, D.C.) where you can't find a store that has signed The HSUS's Puppy Friendly Pet Store Pledge. To date, 1,615 stores have committed not to sell puppies, but instead support local pet adoption programs.

$200,000 veterinary school grant supports underserved shelters in Gulf Coast

The HSUS made a $200,000 grant to support the shelter medicine program at the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine. The program helps under-resourced animal care and control entities throughout Louisiana with direct care and counsel. To date, we’ve provided $800,000 in support to the school—part of more than $30 million The HSUS has invested in the Gulf Coast and disaster response since Hurricane Katrina struck.  We donated millions more to other organizations in the region working to protect companion animals – from local shelters to anti-puppy mill groups to legislative advocacy coalitions.

The HSUS carries out one of the largest cat rescues on record

In June, our Animal Rescue Team joined Alachua County Animal Services to rescue nearly 700 cats from deplorable conditions in Florida. Caring for them for several months at our emergency shelter, we helped find homes for more than 250 cats at a huge adoption event, and eventually found placement for every single treatable, adoptable cat—as well as feral cats—with a shelter or rescue group. We also rescued thousands of cats and dogs from hoarding or neglect in Alabama, Arizona, California, and other states.

Learn more about how we help pets»

November 16, 2011

Rescue Story: The Runt of the Litter Blossoms

HSUS's Michelle Cascio with her rescued bulldog

Yesterday, I wrote about the roll-out of our new PSAs for the Shelter Pet Project. The campaign is all about connecting people with homeless animals and creating the bond of a lifetime.

None of us is immune from the charms of these creatures—not least the HSUS personnel who respond to crises involving animals.

As part of an occasional series about our staff members who’ve adopted pets from our rescue deployments, I wanted to share a story from our own Michelle Cascio, manager of our Emergency Placement Partners program:

Pink came from a Missouri puppy mill that closed in January 2011. When the owner decided to close the facility, he called representatives of a local rescue group, Happy Dogs Rescue, and asked if they would take his dogs. With financial support from The HSUS, the organization was able to respond and picked up dozens of dogs in poor condition. In that group was a litter of 8-week-old American bulldog puppies. They had many medical issues such as mange, which contributed to hair loss; ear and eye infections; and internal parasites. 

Our Puppy Mill Task Force agreed to transport some of these dogs to our Emergency Placement Partners for adoption. When I traveled to Missouri to pick up the dogs for the transport, I fell head over heels in love with the tiny, unsocialized bulldog puppy who was wearing a pink collar.  

In the three days while we were preparing for the transport, Pink (nicknamed after her collar) bonded with me but remained very timid and shy around everyone else. It was clear what I needed to do. After we completed the transport to Chicago, I flew home with this tiny puppy tucked in a carrier under my seat. Pink received treatment for her mange, infections, and hook worm infestation.

Pink was the runt of the litter, and combined with the lack of proper care early in her life, she did not reach her full size. She will be 1 year old this Thanksgiving and only weighs 40 pounds—half the size of the average adult American bulldog. But she has blossomed into a wonderful companion who adores my other pets—two dogs, two cats, and a house rabbit.

October 26, 2011

Rescue Story: A Tiny Puppy Plucked from the Rubble

Every day there are dogs, cats, horses, and other animals who are suffering, and they need our help.

Laura Bevan of The HSUS with rescued puppy Bertie
Photo by Chuck Cook
Laura Bevan with Bertie in Tuscaloosa this spring.

Over the course of 51 deployments this year, our Animal Rescue Team has worked with law enforcement to rescue more than 5,100 animals from puppy mills, animal fighting spectacles, and hoarders. Partnering with local agencies and other animal organizations, we also assisted nearly 2,300 animals displaced because of natural disasters (including Hurricane Irene).

Throughout all these rescues, we’ve had a small army of selfless volunteers at our side: more than 600 NDART volunteers trained to assist on our rescues, our nationwide network of 130 Emergency Placement Partners, and the 55 dedicated members of our Dogfighting Rescue Coalition.

But sometimes the most important number is one—the one grateful face of an animal who has made his or her way from unspeakable suffering to the sanctuary of a loving home. Their journeys tell the story the numbers can’t. Here’s the first in an occasional series of stories from HSUS staff members who’ve adopted pets we rescued from cruelty or natural disasters.

Laura Bevan, the director of our eastern regional office, writes:

Bertie is short for Alberta, which is the area of Tuscaloosa, Ala., where this puppy was found in the rubble with her four brothers and sisters when an F-4 tornado tore through on April 27, 2011. Bertie and her siblings were taken to the local shelter, but they were only five weeks old and with the shelter population swelling, the staff and volunteers were not able to give them the attention they needed. They brought the puppies to the HSUS rescue compound at the Alberta Baptist Church, where HSUS NDART volunteers and vet techs were caring for lost animals.

Then Bertie got sick and was diagnosed with parvovirus. She rallied, but needed to stay away from her siblings to prevent the spread of the illness. The HSUS had rented a small RV to serve as an office and sleeping quarters for the teams rescuing animals, and Bertie stayed in the RV’s shower with her IVs. Soon, she started commuting with me to my hotel so that the shower would be free for our volunteers when they finished their shifts. It wasn't long before her fuzzy face, quirky personality, and intelligent mind had me hooked. I wasn't looking for a puppy, but she was looking for me I guess!

Bertie is now seven months old, about 15 pounds, and a little spitfire. She travels with me quite a bit. She loves to play with her toys—anything that can be thrown down the hallway or out in the yard so she can fetch it. None of her doggy brothers and sisters want to do much with her, but she has found a new best friend in Marcus, the cat I adopted as a feral kitten.

One day Bertie was trying to play with Marcus when the cat grabbed her around the neck and appeared to be biting her. Then I realized his claws weren't out and he wasn't really biting. Now they have huge play marathons in which it looks like they are killing one another, but when they get tired they collapse and sleep side by side. It is so cute that it has become my favorite thing to watch.

P.S. We also transported Bertie's littermates to Florida from Alabama. Two were adopted by NDART volunteers that responded to the Alabama tornadoes, and the other two were adopted in the same vet clinic. Happy stories all around!