Holidays highlight the importance of pets in our lives

By on November 24, 2020 with 0 Comments

The presence of pets has been one of the silver linings during the pandemic for so many millions of Americans. A recent, evocative NPR story delved into the joys and comforts of such companionship at a time when people are isolated at home and less able to socialize with family and friends.

There is an underappreciated social dimension to petkeeping that the pandemic has highlighted. The “pet factor,” as the NPR article suggests, “does bring people together in helpful ways: Pet owners are more likely to get to know people, form friendships and get the social support humans need.”

The article highlighted stories of new pet adopters, like Karol Kullberg, a psychiatric social worker (and the mother of the HSUS’s director of marine and wildlife protection, Kathryn Kullberg). Karol’s typical work day for many years has involved face-to-face contact with patients in a comfortable small room. After the pandemic hit, she moved to online therapy platforms to meet her patients’ needs but found her own time at home isolating and somewhat alienating. That’s one of the factors that led her to adopt Molly, a five-year-old terrier mix, whom she describes as a wonderful and comforting presence.

Karol quickly realized that Molly was “like getting something you didn’t know you missed; you forgot how wonderful it was to have something you didn’t notice until all of a sudden it’s there again.”

We have plenty of evidence that pets bring joy, companionship, social benefits and relief from stress. So it was not really surprising that soon after the pandemic began, there was a big spike in the numbers of people adopting pets.

Shelters across the country quickly adapted to the new opportunity, moving animals into foster homes and coming up with innovative, socially distanced programs to facilitate adoption. We shared with you inspiring stories of fosters stepping up to give pets a home during the crisis, with some taking in multiple animals.

The demand for adopted pets has leveled off since, and shelters have pivoted to meet new challenges that have arisen.

One of the most serious among these is the large number of pet owners struggling with unemployment, lack of resources and the potential loss of their homes. The last thing people should have to face, in such circumstances, is the loss of their beloved companion animals.

Last month, we reported that 30 to 40 million renters across the country were at risk of being evicted from their homes this year because of the pandemic and the resulting unemployment. This means that an estimated 10 to 11 million pets could be displaced in coming months.

Shelters have now turned their focus to keeping as many pets with families as possible. Many are providing food pantries, low-cost veterinary care and behavioral support to those in need.

Our Pets for Life program, which provides increased access to resources services in underserved areas, is also designed to keep people and pets together. In a number of communities, PFL has stepped in to help with food, supplies and veterinary care. We have provided 700,000 pounds of pet food to people and pets so far this year.

We have also created a toolkit for shelters on various strategies to keep people and pets together.

The holidays are a great time to support your local community shelters and rescues. Here are some ways in which you can do so:

  • Contact your local animal shelter or rescue group to become involved in supporting its work in your community. This may be by fostering, volunteering or donating. Type in your zip code at theshelterpetproject.org/shelter-search to find organizations near you.
  • Consider donating supplies, both through local groups and agencies like human food banks.
  • Support rental assistance and forgiveness programs in your community and state that could help pet owners.

This is also an important time to remind anyone looking to bring companion animals home and into their families during the holidays to carefully consider their sources. We encourage people to adopt and rescue, and not buy animals from pet stores, which often source from puppy mills.

The holiday period, as a season of giving and of thanks, centers in large part on family and on the social relations that bind us — all of us — together. Millions of Americans count pets as family members, and want to see them receive the love and care they deserve. As we enter the holiday season, let’s all do our part to honor the human-animal bond.

U.S. inaction on infected fur farms poses serious public health risk

By on November 23, 2020 with 1 Comment
U.S. inaction on infected fur farms poses serious public health risk

In the midst of a booming coronavirus surge across the United States, a related crisis is brewing on the nation’s mink fur farms where outbreaks have failed to be treated with the same level of concern and seriousness we have seen from other countries. A . . . 

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In historic decision, federal court upholds verdict that Smithfield’s factory farming practices made its neighbors miserable

By on November 20, 2020 with 5 Comments
In historic decision, federal court upholds verdict that Smithfield’s factory farming practices made its neighbors miserable

A federal court has ruled that a jury was right in holding Smithfield responsible for creating a nuisance for a community in the vicinity of a pig growing facility in North Carolina. Neighbors of the Smithfield-affiliated facility, which held 15,000 pigs, had alleged that the . . . 

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With wolves about to lose ESA protections, Wisconsin officials push to open trophy hunt

By on November 19, 2020 with 6 Comments
With wolves about to lose ESA protections, Wisconsin officials push to open trophy hunt

Wisconsin, which has a history of decimating its wolf population, is once again raring to open season on these animals soon after a federal rule stripping Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the lower 48 states goes into effect in January. At a September . . . 

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As black bears prepare to hibernate, trophy hunters go on a killing spree

By on November 18, 2020 with 5 Comments
As black bears prepare to hibernate, trophy hunters go on a killing spree

As black bears work extra hard to pack on the pounds and prepare for the barren winter months ahead, trophy hunters are rampaging through their habitats, slaughtering these iconic animals so they can hang their heads on walls. Some states are even allowing these hunters . . . 

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HSUS undercover investigation shows dogs in dismal conditions at puppy mills while USDA turns a blind eye

By on November 17, 2020 with 5 Comments
HSUS undercover investigation shows dogs in dismal conditions at puppy mills while USDA turns a blind eye

An HSUS undercover investigator has recorded video footage of animals living in dismal conditions at puppy mills in the Midwest that have never or only rarely been cited for neglecting the animals in their care by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal agency whose . . . 

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Victory! Court upholds Obama-era protections for Alaska’s brown bears, disallows baiting

By on November 16, 2020 with 3 Comments
Victory! Court upholds Obama-era protections for Alaska’s brown bears, disallows baiting

A federal court has ruled that brown bears in Alaska’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge should continue to be protected from the cruel and biologically unsound hunting practice of baiting—luring these animals with piles of rotting foods like donuts and pastries and then killing them. The . . . 

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World’s largest fur auction house will close as demand for animal pelts drops

By on November 13, 2020 with 11 Comments
World’s largest fur auction house will close as demand for animal pelts drops

The world’s largest fur auction house says it will close its doors for good within the next three years, in yet another dramatic setback for this cruel trade that contributes to unnecessary suffering and death for millions of animals worldwide each year. Kopenhagen Fur, founded . . . 

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U.S. will deny visas to wildlife traffickers

By on November 13, 2020 with 1 Comment
U.S. will deny visas to wildlife traffickers

The United States is one of the world’s largest destinations for illegal wildlife products. Each year, traffickers smuggle in millions of dollars’ worth of items from poached animals, including shark fins, pangolin scales, ivory trinkets, animal trophies, and live animals like monkeys, parrots and snakes . . . 

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For the new administration, swift reinstatement of 2016 horse soring rule is the right call

By on November 12, 2020 with 1 Comment
For the new administration, swift reinstatement of 2016 horse soring rule is the right call

The reinstatement of the 2016 federal rule to address the abhorrent and widely scorned practice of horse soring in the Tennessee walking horse industry should be an easy decision for the incoming administration. The rule, which the Humane Society of the United States and the . . . 

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Naps in the sun, treats and Beethoven: Survivors of Korean dog meat farm live it up at temporary shelter

By on November 11, 2020 with 1 Comment
Naps in the sun, treats and Beethoven: Survivors of Korean dog meat farm live it up at temporary shelter

One of the most miraculous things about animals is their extraordinary ability to heal and love. It is something we witness time and again in our work, especially with the dogs we rescue from South Korean dog meat farms. Last month, I told you about . . . 

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Senate appropriations package has both good and bad news for animals

By on November 10, 2020 with 2 Comments
Senate appropriations package has both good and bad news for animals

The Senate Committee on Appropriations today released a package of 12 appropriations bills for fiscal year 2021, and it is a mixed bag for animals. The House has already approved its appropriations bills, which fund federal government agencies, and they include significant protections for animals, . . . 

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