The Humane Society of the United States sometimes has to use raw power to change the circumstances for animals—overcoming the opposition of animal exploitation groups and passing legislation or applying pressure on a company to mend its ways. To a degree, it requires some level of confrontation, and we believe it's something we must do from time to time.
But much of our work involves hands-on work and providing win-win solutions. Today, I am excited to tell you about an upgrade in a long-standing program of The HSUS. The program is called Wild Neighbors–Humane Wildlife Solutions®:, which is a model business we have set up to solve conflicts between people and wild animals in and around their homes.
Typically, when someone has a conflict with a raccoon, squirrel, or other wild animal, they called a Nuisance Wildlife Control Officer and the "experts" often remove and kill the offending creature. According to their own materials “[t]he nuisance wildlife control industry is an outgrowth and convergence of two related fields—the pest control industry and the rural fur trapping industry.”
Clearly, these are not the concerns The Humane Society of the United States would recommend calling in an animal-related emergency.
Yet, until recently, they were the only option for the average homeowner with a raccoon mother and five babies in her attic. And demand for their services is growing.
A surging U.S. population has led to steep increases in wildlife-related problems for homeowners and businesses. Increased suburban development provides plenty of food for wildlife, but natural den sites are destroyed every time a tree is cut down or a hedge row bulldozed. When animals decide a warm chimney or attic makes a nice den, even the most devoted nature lover feels intruded upon.
It is estimated that more than a million animals a year—squirrels, raccoons, skunks and other species—are killed when they set up house where they are unwanted.
Even more sadly, many caring people, and even many humane societies, encourage the use of a “humane” trap to catch the mother and then take her away to a distant woods or park. What they don’t realize is that this abrupt displacement and relocation can often have fatal consequences. If the litter is moved with the mother, she may be unable to protect them, find a new home and support their nutritional needs. She risks being killed on roads, being unable to find adequate food sources or taken by predators.
All too often it is only the adult who is trapped and relocated. Her babies, quiet and still as their mother leaves to forage and is caught in a trap, soon begin wailing in desperation for their mother to return to their attic nest to feed them. Even if they are heard, they are, at best, found and transferred to a rehabilitation facility that should not be taking in animals whose orphaning could have been prevented.
Many orphaned babies could be saved with better prevention
In the past three years The HSUS has focused on developing a more humane standard for wildlife removal in the form of an entrepreneurial model that will provide financial sustainability for small businesses and non-profits alike.
Our goals are two-fold: first, provide consumers with a humane choice in wildlife removal situations and, second, pilot an entrepreneurial model.
There is no reason why a homeowner or business needs to choose between allowing a raccoon family to take over their attic and being the perpetrator of cruelty. Humane alternatives that remove the mother and babies, and release them near the site are available and proven effective.
Our second aim is to test an entrepreneurial model for charitable goals, and to develop a replicable, efficient, cost-effective program to compete in the market place and win. We then hope to provide training and technical assistance to animal shelters, wildlife rehabilitation centers and individual entrepreneurs in launching this humane, caring solution in their own communities.
It's a win-win solution: the homeowners feel better about it, the animals will survive, and the organizations working to help animals will have a steady stream of income to support their work.
We are launching our Wild Neighbors: Humane Wildlife Solutions program this month with one team in the Washington, D.C., region and plans for a second team in D.C. and one on Cape Cod by summer’s end.
You can follow our progress by reading our periodic updates on our website. I am hopeful that this model will carry forward our mission of combating cruelty and celebrating animals and will provide homeowners challenged with a bird in the chimney with a choice to be kind. I am confident that most Americans will make the right decision if we provide a humane and effective option.