If the humane movement had a signature issue, it would be the euthanasia of healthy and treatable animals in shelters. The numbers have been moving in our direction, with The HSUS and other animal protection groups spurring steady progress through legislation, education, and sterilization. Euthanasia is down from 15-20 million dogs and cats 30 years ago to about 4 million today—but this is a preventable tragedy and there’s still too much killing of our best friends. We can do better and we must do better.
Today, I am pleased to announce a game-changing development in our fight against this problem. The Ad Council has agreed to partner with The HSUS and Maddie’s Fund to take on this problem in a national advertising campaign. The Ad Council has created such ubiquitous public service campaigns in American culture as "Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk" and "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires," and now it plans to change the way society thinks about pet adoption and save the lives of millions of dogs and cats. This campaign will be launched early in 2009 and the value of the advertising is expected to be $40 to $80 million in the first year. The program is expected to last at least three years, and I am beyond excited about the possibility of driving this message through a sustained and highly visible media campaign.
Now, just 20 percent or so of dogs in homes come from shelters and rescue groups. If we raise this number to 35 percent, we would solve the bulk of the homeless dog problem—and that’s one reason why we are excited to have President-elect Barack Obama choose a shelter dog for his family and set a tremendous example for Americans.
Stay tuned for more. We’ll show you the ads when they’re developed and perhaps you, too, can pitch the ads to local media outlets and augment the Ad Council’s efforts. We want to make the shelter and rescue group the first and best choice for new pets in the United States, and we’re thrilled by the prospect of what the Ad Council campaign can do to help us reach that goal.