Our relationship with animals, as a society, is full of contradictions. We say we love animals and we have laws forbidding cruelty, but there’s so much abuse that goes on every day. That’s true in looking at the wide range of relationships we humans have with both wild and domesticated animals. But it’s even true with our pets, though each year we are seeing tangible progress to make the world better for our dogs and cats, by rooting out cruelty and neglect and promoting kindness and compassionate care.
Today, I round up some of our 2014 gains for dogs and cats. At The HSUS, our goal is to make sure that every cat and dog has a safe, loving home; that healthy, treatable pets are no longer euthanized; that puppy mills are permanently shuttered; that dogfighting and other forms of exploitation of companion animals are ended; that animals in underserved communities in the United States and developing nations around the globe are no longer subjected to harsh control methods; and that we find ways to manage them humanely.
South Dakota: Stronger Animal Cruelty Penalties Enacted
South Dakota became the 50th state to set felony penalties for malicious acts of animal cruelty, including felony penalties for cockfighting, which is now a felony in 41 states and a misdemeanor in the other nine. Prior to 1986, only four states had animal cruelty laws that allowed for felony-level punishment. Today, thanks to the hard work of animal advocates and lawmakers, every state and the District of Columbia has some form of a felony animal cruelty law. This is a milestone for The HSUS and also for our movement.
Federal Puppy Mill Imports Rule Passed
Other nations will no longer be able to raise tens of thousands of dogs in puppy mills and flood the U.S. market with them, thanks to a federal rule finalized in August. The rule prohibits the import of young puppies into the United States for resale. This long-awaited rule from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will save thousands of puppies a year from enduring harsh, overseas transport, during which many became sick or died. We also fended off a legal challenge to a 2013 federal rule that brings thousands of large-scale dog breeders, who sell puppies directly to consumers, under the regulatory authority of the USDA.
Federal Animal Fighting Spectator Ban Passed
The Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, passed as an amendment to the Farm Bill, makes it a federal crime to attend or bring a minor to an animal fighting spectacle. Under the new law, everyone involved in animal fights is subject to arrest and prosecution. We’ve already seen the law put to use in Ohio earlier in December. And a few weeks ago, a federal judge handed down some of the stiffest penalties ever to dogfighters involved in a network in Alabama and Georgia that we helped raid last year.
Pets for Life Expanded
Our groundbreaking Pets for Life program now has a foothold in underserved communities in 26 cities across the United States, providing critically needed free spay-and-neuter and pet wellness services to areas where more than 85 percent of the pets have not yet been sterilized. With partners like PetSmart Charities, Pets for Life is working to both cut down on the population of homeless pets and increase access to basic services for pets and the people who love them. To date, we’ve reached more than 61,000 pets in underserved areas.
Gas Chambers Eliminated
Part of our longtime work with shelters includes helping them transition to humane euthanasia methods. In 2014, we helped close 14 carbon monoxide gas chambers in Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Utah, and in Alberta, Canada. The use of these chambers was banned outright in Delaware, North Carolina, and the commonwealth of Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands. We’ll continue to pursue not only voluntary closures of gas chambers at individual shelters, but statewide bans through additional legislative efforts in 2015.
Cat Populations Humanely Managed
There are tens of millions of unowned cats living on the streets. We helped to pass three pro-Trap-Neuter-Return bills and 46 pro-TNR ordinances in 2014, to cut down on the number of homeless cats, to more actively manage feral cat communities, and to reduce the high euthanasia rate for cats in shelters—70 percent of cats in shelters are put down each year. On top of all that we continue to reinforce our strong messaging to members of the public that their cats are safer indoors.
Breed Discrimination Battled
Breed specific legislation is on the decline, and The HSUS is working hard to ensure that this trend continues. In 2014 we played a leading role in the repeal of the last statewide breed-specific law in Maryland and supported two new laws in South Dakota and Utah that prohibit localities from enacting breed-based legislation. Now 19 states have similar laws. Remaining breed-specific legislation exists on a local level and our ongoing outreach to local officials has led to Madison, Wis.,Moreauville, La., and others moving away from considering breed-based laws and towards a community-based animal-services model. Moreauville this fall passed an archaic ordinance that banned pit bulls and Rottweilers, and stated that dogs would be removed from their homes and destroyed beginning December 1, with no exceptions or appeals. The ordinance was repealed after The HSUS added pressure to an already mounting public outcry. Actress Nikki Reed and HSUS reps paid a visit to O’Hara Owens, a young girl with special needs who was at the center of media attention as she fought to protect her therapy dog, Zeus from the Moreauville ordinance.
Pet Adoptions Increased
We reached more Americans than ever before through our partnership with Maddie’s Fund and the Ad Council on The Shelter Pet Project, a public service campaign encouraging people to make adoption their first choice when adding a pet to their family. The latest fun and lighthearted public service announcements and interactive online ads launched early in 2014 and so far this year the campaign has generated over $38 million in donated media – and $210 million since its launch in 2009. It has been seen by over eight million people across the United States. We’ve also teamed up with Disney to produce a new round of PSAs focused on Disney’s new franchise, Palace Princesses, which will roll out in March. And lots of celebrities have been showing their shelter pet love, including Paul Shaffer of the the Late Show With David Letterman, and Bellamy Young of NBC’s Scandal.
Pet Stores Converted
Six additional pet stores converted from selling commercially-raised puppies to offering only shelter dogs and puppies as part of our Puppy Friendly Pet Stores conversion program, making a total of 11 stores that we have assisted in converting in less than two years. More than 1,500 shelter pets have been adopted due to these conversions.
The HSUS Animal Rescue Team deployed throughout the nation, and included among the animals rescued were 1426 dogs and 137 cats – 999 from puppy mills, 143 from animal fighting operations, and 716 from situations tied to hoarding and neglect. Our veterinary teams deployed to Indian reservations and other impoverished regions and provided valued and often times urgent care to animals in need. We also provided ongoing care for more than 100 dogs seized the prior year from the second largest animal fighting rescue in U.S. history that took down 14 major players in dogfighting, and we helped engineer the first dogfighting busts ever in Costa Rica. Our global arm’s street dog teams directly touched and treated thousands of dogs in Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, the Philippines, and other nations throughout southeast Asia, and we helped rescue street dogs in Sochi, Russia, during and after the Winter Olympics.
There is no organization that works on as wide a range of companion animal issues as The HSUS, helping homeless animals in the United States and abroad and taking aim at the biggest industries that harm dogs, whether they are fighting rings, greyhound racing operations, or puppy mill enterprises. Some of the animals we’ve saved are featured in year-end videos you may have seen. We thank you for supporting this lifesaving work that we do every day.