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April 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Perfect Storm for Farm Animals

It’s been an exciting week for farm animal protection in America. On Sunday, more than one thousand animal advocates in 43 states gathered at our Party Animals events around the country to rally for laws to protect animals from the worst abuses of industrial factory farming. I participated in a nationwide conference call with partygoers to talk about the Humane Society Legislative Fund’s work to promote farm animal welfare, and I was joined on the call by the fantastic U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who is a stalwart advocate for animals in Congress. She is the chairwoman of the important House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, and has been one of the leading voices for passing the Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act, the Food Safety Recall Information Act, and other important policy reforms.

Cow_downed3 Congresswoman DeLauro spoke eloquently about the “perfect storm” surrounding The Humane Society of the United States’ recent investigation into the slaughter of crippled cows, and how it “crystallized the inhumane treatment of animals, the violation of the downer cow policy and downer cows becoming part of the food chain, and the potential for tainted beef making its way into the school lunch program.” She urged listeners to join the National Call-In Day for Downed Animals this Thursday. “Make your voices heard. Make this issue a national priority,” she implored. “My colleagues in the Congress listen to what their constituents say. You have to make sure that they hear you.”

Also joining us on the call was “Brian,” the HSUS undercover investigator who worked for six weeks at the slaughter plant and exposed the horrific practices that led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history. His voice was disguised to protect his identity, and it was a riveting and dramatic moment, straight out of “60 Minutes.” Brian told a story about his last day of work at the plant, when he saw a pregnant cow who literally gave birth on her way to slaughter. Despite her attempts to care for her calf, she was separated from her newborn and slaughtered. Brian had captured so many terrible images, and he knew it was time to show the world.

But it’s not just downer cows getting attention. The Party Animals events and the nationwide call to action came just days after national news on scientific innovations that may some day allow meat to be grown in laboratories, potentially reducing the suffering of billions of farm animals, environmental pollution, and public health impacts. "The New York Times" took the opportunity to comment in an editorial on the current state of factory farming in America, and the paper of record held no punches:

We are disgusted by the conventional meat industry in this country, which raises animals—especially chicken and pigs—in inhumane confinement systems that cause significant environmental damage. There is every reason to change the way meat is produced, to make it more ethical, more humane…Ensure the least possible cruelty to animals, by all means, and raise them in ways that are both ethical and environmentally sound.

Battery_cage And that’s not all the news that’s fit to print. This morning, at a press conference in Washington, D.C., the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production released a path-breaking report after two and a half years of studying the problems of factory farming. The commission is made up of prominent individuals such as former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, Colorado State University professor Bernie Rollin, and University of Tennessee Veterinary School Dean Michael Blackwell.  Among the commission’s findings are that factory farms jeopardize animal welfare, public health, food safety, and the quality of life in rural communities. They have issued a series of recommendations, including an end to the use of gestation crates for pigs, veal crates for calves, and battery cages for egg-laying hens.

The commission report will surely lead to policy initiatives to change laws for farm animals and change the way agribusiness operates in this country, and your Humane Society Legislative Fund will be on the front lines. In fact, several efforts are already underway which are directly in line with the commission’s recommendations, including the California Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act on the state’s November general election ballot. Californians will have the opportunity to end one of the worst abuses in industrial factory farming—confining animals in tiny crates and cages so small they don’t even have enough room to turn around and stretch their limbs for nearly their entire lives. 

Tethering veal calves by the neck, forcing pigs to squeeze inside tight metal bars, cramming five or six birds into a wire cage the size of the front page of “The New York Times”—it’s not just animal advocates who say these practices are cruel and unacceptable. It’s time for the perfect storm surrounding farm animal welfare to result in meaningful social change for these creatures.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

State Lawmakers Horsing Around

When legislators want to duck an issue, they often say it’s outside their jurisdiction. Federal lawmakers tell you to deal with the states, and their state counterparts tell you to deal with the feds.

Horses But when it serves their ideological interests, lawmakers will try to grab, rather than pass, the hot potato. State Rep. Dave Sigdestad, a Democrat in South Dakota, has advanced a proposal in the National Conference of State Legislatures that would urge the U.S. Congress to oppose legislation banning horse slaughter. The resolution will be considered when the NCSL meets in Washington, D.C. this week.

The proposed resolution repeats the fatuous claim that slaughtering tens of thousands of horses each year actually helps them. The horse slaughter industry has been trying to sell this bogus idea with a straight face: If horses weren’t killed they would be cruelly abused or abandoned. Yeah, right—isn't that like destroying the village to save it? Horse owners are not going to turn into would-be Michael Vicks because they can no longer make a buck selling horses for meat. There are plenty of other legal, responsible options, such as resale to new owners, placement at equine rescues or sanctuaries, or humane euthanasia.

It’s especially ironic because state lawmakers have largely been responsible for shuttering the last remaining horse slaughter plants. The Illinois legislature banned horse slaughter last year, and the state’s single slaughter plant, Cavel International, sued to overturn the law by claiming that only the federal government, not the states, could act to ban horse slaughter. The court rejected that argument and upheld the right of the state of Illinois to pass its own laws.

Another federal court upheld a similar state law in Texas, and Lone Star lawmakers defeated an attempt to repeal that prohibition. And Rep. Sigdestad’s own state of South Dakota flatly rejected a bill this year that would have opened a new horse slaughter plant with a $1 million loan from state taxpayers.

Horses2 If they don’t want horse slaughter in Texas or South Dakota, where could they possibly want it? Not anywhere in the U.S., as there is not a single operating horse slaughter plant in the country. Arizona, California, Oklahoma, and other states have laws dealing with horse slaughter. Americans don’t eat horse meat, and don’t very much like our horses butchered so their flesh can be consumed as a delicacy in Europe and Asia.

Federal lawmakers have done their part, too, and have voted time and time again to cut funding for inspections at horse slaughter plants. They need to finish the job by passing the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, S. 311 and H.R. 503, which would prevent horse slaughter plants from reopening in the U.S. and would also stop the flow of horses to slaughter in Canada and Mexico where the transport distances are grueling and the slaughter methods cruel and clumsy.   

Absent the federal export ban, the states cannot ensure their own horses are not shuttled thousands of miles to grisly deaths in foreign plants. The NCSL resolution would undercut the efforts of state legislatures, at the behest of their citizens, to protect horses from this grim and painful end.

State and federal legislators should join together in getting the horse slaughter ban over the finish line, not turn back the clock on the progress that has been made for horses in both arenas. Contact your own state legislators and tell them that if they are attending the NCSL meeting, they should slaughter this wrongheaded resolution.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Companions in Creation

Pope Benedict XVI’s first visit to the U.S. as pontiff was historic for many reasons, but for animal advocates it was especially noteworthy because of the pope’s long history of advocating for kindness and mercy toward animals. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in 2002, for example, he criticized some of the worst abuses of factory farming, including battery cages and foie gras:

Animals, too, are God’s creatures and even if they do not have the same direct relation to God that man has, they are creatures of his will, creatures we must respect as companions in creation…Certainly, a sort of industrial use of creatures, so that geese are fed in such a way as to produce as large a liver as possible, or hens live so packed together that they become just caricatures of birds, this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible.

The pope’s stay was, without a doubt, a media frenzy, but two news stories in particular caught my eye. The first was the report that police officers patrolling outside the United Nations building during the pope’s visit rescued a distressed beaver struggling in the East River. The 40-pound animal was swimming awkwardly and showed “labored breathing” before he was saved by the NYPD scuba unit. (Sadly, the beaver died during the trip upstate to a wildlife veterinarian, but our thanks still go to the papal security detail for doing all they could to help the animal in need.)

Benedict The second was a heartwarming feature in The New York Times about the pope’s fondness for cats. In fact, on Tuesday, cat lovers made this the most popular e-mailed article from NYTimes.com. Pope Benedict befriended a ginger tabby named Chico when he lived in Germany, and a recently published biography of the pontiff is told by the feline. At the Vatican, Benedict has often been seen tending to stray cats and bandaging their wounds.

When I was in Rome several years ago, I visited Torre Argentina, which now serves a much more noble purpose than when Brutus stabbed Julius Caesar there in 44 B.C.  The excavated ruins have been transformed into a cat sanctuary where stray and abandoned felines are protected below street level. The dedicated “gattare” (cat ladies) feed, spay, and care for the rescued cats, and place them for adoption.

I know that Pope Benedict must miss the friendship of Chico back in Germany, but I also know that when he’s in Rome, he must feel right at home in a city of cat lovers.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Protecting Our Closest Living Relatives

Christine Kenneally recently penned a thought-provoking "Washington Post" column about how alike people and animals are in so many ways. Chimpanzees are perhaps the most striking example, as our closest living relatives understand and construct sentences and favor different tools for hammering and fishing. As Kenneally wrote, “chimpanzees make sense of the world in many of the same ways we do. The implication is indisputable: Humans are not unique.”

Chimp Because of these similarities, it’s especially troubling that about 1,200 chimpanzees are still used in U.S. laboratories. These highly intelligent and social creatures got a boost in Congress yesterday when a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced H.R. 5852, the Great Ape Protection Act, to end invasive research on all chimps and to retire those who are federally owned to permanent sanctuary. The bill was introduced by U.S. Representatives Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), and Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), along with Bruce Braley (D-Iowa), Tom Allen (D-Maine), John Campbell (R-Calif.), and Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) as original cosponsors.

The U.S. remains the largest user of chimpanzees in biomedical research, as England, Sweden, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Austria, and Japan have all banned or limited their use. Some chimps have been languishing in labs for more than 40 years, confined in steel cages for most of their lives and enduring sometimes painful and distressing experimental procedures. It costs U.S. taxpayers $20 million to $25 million each year—money that many in the scientific community believe could be allocated to more effective research. More than 300 scientists, physicians, and educators have joined The Humane Society of the United States’ Chimps Deserve Better campaign and the New England Anti-Vivisection Society's Project R&R: Release and Restitution for Chimpanzees in U.S. Laboratories in calling for an end to invasive experiments on chimps.

Graph The number of chimps in research has declined steadily over recent years, as the animals have proven to be ineffective models and innovations in alternatives have emerged. In 2000, Congress passed the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act which established a national sanctuary system for those chimpanzees who have provided long service in laboratories. The law was upgraded in 2007, thanks to the work of U.S. Representative Jim McCrery (R-La.) and U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.), to ensure that these animals could not be removed from sanctuaries and placed back into research. 

Many former lab chimps now live out their lives at outstanding animal sanctuaries such as Chimp Haven, Save the Chimps, the Fauna Foundation, and the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch. Groups like Animal Protection of New Mexico and In Defense of Animals are working to get remaining chimps to sanctuaries, such as the 288 currently housed at the Alamogordo Primate Facility on the Holloman Air Force Base. The National Institutes of Health confiscated these chimps from the bankrupt Coulston Foundation and handed them over to Charles River Laboratories, which received a ten-year contract and more than $4 million per year to maintain the colony. Charles River is under fire from the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office after the recent deaths of two chimps and near-death of a third.

But it shouldn’t just fall on the shoulders of private groups to clean up the mess caused by the research industry, or law enforcement officials to prosecute the worst abuses. Congress must play its part, too, and recognize it’s time for a national public policy to protect our closest living relatives. Just as lawmakers passed the CHIMP Act in 2000 to give sanctuary to chimps, they should now finish the job and allow the remaining chimps to be released from labs to live out their lives free from harm.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Paoli and Penn Hills with Pigeon Shoots in Between

I’ve written before about the presidential candidates trotting out their hunting bona fides to strut their stuff in rural primary states. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are not immune to this quadrennial affliction, as they duke it out in Pennsylvania—a state which James Carville famously described as Paoli and Penn Hills with Alabama in between.

The Obama campaign has formed a “Sportsmen and Sportswomen for Obama Steering Committee” in Pennsylvania, stating in a white paper, “He will protect the rights of hunters and other law-abiding Americans to purchase, own, transport, and use guns for the purposes of hunting and target shooting.” At a recent campaign stop, Clinton talked about her own experiences hunting as a girl, when she learned how to shoot “behind the cottage that my grandfather built on a little lake called Lake Winola outside of Scranton.”

It’s odd that these candidates are swooning over such a diminishing constituency. But it’s also a reminder of the power of politically active interest groups. We will have greater political success when we organize our community of animal advocates into a cognizable voting bloc.

Pigeon Pennsylvania has 920,000 hunters, second only to Texas in the nation. It has more hunters than the total number of soldiers in the U.S. Army, but still they represent only 9 percent of the state’s population. By contrast, 3.6 million Pennsylvanians, or 37 percent, participate in wildlife watching. Presumably, for every voter who stalks animals with a gun, four voters stalk animals with cameras and binoculars.

And the sportsmen of Pennsylvania, unlike their counterparts in other regions, have failed to clean up some of the most abusive practices in the country. The Keystone State is home to the last remaining live pigeon shoots—gruesome contests in which live birds are sprung from traps and shot at point-blank range for money and prizes.

At the shoots, three out of four birds are not killed immediately, but are wounded and left to suffer from their injuries. Some are collected by young children who stomp on them, cut off their heads with gardening shears, or throw them into barrels to suffocate. Even the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has called the events “cruel and moronic.”

Any presidential hopeful (perhaps with the exception of Mike Huckabee) would be horrified by such conduct. We need leaders who will inspire us to teach our children the values of kindness and mercy, not allow us to numb them with cruelty and indifference. Pennsylvania is now in the spotlight, and state lawmakers should take the opportunity to ban pigeon shoots and rid the state’s sportsmen of this black eye.

Kids see through the nonsense, and it’s adults who do strange and sometimes cruel things for political purposes. Children have a natural affinity for animals, and this was illustrated by a passage in Hillary Clinton’s book, "Living History." Again remembering her days at Lake Winola, she tells a hunting story:

I loved Chelsea’s growing assertiveness, though it wasn’t always convenient. Around Christmas, 1988, I went duck hunting with Dr. Frank Kumpuris, a distinguished surgeon and good friend of mine, who invited me to join him, his two doctor sons, Drew and Dean, and a few other buddies at their hunting cabin. I hadn’t shot much since my days at Lake Winola with my dad, but I thought it would be fun. That’s how I found myself standing hip deep in freezing water, waiting for dawn in eastern Arkansas. When the sun rose, the ducks flew overhead and I made a lucky shot, hitting a banded duck. When I got home, Chelsea was waiting for me, outraged to wake up and learn that I had left home before dawn to go “kill some poor little duck’s mommy or daddy.” My efforts at explaining were futile. She didn’t speak to me for a whole day.

My late mentor, Cleveland Amory, once commented in "TV Guide" about a film in which a hunter struggled on the edge of a cliff. Cleveland said he was rooting for the cliff. Reading about an argument between mother and daughter about “some poor little duck,” I found myself rooting for Chelsea.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Golden State's Golden Opportunity

Last week, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen certified the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act for November’s general election, setting the stage for this year’s biggest ballot box battle on animal protection. Thanks to 4,000 California volunteers who gathered  hundreds of thousands of signatures, voters in the Golden State will have the opportunity to stop cruel and inhumane treatment of animals on industrial factory farms.

Cows_4 The measure's certification made news in diverse media outlets from the Sacramento Bee to the Los Angeles Times’ new “Unleashed” blog. It also stirred up the agribusiness giants. As Donald Lathbury wrote on the political website California Majority Report, “The opposition, dominated by large scale factory farm conglomerates, is willing to burn a lot of money to prevent this proposition from passing. Don’t be fooled by what is certain to be a massive misinformation campaign by the No side.”

Despite the misinformation sure to come, the question that will confront voters is relatively simple: Should animals be given basic humane treatment, or should they spend nearly their entire lives in cages so small they can’t even turn around and stretch their limbs? Veal calves are chained by the neck, pigs are kept in metal cages barely larger than their bodies, hens have less space than a letter-sized sheet of paper. Voting "Yes" on the measure will help protect animals from such extreme abuse.

Pigs_3 It will help us, too, as industrial factory farms also put our health at risk. The recent Humane Society of the United States investigation of a California slaughter plant exposed the cruel treatment of cows that threatened the safety of food fed to schoolchildren and led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history. The agribusiness industry put profits ahead of the health of people, and certainly ahead of the wellbeing of animals.

Caging animals in high densities leads to more animal waste and air and water pollution, as well as risk of disease transmission such as salmonella. Cramming hundreds of thousands of animals into a single factory is like putting all the residents of Fresno or Oakland into a high school gym, without a bathroom, and waiting for someone to sneeze.

We can do better—and many farmers are. Because it is not a California tradition to confine farm animals in tiny cages for their whole lives, the passage of this initiative will protect California’s family farming heritage. Family farmers know food quality is enhanced by more humane farming methods, and supporting this measure helps them compete and survive.

Hens_2And while you’re likely to hear about food prices, these modest reforms won’t be costly to implement. The egg industry’s own California-based poultry economist (see page four) reports that producing cage-free eggs costs less than one penny per egg more. According to California’s Legislative Analyst, the fiscal impact of this initiative is limited to minor costs that will be offset by revenue from fines. 

Join the fight to protect animals from cruelty and abuse, and find out more from Californians for Humane Farms. Help spread the word, and tell your friends and family who live in California to vote "Yes" for the humane treatment of animals this November.

Monday, April 14, 2008

You Asked

Today I’d like to respond to some questions and comments that readers have sent me.

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In response to Oprah’s show on puppy mills:

Just watched the program on Oprah about puppy mills and I was horrified. How can this be allowed to go on? I thought that there were laws against cruelty to animals. —Denise R.

Denise, you are right that all 50 states have anti-cruelty statutes, but these laws have rarely been applied to puppy mills. Most puppy factories are in rural locations with farmers raising dogs on the side, and some law enforcement officials regard the animals as livestock, not pets. But with the increased awareness of puppy mills in recent years, there have been several arrests and raids in states like Maine, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia. Even though cruelty laws exist, we must pass specific reforms to restrict the mass breeding of dogs at commercial factories. Twenty states are considering legislation this year to crack down on puppy mills, and it’s important that your state lawmakers hear from you.

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In response to Washington Governor Christine Gregoire allowing the increased hound hunting of cougars:

I am completely disgusted at the fact that my governor went against the wishes of her constituents and signed this bill into law. This is not the way to handle an overpopulation problem, not that I even think there is a cougar overpopulation. I blogged about this on my blog as well and linked to you. Thanks for bringing attention to this matter Michael. —Billy

Billy, thank you for spreading the word. Since Governor Gregoire expanded the hound hunting of cougars, there has been even more attention to this reckless policy. Seattle Times science reporter Sandi Doughton wrote in her article “Is cougar hunting breeding chaos?” that stepped up hunting is not solving cougar conflicts, but in fact is making the problem worse. And Liza Gross wrote in her High Country News feature, “Cougars in chaos,” that Washington’s outdated hunting policy is pushing big cats to the brink of extinction. It’s time for lawmakers to recognize that sound science and humane solutions should trump trophy hunting interests.

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In response to the presidential candidates' comments on the beef recall following the investigation at California slaughter plant:

In reading both Clinton’s and Obama’s statements regarding the cruelty to sick cows and tainted meat, I am not happy with either one’s reply and neither should the Humane Society be happy with them as they mainly speak of the health threat to humans and not enough if any emphasis on the horrible treatment of animals! Wasn’t that your point in posting these statements? —Donna R.

Donna, I do believe it’s important to acknowledge the candidates when they speak out on issues related to animal welfare. Hillary Clinton said in a statement that she “will crack down on the slaughter of sick or injured cows” and commented at a Wisconsin campaign stop on “sick and downed animals being pushed forward with bulldozers.” Barack Obama said in a statement, “I commend the Humane Society of the United States for bringing this important issue to the public attention and believe that the mistreatment of downed cows is unacceptable.” Animal issues are making their way into the presidential debate, and it also speaks to the broader issue of connectivity and the link between the fortunes of animals and ourselves. In this case, because animals were abused in such horrible ways, food safety and human health were also put at risk.

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If you have a question about HSLF, offer a comment through the blog or email your query. I may post it in a future blog.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Protection Orders Help All Family Members

Last week on Long Island, the law stood up for a duck named Circles. As far as I know, it was a first time that waterfowl rated such attention at the courthouse.

We can be delighted for the duck. And we can be thankful for our own sake. Increasingly, our society recognizes that cruelty extracts a terrible toll not just on the likes of Circles and other creatures, but on us humans too.

Artduckfilegi In this case a man was charged under New York’s felony animal cruelty law for shooting the duck with a pellet gun in a neighbor’s backyard. Circles has recovered from a bullet wound to her voice box, and a judge ordered the man to stay away from the bird.

Circles may have been a path-finding case insofar as wings and feathers go, but court orders protecting pets from harm are becoming more common. Recognizing the connection between animal cruelty and family violence, state lawmakers and law enforcement agencies around the country are rallying to provide greater safeguards for the whole of the family, animals too.

When pets are abused, it’s a warning siren about other potential violence in a household. One way for abusers to torment spouses, lovers, neighbors and others is to target pets. We all know there are few bonds deeper than those between a person and a companion animal—which makes the pet a prime target in the grisly cycle of suffering.

In a national survey of battered women's shelters, 85 percent reported cases of just such attacks on the pets of women seeking refuge. Imagine the countless numbers of other women who never reach out for help because they fear what might happen to their animals if they did. As it is, almost half of abused women say they delay leaving a dangerous domestic situation because their partners might harm or kill the family pet.

In 2006, Maine became the first state to recognize the significance of this relationship between people and animals. Today, court orders can be written to extend protections not just to a woman and her family, but also to pets.

In the last two years, nine other states—California, Connecticut, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, New York, Tennessee, and Vermont—have followed suit by passing laws allowing pet protection orders. Thirteen more—Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin—have already considered bills on the subject in 2008.

We’ve all heard of the canary in the mineshaft. Now we can add the duck in the backyard. Our pets don’t ask for the duty, but they can serve us as early warning systems. When our laws protect them, we are all better off.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Lawmakers Can Lead by Example on Responsible Pet Care

Politicians have the blessing and the curse of being in public life, and every move they make is closely scrutinized. We have learned an awful lot about Hillary Clinton’s tax returns, Barack Obama’s pastor, and John McCain’s temper—even though for ordinary citizens those would be considered private matters.

It means that lawmakers and candidates have to worry about their personal behavior as much as they worry about their votes and policies. They not only have to obey the laws, but also have to exhibit good judgment and set a positive example for others.

German_shep South Carolina state Sen. Kent Williams (D-30th) recently learned this the hard way. An article by Dianne P. Owens in the Florence Morning News reported that Williams got into hot water for returning his pregnant German shepherd to a local animal shelter. It seems that the senator adopted three dogs from the Marion County Animal Shelter, gave two to his mother and brother, and kept one in his fenced backyard. The dog escaped the fence several times, and Williams decided to return her to the shelter.

Both South Carolina and Marion County laws require that animals adopted from a shelter be spayed or neutered, but Williams apparently ignored the policy because he wanted to breed the female German shepherd. The dog, named Gretchen, had become pregnant during one of her many trysts outside the fence, and just days after being returned to the shelter, she gave birth to eight puppies. The story has incensed animal lovers and quickly made the rounds on blogs such as For the Love of the Dog, Rescue Dog Central, New Lead on Life, and FITSNews.

It’s especially struck a chord after Oprah Winfrey’s powerful show on Friday about responsible pet ownership and the problems facing dogs. Oprah chastised the puppy mill industry for churning out dogs like livestock, and informed millions of viewers about pet overpopulation and shelter euthanasia. She implored animal lovers to have their own pets spayed and neutered so they don’t contribute to the millions of homeless dogs and cats euthanized each year at shelters.

We can do better for pets as a nation. Our elected leaders can set a positive example for all citizens by being part of the solution, not the problem—adopting animals, having them spayed and neutered, providing the best veterinary care, keeping them inside our homes rather than chained or fenced outside, solving behavioral problems rather than dumping them at shelters.

When we don’t act responsibly, it hurts the animals. But when politicians fail in their personal responsibility to pets, it could just put them in the dog house.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Future Investment Will Go a Long Way for Animals

The slaughter of sick and crippled cows, Oprah’s exposé on puppy mills, a tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo, research laboratories ignoring compliance requirements, the routine soring of horses in violation of the Horse Protection Act. Over the past few months, these high-profile events have illustrated one common theme—laws and regulations to protect animals are only as good as their enforcement.

Capitol For years, The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund have worked in Congress to boost funding levels to implement and enforce key animal welfare laws. This year, we rallied the support of a strong bipartisan group of 46 Senators and 143 Representatives—nearly half the Senate and a third of the House—to request funds needed to improve enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, the Animal Welfare Act, the federal law to combat dogfighting and cockfighting, and programs to help prepare for the needs of animals in disasters and to address the shortage of veterinarians in rural and inner-city areas and public health practice.

Thanks to the leadership of Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) and Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Chris Smith (R-N.J.), the Agriculture Appropriations subcommittees heard from nearly 200 lawmakers who signed group letters or made their own individual requests for animal welfare funding. You can read the Senate and House letters, and see if your legislators are on the list of members who joined this important effort.

This is just the latest installment in a multi-year effort. We’ve been steadily building the enforcement budgets for these laws, recognizing that laws on the books won’t do animals much good if they’re not enforced. For example, over the past nine years, we’ve succeeded in boosting the annual funding for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act by 123% (a cumulative total of $59 million in new dollars to the program). Today, there are 105 USDA inspectors, compared to about 60 inspectors during the 1990s, to help ensure basic humane treatment at thousands of zoos, circuses, puppy mills, research laboratories, and other facilities.

If your elected officials are standing up for the enforcement of animal protection laws, please thank them for their help. This investment of critical resources will go a long way to help animals in the future.

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