Michael Markarian is executive vice president of The HSUS, overseeing the organization’s External Affairs section, which includes its campaigns, communications, field offices, government affairs, litigation, and other work. He also serves as president of The Fund for Animals, an affiliate of The HSUS providing direct care, food and medical treatment to thousands of animals each year at its wildlife rehabilitation centers and sanctuaries. Additionally, as president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, he oversees the lobbying and political activity of that affiliate.
Markarian began working at The Fund for Animals in 1993, and tutored under the group’s founder and president, famed author and animal advocate Cleveland Amory. Markarian became executive vice president of the organization after Amory’s death in 1998, and later was elected president of the organization in 2002. He helped grow The Fund for Animals’ staff to 50 employees, revenues to more than $7 million annually, and assets to $22 million.
The Fund operates the world-famous Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas, which is home to more than 1,200 animals rescued from abuse or abandonment, as well as a network of wildlife rehabilitation centers and veterinary clinics.
In 2004, Markarian and Wayne Pacelle (president and CEO of The HSUS) helped engineer a merger of The HSUS and The Fund for Animals, creating the nation’s largest animal protection organization. The HSUS and its family of organizations now has more than 10.5 million members and constituents, annual revenues of $130 million, and assets of $200 million. The union of two of the movement’s leading organizations has set the precedent for mergers with other major American animal protection organizations, including the Doris Day Animal League in 2006.
The combination of The HSUS and The Fund for Animals allowed the groups to put greater resources into new programs, and enabled the creation of two new departments that Markarian oversees. The Campaigns section is a group of professional campaigners who focus on major issues for the organization: (1) the animal cruelty and fighting campaign works with law enforcement agencies to root out dogfighting, cockfighting, and extreme acts of cruelty, and works to strengthen the nation’s cruelty laws; (2) the factory farming campaign seeks to end cruel confinement of animals in industrial factory farms, and has been responsible for hundreds of companies phasing out eggs from caged hens, veal from crated calves, and pork from crated pigs; (3) the fur-free campaign encourages consumers, designers, and corporate leaders to stop using fur from skinned animals, and has exposed cruelties in the industry such as dog fur from China being sold as “fake fur” in American stores; and (4) the hunting campaign works to stop unsporting and inhumane hunting practices, such as contest killing events and “canned hunts” of fenced, exotic animals.
A second new unit is the Animal Protection Litigation section, a team of attorneys and law students who develop precedent-setting legal action for animals in the courts. The group has won legal victories to stop the slaughter of American horses for human consumption, to limit the long-distance transport of livestock without food, water, and rest, to uphold laws banning cockfighting, to stop unlawful sport hunting programs in national parks and national wildlife refuges, to end live pigeon shooting contests, and to protect species including right whales, steller sea lions, dolphins, manatees, wolves, lynx, and others. The union of The HSUS and The Fund for Animals also launched the Humane Society Legislative Fund, a new lobbying and political affiliate of the organizations.
Since the early 1990s, Pacelle and Markarian have directed more than 15 successful statewide ballot measure campaigns. Those successes include initiatives to ban the use of bait and dogs in hunting bears, cougars, and bobcats in Colorado (Amendment 10 in 1992), Massachusetts (Question One in 1996), Oregon (Measure 18 in 1994) and Washington (Initiative 655 in 1996); to ban the use of cruel traps in California (Proposition 4 in 1998), Colorado (Amendment 14 in 1996), Massachusetts (Question One in 1996) and Washington (Initiative 713 in 2000); to outlaw cockfighting in Arizona (Proposition 201 in 1998), Missouri (Proposition A in 1998) and Oklahoma (State Question 698 in 2002); to ban mourning dove hunting in Michigan (Proposal 3 in 2006); and to outlaw the use of gestation crates for housing breeding sows in Florida (Amendment 10 in 2002) and gestation and veal crates in Arizona (Proposition 204 in 2006). They also led successful campaigns to defeat ballot measures hostile to animal protection in California (Proposition 197 in 1996), Oregon (Measure 34 in 1994), Arizona (Proposition 201 in 2000) and Oklahoma (State Question 698 in 2002).
Markarian has worked for the passage of countless state laws to protect animals and has helped to pass several federal statutes to protect animals—including laws to protect great apes in their native habitats (2000), to halt commerce in big cats for the pet trade (2003), to establish federal standards to include pets in disaster planning and response (2006), to close a tax loophole that allowed trophy hunters to kill rare animals around the world for free (2006), and to make interstate dogfighting and cockfighting activities a felony offense (2007). He is currently working in Congress to stop the slaughter of American horses for human consumption, to require labeling of fur-trimmed apparel and stop dog fur from being falsely sold as “fake,” to stop “random source” dealers from selling pets to research laboratories, to halt the trade in primates as exotic pets, to ensure the safety of the nation’s pet food supply, to combat abusive “puppy mills” that treat dogs like production machines, and to pass other reforms.
Markarian’s work on animal issues has been featured in newspapers and magazines across the country, and he has appeared on major television networks such as CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, and NBC’s “Today Show.” In addition, Markarian is an experienced writer with numerous pieces published in a variety of newspapers, journals and magazines including The Animals’ Agenda, A Dog’s Life, Bird Talk, University of Baltimore Journal of Environmental Law, and Campaigns & Elections. He has had Op-Ed pieces published in dozens of major dailies, including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle, Arizona Republic, Seattle Times, Des Moines Register, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and South Florida Sun-Sentinel. In 2007, he began writing the "Animals & Politics" blog for the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
Markarian is currently the chairman of Humane USA, a non-partisan and unaffiliated Political Action Committee of the animal protection movement, and he is the president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization that lobbies for animal welfare legislation and works to elect humane-minded candidates to public office. Working with both organizations, Markarian has helped to defeat some of the strongest anti-animal welfare politicians in the United States, including Rep. Richard Pombo of California (2006) and Rep. Chris John of Louisiana (2004). In 2007, he co-founded the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, a new trade association principally representing animal sanctuaries across the nation and the world. He serves on the board of the federation.
In 2007, Campaigns & Elections magazine named Markarian one of its "Rising Star in Politics," largely for his work on animal protection legislation and political campaigns. One of the most prestigious honors in politics, the award goes to people 35 or under who have already made a significant mark in political consulting or advocacy. Past Rising Stars have included Paul Begala, Ed Gillespie, Alexis Herman, Karen Hughes, Laura Ingraham, Jim Pinkerton, Ralph Reed and George Stephanopoulos, to name just a few.
Markarian has a master's degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Maryland, and he is a graduate of the University of Missouri's National Animal Cruelty Investigations School.