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September 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

Soft on Crime, Soft on Cruelty

Virginia state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli may be one of the only elected officials in the country running for statewide office who is an apologist for staged animal fighting and has the record to prove it. He’s running this November for attorney general in Virginia, yet he’s soft on dogfighting and cockfighting. One of the last boosters of cockfighting to run for statewide office, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris John, got clobbered when he ran for U.S. Senate in Louisiana in 2004 and it was his tolerance for animal fighting that was his undoing.

Cockfighting

Ken Cuccinelli, a cockfighting apologist, is running for
Virginia Attorney General this November.

Chris John had been the cockfighting industry’s point man in the House, when he represented the rural southwestern corner of Louisiana, and had declared cockfighting to be “a cultural, family-type thing.” Louisiana at the time was one of two states where cockfighting was still legal, and conventional wisdom was that it was part of the rural lifestyle. But statewide polling showed that 82 percent of Louisiana voters wanted to ban cockfighting, and a majority from all demographic groups and party affiliations would be less likely to support a political candidate who favored the bloodsport.

Animal advocates did not want a proponent of this barbaric practice in the U.S. Senate, and Humane USA, a political action committee, ran television ads in Louisiana and sent mailings to women voters, exposing John’s support for cockfighting. Then-Rep. David Vitter, an animal advocate and opponent of cockfighting, defeated John in the open election and exit polls showed that 32 percent of white Democratic women voted for Vitter, the Republican candidate. Many of them crossed party lines because they just couldn’t stomach John’s support for cockfighting.

Five years later, Louisiana has become the 50th state to criminalize cockfighting, and 39 states—including Virginia—have established felony-level penalties for the practice. But Ken Cuccinelli recently told the Charlottesville Daily Progress he was proud to be one of only two senators to oppose a strong anti-cockfighting law in Virginia. He apparently thinks it shows his willingness to buck his own party, but instead it shows just how out of step he is with mainstream Virginia values.

Prior to 2008, cockfighting had essentially been decriminalized in Virginia, but bipartisan legislation—backed by HSUS and by sheriffs and humane societies throughout the commonwealth—made it a felony and banned possession of fighting animals. Since the law was enacted, there has been a major crackdown on animal fighting and at least five cockfighting rings broken up in Virginia. The new policy brings Virginia one step closer to rooting out illegal animal fighting, which can’t come soon enough—especially as animal fighting is closely associated with violent crimes and drug trafficking, and some of the cockfighters arrested in Virginia were suspected gang members affiliated with MS-13 and the Mexican Mafia.

Candidates for attorney general usually try to play up their tough-on-crime bona fides, but Cuccinelli instead wants to be soft on people who attach razor-sharp knives to roosters’ legs, pump the birds full of drugs to heighten their aggression, and force them to hack each other to death—all for gambling profits and the titillation of spectators who enjoy the bloodletting. And it’s not the only time he stood nearly alone on the wrong side of the fence—he was also one of only three senators to oppose restrictions on large-scale puppy mills, where dogs are treated not like family pets, but like a cash crop.

When Cuccinelli ran for reelection to the Virginia Senate in 2007, the Humane Society Legislative Fund took out ads letting voters know about his extreme opposition to modest animal protection policies. Now that he’s running for Virginia’s top law enforcement post, you can be sure we’ll let voters know it would be a major setback to have an attorney general like Cuccinelli who opposed having animal protection laws on the books in the first place.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Game-Changer for Shelter Pets

There’s no question that we as a society need to do more to help homeless dogs and cats find loving families, and we are even seeing the issue of pet adoption enter the public policy arena. In California, for example, Assemblyman Cameron Smyth (R-Santa Clarita) introduced a bill to allow a tax deduction for adopting an animal from a shelter, and Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) offered a resolution declaring September 2009 as “Adopt a Shelter Pet Month.”

But today we are celebrating the greatest investment of resources the animal protection movement has ever made to end the euthanasia of millions of healthy and treatable dogs and cats. The Ad Council, The Humane Society of the United States, and Maddie’s Fund have launched The Shelter Pet Project, a national public service advertising campaign urging pet lovers to make shelter adoption their first choice. You can read about the pathbreaking campaign for pets on Wayne Pacelle’s blog, and watch the first two TV ads—“Ditched” and “White Collar”—here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Good News and Bad News Bears

I testified this morning at a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife, opposing a bill by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) that would allow hunters to import trophies of sport-hunted polar bears from Canada. I wrote about the legislation back in June when it was introduced, and said we would hear the same personal appeals from individual hunters that we heard back in 1994, when a gaping loophole was punched through the Marine Mammal Protection Act and trophy hunters were allowed to bring in more than 900 polar bear heads and hides over the next decade and a half.

Polar Bear

H.R. 1054 would allow hunters to import trophies of
sport-hunted polar bears from Canada.

And that’s exactly what we heard this morning, when trophy hunters and their advocates made the case that 41 dead bears are just sitting in cold-storage, and it wouldn’t hurt any additional bears just to allow them to be imported and put on display, even though the polar bear has now been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The problem, of course, is the cumulative impact of these repeated requests. Whether it’s elephant ivory or polar bear pelts, each time we allow trade in a protected species, we resuscitate the market for these items, increase the incentive for poaching and sport hunting, and make it harder for law enforcement to crack down on trafficking in wildlife contraband. Trophy hunters are encouraged to kill more threatened and endangered species and just keep them in storage until their congressional allies can provide a government bail-out. 

Rep. Young, along with Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.)—who described himself with glee as the former lobbyist for Safari Club International before he entered Congress—trotted out the usual tired bromides about this being part of an “anti-hunting agenda” and they criticized animal protection groups for using the courts and Congress to protect polar bears. They conveniently forgot it was the trophy hunters themselves who chose to file suit challenging the threatened status of polar bears, with the issue of whether to allow trophy imports currently being litigated in court, and it’s the hunting advocates who are now seeking a legislative end-run around the ban on polar bear imports. Not the animal advocates.

It was also the hunting groups that had been warning their members for 16 months—from the proposed listing in January 2007 to the effective date of listing in May 2008—that the polar bear was likely to become protected under the Endangered Species Act, and that hunters who chose to spend their money seeking polar bears in the Arctic did so at their own risk of not being able to import their trophies. The Safari Club, Conservation Force, and the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance all provided stern and repeated warnings to their supporters, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service even attended the Safari Club conventions in both 2007 and 2008 to provide information to hunters about the proposed listing. In 2007, for example, Conservation Force had this to say:

American hunters are asking us whether they should even look at polar bear hunts in light of the current effort by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to list this species as threatened. The listing, you’ll recall, will trigger provisions in the Marine Mammal Protection Act banning all polar bear trophy imports to the US.…The bottom line is, no American hunter should be putting hard, non-returnable money down on a polar bear hunt at this point. Also, Americans with polar bear trophies still in Canada need to get them home soon or risk losing them.

In fact, the number of polar bear trophies imported into the U.S. rose dramatically in advance of the listing—to 112 trophies in 2007, more than doubling the previous year’s number of 52 imports. The hunting groups were urging people to get their polar bears before the listing took effect, and that’s clearly what most hunters did. These last few bears killed simply represent poor planning on the part of a few hunters who didn’t listen, when most of their counterparts knew what was coming and rushed in to get their bears. It’s a self-inflicted problem, and now they’re crying to lawmakers without any regard for the plight of these majestic and troubled creatures.  

Reps. Young and Broun and the Safari Club even had the gall to claim that polar bear populations are increasing and that trophy hunting has helped the majestic animals survive. As if they’ve been living under an ice floe while the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Polar Bear Specialist Group noted recently that the polar bear population is declining, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided there was ample scientific evidence to list the polar bear as a threatened species last year, and while several countries are now considering a proposal to increase protections for polar bears under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Flora and Fauna. The mantra from the hunting groups is usually one of making decisions on sound science, not emotion, but here they are making emotional appeals about hunters who just want to import their trophies, and manufacturing “science” to suit their own ends.

The passage of H.R. 1054 would reward a few dozen individuals who gambled at their own risk, and attempted to game the system knowing that the door would soon be closed to polar bear trophy imports, as it was previously for more than two decades. The ESA and MMPA protections should not be subverted simply to pacify a handful of trophy hunters who, with full knowledge that the species would likely be listed because of serious threats to its survival, chose to ignore all warnings from the U.S. government and hunting groups, and pursue a bearskin rug for their trophy room.

One has to wonder, in fact, just how much of Safari Club’s time and budget is devoted to helping people shoot bears. In addition to pulling out all the stops to try and convince Congress to reopen imports of sport-hunted polar bear trophies, they’ve been trying to reopen grizzly bear hunting, too. I received the news at today’s hearing that they, thankfully, missed their mark.

Last year, a number of environmental groups sued to stop the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from removing the Greater Yellowstone Area grizzly bear population from the list of threatened species. The Safari Club intervened in the case, and fought hard to ensure that grizzly bears would wind up in sport hunters’ cross-hairs.

Fortunately, Judge Molloy in Montana would have none of it, and ruled that the agency violated federal law in prematurely removing grizzlies from the list of threatened species. The court found that the majority of the regulatory mechanisms relied upon by the agency—a conservation strategy, forest plan amendments, and state plans—are not adequate to protect the grizzly bear population. The court also held that the government failed to consider the grizzly bears’ ability to adapt to the decline of whitebark pine nuts, an important food source for the bears.
 
Judge Molloy stopped the de-listing of Yellowstone’s grizzly bears, and in the process dashed the hopes of many a Safari Club member who want to see their names enshrined in the trophy hunting record books. Let’s hope Congress follows Judge Molloy’s thoughtful example, and shoots down the misguided bid to reopen the importation of sport-hunted polar bear trophies as well.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Animal All-Star

I met 14-year-old San Diego student Ben Byrom last year, when he was volunteering for the campaign to pass Proposition 2 and ban inhumane factory farming practices. Ben was too young to circulate petitions himself  because he wasn’t a registered voter, but he helped his parents gather signatures to put Prop 2 on the ballot, mailed volunteer packets, worked booths at events, and eloquently made his case to voters. He’s an articulate and well-informed advocate, and he also educated his classmates and teachers during class.

MikeandBen
Fourteen-year-old Ben Byrom is an effective advocate
for animals in California.

Ben lives his beliefs each day, and continues to make a difference in his community. He has volunteered for groups like Animal Acres and the Animal Protection and Rescue League, and he has contacted local politicians to help the seal pups and their mothers of Children's Pool Beach in La Jolla, Calif. For his leadership and work on a wide range of animal protection issues, he was named the “2009 Humane Teen of the Year” by Humane Society Youth.

Ben is taking another step to continue his advocacy for animals today in California. He is sending a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, urging him to sign two important animal protection bills on his desk—A.B. 241 to curb abuses at puppy mills by limiting to 50 the number of adult breeding dogs or cats confined in large-scale commercial operations, and S.B. 135 to ban the painful and unnecessary tail docking of dairy cows. Ben is dropping his letter in the mail at a downtown post office, with reporters in tow so that he can generate public awareness and spread the word to other Californians.

One of the long-term benefits of a statewide campaign like Prop 2 is not only that it results in a tangible public policy reform for millions of animals, but also that it rallies animal advocates around political change and that same group of dedicated people can continue to organize for other animal protection issues. The statewide network of advocates who helped Prop 2 sail to victory last year remained in place and helped to pass a number of animal protection bills this year in the California legislature—on puppy mills, dogfighting, factory farming, wildlife poaching, and other subjects.

And when young people like Ben get involved, they continue to have an impact for animals in the years to come. I’ve pasted Ben’s letter to the governor below, and I congratulate him on his effective advocacy for animals.

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger,

My name is Ben Byrom. I am 14 years old, and I am a volunteer for many animal protection causes in San Diego where I live. I volunteer for the Animal Protection and Rescue League and worked on the Yes on Prop 2 campaign to ensure that farm animals in California are able to turn around and extend their limbs. I also help protect the seals in La Jolla and recently won the Humane Teen of the Year award from the Humane Society of the United States.

As my Governor, you have the ability right now to help a lot of animals by signing A.B. 241 and S.B. 135. 

S.B. 135 would ban tail docking of dairy cows, which is the very cruel and inhumane practice of cutting off a cow's tail for really no reason at all. I don’t understand why anyone would want to cut a cow’s tail off, but they shouldn’t be allowed to do it. Not only does it hurt a lot to have part of your body cut off without any painkiller, but these cows need their tails to prevent attacks from biting flies. It’s just wrong to take their tails away from them.

A.B. 241 would crack down on puppy mills by limiting the number of breeding dogs or cats people can own.  In these puppy mills, lots of dogs are kept for their whole lives in really bad conditions and they never get to be part of a family. I have read that you’re a dog lover like me, and so I know you wouldn’t want lots of dogs suffering in California. You can help them by signing this bill.

Neither of these bills will cost the state any money.

On behalf of other kids like me that care about how animals are treated in California, please sign both of these important bills.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Ben Byrom

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Women Lawmakers are Top Dogs on Animal Welfare

Politico’s Erika Lovley reported yesterday on a new study conducted by researchers at Stanford University and the University of Chicago, indicating that women in Congress tend to be more effective than male lawmakers. The study examined the performance of House members over two decades, and found that on average, women introduce more bills and attract more cosponsors for their legislation. Researchers say that women may fight harder once they get to Congress, because they’ve often been underdogs in their elections and have had to overcome obstacles and biases in order to get there.

You might also say that female legislators are more likely to stand up for the underdogs. It’s no surprise that there’s a gender gap on animal protection, with women more likely to have sympathy for animals and to be involved in the cause of animal advocacy. In all of our statewide ballot measures, no matter what the subject matter—factory farming, dog racing, cockfighting, inhumane hunting or trapping practices—we have had strong support from every demographic group. But women voters of all political affiliations have always outperformed men and have provided a strong and unwavering base of support for animal welfare reforms at the ballot box.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen with her dog and HSLF President Michael Markarian
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) is one
of many women advocating for animals.

Lovley’s article prompted me to take a look through the most recent edition of our Humane Scorecard, and compare how women and men in Congress performed on animal protection issues. Over the course of the 110th Congress, female House members scored an average of 68 percent on animal protection, while their male counterparts scored 54 percent. The gender gap was wider in the Senate, where women averaged 68 percent and men just 46 percent when it came to animal welfare.

Female lawmakers were also nearly twice as likely as men to have perfect scores on animal protection legislation, and much less likely to be at the bottom of the ranking. Eighteen of the 66 women serving in the House (27 percent) scored 100 percent on animal issues, while only 48 of the 353 men (14 percent) did the same. In the Senate, five of the 16 women (31 percent) earned a perfect score, compared to 14 of the 84 men (17 percent). Five men in the Senate (6 percent) and 13 in the House (4 percent) scored a zero on animal protection, while not a single woman in either chamber had that sorry distinction.

This strong showing by women in Congress on animal protection issues comes from both sides of the aisle, with both Democratic and Republican women helping to boost the average scores of their respective parties. And there is a solid group of female legislators who are introducing animal protection bills and showing active leadership to fight for these measures, like Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), and Reps. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), and Betty Sutton (D-Ohio).

The changing demographics in our society are sure to keep accelerating the pace of progress on animal protection. More women are becoming veterinarians, for example, and steering the profession away from its traditional agribusiness alignment and toward a leadership role on animal welfare that better represents the view of mainstream Americans. As we see more women elected to public office, too, we can expect to see more public policies that reflect our social values and protect animals from cruelty and abuse.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Double Whammy for Animal Shelters

The economic downturn is having ripple effects in nearly every part of American life, but the impact on animal shelters has been especially acute. Struggling families are relinquishing more dogs and cats to shelters, as they find they can no longer afford the costs of pet care, or they are evicted from their homes and cannot find pet-friendly housing. At the same time, municipal governments are cutting local services, and charitable giving is on the decline, so both public and private shelters have less funding. It’s a double whammy for animal shelters—greater demand but fewer resources.

Puppyinshelter
Animal shelters play a critical role in our communities.

The problem may become more severe in California, as a budget deal between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state legislators will reduce the funding available to hold stray dogs and cats in the state’s municipal animal shelters. But some communities are taking a more forward-looking approach and trying to sustain—rather than cut—critical services.

In Lincoln County on Oregon’s central coast, the county animal shelter is scheduled to close its doors on June 30, 2010, because funding will run out. But this November, voters will decide on a new property tax that would allow animal care and control operations to continue uninterrupted. If approved, Measure 21-134 will provide funding for another five years to support the animal shelter and animal control services in the county.

With tea-party protests around the country, it’s hard to imagine voters approving a new tax. But it’s even harder to imagine what life would be like with no animal shelter and no animal control services. Without an animal shelter, homeless pets will have no place to go to find new, loving homes. Stray animals will be left to the mercy of the streets, and without animal control services, they will continue to breed and overpopulate. As their numbers grow, disease will become rampant and pose a very real threat to animal health and human health.

In fact, cutting funds for animal care and control is penny-wise and pound-foolish. Without a functioning animal shelter, other costs to the community—demands on law enforcement, county health officials, and nonprofit rescue groups—will grow. Measure 21-134 would cost the average Lincoln County property owner less than a nickel a day, while the potential costs of dealing with dog bites or a rabies epidemic would certainly be much greater.

Most people wouldn’t imagine living in an area with no school, no hospital, no police, no road maintenance, or no trash collection. An animal shelter, too, is a community institution, and shouldn’t be allowed to go under. It’s not just a quality of life issue for citizens, but a critical service in a nation that cares about animal welfare—a nation where we want to see pets cared for and adopted, not suffering and dying on our streets.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Back to Work in the Nation’s Capital

Members of Congress return to Washington today after a month-long recess, and they’ll get back to work on health care reform and other top-tier issues. But animal protection has also been on the agenda, and many of our key priorities have already made meaningful progress during the 111th Congress.

Today I’d like to give you a snapshot of where we stand after the first eight months of the congressional session, and what we still need to achieve in the remainder of 2009 and 2010. The following bills have cleared at least one major hurdle already:

Chimp
The Captive Primate Safety Act aims to protect primates
from the dangerous and cruel exotic pet trade.

Captive Primate Safety ActH.R. 80 by Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Mark Kirk / S. 462 by Sens. Barbara Boxer and David Vitter—The bill will prohibit interstate and foreign commerce in primates for the exotic pet trade, as these highly intelligent and social creatures cannot be cared for properly in private homes, and they threaten public health and safety. The legislation was approved in the House by a vote of 323-95, and approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It’s now pending in the full Senate, but Sen. Tom Coburn has placed a hold on the bill. 

Restore Our American Mustangs (ROAM) ActH. R. 1018 by Reps. Nick Rahall and Raúl Grijalva / S. 1579 by Sen. Robert Byrd—This legislation will restore the prohibition on the commercial sale and slaughter of wild horses and burros (a protection undercut by a rider in the FY 2005 omnibus spending bill) and encourage more humane and fiscally responsible management of wild horses through methods such as fertility control, rather than costly round-ups and long-term holding in federal pens at taxpayer expense. The bill passed the House by a vote of 239-185, and is now pending in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Shark Conservation ActH. R. 81 by Reps. Madeleine Bordallo and Eni Faleomavaega / S. 850 by Sen. John Kerry—The bill would end the cruel practice of shark finning (cutting off sharks’ fins and throwing the sharks back in the water, often while still alive). Congress banned this practice in 2000, but there is currently a loophole that allows vessels to transport fins obtained illegally as long as the sharks were not finned aboard that vessel. The bill to close this loophole and strengthen protections against shark finning passed the House by a voice vote, and is now pending in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Pythons as PetsS. 373 by Sen. Bill Nelson / H.R. 2811 by Rep. Kendrick Meek—This legislation would add pythons to the list of injurious species prohibited from interstate commerce and importation, in response to dangerous pet pythons killing children and others, and causing environmental damage when released into ecosystems such as the Everglades. H.R. 2811 passed the House Judiciary Committee, but was unfortunately weakened to bar only Burmese pythons and African rock pythons, which would simply trigger a shift in the trade to other constricting snakes such as reticulated pythons and anacondas. The Senate bill is broader and is pending in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Great Cats and Rare Canids ActH. R. 411 by Rep. Jay Inslee / S. 529 by Sens. Joe Lieberman and Sam Brownback—The bill would assist in the conservation of rare cats and dogs in the wild by supporting and providing financial resources for conservation programs in their range countries. The legislation passed the House by a vote of 290-118, and was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It’s now pending in the full Senate.

Crane Conservation ActH. R. 388 by Rep. Tammy Baldwin / S. 197 by Sens. Russ Feingold and Mike Crapo—The bill would provide financial resources for conservation programs to protect cranes and their ecosystems. Cranes are the most endangered family of birds in the world, victims of pesticide, power lines, human encroachment, and even wars. Eleven of 15 species are at risk of extinction, and the North American whooping crane is the rarest of all cranes. The legislation passed the House by a vote of 288-116, and was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It’s now pending in the full Senate.

Canadian Seal HuntS. Res. 84 by Sens. Carl Levin and Susan Collins—This resolution urges Canada to end its annual seal hunt, the world’s largest commercial slaughter of marine mammals. It passed the full Senate by unanimous consent.

Horses
We're working to pass bills to protect wild horses and burros and stop the export of American horses to slaughter plants for human consumption.

Marine Mammal StrandingsS. 859 by Sen. Maria Cantwell—This bill would provide grants for marine mammal rescue and disentanglement. It was approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and is now pending in the full Senate.

Southern Sea Otter Recovery and Research ActH. R. 556 by Rep. Sam Farr—The bill reconstitutes a team of scientists under the Endangered Species Act to monitor and promote the recovery of the Southern sea otter, and authorizes funding for scientific research to support the protection of this threatened marine mammal along the Pacific coast. It passed the House by a vote of 316-107, and has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Marine Turtle Conservation Reauthorization ActH.R. 509 by Reps. Henry Brown and Madeleine Bordallo—The bill would authorize an additional five years of grants for marine turtle conservation projects in foreign countries, expand eligibility to include projects in the U.S., and increase authorized funding levels. The bill passed the House by a vote of 354-72, and has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

A number of other bills have not yet had committee or floor action, but have been gaining support and building strong lists of cosponsors. We expect movement soon on the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act to stop the export of American horses to slaughter plants for human consumption, the Truth in Fur Labeling Act to give consumers important product information about fur-trimmed apparel, and a provision in the Department of Defense reauthorization bill to promote the use of service and therapy dogs to assist disabled veterans. Other important pending measures include the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act to curb profligate overuse of these drugs on factory farms, the Great Ape Protection Act to phase out the use of chimpanzees in invasive research, and the Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years (HAPPY) Act to allow tax deductions for necessary pet care expenses, including veterinary services.

We also expect new bills to be introduced, seeking to protect dogs who are victims of large-scale puppy mills, make it a federal crime to attend a dogfight or cockfight, end the sale for research of dogs and cats obtained by random source “Class B” dealers who have been known to steal pets, allow for the creation of pet trusts to provide long-term care for companion animals, require that agribusiness producers who supply food to the federal government no longer cram animals into small crates and cages where they can barely move, and advance other important public policy reforms.

Stay tuned and be sure to visit our web site to find out the status of these bills. We need your active help and participation to push them over the finish line, and turn them into new federal laws to protect animals from cruelty and abuse.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Talk Back: Dogfighting, Toxic Lead Shot, and Animal Cruelty

Today I’d like to share some of your comments to recent blog posts. I recently wrote about Michael Vick working to steer at-risk youth away from dogfighting:

Nobody despised Michael Vick more than myself but HSUS is making a smart move by allowing him to speak on what he has learned (hopefully) in the dogfighting business. The younger generation who is involved in this “form of activity” will pay more attention to what a famous athlete has to say than to anyone else. Someone who has been there, done that, but discovered the cruelty in it. Better late than never.—Pam N.

The mourning dove hunting season has now begun in many states, and even though there are plenty of nontoxic alternatives, many hunters will spew toxic lead shot and ammunition into our environment:

What an excellent blog. It is only reasonable that if hunters must slaughter these little birds, they can, at the very least, do it in a less polluting way than spewing lead all over the environment. I can’t see how anyone can possibly object to that, although it doesn’t surprise me that the NRA does. They think any legislation at all, even the most reasonable kind that even hunters agree with, is an attack on their precious (and totally outdated) second amendment. Thanks for the info.—BanWolfHunting

I grew up with hunters and fishers, who participate in a better sort of conservation and knowledge of natural resources than most folks. So, it’s great to see the Humane Society helping to make the connection between how hunting can be harmful to the environment, and the reasons why. The lead-based ammo is something I don’t know if many people consider.—Ginevra

In response to a recent blog regarding the major U.S. Supreme Court case to determine whether to uphold a federal law that bans the commercial sale of videos depicting illegal acts of animal cruelty:

Some human behavior is so sick and twisted, so aberrant and dangerous, that there can be no question but that it should be outlawed and severe penalties imposed on those who commit such heinous acts. There simply is no excuse for allowing anyone to inflict such abuse on any sentient creature. Reading this makes me feel ashamed to be considered a part of any culture that allows such unthinkable acts to continue!—VR

Thank you all for your comments, and please keep the feedback coming. If you have a question or comment and would like to join the conversation, please send me an email. Thanks for all you do for animals!

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