A little serious, a little satire, and all opinion on animal welfare.
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Following the receipt of a request of a retraction and threatened legal action which our small, local charity would be unable to sustain, two sentences have been retracted from this blog.  We are in good company. Click here to see a similar demand sent to a Pulitzer Prize wnning author for merely reprinting what someone else said.  Click here for a summary of defamation defenses.  Since mere vulgarity is one, I will say that I removed the “offending” lines because I don’t want to have to lawyer up over the wounded feelings of a lobbyist douchebag.

If you found out someone who attacked the credibility of research on the impact of mercury in the food supply was funded by the food processing industry, what would you think of their claims?

If you found out someone who attacked legislative efforts to curb underage drinking was funded by the alcohol industry, what would you think of their claims?

Now, what if you found out that the group attacking one of the largest and oldest animal welfare organizations in the world, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), often employing front groups and faux non-profits, was funded by a consortium of meat producers and food processors? What would you think of their claims then?

That is exactly what Rick Berman and his Center for Consumer Freedom are doing. This so-called non-profit group specializes in saving us from the tyranny and dastardly deeds of such groups as the HSUS- and the Centers for Disease Control, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine.

They do it with funding provided by such corporate good citizens as Philip Morris Tobacco (their “charity’s” founding donor), Cargill Processed Meats, and Monsanto. They do it by attacking the credibility of scientific studies, personally attacking those representing opposing views, and by turning the opposition against one another.

It is the last one which CCF is attempting to do right now. CCF is trying to turn local animal shelters against the HSUS. They are trying to pit one group of animal advocates against another group and are hoping that no one will notice who is paying them to do it.

But the saying that we are judged by the company we keep holds true and CCF should be judged guilty.

This sentence has been retracted at the request of Rick Berman. Click here to read the public letter he sent which contains the sentence.

They have every right to do so, just as we have every right to fight for any agenda we wish to promote.  This sentence has been retracted at the request of Rick Berman.  Click here to read the public letter he sent which contains the sentence. We have the right to disagree. But it is the underhanded and surreptitious way they go about doing it, and the hidden money behind the efforts, which should be called into question with the CCF.

In their attack against HSUS, they play on the long standing- and very real- confusion many people have about HSUS’ relationship with local animal shelters. Primarily that there is one when there isn’t. I work at a private non-profit humane society so I regularly find myself explaining to people that we don’t get money from HSUS. But people are confused about a lot of things. I also regularly deal with people who tell me their Golden Retriever is a Yellow Lab. I don’t blame their confusion on the dog.

But CCF’s claim that I’d be getting all my animals adopted if I just got my share of the money raised by HSUS is plain stupid and plays on the ignorance of the public and even those in animal welfare. Even if the HSUS’s, let’s say, one hundred million dollars a year, was given locally as opposed to support their national efforts, that wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans. In fact, assuming a low ball number of just 5,000 animal shelters in the US, that comes out to a whopping $20,000 per shelter. Wow, stop the presses- that’ll really make a dent.

But the CCF knows this. This know that by making big scary claims and using big numbers they can make people think, even animal people, that HSUS is the problem and keep HSUS on their heels. That is the real reason behind it. When they create sweet little pro-shelter animal websites, using testimonials by HSUS ex-employees (beware testimonials by ex-employees- what did you think of your last boss?), they aren’t doing it to help the animals, they are doing it to muddy the waters.

They know what I know. No single animal shelter can really make much of a difference nationwide. But one huge organization like HSUS, which can improve legislation across the nation, can help make animal shelters more effective, and can respond in meaningful ways to natural disasters, can make a difference and that difference isn’t always in the best interests of the food processors and their stock holders. That’s why CCF attacks HSUS.

We- animal welfare organizations, animal advocates, little organizations and big, and anyone who cares about animals- have more in common with each other that we will ever have with CCF and the corporate funders they shill for. We may fight like siblings at times but we are fundamentally the same family. We can’t let some interloper come in and tell us we should hate one another. We can work out our differences on our own, thank you very much, CCF.

And speaking of who represents and misrepresents whom, who does support CCF and who does CCF support? Reportedly, and it’s only reportedly because their “donors” choose to remain largely anonymous, they have 100 corporate supporters and “thousands” of individual supporters. Of course, our little Berks Humane has nearly 10,000 supporters annually. HSUS has millions of supporters annually. Who really represents the will and beliefs of the American people, I wonder?

Who do they fund? Their 2009 IRS 990 tax return shows that they gave a six million dollar grant (of their eight million dollar income) to the Employment Policies Institute, a group which fights to oppose increases in the minimum wage. Again, whose freedom is that protecting? Another $1.5 million went to their director Rick Berman’s private consulting company for “management services”.

CCF has every right to promote their regressive, anti-worker, anti-animal, anti-science, pro-big business agenda all they like. But we have the right to ignore them or fight against them and we should.

I may not agree with HSUS or many others of my colleagues in animal welfare from time to time, or even most of the time in some cases. But if I had to pick a side, I know what side I’m picking.

We know what side the Center for Consumer Freedom has picked and it’s not our side or the animal’s at all, no matter what misleading, mudslinging claims they make. I would say that when the CCF chose to lie down with dogs we shouldn’t be surprised that they got fleas. Only that’s an insult to dogs. And to fleas.

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Or a bear?  Or a chimp?

I know we are not supposed to bracket our freedoms in the United States based on proving our need or right to do something.  I have a big enough libertarian streak in me that I have always chaffed at being told what any of us can do with our own time, money and property, especially in our own homes, by the government or the majority.

It seems like this unwillingness to limit the owning exotics has fallen collectively into this area since lots of people apparently own menageries which rival small zoos.  But given the streak of cases involving killings and maimings by and of privately owned exotic animals, it is time for us to revisit this issue.

For years this argument has been framed in several ways, such as environmental impact and the general appropriateness or “rightness” of keeping exotics.  Environmental arguments have tended to carry some weight, especially in warmer regions because there are very real examples of damage done to native wildlife by escaped pythons, monitors, even snakeheads and lionfish

In these cases, the balance between the individual right to own them and the damage to our collective world tips in favor of the collective.  In the northern U.S. there has been less of a concern because of the extreme effectiveness of one factor: winter.  For the most part any snake, lizard, alligator or fish which escapes is ensured one final hurrah before freezing to death.

The more animal rightsy argument of “these animals just shouldn’t be subjected to captivity” has never held much sway politically.  The reality is people like zoos, as sad and creepy as they can be, and private ownership of these animals is arguably just a matter of degrees.  Lawmakers have also generally questioned how being kept in a cage for entertainment is worse than being kept in a cage for production and slaughter, a reality which impacts millions of times more animals in our culture.

The one argument which has been effective, since it can be so nebulously applied- just ask a peaceful student protestor right now- is that of “public safety”.  Based on public safety concerns, the average person in many places can’t own poisonous snakes, primates, gators, and a variety of other dangerous exotics.  But how do you go from being the “average person” to being authorized to own a tiger or a baboon?

It’s as easy as living in the right state or filling out the right form in the right state.  Some states, such as Alabama (I know, shocking, right?) have no restrictions at all.  You want a tiger?  Save up $13,400, go online- no, I am not kidding- to buytigers.com, and be the coolest redneck in the trailer park.  Or maybe you live in a really tiny state like Delaware, where you can fill out a permit application and compensate for your small “state” by driving your new chimp around in your new red Corvette (in case you are compensating for something else being small, too).  Proudly, he writes facetiously, Pennsylvania is also a “permit state”.

Unfortunately, even the “public safety” concern has been treated almost like a de facto Second Amendment issue.  If I want to keep a tiger at home for personal protection, that’s my right.  Besides, statistically I know it’s far more likely to kill me or my kid in my own home as opposed to an intruder, right?  Big government, don’t tread on me- or my lion!

But with the recent tragedy in Ohio, where dozens of large exotics were released by a suicidal owner and were killed to genuinely protect the public safety, the time has come to once again ask if libertarian leanings are enough to allow the continuation of ownership of exotics which place the caretakers, the public and even the animals at risk.

And the recent Ohio incident was not an isolated example.  In 2010, another Ohio man’s bear killed a man at a home menagerie (where he also kept a tiger).  The bear was later euthanized.  In Connecticut, a woman’s pet chimpanzee ripped the face off another woman before being shot by police.  Interestingly, that chimp’s mother was also shot after a rampage.  In the past ten years at least seven people have been killed and nearly twenty reported injured by privately owned exotics, exotics kept by accredited zoos, and kept by quasi-zoos.  The victims ranged from children to adults, members of the public to highly trained professional handlers and zoo keepers. 

Even Roy, of Siegfried and Roy, was not so expert that he was immune from being mauled.  In many of these cases the animal was subsequently killed.  If accredited zoos and handlers with decades of experience can’t keep these animals from killing professionals and the public, it is fair to assume that Joe-Bob Tiger Owner will probably have a wee bit of trouble, too.  

Sure, some may correctly point out that dogs kill far more people every year.  But dogs are domesticated animals, not wildlife, and as a percentage of the total population (there are, after all, scores of millions of dogs in the U.S.), exotics pose a greater threat.  And when a dog attacks, it is acting outside of the animal’s “nature”.  When a bear or tiger attacks, it’s doing what bears and tigers do.

And as an observational aside, all these people with large exotic animal keeping fetishes just seem a little (or a lot) creepy and weird.  No offense.

It is time to ban the private ownership of exotic or wild felines, primates, wolves, and their ilk.  Keeping these animals is dangerous.  It’s dangerous for us and it’s dangerous for them.  It’s also a sad and pathetic existence for very magnificent animals. 

While we may defend our right to do and own just about anything, I’ll ask again.  Does anyone really need to own a tiger?  The answer is quite simply, no.

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They’re at it again… those same legislators who constantly support and campaign for those who breed dogs for profit in commercial kennels across Pennsylvania!   This time it comes by way of House Resolution 89 – a proposal to study the new Dog Law at tax payers’ expense.

For the last five years companion animal advocates across the state have worked hard – very hard – to ensure that dogs trapped in puppy mills have basic protections… things like water and food, vet care, exercise and a clean living environment.   These are the fundamental components of Act 119 of 2008 – the new Dog Law.

If you knew there was a possibility for the breeders to undo what the new Dog Law did would you take the time to pick up the phone and call your state representative?  We’re hoping you answered “YES!”

According to Act 119 of 2008 all commercial kennels in Pennsylvania are currently to have meters installed in their kennels that monitor temperature, humidity and ammonia levels. 

By way of information recently obtained via the state’s right-to-know act, these meters are not in place in a majority of the commercial kennels yet violations for their absence is not being recorded as an infraction on the state kennel inspection reports.

We may only speculate as to why this is happening however, we firmly believe that the newest attempt to thwart the required kennel improvements – let’s call it the Breeder’s Plan B – comes via House Resolution 89

The concept behind HR89 is to indebt the state monetarily for the purpose of conducting a study to show that the new Dog Law has been ineffective.

This study is ridiculous on two fronts:

1)  the new Dog Law has never been fully implemented; and
2)  the new Dog Law has never been fully enforced.

If, however, HR89 passes and the study is performed, we believe it will enable the breeders the ability to reopen the Dog Law and scale back the majority of provisions currently protecting the dogs in the “C” class (or commercial) kennels.

We believe that the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement is currently permitting commercial kennels to operate without the required meters because they are confident that HR89 will pass and make the installation of the meters unnecessary. 

Because calls to the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement go unanswered, because the new regulations are NOT being enforced, because the majority of commercial kennels do NOT have the meters installed, because the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement has met repeatedly with representatives for the breeders – but not canine advocates, because dogs in Pennsylvania’s commercial kennels are still suffering and because House Resolution 89 GOES TO THE HOUSE FLOOR FOR A VOTE ON MONDAY

PLEASE PICK UP THE PHONE AND CALL YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVE IMMEDIATELY AND ASK THEM TO VOTE “NO” ON HR89.

Let your state representative know that the study proposed by HR89 is meaningless since the new Dog Law has NEVER been fully implemented; let them know that because the new Dog law has NEVER been fully enforced that the study will be a waste of YOUR tax dollars; and let them know that because the majority of Pennsylvania constituents believe dogs in commercial kennels SHOULD BE protected that they must vote “NO” on House Resolution 89.

To read the history of HB89 click HERE   

Don’t know who your state representative is?  Click HERE and enter your zip code in the upper right hand corner.

Winter is upon us.  Without the new Dog Law the regulations that mandate temperature controls could fall by the wayside.  BE THEIR VOICE & PLEASE DON’T DELAY – MAKE THE CALL TODAY!

By: Jenny Stephens, North Penn Puppy Mill Watch

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 I don’t think anyone’s going to be making little blue and white rubber bracelets with “WWJPD?” any time soon.  We know what Joe would do.  The absolute minimum required of him.

Paterno received an eyewitness account of a young boy being raped by his personal friend and former employee in the Penn State showers.  Yes, let’s use that word, not one of the euphemisms being thrown around in the news.  A child was witnessed being raped.  Paterno’s response?  Report it to the Penn State athletic director.  The Athletic Director who, by the way, effectively answers to Paterno as the God of the rain making football program for PSU.  That was nine years ago

Since then Joe has walked the halls with a child rapist and never said another word.  At least until the scandal broke.  Now he asks us to pray for the victims.  Would those be the victims who were raped before nine years ago or all the ones which occurred since?  Even if the mandated reporter rules don’t apply to him as they would any other educator in Pennsylvania, shouldn’t his humanity have required more of him?

Humanity is the quality of being humane; kindness; benevolence.  Humanity is what makes even those who don’t think animals have inherent rights to believe that human beings have an obligation to treat them humanely.  Paterno showed neither kindness, nor benevolence to that boy, let alone humanity, when he “did what was required of him”.

If you are a Lions supporter out there who feels the perhaps understandable knee-jerk reaction to defend an icon of PSU, take just a moment to recast this situation in a different light.  If he had been a school principal, would his response have been enough?  If it was your child, and he was anyone else, would it have been enough?  What if it had been a dog?

What if nine years ago Andy Reed had received an eyewitness report of one of his coaches fighting dogs, or raping one, and his response had been to tell the General Manager and then never mention it again?  Animal people would be calling for his head.  What if someone at the kennel your dog stayed in while you are on vacation saw your dog being molested, told their boss, and never told you, let alone the police?  Would you think they had done “enough”?  Of course you wouldn’t.

Every day animals are abused, people know about it, but don’t report it because they aren’t “required” to do so.  If we don’t expect people to take action when a child is raped, why should we expect anyone to do the same for a mere dog?

PSU needs to show that violence against anyone is not tolerated in their school and no one, no matter how iconic, revered, or wealthy, is immune.  Joe Paterno and every administrator who was aware of this rape must be fired immediately.

Nittany fans like to ask if God isn’t a PSU fan, why is the sky blue and white?  If the next time it rains Paterno still has a job, it will be God weeping.

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 A Gas Chamber Euthanasia Ban, that is.  

You may know that some animal shelters and animal control facilities use gas chambers to kill animals.  The recent case of the beagle named Daniel who walked out of a gas chamber leaving behind eighteen of his asphyxiated doggie pals highlighted the use- and misuse- of these death chambers.  But that was in Alabama, not Pennsylvania, right? 

Unfortunately, Pennsylvania permits the use of carbon monoxide euthanasia chambers, too.  There are supposedly several in operation today but since there are no reporting requirements, no one knows how many might be pumping away as you read.  

These chambers are cruel.  They suffocate animals which are wide awake.  Imagine drowning in air.  They are dangerous for the operators.  There has been at least one human death and multiple injuries as a result of gas chamber malfunctions.  Daniel the survivor shows that it’s also not entirely reliable. 

Even the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which seems to insist that the vets it represents have open access to any ol’ means of killin’ animals they so desire, has stated that lethal injection is the most “rapid”, “reliable” and “desirable” means of euthanasia and is the “preferred method of euthanasia for dogs, cats, other small animals and horses.” 

It is time to put an end to the use of these gas chambers.  It is time for the legislature in Harrisburg to act and pass Senate Bill 1329, which is known as Daniel’s Law.  

SB 1329 is a good, if not perfect, bill, which has the approval of virtually every special interest group it impacts (barring one perhaps).  First, it prohibits gas chambers and inhalant euthanasia.  Second, it provides for special licensing of animal control and animal shelters, along with training requirements, in order to allow them to obtain and use the preferred humane industry standard euthanasia technique: lethal injection with sodium pentobarbital or a derivative.  Third, it puts reasonable control of the licensing in place.  It’s that simple. 

Who would oppose such a simple bill which would bring Pennsylvania into the 21st century?  To be honest, for years it was the sheltering community because previous proposed bans did not provide for direct licensing for euthanasia drugs.  This would have forced rural shelters to close their doors entirely.  Remember, not all animal shelters are as fortunate as HSBC to have great veterinarians on staff and some can’t even get a local veterinarian to allow them to use his or her DEA license to order drugs, which is what most do across Pennsylvania.  However, SB 1329 fixes that by allowing shelters be directly licensed. 

There are little things here and there which even I have a problem with.  For example, the approval of training programs for euthanasia technicians to be licensed under SB 1329 fall to three out of State groups (NACA, AHA, and HSUS).  While these are all organizations which have good positions on this issue and have offered excellent euthanasia by injection training programs for decades, I’d like to see a reputable in-State authorizing body added to that list such as the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical School or Federated Humane Societies of Pennsylvania (which currently has statutory approval of humane law officer training).  But if that’s the way it needs to pass, I’ll take the imperfect and no gas chambers over the perfect not being passed into law. 

Speaking of objections, a rumor has been circulating that the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association, the professional veterinary affiliation group, opposes the strict ban on gas chambers provided by SB 1329.  Well, not entirely strict since SB 1329 already includes exemptions for medical schools, veterinary schools, research institutions, and “normal agricultural practices”.  I truly hope that these objections are not accurate reports because it would mean the PVMA is trying to make sure your family veterinarian has the option to offer you gas chamber services if she wants to.  Do you really think she wants to?  Why don’t you ask your vet the next time you visit what he or she thinks about the PVMA standing up for the “right” to gas pets in vet practices? 

But sometimes reality doesn’t allow the perfect (or perfectly humane) when the good is an option.  If the PVMA really feels so strongly that their professional membership need to have gas chamber euthanasia as an option in their back pocket, they should just say so and I’ll gladly support them in their call for that exemption, since I know HSBC vets won’t ever avail themselves of that “right”.  But I hope PVMA, if it is really opposing this ban, will show a little compassion and a little common sense about how tone deaf that would be and allow it to move forward as is. 

We have a chance to get SB 1329 passed and signed into law.  But you need to make it happen by contacting your State Representative and Senator right now.  Ask them to both support and co-sponsor SB 1329 and to ask their party leadership to bring the SB 1329 up for a vote swiftly.  Tell them that you don’t want Pennsylvania to be one of the states which allows antiquated and inhumane euthanasia practices like gas chambers any more. 

Today is Election Day in an off year election so you don’t get to vote for Senators or Representatives, but next year you will.  Remind your Senator and Representative that you will remember how they vote on SB 1329 this legislative session when you go to the polls and decide who you will vote for in 2012. 

Find your legislator by County, ZIP code or address by clicking here. 

Get more information about SB 1329, Daniel’s Law, at prime sponsor, Senator Andrew Dinniman’s website by clicking here. 

Contact Senator Dinniman and thank him for his leadership on this issue by clicking here.

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