Nov 30, 2012 - Animal Rights    No Comments

Defamation Is Not Freedom of Speech

Jessie L. Smith has a history of looking out for animals. Having served three years as president of the Humane Society of Harrisburg Area, Inc., and later as state special deputy secretary for dog law enforcement in Pennsylvania, she’s got the pedigree of an animal advocate. And not just in words, but action: during her time as deputy secretary, she worked to enforce her state’s dog law, shutting down many horrendous kennels that did not — or would not — comply with animal care regulations. By her estimation, her agency shut down about three-quarters of Pennsylvania’s substandard kennels.

To most people, these credentials and accomplishments would be impressive, but in the eyes of some of the more zealous animal advocates in her community, she did not move with enough speed or aggression. It didn’t matter that Smith was often on the same side as them: her adherence to the process of law and the fact that she seemed more intent on shutting down bad kennels, rather than all kennels made her “the enemy.”

As we have documented many times, if you are on the wrong side of an animal radical, insults, slurs, and even threats are to be expected. It’s just what they do. So it should come as no surprise that instead of simply criticizing the way she did her job, it became personal. And vicious. Without evidence, Smith was regularly accused of engaging in unethical and illegal behavior, most notably bribery and sexual misconduct. And according to Smith, these weren’t simply the rude, hateful comments you often get from zealots, but a deliberate, dishonest smear campaign designed to destroy her reputation and ability to do her job.

Because of this, she filed a defamation suit against her chief attackers for deliberately and maliciously spreading lies about her. As her lawyer has attested, public officials have to accept a certain level of hostility. It’s part of the job. And disagreements, especially on passionately-held beliefs can become vicious at times — but wantonly destroying someone’s reputation with lies crosses some very clear lines.

The attorney who is attempting to get the lawsuit dismissed characterizes this as a freedom of speech issue, saying it will make people afraid to criticize public officials if it is allowed to go forward. But this is a rather self-serving, alarmist misinterpretation. Reasonable people understand that accusing somebody of taking bribes and sexual misconduct in writing goes a lot farther than second-guessing policy decisions or saying you think an official is doing a terrible job. But of course, we’re not dealing with reasonable people here…

Stay tuned. A judge is now deciding whether or not the case can go forward.

Humane Society Legislative Fund Attack Ad Rejected by Television Stations

So the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) launches an absolutely nuclear political attack ad that stops just short of claiming U.S. Rep. Steve King’s favorite hobby is dragging children to dog fights (before you ask, he is on record opposing all forms of animal fighting and he supports state laws that criminalize it), and now they are shocked — just shocked — that television stations in Iowa are refusing to air it.

Dane Waters, political director of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said in an interview on Monday he disagreed with the station managers. “If they have a problem at all I believe it is more political than anything else,” Waters said.

Ah, hiding behind the old “it’s just politics” excuse. Of course the networks’ refusals have nothing to do with the ad’s graphic sensationalism or because its message has been judged to be “patently false.” Just as the HSLF ad has nothing to do with the fact that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) considers King to be a major thorn in their side, right (because it’s just a coincidence that Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of HSUS spent much of last July and August attacking the representative…)?

Sure, if you say so.

Reasonable people can have disagreements over policies and their implementation; it can be messy, but it is better than the alternative, and a vital component of living in a free society. Unreasonable people view those with dissenting opinions as fools or devils to be dismissed, defamed, even destroyed if necessary — ideological totalitarians, to put it kindly. Judging by the HSLF’s methods of attack and reaction to being called out  – unfettered by facts, reason, or decency — it is fair to say they have cast their lot with the unreasonables.

The only good things about this latest campaign is that it serves as a stark example of the vicious, discourse-killing dishonesty the humane industry employs upon those who stand up to them, and of why so many people are afraid to speak out, even when it is clear the facts are not adding up.

According to King’s website, all eight networks have now pulled the ad. Good for them.

 

Aug 8, 2012 - Human-Animal Bond    1 Comment

Olympic Gold and Going (Home) to the Dogs

Over the last few weeks, Gabby Douglas has won two gold medals, been immortalized on cereal boxes everywhere, and endured two losses as well as grotesque criticism of her patriotism and hair (don’t you people have anything better to do?). Lots of highs, a few lows — it’s been an eventful period of her life, to say the least.

So when it’s all over and done, when she’s finally free, what does she look forward to most? Does she wanna go to Disneyland?

No, actually she’s looking forward to spending time with her dogs.

Good answer, Gabby!


When you deal with issues surrounding animal care and husbandry as often as we do, discussions about animals inevitably revolve around what we do for them. We look after their health and feed them the best food we can afford. We provide them with shelter and safety. We tend to their physical and emotional comfort and even come up with creative ways of keeping them entertained (“intellectually stimulated” if you prefer sounding like an android).

We argue about it a lot, too.

But it’s all about what we can and should be doing for them, about finding ways of doing it better. And that’s a good thing — but an unexpected reminder of how much animals do for us, the joy they bring and how deeply important they are to people… well, that’s an awfully good thing, too.


After conquering the world at age 16, what more could a young woman possibly look forward to? Why, quality time with the pooches, of course.

Aug 6, 2012 - Animal Rights    1 Comment

The world is petless! If you want it.

Gary Francione is something of an elder statesman for the modern animal rights movement. A legal scholar and one of the first abolitionists, he has taught animal rights theory since 1985 and written several books on the subject.

His abolitionist views place him at odds with the more incremental (and more successful) protectionist wing of the animal rights movement, but they also afford him the rare privilege of honesty when it comes to expressing his beliefs. You see, Francione doesn’t view animal rights as a series of goalposts where activists continuously pull on emotionally-charged, low-hanging fruit in order to gradually lull the public into adopting their code of behavior — a foie gras ban here, a ban of circus animals or guardian language there — and as such, there is no need for manipulation and obfuscation on his part. He’s not trying to trick anybody; he’ll let you know exactly where he is coming from, and what his goals are:

If, as a hypothetical matter, we changed the legal status of dogs and cats so that they were no longer property and they had a legal status closer to that of human children, would our continued production of dogs and cats (or other nonhumans) and our keeping of ‘pets’ be morally justified?”

My answer to this purely hypothetical question is “no.” We cannot justify the perpetuation of domestication for the purpose of keeping “pets.”

There it is in a nutshell. Of course, many animal rightists who are against the concept of pet ownership will assuage concerns by supporting the rescue of homeless animals, allowing adherents and uninformed supporters to fund and fuel the agenda while still keeping pets in all but name… but they almost inevitably leave out the part about what happens when all domestic animals are spayed and neutered, when all those homeless, needy pets finally find homes. Fortunately, Gary’s here to fill us in on the end game:

But if there were two dogs left in the universe and it were up to us as to whether they were allowed to breed so that we could continue to live with dogs, and even if we could guarantee that all dogs would have homes as loving as the one that we provide, we would not hesitate for a second to bring the whole institution of “pet” ownership to an end.

Nine out of ten humans agree: I make the world a better place.

Well, it’s definitely quoteworthy — and at least he’s honest! But it’s also not the most effective form of advertising, and case in point as to why the abolitionists have gained so little traction while the incrementalists have succeeded far beyond their earliest goals. After all, it is unusual to find somebody who doesn’t at least love the idea of sharing their home with a pet, even if the responsibilities are another story. To most people, a petless world would simply be inhuman.

Aug 1, 2012 - Animal Rights    8 Comments

The Wait and the Expectations: Feld Entertainment vs. ASPCA, HSUS, et al.

rack·et·eer

n. A person who commits crimes such as extortion, loansharking, bribery, and obstruction of justice in furtherance of illegal business activities.
 
intr.v. rack·et·eeredrack·et·eer·ingrack·et·eers
To carry on illegal business activities that involve crimes.

While it is not unheard of for bogus charges of animal abuse to be thrown out of court, last month’s ruling that Feld Entertainment can sue the ASPCA, HSUS, and other animal rights groups for racketeering was an overdue, and hopefully precedent-setting change.

Yes — apparently, it’s not OK to go to court with “essentially a paid plaintiff and fact witness” utterly lacking in credibility, and to raise funds with those misleading or false statements. A crazy notion, I know — who woulda thunk it? It’s kind of depressing that we need a reminder of these guidelines. Though considering the number of wild accusations and acts of character assassination we see from animal rights activists, it’s obvious this is a lesson that needs to be relearned.

The irony here, one that is often missed, is that Feld Entertainment spends more time and money on the protection and conservation of elephants than any animal rights group. If they win their suit, there’s a much better chance that the winnings will actually go toward helping animals.

 
Now, all there is left to do is wait. What are your thoughts and expectations for this trial?

Jul 30, 2012 - Pet Care, Shelter & Rescue    3 Comments

The Trendiest Pet?

A recent  Arizona Republic opinion piece suggests that we should view rescued pets as the new “high-end option,” that:

Taking one home gives you bragging rights in addition to a friend for life.

And it’s trendy.

It’s amazing how fast trends change nowadays. A few short years ago, everyone had to get a doodle mix so they could be just as unique as the rest of their Generation Y friends. Then along came the dog-as-purse-accessory. Remember that? But we’re so over it — the next big push for trendiness is, apparently, rescue pets.

Trendy Dog, circa 2009: in return for pampering, Gazoo provides valuable mascara warming services.

It should go without saying that getting a pet because it is the “cool thing to do” is a pretty awful idea. Whether doodle, purse dog, that purebred you just saw in a movie, or even a rescue pet, becoming a pet owner at the urging of an emotional twinge or desire for status decreases the chance of a positive outcome for all parties. Let’s say it again together for good measure: bad idea.

A realistic assessment of your ability to properly care for a pet over a lifetime and the pet’s suitability to your lifestyle should be the first, and most important considerations. If you’re seeking out a furry (or scaled or feathered) friend for life because you want something to brag about, something to win you points with your friends — sorry, but you’re doing it wrong.

If there absolutely must be a “trendiest pet” to brag about, why can’t it be that joyous companion — friend, clown, jogging partner, bacon-beggar, protector — who is chosen with careful research and foresight, who is properly and lovingly cared for his entire life? Now that kind of lifelong commitment and bond is something to be proud of.

 

Probation for Animal Transport Cruelty

Just a few of the 141 dogs found crammed in the back of Sheehan’s U-Haul

Bonnie Sheehan of the Hearts for Hounds rescue pleaded guilty to 14 misdemeanor charges tied to her January arrest, where more than 100 dogs were found crammed inside a U-Haul truck moving from California to Virginia. She received two years probation, a fine, and will not be allowed custody of any animals while on probation. Sheehan took responsibility for the abuse and decision to move the animals; all charges against co-defendant Pamela King-McCracken, a longtime Hearts for Hounds volunteer, were dismissed.

Reaction among animal lovers has been sharply divided. While the cramped, filthy trek itself is viewed with universal horror and disgust, opinions on Sheehan herself range from “It is tragic that such a well-meaning woman would make this horrible decision.” to “Put her before the Hague.”

Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, it is something we can all agree is a tragedy — something that we never want to see happen again.

 

May 18, 2012 - Animal Policy, Animal Rights    5 Comments

Indiana Supreme Court Says State Overreached in Dog Seizure

Earlier today, the Indiana Supreme Court said in a 5-0 ruling that the state (with the assistance of HSUS) overreached in seizing and placing 240 dogs over unpaid taxes.

For some background:

On June 2, 2009, Virginia and Kristin Garwood each were ordered to pay $142,367.94 in allegedly unpaid taxes from the sale of puppies at their Mauckport, Ind., farm.

When the Garwoods were unable to pay, Indiana State Police and Humane Society volunteers seized 240 dogs from the farm, including the Garwoods’ pets. All the dogs were sold to the Humane Society the next day for $300.

That last sentence, the little thing about them selling the dogs for only $300 is revealing; the raid obviously wasn’t just about collecting taxes…

Stay tuned — this is an incredibly important ruling, and we’ll be able to release a lot more information on this story next week.

May 14, 2012 - Animal Policy    4 Comments

A Bipartisan Fight Against Breedism

The good news? Maryland’s atrocious court decision declaring pit bull and pit mixes “inherently dangerous” is already being challenged legislatively, and by a very unexpected team:

A court’s apparent sense of “breedism” has led to an extraordinarily rare legislative pairing.

As the fallout continues over a Maryland Court of Appeals ruling that calls pit bulls inherently dangerous, two state delegates on polar opposite sides of the political spectrum are co-sponsoring legislation that would overturn the court’s ruling.

This quick turnaround is  incredibly important; since last month’s decision, landlords are already telling their pit bull-owning tenants they can’t keep their dogs. This means the loss of beloved family pets, shelters and rescues being overrun with dogs, as well as a financial hit for a state that is already facing economic struggles. When it comes to this legislation, time is of the essence.

And this is where the bad news comes in:

It appears unlikely that the legislation will receive a serious look from the House of Delegates, however. House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, is not expected to put on the agenda anything more than the state’s fiscal 2013 budget.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least try. “Unlikely” and “unexpected” doesn’t mean “impossible,” and stranger things have happened. And if enough animal lovers speak up, legislators cannot help but hear.

Our sister group, the NAIA Trust, has released an alert on this issue. If you are a Maryland resident and a dog lover, here’s a chance to help make a difference. While the intent is simple and clear, the bill itself has not yet been officially released. However, a copy has been made available through scribd.com.

If you are able to make it, there is also a peaceful rally scheduled for tomorrow outside the capital in Annapolis from 2:30 to 4:30pm.

Help me grow up in a breed blind world!

 

May 9, 2012 - Animal Policy    1 Comment

United Airlines Lifts Breed Ban: Chipping Away at Discrimination

In a victory for common sense, United Airlines has lifted its ban on transporting nine breeds of dogs. Previously, the following breeds and mixes were banned from flying the friendly skies:

 Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Presa Canario, Perro de Presa Canario, Dogo Argentino, Cane Corso, Fila Brasileiro, Tosa (or Tosa Ken) and Ca de Bou.

Pet loving customers spoke out — loudly — and a company listened. Just think how this could apply elsewhere! What a great accomplishment for pet owners and their dogs, and also in the larger effort of chipping away at breed discrimination. Way to go!

Bongo Jumps for Joy
“Looks like I don’t have to learn to fly, after all!”

 

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