Investigative Journalism: Humane Relocation Edition

We are so grateful for two recent news investigations describing the insidious underbelly of humane relocation.* While we have been writing about this issue for years,** it is infrequently covered in mainstream news, and rarely with as much detail as in these two investigative reports.

First, in Atlanta, a humane society imports animals for adoption from as far away as the Bahamas, while just down the road, an overflowing municipal shelter kills over 60% of the animals it receives. Granted, definitions of “adoptable pet” vary greatly from person to person, and we accept that, but it is hard to believe none of these animals are fit for adoption. Ironically, this is the exact kind of situation where importation makes perfect sense for a humane society: there are animals in desperate need only a few miles away — just think of all the gas (and more importantly, lives) they could save if they worked locally!

Adopt Me Too!
Hey guys, I’m from next door. Don’t I deserve a home, too?

It may be that the majority of local dogs are older and less attractive to adopters than the ones that can be found out of state, but seeking out the most placeable animals is what you would expect from a pet store, not a humane society. To do its job effectively and honestly, to live up to its mission statement, a humane society must focus on all animals. Even the ones that might not be adopted right away. Especially the ones that might not be adopted right away.

In the case of certain northern rescues that import dogs and cats because pet overpopulation isn’t a local issue, you can at least see the logic behind their behavior, even if it would be preferable that they focus on the root of the problem. But why import from out of state — even out of the country — when there is a crisis in your own back yard? Especially given the limited resources available and the stated goal of helping the most animals in the most efficient way possible?

And this doesn’t even begin to cover the issues of disease transmission, deception, and heartbreak that come with humane relocation. Fortunately, they were all covered brilliantly in that other expose we mentioned, so we don’t have to here.

Unfortunately, these aren’t the only tales of woe from the world of humane relocation. It has been a serious problem for more than a decade; this is why we worked in Massachusetts to help local residents regulate importing rescue groups in 2005, why we created our Shelter Import and Reporting Model Law in 2009, why we supported Connecticut’s rescue importation bill last year, and why we are simply thrilled to see this issue finally being tackled head-on in the mainstream press.

 


* “Humane Relocation” is a term describing the importation of dogs from out of state or country for adoption — a practice often referred to by its detractors as “dog trafficking.”

** A short list of previous NAIA articles on this topic:

 

Where do urban chickens go when they’re done laying eggs?

When an urban chicken’s egg-laying days are over, she might become dinner, she might live out her life as a pest-eating pet, or she might even be moved into a  “retirement home” for aging urban chickens.

A far-fetched idea in decades past, the poultry-retirement home’s existence serves as a reminder of the growing popularity of urban farming,* the need for animal owners to plan ahead for the lifetime of their animals, and a portrait of the “livestock-as-pet” phenomena that probably occurs more often than many farmers admit.

Do you keep chickens? And if so, what are your opinions on a “retirement home” service like this?

Stella the friendly urban chicken, one of NAIA’s regular subscribers.

* Portland, Oregon has more than 26 times the number of urban chicken permits today as it did twelve years ago.

Analyst Claims HSUS Gets Nothing From Egg Agreement. Say What?

In an analysis of the United Egg Producers (UEP)/Humane Society of the United State (HSUS) egg agreement, animal rights activist Bradley Miller claims UEP now has the upper hand:

“HSUS and UEP talk about a win-win. But UEP wins whether the federal bill passes or not,” Miller said. “UEP is far ahead of the game compared to where they started.”

Co-opting HSUS to “violate its own principles” and endorse larger cages that UEP has long sought was a shrewd move, in Miller’s view.

UEP has moved HSUS off its prior position opposing cages and if the bill fails, HSUS will look contradictory at best going back to attacking the larger cages it had supported, Miller said.

[...]

HSUS will be left with nothing, Miller said, other than a massive branding or publicity bonanza that put them in the limelight, made them look reasonable and helped HSUS President Wayne Pacelle market his book.

Sorry good sir, but we question your analysis.

Aside from the head-scratcher about HSUS having principles, there are several interesting points in this analysis. Whether or not you agree with UEP working with HSUS or vice-versa, it is undeniable that UEP is, at least for the time being, ahead of where they were a few years ago, when their constant companion was the threat of death by ballot measure.

They also have bought enough time to implement their new enriched cage facilities, which allow for many of the best features of traditional barren cages and cage-free living: clean, effective facilities that raise animal welfare standards and are very hard for activists to stir outrage and raise funds off of.

But will HSUS really be left with nothing in the end? It’s not like their position has changed; they still campaign daily for cage-free (and eventually animal free) agriculture — they’re just putting a stronger focus on other forms of animal production now. And when HSUS is criticized as an “animal rights organization in animal welfare clothing,” their supporters can now use the UEP/HSUS ceasefire as cover, as proof of HSUS’ “moderate” positions.

And what of the work that went into developing the new enriched colony housing? Should it matter that years of toil and millions of dollars went into developing and implementing these facilities while HSUS did nothing but attack them?  HSUS contributed nothing,  but now they get get to raise their credibility in the eyes of the public by playing policy-maker, and take credit for industry changes they actively fought against for years!* Despicable, but you have to admit there is a certain genius to it.

No Bradley, I’m afraid this agreement leaves HSUS with quite a lot. UEP may have found a way to survive, but HSUS found a way to make themselves stronger.


* By the way, HSUS still hasn’t entirely scrubbed its website of pages that disparage enriched cages.

Apr 26, 2012 - Animal Policy    2 Comments

Cats on leashes – WWTD?

Tonight,* the citizens of Concord, Massachusetts vote on whether or not troublemaking cats — cats who relieve themselves, eat birds, etc. while off-property — must be confined indoors or allowed outside only on-leash. It’s pretty mild as far as animal laws go: basically, if a neighbor doesn’t mind an owner’s cat on his or her property, no problem — but if they do create a nuisance and a neighbor complains and no solution is found, the owner would be required to keep them indoors or walk them on a leash outside.

Pretty simple, really. The idea of a cat on a leash raises eyebrows for a lot of people, but a harness or leash on a cat isn’t really that uncommon. And even if the idea seems silly to you, a measure that seeks to address complaints without placing the burden on responsible pet owners most certainly is not.

I'm. Going. To. Kill. You.

Plus, and here’s the best part: supporters and detractors alike are convinced Thoreau would be on their side of the argument…

“I really feel confident that Thoreau would not want the cats on a leash,’’ [Barbara Lynn-Davis] said. “It seems to inhibit their freedom to roam and discover. She’s asking the cats to be curtailed to maintain this artificial environment that she created to give her pleasure, but the birds don’t need that.’’

But Lodynsky, who has owned felines in the past, said that it’s folly to consider a cat part of the natural world.

“They were brought here and domesticated; they aren’t part of the natural food chain,’’ she said. “Boldly, I would say Thoreau would support me because he respected natural species and biodiversity. When people say, ‘Leave nature alone,’ I say nature hasn’t been left alone since we moved here. My stand is that I’m trying to help these birds survive us.’’

Forget, for a moment, the debate over ever-more intrusive animal regulations, the debate over  indoor vs. outdoor cats, and ask yourself: what would Thoreau do?


* The vote was scheduled for Wednesday night, but there was not enough time to vote on the cat measure.

HuMaine Relocation

An interesting piece on humane relocation was posted on the Bangor Daily News website last night. Apparently, Hancock County’s SPCA shelter is importing puppies from Guam to be adopted at $500 a head.

This, in and of itself isn’t that newsworthy; the importation of puppies from out of state into northeastern shelters has been going on for years. In fact, it’s something we’ve documented for more than a decade, and an issue we have actively worked on (and are working on) at the policy level. But the language used here to describe this operation is definitely worthy of note (emphasis NAIA):

The four puppies arrived by commercial airplane late Monday, the first of 12 bound from Guam to Maine this week as part of a program that is literally pushing the boundaries of what is already a thriving “dog rescue” industry in this state.

[...]

Every year, hundreds of dogs are “rescued” from overcrowded shelters in other states and brought to Maine for adoption. More than 50 organizations are licensed by the Maine Department of Agriculture to import dogs, the vast majority of which come from southern states with less aggressive spay/neutering programs and where unadopted pets face euthanasia.

But Guam? After all, the only county in the continental U.S. that juts farther east into the Atlantic than Hancock is its neighbor, Washington County. And some dogs in Maine shelters will ultimately be euthanized because they could not find homes.

Well bless you, Kevin Miller! The scare quotes used when describing this sort of “rescue” and calling it an industry certainly represent a welcome change in tone.

For its part, the shelter seems keenly aware of how the importation may be perceived, and has gone to great lengths to bring up how carefully they are following vaccination and quarantine procedures. They have also attempted to address the issue of enabling* — but the “part of the adoption proceeds go toward spaying and neutering in Guam” falls apart once you contemplate the volume necessary to make any meaningful improvements for animals. It’s great marketing, to be sure, but does it do enough to justify this irresponsible practice? Not unless they begin importing puppies by the score — which, of course, may be their ultimate goal.

 


* Enabling: the argument that importation does nothing to solve the population and policy issues plaguing the dog’s place of origin, that it is simply trades the life of one dog for another while enabling business as usual to continue.
Mar 28, 2012 - Education    1 Comment

Taking Back the Conversation

NAIA is home to some of the top animal health, husbandry, welfare and performance experts in the United States. As experts, we view it as our responsibility to challenge popular, but incorrect information about animals that is presented by the media or stakeholder groups, including the many animal rights fundraising groups who dominate the conversation in popular culture today.

False notions are difficult to counter. Because of their appeal to our empathy, intuition, or personal prejudice, they are easily accepted as true and made part of a larger worldview. And with modern media, they can catch fire, spreading far and wide within seconds.

So how do most people determine the veracity of what they are hearing? In the absence of  contrary evidence and critical thinking, they don’t.

But at NAIA when we recognize that so-called “designer dogs” are being hyped as genetically healthier than pure-bred dogs without supporting evidence, we don’t turn to our neighbor, hairdresser, astrologer, or Oprah, but to the leading experts for additional information to put the subject in perspective. We reach out to top breeders, veterinarians, animal geneticists, and trainers – people with subject matter knowledge gained through formal education and hands-on experience – to see what they have to say.

Shelter Project Kitty is thankful vegan cat food has yet to catch on

Once investigated, it often becomes clear that the story isn’t complete at all – and it always ends up being more nuanced and complex than an email forward or Facebook feed. In the end, we may not prove any particular point, but that’s okay. Our goal is simply to provide better sources of information than we started with, information that lays the foundation for improved policies and practices.

This is what we do. In the end, you may not like our conclusions, but whenever an animal issue is clouded by hype or propaganda – be it views on animal husbandrypet overpopulationconformation policies, shelter dynamics, or contentious practices – you can be sure we will seek out the experts before setting our own policies.

If you’re not yet familiar with us yet, please check out our website, and if you like what you see, please support our efforts.  We’re here for you and need your help to fulfill our mission!

Mar 1, 2012 - Animal Policy    3 Comments

Cooler Heads Prevailing in Wausau?

James and Melissa Lecker moved to Wausau, Wisconsin with their four dogs, unaware of the fact that they had two more pets than the city allowed. In late January, the young family learned that to come into compliance, they faced a stark choice: give up two of their dogs — family members, really — or pay a $114 daily fine.

An agonizing choice for any pet owner, it led to weeks of stress and sleepless nights for Melissa Lecker, and an eventual decision to move (at a loss of $15,000) if the situation continued. Money wasn’t the primary issue, it was the principle at stake, keeping her family together:

“Material things — money and a house — don’t mean anything compared to a living and breathing animal with feelings”

But that was before Tuesday, when Lecker took her issue straight to the Public Health and Safety Chairwoman. Today, it is looking like common sense and cooler heads may be prevailing in Wausau:

But Tipple said city leaders should consider adding an exception clause to the ordinance that could involve permits, for example, or allow residents to keep more than two dogs until a complaint is filed.

Could this be… progress? We are hopeful. Lecker, for her part, is committed to the cause — not just for her own family (they may still end up moving), but the entire community. And for that, we applaud her. Sometimes all it takes for big changes to occur is the passion of a committed individual.

Stray Dogs, Project Potcake, and Low-Cost Spay/Neuter

It may be hard to imagine, especially if you are living in a world with leash laws, animal control, and a culture that spays and neuters its pets, but stray dogs — not just one or two or a small pack, but thousands upon thousands – are a very real problem in many parts of the world. This is something we’ve been documenting for quite some time, an oft-neglected issue with major implications from both an animal welfare and public health and safety standpoint. Read more »

Purina Takes over for Pedigree at Westminster

Purina Takes over for Pedigree at Westminster

If you tune in to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show tonight, be prepared for a change of tone in the advertisements. Gone will be the usual ads focused on homeless dogs, sad and desperate for adoption, in will be commercials portraying happy, vibrant dogs at work and play — all types of dogs: show dogs, working dogs, rescue dogs, purebreds, mutts, therapy dogs, you name it. Read more »

Feb 2, 2012 - Animal Rights    2 Comments

Up for an Animal Rights Studies Minor?

Students: would you be interested in taking a minor like this if you were in college?

“The Animal Studies minor is for students interested in gaining an in-depth understanding of the diverse ways in which the lives of animals and humans intersect,” says McEachern. “The interdisciplinary nature of the minor allows students to consider historical and contemporary interactions between humans and animals from a range of perspectives.” Read more »

Pages:«123456»