July 25, 2013
The HSUS: Driving Transformational Change for Animals Since 1954
The HSUS and its affiliates are the nation’s number-one provider of animal care, through the work of our animal sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers, Animal Rescue Team, wildlife response units, veterinary division, international street dog defenders, and other hands-on programs.
And while rescue and other direct-care programs are vital to helping animals in crisis, we cannot rescue our way out of so many problems for animals. We must prevent cruelty to millions caught up in factory farms, animal-testing labs, puppy mills, animal fighting rings, the wildlife trade, and so many other settings. That’s why The HSUS, through its advocacy programs, drives transformational change—bringing a wide set of tools to take on the biggest fights, confronting multi-billion dollar industries, and staying the course until reform is realized.
Click the areas of our work below to see how we're changing the world for animals. Then, please join us in the cause.
- Stamping out animal cruelty and fighting»
In 1985, only four states had felony penalties for malicious cruelty, 15 states had felony dogfighting penalties, and seven states had felony cockfighting laws, with cockfighting still legal in six states. In recent years, The HSUS made a decision to reshape the legal landscape on animal cruelty and fighting to show a zero-tolerance policy for this conduct in our country. As a result of this focused effort, malicious cruelty is now a felony in 49 states, dogfighting is a felony in all 50, and cockfighting was outlawed in the six remaining states—and is punished as a felony in 40. We have shepherded legislation through the U.S. Congress to make animal fighting a federal felony and to ban the possession and training of fighting animals and the commerce in cockfighting weapons. We have assisted law enforcement in hundreds of cruelty and hoarding cases and dogfighting and cockfighting raids, rescued tens of thousands of animals, and trained thousands of law enforcement officials in investigation and prosecution of animal cruelty and fighting as a crime. We operate a tipline and offer rewards for people who bring animal abusers and fighters to justice.
- Confronting extreme confinement on factory farms»
The HSUS is driving the campaign to end the confinement of pigs in crates so small the animals can’t turn around. We’ve helped pass nine state laws banning gestation crates, and we’ve moved more than 60 of the world’s largest food companies—McDonald’s, Costco, Oscar Mayer and dozens more—to announce plans to eliminate these crates from their supply chains. After our 2006 ballot initiative in Arizona to ban veal crates, the industry saw the writing on the wall. It agreed to phase out confinement crates for calves by 2017. Today, approximately three-fourths of the industry has already converted to group housing, and we intend to hold the remaining operations accountable as the 2017 deadline approaches. The HSUS has helped pass laws to ban veal crates in other states, including California, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, and Rhode Island.
- Upending pet overpopulation and puppy mills»
We’ve worked, in cooperation with countless other organizations, to drive down euthanasia of healthy and treatable dogs and cats by 80 percent (from 15 million to fewer than 3 million when we launched our campaigns to normalize spay/neuter and pet adoption from shelters and rescues in the mid-1970s). Our current pet adoption public service campaign, with Maddie’s Fund and the Ad Council, has generated more than $125 million in advertising to promote the adoption of dogs and cats from shelters and rescue groups. Our Pets for Life program represents an innovative way to turn around problems for companion animals through a targeted approach in underserved communities where animals are not spayed or neutered and not often taken to veterinarians because people don’t have the resources.
In just a few years, The HSUS has successfully helped to strengthen or pass laws in nine of the top ten puppy mill states, and 34 states now have laws that regulate commercial dog breeders. The HSUS has also rescued more than 9,000 dogs from more than 50 different puppy mills across the U.S. and Canada since 2006. The combination of our aggressive messaging about puppy mills, effective pet adoption marketing, and more stringent enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (the federal law overseeing puppy mill operators) has reduced the number of USDA-licensed commercial dog breeders by almost half, from 3,486 in 2009 to 2,205 in 2011. In 2012, the USDA issued a proposed rule, at our urging, to close a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act regulations and require large-scale commercial breeders selling puppies or kittens online to be federally licensed and inspected. The HSUS Puppy Friendly Pet Store initiative has signed up more than 2,000 stores in nearly every state in the country, with these stores focusing on adoptions of homeless animals rather than selling dogs from puppy mills.
- Closing out the seal hunt trade and the fur trade»
The HSUS has campaigned to close markets for seal products to end the hunt for harp and hooded seals in Atlantic Canada. In 2009, the 27 nations of the European Union joined the United States in banning the trade in commercial seal products. Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus followed suit in 2011, prohibiting trade in harp seal fur, the primary product of Canada's commercial seal slaughter. Prices for seal fur in Canada crashed as a result, and most sealers have chosen not to participate in the seal hunt in recent years. More than 1.4 million seals have been spared the slaughter in the past five years alone. At the same time, our Protect Seals boycott of Canadian seafood has gained tremendous support. More than 6,500 businesses and 800,000 people have pledged to avoid some or all Canadian seafood until the seal slaughter is stopped for good. Our investigations have exposed the fraudulent sale of animal fur—sometimes fur from domestic dogs or raccoon dogs—mislabeled or advertised as “faux fur” and led to the passage of the Truth in Fur Labeling Act in Congress and enforcement actions against major retailers. We've worked with major department stores and designers—including JCPenney, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Kenneth Cole, and Overstock.com—to go fur-free, which has helped to drive down the sales and imports of animal fur in the U.S. by more than one-third in the last decade.
- Moving away from animal research and testing»
We have persuaded the National Institutes of Health to agree to release the vast majority of government-owned chimpanzees from laboratories and to transfer them to accredited sanctuaries, and our petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has resulted in a proposed action to list all chimpanzees as endangered. We have secured bans on animal testing for cosmetics in the European Union and India, and these are two major gains in our campaign to end animal testing on a global basis. Some recent and noteworthy successes include the creation of several new international non-animal test guidelines (e.g. for skin and eye irritation, endocrine) via our work at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The availability of these new methods resulted in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accepting them and issuing guidance on their use. The HSUS spearheads the Human Toxicology Project Consortium, influencing a fundamental move away from animal testing toward a completely different approach to chemical assessment based on biological mechanisms such as pathway-based approaches, with a recent focus on liver toxicity pathways.
- Confronting wildlife abuses»
We’ve worked to ban or restrict captive hunts of mammals trapped in fenced pens in about half the states. We’ve led successful ballot initiatives, bills, and regulatory work to outlaw steel-jawed leghold traps and other cruel devices in about a dozen states, including Hawaii in 2013. We’ve outlawed bear baiting and the use of packs of dogs in bear and cougar hunting in a half dozen states, and spring hunting of bears in Colorado and Oregon. We blocked the opening of mourning dove hunting in Michigan. We’re working to make poaching and other forms of cruelty to wildlife a felony in every state—just as we’ve done with general cruelty to animals. An HSUS undercover investigation exposed a massive trophy hunting tax scam, in which wealthy trophy hunters were bilking American tax payers for the cost of their hunting trips overseas by donating their trophies to fake museums—and we drove legislation in Congress in 2006 to shut down this loophole and put the tax back in taxidermy.
- Banning dangerous wild animals as pets»
The HSUS is the leading national animal protection organization fighting to end the private ownership and possession of dangerous wild animals. Since 2000, we have worked to pass strong laws and assisted with the passage of 17 state laws and/or regulations to either prohibit or severely restrict private ownership. In 2012, we helped to pass a law in Ohio to prohibit private possession of dangerous wild animals; persuaded the Fish and Wildlife Service to add four large constrictor snakes to the Lacey Act; and filed a petition to prohibit public contact with captive big cats, bears, and primates. In 2013, we helped to pass a law in Arkansas to ban private possession of great apes, baboons and macaques.
- Protecting sharks and dolphins»
The HSUS has been campaigning to end the barbaric killing of sharks for their fins, which are used as an ingredient in soup—the annual toll estimated as high as 73 million animals. We helped to ban possessing or selling shark fins in many of the major coastal states, including California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington on the west coast, and Delaware and Maryland on the East coast. And we’ve also worked to pass the federal Shark Conservation Act to ban removal of shark fins in all U.S. waters. We succeeded in closing a loophole in the European Union that requires any landed shark to have the fins attached. We’re working in India and other parts of the world to eliminate this unacceptable practice. The HSUS/HSI has worked for more than two decades to block the import of dolphin-deadly tuna, which comes from fishing fleets in the Eastern Pacific Ocean that encircle and harm dolphins as a catching strategy, and to maintain the integrity of the dolphin-safe tuna label. We recently prevailed and secured a final rule from the Obama administration to comply with a 2012 World Trade Organization ruling by strengthening the U.S. dolphin-safe tuna label and expanding the no-encirclement policy for all dolphins to all oceans and countries seeking to export their tuna to the U.S.
- Exposing animal cruelty through undercover investigations»
The HSUS conducted what is perhaps the most famous animal cruelty investigation in the nation’s history, exposing the abuse of “downer” cows—too sick or injured to walk—at a slaughter plant supplying ground beef to the National School Lunch Program. That investigation led to a federal policy to stop slaughtering downer cows for human consumption. Our undercover investigation of a "bob veal" slaughter plant shined a bright light onto the abuses that male dairy calves can endure, and the USDA announced another policy to extend the protections to downer calves. A series of other factory farm and slaughter house investigations has produced arrests of animal abusers and provided a window into the operations of industrial agriculture for the American public to see. Our 2012 investigation of a hall-of-fame trainer documented unspeakable abuses to Tennessee walking horses, injured to induce a high stepping gait to win ribbons at horse shows. That investigation not only led to the arrest of the trainer but triggered a national movement to eradicate soring abuses within the industry. It was our months-long investigation of chimps out of a Louisiana laboratory that set in motion our successful effort to get chimps out of labs, and our investigation of Texas horse-slaughter plants, combined with our courtroom activities, led to those plants being shuttered. We continue to fight to stop the cruel killing of American horses for human consumption throughout North America.
The HSUS is rated a 4-star charity (the highest possible) by Charity Navigator, approved by the Better Business Bureau for all 20 standards for charity accountability, voted by Guidestar’s Philanthropedia experts as the #1 high-impact animal protection group, and named by Worth Magazine as one of the 10 most fiscally responsible charities.