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The HSUS: Driving Transformational Change for Animals Since 1954

Learn about our recent accomplishments in protecting pets, wild animals, farm animals and animals in research

The HSUS, along with our affiliates, is the global leader in making the world a more humane place for all animals. We are also at the forefront of animal care, through our animal sanctuaries and rehabilitation centersAnimal Rescue Team, wildlife response units, veterinary division, international street dog defenders and other hands-on programs. 


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Stamping out animal cruelty and fighting »

State laws

In 1985, malicious animal cruelty was a felony in only four states, dogfighting was a felony in 15 states and cockfighting was a felony in seven states (it was still legal in six states). As a result of our work to reshape the legal landscape malicious animal cruelty and dogfighting are now felonies in all 50 states, while cockfighting in 42 and is a felony in every state.

Federal laws

We have successfully lobbied the U.S. Congress to upgrade the federal animal fighting statute four times since 2002. HSUS-shepherded legislation made animal fighting a federal felony and banned the possession and training of fighting animals as well as commerce in cockfighting weapons. Our 2014 victory made it a federal crime to attend or bring a child to an animal fight—allowing law enforcement agencies to crack down on everyone involved in animal fighting.

Enforcement and rescues

The HSUS has assisted law enforcement agencies with hundreds of cruelty and hoarding cases and dogfighting and cockfighting rescues (including the second largest dogfighting bust in U.S. history). We've rescued tens of thousands of animals and taught thousands of law enforcement officials how to investigate and prosecute animal cruelty and fighting cases. We operate a tip line and offer rewards to people who help bring animal abusers and fighters to justice. And we are taking our efforts to other parts of the world: In 2014, our affiliate Humane Society International helped secure the first dogfighting conviction in Costa Rica.

Funding federal protection

Over the past 17 years, we’ve succeeded in boosting the annual funding for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act by 205 percent (a total of more than $157 million in additional funds). We will continue our efforts to increase funding for the enforcement of the AWA and other programs that ensure basic humane treatment of animals at thousands of facilities.

Confronting extreme confinement on factory farms »

The HSUS is leading the fight to combat factory farming by both reducing the suffering of animals used for food and reducing demand for meat. We’ve worked with nearly 100 of the world’s largest food companies to adopt animal welfare reforms. And factory farming proponents are taking notice.

Gestation crates

We're driving the campaign to end the confinement of farm animals in crates and cages so small they can’t even turn around. We've helped nearly 100 of the world's largest food companies—McDonald's, Costco, Walmart and more—to develop plans to eliminate gestation crates for pigs from their supply chains. We’ve worked with major meat companies such as Smithfield Foods, Tyson Foods and Cargill to make similar progress.

Veal crates

After Arizona voters passed our 2006 ballot initiative to ban veal crates, the veal industry agreed to phase out the crates by 2017. Today, three-fourths of the industry has converted to group housing. We intend to hold the remaining companies accountable as the 2017 deadline approaches.

Battery cages

The HSUS has also led the charge to reform America’s egg industry. Following discussions with The HSUS, leading food companies—including Burger King, Starbucks, Subway, Wolfgang Puck, Unilever (producer of Hellman’s Mayonnaise) and Bon Appétit Management Company—committed to transition completely to cage-free eggs. Earlier this year, we helped the three largest food-service companies in America—Aramark, Compass Group and Sodexo—go completely cage-free, collectively sparing 3 million hens from life inside cages every year. Working with The HSUS, both Hilton Worldwide and United Airlines recently pledged to go entirely cage-free; Dunkin Donuts has committed to a similar goal.

In September 2015, years of dialogue paid off with a game-changing victory: McDonald’s announced a firm timeline for switching to 100 percent cage-free eggs in the United States and Canada. Once the transition is completed, 8 million chickens who once would have been virtually immobilized in battery cages will be able to walk inside a barn, spread their wings, perch and lay their eggs in nests.


We've helped pass 10 state laws banning extreme confinement and other factory farming practices. In 2008, The HSUS was the primary sponsor of California’s Proposition 2, a ballot initiative requiring that the state’s producers to phase out battery cages and gestation and veal crates. It passed with 63.5 percent of the vote. Two years later, California legislators passed an HSUS-spearheaded measure requiring that all shelled (whole) eggs sold statewide—regardless of where they originate—be produced in compliance with Prop 2.

Federal and international efforts

On the federal level, we stymied a 2014 attempt by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, to nullify state and local laws that protect farm animals.

Humane Society International has persuaded the majority of states in India, the world’s third largest producer of eggs, to declare that confining hens to battery cages violates the nation’s anticruelty legislation. HSI also worked with the Retail Council of Canada to ban gestation crates nationwide.


We’ve helped more than 100 school districts, 90 universities and 40 hospitals adopt Meatless Monday and other meat reduction programs. These institutions include the Los Angeles Unified School District (which serves 650,000 meals daily), the Houston Independent School District (270,000 meals daily), the Dallas Independent School District (160,000 meals daily), the San Diego Unified School District (70,000 meals daily) and the largest university in the U.S., Arizona State University.

Spreading the word

Working with celebrity spokespeople such as Kate Mara, we’re inspiring people around the globe to make more humane food choices in their daily lives.

Ag-gag bills

And in 2013 and 2014, we blocked efforts by agribusiness interests to criminalize anyone who exposes animal cruelty on factory farms in 19 of 20 states where these so-called “ag-gag” measures were introduced.

Fighting pet overpopulation and puppy mills »

Adoption, not euthanasia

Working alongside our colleagues in other groups, we’ve helped drive down the euthanasia rate for healthy, adoptable dogs and cats by 80 percent: from 15 million to fewer than 3 million since we launched campaigns in the mid-1970s to popularize spay/neuter and adoption from shelters and rescues.

The Shelter Pet Project

This public service campaign with Maddie's Fund and the Ad Council has generated more than $240 million in advertising to promote adoption from shelters and rescue groups. The Project’s most recent ads feature Disney princesses encouraging children to adopt shelter pets.

Pets for Life

Our outreach program provides training and wellness care for pets in underserved communities where there is no access to spay/neuter and veterinarians. The program is now active in 30 cities and counting.

Puppy mills

State laws
In just a few years, The HSUS has helped pass or strengthen laws in nine of the top 10 puppy mill states. Currently, 35 states have laws that regulate commercial dog breeders.

We've rescued more than 10,000 dogs from more than 50 puppy mills across the U.S. and Canada since 2006.

A winning multipronged approach
By 2011, the combination of our aggressive messaging about puppy mills, pet adoption marketing, undercover investigations and more stringent enforcement of the federal Animal Welfare Act had reduced the number of USDA-licensed commercial dog breeders by almost half—from 3,486 in 2009 to 2,205.

In 2013, The HSUS championed a new U.S. Department of Agriculture rule that brought 2,000 Internet dog sellers under federal regulation. We also exposed the American Kennel Club’s ties with the puppy mill industry. In 2014, we campaigned for the USDA rule that prohibited the import of puppies from other countries, cutting off the inhumane trade from foreign puppy mills.

Changing the marketplace

More than 70 cities and counties have passed ordinances that steer would-be pet owners to shelters, rescue groups and responsible breeders instead of puppy mills. As part of the HSUS Puppy Friendly Pet Store initiative, more than 2,300 stores across the country have pledged not to sell puppies. We've also helped 12 stores change their business models from selling dogs to offering them for adoption, saving more than 3,000 dogs to date.

Protecting horses and other equines »


The HSUS is committed to eradicating the practice of soring: inflicting pain on Tennessee, and other, walking horses to force an unnaturally high step in order to win competition prizes. Although Congress tried to ban soring with the Horse Protection Act in the early 1970s, the abuse is still rampant in a small segment of the walking horse industry.

Our undercover investigation led to criminal indictments and sparked public outrage. We’ve been a key player in crafting and campaigning for federal legislation that would finally end soring and restore the integrity of the walking horse industry.

The slaughter of U.S. horses for food

We’ve successfully pushed Congress to keep U.S. horse slaughterhouses shuttered, and we continue to champion federal legislation that would prevent horse slaughterhouses from reopening in the U.S. and stop the export of American horses for slaughter.

Humane Society International has been working with the governing bodies of Canada, the EU and Mexico to reduce the number of American horses slaughtered for human consumption and exported to those countries.

Neglect, abuse and homelessness

In 2013, we organized the Responsible Horse Breeders Council to decrease the number of horses in the U.S. at risk of neglect, abuse or slaughter for human consumption. To date, more than 1,200 horse breeders have pledged to assist if horses they’ve bred become homeless or at risk for slaughter.

We formed the Homes for Horses Coalition—the nation’s largest horse rescue alliance, with more than 300 members—with other animal protection organizations in 2007 to end horse slaughter and other forms of equine abuse while promoting growth, collaboration and professionalism in the equine rescue community.

Donkeys in Hawaii

We began spearheading a project to humanely gather, sterilize and find homes for a herd of wild donkeys on Hawaii’s Big Island in 2010. With support from a generous donor, we airlifted more than 100 to sanctuaries in California, where they started new lives. Most of the herd has now been relocated.

Ending Canada’s seal hunt and the fur trade »

The market for seal fur and other seal products

We have campaigned for more than a decade to close markets for seal products in order to end Canada’s annual commercial seal hunt. Despite the opposition of at least seven state governments, the international fur trade and a segment of the commercial fishing industry, we’ve helped close most of the world’s key markets for seal products. Here is an abridged timeline of recent victories for seals:

  • 2009 The European Union joined the United States in banning the trade in commercial seal products.
  • 2011 Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus prohibited trade in harp seal fur.
  • 2013 Taiwan banned trade in all products of commercial marine mammal hunts, including seal products.
  • 2014 The World Trade Organization ruled against a challenge by Canada and Norway, upholding the EU ban on trade in seal products. This pivotal decision established that moral concerns related to animal welfare are a sufficient reason to restrict trade.
  • 2015 The European Court of Justice rejected an appeal of the EU ban on trade in seal products brought by commercial sealing interests.
  • 2015 The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly (631 to 31) to strengthen the European Union ban on the trade in seal products.

These trade bans have caused seal fur prices in Canada to crash, and more and more sealers have chosen not to participate in the hunt, sparing more than 2 million seals from slaughter in the past seven years. Last year’s seal kill was one of the lowest on record because we’ve eliminated markets. We’re more committed than ever to permanently ending the Canadian seal slaughter.

Boycotting Canadian seafood to stop the seal hunt

More than 6,500 businesses and 800,000 people have joined our boycott to avoid some or all Canadian seafood until the seal slaughter is stopped for good.

Truth in fur labeling

Our investigations have exposed the sale of animal fur—sometimes from domestic dogs or raccoon dogs—fraudulently mislabeled or advertised as "faux fur." They have also led to passage of the federal Truth in Fur Labeling Act and enforcement actions against major retailers. Our investigators continue to monitor companies that have misrepresented fur in the past, and we use all available options—including lawsuits and petitions—to ensure that animals and consumers are protected. We also work with major media outlets to ensure our message reaches those at risk of being duped from false labeling.

Companies going fur-free

We've worked with major department stores and designers who chose to go fur-free, including JC Penney, Calvin Klein, Talbots, True Religion, TJ Maxx/Marshalls, Sears, Tommy Hilfiger, Kenneth Cole, Overstock.com and the Yoox Group. This has helped to drive down fur sales and imports into the U.S. by more than one-third in the last decade.

Moving away from animal research and testing »

Laws against cosmetic testing

In 2013, the global #BeCrueltyFree campaign led by HSI helped persuade the European Union to ban the sale of cosmetic products and ingredients that have been newly tested on animals anywhere in the world—the largest market to date to do so. In 2014, India heeded HSI’s call to follow suit with its own nationwide cosmetics animal testing and import bans, and the Brazilian state of São Paulo banned animal testing of cosmetics within its borders. The same year, HSI secured similar national-level legislative proposals in Australia and Brazil, and China took its first step toward ending mandatory animal testing for cosmetics.

In early 2015, #BeCrueltyFree New Zealand celebrated the passage of a national animal testing ban. South Korea has introduced a cosmetics bill requiring mandatory use of alternatives, and Taiwan has introduced a bill to ban both testing and trade in cruelly tested cosmetics. In the United States, the bipartisan Humane Cosmetics Act is ready to be introduced in Congress.

Ending invasive research on chimpanzees

September 2015 marks the end of a century of unrestricted cruel invasive experiments on chimpanzees in the United States. This victory is the culmination of a decade-long campaign by The HSUS, which exposed the abuse of chimps in an undercover investigation at the nation’s largest chimpanzee laboratory, pushed the NIH to retire all of the federally-owned chimpanzees from the lab, and secured congressional provisions encouraging the shift. The HSUS, supported by many other groups, then filed a legal petition, which resulted in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service granting Endangered Species Act protections to all captive chimps. Anyone wanting to use a chimpanzee in invasive research will have to demonstrate a benefit to conservation of chimpanzees in the wild in order to obtain a permit.

The next step is to retire the 745 or so chimps in U.S. laboratories to sanctuaries, where they will not only have more space but also enrichment—and where they will be able to live peacefully in social groups, which are critical to their emotional well-being. The HSUS Chimps Deserve Better campaign is hard at work trying to find a good home for every chimp.

Alternatives to animal testing

We've helped secure many millions of dollars in new funding for alternative test method development in Europe, Brazil and the U.S.

Meanwhile, we’ve worked with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which works to bring consistency to global testing standards, to incorporate proven alternatives that could finally replace animal testing for skin and eye irritation. The availability of these new alternatives, coupled with lobbying pressure from HSI and The HSUS, has led pesticide regulators in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the European Union and elsewhere to accept them.

We spearhead the Human Toxicology Project Consortium, which promotes a fundamental move away from animal testing.

Confronting wildlife abuses »


Trophy hunting loopholes
An investigation exposed a massive scam in which wealthy trophy hunters were bilking American taxpayers for the cost of overseas hunting trips by donating their trophies to fake museums. In 2006, we drove legislation in Congress to shut down this loophole. We've also helped ban imports of sport-hunted polar bear trophies from Canada.

Captive hunts
We've secured bans or restrictions on captive ("canned") hunts of mammals trapped in pens in about half the states.

Hunting bears and cougars
Our campaigns have spurred a half dozen states to outlaw bear baiting and the use of packs of dogs to hunt bears and cougars, as well as spring hunting of bears in Colorado and Oregon. Each year we have fended off attempts to repeal all or parts of these protections.

Mourning Doves
The HSUS blocked the opening of mourning dove hunting in Michigan.


In 2014, we led two successful ballot initiatives to stop the Michigan wolf hunt. That year, two of our court victories reinstated Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the Great Lakes region and Wyoming.


We're working to make poaching and other forms of wildlife cruelty felonies in every state—just as we've done with other kinds of animal cruelty.

Toxic lead ammunition

In 2013, The HSUS helped California become the first state to phase out the use of lead hunting ammunition, which kills tens of millions of nontarget animals every year in the United States.

Cruel Practices

Bear Baying
Following a 2010 HSUS undercover investigation that exposed the cruel practice of bear “baying” (in which dogs attack captive bears), South Carolinabecame the last state to bring an end to the blood sport.

Fox Penning
We've also ended fox penning in Florida, and in 2014 Virginia passed a law that will both phase out existing fox pens and also prohibit any new pens from opening.

Traps and other cruel devices
Through ballot initiatives, bills and regulatory efforts, we have promoted bans on steel-jawed leghold traps and other cruel devices in about a dozen states, including California and Hawaii in 2013.

Wildlife Poisons

After much pressure from The HSUS, Reckitt Benckiser Inc., the manufacturer of d-Con brand mouse and rat poisons, stopped the distribution and sale of products containing particularly potent rodenticides. The company had been the sole holdout against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to stop the sale of such "super poisons," which threaten the health of children and kill pets and wildlife.

Wildlife crimes

We’ve been assisting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in busting major Internet wildlife crimes. The HSUS is also a major force in ensuring that all states join the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, which prevents poachers who have lost their hunting, fishing and/or trapping privileges in one state from carrying out those activities in other states.

The trade in rhino horn and elephant ivory

We continue to provide input into the development and implementation of the Obama administration's National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking. In 2014, we championed efforts that led to New York’s and New Jersey’s historic laws prohibiting the sale of ivory and rhino horn. We also championed a similarly strong law in California, making it the first West Coast state to enact such a law.

HSI has helped persuade the U.S., France, Hong Kong and China to destroy their confiscated elephant ivory stockpiles. HSI was part of the anti-ivory coalition in France, collected 50,000 signatures to an anti-ivory petition while working with the government in Hong Kong and influenced the Chinese government behind the scenes. We're collaborating with the Vietnamese government to reduce the demand for rhino horn and the Chinese government to diminish the demand for elephant ivory.

Safeguarding the public and wild animals »

Dangerous wild animals as pets

The HSUS leads national animal protection groups in the fight tokeep private citizens from possessing or owning a dangerous wild animals. Since 2000, we have steadily shepherded the passage of 19 state laws and/or regulations that either prohibit or severely restrict private ownership of dangerous wildlife.

In 2012, we helped to pass a law in Ohio prohibiting private possession of dangerous wild animals. And in 2013, we successfully championed Arkansas' ban on private possession of great apes, baboons and macaques. The next victory was West Virginia's 2014 bill restricting the private ownership of dangerous exotic animals. Now only five states have virtually no restrictions on owning dangerous wild animals.

Public contact with dangerous captive wild animals

In 2012, The HSUS filed a petition in Iowa to prohibit public contact with captive big cats, bears and primates. And in 2015, our two undercover investigations into the tiger cub petting trade exposed for the first time the cruelty associated with this abusive business.

The threat of dangerous nonnative wildlife to the public, native animals and the environment

In 2012, we helped persuade the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to add four large constrictor snakes to the Lacey Act, which outlaws the import, export, sale, purchase or possession of certain fish, wildlife or plants. In 2015, we also helped convince the FWS to list four additional large constrictor snake species as injurious under the Lacey Act: the reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda and Beni anaconda.

Human-wildlife conflicts

The HSUS continues to be the leader in resolving urban wildlife conflicts. In 2014, our wildlife response team provided hands-on rescue, transport and rehabilitation to almost 5,000 wild animals, including more than 300 prairie dogs, 650 gopher tortoises and 67 desert tortoises as well as 260 burros and countless deer, coyotes, ducks, snakes and orphaned baby wildlife. Our Humane Wildlife Services program in the Washington, D.C., region contributed to that number by rescuing 2,400 animals. And we’ve now launched a Humane Wildlife Services program at our South Florida Wildlife Center.

We have demonstrated our humane conflict resolution techniques in the more than 700 communities nationwide, showing how to resolve their conflicts and coexist with our wild neighbors, including coyotes, geese, beavers and deer.

Protecting whales, dolphins, sharks and turtles »

We’ve made remarkable progress in the fight to protect the world’s most magnificent marine animals.


In 2014, the UN International Court of Justice ruled on a landmark case set into motion by HSI in 1999. The Court found that Japan’s program of killing of whales in the Southern Ocean for “scientific purposes” was illegal and determined that Japan should stop.

Right whales

The Obama administration announced that it is permanently requiring certain ships to slow down in designated areas to protect critically endangered North Atlantic right whales—a move prompted a legal petition submitted jointly by The HSUS and other groups.

As part of a settlement of another legal case we filed, the National Marine Fisheries Service has begun restricting fisheries in New England, attempting to reduce the risk of right whales becoming entangled in and killed by commercial fishing gear.


We have worked for more than two decades to control the import of tuna caught by fishing fleets in the Eastern Pacific Ocean that encircle and harm dolphins as a catching strategy. We're committed to maintaining the integrity of the U.S. dolphin-safe tuna label.

The Obama administration recently passed a law complying 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. However, Mexico disputes whether the U.S. is truly complying with the WTO, and a WTO panel recently ruled that the dolphin-safe measure still violates WTO provisions. The United States will challenge that ruling.

In 2013, India passed a national ban on the captive display of dolphins

Shark finning

We have long campaigned to end the barbaric killing of sharks for their fins, which are used as an ingredient in soup—the estimated annual toll is as high as 73 million animals.

We helped pass the U.S. Shark Conservation Act in 2011 to ban the removal of shark fins at sea in all U.S. waters. Many of the major coastal states—including California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington on the west coast, Illinois in the Midwest, and Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York on the East coast—have banned possessing or selling shark fins.

The Obama administration announced in 2014 that the laws in California, Maryland and Washington are consistent with federal law, and we're urging the Administration to make the same finding with the remaining states.

HSI has succeeded in closing a loophole in the European Union's shark finning ban. And we're making further headway: India, the second largest shark catching country in the world, recently enacted a national ban on shark finning. HSI has also been part of a campaign that has convinced more than a dozen airlines and several shipping companies to stop shipping shark fins.

Sea turtles

HSI is protecting sea turtles by strengthening international laws to protect them from trafficking and being killed by the fishing industry as bycatch. It has also launched field projects in Central America, India and other parts of Asia.

Exposing animal cruelty through undercover investigations »

Downer cows and veal calves

In 2008, The HSUS conducted 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 the government to ban the slaughter of downer cows for human consumption and spurred a multi-million dollar judgment against the company after a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Our 2009 undercover investigation of a "bob veal" slaughter plant shined a bright light on the abuses that male dairy calves can endure, and the USDA proposed extending protections to downer calves. A series of other investigations has led to convictions and provided consumers a window into the operations of the industrial veal industry.

Horse slaughter

Our investigation of Texas horse slaughter plants, combined with our courtroom activities, led to those plants being shuttered. We helped close the last horse slaughter plants operating in the U.S. in 2007 and have blocked any new plants from opening since then.

Tennessee walking horses

Our 2012 investigation of a prominent Tennessee walking horse trainer documented unspeakable abuses to the animals, in order to induce a high stepping gait to win ribbons at horse shows. That investigation not only led to the federal indictment and arrest of the trainer but triggered a national movement to eradicate soring abuses within the industry.

Animals in laboratories

Our months-long investigation of chimps at a Louisiana laboratory set in motion our successful effort to get chimps out of labs.

Georgia Regents University announced that it would stop procuring dogs from Class B dealers after a 2013 HSUS undercover investigation revealed the suffering and death of dogs used in dental experiments.

View HSUS accomplishments by year: 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009

The HSUS has been 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.