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Where we are

The Humane State Program is currently in three states with plans of expanding!

  • Stateside sister shelters provide mentorship and support for Puerto Rican shelters. Kim Alboum

  • Operation Breathing Room. Photo by Brandy Wine Valley SPCA

  • Operation Breathing Room. Photo by Kim Alboum/The HSUS

  • Operation Breathing Room. Photo by Kim Alboum/The HSUS

  • Operation Breathing Room. Photo by Kim Alboum/The HSUS

  • Operation Breathing Room. Photo by Kim Alboum/The HSUS

  • Operation Breathing Room. Photo by Kim Alboum/The HSUS

Current Programs

  1. Puerto Rico
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Kansas

Puerto Rico


In 2015, The Humane Society of the United States and the Government of Puerto Rico announced an expansive partnership to transform animal welfare on the island. This comprehensive effort, titled Executive Order 2015-8, states that the wellbeing and protection of animals is a priority for all aspects of government.  Executive Order 2015-8 was announced during a joint press event that included the governor and attorney general, and involved every government agency, including all 78 provincial mayors.

In order to achieve this mission, the governor called for all branches of government to receive training in conjunction with The HSUS, including law enforcement, animal control and the Department of Education. The governor pledged full cooperation to crack down on animal cruelty, address the street dog population, and end the overwhelming euthanasia problem in order to create a more ‘Humane Puerto Rico.’

Since this effort began, we have worked in Puerto Rico to launch a targeted campaign to expand the capacity of animal welfare officers, extend spay/neuter services, provide shelters with services and training and launch a humane education program for children.

Our Challenge

There are 300,000 street dogs roaming the island of Puerto Rico and few, if any affordable spay/neuter services in most communities. Shelters, running at max capacity, have euthanasia rates near 95 percent and there are known “dump sites” where unwanted dogs and puppies are abandoned. An estimated 120 puppy mills dot the island, fueling the crisis. Every day, more than 600 new ads about dogs for sale are posted online in Puerto Rico.

Shelter staff can never catch up with the flood of animals to focus on rehoming -rather than euthanizing- pets. Law enforcement doesn’t have the equipment or the training to investigate puppy mills, despite having some of the best laws regulating commercial dog breeders on the books. And children who see animals treated like disposable objects can become desensitized to animal cruelty.

Our Impact

Since launching our partnership with the Puerto Rican government, we have achieved the following:

  • Trained 2,000 teachers, social workers, and directors in Humane Education and launched curriculum in every public school across the island - reaching 400,000 students.
  • Provided Kind News Magazine to every public elementary school. This magazine teaches children the value of treating animals well and the social implications to community.
  • Trained approximately 3,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors and members of theshelter community in Animal Cruelty Investigation procedures.
  • Provided evidence kits for attendees, valued at $500, including digital cameras, which enable them to better apply the training they received.
  • Provided compassion fatigue training, volunteer engagement training, and social media training to all shelter/rescue workers. We also embarked on a new training titled Working with Law Enforcement to facilitate working relationships between the shelter community and law enforcement. Provided equipment including computers, printers, and software to partner shelters. Trained shelter staff in new software to standardize reporting methods and better track euthanasia rates.
  • Conducted 16 vaccine and spay/neuter clinics in 61 of the 78 municipalities across the island, focusing on areas that lack veterinary services.
  • Developed a coalition with the Veterinary Board, Vet Association, shelters, and rescue community to move the island towards transparency amongst all parties involved with spay/neuter numbers, adoption numbers, and euthanasia numbers.
  • Worked with Tourism, the Board of Directors of the Hotel Association to determine ways we can inform the public and tourists of the value of spay/neuter and vaccines via clinics provided by Humane Society International.
  • Established the ongoing darting of wild mares on Vieques Island with immunocontraceptive PZP, which HSUS helped to develop.
  • Placed fresh water troughs near wild horses’ natural habitat, providing a sustainable source of water and luring horses away from urban centers.
  • Held a horse festival where veterinary care and supplies were provided to local youth horse owners.
  • Executed a Memorandum of Understanding with Governor Ricardo Rosselló and First Lady Beatriz Rosselló, the Puerto Rico Veterinary Medical Association and the Puerto Rico Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, allowing the HSUS to bring teams of high quality, high volume spay/neuter veterinarians onto the island of Puerto Rico for the first time in history.
  • A coalition of 24 national and international groups, lead by the HSUS, established the Spayathon for Puerto Rico aimed at spaying/neutering and vaccinating more than 20,000 dogs and cats across Puerto Rico by May of 2019. Pet food, leashes and collars were provided at no cost to any family.
  • Round one in June of 2018 of the Spayathon for Puerto Rico successfully altered more than 5,600 pets. Additional rounds are planned for November of 2018, as well as February and May of 2019.

The Sister Shelter Project

Through Puerto Rico’s Sister Shelter Project, we have been able to teach effective strategies to combat pet overpopulation by highlighting existing practices at other shelters.  The 11 participating shelter partners are utilizing creative and cutting-edge programs to save lives and have experts in disease management, volunteer programs, community outreach, customer service and lifesaving adoption programs -- all of which are desperately needed in Puerto Rico.

The management and executive level staff) at our partners shelters provide the following for their sister shelters in Puerto Rico:

  • Phone mentorship and support for staff
  • Sharing of best practices and policies
  • Community supply drives for “adopted” shelter
  • In-person visits for hands-on problem solving and skill shares.
  • Identify capital needs and repairs
  • Coordination of volunteers from the community and US.
  • Opportunities to interact with staff specializing in different areas of animal welfare
  • Third-party objective feedback on daily operations
  • Occasionally, the potential to transfer animals from Puerto Rico to partner shleters

The Sister Shelter Project launched in February 2017 with the stateside shelters visiting their partner shelters in Puerto Rico. Staff from Puerto Rico shelters attended a grant writing workshop andparticipated in a welcome dinner and presentation. Stateside shelters then visited and toured their Puerto Rico Sister Shelters.

In April 2015, Puerto Rico shelter staff got the opportunity to visit stateside shelters. Stateside shelters welcomed them into their facilities for tours and discussion of programs that can be implemented in Puerto Rico. Partner shelters will select three goals to work on together to impact shelter animals.

Operation Breathing Room

Operation Breathing Room is a coalition of animal welfare groups lead by the Humane State team to provide assistance and leeway for Puerto Rico animal shelters and staff as they work toward sustainable programs to address homeless pet overpopulation.

The HSUS, Wings of Rescue, GreaterGood.org, Pittsburgh Aviation Animal Rescue Team, and Humane Society of Broward County make up this incredible live saving coalition. Browse photos of this operation in the slideshow above.

To donate specifically to the Humane Puerto Rico project, click here.

Media, blogs and press releases:



In 2015, The Humane Society of the United States launched Humane Oklahoma, an intensive state-level initiative to provide law enforcement agencies, shelter leaders, and volunteers with training, resources and equipment to work collaboratively to combat animal abuse.

A three-year long program, Humane Oklahoma is expanding the capacity of animal welfare officers to respond to animal cruelty, driving up enforcement of state laws, and providing shelters and rescue groups with services and training to expand their reach and decrease euthanasia.

Our Challenge

Oklahoma has the dubious honor of being in the top five states producing puppy mill dogs. There is only one inspector for the entire state and very limited training and resources available to animal control officers. Weak enforcement of animal welfare laws, and a fragmented and disperse animal welfare network, discourages collaboration between shelters/rescues and law enforcement.

In partnership with the FBI, National Sheriff's Association,  Oklahoma Sheriffs Association, Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Oklahoma Sheriffs & Peace Officers Association, we launched our humane law enforcement training in five cities across Oklahoma.

Our first shelter/rescue training had over 350 attendees, representing 160 organizations, so far  more than 700 officers received training on animal protection laws. Soon after, participating officers were calling our experts for on-the-scene advice regarding cases, utilizing the equipment and tools we provided, and connecting with local shelter/rescue organizations for placement and coordination.

Our Plan

The HSUS will continue to support the rescue community with resources to close gaps in care, and will continue to provide law enforcement officers, prosecutors and state agencies resources to enforce state laws.

The HSUS will also leverage our national puppy mill campaign to introduce policy efforts and consumer engagement in Oklahoma and improve standards of care in commercial dog breeding operations..

To further increase our impact , our Pets for Life program will help Oklahoma shelters challenge many long-held assumptions about people and pets living in poverty. The program is creating a paradigm shift in the animal welfare movement to reach previously overlooked segments of pet owners and encouraging the realization that a lack of financial means does not equate to a lack of love felt for and provided to a pet.

Key activities include:

Training & Enforcement (Ongoing)

The HSUS will continue to conduct statewide training sessions on humane law enforcement for police, animal control officers and sheriffs. The trainings will focus on enforcing each state’s puppy mill laws, breeding regulations, and animal cruelty laws utilizing a multitude of resources and partnerships. Our goal is to reach 500 law enforcement officers per year in 2017 and 2018. In addition to baseline training, which counts toward continuing education credits, we will also provide new offerings:

  • LINK Focused Training: Mistreating animals is no longer seen as an isolated incident that can be ignored; it is often an indicator or predictor crime and a “red flag” warning sign that other family members in the household may not be safe.
  • Provide module training to officers on more in-depth subjects, including veterinary forensics, officer and dog encounters, animal sexual assault, and equine cruelty investigations.
  • Expand our training program to include prosecutors and judges, with an emphasis on the importance of animal cases and public safety.
  • Dispositions: Options & Consequences. Oklahoma has bonding and forfeiture laws. Our staff will assist officers in filing these in timely matter, releasing those animals and fast tracking them to a new life with collaboration of the state sheltering community. We will also train on Oklahoma-specific laws, so officers know the severity to which they can charge the defendant.
  • Distribute the Oklahoma humane law enforcement reference book, an easy guide to federal and state enforcement codes.

Capacity building for rescue groups and shelters (Ongoing)

The HSUS will continue to offer workshops on how to combat compassion fatigue for shelter leaders across the state, how to work collaboratively with law enforcement, and how to build in-state resilience and experience. We will expand our core offerings in 2017 to include:

  • Connecting the Oklahoma rescue community to other HSUS programs such as Pets are Welcome and Community Cats and BSL Breakdown.
  • Toolkits to implement change: Our staff will have continual outreach to the sheltering community and help guide them to online resources and toolkits developed by our Companion Animals department.
  • Natural disaster readiness: facilitating plans and relationships that ready agencies for natural disasters and prepare them to serve their community’s needs.
  • We will also be providing response trailers and advanced training to two response teams in Oklahoma in 2017.
  • Containing outbreaks.
  • Enrichment to increase retention.
  • Domestic violence sheltering protocol to establish confidential housing for the pets of individuals fleeing a violent living environment.

Creating Positive Media and Support for Oklahoma (Ongoing)

  • Support and highlight law enforcement and other efforts in each state to draw public attention to animal cruelty.
  • Utilize The HSUS’s social media platform and communications department to highlight activities in the state and drive earned media and public awareness.
  • Support state efforts through an ongoing online advertising campaign to intercept puppy mill buyers and steer consumers toward shelters; and utilize our national End Puppy Mills campaign to drive action and expose the most egregious abuses in Oklahoma.

Pets for Life

Pets for Life will bring services directly to people and pets in need, rather than expect pet owners to access inaccessible and unaffordable services that are most often outside of the community. By embedding in the community, PFL will build trust and relationships in areas where people are often distrustful of the system and unfamiliar with basic and necessary pet care such as spay/neuter.

The Program’s Impact

The Humane State program expands law enforcement’s ability to respond to animal cruelty, shut down puppy mills and enforce state laws, while providing shelters with services and training needed to expand their impact in the community and decrease euthanasia. Specifically, it will:

  • Improve enforcement of many laws, including those noted by the FBI as often occurring with animal cruelty (child and elder abuse, domestic violence and bullying).
  • Shut down the most egregious puppy mills, reduce the number of puppies exported from the state and improve care standards for commercial breeding operations.
  • Build relationships between law enforcement and local animal welfare organizations.

Resources include:

  • Evidence kits with tools that many state responders lack (worth more than $500).
  • Handbooks with easy-to-reference information on wildlife conflicts and federal and state enforcement codes.
  • Training in disaster response, compassion fatigue, animal handling and humane community-building.
  • Wildlife protection training, with an emphasis on humane wildlife conflict resolution and exotic animal laws.
  • Access to HSUS resources, like subscriptions to Animal Sheltering magazine and scholarships to attend Animal Care Expo.

A look at our training weeks:

  • Wildlife protection training includes presentations on safe wildlife capture and handling and how to resolve wildlife issues, such as helping orphaned and injured animals.
  • The pets-focused training for shelters and rescues includes topics such as compassion fatigue, social media strategies to help increase adoption, feral cat communities, rescue and disaster response and working with law enforcement.
  • Law enforcement training topics include recognizing and investigating animal cruelty, puppy mills and animal fighting, warrants and evidence collection and interpreting and applying animal protection laws for rescue and criminal prosecution.

Are you an animal welfare professional or volunteer who would like to attend our trainings? Click here to register! www.animalsheltering.org/humane-state

Visit www.humanesociety.org/oklahoma for state-specific animal resources and to connect with The HSUS’s Oklahoma state director.

Media, blogs and press releases:



Kansas has a high volume of puppy mills, fragmented animal welfare resources and struggles with enforcement of current laws. This is a state that would benefit from increased collaboration between local animal welfare organizations and law enforcement.

The HSUS is making a three-year investment in Kansas to expand the capacity of animal welfare officers to respond to animal cruelty, drive up enforcement of state laws, and provide shelters with services and training to expand their reach and decrease euthanasia.


Kansas has the dubious honor of being one of the largest producers of puppy mill dogs in the country, and has just four USDA inspectors to cover the entire state. To make matters worse, Animal Control Officers in the state have limited training and resources.

While the Kansas state sheltering system has made incredible progress in recent years—banning gas chambers and death by gunshot —many are overrun with the burden of carrying for seized and disposed puppy mill dogs. In Kansas, law enforcement conducts seizures instead of the Department of Agriculture (DOA), which puts a burden on the local shelters to accept and hold those animals on cruelty charges. While the state does have a bonding law, very few counties have accepted it, leaving shelters with the financial burden of caring for dogs awaiting trial.

The Kansas Pet Animal Act, passed in 1989, requires licensing of all dog and cat breeders who produce, offer or sell three or more litters during the state fiscal year. The law needs to be modernized and updated, is ineffectively enforced and is under attack by those who want to roll back protections. Humane breeding groups in Kansas and the Governor’s companion animal board support keeping USDA-liscenced kennels and hobby breeders accountable under the act.The Kansas Pet Animal Act itself says “you may inspect” instead of “you shall inspect,” which means the DOA does not have to do anything unless a complaint is reported. This means we need to drive action.

Our plan

The Humane State program will connect the dots between animal protection laws and the people who enforce them. Shelters and rescue communities will be given the resources to report issues, and law enforcement officers, prosecutors and state agencies are will be given training and resources to enforce those laws.

The HSUS will provide support to the shelter and enforcement community of Kansas to ensure the greatest impact for pets and people in the state. The HSUS will also improve standards of care in commercial dog breeding operations through policy efforts and consumer engagement.

Key activities include:

Training & Enforcement

  • Beginning in June 2017, we will conduct statewide training on humane law enforcement for police, animal control officers and sheriffs. The trainings will focus on enforcing Kansas’ puppy mill and animal cruelty laws and state breeding regulations, and utilizing resources and partnerships. This eight-hour course is eligible for continuing education credit.
  • We will partner with the Kansas Sheriff’s Association, Kansas Animal Control Association, Kansas Pet Animal Coalition, Kansas State Animal Response Team, Kansas Chiefs of Police, Wichita Animal Action League, Spay/Neuter Kansas and others. Other state agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture and Kansas Park & Wildlife will be invited to participate.
  • Equip law enforcement and animal control officers who attend trainings with evidence kits that include necessary items that Kansas responders lack. The budget anticipates 500 kits would be provided.
  • Create a humane law enforcement reference book to serve as an easy guide to federal and state enforcement codes. No such summary of relevant state laws in Kansas exists.
  • Conduct Wildlife Protection Training with an emphasis on wildlife and exotic animal conflict resolution, enforcement of state laws and education.
  • Capacity-building for rescue groups and shelters.
  • Provide statewide compassion fatigue training for shelter leaders and shelter staff struggle who with the heavy burden of caring for—and being forced to euthanize—thousands of dogs and cats each year.
  • Offer training to shelters across the state about puppy mill interventions and available resources such as The HSUS Breeder Surrender Fund.
  • Provide trainings focused on working effectively with Law Enforcement.
  • Support shelters and other animal welfare groups’ efforts to identify the most egregious cases of cruelty within the puppy mill industry and work collaboratively to intervene.
  • Conduct coalition building and outreach to shelters across the state to identify capital and training needs and to increase collaboration that builds in-state resilience and experience.
  • Participating shelters and rescues will receive animal handling and capture equipment, along with subscriptions to Animal Sheltering Magazine for the year.

Public Outreach

  • Support and highlight law enforcement and other efforts in Kansas that draw public attention to the puppy mill industry.
  • Utilize The HSUS’s social media platform and communications department to highlight activities in the state and drive earned media and public awareness.
  • We are in the midst of a three-year, aggressive online advertising campaign to intercept puppy mill buyers and steer consumers toward shelters that will support our state efforts.
  • A media day will be set on each law enforcement training at each training venue.
  • A press release will occur the week of each of the three training efforts in the state, which will include TV, social media, All Animals Magazine and others.
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