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May 13, 2010

Expo Gathering A "Sign of Progress"

Animal advocates come together in Nashville, Tenn. this week for Animal Care Expo

  • The HSUS's Animal Care Expo is one of the nation's largest conferences for animal sheltering professionals. Michael Bunch

  • Lara Provence, manager of conferences and events for The HSUS, answers questions and helps Expo attendees get oriented. Michael Bunch

by Carrie Allan

Some streets in Nashville, Tenn. are still closed off, and around the city, men in hard hats, disaster aid vehicles, and pumps churning up dirty water from inundated areas provide ample evidence that the city is a long way from normal.

But at the Nashville Convention Center, animal welfare advocates were grateful that, thanks to herculean efforts by local humane groups, the city's hospitality industry, and HSUS conference planners, Animal Care Expo 2010—the largest conference for those in the animal care and control and sheltering fields—was moving full steam ahead.

After attending a day of workshops on topics ranging from achieving a no-kill nation to practical shelter design, many conference attendees stopped by the evening's town hall meeting to listen to HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle talk about the state of the union—the union, that is, of animal welfare advocates around the country and around the world.

Pacelle expressed his gratitude to attendees, acknowledging the vital importance of the work animal shelters do and noting that The HSUS is deeply invested in the cause of ending animal homelessness and reducing euthanasia. "It's been the case since we were founded," he said. He noted that the organization's founders also wanted to fill in gaps that weren't being addressed at the local level—the systemic cruelties that most community groups don't have resources to impact.

"All of us," he said, "have a role to play. I think of the many animal protection groups, sometimes, as different pieces in an orchestra, and we're all trying to make the music that will make the world respond."

Pacelle took questions from the crowd, one of whom asked about the recent attacks on the HSUS. After Pacelle explained the background of the group attacking HSUS and its motivations for doing so, another audience member rose to ask how those in the room could help defend HSUS from the ongoing attacks, which he described as "outrageous."

Pacelle offered his thanks for that support, noting that the crowd's attendance at Expo was a wonderful example of the field coming together.

"We can feel recharged at Expo and realize we're not alone in this fight," he said. "We need to draw strength from our colleagues and our partners in this field. Focus on the progress. Don't turn your eyes away from cruelty, but don't dwell on it. The change is happening, and it's happening very fast now. Just this gathering at Expo is a sign of progress."

Learn more about Animal Care Expo.

Carrie Allan is the editor of Animal Sheltering magazine.

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