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December 29, 2009

2009: A Banner Year for Animals

As the year winds down, The Humane Society of the United States reflects on some of its major achievements for animal protection in 2009. Countless animals have been rescued from harm, spared from suffering and guaranteed some basic standards of humane treatment they deserve, thanks to the work of our members and the activities of the organization.

Ending Euthanasia of Homeless Pets

New and innovative programs to encourage pet adoption and spaying and neutering brought the nation one step closer to the long-held and challenging goal of ending the euthanasia of 3 million healthy and treatable pets each year. The HSUS, with the Ad Council and Maddie's Fund, launched the Shelter Pet Project, a three-year public service advertising campaign encouraging people to adopt dogs and cats from animal shelters. The HSUS Gulf Coast Spay/Neuter campaign launched advertising blitzes and capacity-building efforts to drive pet owners to take advantage of low-cost spaying and neutering services in 11 Louisiana and Mississippi communities, resulting in an additional 40,000 to 50,000 surgeries a year in Gulf Coast communities. Spay Day 2009 saw 38,168 animals, mostly dogs and cats, spayed and neutered, and 498 events in 49 states in the United States and an additional 23 countries outside of the United States saw another 2,364 animals sterilized. In Bhutan, Humane Society International launched a nationwide program in coordination with the government to sterilize up to 50,000 dogs during the next three to five years. Similar plans are being developed for more cities in India.

Rescuing Animals from Crisis

HSUS deployed its Animal Rescue Team to crisis situations for animals all across the nation. Working with national and local animal welfare groups and law enforcement officials on more than 40 rescue missions, The HSUS rescued more than 10,000 animals. The rescue operations included more than 200 neglected mustangs in Nebraska and 84 neglected horses found starving in Tennessee, with the horses later put into our own sanctuaries or adopted out to new families. The HSUS Animal Care Centers also took care of nearly 16,000 animals in need of sanctuary and rehabilitation, including equines, birds, mammals, reptiles and exotics.

Protecting Dogs at Large-Scale Puppy Mills

After Oprah Winfrey exposed the cruelty of puppy mills to the nation last year, 2009 saw progress on numerous fronts to protect dogs from these large-scale breeding operations where they are treated not like family pets but like a cash crop. The HSUS raided 16 operations with law enforcement, rescuing more than 3,000 dogs from mass dog breeding facilities. The HSUS launched the first-ever national puppy mill tip line for law enforcement. With assistance from The HSUS, hundreds of former Petland customers filed the largest-ever class action lawsuit challenging the sale of puppy mill dogs to consumers in more than 40 states. The HSUS secured more than 450 puppy friendly pet store pledges from stores committing not to sell puppies. Ten states passed laws in 2009 addressing puppy mills and their abusive practices, and The HSUS joined with Missouri animal welfare groups to launch a 2010 ballot initiative campaign to crack down on puppy mills in a state with more than 3,000 mills.

Ending Abuses at Factory Farms

After California's passage of Proposition 2 in 2008—phasing out the use of cages and crates where veal calves, breeding pigs and egg-laying hens are basically immobilized for their entire lives— we saw continued progress in providing more humane treatment of animals raised for food.  Maine and Michigan passed laws in 2009 to phase out confinement practices, after The HSUS negotiated with agricultural leaders in the states. California followed up on Prop 2 with another measure to protect farm animals, this time prohibiting the painful, unnecessary tail docking of dairy cows' tails. The HSUS made progress in its long campaign focusing on Wendy's after the company agreed to switch a portion of its eggs from battery cage to cage-free operations. The HSUS welcomed news from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that the USDA would implement a ban on slaughter for human consumption of cattle unable to stand and walk unassisted— the result of a 2008 HSUS undercover investigation into downed animals being slaughtered for food. The HSUS also conducted another undercover investigation that revealed cruelty at a Vermont dairy calf slaughter plant that led to the shutdown of the operation, and The HSUS and the U.S. Department of Justice joined to pursue a $150 million federal fraud lawsuit against a California slaughter plant that used sick and injured downed animals in the federal school lunch program.

Cracking Down on Staged Animal Fighting

The HSUS worked with law enforcement on more than 250 cases of animal fighting, led 15 raids in eight states, rescued more than 750 dogs and trained more than 1,500 law enforcement officials on how to investigate animal fighting. We also assisted with the shelter setup, rescue, transportation and daily care of the 407 dogs at an emergency shelter in Missouri, after the largest one-day series of federal dogfighting raids in United States history. The HSUS launched a national animal fighting tip line, 877-TIP-HSUS, and our animal fighting reward program marked the disbursement of its 50th reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of an animal fighter. We passed legislation in Arkansas and Kansas establishing felony-level penalties for cockfighting, and in Nevada making it the 50th state to ban the possession of dogs for fighting. The HSUS stepped up its outreach to at-risk youth in urban communities, and even gave Michael Vick an opportunity to address young people and offer his personal story of illegal dogfighting activity as a cautionary tale for them to learn from.

Seals, Polar Bears and Other Commercial Killing of Wildlife

We persuaded the 27 member nations of the European Union to ban trade in seal products, dealing a major blow against Canada's commercial seal slaughter. Prices for seal fur in Canada crashed, and Canadian seal hunters killed approximately 72,000 seals, even though the federal government set the total kill quota at more than 330,000. The HSUS' list of fur-free retailers, designers, and brands drew close to 300, including JCPenney, Overstock.com, Calvin Klein, BCBG Max Azria, Tommy Hilfiger, Footlocker and Ed Hardy. In response to an HSUS-initiated false advertising lawsuit, designer Andrew Marc and retailer Lord & Taylor agreed to phase out raccoon dog fur and to reform their garment labeling practices to provide consumers with more accurate information. New Jersey also became the fifth state to pass a law requiring the labeling of fur garments. A court-ordered settlement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and HSUS restored Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. Based on HSUS analysis, the U.S. Interior Department banned the import of sport-hunted polar bear trophies, and the agency also proposed stronger international trade restrictions for polar bears at the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species.

"With the economy in a bad state, it was a particularly tough year for animals, and also for charities struggling to meet the enhanced demands," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. "But it is hard not to notice that there is an emerging ethic of mercy and compassion taking hold in society, and more than ever, we are tapping into that sentiment to make tangible improvements in the world for animals. I'm grateful to everyone who has made these achievements possible."

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Click here to read a list of 2009 accomplishments and here to read Wayne Pacelle's blog on the top 10 animal stories of the decade. The HSUS 2009 Victories Video also shows what a difference was made for animals.

Follow The HSUS on Twitter.

The HSUS is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.

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