Writing our annual year-end review is no easy task. We sift through mountains of data, read through reports and try to choose just a few victories that capture the incredible breadth of work we do here at the Humane Society family of organizations. This year, we’re trying something different: We asked staffers around the world to share the moments that they found most meaningful or impactful in 2023. We hope you enjoy their reflections!

Man feeding chickens in a certified cage-free farm.
Certified cage-free farms in Viet Nam offer more space for laying hens compared to previous cage systems.

With our help, Mondelēz International—maker of Oreos, Triscuits and more—will use only cage-free eggs by 2025

“Operating in 80 countries, Mondelēz International committed to going cage-free, but there were no cage-free egg suppliers in Viet Nam. Over the last four years, HSI supported farmers supplying eggs to Mondelēz, providing technical assistance, arranging animal welfare certifier inspections and more. Because of our work, Mondelēz in Viet Nam can now buy eggs from multiple certified cage-free egg production operations. It is an overwhelmingly joyful sense of accomplishment to be able to sit in one of these barns and watch the hens freely able to socialize, scratch and peck, and stretch their wings—natural behaviors they would never have been able to express in a battery cage.”
—Hang Le, Southeast Asia regional program manager, Farm Animal Welfare, HSI in Viet Nam

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld California’s Proposition 12, which requires that mother pigs, egg-laying hens and calves raised for veal in the state are not cruelly confined; the law also bans the in-state sale of pork, eggs and veal produced via extreme confinement

“The Supreme Court decision in National Pork Producers Council v. Ross, affirming the constitutionality of Proposition 12, a law setting standards for the sale of certain animal products in California, was the greatest legal victory in animal protection history. I am proud of the HSUS’s decisive role.”
—Bernard Unti, HSUS senior principal strategist

A vet student treats a cat at a RAVS clinic
Meredith Lee

310 veterinary professionals and students volunteered 24,640 hours to care for 8,492 animals through our Rural Area Veterinary Services program

“After our last field teaching clinic for the season ended, one of our veterinary student volunteers stayed behind to offer me a hug and thanks for supporting her clinical training throughout the clinic. She shared her gratitude for the experience and how much she felt she had learned and accomplished in one intense week. I was immediately humbled by the reminder of the impact we have in this work—not only for animals and their families but for the hundreds of veterinary students and professionals who join our team in the field each year.”
—Anne Marie McPartlin, RAVS senior program coordinator

Five students received $10,000 scholarships from Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association

“The veterinary profession suffers from a severe lack of diversity. For example, only about 1-2% of veterinarians identify as Black, and Black veterinarians exit school with more debt than their white peers. In a profession with an already high debt-to-income ratio, this is a huge obstacle to recruiting more people of color. Lack of diversity within the profession also affects access to care. Many pet owners feel uncomfortable bringing their pet to someone who doesn’t look like them. This year, HSVMA’s Compassionate Care Scholarships gave special consideration to people of color and students who demonstrated a commitment to working with underserved or marginalized communities. We’re proud to support students on the journey to becoming future humane leaders.”
—Heather Schrader, HSVMA program manager of student outreach

Mother dog Sally licks a rescued puppy held by HSUS staff from neglect rescue
Meredith Lee

Our Animal Rescue Team responded to 3,495 animal cruelty complaints, assisted law enforcement with cases involving more than 65 different species (including dogs, cats, goats, snakes, kangaroos, ferrets and more!), and traveled to 12 states and two countries this year

“The North Carolina Aussie dog rescue case affected me deeply because the dogs were riddled with health conditions that were 100% preventable. I gave emergency treatment to a dog we later named Dundee, who was almost lifeless as I placed the needle under his skin to administer fluids. He laid there as the lice and fleas crawled over his skin. The mange left only a few clumps of fur covering his red, inflamed skin, and he had spots where he’d scratched himself raw. He was so thin you could see every rib bone. I was worried he wouldn’t even survive transport to our care center. He did, and over the next few weeks we bonded as he continued to gain strength. He eventually would wiggle his entire body when I walked toward his kennel, knowing he was about to get some extra lovin’.

The other day a coworker showed me a photo of one of the Aussies who’d just been adopted. I didn’t recognize the dog, a beautiful brown tricolor with a giant doggo grin plastered on his face, planted between the legs of his new human. It was Dundee—he was safe, healthy, home.”
—Allison Bundock, HSUS senior specialist of animal health

“I started working with HSI on a Monday in February. That Friday, I landed in Türkiye to respond to the catastrophic earthquakes that struck the region earlier that month. Nothing could have prepared me for the devastation I witnessed. I have vivid memories of crying with strangers who had lost so much, and with other responders who couldn’t comprehend the scale of loss. Similarly, nothing could have prepared me for the joy I’d feel in reuniting a family member with their pet. Thinking that we might have lightened the burden of loss for some families brings me such a sense of relief. HSI’s time there has profoundly impacted me, and our ongoing work in the region continues to improve the lives of animals there every day.”
—Gaia Bonini, HSI senior specialist of international disaster response

Man holding a dog outside
Dr. Piyush Patel of HSI/India assists in the rescue of cats and dogs from a meat market in Indonesia.
Garry Lotulung
AP Images for HSI

In July, Indonesia’s Tomohon Extreme Market stopped selling dog and cat meat, a major victory against the country’s dog and cat meat trade

“For years, we had been lobbying for change but kept being told, ‘In Tomohon, it’s impossible.’ But when the impossible is impossible to accept, there is only one option—to prove them wrong! The day the mayor’s order came into effect, we negotiated the rescue of the 22 remaining dogs and three cats from the slaughterhouses. It was the most monumental moment of my life—a promise to the animals who had suffered so unimaginably finally fulfilled.”
—Lola Webber, director, HSI’s campaign to end the dog meat trade

“I had the opportunity to support the rescue of dogs from Tomohon Extreme Market. Although the situation was nerve-racking and emotionally disturbing, the joy and happiness I felt after rescuing these dogs was unparalleled. After meeting with local communities and sellers, it was more apparent to me than before that the issue is a cultural, not a moral, one. Cultural values change by engagement, education and sensitization. So, to create change, Humane Society International is working with and not against the people who consume dog meat.” 
—Dr. Piyush Patel, senior manager, veterinary training and capacity building, HSI/India

Woman next to chained dog being rescued at a dog meat farm
Jean Chung

198 dogs were rescued from Korean meat farms this year alone

“Never before have we received this much political support in banning dog meat in South Korea. This would have been unimaginable just a few years ago, when no lawmakers were willing to support the ban publicly. It’s been such a rewarding process to watch how the political landscape has developed from no voice to full support.” 
—Borami Seo, government affairs director, HSI/Korea

Maximus - a white tiger cub used for photo shoots at Tiger Safari

A decade-long fight in the U.S. to end the private possession of big cats at the federal level ended when the Big Cat Public Safety Act went into effect in June

“The cub petting ban is making a world of difference for captive tigers and other big cats. I watched every minute of undercover footage taken during our five-month investigation of a roadside zoo in 2014. The investigator documented the behind-the-scenes trauma inflicted on tiger cubs after the newborns were pulled from their mother—crying for nourishment that came only when it fit into the photo-op schedule, denied desperately needed rest to satisfy visitors wanting wildlife selfies, suffering from parasitic infections, and being hit and yelled at for normal play behavior. Everything revolved around the needs of paying customers rather than the cubs’ welfare. It’s been a relief to see this horrific industry finally meet its end.”
—Debbie Leahy, HSUS senior strategist of captive wildlife

California became the first state to end the sale of new animal fur products when its ban went into effect in January

“Before the ban, California made up almost a quarter of all fur sales in the U.S., selling $129 million worth of new fur products each year. California’s ban means far fewer animals will be confined in fur factory farms, where animals live in horrendous conditions and are killed in unimaginable ways. And now we are seeing other communities follow in California’s footsteps.”
—Haley Stewart, HSUS senior public policy program manager for fur-free policy

12 of the 50 top food service companies in the U.S. have set public plant-based menu and meat reduction goals after working with the HSUS

“Rochester Institute of Technology has committed to having 50% plant-based offerings on menus by 2025, in collaboration with the HSUS. As part of this effort, three HSUS chefs provided an in-person plant-based culinary training to the RIT dining team in May 2023. Some of the most popular recipes were Korean lentil sloppy joes, tempeh fried rice, red bean Swedish meatballs and all desserts! The most rewarding aspect of our work on the Food Service Innovation team is making these meaningful connections with chefs, dietitians and food service directors who see an increased demand for plant-based meals.”
—Dorrie Nang, HSUS food service innovation specialist, Farm Animal Protection campaign

Plant-based food on a plate in a cafeteria.
Jen Squires

An additional 22.4 million meals will be plant-based in Brazil next year thanks to the HSI Farm Animal Welfare team’s work with universities, schools and hotels

“Working with my hometown of Belo Horizonte on a plant-based initiative to put healthy, sustainable meals free from animal products on menus at 556 schools was a personal highlight of the year. Through this initiative, we will serve almost 16 million plant-based meals to almost 400,000 students, sparing more than 300,000 animals every year. Knowing the impact we are having on animal lives inspires me every day, and I’m so glad to be a part of this change in my hometown.”
—Thayana Oliveira Soares, senior manager of food policy, Farm Animal Welfare, HSI in Brazil

Woman holding a black cat
Ms. Ruth, a Pets for Life supporter and client, was dedicated to helping pets in her community.

26,013 animals in underserved communities received 86,786 services through the HSUS Pets for Life program (including our core markets and our mentorship partners)

“After the unfortunate passing of a long-term program client, Ms. Ruth, the Pets for Life Philadelphia team was invited to her memorial service. We were completely surprised to see Pets for Life mentioned in her obituary and shared by her family and friends during the eulogy. Hearing how much Ms. Ruth’s pets meant to her and how important the PFL program was in her life was emotional to say the least. The experience was a huge reminder of how impactful and life-changing our work is for the people and communities we are lucky to be of service to.” 
—Melissa Corey, manager, Pets for Life Philadelphia

Illinois became the first state to ban toxicity tests on dogs and cats when not required by federal law

“Every day when my own dog, Zorro, cuddles next to me on the sofa, I am reminded of the thousands of dogs stuck in barren testing facilities who will never feel that love and affection. When the legislation passed in Illinois, it felt exceptionally rewarding to know so many animals will now experience a life worth living. I think Zorro would be proud.”
—Barry Londeree, program manager, HSUS Animal Research Issues

Elephants performing in a Ringling circus.
Randy Duchaine
Alamy Stock Photo

Illinois became the 15th state to prohibit attractions from offering public contact with certain wild animals

“In 2017, Illinois was the first state in the country to ban the use of elephants in circuses and traveling shows. Our work didn’t stop there. In the Spring 2023 legislative session, Illinois legislators passed a public contact prohibition for bears and non-human primates into law, ending some of the worst attractions and exhibits at roadside zoos and menageries. Passing this prohibition remains one of my proudest achievements as Illinois director.”   
—Marc Ayers, HSUS Illinois state director

10 state legislatures or agencies have banned wildlife killing contests after Oregon passed its measure this year and New York’s legislation awaits Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature

“I’m so proud that my state is close to ending barbaric and ecologically damaging wildlife killing contests, and I look forward to others following our lead soon.”
—Katie Stennes, a New York resident and HSUS senior program manager for the Wildlife Protection campaign

7 states now ban the sale of puppies in pet stores

“When the New York law that prohibits the sale of puppies in pet stores goes into effect in 2024, there will be fewer than 500 stores nationwide that sell puppies. This is down from 900 less than a decade ago. Change happens fast sometimes!”
—John Goodwin, senior director, HSUS Stop Puppy Mills campaign

*Numbers accurate as of press time

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Cover of All Animals Magazine Summer 2024 Issue showing a dog outside.