By Gina Spadafori
February 20, 2009
When the HSUS made some moves towards accepting the basic premise of no-kill — that killing pets for population control won’t be necessary if the shelter industry will change its business model — even no-kill flame-thrower Nathan Winograd had some good words for the nation’s largest, richest and most influential animal-advocacy group:
In 2008, HSUS stated that the public does care about companion animals and is not to blame for their killing in shelters, that killing animals in shelters is â€œneedless,â€ that we can be a No Kill nation today, and that â€œpet overpopulationâ€ is more myth than fact. [...] This [came] after announcing that staunch and unapologetic pro-No Kill advocates Susanne Kogut and Bonney Brown will be speaking at Expo 2009, HSUSâ€™ animal sheltering conference. ‘
This language is like nothing that has ever come out of HSUS on the companion animal issue, and it is my most fervent hope that it will signal a permanent shift away from HSUSâ€™ historical role of legitimizing and providing political cover for shelters mired in killing. And while it is still much too early to uncork the champagne [...], there is some reason for hope.
So much for hope. Winograd now joins Best Friends, BADRAP and other groups — and countless pet-lovers — in blistering the HSUS for its role in the killing of 145 dogs seized — or born after — a dog-fighting bust.Â (Winograd notes that some puppies were actually taken from their foster homes to be killed.)
Yesterday, Best Friends led the charge, leading a coalition of outrage and issuing a withering statement:
The court-ordered destruction of 145 dogs, including about 75 puppies, who were seized from a fighting-dog breeding operation in December, was based on the faulty assumption that all dogs seized in dog-fighting-related busts should be deemed dangerous â€“ and consequently euthanized.
The decision to kill the dogs was supported by the largest animal-welfare organization in the country, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). According to the Winston-Salem Journal, representatives of HSUS testified in Wilkes County Superior Court that the dogs had to be destroyed because they had been â€œbred for generations to be aggressive.â€
HSUS reasserted its outdated policy, written more than 20 years ago: â€œAny dog who has been specifically bred or conditioned for fighting, or for which there is evidence that the dog has been used for fighting should not be placed for adoption by an animal shelter but humanely euthanized as soon as legally possible.â€
A coalition of animal welfare organizations, led by Best Friends Animal Society, offered resources to the county to evaluate, spay/neuter, and find homes for qualified dogs.
For his part, Winograd writes that the actions of the HSUS shows that group still doesn’t “get it” when it comes to changing the attitudes and practices at the nation’s shelters, both of which the HSUS was in large part responsible for creating over the last half-century:
Before the dogs were killed, rescue groups were offering to help and calling for HSUS and Wilkes County officials to give the dogs clemency unless and until they are individually assessed and a rehabilitation plan, where possible, was devised for each of the dogs. HSUS refused. In reply, HSUSâ€™ John Goodwin wrote:
Wilkes County euthanizes 3,000 healthy, adoptable animals a year simply because there are not enough good homes opening their doors to these needy animals. I find it disturbing that the groups clamoring for media attention over these 127 dogs raise no fuss, and offer no assistance, for the other 3,000 dogs put down in that county each year.
Are Goodwin and his cohorts at HSUS out of their minds? Are we back to blaming pet overpopulation? What happened to HSUSâ€™ claims of just a few short months ago that that the public does care and is not to blame for their killing, that killing animals in shelters is â€œneedless,â€ that we can be a No Kill nation today, and that â€œpet overpopulationâ€ is more myth than fact?
What happened is that when they made those statements, Maddieâ€™s Fund was dangling a check in front of them and the check came with the statement attached for their signature.
Read more here. In the meantime, the HSUS spent the week patting itself on the back for a puppy-mill bust, for fighting factory farms and for its pay cuts. On its home page, press release page and top dog Wayne Pacelle’s blog, nothing at all about the group’s role in the decision to kill the dogs it had patted itself on the back for saving from a dog-fighter.
I’m guessing there are lots of people inside the HSUS who have real problem with killing these dogs without individual evaluations, especially the puppies, especially those puppies born in foster homes. The Vick case proved that being born a fighter didn’t mean you weren’t really a lover — why doesn’t the HSUS officially and institutionally get that and support individual evaluations for fight-bust dogs?
If one of the progressive voices within the organization isn’t put in job of the HSUS’ John Goodwin very soon, then there really will be no reason for any pet-lover to send this organization a check, despite all their notable accomplishments in other areas.
If an organization founded to improve shelters can no longer recognize the way forward or continue forward itself, then it needs to step aside for those who can.Â And we as pet-lovers need to support the future, not the past.
(Image: Vick survivor Jonny Justice, image courtesy of BADRAP)