This Week in Animal Protection
News and headlines for March 19 - April 1, 2022
These are some of the stories making headlines in animal protection:
After Illinois passed a puppy mill law, Petland stores that sell commercially-bred puppies are closing across the state. Those who profit from breeding are calling the law regulating sales of commercially-bred dogs and cats in pet stores “misguided.” I call it progress.
Regulations and bans on the sale of commercially-bred animals in pet stores serve three purposes:
Encouraging people to adopt/rescue;
Educating the community about abuse in mills; and,
Stopping neglect and abuse.
And they work. With half a dozen states and roughly 400 cities divesting themselves of this pernicious harm, “Nebraska Department of Agriculture records show that half of the state’s commercial dog and cat breeders have left the business.”
Plant-based foods sales increased again in 2021, with one notable exception: vegan meat sales stalled, recording no growth. By contrast, plant-based egg sales grew a whopping 42% and sales of vegan dairy substitutes saw a 33% increase. As a result of these gains, the sector continues to outpace growth in total food sales and is taking a larger dollar share of the food market.
As a fierce storm descended on the Iditarod, three sledders brought their dogs inside their tents to protect them. Despite strong winds that produced blinding, white-out conditions, the racers were punished for doing so, including thousands of dollars in fines, because providing shelter for dogs is against the rules. Said one of the racers, “There was no doubt to me that my dogs sitting unprotected in these conditions could lead to death or deaths of dogs.” Animal advocates have long called for banning the competition.
Many cognitive biologists now admit there is a “good chance” animals have feelings — though no one who has ever had a relationship with an animal ever thought otherwise.
“Animals in zoos and parks are threatened by starvation while Russia prolongs its onslaught on Ukraine.” Rescuers are struggling to keep them — and themselves — alive in the face of Russian bombing, shooting, and other criminal aggression. Once again, during this heartbreaking humanitarian catastrophe, I find inspiration not only in the breathtaking courage with which the Ukrainians are standing against tyranny and for the cause of freedom but in risking their lives for animals, too. Glory to Ukraine.
Madison County, IL, passed an ordinance “allowing residents and rescue groups to carry out Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) for feral cats.” According to the sponsor, the new law “will encourage partnerships between local groups and animal control to work together in preventing the deaths of feral cats.”
Likewise, in Colleton County, SC, officials credit a TNR program with their shelter going from killing 88% of cats to placing 86% in just “a couple of years.”
What are the benefits of a community cat program? Reduced killing of community cats, complaint calls to animal control, illness in the shelter, and spending (and waste of taxpayer money).
New Jersey legislation would allow courts to order defendants in animal cruelty cases to pay for animal care costs even before conviction and if they fail to do so, forfeit the animals. As a former shelter director and criminal prosecutor, I utilized pre-conviction forfeiture proceedings to place animals in loving homes without having to hold them during the pendency of a trial and potential appeal. That not only freed up kennel space but started animals on the road to recovery. Unfortunately, the bill only limits pre-forfeiture killing and therefore does not ensure those outcomes.
The bill would allow New Jersey shelters/pounds to kill those animals once granted full custody. I requested a provision prohibiting pounds from killing unless the animals are irremediably suffering. I also requested that “irremediable suffering” be rigorously defined as an animal with a poor or grave prognosis for being able to live without severe, unremitting physical pain even with comprehensive, prompt, and necessary veterinary care. Seizing animals victimized by violence and then allowing pounds to commit the ultimate form of violence on them — killing — is a gross betrayal. It not only adds the ultimate insult to a life of injury, but it takes us further from the goal of animal protection.
The Austin Animal Advisory Commission is investigating whether the Austin, TX, city pound is sending animals to shelters that have lower placement rates, resulting in either their killing or displacing other animals who are killed. The goal of the No Kill movement is not to inflate a “live release rate” only to have other facilities kill animals; the goal is actually to ensure outcomes other than death. Austin “commissioners were disappointed to hear little in the way of updates” with shelter leadership claiming they “have no idea” when they can provide answers. Transparency is the hallmark of accountability — shelters with nothing to hide, don’t.
“A federal judge has struck down an Iowa law that seeks to stop animal welfare groups from secretly filming livestock abuse.” The Court ruled that preventing activists from filming and publicizing inhumane conditions violates the First Amendment. Whether on a factory farm or in a dog pound, the First Amendment protects animals by protecting the right of advocates to speak on their behalf.
The recently enacted Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022 provides $3 million in federal grants to make more domestic violence shelters pet-friendly “so that victims of domestic violence and their pets may seek safe shelter together.”
The lack of pet-friendly domestic violence shelters keeps both animals and women in harm’s way as “women are more likely to delay leaving as they do not want to leave the pet with the abuser” to be harmed. Unfortunately, less than 10% of domestic violence in the U.S. shelters allow pets. The grants are designed to help change that.
The Labrador Retriever was named the “most popular” dog for the 31st year in a row. But it’s not true. Mixed-breed dogs always take the top spot. And it isn’t even close. Case in point: An Ohio newspaper published a headline that says, “Labs still top dog in Montgomery County,” but the article later admits that “more mixed-breed dogs are registered in Montgomery County than any other type. They outnumber the combined tally of the top 12 dog breeds and classes.”
And that should only intensify as fewer people buy animals and overall adoption rates for shelter animals and rescues are increasing. Of the roughly $100 billion spent on caring for animals, the amount spent to purchase animals is on the decline and is “the smallest area of total pet industry spend.” When it comes to adding a new animal to their household, more people are “turning to shelters and rescues.” And most of the time, that means mutts, who will not be dethroned any time soon.
A No Kill nation is within our reach:
As more people turn to rescue and adoption and more shelters embrace progressive policies, the number of communities placing over 95% and as high as 99% of the animals is increasing: