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The Humane Society of the United States makes a difference in the lives of animals here at home and worldwide. The HSUS is dedicated to creating a world where our relationship with animals is guided by compassion. We seek a truly humane society in which animals are respected for their intrinsic value, and where the human-animal bond is strong.
The Humane Society of the United States (The HSUS) is the largest animal protection organization in the world, with seven million members. The HSUS supports animal protection through investigation, legislation, legal action, education, consumer advocacy, and multimedia campaigns. The organization's many publications include Animal Sheltering, a bimonthly periodical for animal care professionals, and All Animals, a quarterly magazine for HSUS members. The HSUS offers a wide range of programs through divisions dedicated to companion animals; wildlife and wildlife habitat; farm animals and sustainable agriculture; and laboratory animals. Distinct from local animal shelters and humane societies, the organization supports local animal welfare groups through ten regional offices. Humane Society International is the overseas arm of The HSUS.
Active Start in the Protection of Laboratory Animals: 1954-66
The Humane Society of the United States was founded in 1954 when a split developed within the American Humane Association (AHA) over whether to fight legislation requiring shelters to turn over animals for use in research. The founders resolved to form a strong humane organization that would recognize and work to eliminate all forms of cruelty and injustice to animals. The particular concerns of the organization at this time involved the treatment of animals in slaughterhouses and medical research laboratories, as well as the rampant breeding of pets. Robert J. Chenoweth was chosen to lead the organization, with Oliver M. Evans as director. The HSUS operated with a staff of four and very little money; three of the officers obtained personal loans to fund the Society.
The Society's first work involved the publication and distribution of "They Preach Cruelty,"a leaflet explaining that animal mistreatment was rooted in the increasing number of unwanted dogs and cats. Pets left in shelters were used for scientific research. To inform constituents of the organization's activities, The HSUS established a bimonthly newsletter, HSUS News, in April 1955. To extend the scope of its work, the Society began to organize self-supporting state branches in 1957. Beginning in 1960 local humane societies were allowed to affiliate with The HSUS when they met certain standards of operation.
From the start the organization worked in the legislative arena. Its first success was the passage of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act in 1958. Support for the bill came through a letter writing campaign identifying unnecessary suffering, through the early advocacy of Hubert Humphrey, and backing in the Senate from Lyndon Johnson. The Act required meatpackers doing business with the federal government to use mechanical or electrical stunning of animals prior to slaughter, rather than a violent strike with a sledgehammer, with Kosher meats being slaughtered according to tradition. After opposing mandatory reform, meatpacking companies found that implementation of the new law reduced employee turnover and increased profits.
The organization engaged in intensive library research into animal use in scientific experimentation. To educate themselves, HSUS staff and members reviewed descriptions of animal experiments in professional journals and reports. The next step involved inspection visits to leading research laboratories, primarily located at prominent universities.
The HSUS realized that it needed to view concerns from within the laboratories and expand its investigative approach. The organization employed people to work in animal research laboratories as animal caretakers; secretly they made daily reports on the treatment and care of the animals. In addition to finding conditions below the standards of anti-cruelty statutes, the caretakers found that animals were often neglected after the completion of painful, stressful experimental procedures. Some procedures were performed repeatedly without a definitive objective. One outcome of the investigations was a legal complaint filed in California in 1959 to protect laboratory animals from abuses prohibited by law. Counter lawsuits stifled The HSUS action, but the case attracted public support for reform. The publication of the landmark book Animals in a Research Laboratory followed in 1961, edited by HSUS staff and officers. The intent of the book was not to stir controversy but to enlighten the public on the moral and political issues involved in animal welfare.
The fate of animals bound for research was publicized in Life magazine's February 4, 1966 issue as a cover story, entitled "Concentration Camp for Dogs." The photographic essay followed a raid on a dog dealer by the Maryland State Police with HSUS Chief Investigator Frank McMahon. Separately, well-documented thefts of pets by dealers selling to the animal research organizations outraged the public. Congress and the White House received more correspondence urging legislation to protect the animals than it was to receive on the subjects of civil rights and the Vietnam War combined. The HSUS, the AHA, and other interested parties secured the passage of the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act in 1966. The Act addressed the issue of pet theft by regulating animal suppliers and requiring research laboratories to purchase animals from licensed dealers. With this step, The HSUS opened a door for accountability in the research laboratories.
Legal Initiatives and a Commitment to Educate: 1967-80
The growing organization expanded its work to protect animals, adding wildlife to its list of concerns. On the national level HSUS promoted the Endangered Species Act of 1967; the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971; the Horse Protection Act of 1972; and the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. In the early 1970s McMahon's investigation into the clubbing of fur seals focused world attention on the fate of these animals.
Implementing and enforcing laws was an ongoing concern of The HSUS. Government agencies charged with administering laws often lacked the personnel, the budget, or the will to do what Congress intended. The Department of Agriculture and other regulators were taken to task for their failure to enforce legislation protecting animals used in research. The Bureau of Land Management, the federal agency responsible for enforcing the Wild and Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, was investigated in 1973 for improperly administering the law. When the National Park Service claimed it needed to eliminate burros to preserve habitat for bighorn sheep, The HSUS brought suit to require the agency to file an Environmental Impact Statement. With HSUS advocacy, animal protection legislation, including the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act, was amended to allow regulators to better protect animals.
The HSUS actively promoted animal well-being through new education programs. The HSUS realized a long-held dream with the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Humane Education (NAAHE) in 1973. To bring compassion for animals to schools, NAAHE started a magazine for teachers, entitled Humane Education; developed multimedia curriculum materials; and held teacher training seminars and professional development programs. NAAHE developed a curriculum guide for elementary education, offering learning activities in language arts, social studies, math, and health/science. Also, teachers benefited from accredited college course work available through NAAHE. KIND (Kids in Nature's Defense) News, a classroom newspaper, provided an animal-friendly message for elementary students.
The HSUS sought to protect animals in a variety of situations at the state level, including protection of animals used in rodeos, racing, and circuses, as well as those kept in zoos. The organization's work included investigations into organized dog fighting, promoting the enactment of felony penalties against these activities in many states; the first law was passed in 1975. The first state law to ban cockfighting passed in 1978. In 1976 The HSUS established disaster relief plans to protect pets and their caregivers during an emergency. HSUS regional office disaster teams rescued pets in tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, as well as human-made disasters, such as oil spills.
The administrative efforts of The HSUS staff proved fruitful, as well. In 1975 The HSUS purchased its own office space, a five-story building in Washington, D.C. At this time The HSUS replaced its system of state branches with regional offices that could cover local humane societies and concerns in places without a state office. By 1979 the organization's membership included 115,000 people, the staff counted 80 employees, and the budget approached $2 million.
Expanding and Refining Animal Welfare Programs: Late 20th Century
Utilization of a variety of media became a more important part of promoting animal welfare issues in the late 1970s. An important milestone involved the publication of On the Fifth Day in 1977, a collection of essays by scholars supporting a humane philosophy regarding animals. In 1981 The HSUS launched a consumer advocacy campaign, No Veal This Meal. The organization opposed the practices used to raise milk-fed veal calves. The program succeeded as many consumers refused to buy milk-fed veal, considered a delicacy.
The HSUS created the Center for Respect of Life and Environment (CRLE) in 1986 to promote humane values and collaboration in the fields of higher education, religion, the professions, and the arts. The efforts of CRLE proved important for students facing dissection requirements. In 1987 The Society represented Jenifer Graham when she objected to the dissection requirement of her California high school biology class. Graham's commitment and the advocacy of The HSUS supported efforts to enact state laws addressing students' ethical concerns. In 1995 The HSUS initiated a program to loan humane alternatives to animal dissection students; the program doubled in size within three years.
Animal overpopulation, long a concern of The HSUS, became of focus of new programs. In 1988, The HSUS pioneered the use of a fertility-control vaccine for nonlethal animal population control. Immunocontraception offered an alternative to killing wild animals, a position that ranchers, hunters, and game managers long argued was necessary for keeping predators in check and nominal populations in balance. The HSUS collaborated with the U.S. Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management to prevent pregnancy in wild horses and deer. In the nation's zoos, immunocontraception was used for over 60 species.
Through innovation and collaboration with other animal protection organizations, The HSUS sought to improve conditions for unwanted pets. With about ten million dogs euthanized in pounds and shelters annually, publicity concerning the importance of spaying and neutering pets was essential. In 1988, the Society launched its Be a P.A.L.--Prevent a Litter campaign. One shelter established the policy of sterilization at adoption, whereby pets were sterilized before they left the shelter with their new caregivers. Working with others in the field, The HSUS used its influence to promote the idea.
In its efforts to protect companion animals, The HSUS worked to upgrade the standards at shelters and to expose cruelties at puppy-mills. Raising dogs to sell as pets, when large numbers of healthy but unwanted animals were being euthanized in shelters, seemed contrary to the logic of supply and demand. In 1990 The HSUS called for a national boycott of dogs raised in puppy-mills. For more than ten years The HSUS investigated over 600 puppy breeding facilities in the Midwest, particularly Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. In addition to finding poor living conditions, The HSUS found that repeated breeding produced unhealthy dogs with temperament disorders, not the best kind of pet for children.
In the early 1990s, The HSUS sought to provide information and training to animal shelters. In 1991 the Society hosted its first Animal Care Expo, which grew to be the world's largest trade show for animal care professionals. Attended by professionals from around the globe, the annual event featured speakers, workshops, and day-long courses to provide information on advances in sheltering. Other efforts to upgrade shelter operations included the Pets for Life program, initiated by the Denver Dumb Friends League and furthered by The HSUS. The goal of this work was to keep people and pets together for life by finding and recommending solutions to the problems that caused people to give up their pets.
HSUS decried the use of animals for fashion and launched new consumer advocacy campaigns. In 1988 The HSUS launched the Shame of Fur campaign, informing Americans of the poor living conditions of animals used to make clothing. The Beautiful Choice program followed in 1990, to promote boycotting of cosmetics and personal care product manufacturers that tested on animals. The campaign attacked problems with product testing, notably the Draize test, in which potentially irritating substances were tested by being placed in the eyes of rabbits.
Advocating alternatives to animal use in research and testing, The HSUS established the Russell and Burch Award in 1991. The award was given for outstanding scientific achievement that fit with The HSUS's "three R's": to Reduce the number of animals used in experiments; to Replace animals with other methods of obtaining results; and Refine experimental design to reduce the need for animal use. The HSUS hoped that providing an incentive for researchers to achieve these goals would advance alternatives to animal use in research.
In 1992 The HSUS established Humane Society International (HSI). HSI's first work involved addressing the problem of animals and birds confiscated in the illegal wildlife trade. The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) prohibited traffic in threatened species, but provision needed to be made for the animals' return to health. The HSUS and HSI provided $10,000 toward the formation of a wildlife rehabilitation center in Honduras and HSI offered its first Neo-tropical Wildlife Rehabilitation Symposium in Costa Rica, held in 1992. In various international issues, such as opposing the killing of dolphins by tuna fishermen and in upholding the moratorium on whale hunting, HSI gave The HSUS a more active voice.
Efforts to protect terrestrial wildlife proceeded in the United States. The HSUS supported passage of the Wild Bird Conservation Act and promoted legislation prohibiting hunting and trapping in several states. In 1995 The HSUS created the Wildlife Land Trust. With hunting and trapping allowed in many public lands, the trust established sanctuaries where those activities were prohibited. The HSUS Urban Wildlife Sanctuary Program was launched in 1998 to promote the protection and appreciation of wild animals living in urban areas. The HSUS promoted understanding of wild creatures living in cities through a newsletter, Wild Neighbor News, and through the 1997 publication of Wild Neighbors: The Humane Approach to Living with Wildlife.
The HSUS continued to refine and expand all of its programs seeking to protect all animals. Agricultural campaigns included National Farms Animals Awareness Week, launched in 1993. The HSUS founded the first annual National Dog Bite Prevention Week in 1995 and National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week in 1996. These programs worked through educational institutions and the media.
In 1997 The HSUS conceived the program First Strike to promote understanding of the link between animal abuse and abuse to persons. In collaboration with law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, and domestic violence prevention groups, the program facilitated communication between animal protection groups and witnesses to family and social violence.
Concern for Animals Leading into the 21st Century
The HSUS looked to the future as it introduced new programs. In 1997 the organization launched the Soul of Agriculture program, and in 1998, the Fur Free 2000 campaign and Pain and Distress campaign, the latter for animal laboratory animals. The Pets for Life project expanded in 2000 with the formation of the Pets for Life National Training Center. The programs showed animal care professionals how to operate a Pets for Life program.
Frequently the organization's efforts involved voicing The HSUS perspective through press releases and encouraging members of the Humane Activist Network to write to members of Congress and other appropriate people. In 1998 the Society opposed the Makah Whale Hunt and urged President Clinton to impose trade sanctions on Japan due to its whaling policies. In 2000 The HSUS called on the U.S. Navy to suspend sonar tests harmful to marine animals after nine whales were found dead in the Bahamas.
Other organizational activities in 2000 involved federal policymakers. The organization promoted legislation to protect companion animals and was involved in the formation of the Safe Air Travel for Animals Act. The HSUS collaborated with the Department of Agriculture to reinforce the Horse Protection Act. In conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Society initiated Project Impact, helping local communities design plans to assist animals and their caregivers during a disaster. On the state level the organization's efforts focused on the protection of wildlife.
In 2000 The HSUS formed the Humane Equity Fund with Salomon Brothers Asset Management. The fund evaluated companies based on the threat they posed to the well-being of animals, such as through animal testing, and the use of animals for end-products. Pharmaceutical companies and many cosmetic companies were excluded automatically.
The Society called for a Fur Free presidential inauguration ceremony, held in January 2001. The idea was promoted through television advertising and 75 taillight advertisements on D.C. Metrobuses, stating, "You Should be Ashamed to Wear Fur." At Reagan Washington National Airport, a diorama 57 feet high and 83 feet wide informed the public that 30 million animals suffer pain and death each year in the United States to provide fur for clothing. To promote "Compassion in Fashion" The HSUS worked with fashion houses, notably Oleg Cassini, to design clothing using faux fur.
As publication of books became a more important method of informing the public about animal protection issues, The HSUS launched the Humane Society Press. The HSUS published three titles in the Public Policy Series, beginning with The Use of Animals in Higher Education in 2000, and two books for children, Careers with Animals and KIND News Book of Critter Clues. The State of Animals, published in 2001, described the progress made for the benefit of animals over the past 50 years.
The HSUS continued to be concerned with the issues that prompted its formation. The society sought to strengthen the Animal Welfare Act by starting the Pain and Distress Initiative to promote public action by launching the newsletter The Pain and Distress Report, which informed subscribers of theconditions of animals used in scientific research. In October 2001, The HSUS won a victory with the passage of the Humane Slaughter Act Amendment.
Principal Subsidiaries: Humane Society International; The National Association for Humane and Environmental Education; The Center for Respect of Life and Environment; The HSUS Wildlife Land Trust; Earthkind; The International Center for Earth Concerns.