Guest blogpost from Suzanne McMillan, ASPCA Director of Farm Animal Welfare.
Last week, I attended a meeting of the National Organic Standards Board—the body that advises the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)on organic standards—to suggest stronger protections for animals living on organic farms. Animals who are raised organically are not necessarily raised humanely. In fact, many organic farms are still factory farms, often confining animals indoors using severe devices for most of their lives.
My efforts focused on the welfare of chickens, turkeys and ducks. Specifically, I asked the board to urge the USDA to adopt rules addressing some of the worst industry practices, including beak trimming, force feeding, crowding, failing to maintain clean air and unnaturally accelerating animals’ growth rates. Along with detailed written recommendations, I delivered a three-minute oral summary of our suggestions, which you can watch here:
We need your help! Due to the wording of the federal Animal Welfare Act—passed 40 years ago—only breeders who sell dogs to pet stores or to puppy brokers are required to be licensed and inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
That basically means no one is checking up on puppy mills who sell puppies directly to consumers over the Internet. As the ASPCA has seen firsthand, the photos of happy, healthy puppies posted on a breeder’s website often totally misrepresent what conditions are really like for these puppies and their parents.
Take Action! The USDA released a proposed rule to close this loophole. Please visit the ASPCA Advocacy Center and let the USDA know that you support the proposed rule to close the loophole that has caused untold thousands of dogs to suffer inhumane treatment without any federal or public oversight. Visit aspca.org/USDA today!
Disaster can strike at any time. Are you prepared? With hurricane season upon us, we want to help you create an emergency evacuation plan to keep your family together. Even if you don't live in an area known for dangerous weather, the best thing you can do for yourself and your pet is be prepared.
• Have an Evacuation Plan in Place Store an emergency kit and leashes as close to an exit as possible, make sure all your pets are wearing proper identification and consider your evacuation route ahead of time.
• Arrange a Safe Haven Don't leave your pet behind if you’re forced to evacuate. Find out if there are emergency animal shelters in your area.
• Make Sure Pets Have Current ID Your pet's ID tag should contain his name, current telephone number and any urgent medical needs. ASPCA experts also encourage getting your pets microchipped.
• Get an ASPCA Rescue Alert Sticker This easy-to-use sticker will let people know that pets are inside your home. If you must evacuate with your pets, and if time allows, write "EVACUATED" across the stickers.
Guest blog post from Suzanne McMillan, ASPCA Director of Farm Animal Welfare
Nine out of 10 land animals killed for food in the U.S. are poultry. Unfortunately these chickens, turkeys and other birds have no protection under federal animal welfare laws—not even during slaughter.
Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) wants to allow faster line speeds in poultry slaughterhouses. From an animal welfare perspective, this raises red flags: We all know that when you rush, mistakes happen. Workers need to be as careful as possible when handling live birds to ensure proper procedures are followed.
This Memorial Day, as we remember all the brave men and women who have given their lives to protect our freedoms, let’s not forget the sacrifices of the military dogs who have served alongside them.
Much of the world cheered when 80 members of an American commando team captured and killed Osama bin Laden a little more than a year ago. One of these American heroes was Cairo, the dog who played an integral part in Bin Laden’s capture. Because so much of that mission remains top secret, we haven’t been able to see a picture of Cairo, but we know that he was one of the team members responsible for closing off the perimeter of the home where Bin Laden was hiding.
Not all dogs have had the opportunity to help capture the world’s most wanted fugitive as Cairo did, but every military dog is saving lives through detecting explosives, conducting searches and patrols, and working on specialized missions. Beyond that, though, these dogs are also extremely loyal to their handlers and are willing to do anything to protect them. For example, CNN reported the heartbreaking story of Cpl. Dustin Lee, who was badly injured in an insurgent attack while he was on patrol in Iraq. His canine partner, Lex, also suffered shrapnel injuries, but pushed himself through his pain to lie over his human partner in an attempt to protect him. Tragically, Cpl. Lee did not survive his injuries, but his dog Lex did. Lex was adopted by Cpl. Lee’s family and was then recognized by Members of Congress for his exceptional service.
Classified as Equipment Military dogs have died, been maimed and suffered to save our military service members, yet they are currently defined as mere “equipment” under federal law. Defining military dogs as equipment is shameful. It trivializes all that dogs do, but even more important, it makes it more difficult to return retired dogs to the United States for adoption. Dogs are sometimes stuck in far away locales while those wanting to adopt them must pay large fees to transport them. Old equipment may be left behind, but retired military dogs never should be.
Please Take Action for Military Dogs The Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act, introduced in the House by U.S. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) and in the Senate by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), reclassifies military dogs as “canine members of the armed forces” instead of equipment. The bill also streamlines the adoption process for retired military dogs and directs the military to set up a program for retired dogs’ veterinary care, at no cost to the taxpayer. It also directs the Secretary of Defense to create a decoration or other recognition for military dogs that are killed in action or perform an exceptionally meritorious or courageous act in service to their country.
We need your help to build Senate support for the bill. For the sake of our canine heroes, please contact your U.S. senators and ask them to cosponsor S. 2134, the Canine Members of the Armed Forces Act. Like their human counterparts, our military dogs deserve a happy retirement from service.