Guest blog by ASPCA President & CEO Matt Bershadker
This week, The New York Times published a comprehensive investigation into deplorable animal treatment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC), a sprawling complex of laboratories in Nebraska with the overarching mission to help meat producers make more money.
There, according to the Times’ exposé, newborn piglets are accidentally crushed to death by their mothers, who have been scientifically bred to give birth to unnaturally large litters. Weakened and deformed calves are born to cows “retooled” to have twins and triplets when they usually bear only one calf at a time. And lambs born in open fields were left to die excruciating deaths during an experiment to see if their mothers, normally dependent on human help, would nurture their babies despite severe weather and predators.
This barbaric animal “experimentation” is not only cruel, but wildly out of step with modern sensibilities and ethical standards. It’s even more appalling that such activities—conducted with the goal of helping a private-sector industry turn a higher profit—are subsidized by U.S. taxpayers.
You’d think we’d have laws protecting animals from such abject abuse. But farm animals—both in agricultural research and in on-farm production—are indefensibly excluded from the Animal Welfare Act, which sets standards for other kinds of animal research.
The problem doesn't stop there. This research feeds a larger agricultural system that treats animals like widgets—constantly striving to produce more, bigger, faster—with little regard for their pain. According to the Times, most of the research at USMARC is being done to help beef, pork, and lamb producers make up for an increased consumer interest in alternatives, like poultry. But widespread cruelty and genetic manipulation to speed the process are also rampant in chicken production. Most chickens raised for eating are bred to grow so huge, so fast, that they can barely stand up. Many collapse under their own weight and spend much of their lives lying in their own waste, with open sores and wounds. That’s why the ASPCA is actively involved in improving those conditions.
It doesn't have to be this way. More humane alternatives are available, and consumers are demanding better. If we are to live up to the ideal of a humane society, Congress must close the legal loopholes that allow such abject suffering, consumers must vote with their wallets, and the animal agri-business industry must respond.
What You Can Do Now Please take action: Use the form below to tell Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to halt all research at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center and conduct an immediate investigation into the atrocities committed there.
In a letter to the editor published today in The Star Ledger, ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker urges New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to take action on a pending pet purchasing bill.
When a family buys a puppy from a New Jersey pet store, they’re doing more than just exchanging money for a pet. Most pet store puppies come from puppy mills, so when consumers buy these dogs from pet stores, they are in fact supporting an industry that systematically abuses animals for profit.
In puppy mills across the country, dogs are typically stacked on top of one another in tiny, wire-floored cages that can injure their paws and legs. Female breeding dogs are forced to bear litter after litter without any time for their bodies to recover. Once they can no longer produce puppies, these mothers are often callously discarded or killed.
Conditions at puppy mills are reprehensible and intolerable, but many consumers are unaware that these sites are by far the leading source of pet store puppies. If pet stores are legally allowed to use unethical and inhumane breeders and brokers and to keep those sources secret, consumers have no way of making informed decisions when they bring a new pet into their family.
In December, New Jersey lawmakers took a strong step to insert accountability and transparency into the industry by unanimously passing S.1870 to amend New Jersey’s current Pet Purchase Protection Law. This new law would force New Jersey pet stores to disclose the breeders and brokers that supply them, giving consumers a chance to make informed decisions. It would also prohibit pet stores from selling puppies from breeders that fail to comply with even minimal federal and state standards, helping to put pressure on some of the worst industry participants to significantly improve their practices.
This law protects both animals and consumers, and we’re grateful to have worked closely with the bill’s sponsors and to have helped push it through the legislative process.
Now it’s up to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to take the final step by signing this bill. New Jersey residents can help by contacting the governor and telling him that Garden State animals and consumers deserve to be protected, not exploited.
Guest blog by ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker
For nearly 150 years, the ASPCA has called New York City home, and we’re proud to have helped the city and its animal rescue institutions make great strides in recent years. New York City currently has the lowest dog and cat euthanasia rate per capita in the country. Animal cruelty laws are rigorously enforced in record-breaking numbers by the NYPD in partnership with the ASPCA. And, just yesterday, the New York City Council approved groundbreaking legislation that will curb puppy mills by prohibiting city pet shops from selling animals obtained from breeders who fail to meet even the most basic standards of care. New York City is a place where we protect animals from suffering, not exploit them for profit.
The positive momentum we’ve created should absolutely extend to New York City carriage horses, which is why we support Mayor de Blasio’s proposal to phase out these rides on New York City streets. Using these animals to pull heavy loads of tourists for long hours through loud and congested city streets is simply unnatural, unnecessary, and an undeniable strain on their quality of life, and we’ll work closely with rescue networks to ensure these horses are humanely retired. The ASPCA was founded in part to help horses, and we’ve devoted tremendous effort and resources over the years to bring a permanent end to both domestic horse slaughter and the export of American horses for slaughter abroad.
Naturally, retiring this industry will have financial repercussions, but the Mayor’s bill reflects a strong intent to offset those consequences with workforce training programs and resources available not only to drivers, but to owners, license holders, and horse stable employees. The proposal will prevent renewals of carriage licenses when they expire in 2016, giving displaced workers time to transition to more contemporary industries. Under this bill, owners will also be prohibited from selling horses to slaughter.
So when posed with a choice between giving these horses a quality of life they deserve, or justifying an antiquated industry on the sole basis of tradition and financial gain, it’s clear what the New York City Council should do, based on the humane values New York City holds.
Guest blog by ASPCA President & CEO Matt Bershadker
Like many, we’ve been watching the situation in Moreauville, Louisiana, where a local “vicious dog” ordinance threatened the lives of innocent pit bulls and Rottweilers—including one serving as a loyal therapy dog for O'Hara Owen and her family. We’re relieved to hear local leaders say they have repealed the unjust law.
The ASPCA has long opposed legislation that targets specific breeds of dogs, because all dogs need to be judged on the merits of their individual behavior, not stereotyped based on misperceptions about their breed. Fortunately, many state legislatures agree. Currently, there are no state-level laws that discriminate against certain dog breeds, though a number of cities and municipalities do have breed-specific laws in place. Eighteen states have taken the extra step to ban breed-specific legislation altogether.
When safety is a community issue, we support laws that focus not on breed but on individual dog behavior, including those prohibiting prolonged chaining and tethering.
But behind this unfair law and its nearly tragic consequences is another story that’s just as important: the story of how a community’s voice—whether it’s a geographical community or one united by common values—can create meaningful change, save lives, and reverse something as seemingly untouchable as established law.
We applaud local decision-makers for listening, and extend our services to help craft new ordinance language that will offer the intended protections to Moreauville while avoiding the tragic pitfalls of breed-specific legislation.
This ordinance—and the fate of Moreauville pets—only got a second look when individual voices online, and later, news media brought it to light. As a result, our culture is a little more humane and a little more civilized today than it was yesterday. That may sound like a tiny difference to some, but to families like the Owens and to those of us dedicated to this cause, it’s life-changing.
Guest blog by ASPCA President & CEO Matt Bershadker
There’s no denying that puppies and kittens are hard to resist—just see the reactions to our recent graduation ceremony at the ASPCA Kitten Nursery. But two other undeniable truths deserve even more of our attention: First, older shelter animals are just as loving, loyal and delightful as young ones. Second, senior animals are typically the last to be adopted and the first to be euthanized.
This is why Adopt a Senior Pet Month is so important. Every shelter has older dogs or cats in its care, but stigmas often deprive these animals of the right to be fairly considered.
Some adopters hesitate because they believe older pets are less likely to bond with new owners—this is not the case. While many senior animals have spent years or decades with previous owners, age is not a determining factor in an animal’s affection toward new owners or his/her ability to bond with them at any point. In fact, owners often easily form bonds with older pets due to the animals’ typically calmer dispositions, their familiarity with home environments, their experience dealing with other animals, and previous training.
Other myths about older pets include them being sick, unfriendly, dirty, and unsafe around young children. But none of that can be assumed any more than one would assume it with a newborn pet. Your local shelter or rescue group will be in the best position to assess potential matches, so be sure to ask lots of questions.
Beyond the misconceptions, there are clear benefits to adopting a senior pet. For starters, their behavior is more predictable because their personalities are already well developed. You’ll also know their full-grown size and activity level, and how that might affect your lifestyle.
Senior pets are also easier to train and require less monitoring than puppies or kittens, who sometimes can’t distinguish between a safe situation and a dangerous one. It’s nice to adopt a dog who likely knows what “no” means.
Additionally, senior animals won’t have teething issues and will come into your life already house-trained, meaning they’re less likely to cause destruction in your home—especially if you’re away for long periods. Older pets are also more accustomed to the predictable daytime and nighttime patterns of humans.
Organizations like Susie’s Senior Dogs, Muttville, and The Grey Muzzle Organization work hard to promote senior animals who are at increased risk of euthanasia, but you can play a crucial part by adopting one yourself, as well as by encouraging friends, family and colleagues to do the same. When you adopt an older pet, you’re not only bringing incredible joy into your home, but rescuing an animal that’s very close to peril.
Some inspiring senior success stories include Marnie, a senior Shih Tzu found abandoned and later adopted in 2012; and Arabelle, a senior pit bull rescued from a massive dog fighting operation we helped dismantle in 2013. Both of these dogs were adopted despite these deeply held misperceptions, and each brought as much love, enjoyment, and loyalty into their new homes as would an animal of any age.