By Matt Bershadker, President & CEO, ASPCA; and Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA)
In America, one out of four women experiences domestic violence in her lifetime, and a woman is abused every nine seconds. Many of these women survive by courageously leaving their homes and finding safety in area shelters. But for some, the decision to save their own lives becomes much more difficult when pets are involved.
M. a domestic violence survivor, chose her life over her home, but says she “would have left much sooner” if she knew she could protect her pets. M.’s abuser killed her dog and cat, and used the act to threaten her daughter’s life and prevent M. from leaving.
K., a 34-year-old mother of two, delayed leaving her abusive husband because none of the domestic violence shelters in her area would allow her to bring her dog, to whom her children had become very attached.
Another survivor, P., said her boyfriend dangled her beloved cat out the window and threatened to kill the cat if she upset him. The abuser set fire to the victim’s apartment and her cat perished from severe smoke inhalation. P. eventually found protection for herself and three new cats in a pet-friendly shelter.
These stories are not unique. As many as 25% of domestic violence survivors have reported returning to an abusive partner out of concern for their pet. And that fear is often justified. Studies demonstrate that abusers intentionally target pets to exert control over their intimate partners—71% of pet-owning women entering domestic violence shelters report that their abuser threatened, harmed, or killed a family pet.
This point bears repeating: victims ready to escape from abuse are instead risking their lives to protect beloved family pets. No one should have to make the impossible choice between leaving an abusive situation and ensuring a pet’s safety. Yet despite the urgent need, only 3% of domestic violence shelters nationwide are able to accommodate victims’ pets.
That’s where the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act comes in. Reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives today, this bipartisan bill criminalizes the intentional targeting of a domestic partner’s pet with the intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate.
It also establishes a federal grant program to help victims safely house their pets, and adds veterinary care to the list of costs that victims can recover. Additionally, the PAWS Act strongly asserts the need for states to expand their legal protections for the pets of domestic violence victims.
To date, more than half of U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have taken similar legislative action to protect the pets of domestic violence victims, but no federal legislation has addressed this issue before now. The federal protections offered by the PAWS Act will help victims and their pets escape abusive environments and seek the safety and shelter they need, across state lines if necessary.
Encourage your representative to join the nation’s leading domestic violence and animal welfare advocates in supporting the PAWS Act. As is true in many instances, when we protect pets, we protect people.
Could you imagine having to give up your beloved pet because you couldn't afford to spay or neuter it?
Sadly, in underserved communities in and around the greater Los Angeles area, the biggest obstacles to spaying and neutering pets—which is critical to preventing animal homelessness, suffering, and unnecessary euthanasia—come down primarily to issues of economics and geography.
These neighborhoods are often "resource deserts," where pet-friendly resources are difficult to find, hard to reach and often unaffordable. As a result, many families find themselves having to choose between paying for preventive pet care and paying the rent.
But if keeping animals alive, out of shelters, and in homes are top goals, then helping owners achieve them should be a top focus. That means putting our best efforts inside the communities that desperately need them, providing accessible and affordable resources, and engaging residents directly.
This is what Spay Day—tomorrow, February 24—is all about. But to be successful, we have to maintain this level of commitment every day.
Last year, with the help of our local partners in the animal rescue and sheltering community, we opened a spay/neuter clinic in South Los Angeles to significantly expand access to fully-subsidized spay/neuter surgery in the area. To date, we've performed more than 4,000 subsidized spay/neuter surgeries for pets at our facility in Chesterfield Square.
Meanwhile, our "safety net" program in partnership with Los Angeles County has arranged for over 700 spay/neuter surgeries for pets at risk of being relinquished to the Baldwin Park and Downey shelters, subsidized in part by funding from the Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation.
We've also distributed more than $1.3 million in grants to L.A.-based animal welfare organizations and partners including Downtown Dog Rescue, which holds regular spay/neuter events in Compton; and The Amanda Foundation, which rescues hard-to-adopt animals from L.A. City and County shelters and operates a "spaymobile" throughout the city.
Pet homelessness is a problem that calls out for compassionate and targeted solutions. With about 7.5 million companion animals entering shelters across the country each year, it's critical we focus on making preventive services accessible and available for families—including pets—who need them most.
This past week, dog breeders and owners came together in New York City to celebrate their definition of “best dog” in several categories at the nation's most famous dog show. One of those categories, introduced in 2014, allows mixed-breed animals to compete amongst their pure-bred counterparts in an agility contest. This year, 15 mixed-breed dogs were among the 330 dogs competing in the agility category. It’s a small but important step in the right direction.
In that direction, all dogs are celebrated, regardless of their lineage, circumstances, condition, or residence. This also means committing time and energy to animals with the fewest advantages—not the most advantages— including millions of homeless dogs across the country in desperate situations.
We’ve been traveling this path for nearly 150 years, and now it has its own “competition”: Best in Shelter with Jill Rappaport, an NBC special airingon NBC owned television stations and NECN on February 21. The ASPCA Adoption Center in New York City is proudly participating, and three ASPCA-adopted dogs will be featured.
Created and hosted by journalist and animal advocate Jill Rappaport, Best in Shelter with Jill Rappaport documents her year-long search for remarkable shelter dog contestants, focusing on hard-to-adopt animals such as pit pulls, older animals and animals with disabilities. While the program ultimately declares “winners,” all of the selected animals find loving homes.
Several celebrities have signed up to lend a hand, including Betty White, Bernadette Peters, Bryant Gumbel, Lindsey Vonn and Emmylou Harris. But the big goal of this project—more so than crowning a champion—is spreading the idea that “best” dogs are everywhere…and they’re waiting for you at your local shelter.
Many of these animals came to shelters as the result of family changes such as death, illness, divorce or relocation. Some owners simply lost the financial means to care for their pets, while other owners abused them to such an extent that the animals had to be saved and seized by police.
Whatever their situation, these animals are innocent victims of human circumstance, and their rescue is in all of our hands. Let’s double our efforts to adopt animals in need and urge others to do the same.
By Matt Bershadker, President & CEO of the ASPCA, and Christine A. Dorchak, Esq., President of GREY2K USA Worldwide.
It’s always appalling to see animals abused and betrayed for profit, especially when the activity is legal and defended as a “sport.” That’s the reality of Greyhound racing, but the reasons this detestable industry still exists defy not just our humane values, but common sense as well.
The cruelty and trauma these dogs suffer is undeniable, and is spotlighted this month in the first-ever national report on Greyhound racing, created by GREY2K USA and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The culmination of more than 13 years of research, this report reveals systemic and shocking abuse to dogs caught up in a dying, poorly regulated industry. Greyhound racing benefits a tiny group of cruel breeders at the expense of the more than 10,000 Greyhounds that enter the racing industry each year. As our report shows, this antiquated and unpopular activity also costs taxpayers millions of dollars.
Racing Greyhounds are kept for 20 or more hours per day in warehouse-style kennels. To reduce costs, the dogs are fed raw “4-D” meat from diseased animals. Confined in stacked cages barely large enough for them to stand up or turn around, large Greyhounds can’t even stand fully erect for most of the day.
When let out of their confinement, the dogs’ health and lives are placed in even greater jeopardy. Since 2008, over 80,000 Greyhounds have been registered to race and nearly 12,000 racing-dog injuries have been documented, including more than 3,000 broken legs … plus broken necks, crushed skulls, paralysis, seizures and death by electrocution.
At least 909 racing Greyhounds died between 2008 and 2014, 758 of them from injuries. In Florida alone—which takes advantage of having no law requiring tracks to report Greyhound injury statistics—a racing dog dies, on average, every three days.
Greyhound racing continues in seven states—Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia—and in each one, Greyhound cruelty and neglect have been verified, including at least 27 troubling cases since 2008. Sixteen Greyhounds tested positive for cocaine during this period. One particularly gruesome situation involved a Florida kennel operator who walked away when the racing season ended, leaving 42 Greyhounds to die of starvation, some with their mouths taped shut.
In March of 2013, a two-year-old Greyhound was left to sit in her cage for four days after breaking her leg in a training race at the Wheeling track in West Virginia. Aspirin and a makeshift wrap were the only “treatment” she was given. Thanks to an anonymous tipster, “Kiowa Dutch Girl” was found, shaking in her cage and unable to stand, and ordered to receive medical care. Both trainers fled the jurisdiction in order to avoid criminal prosecution.
This level of wanton cruelty and disregard is reminiscent of some of the worst atrocities people commit against animals for the sake of profit—including dog fighting. But unlike dog fighting, dog racing is completely legal in these seven states.
You might assume there must be a compelling, if heartless, state or social interest that keeps Greyhound racing active in these states. But there’s none.
The public doesn’t want it. Since 2000, both the number of states with legalized racing and the number of racetracks in operation have been more than cut in half, largely because the public cannot tolerate the cruelty inherent to this activity.
The states don’t really want it. State governments often spend more to regulate the sport than they get back in revenue. In Florida—where more Greyhound races are run than in any other state—the state loses between $1 million and $3 million each year on dog racing, because regulatory costs exceed revenues.
It’s no wonder that racetrack owners—tired of losing money on costly and poorly attended races—also want out of the industry. But in most of these states, live racing mandates require racing licensees to keep the dogs running in circles, even when nobody’s watching. In Florida, for instance, 12 dog tracks lost $42 million on racing between June 2012 and November 2013. During that same time period, every Greyhound track in the state lost money on racing. These tactics are designed only to keep Greyhound racing practitioners and breeders in business, with absolutely no regard for the animals' welfare or the best interest of the public.
With racing dog breeders and trainers putting up a tough fight to protect their own interests, this abhorrent activity continues. But it can end immediately if the governors of these seven states take decisive action against animal cruelty, even when it takes place in a legal operation.
Please sign our petition to urge Governors Bentley, Ducey, Hutchinson, Scott, Branstad, Abbott and Tomblin to follow the humane lead of all other states, and put a long-overdue end to the national shame of Greyhound racing.
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 Congress to pass the newly introduced AWARE Act, which would require agricultural research at federal facilities to comply with certain standards of the Animal Welfare Act.