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.
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.
People love puppies. But all too often—and in so many cruel ways—these animals are betrayed by the very breeders who raise them. These breeding facilities are called puppy mills, where female breeding dogs are kept in close confinement and forced to bear litter after litter without any break for their bodies to recover. Once they can no longer produce puppies, these mothers are often killed. Adult breeding dogs and puppies are typically kept in cages with wire flooring that can injure their paws and legs.
Most pet store puppies come from puppy mills, though families who eventually buy these puppies in pet stores don't know their purchase feeds the profit-making machine that keeps puppy mills in business.
That's why we stood proudly with the New York City Council last week as they admirably addressed this issue head-on. By an overwhelming margin, the Council passed groundbreaking legislation—Intro. 55-A, Intro. 136-A and Intro. 146-A—that will put effective and enforceable pressure on commercial breeders to substantially improve the lives of thousands of dogs currently languishing in puppy mills in this country.
Spearheaded by Councilmembers Elizabeth Crowley and Corey Johnson, these measures will prohibit city pet shops from selling animals obtained from breeders who fail to meet even the most basic care standards prescribed by the federal Animal Welfare Act, as well as from animal brokers known for selling puppies to pet stores from disreputable, difficult-to-trace sources.
It will also require New York City pet shops to disclose information about the origins of the animals they sell, and require that dogs and cats sold at city pet shops are spayed/neutered, microchipped and dogs licensed prior to sale. These measures are critical to reducing pet homelessness, reuniting lost pets with owners and ensuring the safety of pets and the public.
Prior to this year, New York cities and communities did not have the authority to set their own standards, but in January, Governor Cuomo signed milestone legislation—including New York City—to regulate pet dealers for the first time in almost 15 years. Quickly acting on their new authority, the New York City Council created these humane measures.
While these laws won't keep all puppy mill puppies out of New York City pet stores, it's a critical step in the right direction. Taken together they will deeply impact the lives of dogs in puppy mills across the nation, and further New York City's reputation as a leader in animal welfare and safety.
These measures also send a clear message that I hope resonates outside of our city and state boundaries: A civilized society does not tolerate animal cruelty, whether it's fueled by greed, negligence or anything else.
Once that message travels far and wide, we may finally be able to elevate all our animal welfare policies and laws to match values that emphasize animal protection, not exploitation.
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.
Photo: NYC Council Members Corey Johnson and Elizabeth Crowley, who spearheaded this legislation, flank ASPCA President and CEO Matthew Bershadker as he speaks at this morning's rally in support of stronger pet store regulations.
We couldn’t be more thrilled to share the news that the New York City Council today voted in favor of Introductions 55-A, 136-A and 146-A, legislation to regulate city pet stores that sell puppies. Certain provisions of the bills will take effect as soon as January.
These measures are designed to prevent pet stores in New York City from obtaining puppies from some of the most unscrupulous puppy breeders—a.k.a. puppy mills—in the nation. Pet stores will also be required to disclose information to customers about the origins of the animals they sell, as well as to spay/neuter and microchip dogs and cats (and license dogs) before selling them. This multi-pronged approach will protect animals from exploitation and suffering and help arm consumers with the information they need to make smart choices about bringing new pets into their homes.
Our deepest thanks go out to the New York City members of our ASPCA Advocacy Brigade, who emailed and called their councilmembers in support of these measures. To learn more about the puppy mill industry and its connection to pet stores that sell animals, please visit nopetstorepuppies.com.