The Death of Hope at HSUS
February 18, 2009 by Nathan J. Winograd
The original version of this post appeared on The No Kill Nation website at www.thenokillnation.com on February 17, 2009. The following is a modified version of that post.
In Wilkes County, North Carolina, over 120 Pit Bull-type dogs and puppies seized from a dog fighter were systematically put to death over the opposition of rescue groups, dog advocates, and others. Some of the puppies were born after the seizure. And a foster parent was even ordered to return puppies she had nursed back to health to be killed. As they did in the Michael Vick case, HSUS once again led the charge to have all the dogs, including the puppies, slaughtered.
Before the dogs were killed, rescue groups were offering to help and calling for HSUS and Wilkes County officials to give the dogs clemency unless and until they are individually assessed and a rehabilitation plan, where possible, was devised for each of the dogs. HSUS refused. In reply, HSUS’ John Goodwin wrote:
Wilkes County euthanizes 3,000 healthy, adoptable animals a year simply because there are not enough good homes opening their doors to these needy animals. I find it disturbing that the groups clamoring for media attention over these 127 dogs raise no fuss, and offer no assistance, for the other 3,000 dogs put down in that county each year.
Are Goodwin and his cohorts at HSUS out of their minds? Are we back to blaming pet overpopulation? What happened to HSUS’ claims of just a few short months ago that that the public does care and is not to blame for their killing, that killing animals in shelters is “needless,” that we can be a No Kill nation today, and that “pet overpopulation” is more myth than fact?
What happened to their statements that
• “The needless loss of life in animal shelters is deplored by the American public. People deeply love their dogs and cats and feel that killing pets who are homeless through no fault of their own is a problem we must work harder to prevent. They want animals to have a second chance at life, not death by injection.”
• “The needless killing of pets by animal shelters and animal control agencies comes at an enormous economic and moral cost.”
What happened is that when they made those statements, Maddie’s Fund was dangling a check in front of them and the check came with the statement attached for their signature. What is now happening here is that HSUS is, once again, showing us who the animals’ true enemy really is.
As I’ve stated in a previous blog,
Our battle for a No Kill nation is not against the public. It is against the cowards of our movement who refuse to stand up to their colleagues and friends running shelters that are mired in the failed and defunct philosophies that allow (indeed, cause) killing. Our battle is against those who claim to be part of our movement but fail to recognize the killing of millions of animals every year as an unnecessary and cruel slaughter and to call it what it is. It is against those who will not do for the animals that thing which is their solemn duty to do: to change themselves and to demand that their colleagues change, when that is what the situation calls for.
The only thing standing between the system of mass killing we are living under today and the No Kill nation we can immediately achieve is that the leaders of the large national organizations refuse to seize the opportunity to act. Instead they are determined to fail—to ensure that the paradigm they have championed for so long is not upended—by blocking reform efforts which challenge their hegemony; by protecting and defending draconian shelter practices, uncaring shelter directors; and by squandering the potential represented by the great love people have for companion animals.
Instead of championing life, HSUS not only called for the systematic killing of the Pit Bulls, they blamed the very groups expressing concern for the fact that Wilkes County NC continues to needlessly slaughter 3,000 other dogs a year. Moreover, shelter activists have raised a fuss over the killing of other animals. Showing how little knowledge Mr. Goodwin has about the field he is supposedly a part of, that fuss has culminated in the No Kill movement, which has challenged his organization’s paradigm of killing.
Indeed, activists have been fighting to modernize North Carolina shelters for years, but have been continuously rebuffed by the sheltering industry every step of the way—even to the point of refusing to stop cruel methods of killing (North Carolina deplorably remains a state which continues to allow the use of a gas chamber). And, when activists do raise a fuss and offer their assistance to help animals, that assistance is often refused by shelters (as happened in Minnesota just this week). And, just as often, HSUS often ends up condemning the fuss, siding with regressive shelters which refuse to work with animal advocates to reduce killing, as they have in communities across the country.
Every time HSUS defends killing, their antiquated, regressive viewpoints are not only harmful to animals, they make HSUS more and more irrelevant to animal sheltering and more and more despised by those who truly love animals. And they become more out of touch with public sentiment.
In Minnesota, for example, the Animal Humane Society this week systematically put to death about 120 cats they claimed to rescue from a hoarding situation, even though the cats suffered only minor and treatable medical conditions, and even after No Kill shelters, rescue groups, and even everyday Minnesotans offered to help save the cats. Here are some of the comments the media and rescue groups have been receiving from the public:
• We are just so upset about this. Whether or not they knew about the offers of help, they shouldn’t have killed those cats so quickly.
• AHS is an embarrassment to this community with its anachronistic policies and refusal to even consider a different way of doing things other than killing almost 50% of the animals who come through their doors every year. And now you can add straight out misleading and lying to the public, their donor base, to the list.
• I’m so saddened to think that this probably happens even far more often than the media even knows about. We all understand that with that large number of cats, there would be illnesses. I am upset about the lying to the public and unwillingness to respond to the outpouring of support.
• If I were an animal that’s the last group of people I would want to be “rescued” by.
• I struggle with finding words to express my anger and disgust with this revelation… This is nothing more than a mass cat slaughter.
• I would of taken one or two of those poor kitties and would have assumed responsibility for their care. I emailed the humane society about it on Feb 13th, and never even got a reply back. It makes me so sad.
While the news media was condemning the action, while protests erupted in front of the humane society, while animal lovers were aghast, and while groups across the country were condemning the action, what did HSUS say? Nothing. They said nothing.
What should they have said? They should have said that the actions of the director in ordering those cats killed violated both the rights of the animals and the trust the public placed in her. As a result, her actions are intolerable and she should be removed. What would they almost certainly have said if they were asked for a comment? If history is any guide, they would have said it was the fault of pet overpopulation.
Moreover, Goodwin’s offensive claim that the advocates calling for clemency in Wilkes County were motivated by a “clamoring for media attention” is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. HSUS can only see this as a clamor for media attention rather than a clamor to save lives because that is how HSUS appears to operate. For HSUS, animals do not seem to matter unless they result in a headline and therefore donations for HSUS. For the rest of us, it’s the animals that count.
And so it has come to this. While animal lovers around the country can see so clearly what the problem is, Wayne Pacelle and his team at HSUS continue to stick their head in the sand and deny reality—acting like the Bush Administration when it continued to flatly deny that climate change was real even after the alleged controversy had been put to rest and the nation moved on to looking for viable solutions; Or refusing to admit the nation was in a recession, even as the economy began falling to pieces.
If they did not still have the power to cause harm—in fact, they will potentially contribute to the death of 127 dogs—the anachronistic viewpoints they continue to espouse would be merely embarrassing. We would feel nothing but pity for such an out of touch viewpoint. But they do cause harm, just like Bush’s environmental and economic policies. And so we must condemn HSUS once again.
While the Republican Party not so long ago was the dominant voice in American politics, Wayne Pacelle would do well to heed the lessons offered by how Bush’s obstinacy in the face of reality led to their demise.