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July in animal news: Five questions with ASPCA Chief Operating Officer Dr. Steven Hansen

August 2, 2010 |  2:28 pm

We're asking experts in the animal-protection community to give us their takes on the latest news involving animals and fill us in on what their organizations are working on. Here, Dr. Steven Hansen, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' Chief Operating Officer, gives us his insights. Hansen's responses represent his own views, not necessarily ours.

Dr.-Steven-Hansen Unleashed: What do you view as the most important development in animal news to happen in July?

Dr. Steven Hansen: H.R. 5566 was drafted in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in April to overturn a ban on the sale of animal 'crush videos,' which are sexual fetish videos that depict a woman's feet crushing to death small animals such as kittens and rodents. The narrowly tailored bill specifically addresses 'crush videos,' and hunting, fishing and trapping videos are exempt, along with videos depicting customary veterinary and animal husbandry practices.

While we're pleased that the House of Representatives is moving forward in order to protect animals from such egregious acts of torture and cruelty, we urge the Senate to quickly take up the bill.  This important humane legislation must be passed by both chambers of Congress for it to become a law.

For more information on H.R. 5566, please visit ASPCA.org/HR5566.

Unleashed: What were the ASPCA's biggest projects in July?

Hansen: Many people and pets were affected by the BP oil spill disaster and the ASPCA, along with the Louisiana SPCA (LA/SPCA), Best Friends Animal Society and several local organizations, joined efforts to establish the Gulf Coast Companion Animal Relief Program, which provides free services to Gulf Coast pet owners suffering economic hardship.

The Gulf Coast Companion Animal Relief Program offers free pet care, which includes a basic exam including tests for Feline Leukemia, FIV in cats and Heartworm in dogs; vaccinations; microchipping and registration; and spay or neuter surgery. The ASPCA provided a $100,000 grant that will help residents of Plaquemines Parish, St. Bernard Parish, Terrebonne Parish and Jefferson Parish affected by the oil spill. It's estimated that the initial contribution will prevent 1,000 family pets from becoming homeless.

In times of crisis, it's crucial that organizations come together to help others in need. Countless family pets have become victims of this man-made disaster and we're glad that our organization was able to help pet owners during this difficult time.

For more information on the Gulf Coast Companion Animal Relief Program, please visit LA-SPCA.org/GulfCoastRelief.

Unleashed: What will the ASPCA be working on in August?

Hansen: On August 1, the ASPCA launched a contest to help save more homeless animals called the ASPCA $100K Challenge. Fifty animal shelters across the country were selected to save at least 300 more animals -- during the months of August, September, and October 2010 -- than they did over the same three-month period in 2009.

The ASPCA $100K Challenge motivates shelters to come up with innovative approaches to increase adoptions, improve return-to-owner rates and engage the community. The shelter contestant that saves the most number of animals will receive a $100,000 grant from the ASPCA to continue their lifesaving work. The contest ends October 31, 2010.

For more information on the ASPCA $100K Challenge, please visit Challenge.ASPCAPro.org.

Unleashed: How can interested animal lovers help in August?

Hansen: Animal lovers should search to see if their local shelter is participating in the ASPCA $100K Challenge and find out what they can do to help save more animals in the community. If your local shelter is not listed, you can still help by donating supplies or checking to see if there are any volunteer opportunities.

To see the list of animal shelters participating in the ASPCA $100K Challenge, please visit Challenge.ASPCAPro.org.

Unleashed: What animal has had the biggest impact on your own life? Why?

Hansen: Although one of our dogs, Maggie, and two cats, Sas and Kamakazee, are particularly special and important for many reasons, the animal that has made the biggest impact in my life is actually my son's hamster, LB. Before joining our family, LB was an elementary school pet. Our son put signs all over our house with pictures asking if he could please adopt him. We finally gave in and LB quickly became an important member of the family. He loved to be carried about and enjoyed, even demanded, his evening treats of fresh fruit and vegetables.

As LB grew old and gray, he developed a debilitating disease from which he could not recover despite veterinary care and weeks of medications. LB passed away last week after having him in our lives for the past two years. Our son wrote a letter to LB and placed it along with pictures of the two of them together in a small box in which we buried him. The human-animal bond truly knows no boundaries and seeing this develop in children is especially rewarding. In memory of LB, the world's best hamster, 2007-2010.

Dr. Steven R. Hansen is the Chief Operating Officer of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  Dr. Hansen joined the ASPCA in 1997 as Vice President of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, Ill., and most recently served as the Senior Vice President of ASPCA Animal Health Services, overseeing a division dedicated to providing pet health and wellness information to pet owners nationwide.

Photo: ASPCA

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