L.A. Unleashed

All things animal in Southern
California and beyond

Category: HSUS

Hermosa Beach considers banning puppy and kitten sales in pet stores; measure passes initial vote

DalsHermosa Beach is poised to become the second Southern California city and the third in the state to ban the sales of puppies and kittens in pet stores.

Councilman Jeff Duclos proposed the legislation, which is intended to help put puppy mills and kitten factories out of business and is modeled on a similar ban approved in West Hollywood last month. A preliminary vote Tuesday received the unanimous support of the Hermosa Beach City Council, the Daily Breeze reports. A final vote is scheduled for April 13.

"We commend the humane leaders of Hermosa Beach for recognizing the direct link between inhumane puppy mills and local pet store sales of dogs and cats," Jennifer Fearing, the senior director of California programs for the Humane Society of the United States, said of the proposal. "Rather than supporting inhumane puppy mills by purchasing an animal from a pet shop or over the Internet, we encourage people to adopt pets from a shelter or rescue group, or to seek out a reputable breeder and visit their home to ensure any pets they purchase were reared with kindness." 

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Animals are big winners at Humane Society's Genesis Awards (but Tippi Hedren, 'The Cove' filmmaker and more humans are honored too)

Major Brian Dennis with Nubs

The Genesis Awards was an Oscar-style gala with tuxedos and glittery dresses and celebrity presenters, but at the end of the night, as befits an event honoring TV shows, films, documentaries, and news programs that highlighted animal welfare issues last year, the guest that attracted the most attention was a dog.

Hewing to the dress code, he did wear a taupe bow-tie around his furry neck. "Nubs," the vaguely German shepherd-looking mix (named for his mutilated ears), was swarmed by human guests after the show, which was presented by the Humane Society of the United States on Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

During the "Tribute to Dogs," Marine Maj. Brian Dennis recalled how Nubs adopted him as he patrolled the Syrian border in Iraq in fall 2007. "It was kind of a tough time for both of us," Dennis said onstage.

Later, Dennis had to relocate to an outpost in Iraq 70 miles away. "One of the hardest things in my life was to leave him behind that time," Dennis said.

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Lax oversight of animal protection rules at slaughterhouses probed by lawmakers

Kucinich Vilsack

FRESNO, Calif. — The knives at the slaughterhouse weren't properly sanitized, a government investigator said, and employees at the meatpacking plant didn't know how to test the carcasses of days-old veal calves for a dangerous pathogen. Food safety conditions were so poor at the Vermont processing facility that it should close before someone got sick, officials warned.

Instead, the plant stayed open for months. It wasn't until an undercover video surfaced with images of calves being kicked, dragged and skinned alive that the federal government ordered Bushway Packing Inc. to close last November for the inhumane treatment of animals.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at that time called the abuse "inexcusable," and vowed to redouble efforts to enforce laws aimed at protecting farm animals.

A report by the Government Accountability Office released last week, however, found that although stringent animal protections may be on the books, the federal government is doing a lax job of enforcing them.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat who has held hearings on the issue, said animal treatment is key to food safety.

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Michael Vick honored for courage at NFL award ceremony; animal activists protest

Vick1 BALTIMORE — Inside the banquet hall, a humbled but defiant Michael Vick was honored Tuesday night as one of 32 NFL players to receive the Ed Block Courage Award.

Outside, dozens of protesters expressed dismay over his nomination.

The award is presented to players who exemplify commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage. Each NFL team selects their own recipient, and most of the winners were on hand for the gala event Tuesday night.

Vick was picked as the Philadelphia Eagles' representative by a unanimous vote of his teammates. Once a star quarterback with the Atlanta Falcons, Vick was convicted in 2007 for his role in a dogfighting ring and served 18 months in federal prison.

"I'm very humbled to be here," Vick said before the award ceremony. "I'm blessed to be voted by my peers, to be here, and this is an opportunity that I will take advantage of and cherish forever."

It was the first award he received since being reinstated by the NFL in September 2009.

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Animal activists call for changes at SeaWorld following trainer's orca death

Animal advocates all over the country have been voicing their opposition to keeping orcas in captivity since a SeaWorld Orlando orca named Tilikum killed his trainer Wednesday.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, while expressing sympathy for the trainer, Dawn Brancheau, was quick to lash out against SeaWorld. "There are so many victims in this saga -- the trainers, the captive marine mammals, the children who watched people die -- but truth has been the longest-running victim of the lot," PETA president and co-founder Ingrid Newkirk wrote on the group's blog Friday. "If the only thing that SeaWorld understands is money -- and it has made millions off the backs of orcas like Tilly -- then one hopes that if public protestation doesn't do the trick in shutting it down, the lawsuits that are sure to arise will."

Newkirk & Co. have long argued that marine life parks that keep large animals like orcas in captivity are cruel to the creatures, which swim long distances in the wild and often perform tricks PETA considers unnatural. Newkirk wrote Friday that the "marine amusement park environment is rife with deaths, close calls and injuries," in addition to the cruelty she says the animals face in captivity.

A frequent PETA ally, former "Price is Right" star Bob Barker, was also quick to argue that Tilikum's confinement amounted to cruelty on SeaWorld's part. Barker -- who recently donated $5 million to the controversial anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd for the purchase of a ship -- fired off a letter Thursday to Hamilton James, the president of SeaWorld's parent company, the Blackstone Group.

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New Center for Consumer Freedom website targets Humane Society of the United States

Animal shelter

Anyone who's ever glanced at the website PETAKillsAnimals.com is familiar, whether they know it or not, with a group that calls itself the Center for Consumer Freedom.

The Center for Consumer Freedom -- headed up by a lobbyist for the food, alcoholic beverage and tobacco industries named Richard Berman -- has long been at odds with groups like PETA and the Humane Society of the United States. (For the record, though, it has also worked to discredit non-animal-related advocacy groups including Mothers Against Drunk Driving through its ActivistCash.com website. Another of its websites, ObesityMyths.com, attempts to debunk what it describes as "myths" about human health. Among those "myths": "Obesity will shorten life expectancy" and "Obesity has made diabetes epidemic.")

Now, though, the CCF has ratcheted up the rhetoric against the Humane Society by launching a new website devoted to discrediting the group: HumaneWatch.org. As part of HumaneWatch's kickoff, the Center purchased a full-page ad in the New York Times that argues that the Humane Society "gives less than one-half of 1% of its $100-million budget to hands-on pet shelters."

We've heard this criticism all too often, and it's an argument we find supremely disingenuous. One can certainly care about animals and not support the Humane Society -- many of our animal-loving readers have written passionate comments that explain their rationales for not supporting the group. But those readers explain that they fundamentally disagree with the Humane Society's aims and tactics -- and their arguments are reasonable and sound.

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California's laws more animal-friendly than any other U.S. state, Humane Society says

Animals -- from household pets to racehorses to egg-laying chickens to dairy cows -- are more fully protected by the laws of California than those of any other U.S. state, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Our colleague Carol J. Williams has the details; here's an excerpt:

Cow In a comprehensive analysis of the laws in each of the 50 states, [the Humane Society] ranked the Golden State No. 1 for the legal protections it has enacted across the animal kingdom. New Jersey, Colorado, Maine and Massachusetts also scored high in protecting pets and livestock. Idaho and South Dakota earned the lowest scores, in part for their failure to make egregious animal abuse a felony or to outlaw cockfighting.

California scored 45 on a 65-point checklist for laws governing conditions on farms, in shelters and in laboratories and for those dealing with breeders and commercial ventures. It is one of the few states that outlaws the use of animals in product testing when an alternative exists and gives students the right to choose an alternative to animal dissection in schools.

The state prohibits all forms of animal fighting and the keeping of primates, venomous snakes, bears, wolves and big cats as pets. It also outlaws force-feeding of geese for the production of foie gras, battery cages for egg-laying hens and tail-docking of dairy cows.

Bear hunting is allowed in the state, but trade in bear parts is prohibited. In equine protection, California is one of only four states to prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption.


Photo: A dairy cow on a farm near Merced. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

Idaho, others prepare for California egg exodus


Idaho is among several states watching to see if a California animal cruelty law drives flocks of big egg farms there to fly the coop.

California voters in 2008 approved Proposition 2, banning cramped cages for laying hens by 2015.

Neither Idaho nor Nevada, where officials are aggressively courting the Golden State egg industry, have restrictions on "battery cages" that leave chickens little room to spread their wings.

Idaho Sen. Tim Corder has no desire to change that in his state. Industry should decide, Corder insists.

Still, the Senate Agriculture Committee chairman does want to revamp rules governing where and how giant poultry farms are operated to skirt pitfalls that accompanied explosive growth of Idaho's dairy industry. His state went from 180,000 cows in 1990 to 530,000 in 2009 to become the third-biggest milk producer after California and Wisconsin, but the arrival of mega-dairies caught regulators flat-footed and prompted environmentalists to call foul.

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Dead animals help living animals: Donated fur coats, hats and trim make cozy nests for rescued wildlife

Rabbit fur coat

Got a fur coat gathering dust? The Humane Society suggests the ultimate recycling -- putting it on the backs of other animals.

The Coats for Cubs program by the Humane Society of the United States helps orphaned, injured or sick wildlife by gathering fur coats and using them for nests, bedding or cuddly replacements for mom and dad. In 2009, 2,687 fur items were donated.

"We use the discarded furs as bedding to give the animals comfort and reduce stress," said Michael Markarian, the agency's chief operating officer in Washington, D.C. "The fur garments act as a surrogate mother. It is a warm and furry substitute."

The coats go to wildlife rehabilitation centers that take in baby raccoons, chipmunks, squirrels, coyotes, skunks and other animals. The program has helped thousands of animals since it began in 2005 with the Fund for Animals.

Markarian said many of the coats were donated by people who find fur to be inhumane, regardless of whether the animals were trapped in steel-jawed traps or raised on factory farms. For those who have fur and no longer want to wear it, "This is a great way for them to give back to the animals," he said.

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Michael Vick says he wants another dog, denies having electrocuted pit bulls at Bad Newz Kennels

VickAt a speaking engagement at a Boys and Girls Club in Newark, N.J., NFL star and convicted dogfighter Michael Vick said he wished he could have a dog again "more than anything in the world."

According to NBC New York, Vick told the assembled school-age children that he hopes to one day own another dog -- he's currently legally prohibited from doing so -- but that whether he'll be able to is "up to my judge at his discretion."

Interestingly, Vick declined an offer by BAD RAP, the Oakland-based rescue group that has worked to rehabilitate 10 of the dogs seized from his Bad Newz Kennels, to see the dogs when his team, the Philadelphia Eagles, played the Oakland Raiders in October.

During the Boys and Girls Club appearance -- which was arranged by the Humane Society of the United States, the group with which Vick has formed an unorthodox partnership on its anti-dogfighting campaign -- Vick also answered questions from the children about the Bad Newz operation and his part in it, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reports

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