Tag Archives: animal cruelty

Dog Whisperer video prompts animal cruelty claim

An online complaint of animal cruelty led authorities to Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan’s Los Angeles-area pet rehabilitation center, but Millan wasn’t there and they took no further action.

Footage on Millan’s television show “Cesar 911” of a French bulldog-terrier mix chasing a pot-bellied pig and nipping its ear until it bled prompted the complaint.

Millan was trying to train the dog to be less aggressive.

Millan was cooperating fully with Los Angeles County animal control officers who were looking into the claims made in an online petition, said Chad Sandhas, a spokesman for National Geographic Channels, which air the show.

Millan, 46, is a self-taught dog trainer who became internationally known for his work on a prior show, the “Dog Whisperer,” which won him an Emmy nomination.

Calls and emails were not immediately returned by Los Angeles County Animal Control. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, whose deputies accompanied animal control to Millan’s center in Santa Clarita, did confirm there were no arrests or animal seizures.

Millan was working with an aggressive dog named Simon, who was attacking his owner’s pet pot-bellied pigs. A teaser clip showed Simon chasing a pig and biting its ear.

Dog Whisperer petition n Change.org

Jill Breitner initiated a petition on Change.org, calling for Nat Geo WILD to take the show “Cesar 911” off air. Friday morning, the number of signatures was closing in on 10,000.

Sandhas said a second clip showed the full context of the encounter. In it, the pig is calm and is tied to Simon with a long leash, as if taking him on a walk.

The show aired Feb. 26.

“The pig that was nipped by Simon was tended to immediately afterward, healed quickly and showed no lasting signs of distress,” Sandhas said. “As the additional clip reveals, Cesar and his animal pack effectively helped Simon to overcome his aggressive behavior toward other animals; as a result, Simon did not have to be separated from his owner or euthanized.”

In her petition, Breitner called Millan’s methods “inhumane” and said his show should be taken off the air.

“This is not the first time (Millan) has used bait animals,” Breitner wrote in the petition. “This is wrong!”

Ringling to retire all circus elephants in May

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is ending its elephant acts a year and a half early, and will retire all of its touring elephants in May.

The move comes amid increasing scrutiny of circus elephant acts with local governments passing “anti-circus” and “anti-elephant” ordinances in response to concerns over animal cruelty.

The circus’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, told The Associated Press exclusively that all of the iconic elephants will be permanently retired to the company’s 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation, located between Orlando and Tampa.

The company announced in March that it would retire the full herd to the center by 2018. But once officials began planning details, they realized “we could actually do this a lot sooner” because building the new structures to house the retiring elephants didn’t take as long as they originally thought, said Alana Feld, Ringling’s executive vice president and show producer. It costs about $65,000 yearly to care for each elephant, Feld said.

Eleven elephants currently tour with the circus.

“They’ll be joining the rest of the herd,” Feld said. She’s part of the family that owns Feld Entertainment, which owns the largest herd of Asian elephants in North America. In addition to the elephants still touring, 29 of the animals are on the property now, and two are on breeding loans to zoos, Feld said.

Animal rights groups on Monday applauded Ringling’s new timeline and announcement.

“Like the elephants themselves, it had outsized importance because of the symbolic value of the enterprise,” wrote Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “Ringling had been one of the biggest defenders of this kind of archaic animal exploitation, and the imminent end of its traveling elephant acts signaled that even one of the most tough-minded and hardened animal-use companies now recognized that the world is changing and it had to adapt.”

Elephant acts have been showcased by Ringling for more than a century and have often been featured on its posters.

But because so many cities and counties have passed “anti-circus” and “anti-elephant” ordinances, it became difficult to organize tours of three traveling circuses to 115 cities each year, Feld Entertainment CEO Kenneth Feld said last year. Fighting legislation in each jurisdiction is expensive, he said.

Los Angeles and Oakland prohibited the use of bull-hooks by elephant trainers and handlers last April. The city of Asheville, North Carolina, also nixed wild or exotic animals from performing in the municipally owned, 7,600-seat U.S. Cellular Center.

Ringling’s new show will begin in July without the giant pachyderms.

“We’re looking at a lot of new ways of doing things,” Feld said.

She said the retired elephants at the CEC will also be part of cancer research.

Cancer is much less common in elephants than in humans, even though the big animals’ bodies have many more cells. That’s a paradox known among scientists, and now researchers think they may have an explanation — one they say might someday lead to new ways to protect people from cancer.

Compared with just one copy in humans, elephants’ cells contain 20 copies of a major cancer-suppressing gene, two teams of scientists reported in October. The gene helps damaged cells repair themselves or self-destruct when exposed to cancer-causing substances.

The findings aren’t proof that those extra p53 genes make elephants cancer-resistant, but if future research confirms it, scientists could try to develop drugs for humans that would mimic the effect.

Dr. Joshua Schiffman, a pediatric cancer specialist at the University of Utah, is one of the researchers trying to find clues in the blood samples of some of the Ringling elephants.

“There’s so much to be learned from their DNA,” Feld said.

Animal rights activists have long alleged that circuses have mistreated elephants.

In 2014, Feld Entertainment won $25.2 million in settlements from a number of animal-rights groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, ending a 14-year legal battle over allegations that Ringling circus employees mistreated elephants.

On Monday, Ingrid Newkirk, the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, called on Ringling to end all animal acts and that “vigilance will be needed to determine how they are treated” at the Florida sanctuary.

Elephants have been a symbol of the Ringling circus for decades. P.T. Barnum brought an Asian elephant named Jumbo to America in 1882.

Brad Pitt slams Costco over factory-farmed eggs

Brad Pitt and Bill Maher say Costco contributes to animal cruelty by selling eggs from caged hens.

Pitt sent a letter to the chief executive of the big-box chain Thursday asking the company to stop selling eggs produced this way. Pitt’s letter to Craig Jelinek says caged birds suffer atrophy of their muscles and bones from years of immobility, adding that the cages have been banned in California and much of Europe.

“As you know, these birds producing eggs for your shelves are crammed five or more into cages that are not large enough for even one hen to spread her wings,” Pitt writes.

Maher took aim at the company in an editorial published last week by The New York Times.

“Multiple investigations into battery cages document animals with deteriorated spinal cords, some who have become paralyzed and then mummified in their cages,” Maher wrote. “Imagine cramming five cats or dogs into tiny cages, hundreds of thousands in each shed, for their entire lives. That would warrant cruelty charges, of course. But when the egg industry does it to hens, it’s considered business as usual.”

Both commended Costco for its other animal-welfare efforts and called on the company to make good on its 2007 promise to move toward uncaging its egg-laying hens.

Pitt and Maher each spoke out on behalf of Farm Sanctuary, an organization that advocates against the mistreatment of animals and factory farming.

Costco said in June statement that there are “vigorous debates about animal welfare and laying hens.”

“Some, such as the Humane Society, advocate that hens be ‘cage free,’ and not confined in cages. Some advocate that cages are safer for hens,” the statement reaads.

The statement acknowledges that Costco’s sales of organic/cage-free eggs have increased “more than twentyfold” over the past nine years.

The company did not elaborate, nor specifically address the celebrity complaints.

Costco said it is “committed to the ethical treatment of animals” and its code of ethics is part of the company mission statement.

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Over 80 dead calves found in ‘deplorable conditions’ on 2 Kenosha farms

The Kenosha County Sheriff’s Office says it’s investigating potential animal abuse on two farms where over 80 dead calves have been found amid deplorable conditions.

A sheriff’s office statement Saturday says deputies found at least 52 dead calves on a farm in Brighton Township on Friday afternoon. Fifteen live calves were moved from the property to a safe location.

Investigators later discovered at least 30 dead calves at a second farm owned by the same family, in Paris Township. At least 100 live cattle there were put under a veterinarian’s care.

The statement says the cause of the animal deaths has not been determined, and may have been due to disease, but investigators found evidence of neglect and long-term deplorable conditions.

The sheriff’s office says the farm owners are cooperating.

Reward offered after throats of 14 pelicans are slashed, 10 die

Two national organizations — the Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust — are offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for slashing the throat pouches of 14 brown pelicans in South Florida, leaving 10 dead and another four injured.

This adds to existing rewards totaling $6,000 offered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and a local construction company. FWC is investigating the incidents, which occurred in January.

Over a period of a few weeks, the pelicans began turning up on Cudjoe Key and in areas from Sugarloaf Key to Big Pine Key. Officers believe the injuries were intentionally inflicted on the birds with a sharp knife. Slitting the throats of pelicans, who use their pouches to skim the water and collect fish, causes them to suffer agonizingly slow deaths from starvation. 

Kate MacFall, Florida state director for The HSUS, said, “The particularly gruesome and malicious nature of the attacks on these pelicans, who pose no threat to anyone, is heartbreaking. Whoever is serially mutilating these animals must be caught and severely punished. We are so thankful to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for their determination to find those responsible.”

Pelicans have suffered from a rash of violence in Florida, including two other attacks in January. A local bird rescue found 18 pelicans near Jacksonville that were beaten and suffering from severely broken wings.

In a separate incident in Fort Lauderdale, a teenager faces criminal charges for allegedly torturing a pelican with vapor from an electronic cigarette and suffocating the bird to death. In 2013 and 2014, at least 10 pelicans were victims of throat-slashing.

Pesticides, trophy hunting and mass killing by fishermen decimated brown pelican populations in the early 1900s. While their century-long recovery effort is considered by many to be a major conservation success story, they still face serious threats from oil spills, habitat destruction, entanglement in fishing lines, and the disappearance of major food sources.

Brown pelicans were removed from the Endangered Species List in 2009 but remain protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and as a State Species of Special Concern by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule.

Harming a brown pelican is punishable by fines and jail time.

Poaching:

• Wildlife officials estimate that nationwide, tens of millions of animals are poached annually.

• It is estimated that only 1 percent to 5 percent of poached animals come to the attention of law enforcement.

• Poachers injure or kill wildlife anytime, anywhere and sometimes do so in particularly cruel ways. Wildlife officials report that poachers often commit other crimes as well.

• The HSUS and The Trust work with state and federal wildlife agencies to offer rewards of $5,000 for information leading to arrest and conviction of suspected poachers.

Wisconsin congressman introduces measure to remove wolves from endangered species list

Wisconsin Congressman Reid Ribble has introduced legislation that would remove gray wolves in those states from the “endangered” species list.

This legislation comes on the heels of two recent court cases that placed wolves in the Great Lakes and Wyoming back under federal protection due to overreaching state management programs that jeopardized wolf recovery. It is the first of several bills expected to be introduced this Congress seeking to weaken protections for wolves and to subvert a series of federal court rulings that determined that the federal government has too narrowly segmented wolf populations and that the states had overreached in their trophy hunting, commercial trapping and hounding programs.  

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, said, “This legislation is an end-around a series of federal court rulings that have determined that state and federal agencies have acted improperly in acting to delist wolves. This bill is just a the latest act of political bomb-throwing and gamesmanship, and lawmakers who want balance on the wolf issue should reject it.”

In November, Michigan citizens voted overwhelmingly to increase protections for wolves and to put a stop to plans that would have allowed trophy hunting and commercial trapping of wolves.

And earlier this year, The HSUS and 21 animal protection and conservation organizations offered an alternative to congressional delisting and a path to national recovery by petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reclassify gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act as threatened throughout the contiguous United States, with the exception of the Mexican gray wolf which remains listed as endangered.

If adopted, the proposal would continue federal oversight and approval of wolf management efforts, but would also provide more  flexibility for state and local wildlife management to address specific wolf conflicts, including lethal control for depredation of livestock.

Earlier this year, a Washington State University peer-reviewed study revealed that wolf control efforts often trigger effects that result in more livestock depredation by breaking up packs and stimulating reproduction by survivors.

Animal welfare groups target greyhound tracks

Two animal welfare groups are trying to bring about the end of greyhound racing, which has been declining for years, with an aggressive effort to change laws and public opinion in the states where dogs still race.

GREY2K USA and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals believe racing is cruel and are embarking on a broad-based lobbying effort. The centerpiece is a study that documents more than 11,000 injuries to racing greyhounds and 909 deaths from 2008 to 2014.

The groups are distributing thousands of copies to lawmakers, government officials and others in the seven states with tracks. They also plan a media blitz and are trying to line up legislators to introduce bills outlawing the sport.

“It was time to go for broke because the industry is nearly dead and what’s left to save is thousands of dogs,” said Carey Theil, executive director of GREY2K USA.

The groups plan to unveil the study today and then barnstorm through the states that allow racing, starting with Florida, which has 13 of the nation’s 21 tracks.

Gary Guccione, executive director of the National Greyhound Association that represents dog owners and breeders, acknowledged greyhound racing is struggling but said it’s unfair to characterize it as cruel. The animal groups distort data to further their agenda, he said.

“The industry is not inhumane,” Guccione said. “It is very much responsible and very much looks out for the welfare of the racing greyhound from birth through its entire life.”

Guccione answered accusations by critics that the dogs are caged nearly 22 hours a day, isolated when they are in the kennels, fed inferior food and forced to run in circles when racing.

He said the dogs are docile and enjoy being in their cages for many hours each day. There are all kinds of people in the kennel areas each day, so the dogs get well socialized, Guccione said. The meat they eat may not be fit for humans, but it is fine for dogs, he said. Finally, the dogs love to race, Guccione said, noting they get very excited every fourth day, when they get to race.

Greyhound racing peaked decades ago and has struggled to attract new fans as sports entertainment and gambling options proliferated. Most tracks now offer casino gambling, and both sides agree that without the revenue they could not survive.

Besides Florida, the only tracks left are in Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, West Virginia, Iowa and Arizona. Four states allow racing but don’t have tracks: Oregon, Connecticut, Wisconsin and Kansas.

Attendance at tracks and wagers on greyhounds have fallen precipitously. In 2012, $665 million was bet nationwide, down 66 percent from 2001, according to the study.

Florida dog tracks lost over $42 million on racing from June 2012 and November 2013, according to state filings.

The animal rights groups hope the study provides the impetus for states to do away with racing. The report shows 758 greyhounds were euthanized after suffering serious injuries while racing between January 2008 and November 2014.

“People don’t realize how treacherous the life of a greyhound dog is – broken legs, skulls, backs, severed toes, electrocution, even cardiac arrest because of the stress,” said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. “We want people to understand this isn’t dogs playing in a park but literally running for their lives.”

The information used in the study, which goes back 13 years, was taken from state records, industry statements and news reports, GREY2K said. There are nearly 600 sources or citations in the study.

Congress to consider protections for farm animals in federal research

Federal lawmakers this week introduced a bill to require protections for farm animals used for agricultural research at federal facilities.

The bill follows a report in The New York Times that revealed animal cruelty at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, a federal livestock research facility in Nebraska.

The cows, sheep, pigs and other farm animals used in experiments at the facility currently are exempt from protections under federal law because of a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act. This loophole exempts farm animals “used or intended for use for improving animal nutrition, breeding, management, or production efficiency, or for improving the quality of food or fiber” from basic welfare standards.

The bill, with bipartisan support, would remove current exceptions that exclude animals used in agricultural experiments at federally-run facilities from certain protections under the Animal Welfare Act.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, and Matthew Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA/American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, both announced support for the proposed Animal Welfare in Agricultural Research Endeavors Act. The short name is the AWARE Act.

The Meat Animal Research Center is part of the Agricultural Research Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Since 2006, ARS has spent nearly $200 million on the center, according to a report prepared by the USDA for Congress as part of the budgeting process.

The New York Times exposed the center performing inhumane experiments on farm animals, including:

• Locking pigs in steam chambers until they died.

• Breeding calves born with “deformed vaginas” and tangled legs.

• Leaving lambs abandoned by their mothers in pastures to die of exposure or starvation.

The center also performed painful experimental surgeries and allowed at least 6,500 animals to starve to death.

Mercy for Animals opposes an ‘ag-gag’ bill in Wisconsin

Mercy for Animals is responding to reports that Wisconsin lawmakers plan to propose an “ag-gag” bill aimed at prohibiting the taking of photographs or videos on a farm without the owner’s permission.

Mercy for Animals is one of the groups at the forefront of a campaign to expose animal cruelty at farms and in the factory farming industry using videos and photographs taken by undercover investigators.

In a statement released on Jan. 29, Mercy said a Wisconsin bill would be in direct response to Mercy’s 2014 undercover investigations at Wisconsin dairy factory farms. The investigations exposed workers kicking, punching, beating and dragging cows and resulted in arrests and criminal prosecution.

Nathan Runkle, Mercy For Animals’ founder and president, said in a statement on Jan. 29: “Mercy For Animals, like most Americans, is adamantly opposed to Wisconsin’s dangerous ag-gag bill. This misguided bill is a blatant violation of free speech and freedom of the press. It keeps consumers in the dark, threatens public health, and hurts animals by shielding animal abusers from public scrutiny.

He continued, “If passed, this ag-gag bill would create a safe haven for animal abuse and other criminal activity on Wisconsin’s factory farms. Not only does this bill virtually guarantee animal abuse will continue, it also threatens workers’ rights, consumer health, food safety, and the freedom of journalists, employees, and the public at large to share information about something as fundamental as our food supply.”

One Mercy For Animals undercover investigation at Wiese Brothers Farms in Greenleaf revealed workers viciously kicking, beating, whipping, dragging and stabbing cows. The investigation resulted in the arrest and prosecution of four workers, who were convicted of multiple counts of criminal cruelty to animals. The investigation also led Nestlé, the largest food company in the world, to institute a comprehensive animal welfare policy designed to prevent egregious animal abuse for all of its suppliers worldwide.

Runkle said, “The Legislature should be strengthening laws to prevent animal abuse on factory farms. Instead, Wisconsin lawmakers are working overtime to silence the brave whistleblowers who expose cruelty to animals or other serious crimes.

“Wisconsin’s ag-gag bill is patently un-American, dangerous, and a broad government overreach. Clearly Wisconsin’s factory farmers have a lot to hide from the American people if they are willing to go to such despicable lengths to conceal their cruel and abusive practices.”

FBI turns animal cruelty into top-tier felony

Young people who torture and kill animals are prone to violence against people later in life if it goes unchecked, studies have shown. A new federal category for animal cruelty crimes will help root out those pet abusers before their behavior worsens and give a boost to prosecutions, an animal welfare group says.

For years, the FBI has filed animal abuse under the label “other” along with a variety of lesser crimes, making cruelty hard to find, hard to count and hard to track. The bureau announced this month that it would make animal cruelty a Group A felony with its own category — the same way crimes like homicide, arson and assault are listed.

“It will help get better sentences, sway juries and make for better plea bargains,” said Madeline Bernstein, president and CEO of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles and a former New York prosecutor.

The category also will help identify young offenders, and a defendant might realize “if he gets help now, he won’t turn into Jeffrey Dahmer,” she said.

Law enforcement agencies will have to report incidents and arrests in four areas: simple or gross neglect; intentional abuse and torture; organized abuse, including dogfighting and cockfighting; and animal sexual abuse, the FBI said in statement. The bureau didn’t answer questions beyond a short statement.

“The immediate benefit is it will be in front of law enforcement every month when they have to do their crime reports,” said John Thompson, interim executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association who worked to get the new animal cruelty category instituted. “That’s something we have never seen.”

Officers will start to see the data are facts and “not just somebody saying the ‘Son of Sam’ killed animals before he went to human victims and 70-some percent of the school shooters abused animals prior to doing their acts before people,” said Thompson, a retired assistant sheriff from Prince George’s County, Maryland.

FBI studies show that serial killers like Dahmer impaled the heads of dogs, frogs and cats on sticks; David Berkowitz, known as the “Son of Sam,” poisoned his mother’s parakeet; and Albert DeSalvo, aka the “Boston Strangler,” trapped cats and dogs in wooden crates and killed them by shooting arrows through the boxes.

It will take time and money to update FBI and law enforcement databases nationwide, revise manuals and send out guidelines, Thompson said, so there won’t be any data collected until January 2016. After that, it will take several months before there are numbers to analyze.

The new animal cruelty statistics will allow police and counselors to work with children who show early signs of trouble, so a preschooler hurting animals today isn’t going to be hurting a person two years from now, Bernstein said.

The FBI’s category will track crimes nationwide and is bound to give animal cruelty laws in all 50 states more clout. Many states are seeing more of those convicted of animal cruelty being sentenced to prison, in marked contrast to years past.

Whether talking about state laws or the FBI change, it is clear “that regardless of whether people care about how animals are treated, people — like legislators and judges — care about humans, and they can’t deny the data,” said Natasha Dolezal, director of the animal law program in the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

On the Web

 National Sheriffs’ Association: www.sheriffs.org

 Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles: www.spcala.com

 Center for Animal Law Studies: law.lclark.edu/centers/animal_law_studies