Wednesday, February 25, 2009

HSUS Issues Interim Policy on Individual Evaluation of Rescued Dogs

HSUS Issues Interim Policy on Individual Evaluation of Rescued Dogs

Best Friends Animal Society announced today that "the Humane Society of the United States on February 23 issued an interim policy recommending all dogs be evaluated as individuals, and is calling a meeting of leading animal welfare organizations concerning dogs victimized by dog fighting."
Some of you may have noticed a recent update to the second of the North Carolina pit bull posts on this blog in which I noted that a group of welfare organizations, including Best Friends, which had fought to stop the killing, were publicly asking HSUS to rethink its policy regarding pit bulls rescued from fighting operations (that is, its 20-year-old policy that all dogs bred for fighting, even those not ever trained to fight, should be killed). Best Friends' post on the matter, titled "Coalition Challenges Outdated Policy" began,
Dear readers, we know that this story is difficult. Best Friends feels as you do that animal welfare organizations are more effective when we get along and work together. In this case we felt it was important to draw public attention to HSUS's policy on dogs from fighting busts because its clout and its relationships with law enforcement informs and justifies state and local animal control policies.
It then went into a recap of what happened in North Carolina and into the problems with the well-known national organization's current policy and actions in NC. I won't summarize that call-to-change now, but you can read it yourself here if you'd like to make sure you're up to speed.
Back to the more recent post, Best Friends explains what has happened since the emotional outrage over all this boiled over last week:
-Continue reading after the jump-
Wayne Pacelle [HSUS CEO]. . . suggested the meeting of major stakeholders in Las Vegas to work through the associated issues. This meeting is in response to concerns expressed by Best Friends Animal Society in December 2008 regarding HSUS policies related to animals confiscated in dog-fighting busts. . . .
The new interim policy announced by the HSUS, pending the outcome of the meeting, recommends that local law enforcement and animal control evaluate such dogs as individuals rather than as a category before any decision is made regarding their future.
“We expect government, corporations, and individuals to constantly re-evaluate how they deal with animal issues,” Pacelle said. “Likewise, we regularly review our own policies and procedures here at HSUS, and we think it is important to talk with professional colleagues in the movement to examine issues related to the disposition of fighting dogs. . . ."
Julie Castle, director of Community Programs and Services for Best Friends said, “There had been more than enough airing of feelings and outrage that the dogs were not evaluated prior to being summarily euthanized. It was time to hit the reset button on this in order to move things forward in a constructive way. Mr. Pacelle was open and receptive to what we had to say and we are looking forward to our meetings in April.”
There have been no stated apologies or regrets as far as I know, but the planned meeting and the interim policy are a very good step and--I'll be honest--more than I expected. Beyond the plea from the group of animal welfare orgs, a number of concerned people have been, on an individual basis, contacting HSUS and participating in various online petitions and such, asking for a change, in the hopes of preventing another Wilkes County-like tragedy in the future. If you're one of those people who voiced your concerns and spoke for these dogs, you contributed to this first step being taken. Thank you. Your voice does matter. When leading (or prominent) groups or activists in a movement are taking actions or moving in directions that you feel are more hurtful than helpful for the animals we're all trying to protect and save, it is your right to speak up, with your voice and your dollars both.
This is only an interim policy, and we don't know what's going to happen next. And it's no secret that I've been a periodic critic of the nation's best-known welfare group, on fronts beyond this dog-fighting issue, but I believe that organizations as well as people can change course, and there is a possibility for change here, on this issue. There is a real chance that the next time there's a bust, this tragedy won't be repeated, and at least some of the dogs will be saved. Let's hope so.

One step in the right direction is much better then none. If we keep our voices and stance they will listen.

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