Last week, members of several groups of animal welfare and animal rights member met in a summit in Las Vegas to discuss a potential change in HSUS policy for dogs that are seized from dog fighting busts.
In the past, HSUS policy was to recommend that all dogs that came from dog fighting operations, even puppies, would be systematically euthanized with no "need" for professional behavioral evaluations.
However, the success in the rehabiliation of the dogs confiscated from Mike Vick's Bad Newz Kennels (Hector, one of those dogs, is seen "viciously" snuggling with Missouri State Senator Jolie Justus), combined with the public outcry over HSUS' insistence that 127 dogs confiscated from Ed Faron's home be systematically killed, has finally led HSUS down a road to a change in policy.
No longer will HSUS insist that all dogs confiscated from fight busts be put down.
Yay. And it's about time.
While many dogs from these fighting operations may be put down in the future -- they will all be given professional behavioral evaluations before that happens. If a dog is decided to be too aggressive to ever have a public life, they will be euthanized. But if the prospects for a dog to be rehabilitated look good, the dog will be given that opportunity.
"The groups agree that all dogs should be treated as individuals, and they are the true victims of this organized crime," reads the Best Friends release.
"In the past, animals seized from operations have been routinely euthanized. This may still be the outcome for the animal victims of dogfighters, but we agreed as a number of groups that all of us should do our best to evaluate dogs seized from these operations and adopt those dogs who can be saved."
That's progress. It is still concerning that the nation's largest and richest animal advocacy group had to be pushed by the general public and other organizations to change a policy that declared that all of these dogs had to be killed even without an evaluation. But the good news is, the public demanded it to a point that HSUS DID change their policy. The public has charted a direction for how we treat animals in this country -- and that direction is no longer being led by HSUS.
It's good to have HSUS along for the ride. Saving these dogs is important. It should be our first notion. If they cannot be saved, that is understandable, but "kill" should not be our first reaction when it comes to these victims. If the very people who are in a position to care about the welfare of these animals do not think their lives are worth saving, why would we ever think the people who fight these dogs would value their lives either?
Donna at Bad Rap, always the optimist, nicely put it:
"Welcome to the New World, bust dogs. From here on out, you will be counted among the many shelter animals who are also counting on humans to give them a second chance at a real life."
The news is being greeted with skepticism around the animal welfare world.
Katie is wondering how an organization that only months ago encouraged Wilkes County, NC to kill 127 dogs, many of them young puppies -- some even born in the shelter - -can do a 180 on this topic in such a short amount of time.
Even Christie is a little skeptical (she has a great overview on everything that's well worth the read).
Who can blame them. HSUS hasn't always been the best of friends when it comes to 'pit bull' type dogs -- or any breeds of dogs for that matter. They've earned the skepticism.
I am surprisingly optimistic. Not because I trust HSUS . I don't. But because the animal welfare communities -- the people who are in the trenches every day saving the lives of animals -- has demanded change and gotten it. The people who truly care about saving the lives of animals and live their lives every day doing it, have charted a new course for animal welfare in this country. Without HSUS's leadership - - in fact, in SPITE of HSUS's "leadership" - the animal welfare community has changed how they view the humane movement.
And that is very powerful indeed.
And in the end, it will be great for the animals....which is what it's all about.