Tuesday, February 24, 2009

HSUS Policy Shift

Today, we have something more than Mardi Gras to celebrate. Towards the end of the day on Monday, RPB received word that HSUS had introduced an interim policy that, get this, instructs decision makers in bust dogs cases to evaluate the dogs as individuals! Yes, you read right - HSUS' long-standing policy which called for the automatic descruction of dogs seized in fighting raids is being reviewed in April. Thanks to the hard work of Best Friends and other Pit Bull advocacy groups on this one. The internet is abuzz today with talk about this exciting news.

A meeting of the minds

February 23, 2009 : 8:44 PM ET
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.

Wayne Pacelle, chief executive officer and president of the Humane Society of the United States, 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.

Pacelle said the meeting, scheduled for April, will include the participation of national stakeholder organizations that deal with pit bulls. The meeting was in the planning stages before Superior Court Judge Ed Wilson Jr. ruled that 145 pit bulls, including approximately 70 puppies, confiscated from Wildside Kennels in Wilkes County, North Carolina, would be euthanized without evaluation to determine suitability for placement.

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.

“I am pleased to discuss these issues with personnel from Best Friends and other organizations interested in the welfare of pit bulls.”

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.”

Best Friends, through its campaign, “Pit Bulls: Saving America’s Dogs,” is looking forward working cooperatively with HSUS, according to Castle.

The campaign is aimed in part at educating the public and the media about pit bulls in order to help save the breed’s reputation. “Our goal is to bring positive change to lives and image of pit bulls,” she said.

Written by Best Friends staff
Photo of Meryl, a Vicktory dog, by Gary Kalpakoff

We ARE making progress, and this latest victory comes at a much needed time, when many of us are still reeling over the descruction of the Wilkesboro, NC bust dogs. These dogs - and others - haven't died in vain. Not only has this case been the seeming catalyst for change at HSUS, but it gave birth to a fight bust dog coalition consisting of concerned Pit Bull groups - RPB included - with Best Friends at the helm. Is 2009 showing more promising things for Pit Bulls than any previous year in recent memory? You betcha!

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