I am writing to correct a number of statements made by hunting columnist Don Steese in his attack on the work of The Humane Society of the United States, the nation's largest animal protection organization (Don Steese column, Aug. 4).
The the Humane Society of the United States and its affiliates provided direct care for more than 76,000 animals last year alone -- rescued from puppy mills, cruelty and hoarding cases, animal fighting rings, natural disasters and other crises. But our primary role is to prevent cruelty before animals end up homeless and in distress, and that's why we have national campaigns to stop animal fighting, puppy mills, the exotic wildlife trade, inhumane factory farming practices and other large-scale abuses. Guidestar's Philanthropedia experts have ranked the Humane Society of the United States as the highest impact animal protection organization and we receive high ratings for charitable accountability from Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau.
The court ruling mentioned by Steese did not exonerate Ringling Bros. on the question of whether it mistreats elephants in its circus. In fact, the court never decided the case, in which the Humane Society of the United States was never even a party, finding instead that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue to protect elephants.
The judge left unchecked the abusive training and control methods, such as the bullhook, typically utilized by circuses. A bullhook is a pointed spike with a hook at the end, which is used to poke, prod, strike and hit animals in order to "train" them -- all for a few moments of human amusement.
There is growing momentum against the use of such methods to train elephants. A court in Los Angeles recently prohibited the use of bullhooks on elephants at the Los Angeles Zoo. And last fall, the U.S. Department of Agriculture hit Ringling Bros. with a $270,000 fine -- the largest penalty ever leveled under the federal Animal Welfare Act.
President and CEO,
The Humane Society of the United States