Q&A with Pam McAlwee, Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation

We had a great conversation with a rescue professional this week. Pam McAlwee runs the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation (LDCRF), a Virginia-based organization that has worked with the Humane Society of the US in the past. Most recently, LDCRF has taken on some of the dogs rescued in the Gulf oil spill response. Pam spoke openly about her experiences with HSUS and disaster relief operations. HWI: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and Lost Dog Rescue? Pam: Lost Dog Rescue started in 2001, and basically, we just started taking dogs out of more rural shelters, dogs that were getting ready to be put to sleep, and transporting them into the Northern Virginia area which is heavily populated. And it just didn’t seem like the shelters here often had a very high inventory, so we transported dogs from a couple hours away, and adopted them out at local PetSmarts and venues like that. HWI: Tell us about your involvement with disaster relief efforts with the HSUS. Pam: The HSUS has called upon us to see if we could help them take some dogs through the program, because they’re on a raid or whatever. If we have room and can help, we try to help them. We’ll take several of their dogs and try to place them. HWI: Is there any sort of compensation from the HSUS for this? Pam: No, this is something that we do. The HSUS will fix them and get some of their shots together, on some of the dogs. Some of the dogs we’ve gotten have come in fully vetted, and some have come in with no vetting — it’s more of an emergency situation, where they’ve really got to move the dogs. HWI: And if you’re at capacity, do you just say no, we can’t take these dogs? Pam: Yeah, it’s up to you; there’s no pressure, they just ask if there’s any way you could help with some of these dogs, and they give you the background of what’s going on. HWI: How would you characterize your interactions with the HSUS? I’ve heard people describe it as an adversarial relationship where you want to help the dogs, but there’s a certain amount of conflict with the HSUS over who should foot the bill. Pam: I’ve heard that too, but honestly, I believe that the HSUS helps these animals. If they’re going to give us some unvetted dogs, we know that up front. I don’t expect anything from the Humane Society, because that’s not what their mission is. Sure, when they pay to vet the dogs and have them spayed and neutered prior to taking them, it makes our decision a little easier on how much we can help. I’ve heard people being negative, thinking that the Humane Society should pay the bill for ALL dogs, or all the dogs they rescue. The way I look at it is, we’re rescue, but we’re just a Band-aid on this whole huge problem. We need folks like the Humane Society to stay out of putting the dogs in the home, and focus their energy more on the causes. A lot of rescues get irritated with them because they’re not rescue-minded. We don’t really want them to be. We want them to address the bigger issues, so the rescues aren’t as overloaded. HWI: So, they should focus on the legislative issues and things that improve the situation long-term? Pam: Yes, exactly. HWI: Has your Foundation benefited from any of the publicity surrounding the rescue efforts? Pam: I think the publicity helps. It gets people looking at the website, and gets people interested in dogs to adopt, which is what we really want. Any publicity is beneficial, and I think working with the Humane Society, people have a little more respect for your group as being legitimate.
We thank Pam and the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation for taking the time to share their perspective with us. We love LDCRF and the terrific work they’re doing every day to place dogs in permanent, loving homes. Visit them on the web at www.lostdogrescue.org, follow them on Facebook, and please consider supporting this wonderful charity with a donation.

Protecting piglets

I am befuddled! In the past few months, I have engaged in numerous interactions with people purported to be involved in the animal agriculture industry regarding efforts by animal protection groups to eliminate the extreme confinement of pigs on farms. Most of these “farmers” claim that the elimination of gestation crates would be catastrophic to the little piglets. You see, sometimes sows aren’t the greatest or most attentive of mothers and their piglets need to be protected from them – as sows may accidentally roll over on their piglets or even possibly intentionally injure or kill them. Well, I thought, that seems logical — so naturally we wouldn’t want to eliminate gestation crates. And then I did a little research. This topic came to my attention recently as Ohioans for Humane Farms was collecting signatures to get a measure on the ballot to, among other things, eliminate gestation crates for sows. When I did my research, I found out that millions of sows are housed in gestation crates during their four-month pregnancies. The average sow has 2 to 2.5 litters per year and as a result, assuming she is free from the crate when she is not pregnant, which is doubtful, she ultimately spends about 70 – 85% of her life in a crate so small that she is unable to turn around, extend her limbs, or lie down comfortably. I also found out, simply by reading the language of the ballot measure, that an exception was made for the use of farrowing crates. Farrowing crates are housing units into which sows are moved shortly before the birth of their piglets. Farrowing crates allow the mother to lie down so that her piglets can nurse, but the piglets are actually housed in a separate adjoining crate so as to protect them from being injured by the sow. Several studies have shown that farrowing crates typically do not improve mortality rates over outdoor systems, but that point is not relevant to this discussion as the animal welfare measure in Ohio specifically allows for the use of farrowing crates. In fact, of the seven states that have already passed measures to eliminate gestation crates, not one has eliminated the use of farrowing crates. Which leads me to my point of befuddlement. How is it that I, as a city girl, with no professional or practical experience in farming, understand the difference between gestation and farrowing crates and the average farmer doesn’t appear to? Perhaps it’s not that they don’t understand the difference — could it be that they assume that I, as a city girl, with no professional or practical experience in farming, wouldn’t care enough to learn about the issue? By falsely promoting gestation crates as the great protector of piglets, does the industry think the tide of public opinion on extreme confinement will turn? Most people are against the extreme confinement of animals in agriculture, and the industry knows that. So I suppose they choose to simply misinform people and hope they don’t do their homework. Yes, that is a cynical view of the animal agriculture industry, but frankly I’d be less shocked by that than the possibility that farmers really do not know the difference between these types of housing systems.

An open letter to David Martosko

Dear Mr. Martosko:

Last week, you posted an article claiming that HSUS was responsible for a series of posts with phony names. [ URL: http://humanewatch.org/index.php/site/post/sockpuppetry_and_other_hsus_shenanigans/ ]

On July 3rd, on the HumaneWatch.info blog, we publicly challenged you and Dr. Khuly to back up your allegations with whatever evidence you possess. [ URL: http://humanewatch.info/blog/2010/07/03/sockpuppets-and-slander/ ]

Thus far, neither you nor Dr. Khuly have presented any evidence verifying your claims. Nothing. In fact, you have not responded to our inquiries, you have suppressed comments inquiring about the issue, and seem to be desperately avoiding the subject.

In light of your actions and in the absence of any proof substantiating your claims, we are forced to conclude that you have made intentionally false statements defaming the Humane Society of the United States.

However, our offer stands: if you would like to present your evidence or a statement defending your claims, we will gladly publish it verbatim. (Unlike HumaneWatch.org, we do not suppress the truth or dissenting opinions. We have great confidence in our readers’ intelligence. Why don’t you?)

On behalf of the staff of HumaneWatch.info, I look forward to your reply.

John Doppler Schiff
Webmaster, HumaneWatch.info

Update, 7/8/2010: HumaneWatch.org’s mail servers are currently rejecting email. We will have to wait to deliver this email. In the meantime, we will send this message by postal mail.

Sockpuppets and slander

The Liars for Hire are really showing their desperation today. David Martosko of CCF has posted a new article accusing the HSUS of posting comments under a phony identity. Leaving aside the irony of a corporate front group accusing anyone of being a sock puppet, CCF has once again abandoned facts in favor of unsubstantiated accusations. Martosko writes:
“By trying to hide your identity when you leave a comment, you’re trying to influence everyone else’s perception of how credible the article is by pretending to be a disinterested third party who’s just offering a fair critique… And at least one Humane Society of the United States employee has been busy doing just that, on a popular blog written by a prominent veterinarian.”
Martosko points to a blog by veterinarian Patty Khuly, who didn’t bother verifying the CCF propaganda she quoted in her article questioning HSUS. Khuly later admitted that giving any credence to HumaneWatch.org was a mistake, but in the same breath, accused the HSUS of masquerading under a phony identity:
“You’re all right on HumaneWatch, but to write against me (and it) unverified names only to have me trace your real email addys back to the HSUS is a serious breach of ethics.”
That’s a serious accusation, a potentially libelous claim that any prudent person would be reluctant to level publicly without substantial evidence. So, attention, Dr. Khuly and HumaneWatch.org: we’re calling you out. Let’s see the proof.
  • Show us the email address you have allegedly traced to the Humane Society of the US.
  • Show us the log entries with the IP address originating from HSUS networks.
  • Show us proof that the email address was not fabricated or spoofed.
  • Show us proof that the post was the act of an official HSUS employee.
And if you can’t come up with at least one bit of evidence, perhaps you should consult your lawyers about how to phrase your apology and retraction. Dr. Khuly, Mr. Martosko, we’re waiting for your response. Contact us and we’ll be happy to publish your responses verbatim.
Update, Monday 7/12: We had a frank and very enlightening discussion with Dr. Khuly today! Dr. Khuly is preparing a response for both her Fully Vetted blog and for HumaneWatch.info, and we’ll publish it here as soon as we receive it. We were impressed with Dr. Khuly’s intelligence and integrity on the phone today, and look forward to her clarification. We have sent several emails to David Martosko, but the HumaneWatch.org mail server has been rejecting all email. (CCF’s “Director of Research” is a former opera major. I wonder what experience their “Director of IT” has? Shoe salesman?) Although today’s email appears to have gone through, we have sent a copy of our open letter to CCF via postal mail just in case.