Vets Back in School!

This is an exciting time for me and the No Animals Were Harmed™ program. In an effort to keep up with the demands of the film industry and continue to give our animal actors the best protection possibly, we’ve added to our family of Certified Animal Safety Representatives: We’ve hired seven veterinarians! This will bolster an already stellar team, giving a dose of medical science and credentials. These licensed vets will be positioned in key states around the country where movie-making is highest.

Dr. Genna Mize and Melissa Wren studying hard!

Dr. Genna Mize and Melissa Wren studying hard!

We started their training just a few days ago. In the classroom and in the field, they’ll get a heavy dose of the many moving parts that make of that make up AHA’s Film ad TV unit (I love the pics below because it reminds me of being back in school). They’re hard at work learning our guidelines and protocols, being taught by three of our most seasoned Safety Reps – Netta, Susan and Beth (thank you, guys!).

The Group visits the ranch of renowned animal trainer Mark Forbes for some personal instruction.

The Group visits the ranch of renowned animal trainer Mark Forbes for some personal instruction.

In about a month they will be up and running, giving personal oversight to our animal stars on commercial, TV and film sets. I’m happy and proud to have some of my colleagues join us in this good work as we advance the cause of protecting these wonderful working animals. The public expects it, and the animals certainly deserve it!

A New Year for Compassion

Thank you to all our supporters for helping make 2013 our most successful year ever in building a more humane world for children and animals. Together, we touched more than one billion lives with programs that brought comfort, caring and hope to the most vulnerable in their times of greatest need. In the year ahead we are working to do even more. Here are just a few of the exciting projects we have slated for 2014:

  •  American Humane Association will be releasing the first “State of America’s Children” report, exploring the most pressing issues and threats to the nation’s young people. This will be a companion piece to our yearly “State of America’s Animals” report
  • We are launching the full clinical trial of our “Canines and Childhood Cancer Study” with Zoetis to explore the healing power of the human-animal bond in helping children with cancer
  •  Our Humane Research and Therapy™ program is seeking funding for a unique study, “Canines, Kids and Autism,” a collaboration with the nonprofit Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) that seeks to uncover the genetic basis of obsessive-compulsive disorder in dogs and provide clues to the treatment of children with autism
  • In our ongoing campaign to bring our famed Red Star™ rescue services to help children, animals, families, and communities affected by disasters, we are working to expand our growing fleet of emergency response vehicles and base a rescue rig on the West Coast
  •  We are kicking off the fourth year of the country’s favorite awards show, the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™, celebrating heroes on both ends of the leash. Nominations are now open at
  • We are expanding our efforts to create a more humane world for animals in entertainment and those on our nation’s farms and ranches through enhancements and growth in our “No Animals Were Harmed®” and Humane Heartland™ programs.
  • Our new radio show, “Be Humane™ with Dr. Robin Ganzert,” has just launched and will feature breaking news in the humane space, as well as fun and thought-provoking interviews with some of America’s best-known experts and biggest stars who happen to be animal lovers. I hope you’ll join me to find out what’s happening around the world in the humane space…and to have a little fun, as well. You can tune in for a brand-new show weekly starting each Tuesday at

None of this would have been possible without the caring, compassion and commitment of millions of our supporters. Our grateful thanks go to each and every one of you for making last year such a success and laying the groundwork for a fresh year of victories for kids and animals. Together we will continue to make the world a more humane place for them….and all of us.

American Humane Association Responds to The Hollywood Reporter

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 25 – The Hollywood Reporter recently ran a story that distorts the work and record of a respected nonprofit organization that has kept millions of beloved animal actors safe on film and television sets around the world for more than 70 years.

The article paints a picture that is completely unrecognizable to us or anyone who knows American Humane Association’s work. Far from allowing abuse or neglect to occur, we have a remarkably high safety record of 99.98 percent on set. Over a span of many years, despite our best efforts, there have occasionally been rare accidents, most of them minor and not intentional. Regrettably, there have even been some deaths, which upset us greatly, but in many of the cases reported, they had nothing to do with the animals’ treatment on set, or occurred when the animals were not under our care. For example:

  • The article claimed that a dog suffering from cancer died during the production of “Our Idiot Brother.”Sadly, a dog did take ill and was indeed diagnosed with cancer, but the illness was not work-related and was not due to any activity related to production.
  • The article suggested that a horse died during post-production after being filmed for “War Horse.” What it does not say however is that AHA’s jurisdiction does not extend to post-production and transit. In fact, the horse mentioned finished its work and was checked out of production. In transit home, according to a veterinarian, it died of natural causes.
  • The article seemed to lay blame for 27 animal deaths during “The Hobbit” when in fact the animals were not under AHA’s jurisdiction or authority in any way. We only monitor animals when they are on the set. When we heard reports months afterwards that animals might have died on a working farm there, we voluntarily sent representatives out to the farm to inspect it and make safety recommendations, which were instituted by production at considerable cost, ensuring better welfare for all the animals on the farm. We were transparent with all the details and our outrage over the regrettable loss of life. Here is our official public statement we made at the time for the record:

When a Certified Safety Representative is on the set and an incident occurs, the animal stops working, is given veterinary care and not allowed to return to work until it is reported sound by the attending veterinarian. This practice is vital. Recognizing injury is vital to preventing abuse from occurring, thus providing humane protections for animal actors. Although the article criticizes the distinction between accidental injury and intentional harm, that is precisely why the program exists – to reasonably make that distinction. This program is about prevention and as with any good safety program, American Humane Association is continually improving.

Under the new senior administration of American Humane Association, a comprehensive program review of the No Animals Were Harmed® program was conducted in 2011 and 2012. These actions are bringing about game-changing innovations and enhancements that are being implemented to further increase the rigor of the safety standards while improving the quality of oversight for enhanced protections for animals working in entertainment. This new administration has made broad, sweeping changes for enhanced protections for animals working in film and entertainment. These changes were necessary, mission-driven, and will continue to build a better and safer future for the animals we love. The improvements include:

  1. The creation of a Scientific Advisory Committee, composed of global experts in animal welfare, who are right now reviewing our comprehensive and science-based “Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media” – the bible of the industry – to make sure we are doing everything possible to protect animal actors and include the newest findings and research on animal welfare
  2. We have brought on Dr. Kwane Stewart, a respected veterinarian, to head the program and bring a new level of rigor and science to our mission and passion to protect the animals in our care
  3. As part of our efforts to further improve safety, we recently posted positions to hire licensed veterinarians to serve as our Certified Safety Representatives, and place them in geographic areas across the country where high volumes of filmmaking occurs, including Texas, New Mexico, New York, and Louisiana. We are top-tiering our staff to bring an even higher level of expertise to our important work, and basing our safety reps closer to sets, which will help keep down travel and housing costs for the charity
  4. Earlier this year, we implemented a policy that if any animal is seriously injured or dies on set to commission an independent, third-party investigation to find out what happened so that we may prevent as much as is possible such incidents in the future

American Humane Association has made tough changes to ensure that the No Animals Were Harmed® program is structured to meet the humane charter with which we have been entrusted. It’s all about the animal actors and ensuring their safety. Abuse in film and entertainment is not pervasive, as the salacious headlines imply; rather our experience is that most everyone we work with in production settings want to do right by the animals, as do we.

We are extremely proud of the work American Humane Association has done for more than 70 years to protect millions of animals on movie and television production sets. We are a mission-driven small nonprofit that has not only worked to protect animals working in film and entertainment across the country and around the globe, we have done so by utilizing millions of dollars of our own funds so that the certified animal safety representatives could be on more than 2,000 sets a year, making sure that some 100,000 of our most beloved animal co-stars are treated humanely and kept safe each and every year.

For us, the welfare of the animals always comes first, which is reflected by our remarkable safety rate of 99.98 percent. Our overall record for years is one of caring and success.

Letter of Support from International Animal Welfare Association (IAWA)

The International Animal Welfare Association (IAWA) is a non-profit association consisting of animal owners, trainers and caretakers who participate with their animals in the entertainment, education and zoological industries. Our members were both shocked and saddened to see the recent misleading article authored by Mr.Gary Baum and posted in the Hollywood Reporter (THR), a historical publication in the California film and television industry. The article blatantly and irresponsibly attacked the American Humane Association (AHA), a 136 year old none-profit and “true” animal welfare organization. It also attacked animal owners/trainers and the film industry that utilizes animals in film and television today, the very industry that is the foundation of THR. The article’s editorial, as well as its extremely sensationalistic illustrations, were misleading and undeserving to say the least. Although its author later suggested on television that the article was aimed at bettering the lives of animals used in his industry, we felt it was clearly representative of extremist activist’s opinions, suggesting that all animals should be removed from any form of human care and custody.


In answer to just a few of those misleading comments written in the article, we urge all to visit the AHA website and read their response to THR’s attack, a response we feel is far more transparent and worthy of reading. Their response included facts to clarify several of the inflated and misrepresented scenarios described in the article such as:

  • The article claimed that a dog suffering from cancer died during the production of “Our Idiot Brother.” Sadly, a dog did take ill and was indeed diagnosed with cancer, but the illness was in no way work-related and certainly was not due to any activity related to the production or poor treatment by its owner or handlers.
  • The article also suggested that a horse died during post-production (after the animal left the set and was no longer a participant on the show) after being filmed for “War Horse.” What it does not say however is that AHA’s jurisdiction does not extend to post-production or transit. In fact, the horse mentioned, finished its work and was checked out of production. In transit home, according to a veterinarian, it died of natural causes that could have just as easily happened if it were being returned home from a recreational trail ride.

Another claim listed in the article spoke of horses that suffered from colic on the show “There will be blood”. As stated in a report authored by the renown UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in California, approximately 920,000 horses suffer from colic every year, 64,000 of those cases which are potentially life threatening to the horse. An extremely few number of those animals are in the entertainment industry but if such an incident happens to a horse that participates in the entertainment industry ~ before, during or after a project ~ extremist activists with hidden and misleading agendas, manipulate the facts to mislead the public into thinking negligence along with the entertainment industry were to blame. We feel THR practiced this very means of deceit in this article. In truth Mr. Baum, tigers love to swim and the possibility of the AHA representative overreacting to a water response she was unfamiliar with during the filming of ”Life of Pi” should not have been dismissed on her word alone.

The extremely lengthy and reckless attack relates unfortunate real life accidents that were beyond the scope of any guideline or human control, to alleged acts of neglect. “Accidents,” as defined by the word itself; unfortunate acts of nature. The only truly means of preventing these incidents would require removing animals from the industry completely. Even then however, such incidents could still very well have happened at someone’s home or zoological institution. In fact, they do happen, every day, but without the colorful and sensational coverage that the movie industry tends to add to the equation. The author hides under a cloud of words such as “internal critics”, “potentially”, “allegedly”, “anonymous”, “allegations” etc…, all aimed at avoiding truth and fact.

In our eyes, accusations quoted in the article by those unwilling to step up to the plate and validate those accusations in person should be held unqualified and untrustworthy! As for their reason for remaining anonymous being the threat of their loosing their jobs, we feel such actions further defines their lack of integrity as they continue working for an organization that they feel is evidently so detrimental to the animals.

The members of IAWA feel it is important for all to know that they work hand in hand with any and all agencies and organizations in an attempt to better the lives of our animals both on and off production sets. We commend those within the industry who support the financial requirements for AHA to accomplish their task, regardless of such articles making slanderous accusations about conflict of interest and wrong doing. One could very well argue that a person’s personal contribution to local non-profit police and fire groups is doing the same thing. Supporting the very individuals who provide us with service. The entertainment organizations (SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP) are simply supporting the only effort currently available to them in order to be a participant in the evolution of their industry. If they did not contribute as a result of the bullying from such articles, the same author would have no doubt attacked them for doing nothing to help better the lives of animals on their productions. Many of us who have businesses are familiar with the clich advertising pitch, “…you can’t afford not to advertise…” but in fact we also know that unless the funds are available in our accounts, we CAN NOT in fact afford some mediums. The article clearly asks AHA to perform outside the scope of their financial ability, further suggesting they are negligent for being unable to do so; again, unfair and unreasonable. Being charged with the extremely expensive cost of caring for animals, IAWA members regret that we could not afford the $30,000.00 price of purchasing a one-time/one page ad in the Hollywood Reporter to fairly respond to the publications unfair use of their platform. We also questioned whether or not we “could afford not to…”, but in the end, our animal’s financial needs were far more deserving of such funding, prohibiting us from doing so.

Animal Training, as with every other aspect of human history, continues to evolve as we gain experience and knowledge in the areas of human and animal relationships. Much of this forerunning has been at the bequest of animal owners and trainers. Given that the article amplifies its sensationalism by citing incidents dated as far back as 1959, we must keep in mind that much like human rights, animal rights have progressed in a similar manner. IAWA members have been and will continue to be participants and initiators in the health and well being of our animal counterparts, both mentally and physically, in and out of the entertainment industry. In doing so, we neither object to or lobby against the use or progress of computer-generated imagery (CGI) in films for we agree there is a clear need for such in order to accomplish shots that could be detrimental to the health and well-being of the animals. In fact, many owners and trainers participate in the creation of CGI libraries.

We continue to feel that all animals can be raised, trained and handled on film and television sets in a manner that is physically and mentally stimulating; a positive and rewarding experience for all concerned. In doing so, the same animals continue to make the tremendous contribution to education, world conservation and family values. We can only hope that THR has not climbed on board the radical extremist bandwagons that dismiss the valuable attention a movie like War Horse brought to all the honorable animal veterans in our nation’s history; or the incredible conservation message “Life of Pi” brought to our world; or the family values TV shows like Lassie, Flipper, Born Free and Tarzan brought into so many homes around the world. The list could go on and on.

We will continue to do our very best to prevent accidents from happening and support any and all efforts to prosecute those truly guilty of neglect but as the NFL will never author a protocol guaranteeing that another player will never again get hurt on their playing fields, and the stunt organizations will never be able to guarantee that one of their members will never again be injured during the making of a film, animal trainers face the same realities. We can only hope such articles will not misrepresent those incidents, dementing our continued efforts to better the lives of our animals on and off film and television sets. No one loves and sacrifices more for them than those of us who wake, live, work and sleep with these animals every day of our lives.


Members of IAWA

What We’re Thankful For

Thank You!On this day of giving thanks, it’s important to reflect back on what’s important to you. I’d like to take a moment to tell you about 10 things American Humane Association is thankful for this Thanksgiving:

  1. Hero Dog Elle and Hero Dogs Everywhere. This pit bull was named the American Hero Dog at the 2013 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™, and it’s easy to see why. She took home top honors in the Therapy Dog Category because of her constant visits to a local retirement home, but she also helps children learn to read and teaches children the importance of dog bite safety. American Humane Association is against breed specific legislation, and Elle is doing wonders to breakdown negative stereotypes for her breed. Truly, we are thankful for all of the Hero Dogs in our lives.
  2. Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 2.31.25 PMOur dedicated Red Star™ volunteers. We couldn’t deploy to some of America’s most dangerous disaster zones without these extraordinary volunteers who give selflessly to rescue and care for animals in distress. This year, Red Star™ traveled to tornado-ravaged Oklahoma and flooded Colorado to save the lives of animals in crisis.
  3. The progressive farmers and ranchers in our American Humane Certified® Humane Heartland Program.  This year, American Humane Association announced that our program now ensures the welfare of nearly 1 billion farm animals, which is 10 percent of all animals raised on America’s farms and ranches! Now it is even easier than ever for consumers to make humane choices at the grocery store. getting-certified
  4. Military families. We salute the service of all men and women in the armed forces, but are also appreciate their families who support them on the home front. We are grateful that the National Military Family Association invites our animal-assisted therapy teams to visit their nationwide Operation Purple camps year after year. It is the least we can do to help brighten the days of the families of America’s bravest. It’s a wonder what a wag and a hug will do to brighten the day of the kids whose parents proudly serve our country!
  5. Scientific Advisory Committee members. These preeminent internationally respected animal welfare experts guide and shape the ever-evolving guidelines for our American Humane Certified® Humane Heartland and “No Animals Were Harmed”® programs, the latter of which has monitored the safety of animal actors on set for more than 70 years at an astonishing 99.98 safety rating. We thank the scientists who give of their time and talents to our humane initiatives.
  6. Our fabulous celebrity supporters. Some of Hollywood’s brightest stars are counted among our most loyal fans. Such luminaries as Betty White and Donny Osmond help us to spread our enduring 136-year old message of compassion, caring, and hope.
  7. Wonderful corporate partners. Through their generous sponsorships we are able to continue our vital work of saving America’s kids and animals, including our groundbreaking humane research initiative on Canines and Childhood Cancer and our recent Cat Health and Welfare Forum. Through their generous support, American Humane Association has led the way in humane research for children, animals, and the power of the human-animal bond.
  8. Child and animal welfare workers. These local heroes do so much every day in our hometown communities rescuing our most precious in time of need and crisis. American Humane Association has long supported their efforts through training and research, and salutes their valuable contributions to making our hometowns more humane. A shout out to our Humane Hero Manny Maciel from Massachusetts for being a special hero to so many!
  9. African American military father hugging familyOur own families and friends. They know the importance of American Humane Association’s 136-year old mission and are always there for us through thick and thin. We cherish getting to spend our holidays with them.
  10. And finally, the support of people like you. We remain ever grateful for the support we have been afforded by the American public since 1877. Every day we go to work to protect billions of the country’s children and animals from cruelty, abuse, and neglect, and we couldn’t do it without you. Whether it’s through generous contributions, liking our Facebook posts, or helping to spread our message of compassion, caring, and hope, thank you.

I hope you enjoy your long weekend, whether you’re spending it with family or friends, watching football, shopping, or even sneaking that extra piece of pie.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at American Humane Association.


Give the Gift of…Giving

Give the gift of givingThis holiday season, one of the greatest challenges each of us face when it comes to shopping for the grandkids is: How much is enough? Children already receive enough toys, electronic games (and the obligatory sweaters) that they can barely appreciate what they get as it is. For those of us who worry that the holidays have become too commercial and too removed from the true spirit in which they were created, it may be time to employ a new strategy – one that brings a little meaning back to what is supposed to be a meaningful time of year.

This year, instead of buying that one extra toy or mobile device, why not give your grandkids the best gift of all…the gift of giving? Teaching a new generation the joys and importance of helping others is one of the greatest lessons we can provide – and it’s so simple.

  • Teach by example: Encourage giving by kids by letting them see your charitable efforts in action. Involve them when you’re volunteering or making your own end-of-year contributions, explaining as you fill out your check or online pledge why you chose a particular cause, what the money will do, and explaining that the donation is coming from the whole family, including them.
  • Start when kids are young. Teach kids that it really is better to give than to receive by making helping others a part of your family’s holiday tradition.
  • Surprise them by making a gift in their name.  When presents are being given out, set aside a box containing “something special” that requires an explanation from you before it is given. Let your child know that the holidays are a special time, and that there are children, animals and others who are not as lucky as they are to have a home, be healthy, or have the food or love they need, much less presents. Then explain that you have made a gift in their name to a charity that will help make a better world and that that your grandchild is part of this effort. Some nonprofits, including American Humane Association, provide handsome downloadable cards that include your name and the child’s name together, along with an explanation of how the gift will be used.

Giving children the “gift of giving” introduces a new generation to the importance of helping others in need. It helps bring families closer and kindles the spirit of the holidays better than any expensive toy or electronic game ever could. And it helps the children themselves, who begin to see how they are part of a larger community and can take pride in knowing they can help make a difference in the world and the lives of others.

And that’s really what the holidays are about.

Make a contribution today