Retired military dogs deserve a new leash on life

Mankind has always had a special relationship with dogs.

For thousands of years, dogs have comforted us, protected us, and given us their unconditional love. Time and time again through the ages they have proven why they are considered our best friends.  And nowhere is that remarkable bond between dogs and people been more critical than on the battlefield.

Soldiers have been relying on these four-footed comrades-in-arms since the beginning of organized warfare.

The Romans were known to have use dogs in their military campaigns to disrupt and overwhelm the enemy. During the Civil War, dogs were reported to have been used to guard soldiers. In the course of World War I, thousands of dogs were used as couriers. During the second World War, the Marines used dogs in the Pacific archipelago to locate enemy positions. And in Vietnam some 4,000 dogs were used to lead jungle patrols, saving many lives.

More recently, some 2,500 military working dogs and contract working dogs worked side by side with our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. And most famously, a Belgian Malinois war dog named Cairo was an integral part of the Navy SEALs team that helped kill America’s arch-nemesis Usama Bin Laden during a daring raid in 2011.

Today, military dogs are more important than ever in keeping our service men and women safe. With noses that are 100,000 times more sensitive than humans’ giving them an unparalleled ability to sniff out and detect weapons caches and Improvised Explosive Devices, it is estimated that each military working dog saves the lives of between 150-200 soldiers.

When not keeping our warriors out of harm’s way, the dogs provide our troops with companionship and an invaluable sense of normalcy and home under almost unimaginable circumstances.

Clearly a war dog is a soldier’s best friend.

That’s certainly true for U.S. Army Staff Sergeant James Harrington, who served for four years with Military Working Dog Ryky, a seven-year-old Belgian Malinois, to locate hidden explosives. Ryky served with him on two combat deployments in Iraq from 2008 to 2009 and in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011, working with Special Operations on especially dangerous tasks. One day, their convoy was ambushed and the two sprang into action. They left the vehicle with no regard for their own safety and cleared a path to the damaged lead vehicle, allowing the injured soldiers to escape. For his remarkable courage under fire Ryky was awarded the K-9 Medal for Exceptional Service.

Faced daily with life or death situations, the bond between these dogs and those who work with them is nearly unbreakable. Yet when our human warriors end their tours of duty and return home, their faithful military dogs do not always follow.

We applaud the efforts of the military and animals lovers everywhere for the progress that has been made to bring home our military heroes.  But some of these heroes are slipping through the cracks.

If a military working dog is retired in a non-combat zone overseas, then the military does not provide transportation home since they are no longer considered military dogs, and therefore, not legally allowed to be transported on military aircraft.

The solution is simple:  Military working dogs should be brought home to U.S. soil before being retired. And, their former handlers, who have the strongest bond with these animals, should be given the first chance to adopt.

We believe this should be the case for all our military war dogs. Furthermore, there are no regulations to bring home the many contract working dogs (CWDs) owned by private companies. While many contractors are doing a good job to care for and repatriate these animals, we would like to see some requirements in the government contracts for such private companies to ensure their well-being and return them to U.S. soil, again for adoption by their former handlers if possible.

A second and vitally important issue is the veterinary care for these hero dogs, regardless of contract or military classification. While the Secretary of Defense may establish a system for the medical care of retired working dogs, such regulations prohibit federal funding.  We call on the private sector to embrace the health and wellbeing of these retired hero dogs by funding a veterinary care program with American Humane Association.

This is why we are taking to Capitol Hill today with three military hero dog teams we recently reunited, including Sgt. Harrington and Ryky, to talk about the need to bring home all of our warrior dogs and reunite them with their hero handlers.

American Humane Association has been working with Mission K9 Rescue to bring home these hero dogs so they, too, can enjoy a hero’s welcome and a happy, healthy retirement after a lifetime of service to their country. In June Sgt. Harrington was reunited with Ryky. Now, he says he plans to “let her be a dog and chill out on the couch – she’s earned it.”

We think all war dogs have.

This article originally appeared on Fox News on June 23, 2014. 

Animal welfare: There are three humane choices for egg-laying hens

The egg has always generated conversation, beginning with its debatable role preceding the chicken. Recent news and legislation advance the chicken-egg relationship further by defining space requirements and additional welfare considerations for egg-laying hens and other farm animals.

Unfortunately, some important issues have been lost in the debate.

Many egg producers, retailers and consumers are concerned that mandating only one type of egg production as meeting humane standards could create serious issues. For example, mandating cage-free eggs as the only type of humane eggs could increase the cost of eggs to the point of being unaffordable for many people.

Consumers should have food choices that are safe, affordable and humane. American Humane Association certifies 90 percent of all cage-free eggs in the United States; however, we support — and certify — three kinds of egg production that meet rigorous humane standards, as defined by independent leading scientific experts.

Although cage-free eggs are one of the humane choices, the new enriched colony housing system provides a reasonably priced, humane alternative to conventional caged eggs. Other humane egg-production systems provide free range and pasture access for laying hens.

In each certified housing system, hens move about freely, engage in natural behaviors and have enrichments such as nest boxes, perches and scratch areas, allowing a chicken to be a chicken.

  • Enriched colony housing provides a small flock of birds room to move about freely and express their natural behaviors. More and more farmers are converting from old cramped cages to this humane housing for hens as retailers and consumers expect higher animal-welfare standards.
  • Cage-free systems give hens room to roam around on litter, elevated perches, nest boxes and areas to peck and scratch. Hens in cage-free housing may have access to the outdoors.
  • Free-range and pasture systems provide birds with daytime access to outdoor areas. The hens have access to sheltered areas at night and during inclement weather. Eggs that have the American Humane Certified label “free-range” require at least one acre per 2,000 hens. Eggs that have the American Humane Certified label “Raised on Pasture” require at least two and a half acres per 1,000 hens. Pastures must be rotated regularly. Hens must be provided water, shade and shelter from predators and wild birds.

American Humane Association is the only animal-welfare organization certifying three different humane choices for eggs, recognizing that retailers and consumers should have humane egg choices that are not only safe and affordable, but ethical and defensible. We expect all producers who raise hens for eggs to prioritize the care of their birds in order to achieve the finest quality eggs.

This article originally appeared on The National Provisioner on June 14, 2014.

The National Provisioner : Animal welfare is about much more than animals

pigs, pork, animal welfareThere was a time in our culture when many consumers were more connected to food and agriculture. Citizens knew a farmer or grew up near a farm, milk was delivered directly to people’s doorsteps, and consumers regularly visited their neighborhood butcher.

Yet business consolidation, innovation and technology dramatically changed this way of life, seemingly right before our eyes.

Similarly, animal welfare in food production is no longer just about farmers and ranchers and the way they treat their animals. It is now part of a comprehensive food system that includes consumers, retailers and restaurants, government and regulatory agencies, NGOs, auditors and certifiers, and educators. Our food system is predicated on a model of safety and affordability while aspiring to a balance that is moral and defensible.

With this evolution, the issue of animal welfare has become increasingly complex, resulting in the emergence of ethical and science-based standards.

In the late 1990s, a small movement began to address how animals were raised in food production. Thanks to advances in agricultural and environmental science, farmers were able to maximize the efficiency of their land, equipment and animals, leading to a plentiful supply of affordable food for a growing population.

In 1930, one farmer could feed 10 people, yet today’s farmer provides food to more than 150 people, a 15-fold increase. As the industry flourished, government agencies became burdened with oversight and regulation for safe products and adherence to basic production standards.

This then led to a gap — more like a chasm — between the way animals were being raised for food and how they were being treated in the process.

With rapid expansion and consumer demand, the food system became production-centric with little incentive to maintain higher animal-welfare standards. Aided by technology, machinery and business management, the detachment between farmer and animal grew larger, often at the expense of basic ethical principles.

In 2000, American Humane Association stepped in to create American Humane Certified, the first third-party animal-welfare audit program in the United States.

Recognizing most consumers seek safe and affordable food choices, including animal protein, American Humane Association made a decision to work in collaboration with farmers and ranchers to bring science-based, humane standards to ensure the welfare of animals in the production of food. A few progressive farmers voluntarily became early adopters of the certification process, as did an initial set of concerned consumers who were willing to pay a little more to ensure that the animals raised for food production were treated with compassionate principles and standards for humane handling.

Over the last few years, the negative attention and public perception of modern agriculture systems, including so-called “factory farms,” has grown. This social crusade has been propelled by hundreds of undercover videos documenting severe violations and often horrific incidences from both name-brand producers and smaller, lesser-known producers. A shift from niche activist blog posts to mainstream media coverage was an early indicator that consumer demand, in relation to the food supply, was going beyond the traditional constructs of economics. Now it is impossible to ignore.

With current legislative efforts to prohibit animal alteration practices and certain types of basic shelter, among other humane standards, the movement for transparency and desire for food labeling is intensifying. Not surprisingly, consumers are heavily invested in this trend. According to the Center for Culinary Development (as reported in a March 2012 story in QSR magazine), individuals in the Millennial generation focus heavily on what they eat, and how and where it was raised.

As consumers reconnect with food and agriculture, farmers markets have sprouted across the country, and “farm-to-table” is becoming a household term.

Animal welfare, however, must remain attainable for all Americans — not only those who can afford premium or niche products. Standards rooted in scientific assertion and evidence are critical for industry-wide acceptance and credibility, so consumers can be assured any animals raised for food were treated humanely.

These basic standards include adequate space in which an animal can stand up, turn around or extend its limbs or wings; enrichments by which an animal can express its natural behavior, such as nesting and perching, rooting, pecking and scratching, or lying down; access to others of their species; and elimination of painful procedures.

Humane standards covered by the American Humane Certified program are ethical and defensible, yet they are realistic and accommodate the majority of food shoppers who cannot afford to pay higher prices for their food. American Humane Association educates and trains farmers and ranchers about the science behind its standards and the processes necessary for ethical animal handling. As of today, the program has certified the humane treatment of nearly 1 billion farm animals, representing about 10 percent of the entire U.S. farm animal production. Though not a large percentage, it is significant to a growing body of consumers and industry advocates championing a change for higher standards.

Animal welfare is a process of continuous improvement, and farmers and ranchers are a critical part of the solution. Championing positive action — away from production-centric practices and toward animal-centric standards — and doing so within a framework of realistic and attainable goals, will produce long-term changes and a more transparent food supply with lasting cultural, environmental and economic advantages.

The time to join this movement is now. Today’s ranchers and farmers must be able to assure the public of their humane standards for animals. “Trust me” isn’t enough. Credible, third-party audits and rigorous, science-based standards make up the new model.

Although many Americans may never again have the personal relationship with their neighborhood farmer, rancher or butcher enjoyed by previous generations, we can assure rational protections for as many animals raised for food as possible and reconnect consumers with food and agriculture in a way that brings benefits to all involved.

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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.

Celebrate #GivingTuesday by Giving Back

It’s Giving Tuesday, Celebrate by Giving Back

#IGiveFor #GivingTuesday
We hope you had a wonderful, stress-free holiday weekend. I’m sure many of you braved the crowds at your local stores, or went online to take advantages of the deals offered up by Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And after the dust has settled on some of the busiest shopping days of the year, we turn our focus to Giving Tuesday, the day that celebrates giving back.

Organizations like American Humane Association depend on the generous contributions of supporters like you. And thanks to you, we’ve been able to carry on our mission of spreading compassion, caring, and hope for a more humane world since 1877. Just this year, we were able to give back to America’s children and animals in many meaningful ways.

Ways American Humane Association Gave in 2013

  • Following the terror attack that struck the city of Boston in April 2013, we provided the healing power of the human-animal bond through animal-assisted therapy to children, students, families, first responders and anyone needing comfort and hope around the city.
  • Launched the pilot chapter of the LIFE Humane Heroes Club at a Florida elementary school. This new after-school program features a curriculum that will teach children the importance of being humane and making a more compassionate world for people, pets, and the world we share. This program will soon be implemented at schools nationwide.
  • Through our Second Chance® Fund we helped to pay the medical costs for 20 Chihuahuas that were stuffed into a coffin and left to die in the scorching sun. With love, care and medical attention, they are slowly learning to trust again and that not all people are bad.
  • In May 2013, following a devastating EF 5 tornado, our Red Star™ team deployed to help the community of Moore, Oklahoma. During our 30 days in Oklahoma—our longest deployment since Hurricane Katrina—we rescued and sheltered more than 200 animals. This deployment marked the debut of our new Lois Pope LIFE Rescue Vehicle, which traveled from its home base of South Florida to help the animals of Oklahoma in need.
  • Our Red Star™ Animal Assisted Therapy volunteers provided therapy dogs to 15 summer camps and family retreats hosted by National Military Families Association for children and families of our nation’s military.
  • In August 2013, we concluded the pilot trial of its Canines and Childhood Cancer study, a groundbreaking research effort to evaluate and document the benefits of animal-assisted therapy for children with cancer. A full clinical trial is expected to begin in late 2013.
  • In August 2013, our Red Star™ team worked in collaboration with other state and national animal organizations, caring and sheltering more than 250 animals rescued from a dog fighting ring spread across four states.
  • In September 2013, as part of a coordinated response to the flooding in Colorado, Red Star deployed to assist pets in need and to help provide emergency rescue operations. Working feverishly to help those in need, Red Star  and other animal rescue groups rescued over 146 animals, including dogs, cats, ducks, chickens and turtles.
  •  The 2013 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™ campaign named therapy dog Elle—a pit bull who teaches children how to read and about dog safety—as this year’s top Hero Dog.
  • In October 2013, the country’s first National Fire Dog Monument, honoring the brave work of arson dogs and their handlers, was unveiled and dedicated in our nation’s capital.
  • Held the first ever Cat Health and Welfare Forum, tackling head-on many of the issues that face America’s most popular pet.


But Giving Tuesday is more than just giving charitable contributions to organizations like American Humane Association. There are so many ways you can help and give back to your community.

  • Support American Humane Association’s mission and programs, protecting both children and animals by Donating
  • Pledge to help create a better, more humane and compassionate world for all of us
  • Share our message with your friends and family – Be sure to tag @AmericanHumane #IGiveFor
  • Volunteer at your local animal shelter. Find your local pet shelter using PetFinder
  • Volunteer to read to children at your local library. Find your local library here
  • Donate grocery store gift cards to your local homeless shelter. Find your local homeless shelter!
  • Donate food to your local pet food pantry. Find your local pet food pantry here
  • Sponsor a child by participating in a holiday tree in your local mall or at a local school
  • Become an American Humane Association Red Star volunteer
  • Serve a “Humane Table” this holiday season
  • See if your pet has what it takes to become a registered therapy animal, brightening the days of hospital patients, the elderly, and more. Click here

Thank you for all you do to make Giving Tuesday such a special day for so many.

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.