Tag Archives: humane

Rep. Butt’s call for AG probe of Humane Society labeled ‘political attack’

State Rep. Shelia Butt has called for a state investigation into fundraising practices of the Humane Society of the United States, reports the Columbia Daily Herald, while the state director of HSUS says that amounts to a “purely political attack” by a legislator who has a contradictory voting record.

Leighann Lassiter, the Tennessee director for HSUS, also claims Butt used false information from the Internet in asking the state’s attorney general to launch an investigation. Butt has asked the attorney general to issue a “Consumer Alert” to raise public awareness about the group’s “potential fundraising abuses.”

Butt contends HSUS uses deceitful advertising to attract donors while using donations to pay “inflated salaries and promote a liberal anti-agriculture agenda.”

She cites a decision by Charity Navigator — an organization that evaluates charities’ financial information — to place HSUS on its advisory list and similar calls for HSUS investigations in other states as her reasoning to question the organization in Tennessee. Butt also cites recent national polling showing 71 percent of Americans believe the Humane Society is an umbrella group for pet shelters across America.

“Other states are now questioning their fundraising tactics and the use of those funds,” Butt said. “I asked our Attorney General to join Oklahoma in a subpoena to ask a court to look at their books. If HSUS is legitimately caring for cats and dogs and spending the majority of their money actually for animal welfare, then they should have nothing to hide.”

Lassiter said Butt used information from a “discredited group that also attacks Mothers Against Drunk Driving — and treats it as gospel.”

“It’s a purely political attack by an extreme lawmaker who doesn’t like our agenda to end horse soring and horse slaughter and dog fighting,” Lassiter said. “Rep. Butt opposes the mainstream values of cracking down on crime and protecting God’s creatures from cruelty.

Lassister said Butt encourages support of local shelters and groups, yet voted against legislation that would take away funds from organizations that battle cruelty to animals. Butt denies that claim.

House Bill 2298, sponsored by Rep. Andy H. Holt, R-Dresden, called for changing the recipient of fines, penalties and forfeitures assessed in cases involving animals from a society for prevention to cruelty to animals to an animal shelter or animal control unit in the municipality or county where the offense occurred.
Butt voted in favor of the bill as a member of the House’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, but the bill died after failing to make it to the House floor for a full vote. During one committee discussion, Holt said in a situation where a county does not have an designated government animal shelter, funds from cruelty cases would likely go to the county’s general fund instead.

Lawsuit names TN as prospective location for horse slaughter plant

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Animal protection groups are suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to try to block the revival of domestic horse slaughter at commercial processing plants.
The Humane Society of the United States, Front Range Equine Rescue of Larkspur, Colo., three other groups and five individuals filed a federal lawsuit Monday seeking an emergency injunction to overturn the USDA’s recent permit approval for a horse meat plant in Roswell, N.M.
Four of the named plaintiffs are Roswell residents; the fifth lives in Gallatin, Mo., where a Rains Natural Meats equine slaughterhouse could next receive federal approval.
On Tuesday, the federal agency approved a horse slaughter plant in Sigourney, Iowa, and expects to endorse another request later this week. The Humane Society’s lawsuit named prospective processing plants in Gallatin and Rockville, Mo.; Woodbury, Tenn.; and Washington, Okla.
(Note: A 2012 bill by Rep. Andy Holt, D-Dresden, would have erected legal hurdles for any lawsuits against establishing horse slaughterhouses and included a declaration that “the General Assembly intends to encourage the location of equine slaughter and processing facilities in Tennessee that meet all sanitary, safety and humane slaughter requirements.” The measure made it to the House floor, but was never put to a floor vote.)
Horse slaughterhouses last operated in the U.S. in 2007 before Congress banned the practice by eliminating funding for plant inspections. Federal lawmakers restored those cuts in 2011, but the USDA has been slow in granting permits, citing the need to re-establish an oversight program. In a written statement Tuesday, the agency said it was legally required to approve Responsible Transportation’s plant in southeast Iowa.

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PAC Produces Humane ‘Scorecard for Legislators

Humane Tennessee PAC has issued a “scorecard” for state legislators based on their “support and promotion of animal welfare legislation.”
The ratings are based on votes involving six bills — three the PAC supported and three it opposed — with extra points added or subtracted for other activities.
Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, for example, got extra points for holding a news conference to denounce the so-called “ag gag” bill that the group opposed.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the lowest rated legislators were the sponsors of that bill, Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, and Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville. The measure, which required anyone making pictures or video of livestock abuse to turn it over to law enforcement authorities promptly, passed both the House and Senate, but was vetoed by Gov. Bill Haslam.
Joining them on the “paws down” list were Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport and Sens. Mike Bell, R-Riceville; Charlotte Burks, D-Monterey; Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga; Mark Green, R-Clarksville, and Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains.
Ranking high on the list were Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, sponsors of a bill increasing the penalty for cockfighting. The Humane PAC supported the bill, which was killed in a Senate floor vote with Niceley leading the verbal opposition.
Besides them and Johnson, others given high ratings were Reps. Susan Lynn, R-Mount Juliet; Mike Stewart, D-Nashville; and Curry Todd, R-Collierville, along with Sens. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson; Jim Kyle, D-Memphis; and Mark Norris, R-Collierville.
The PAC was established in late 2010 and, insofar as donating to campaigns goes, has not been very active. It has given just $3,500 to candidates since being created — including $1,000 to Ketron and $500 to Lundberg — and had a balance of $1,214 in its last report, according to the Registry of Election Finance.

Audit Finds Humane Society Employee Stole $51K

News release from state comptroller’s office:
An employee of the Morristown-Hamblen Humane Society altered receipts to conceal the theft of $51,130 from the organization’s adoption fees and other funds, an audit by the Comptroller’s Division of Investigation has revealed.
Receipts in the humane society’s computer system were backdated – up to 11 years before the installation of the computer system – so they would not be included in daily collection reports. That meant money from adoption fees and other sources didn’t appear in the organization’s records. Investigators concluded that money was stolen by the employee, who was later fired.
Investigative auditors reviewed records from July 1, 2009 through October 31, 2011 after Hamblen County officials discovered the altered receipts from collections were not deposited into the humane society’s bank accounts. The stolen funds should have been used to operate the animal shelter, enforce animal control ordinances and conduct animal cruelty investigations.
The employee involved had been responsible for gathering collections, matching collections with receipts and delivering those collections to the bookkeeper for deposit. During questioning by investigators, the employee admitted to backdating one receipt to “borrow” $120. The employee refused to speak with investigators after being fired.
Investigators also found weaknesses in the humane society’s accounting and record-keeping procedures, which made the theft easier to conceal.
“It is very important that there is an appropriate amount of oversight when public funds are being accepted, recorded and spent or deposited,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “Putting too many responsibilities in the hands of one individual without that kind of oversight can create situations that are ripe for fraud or abuse. It is very unfortunate in this case that money that could have been used to help stray and abused animals in Hamblen County isn’t available for that purpose because of this.”
The Comptroller’s Division of Investigation has forwarded copies of its report and supporting information to the Office of the District Attorney, Third Judicial District.
To view the report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/

ACLU, Animal Protection Groups, Press Hail Haslam’s ‘Ag Gag’ Veto

Here’s a collection of statements to media from various groups on Gov. Bill Haslam’s veto of a bill requiring anyone making a photo or video of livestock abuse to turn it over to law enforcement authorities within 24 hours.
News release from Humane Society of the United States:
(May 13, 2013) NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed the anti-whistleblower “ag-gag” bill, SB 1248/HB 1191, after hearing from thousands of Tennesseans urging the veto and a report deeming the bill constitutionally suspect by the Tennessee Attorney General.
Animal protection groups, First Amendment advocates and newspaper editorial boards across Tennessee opposed the bill, which would criminalize undercover investigations at agribusiness operations and stables. More than 300 Tennessee clergy also spoke out against the bill, as did several Tennessee celebrities, including Priscilla Presley, singers Carrie Underwood and Emmylou Harris, and Miss Tennessee USA 2013. The bill also received national criticism from talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who invited Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, on her show to discuss the issue.
Leighann McCollum, Tennessee state director for The HSUS, said: “We thank Gov. Haslam for listening to his constituents and honoring the Constitution by vetoing this recklessly irresponsible legislation that would criminalize the important work of cruelty whistleblowers. By vetoing this bill, the governor is supporting transparency in horse stables and our food system.”

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HSUS Sees Deception in Walking Horse Soring Report

News release from Humane Society of the United States:
(May 9, 2013)– In contrast to the two foreign substance violations reported by the Tennessee walking horse industry at the 2012 National Celebration in Shelbyville, Tenn., the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s testing revealed that 145 horses out of 190 tested, or 76 percent, were found positive.
The Humane Society of the United States has requested that Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper, Jr. open an investigation into the veracity of public statements made by officials connected to the Walking Horse Trainers Association Enforcement Initiative, the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration and the Tennessee Walking Show Horse Organization about their initiative to detect unlawful horse soring at the 2012 Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration.
(Note: A spokeswoman for Cooper said the letter has been received and is under review by the attorney general’s office.)
The HSUS maintains that this discrepancy raises a serious concern that participants and spectators at the Celebration were falsely assured that horses entered were compliant with the federal Horse Protection Act, when evidence of cruelty and cheating may have been concealed by the organizers of the event. The foreign substance testing is used to detect the presence of painful caustic chemicals that trainers apply to horses’ legs. Other cruel training methods – collectively referred to as “soring” – are used to obtain the prized high-stepping gait of the walking horse.

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Undecided Haslam Still Pondering ‘Ag Gag’ Bill

Gov. Bill Haslam says he’s been learning from both sides about a so-called “ag gag bill” since it was passed by the Legislature two weeks ago, but it hasn’t reached his desk yet and he hasn’t decided whether or not a veto is in order.
The bill has generated thousands of emails, telephone calls and letters to the governor’s office – more than on any legislation that has come up during Haslam’s term as governor – and most have been calling for a veto, a gubernatorial spokesman says.
The Humane Society of the United States has organized a campaign against the bill, including TV ads urging people to contact Haslam and urge a veto. Celebrities including TV host Ellen DeGeneres and country music singer Carrie Underwood have also pushed a veto.
Haslam said he would not simply “tally results” before making his decision.
“Obviously, we value everyone’s opinion. But we’re trying to go beyond that and find the argument,” he said.

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Walking Horses Seized,Trainer Charged With Animal Cruelty

From the News Sentinel website:
Federal and local authorities seized 19 horses from a Blount County stable of a walking horse show trainer Thursday on suspicion that the animals have been subjected to the practice known as “soring.”
The trainer, Larry Joe Wheelon, 68, is charged with one felony count of animal cruelty, with additional charges pending, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
The seizure came a week after U.S. Department of Agriculture agents and Blount County authorities executed a search and seizure warrant at Wheelon’s barn on Tuckaleeche Pike in response to an anonymous tip.
Authorities returned Thursday to remove the 19 horses, which were visibly in pain, including several that were barely able to stand.
Investigators suspect the horses’ injuries were caused by soring — the application of caustic chemicals and painful devices to their hooves and legs used to produce the artificial, high-stepping “Big Lick” gait.
“It’s a significant number of horses to get to safety,” said Leighann McCollum, Tennessee director for HSUS. “Horses that will never have to endure that again — hopefully.”
The Blount County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to All Animals and Horse Haven of Tennessee assisted in removing the horses to an undisclosed location, McCollum said. The Blount County Sheriff’s Office also provided security during the seizure.
Wheelon is an active director of the Tennessee Walking Horse Trainer’s Association and sits on its ethics committee, according to the Humane Society. Since 1993, he has been cited by inspectors 15 times for violations of the federal Horse Protection Act. Wheelon was booked into the Blount County Justice Center Thursday in lieu of $5,000 bond.

Thousands Urging Gov to Veto ‘Ag Gag’ Bill

As of Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Bill Haslam’s office had counted 4,502 emails and 1,796 phone calls – almost all of them against the so-called “ag gag” bill, reports WPLN. That’s more than Haslam has ever received on a single subject.
The proposal that passed the Tennessee legislature by a narrow margin requires that activists turn over footage of livestock cruelty to police within 48 hours. Organizations like the Humane Society of the United States say such a law would criminalize long term investigations, like one that led to the conviction of a Tennessee Walking Horse trainer last year.
Animal rights groups have mounted a media blitz, complete with paid advertising in Nashville and Knoxville urging Haslam to veto the bill. TV personality Ellen DeGeneres – a well-known animal activist – had the Humane Society’s CEO on her show to talk about Tennessee’s animal cruelty bill. (More on DeGeneres and ‘Ag Gag’ HERE.)
“These kind of undercover cameras catch a lot of things,” DeGeneres said. “It’s important to keep that kind of thing going.”
It’s unclear how many of the calls and emails are coming from out of state, says a spokesman for Gov. Haslam. Only 16 of the fielded calls have supported the legislation
.

Note: The legislature’s website still says that, as of Tuesday, the bill was awaiting signatures of the House and Senate speakers — a necessary step in the formalities before the bill is officially sent to the governor’s desk. Once on the governor’s desk, he has 10 days — counting Saturday’s but not Sundays — to sign it, veto it or let it become law without his signature.

HSUS Running $100K in TV Ads Urging ‘Ag Gag’ Veto

The Humane Society of the United States, lawmakers and two media groups held a State Capitol news conference Monday to urge Gov. Bill Haslam to veto a bill they say would end undercover investigations of animal abuse in the state, reports Richard Locker.
In addition, HSUS began running television ads in Knoxville and Nashville on Saturday encouraging Tennesseans to contact the governor’s office to encourage a veto of what opponents call the “Ag Gag” bill passed by the legislature last week.
HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle said his group is spending $100,000 on the TV ads initially. The ads are not running in Memphis, Chattanooga or elsewhere yet but the governor’s office said Monday it had received about 2,000 emails and phone calls on the issue. The governor said Friday that he’s studying the bill.
House Bill 1191/Senate Bill 1248 amends Tennessee’s cruelty to animals statutes to require a person who records, “by photograph, digital image, video or similar medium” for the purpose of documenting cruelty to livestock, to report the violation to the local law enforcement agency and submit any recordings to them within 48 hours.
Pacelle said the bill is part of a national movement to make it a crime to do the kind of undercover work that HSUS did in Fayette County in 2011 when it documented abuse of Tennessee Walking Horses at a trainer’s stable.
Pacelle also disputed statements made by the House sponsor, Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, that HSUS “held” its undercover recordings of the abuse for four months before reporting to law enforcement.
Pacelle said his HSUS gave recordings to federal prosecutors within two weeks after its undercover operative got a job at the trainer’s stable and, at the prosecutors’ request, the videos were not publicly released for another 13 months. By that time, trainer Jackie McConnell was already under indictment by a federal grand jury in Chattanooga.
“There were so many false statements from the House author in particular,” Pacelle said. “The investigation began in April 2011 and we began to turn information over to the United States attorney for the purpose of enforcing the Horse Protection Act, a federal statute that dates to 1970, within two weeks.”