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Presidential Fireside Chat #2

Welcome to our second Fireside Chat!  Like the original Fireside Chats, held by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Great Depression, we wanted to find a friendly way to bring us all together and share vital information at a time when so much critical work needs to be done to protect animals, and yet many of us are not only feeling isolated during this coronavirus pandemic but a certain degree of understandable fear.

 

But that will not stop us. To quote another great leader from FDR’s time, Winston Churchill famously said, “If you’re going through hell….keep going.”

For 143 years, through epidemics, wars, and national disasters, we have kept going for the sake of the world’s animals.

I am pleased to report to you, our friends, supporters, and devoted staff, that today, American Humane is continuing to take a leadership role in speaking for and protecting animals in their time of need.

We have been front and center during the COVID-19 pandemic, directing a national effort encouraging people to foster and adopt animals who have been abandoned in shelters.

Aided by our friends in the national media, who have amplified our message and reached millions, our words are having a powerful impact.

With news features on network media such as NBC’s TODAY.com and in national magazines including PEOPLE, U.S. News & World Report and Glamour magazine, we are now seeing an upswing in fostering and adoptions.

However, rural shelters and those in less affluent areas are still struggling without enough adopters and not enough foot traffic as stay-at-home orders take effect.

And shelters are alerting us that they are running short on food and supplies – and that not enough people are adopting cats.

To meet these critical needs, American Humane is reaching out to the public with messages about the urgency of cat adoption, and we just launched a national campaign to get vital food and supplies to shelters in need, called the “Feed the Hungry.”

In just the first 100 hours, we have already identified and begun making grants to shelters in states across the country, including Florida, New Jersey and Louisiana, and are reaching out to others.

As stay-at-home orders, travel restrictions, closures, and more shelter staff fall ill or are quarantined, we are designing our “Feed the Hungry” campaign to be a lifesaver for many animals in need.

Here is what Karen Talbot, one of the founders of Animal Aid USA, said about the grant we just made to them:

With the world in its present state and misery and sadness surrounding us, knowing that the American Humane  thought of our organization and provided us with a grant through their Feed the Hungry Campaign, I can sleep better tonight knowing so many animals will now have food!! Sometimes I wonder if American Humane really stands for Always Helping! Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!

If you or someone you know is interested in supporting this vital campaign to help our nation’s shelters, please visit or have them visit our website at www.AmericanHumane.org.

Reaching out to Families Nationwide to Teach Kindness

American Humane is also reaching out to families nationwide during the coronavirus pandemic to make sure this opportunity to be with their children 24/7 is not a burden, but a blessing, and one that can strengthen our mission to make the world a better place for animals.

We know that many families are sheltering at home, trying to get work done while the kids are bouncing off the walls with boredom, and worrying that with their being out of school for so long, they will start falling behind in their studies.

We thought that there is no better way to keep America’s children engaged, happy and learning the right lessons in life than offering them our free series of humane education books and lessons, called “Humane Heroes.”

These award-winning books, written by American Humane and published by the popular Chicken Soup for the Soul library, focus on the magnificent, endangered creatures being protected and preserved in the world’s leading zoological centers certified by American Humane.

While building their reading skills, elementary, middle-school and high-school children can discover inspirational stories of animal rescue, rehabilitation, and conservation – and meet animals such as a baby cheetah who was orphaned, a penguin who was able to walk again with the help of a 3-D printer, and an abandoned baby dolphin who was saved – again, all at the American Humane Certified zoos, aquariums and conservation centers that are serving to protect  and preserve hundreds of thousands of beautiful, unique and disappearing species.

These free e-books and professionally developed lesson plans can be read and shared by children and their parents during homeschooling, or just as a way of spending quality time together during this period of isolation.

We hope it will be just one more opportunity to cultivate more friends for the world’s animals.

If you know a child who would love these books, you can download free copies of “Humane Heroes” at any of the major online book sites such as Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.  For parents, the free lesson plans can be found at: www.ChickenSoupForTheSoul.com/AH. Enjoy them.

These stories are compelling because they are real.  Zoos and aquariums are truly Arks of Hope in the battle to save more than 1 million endangered and disappearing species and preserve the rich legacy of life on Earth for our children.

American Humane Certified zoos and aquariums around the world now protect more than a third of a million rare and beautiful animals and are on the front lines of humane conservation.

Magnificent creatures like the giant Leatherback Sea Turtle, the biggest turtle on Earth, are seriously declining in numbers and some are critically endangered due to fishing and plastic bags, which they mistake for the jellyfish that make up their diet.

One of our certified institutions, Zoomarine, in Portugal, came to the rescue of one of these remarkable creatures who was found entangled in fishing line.  The 660-pound turtle they called Quino (KEE-no) was weak and had multiple cuts and abrasions. The Zoomarine team, led by marine biologist Élio Vicente, worked for weeks to rehabilitate Quino, creating a special harness and custom-made gloves for his fins, that allowed Quino to keep swimming while also protecting his skin.

Finally, after 49 days – the longest time any Leatherback Turtle has ever been in such care, Quino was released back into the ocean to live his life and help keep this magnificent species a part of our world.

These kinds of stories are repeated over and over, hundreds and thousands of times, at our Humane Certified facilities around the world. Their invaluable work is helping preserve Earth’s greatest biological treasures and we all need to support them in this vital work.

Farms

Our vital work as the largest certifier of animal welfare in the world means that some one billion animals are living safer, humane, and objectively better lives.

I want to especially thank our American Humane Certified farmers for continuing to work so hard during this crisis to ensure that our stores stay stocked and that we all have access to fresh and nutritious food.

Our certified farms are working to meet demand while ensuring their commitment to the humane treatment of animals in their care. We have heard from many that they and their teams are working overtime.

In addition to our rescue and medical personal, they are heroes during this difficult time.

I want to give a big shoutout to all our certified producers who are doing so much, including a fond farewell to a good friend, Kerry Doughty, who recently passed away.  Kerry was the chairman of the iconic Butterball company and was responsible for improving the lives of millions of turkeys and setting a new industry standard in the poultry industry by partnering with American Humane.

I encourage everyone to support those who feed the nation and do right by their animals by seeking out the “American Humane Certified” seal at grocery stores when you shop. Let’s face it: We wouldn’t be able to get through crisis without America’s fantastic farmers and ranchers.

And to help all of us better get through this crisis while we are sheltering at home with our families, I’d like to share each week a delicious — and humane — recipe you can make, using American Humane Certified ingredients.

One of my favorites comes from Coleman Natural Foods, who was the first in the country to raise their pigs 100% crate-free. As a pioneer in the agricultural field, Mel Coleman and his family have been committed to excellence in animal welfare standards since 1875 and say”

For this reason, we chose to work with American Humane because of their meticulous auditing practices and the breadth of their involvement in both domestic and international animal welfare practices.  Sometimes it takes looking back to our roots, and doing things the way nature intended, to really get it right.

We agree and it shows in the food they raise. They have an absolutely wonderful, nutritious, and tasty recipe online for Slow-Cooker Pork Roast with Rosemary and Sauerkraut that will feed your family and soothe your soul at the same time.  You can find it – and many others – at www.ColemanNatural.com/kitchen.

American Humane Hollywood

And because many of us who are spending a lot of time quarantining with their families either eat in front of the television or are looking for good entertainment opportunities to pass the time together, I want to encourage you to choose movies and TV shows that  have earned our “No Animals Were Harmed®” seal of approval.  Some of my favorites that are out and streaming now are:

  • Oscar-nominated films: Marriage Story and The Irishman
  • Series: Ozark, The Witcher and Westworld
  • If you’re looking for some older, lighter fare: Mary Poppins Returns
  • Others: Dolomite Is My Name, Godless, Dickinson, The Plot Against America, The Watchmen, See, Dead To Me, Bosch and Hunters

Hero Dogs

And since we all need heroes to look up to during these difficult times, you’ll be happy to know that public voting opens in less than an hour for our 2020 “American Humane Hero Dog Awards,” made possible by our Platinum Presenting Sponsor, the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation and supported by category sponsors American Airlines and World Pet Association.

Every year, American Humane scours the nation, seeking out the best and bravest of our best friends – those who change and even save our lives on the battlefield, in our hospitals and in our own homes.

I’ll give you an exclusive preview of just one of these courageous canines:

Roscoe Boo Boo was found on the side of the road after being hit by a car. He was infected with two types of Lyme Disease, someone had cut his ear, and he had been shot in the leg at some time. Despite his terrible experiences, he now helps his rescuer deal with depression, anxiety and the emotional wounds of a past relationship. As Roscoe’s owner writes:

He and I both had been through some trauma…we had our battle scars [and] we both needed a new outlook on life. We would lay together on the couch and watch TV and when I would cry, Roscoe would take his paw and pat me. His big eyes…even with cataracts…begged for attention, but were also filled with love. Roscoe is my little old man…he is a hero to me…when I was at my lowest, Roscoe saved me from myself. He gave me purpose and unconditional love and continues to do so.

It’s so touching. Just one of the nearly 400 stories of doggy derring-do  you can read online at www.HeroDogAwards.org.  You can vote for your favorite once a day starting at 3 pm Eastern Time today…and be sure to tune in this fall when our Hero Dog Awards and its cast of canine and humane stars is broadcast on Hallmark Channel!

Speaking of stars, I also have to point out two terrific twitter video posts by longtime American Humane supporter Sir Anthony Hopkins, who paints and plays a composition for his wonderfully bored cat, Neblo, during the quarantine.  Do go online and take a look at them. They are short but will give you a very much-needed lift.

All these activities are there to help you win your own personal battle with avoiding the coronavirus, and keeping you safely and happily at home. Please do continue to practice social distancing and extra rigorous hand hygiene whenever you do go out.

American Humane Military Programs

And now, I’d like to turning from the war on the coronavirus pandemic to the war we’ve been fighting for more than 100 years to protect our military warriors and military animals….I want to give you a brief dispatch from the field, so to speak.

As many of you know, American Humane has been serving those who serve our nation since 1916, when we were called to deploy even ahead of American fighting forces to help the millions of war horses used by Allied troops in World War I.

We rescued and cared for 68,000 wounded horses each month – a colossal task that helped us win the war….and was a humane imperative.

In the century that has followed, American Humane became a leader in developing animal therapy for veterans and their families, finding and bringing home retired war dogs from overseas and finding dogs in need of forever homes and training them as lifesaving service animals for veterans fighting Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury.

I reported to you last week that we have 22 teams in training at this very moment across eight states, and I wanted to share with you just a few words written to me by one of our veterans, Don, about how his service dog, Ammo, is helping him during the current crisis:

Ammo has been his normal amazing self–even during our current pandemic isolation. Last Monday was the anniversary of my traumatic stressor…has never been a good day to say the least.

This year with Ammo was different–the very first time I was able to face the day with strength and confidence. Ammo has kept me calm during Ohio’s mandatory social restrictions which helps me control anxiety levels.

Ammo and I went to Kroger this morning and I took the opportunity to capture a photo of him grounding me.  Love this little boy!!!

Last but not least, during increased isolation (typically not good for PTSD), it is absolutely wonderful to have this incredible companionship.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Doing the right thing by animals and by people is a moral imperative, as American Humane has known for 143 years. It is absolutely vital to pursue a humane and moral world for its own sake and the sake of living, sentient creatures who deserve not to suffer.  And pursuing a humane path is also something that affects our own well-being.  When we ignore treating animals well, we all pay a price.

This pandemic, which now threatens all of us, did not come out of nowhere.  It may well have arisen, from the gross mistreatment of animals – this time in a filthy, overcrowded and inhumane exotic foods market in Wuhan, where it appears the virus mutated after a human consumed infected exotic animal flesh.  Exotic animals are not food and should not be trafficked and animal policy ought to be included in our trade agreements.

As Americans, we pride ourselves on exporting freedom and democracy.  It is now time to export humane values and demonstrably good, science-based and humane procedures with independent oversight to the rest of the world.  This is not just a luxury for those who can afford to be humane but a necessity for all with a conscience…and all of humanity.

In closing, I do want to thank everyone who has been working with us to make a more humane world for so many animals, year-in and year-out.

In spite of – or perhaps because – of the challenges humanity is facing now, I am seeing the beginning of an outpouring of energy and enthusiasm for our humane mission.

Please help us spread that enthusiasm so that we may turn that enthusiasm into support and further expand our humane grasp to those whom we have not yet reached. Our campaigns, our newsletters and our annual Impact Report are all on our website and are sure to resonate with all those who care for animals.

Thank you all for what you have done, are doing, and are continuing to do every day for the cause of animals.  I look forward to speaking with you next week. Please stay safe.

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