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Presidential Fireside Chat #5

Welcome to our fifth “Fireside Chat” for the special friends of American Humane!

 

It may be hard to believe, but it was four score and seven years ago when one of our greatest presidents – no, not Lincoln, but Franklin Delano Roosevelt – began his famous series of radio addresses he called his “Fireside Chats.”

In 1933, the nation faced one of its most challenging crises – the Great Depression – and those radio addresses helped bring America together… and keep us together.

Today, as we weather another great crisis, we need to bring all Americans together with a common sense of purpose. And what purpose could be more noble than protecting the most vulnerable in our society?  For 143 years, that is exactly what American Humane has being doing, and through two World Wars, the devastating Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, and virtually every major national disaster, we have always been there for those in greatest need.

I will be sharing breaking news on our work to improve and save the lives of animals around the world….and I am especially pleased to be sharing it with you and with a special guest and very good friend who is joining us today….

Alison Sweeney is an American actress, reality show host, director and author. She is perhaps best known for her portrayal of “Sami” Brady on the soap opera Days of Our Lives, for which she earned a Daytime Emmy Award nomination, four Soap Opera Digest Awards, and a Fan-Voted Daytime Emmy Award. In 2007, she became the host of The Biggest Loser and perhaps, most important of all, a huge animal lover, who has served as a VIP presenter for our annual “American Humane Hero Dog Awards™,” and was the star of a national television and radio PSA for us, teaching children to be kind to animals.  That PSA, by the way, has now aired more than 74,000 times and has been seen by 50 million people!

Thank you so much, Alison, for joining us today. Tell me about how you and your animals, and how you are helping to keep each other sane during these dark, challenging times.

Alison Sweeney: You are such an inspiration and I can’t tell you how proud I am to be part of the American Humane family.

It’s a trying time and everyone has their own journey, and with two kids trying to navigate home learning, it’s complicated and hard.  Everyone is doing the best they can.  For our family, our two rescue dogs have been our saving grace when you can’t go out.  Having those dogs to cuddle with has been a lifesaver.

Robin:  I was pleased to see the Governor encouraging people to walk dogs.

Alison:  I agree. Walking your dogs and taking care of your pets is an essential activity.

Robin: Yes, indeed.  Alison, can you tell us what’s happening in Hollywood with the pandemic?

Alison: It’s hit everyone.  Hollywood is trying to figure out a way to navigate this crisis.  Everyone knows people need a break, some diversion, some entertainment. Hallmark has been great in keeping those movies going.  Now we’re thinking how we get past this. I heard that there’s a soap opera in Australia that is laying out plans for how to do that and continue.  We can let this virus beat us.

Robin: What are your thoughts and wishes for those now who are supporters of American Humane and supporters of animals?

Alison: I have such admiration for everyone on this call…that there are organizations that are champions of our four-legged friends when they need us most. When times are tough, we need to look after those who are vulnerable. In fact, remembering the animals and that they need us is an important reminder and can keep us focused.

Robin:  You have been such a remarkable ambassador for the organization, Alison, and we would like to make a grant from our “Feed the Hungry” fund to the shelter or rescue of your choice. Do you have a favorite?

Alison: I talked to Larissa Wohl and she put me in touch with the group, “Marley’s Mutts.” If you saw the amazing, inspirational videos of dogs they help – some with only two legs and one Boston Terrier who had lost an eye, it would bring a smile to your face.  No matter what challenges these dogs face, they can be happy, and I would love to support them with the grant.

Robin:  Thank you, Alison. We appreciate you and the powerful advocacy you have brought to the cause. And please stay on the line as we will be talking about our Hero Dog Awards and I would love to get your thoughts.

Right now, I’d like to report how American Humane has been leading during this crisis.  Not only have we been out front on the issue of fostering and adopting abandoned shelter pets during the pandemic, and putting a stop to false rumors about pets transmitting the virus (which is not true), but because many shelters are struggling, we launched an important new initiative — our “Feed the Hungry” fund, which has provided grants for food, medicine and supplies to shelters that are struggling across the country.

In the short time since the opening of the fund, we’ve already made critically important grants to shelters in 14 states, including New York, New Jersey, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma, California, Mississippi, Washington, South Carolina, Arkansas, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. These grants have already provided more than 200,000 meals for animals in need!

One of the grants we provided went to Home Dog L.A. in Los Angeles, which helps pets and families stay together and provides pet owners with resources if they fall on hard times.

Their founder and executive director, Kerry Armstrong, wrote to us and told us this:

“A huge thank you to American Humane for the Feed the Hungry grant they gave to Home Dog L.A. We work with financially disadvantaged pet owners in Los Angeles and right now it’s a really tough time with COVID-19.  Lots of people have lost their jobs and they want to feed their pets, and we are here to help when they maybe don’t have the money to get themselves food or their pets food. We have a hotline and we do safe deliveries, drop offs and pick-ups. We are here for those that need us in this really hard time.”

Well, you are very welcome, Kerry….and thank you for all you are doing to help animals – and their families – when they most need it.

And for all those good Samaritans who heard our calls to action on the radio, in national magazines, and in newspapers to visit those shelters and adopt or foster a “pandemic pet,” we wanted to make sure that their experiences are great ones.

That’s why we teamed up with the American Veterinary Medical Association, our wonderful friend and the country’s top dog trainer Victoria Stilwell, State Farm, and the Insurance Information Institute to give important tips to the American public on how to introduce new pets to your home … and help the pets you already have cope safely with the stress and 24/7 crowding that comes with quarantining in close quarters for an extended time.

As part of our yearly National Dog Bite Prevention Week campaign, we held a national webinar for the media and one for the public, which reached more than 35,000 people.  Some of our tips include:

  • Educating yourself on how to build a fantastic relationship with your dog based on mutual trust. Focus on positive reinforcement to maximize behaviors you want and minimize those you don’t.
  • Prepare your environment to allow the new pet privacy and time to rest as they often have been through a lot prior to coming to a new home.
  • Teach everyone to ensure the new pet is respected and not overwhelmed by attention before it is ready.  Respect of their physical space is very important as they learn to trust you. The entire family needs to understand that this animal is not a toy.
  • And if you have young children in the house, American Humane has a free booklet online called “Pet Meets Baby” that gives some easy tips on ensuring good, safe and healthy introductions between a new dog and your family. It is available at American Humane-dot-org.

You can watch the full webinar here: https://zoom.us/rec/share/zpBWILfw1GlLcIXR0GXbQLUdQdiieaa8h3Mdr6AFzR6u5SEIy3RsivspxYrp_28z

It’s all part of our efforts to make sure these beautiful love stories all have happy endings.

Speaking of stories with happy endings, some of my favorites have to do with what’s happening in our American Humane Certified zoos and aquariums around the world.  At a time when so many species are under pressure and many are disappearing, these superb zoological centers are serving as Arks of Hope for endangered animals.

Right now, during this pandemic, when so many kids are home needing something to do and their parents are worrying that they will fall behind in their reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, American Humane is stepping forward and offering families our exciting series of “Humane Heroes” stories about the amazing animals who share our Earth, and how top zoos and aquariums are working to save them.

Our “Humane Heroes” books and lesson plans, developed by American Humane and the publishers of the popular Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books, not only help teach kids to read….they teach them to be kind and appreciate the world’s rare and beautiful animals.  They’re wonderful for home schooling during this crisis, when all of us are now playing the parts of teachers as well as parents….and for those of us who are busy working out of our homes and wish they had someone to keep their kids occupied for a while now and then, well….we’re volunteering for that job!

This week, we started posting the first of our Humane Heroes Storytime videos. I’ll be reading all 38 of these touching tales of animal rescue and conservation, starting with Volume I for elementary school kids.

For 5, 10 or 20 minutes, they can quietly listen to stories like the one about “Nickel,” a 200-pound Sea Turtle who needed a helping hand – or actually, a fin – after being struck by a boat, and who found a happy ending thanks to the zoological experts at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

Or the story about a puppy and a Cheetah cub who became best friends… or a playful dolphin who became famous for blowing amazing bubble rings underwater, showing these animals’ incredible intelligence.

It’s a great way for kids to learn about animals and give you a much-needed breather while we’re all confined at home.

You can find our Humane Heroes Storytime videos at www.AmericanHumane.org/StoryTime …. along with the ENTIRE series of award-winning books and lesson plans for elementary, middle and high school kids.

 

Chicken Soup is not just a famous book series….it’s also classic comfort food.  And in this time of worry and stress, we all need comfort.

American Humane works hard to help make sure the nation’s farm animals are comfortable and well-treated through our American Humane Certified program. Our 200 welfare standards now cover 1 BILLION chickens, turkeys, ducks, pigs, goats, and many other animals.

You can do your part for farm animals by making sure to look for the American Humane Certified seal when you shop.

You’ll get humanely raised food and if you’re in the mood for that comforting chicken soup, here’s one of my favorite recipes, called Hearty Chicken Ribollita Soup, which is a hearty, Tuscan-style soup that uses that day-old bread you’re not sure what do to with as a traditional thickener that will help the meal really stick to your ribs.

It’s got every good thing you can imagine in it: Carrots, zucchini, white beans, herbs, Romano cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil.  You can find the recipe at American Humane Certified www.JustBareChicken.com.

Be sure to save me a bowl and post a photo tagging American Humane on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Now I can’t have Alison Sweeney on the phone without talking about Hero Dogs, of which she is such a key player.

Alison:  These dogs are just great heroes and the stories of these animals and their owners are inspiring beyond words. It’s the best night of the year.

Robin: Alison, you’ve been on the show for many years, and you’ll be very happy to hear that we just kicked off the first round of public voting for the 2020 American Humane Hero Dog Awards.  This year, we have 408 courageous canines in the running – the best of our best friends.  Let me tell you just one of their stories, the story of Uli, as told by the person whose life she saved:

We rescued Uli from a local shelter at 7 months of age. She was skin and bones, covered in bug bites, but when she wiggled, we knew she was an instant fit. That Fall, Uli awoke me around 5 am by whining and licking my face. I was experiencing a sugar crash. This was the first time she saved my life. We worked with trainers and took classes together to get her ready to be by my side. She’s saved my life 10 times now and goes with me everywhere she can. People often remember Uli’s name before mine. My Hero!   The unconditional love and loyalty shine from my baby and I couldn’t be happier to nominate her.  Thank you.

Uli, thank you for being a hero when you were most needed.

Animals have the power to help us, and to improve and even save our lives.

To find more stories that will inspire you, gladden your heart, and maybe even make you shed a tear, go to www.HeroDogAwards.org . Vote for your favorites in each of seven categories and help us select the 2020 American Hero Dog, who will be unveiled at the tenth annual Hero Dog Awards, presented by the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation and broadcast nationwide on Hallmark Channel this fall.

As Alison Sweeney, who has presented on the show so many times, could tell you, you won’t want to miss it!

Sometimes, even heroes need a hero to save them.

For more than 100 years, American Humane has been supporting our men and women in the Armed Services – often by supporting the military and service animals on whom they depend.

One of our programs called Pups4Patriots™ finds dogs in need of forever homes and trains them to become free, specialized service dogs for veterans coping with Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury.

These dogs improve and save lives for warriors coping with what we call the invisible wounds of war – and are especially important now, at this time of extraordinary stress and isolation caused by the pandemic.

Recently, American Humane received a letter from one of the veterans in our Pups4Patriots program named Jeff, telling us how his service dog, Charlie, is helping him cope with the crisis. I know Jeff personally, so this is very close to me. Jeff writes:

With my heart issue, I’m at high risk for Covid-19, so I’m pretty much locked in the house for now.  A lot of my veteran friends (myself included) have been affected most by lack of access to medical treatment and mental health therapy. 

The first few days of the lockdown, my PTSD and anxiety response was heightened. I was worried about the virus…Should I shelter in place or load up the camper and head for the hills?  Charlie’s been a big help with making sure I get out and exercise with him in the yard a few times a day, and we still go for drives down by the beach to see the sunset. He’s been working a lot these last few weeks with giving me a daily routine and a grounding, familiar face to rely on when I have that anxiety and fear.

A few good ear scratches or throwing the ball down the hallway and everything feels back to normal for a few moments. When I’m having a panic episode, those few moments mean all the world.  

To all American Humane staff and donors, I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy, and I cannot thank you all enough for continuing to make sure that veterans like myself have access to service dogs like Charlie. At moments of uncertainty like these, it is vital to get PTS service dogs into the hands of veterans.

Thank you, Jeff, for your service to our country…and thank you, Charlie, for your service to one of our brave veterans.  America needs you both and we are grateful beyond words for each of you.

In closing, I want to read you something from an op-ed I wrote in today’s New York Daily, entitled, “Why are Wet Markets Open Again in China?

As Americans look down the barrel of a recession of the likes we haven’t seen since the 1930s, they are facing uncertainly, grim economic forecasts and a way of life that up until just a couple of months ago was unimaginable. Waiting lines at food banks, social distancing at all times, temperature checks to enter buildings: This is the reality we are facing and will face for months if not years to come. Some 22 million people across the country have filed for unemployment and millions more are hoping and praying they are not the next to receive pink slips.

While we as a nation are figuring out how to safely move forward, other countries remain stuck in the very cultural mores and societal norms that brought about the current deadly global coronavirus pandemic. 

The root cause of COVID-19 is tied directly to our global lack of action when it comes to our collective approach to animal welfare, safety and ethics. For proof of this, we need look no further than Wuhan, China, where the novel coronavirus seems to have originated in a wet market — the very same wet market that recently reopened.

These markets are rife with filth and disease; urine and blood of differing species routinely co-mingle and people routinely sell and eat exotic wildlife. Wildlife that was never intended for consumption, much less the horrors that ultimately brought it to the butchering block.

We must as a global community demand that these practices be stopped. To do anything short of that is frankly unfathomable and only invites further global death and economic hardship.

When humans fail to take action to protect animals from unethical treatments, fail to have biosecurity procedures, fail to have independent oversight from animal welfare and fail to change societal norms for the better of all animal kind, this is exactly the disaster we invite.

Pandemics of this nature have occurred time and time again for centuries; the question is when will it stop? What trigger point will make people wake-up to the realities we face?

Animals are not to blame, whether they be wild bats or domesticated cats. The same sadly cannot be said for the actions of people and governments who have broken the social contract with animals we share the world with but who have no voice.

It is time to require independent audits of animal operations and standards set by the world’s leading scientists and welfare experts to govern long overdue and needed biosecurity procedures to ensure human and animal safety. We can only hope that as Americans shelter in place and businesses shutter across the country, that global leaders take corrective action now before the next deadly pandemic is brought to us via China’s noxious wet markets.

The time is now to exercise leadership. Now.

As you heard in today’s update, there are so many animals who need our protection 24/7, year-round. As much as we are able to accomplish, we cannot do it alone. Which is why I want to thank everyone who has been working with us to help animals in every part of our world.

One thing we can all do now is to participate in our newest challenge.

April is Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, and American Humane is urging all animal lovers to show their support. Humans are capable of great destruction, but they are also capable of great good.

By working together and pledging to prevent animal cruelty, a difference can be made in the lives of animals who are suffering. It is up to us to speak up if we witness animal abuse. Please take a moment to go to our American Humane social media channels and share the pledge button to show your support and make a commitment to stop animal cruelty.

And please help us spread the word about all the work we are doing.   Our campaigns, our newsletters and our annual Impact Report are all on our website and can help recruit new humane warriors for our cause, which is more vital than ever before.

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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