Local humane

societies should be a strong voice for the protection of animals. Even though their missions may vary, their goals advocating for the humane treatment of animals and expressed opposition to animal cruelty can be similar.

Each local humane society is independent of each other, having their own Board of Directors or Trustees, their own mission statement and by-laws. Local humane societies are not governed by, under the jurisdiction of, or funded by The Humane Society of the United States, American Humane Association or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

With few exceptions, the animals sheltered by local humane societies are dogs, cats, rabbits and small critters. Like Suncoast Humane Society, most of their programs are designed to help companion animals. With this said, it should not deter them from being a strong voice for the protection of all animals.

An effective way for an organization to present a unified voice for animals is to develop and adopt written position statements, approved by their Board, citing their stand on activities involving the use of animals.

Most local humane societies do not have the finances or resources to lobby or become actively involved in opposing animal exploitation or cruelty. National animal protection organizations are counted on to provide this support, along with some state animal welfare federations. A position statement, however, does allow them to have an official voice. It puts them on record as an organization. It also gives their Board, staff and volunteers a direction when expressing views. These position statements also serve to educate donors and the community as a whole regarding activities that pose a danger to animals. Suncoast Humane Society’s website, www.humane.org, lists over 20 individual animal-related activities the organization opposes. These positions are based on the following criteria.

• Causes harm or suffering without concern for the welfare of the animal.

• Exploits animals for the purpose of entertainment without education.

• Shows a lack of respect for the species.

As a general statement, Suncoast Humane Society stands opposed to any activity where animals are abused, neglected, or exploited. Relief is encouraged through legislation and education.

Sadly, abuse, neglect and exploitation exists in many organized animal-related activities. Although illegal in all states, brutal dog and cock fighting thrives in many areas of the country. Strangely, it is advertised as sport in underground magazines. These poor animals are forced into a life, and death, that is barbaric, violent and inhumane.

Certain other activities that harm animals, but are less obvious to some of us, are because the cruelties are masked or happen behind the scenes. Some of these activities include performing circus animals, bronc riding, bull riding and calf roping at rodeos, and dog racing.

Even with the unified voice of a humane society, the most important voice out there may be yours! Legislators and decision makers usually know that a humane society will be fighting for the rights of animals. It is you they want to hear from. And just think, it may be your strong voice that actually makes a difference for animals.

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