Positions on Animal Issues
Suncoast Humane Society is dedicated to promoting the humane treatment of animals. Our primary purpose is to support our mission “to reduce the number of homeless animals, while improving the quality of life.”
We feel that humane education is a priority, as a means of fostering compassion, responsibility and respect toward animals, each other and the environment. It has been proven that a link exists between human violence and animal abuse. Often, youth who grow up without an appreciation for animals will grow into adults with limited concern for the welfare of animals, other people or society as a whole. Awareness and education are principle means of preventing all forms of violence. Suncoast Humane Society supports the use of curricula in schools that teach kindness and respect for all living things as well as programs for adults that focus on responsibilities toward animals.
The statements outlined below express the values and positions of Suncoast Humane Society on a wide range of issues involving human activities that affect animals. These positions are not immutable, given that circumstances, technology, and societal values can and do change. In our effort to promote the humane treatment of all animals, we ask you to view the following issues with these questions in mind.
Does this activity:
- Cause harm or suffering without concern for the welfare of the animal?
- Exploit animals for the purpose of entertainment without education?
- Show a lack of respect for the species?
We have listed the issues that, as a humane society, we are asked most often for our position. These activities directly affect animals in a negative manner, creating a lack of sensitivity and promoting a callous attitude in people. We realize there are many issues of concern involving the use of animals. As a general statement, we stand opposed to any activity where animals are abused, neglected or exploited. We encourage relief through legislation and education.
Read Our Position on Various Animal Issues
Animal Fighting (Bloodsports)
The most popular of “blood sports” are dog fighting and cock fighting. These barbaric activities date back to the 1800’s when other forms of blood sports were banned. Animal fighting is anything but a sport. It is, in fact, a cruel and brutal activity which pits one animal against another. The teeth of a fighting dog and the strength of his jaws severely injure each other and in many cases is a fight to the death. Fighting cocks have knives, blades or picks fastened to the spurs on their legs for slashing, stabbing or ripping flesh. Animal fighting ranges from neighborhood street fighting to professional ranking. In addition to animal cruelty, animal fighting harbors other illegal felony law violations including illegal gambling and concealed weapons. Suncoast Humane Society supports felony laws and strong convictions for animal fighters and spectators.
Animal Training and Behavior Modification
Humane training methods should be based on direction, redirection and positive reinforcement. Methods of rewards such as food, praise, petting, and play are recommended. These methods, based on mutual understanding, kindness and respect between the pet and the guardian have proven to be successful in managing behavior. Training tools or aids that cause physical harm or profound discomfort to an animal are not acceptable. Physical or psychological intimidation hinders effective training and damages the relationship between humans and animals.
Animals in Biomedical Research, Testing and Education
Procedures and experiments utilizing animals often inflict pain, suffering and psychological distress. Also of concern are conditions for the housing of animals, the process for the review and approval and protocols using animals, and the safeguards and limited laws in place for possible protection of animals. Suncoast Humane Society encourages the principles of the Three Rs as an alternative approach: replacing, reducing and refining animal use. Furthermore, certain experiments should be prevented by legal safeguards, regardless of the possibility of alternatives. These include experiments that are duplicative of other studies; scientifically or medically trivial, dubious or otherwise unnecessary; extremely painful or stressful; or otherwise fail to balance scientific aims and the public’s concern for animals.
In elementary and secondary education, students should be provided an education that instills an interest in and respect for all living things. These are objectives best fulfilled by providing an education that emphasizes animals as living, sentient creatures who share the environment with humans. It is inhumane to use animals in elementary or high school lessons, experiments, science fair competitions, or other projects that directly or indirectly cause death, pain, or distress to animals. Inconsistent with the development of a respect for life and an appreciation of the sentience of living organisms, dissection is unnecessary and unacceptable in pre-college biology education. In postsecondary education, the use of dissection should be limited to the study of ethically sourced cadavers. In professional education (e.g., for veterinary, medical, and biological careers), any use of animals should be consistent with an active implementation of the Three Rs (reduction, refinement, or replacement of animal use).
Animals in Entertainment
Wild and exotic animals have well established psychological, behavioral, and environmental needs. When these physical, social and psychological needs cannot be met, the animal suffers. Circuses and other uses of animals in entertainment can cause people to be unsympathetic to animal suffering and condone animal abuse as an acceptable form of entertainment. Any use of animals in entertainment should not cause pain or suffering, mental or physical, or portray them in a manner demeaning to their species.
Animals as Gifts
Animals should be placed in homes as lifetime companions. The adoption of an animal as a gift for an individual who is unaware of the adoption can be disastrous for both the new owner and the animal. Each circumstance is unique. Pets should be chosen according to the expectations and lifestyle of the new family, as well as the animal’s individual needs.
Animals as Prizes
The giving away of animals by raffle, lottery, prize, or as incentives for commercial promotions cheapens regard for animal life and creates a situation in which there is no knowledge or control of the persons who receive the animals. Animals given as prizes are often subjected to cruelty and neglect. They are often awarded to individuals ignorant of their needs or without the resources to provide proper care.
Animals Raised for Food/Slaughter
Given the enormous number of animals involved, the exploitative and manipulative practices of modern farming represents the single largest category of animal suffering and abuse. All animals should be allowed to live in an environment for which they are biologically and psychologically suited. Farm animals, under direct human control, can only experience this if it is provided for them. As such, the farm community is called upon to strive to create environments and husbandry practices that provide the following: adequate and appropriate food, water, air, shelter and exercise; effective health care and supervision; environmental enrichment and complexity to reduce boredom and sensory deprivation; handling in all stages of life, including the process that leads to slaughter, that avoids unnecessary pain, fear and suffering.
Breed Specific Legislation/Laws
This is a blanket term for laws that either regulate or ban certain breeds completely in the hopes of reducing dog attacks. The problem of dangerous dogs cannot be remedied by the quick fix of breed specific, or breed discriminatory legislation. Laws that identify, track and regulate dangerous dogs individually, regardless of breed, have proven most effective. Breed specific laws can be costly and difficult to enforce. There is little evidence that they make communities safer for people or companion animals.
Generally, keeping animals in the classroom is not condoned unless each animal has an owner responsible for its proper and life-long care. In situations where classroom teachers maintain live animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs, the single most important lesson will be in what safeguards the teacher puts in place to ensure the physical and psychological well being of the animal. On rare occasions, small native animals whose habitat can be temporarily simulated in a classroom setting may be brought in for short-term observation but must be safely released to their original natural habitat.
Feral cat issues are controversial among feral cat enthusiasts, animal care and control agencies, government officials and wildlife and environmental groups. Trap, neuter, return and management of feral cats can be an effective strategy when responsible colonies are maintained properly. This includes ensuring the colonies are in a safe environment and having the owner’s agreement. Colonies should be located away from protected animals. Kittens, newly abandoned and socialized cats should be removed from the colony. The remaining feral cats should be sterilized. Appropriate record keeping of the colonies should be kept, tracking necessary veterinary care and microchip identification. Colonies should never become a nuisance to others.
Animal abuse is inherent in the fur industry. The trapping, raising and killing of animals for luxury fur garments causes great pain and suffering for both wild and ranched animals. There is no basic human need met by the wearing of fur garments. Because mink and other furbearing animals experience stress during life and suffering at death, ranched fur cannot be considered a humane alternative to the inhumane trapping of wild animals.
The cruelties that exist throughout this industry include the use of live lures (rabbits) as bait animals for training. Other inhumane training methods including sub-standard housing and the gross negligence of surplus breeding practices add to the misery of these animals. For most dogs, their career is over at 3 to 4 years of age. There are no retirement farms for racing dogs as there are for horses. A few may be used for breeding, however the rest become disposable commodities. Florida leads the country with 13 dog racing tracks within the state. The industry has used Greyhound Rescue Groups as their “humane solution” for retired and surplus dogs. Unfortunately, great numbers of Greyhounds continue to be turned in to animal shelters for euthanasia or killed in less humane ways at the end of the racing season.
Every year, millions of animals are sold or otherwise distributed as novelties. The most common example of this practice is the annual sale of baby ducklings, chicks and rabbits in association with the Easter season. The majority of these animals are acquired on impulse by people who may be unprepared to meet the animals’ special needs. The great majority of these animals do not survive for any length of time. Instead, they die as a result of the stress and conditions they experience as part of the distribution process itself, starvation or illness due to a lack of proper care or neglect as their short-lived novelty value diminishes. This practice also encourages children to be insensitive to the real needs and suffering of animals.
Most pure-bred dogs sold at pet stores are purchased from commercial breeding establishments (puppy mills) or indiscriminate breeders. In many cases, pets sold at pet stores are considered a commodity with limited display time. Prices are elevated to greatly exceed the true value of the animal. It is not unusual that inferior puppies have chronic health and temperament problems. Often store employees are not trained or aware of the needs of specific breeds. It is not unusual for specialty animals and fish to die during shipping from breeder or supplier to the store.
Petting Zoos and Pony Rides
These animals are usually farm animals that are subjected to long hours of harassment from the public. There is little regard for shelter from weather conditions or needed rest from the attention. They are often overfed and under-watered. Ponies are often not afforded appropriate amount of rest. These are examples of the use of animals in entertainment without education.
The mass production of puppies in commercial breeding establishments (puppy mills) is cruel, exploitive and neglectful. The female dogs are little more than breeding machines and are usually condemned to a life of isolation in dirty, cramped cages and subjected to inadequate care. The puppies produced are often inferior in health, temperament and structure. Behavioral traits and physical problems of specific breeds are generally ignored. Indiscriminate breeding practices in these facilities feed the pet store trade and add significantly to the overpopulation problem.
Many rodeo contests result in torment, harassment, stress and pain being inflicted on participating animals. Devices such as electric prods, sharpened sticks, spurs, flank straps and tail twisting are used to induce frustration and violence in the animals. The bucking broncos won’t buck as much and the calves won’t run across the corral to be roped unless forced by use of these painful methods. In addition, continuous loading, unloading and travel can cause undue stress on these animals.
Steel Jawed Leg Hold Traps
This form of trapping is used to painfully secure an animal, usually by one leg or foot, until the trapper returns to check the traps. This can be a long period of time. It causes agony and stress to the captured animal for undue periods of time. Dogs, cats and other animals often become victims. This form of trapping as well as other types of trapping that cause pain to animals should be abolished.
Surrender of Animals for Research by Shelters (Pound Seizure)
Pound seizure occurs where laws and ordinances mandate the taking or seizing of animals by biomedical research laboratories, educational institutions, pharmaceutical houses or other related facilities. It has nothing to do with whether you are in favor or opposed to animal research in general. Animal Shelters are intended to be a safe haven for animals entrusted to them. They generally adopt, return to owner healthy animals, or are faced with euthanizing suffering animals. The knowledge that a shelter participates in pound seizure creates a lack of trust and leads to animals being abandoned. Homeless or former pets should never become a cheap source for the research community. No local ordinances or laws in the coverage area of Suncoast Humane Society, including the State of Florida, mandate pound seizure.
Transportation of Pets in Open Vehicles
The transportation of pets in open vehicles is dangerous for the animal and the public. While riding in an open vehicle, pets are exposed to weather extremes and wind that can irritate mucous membranes and blow debris into their eyes, nose, or throat. Injury or death can result from falling or being thrown from the vehicle. Animals that jump or fall from truck beds in traffic create a hazard for drivers who must rapidly brake or swerve to avoid collision with them.
Killing and exploiting animals solely for entertainment is contrary to the values of a humane, aware and caring society. The hunting of any living creature for fun, trophy or sport causes the animal trauma, suffering and death. A humane society should not condone the killing of any sentient creature in the name of sport. Inhumane and unfair sport hunting practices, such as the use of body-gripping traps, baiting, use of dogs, and pigeon shoots cannot be condoned. The stocking of animals for shooting and the hunting of wild and exotic animals on enclosed properties (canned hunts) should be banned.
Veterinary Cosmetic Surgery (Unnecessary Surgical Procedures)
All cosmetic surgery and any other unnecessary surgical procedures, when performed solely for the convenience or pleasure of the animal’s owner and without regard for the animal itself, are opposed. Examples that can be painful, distressing and restrictive include tail docking, ear cropping, declawing and various other procedures that are designed to disguise natural imperfections.
Zoos and Aquariums
Under most circumstances, wild animals should be allowed to exist undisturbed in their natural environments. We oppose the capture of animals from the wild for confinement in zoos and aquariums, except when necessary for the propagation of endangered species. Zoos and aquariums should, as closely as possible, demonstrate the animals’ natural environment. Their priority should be education over entertainment. We stand opposed to roadside zoos, and other confinements that expose animals to cruelties, including lack of care and space. We are also opposed to the cruelties that exist in the exotic animal trade which is supported by some zoos.
Statement on Euthanasia
Operating an open admissions shelter that accepts all animals regardless of age, size, health or temperament, Suncoast Humane Society acknowledges euthanasia as a necessary means of alleviating or preventing suffering. Animals received are evaluated for health, temperament, and behavior. Our concern is their ability to adjust to a new home. Euthanasia is performed on those who, because of physical or behavioral characteristics, are not able to be provided a quality of life that does not result in significant suffering. Working cooperatively with our foster home program and with breed specific and other rescue groups, we make every attempt not to euthanize animals for lack of space. We do understand why shelters with limited resources, including the lack of caregivers or permanent adoptive homes, are forced to euthanize animals because of lack of space.
We recognize that there are agencies that operate under a limited admissions or no-kill philosophy. While we do not oppose such policies we do recognize that they are possible only by accepting certain types and limited numbers of animals. This is in comparison to the open admissions policy practiced by Suncoast Humane Society. Each agency deserves to be judged on its own merits. To the degree that these limited admissions or no-kill agencies provide a complementary program to that of Suncoast Humane Society, and act within accepted humane standards, it is our intent to act cooperatively with such agencies.