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April 1, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions

Get answers to common questions about international animal protection issues and HSI

Humane Society International

  • We're helping animals, from the smallest to the largest. Natalie Ragan

Thank you for your concern for animals around the world!

We've provided answers to our most frequently asked questions below, so please check to see if we've responded to your query. If we haven't already addressed your concern, you're welcome to contact us using this form or (from North America) by calling 866-614-4371. (Media: find contact information here.)

Q. What types of programs do you run internationally? In which countries?

HSI works on a variety of animal welfare issues in numerous countries. Our offices around the world cover topics such as the illegal wildlife trade, humane street dog population control, farm animal welfare, and disaster response.

HSI has operated in many countries and works closely with local organizations to pass on our knowledge and expertise.

Q. How does HSI work with different cultures effectively? What are the challenges?

Humane Society International emphasizes culturally sensitive solutions to animal welfare concerns. We work closely with local organizations, which helps us navigate customs, laws, cultural traditions and languages.

Our challenges lie mostly in showing people who live in severe poverty that animals are our responsibility and humane treatment is important in bettering their economic conditions. Some do not see animals as sentient beings who possess the same basic feelings as humans, like loneliness, pain, fear and happiness.

However, the majority of people react positively to our programs and we often return to the areas to see the conditions much improved for both the people and animals.

Q. What are the groups you work with around the globe and what do they do? How can I donate to them?

We currently work with many groups around the world. Among these organizations are HSI Animal Advocates, or partner organzations.

While we do not list all of the organizations we work with on our website, profiles and contact information for our Animal Advocates are listed here. You may contact us for information about groups in specific countries.

You can also search World Animal Net, which lists animal welfare organizations worldwide by country. Please note, however, that HSI is not familiar with many of these groups.

Our programs are done in conjunction with local organizations and donations to HSI are used to assist these groups by creating and overseeing sustainable projects to benefit animals and the communities in which they live.

Q. What if I am considering donating to HSI, but have questions?

Please see our list of Frequently Asked Donation questions, and/or call us or send us an email as noted on the bottom of that page. 

Q. What is being done about the dog and cat meat/fur trade in China and other parts of Asia?

China is not the only country that peddles cat and dog fur, or slaughters these animals for meat.

Other countries are also at the center of the debate over the consumption of dogs and cats. Several locations in Africa and Latin America also report the eating of cats and dogs. Though sometimes prompted by severe poverty, the majority of this practice is part of commercial trade influenced by cultural beliefs about health that have little or no scientific backing.

It can be difficult to change the minds of people who accept the consumption of dogs and cats as no different than animals traditionally raised for food, or those who do so as a result of poverty. Foodways are often the most static aspects of a culture, which is why animal welfare organizations must use culturally sensitive methods to reduce the number of animals affected by this practice.

Korea

There is an animal welfare law on the books in Korea, but enforcement is lacking. Some Koreans claim that eating dogs and cats is a cultural right. Some also believe that consuming these animals can cure ailments, even though this has not been proven, and consumption of dogs and cats violates the country's own animal protection laws.

The majority of Koreans, mostly of the younger generation, are against these practices. Additionally, organizations such as CARE-Korea, Voice for Animals, Korean Federation for Environment Movement, and Animal Freedom Korea are working to address the issue.

China

In the last few years, HSI's work in Asia has grown and we are making efforts to address the serious animal welfare issues that exist in Asia, such as the terrible abuse of dogs and cats for food and fur.

Read more about HSI's work in China.

Philippines

For more about our work to stop the dog meat trade in the Philippines (and elsewhere), please see here.

There are also movements that are raising the status of dogs around Asia. Our colleagues at Animals Asia Foundation, for example, have developed educational outreach projects, such as their Dr. Dog program, which is also present in the Philippines through our Animal Advocate, PAWS.

Killing for fur

Though the bulk of the cat and dog fur/meat trade is in Asia, illegal fur farms have been discovered in Europe, and the slaughter of cats and dogs is suspected in Asian markets around the world, even in the United States.

The killing of animals for their fur is particularly cruel. Many of these animals are skinned alive and sometimes suffer for as long as 15 minutes before they die.

For information about the overseas fur trade, please contact The HSUS's Fur Free Campaign.

Q. I just visited [country]/came back from a cruise/saw a video/TV show, and saw a large amount of stray animals/ zoo abuse/equine abuse/etc. What are you doing/what can I do?

We hear from many people who witness animal abuse and inhumane animal control on their travels. While we unfortunately do not have the resources to respond to individual cases (e.g. captive animals at resorts and hotels, a stray dog living outside of a restaurant, feral cat colonies, etc.), we do try to address the bigger picture and in some instances, we are already aware of these issues and have programs that are addressing them.

We highly suggest contacting organizations already in that country. You may find a list of organizations by country at World Animal Net. Please note that HSI is not familiar with many of these groups, however.

We also suggest writing to the embassy and office of tourism in the country of your concern. We have found that letter-writing, especially mentioning tourism will sometimes prompt the government or local officials to act. Please emphasize that you wish the government work with experienced local and international animal welfare organizations, such as HSI, to ensure a humane response.

For cases of zoo or captive animal abuse, please contact the Born Free Foundation. This organization has a ZooCheck program that monitors zoos across the globe.

If you witnessed animal abuse while on a shore excursion for a cruise line, please contact the cruise line's corporate office and offer suggestions on how they may support local tour agencies in designing shore excursions that do not involve the use or exploitation of animals. Emphasize that many fellow passengers also expressed concern and decided to choose excursions that did not involve animals (i.e. rainforest kayaking, city walking tours, bicycle tours, etc.). For Caribbean destinations, learn more here.

Equine abuse is a common complaint from travelers. The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad, World Horse Welfare, the Brooke Hospital for Animals and the International Fund for Horses all have global programs that address the issue of equine welfare.

You may also wish to post your concerns on travel blogs. Many people are eager to give fellow travelers advice on which places to avoid and which destinations offer animal-friendly alternatives. It is also a good way to become familiar with the animal welfare organizations in each country.

HSI strives to keep up to date on many international issues involving animals, but we always appreciate being apprised of any issues you think should be brought to our attention. In most cases, we are already aware and would be able to provide you with an update. Please also check our website often, as we try to have post information on issues that are reported in the mainstream media and any response that HSI is taking.

Q. What are you doing/what can I do about the poisoning of stray animals in [city]/[country]?

We unfortunately hear about this often. Poisoning, shooting, beating and electrocution, among other cruel methods, are used across the globe to control street animal populations.

HSI is staunchly against these methods of euthanasia and animal control because they are:

  • cruel and the animal suffers enormously
  • not proven to effectively control overpopulation, as more animals will continue to fill the void
  • known to pose a health hazard to the public and a danger to pets and children, especially eradication by poisoning.
  • negatively affecting tourism and the public image of the region or country

The only acceptable method of euthanasia, when necessary, is the administration of an injection of sodium pentobarbital in a controlled atmosphere by a compassionate and trained individual.

Our street animal welfare program

HSI has worked with and continues to work with organizations and governments across the world on humane animal control policies.

Populations can be humanely controlled by intensive sterilization and vaccination projects in conjunction with government authorities, humane euthanasia of suffering or ailing animals, community education, and active implementation of TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release), CNVR (Catch-Neuter-Vaccinate-Release) or ABC (Animal Birth Control) programs. Even a small team of animal protectionists can make a big difference when given the proper resources.

HSI has years of experience with this issue and is supporting continued training for local partners. We also organize World Spay Day activities to support groups around the world promote spay/neuter initiatives in their communities.

We strongly suggest that travelers, tourists and residents concerned about the effects of inhumane animal control write to the relevant tourism ministries in that country and ask that they work closely with qualified local and international animal welfare organizations to implement humane animal control policies.

We have found that continuous complaints from tourists and visitors have profoundly impacted the decisions that governments make regarding animal control. For a list of tourism offices in different countries, please click here.

Q. I saw a website with animal cruelty. Is this real? What can I do/what are you doing?

Unfortunately, many websites featuring animal cruelty are authentic. Some are simply hoaxes (e.g. Bonsai Kitten), although these may also inspire true cases of animal abuse.

These websites take months and sometimes years to disappear completely, if they ever do. The posting of these types of sites on the Internet has become common as people realize that there is a loophole in the law that prevents them from being removed in many cases. We have looked into legislative and regulatory options to deal with them, and we will continue to work towards their removal.

However, the Internet is very difficult to monitor and regulate. Oftentimes, even though the abuse is apparent, there is nothing that can be done because it is difficult to determine perpetrators, location, etc. The good news is, in recent years Internet Service Providers are getting better about taking offensive websites down, but the creator can often simply find another host.

For more information on what you can do, please visit Hugs for Homeless Animals' Stop Cruelty webpage.

You may also report a website to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.

The best advice we can give at this point for animal advocates and concerned citizens is this: do not contact this person at all, and please do not pass the site on to your friends. Doing so only perpetuates the website's existence.

For websites such as YouTube, please contact them directly to report animal abuse. These companies have clear content policies and are generally responsive in removing offensive material.

Please note that we do not open links sent to us. Include a description of the offensive website and we will do our best to investigate. In most cases, we are already aware of certain websites.

Additional resources on this issue include the World Society for the Protection of Animals' Report Cruelty webpage, and Pet-Abuse.com.

Q. I have seen a rumor/photos circulating on the Internet about turtle egg poaching in Costa Rica. What do you know about this?

The images were taken on Ostional beach on the north Pacific coast of Costa Rica. This turtle egg collection is, regrettably, legal on this particular beach under the Costa Rican Wildlife Law of 1986. The government justifies the collection based upon the reported large numbers of turtles that come in several waves to lay their eggs, and the claim is that if the first eggs are not collected then it is thought that they would simply be trampled by the next group of turtles to come up on shore. This harvest is technically monitored by the Ministry of the Environment and was originally based on scientific criteria. There is a management plan in place being used by the Tempisque Conservation Area to oversee the practice.

This sea turtle egg collection was discussed recently at a meeting of the Costa Rican Marine Turtle Network. Several marine turtle specialist groups are working together to propose a review of the outdated and controversial management plan, which would include a questionnaire to the Director of the Tempisque Conservation Area, and a workshop with specialists to analyze the current situation in order determine the viability of the continued harvest practices or to provide recommendations on how to change the existing management plan and/or law.

Q. Is it true that Denmark hunts pilot whales?

The killings actually occur in the Faroe Islands, an autonomous province of Denmark. Many people have seen the graphic pictures portraying the annual drive hunt of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands. During these hunts, pods of pilot whales (a species in the dolphin family) are driven ashore and then brutally killed. About 950 pilot whales die every year during the killing season, which generally takes place in the summer.

The Faroese consider the pilot whale hunt as part of their cultural heritage and have incorporated the meat into their diets for generations. Because of this, most protest efforts in the past by groups concerned with animal welfare and population sustainability have only inflamed the situation and pushed the hunt numbers up. However, in recent years, the numbers of pilot whales killed have been in decline, quite possibly because the population around the Faroe Islands is in decline.

HSI works closely with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, which is involved with this issue on a subversive level. Since the pilot whale hunt is conducted mostly for local consumption, WDCS has highlighted the negative side of eating the meat. Scientific studies have shown that pilot whale meat is highly contaminated with PCBs, heavy metals, and other toxins. Pregnant Faroese women and young children have historically been frequent consumers of the meat, resulting in an increase in learning disabilities and other health problems in the population. An advisory recommending only limited pilot whale meat consumption for these groups is now issued by the government, but the hunt goes on.

If you would like to take action against the hunt, you can write to the Faroese government and tourist board and explain your concerns and why you think it should be stopped. You can tell authorities there that the hunts are no longer necessary to provide food for islanders and that studies show that dolphin meat contains toxins that are unsafe to consume. Also, pilot whales, who are intelligent social animals, are forced to endure severe physical and psychological suffering during the drive hunt – the hunt does not meet humane slaughter standards at any level. You can add that the hunts tarnish the Faroe Islands' international image and discourage tourists from visiting.

Faroese government contact information:

Prime Minister's Office
Løgmansskrivstovan
Tinganes
P.O.Box 64
FO- 110 Tórshavn
FAROE ISLANDS
Tel: +298 351010
Fax: +298 351015
E-mail: info@tinganes.fo

Faroe Islands Tourist Board contact information:

Faroe Islands Tourist Board
Samvit—Faroe Islands Enterprise
Bryggjubakki 12
P.O. Box 118
FO-110 Torshavn
FAROE ISLANDS
E-mail: tourist@tourist.fo

Q. What is wrong with keeping marine mammals in captivity? Doesn't it serve conservation goals?

Fewer than five to 10 percent of zoos and aquaria are involved in substantial conservation programs. The amount spent on these conservation initiatives is usually a mere fraction of the income generated by these facilities. Simply exhibiting wildlife is not considered conservation and most captive marine mammal facilities have nothing to do with conservation.

Contrary to popular belief, captive whales and dolphins do not live longer in captivity than they do in the wild; many die from infections that in the wild would not prove fatal, perhaps due to stress, which is known to weaken the immune system.

Additionally, many captive whales and dolphins, especially outside the U.S. and Europe, have been captured from the wild using methods that are inherently cruel. For example, in Japan's drive fisheries, dozens of dolphins are herded into shallow coves by fishermen and then are brutally killed with lances and knives. A few are kept alive to be sold to zoos and aquariums, including swim-with-the-dolphins attractions. It is these profits from selling the dolphins into captivity that allow the hunts to prosper.

Q. Is it okay to swim with the dolphins? Couldn't they just swim away if they didn't enjoy it?

Dolphins are not suited for a life in captivity. Our desire to swim with them has led to a growing number of captive facilities being built and operated by people who know very little about dolphins and conduct wild captures to stock their tanks and pens. The very nature of dolphins makes them unsuited to confinement. In the wild, dolphins live in large groups or pods, often in tight family units. Social bonds often last for many years. In some species, they last for a lifetime.  A constant parade of strangers coming through their enclosures is not natural for them at all.

In far too many facilities, if dolphins do try to swim away because they are feeling stressed or simply don't want to interact with swimmers, the trainers recall them with a signal, usually a whistle.  The dolphin is not free to choose the level of interaction he or she prefers.

Swim-with-the-dolphins attractions also pose risks for the swimmers. Dolphins in these programs have demonstrated agitated and aggressive behavior during forced interactions. These behaviors have resulted in serious physical injury to swimmers, including lacerations, tooth rakes, internal injuries, broken bones, and shock.

As for swimming with wild dolphins, it may seem common sense that if wild dolphins didn't like being approached by people, they would simply swim away.  When the number of people involved is small or sporadic, this might be true.  But commercial swims usually bring out large numbers of people at a time, often twice or more a day - under these circumstances, the dolphins would have to vacate an entire area for hours at a time to avoid contact with people.  If the area the tour operators visit is essential habitat for the dolphins - a prime feeding area or a protected resting area - then this becomes a serious problem. 

Imagine total strangers entering your home, without permission, to watch you watch television in your living room.  You are in your home, so you aren't going to want to leave.  The strangers may not do anything to harm you, but you still wouldn't much like them intruding on your personal space.  That's what it may be like for wild dolphins who are targeted by commercial tour operators.  They don't leave because it's their living room, and the people aren't directly harming them - but it's intrusive at best and disruptive and stressful at worst.

Q. Is it true that some countries are still whaling? If so, which ones?

Astonishingly, many people are unaware of the fact that whaling is still occurring. The three main offenders are Iceland, Norway, and Japan. In addition, the United States, Greenland, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Russia allow aboriginal hunting of whales for subsistence purposes. In the United States, Inuits are given annual quotas for whales that they are permitted to hunt, and the food products from these whales must not be sold commercially.

Norway and Iceland are the only countries that openly hunt whales for commercial purposes. Both countries ignore the International Whaling Commission (IWC) ban on commercial whaling and undermine international conservation efforts. Japan claims to hunt whales for scientific purposes, but sells the whale meat on the commercial market. Most scientists and the majority of IWC member countries consider the country's research program to be a commercial whale hunt in disguise. Since the IWC ban went into effect, these three countries have killed tends of thousands of whales.

Take action to save whales.

Q. I would like to start a humane society/animal shelter in my city/country. How can I do this? Can you provide funding and advice?

HSI commends those would like to start their own humane organizations, but we strongly discourage the establishment of shelters for several reasons.

Building and running a shelter takes a vast amount of time and money, and efforts could be better used to establish programs that will have a larger impact such as spay/neuter clinics and educational programs. We understand that the first reaction to homeless and sick animals is to want to house and care for them, but if you are not prepared to run a shelter or clinic, you may find yourself in over your head.

Please refer to our article on HSI's E-Library for information on how to establish an animal protection organization, fundraise, write grants, and more.

If HSI works with an organization in your general area, we suggest that you join their efforts instead of starting your own group, especially if you do not have funding or staff. However, many of our Animal Advocates began with the small hope of establishing a humane organization in a place where none existed.

To find animal welfare organizations in your country, please contact World Animal Net, but please note that HSI is not affiliated with all of the organizations listed.

Funding

HSI is inundated with requests for assistance from organizations and individuals who wish to pursue animal protection programs around the world. Unfortunately, we are not able to grant requests to all of these organizations, though we do try to provide assistance when we can.

All of the groups who have received HSI funding have:

  • established relationships with HSI
  • been in existence for at least a year and are a recognized NGO in their country
  • a holistic approach to animal welfare in their region
  • a long-term plan of action (i.e. how they plan to use their funds)
  • the capacity to sustain their programs (e.g. proper budget management, public support, etc.)

You may try other international animal welfare groups for possible assistance, collaboration or advice:

When we do offer funding, it is a long-term commitment and involves a specific program (e.g. sterilization clinics, humane education workshops, etc.). HSI accepts proposals at any time, but please be aware that this does not guarantee funding or HSI support. Remember to give specifics about what your organization does and how it serves animals in your area, but please be brief.

Q. What can I do to help in international disasters?

We appreciate your willingness to help! The best thing you can do is donate to our International Disaster Fund. For more about our international disaster response, please see here.

We never know when disasters will strike around the world and some have a massive impact with long periods of recovery. Donations from our supporters are essential as they allow our disaster responders to put all of our resources into the lengthy recovery process, when support is critical for rebuilding.

While supplies are often needed in large-scale disasters, it can become cumbersome for rescue workers to have to focus their energy on intake of supplies that may end up spoiled, expired or otherwise unused.

If you are U.S.-based, learn more about volunteering here.

Q. How can I, as an international supporter/member, help with U.S. or international issues? Are there any petitions I can sign or people I can write? Will it even help?

Yes, it certainly does help! Our online advocates have made a huge difference for animals of all kinds in many countries. Sign up to become an HSI online advocate now.

Though international supporters may not have a direct influence on U.S. policy, the attention garnered from our worldwide audience is certainly a good way to persuade lawmakers and U.S. citizens to be more aware of the voices outside of our borders. The fact that word spreads internationally is a great sign that animal protection issues matter not only to Americans, but billions from around the world, no matter in which country they occur.

Action alerts are on our take action page, where international and domestic supporters can sign petitions, get more information about certain issues, and voice their opinions. We always ask that our supporters remain polite and calm when calling embassies or officials. HSI strives to maintain a diplomatic demeanor when dealing with other cultures and we ask that you do the same.

You may also help by starting in your own community. Volunteering for local animal welfare orgazniations or shelters is a great way to get experience, help animals, and improve your community. If you are in the U.S., please contact The HSUS Companion Animals section or visit The HSUS Animal Sheltering department for more. If you are living outside of the U.S., you may visit World Animal Net for a listing of animal welfare organziations by country, but please note that we do not know many of these groups.

Q. How can I volunteer internationally?

HSI rarely has volunteer opportunities, but we do have job openings and internship positions available. Click here for more information.

The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association (formerly the Rural Area Veterinary Services, RAVS) accepts applications from people with experience in the animal care field (i.e. vets, vet techs, vet nurses, etc). Please see their website for current opportunities.

Depending on our program needs, HSI occasionally seeks qualified veterinarians who are experienced in training other vets or vet techs in cultures which are sometimes vastly different from their own, and in environments that don't always offer even the most basic necessities. Sessions can vary from a few weeks to a few months or even longer. If you have the experience and would like to submit your CV, please email us.

Q. How can my group become an Animal Advocate/member of The HSUS/HSI?

Per our bylaws, it is not possible for organizations, societies, or foundations to be "members" of The HSUS/HSI. Instead, we place such entities on our emailing list at no charge. Although donations are appreciated if possible, they are not required.

Organizations and individuals are welcome to receive HSI's free emails. Sign up here.

If you would like to be placed on the mailing list for The HSUS, please click here.

To find out more about our Animal Advocates program, please click here.

Q. Does my signing the action alerts have any actual effect?

Yes! Our petitions and online action alerts not only give our supporters and members a way to help when they may not be able to assist other ways; they have also succeeded in changing laws and making positive strides for animal welfare. Please keep signing our action alerts and spreading the word to let others know how they can help, too!

Q. How can I take my pet overseas? How can I bring an animal to the United States?

HSUS/HSI does not normally suggest you travel with your pet if you can avoid it, especially by air. Travel is very stressful for some pets and can exacerbate underlying medical problems.

However, there are ways to safely travel with your pet. Please see here for more information and email us for a list of travel tips.

Please click here for more information about regulations on bringing an animal to the U.S.

The most important thing to remember is to make sure your pet is healthy, sterilized, up-to-date on vaccinations and medical paperwork is current. Be sure to call ahead to confirm that your airline will allow pets to travel. And if you have stopovers in certain countries, please be sure to research that country's regulations.

For a listing of all embassies worldwide, please click here.

For military personnel or others wishing to bring adopted animals back from conflict zones, please email us for more information about how we are helping to address this issue.

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