A Humane Society

Helpless. Frustrated. Angry.

Those three words have been ringing in my ears the past few weeks, and all have a common theme. These words have been shared with me by fellow animal advocates in North Carolina who are working hard to make a positive difference in the lives of our four-legged companions.

A neighbor who feels helpless because there is nothing in local animal control ordinances to ban the tethering of an animal to a tree, or an animal owner who refuses to bring a pet inside on cold nights. Frustrated when animal owners refuse to spay/neuter their pets, especially when low-cost, and even free, services are available. Angry when puppy mill operators house animals in the most deplorable, inhumane conditions, and angry at the small number of state senators beholden to special interests who have blocked legislation to mandate humane treatment of animals in commercial dog breeding facilities.

There are some people’s minds that we simply cannot change. So my advice and counseling to my cherished friends in the animal welfare industry has been this: if we cannot change them, then let’s outlast and outlive them. And while we are doing that, let’s also educate and empower our children to be a positive force for animal welfare in the future.

I was honored that the Humane Society of the United States actually used this quote of mine on their North Carolina Facebook page this week:


David Stroud with Rutherford County puppy mill rescue Leon

We cannot measure our progress on behalf of the animals in days. Like any cause, there are good days, and there are setbacks. We must measure our progress in terms of generations. Just one generation ago, you could visit nearly any major shopping mall in America and you would find a pet store selling puppy mill animals. Those major mall pet stores are gone for the most part, banned and outcast to the shadowy world of strip malls, flea markets, parking lots and Craigslist ads. A generation ago, most states had no laws regulating puppy mills. Today, only a small handful of states still have no puppy mill legislation. (Unfortunately, North Carolina is one of those states.)

Just two years ago, there were 20 counties in North Carolina still using gas chambers as a horrific means of animal euthanasia. Today, that number has dropped to eight. Someone I am honored to consider as a dear friend and ally, Kim Alboum, North Carolina State Director for the Humane Society of the United States, has been on the front lines to make that happen. In the past two years, 21 puppy mills have been shut down in North Carolina, even though in the absence of reasonable regulation, laws pertaining to extreme cruelty and abuse had to be used. You can thank Kim for that, also. I know I do.

One generation ago, it is estimated that 18-20 million animals were euthanized in shelters each year. Today, while still a tragic amount, that number is down to 4 million. Kids today talk about how “cool” it is to adopt a shelter pet. “Adopt, don’t shop” has become a well-known phrase.

As encouraging as all the above statistics are, they can sometimes be little consolation to us animal advocates in the trenches when we encounter the pet owner who considers their animal companion to be no more than a piece of furniture or lawn ornament, disposable at the first sign of inconvenience. Or the puppy mill operator who exposes the frightened and abused animals to an extreme level of cruelty before we are allowed to step in. And those few state senators who are blocking puppy mill legislation who will have to someday look into the eyes of their grandchildren when they ask, “Why did you allow this to happen?”

So to my friends and colleagues and animal lovers everywhere, if we cannot change them, then let’s vow to outlast and outlive them.

Many of us know the inspiring quote from Mahatma Gandhi: “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

Gandhi knew all those years ago not only what makes a society great.

It is what makes a society… humane.

David Stroud, Executive Director
Cashiers-Highlands Humane Society

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