Paw it Forward

Colleen Dougherty

Picture a scene in the parlor of a home in the Netherlands sometime in the late 1800s, where children from the village have gathered on “Nicholas Eve” for a visit from Saint Nick himself.

He arrives bedecked in a golden robe and speaks to each child, scolding them for their indiscretions over the past year, but forgiving them if they’ll promise to stop doing whatever is was they did.

“Young Cathy has been cruel to the cat more than once,” he says, “Oh, St. Nicholas, can hear the cat cry when his tail is pulled! But, I’ll forgive her if she’ll remember from this hour that even the smallest beasts have feelings, and must not be abused.”

This scene from the 1969 Holiday movie “Hans Brinker,” inspired me to write this new year’s column sharing with you some accomplishments that animal welfare groups around the world have made this past year in service to that sentiment. But there was a lot to report! So … since my original draft was twice as long as it’s supposed to be, this will be Part I.

Starting with the “smallest beasts,” the FDA Modernization Act was signed into law by President Biden on Dec. 27. This law amends a law originally passed in 1938 that required drug companies to test new drugs on animals before testing them on humans.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ken.), who sponsored the bill stated the new law, which allows but does not require animal testing, will “help end the needless suffering and death of animal test subjects, and get safer, more effective drugs to market more quickly by cutting red tape that is not supported by science.”

Paul was referring to the fact that 19 out of 20 drugs tested on animals actually fail in humans.

Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action and the Center for a Humane Economy, noted this will save both animal and human lives, and is “a sign of our mercy and decency to care for the least among us.”

A week earlier, New York became the tenth state to ban the sale and manufacture of cosmetics tested on animals when Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the legislation on Dec. 18. The law went into effect this month.

State Assemblymaker Linda Rosenthal remarked that “research methods have evolved, rendering unnecessary the requirements that animals undergo inhumane tests to help companies create a new mascara or shampoo.”

For decades, rats, mice and rabbits have been subjected to cruel experiments, such as having chemicals forced down their throats, rubbed on their skin and dripped into their eyes. Forty-one countries have already phased out animal cosmetic testing, and in the United States, the Humane Cosmetics Act initiated in December 2021 is now being considered in Congress.

New York state director for the Humane Society, Brian Shapiro added, “With the increasing availability of non-animal test methods and thousands of existing ingredients, there is no excuse to continue harming animals.”

The summer of 2022 also saw one of the largest rescues in the U.S. involving “man’s best friend.” Every year more than 60,000 Beagles are inhumanely bred, housed and tortured in breeding facilities all over the U.S. to be sold and used in barbaric experiments across this country — again in the name of science.

But last summer, one breeding facility in Cumberland, Va., Envigo was finally shut down by the U.S. Department of Justice for repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The 3,776 Beagle dogs and puppies within were systematically rescued by the Humane Society of the United States, given medical, emotional and behavioral attention, then sent to shelters, rescues and adopted into homes all over the world (including the home of the Duke and Dutchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan).

The last pup taken out of the facility was on its way to the HSUS Care and Rehabilitation Center on Sept. 2.

Modern non-animal testing technologies are being used in the U.S. and around the world, and as Kathleen Conlee, vice president of Animal Research Issues for the HSUS stated, “Animal testing will never improve, while non-animal testing will only continue to do so. The sky’s the limit.”

Let’s hope that fact, and Saint Nicholas’ admonition will lead us into becoming a cruelty-free nation soon. I have more stories to report to you next month. Until then, thank you for reading and be well.

 

(Colleen Dougherty’s history in animal welfare includes work in a veterinary clinic, shelters in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and currently as a volunteer for the Valencia County Animal Shelter. She has been a speaker at the N.M. State Humane Conference on three occasions, presenting talks on caring for small mammals in the shelter setting, and compassion fatigue in animal welfare. She holds degrees in art and counseling therapy, and certificates in eco-psychology and feline massage therapy.)

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portrait of Colleen Dougherty animal welfare guest columnist
Colleen Dougherty, guest columnist