Darci Adams, the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) state director for South Dakota, invited HSUS members to Pierre on Feb. 15 for an event dubbed, “South Dakota Humane Lobby Day.” A dozen members of the group showed up to visit with the state’s elected officials. Representing dogs and cats in name only, HSUS is a powerful lobbying organization with an annual budget of $191.3 million, of which less than 1% is used to fund hands-on pet shelters, according to Humane Watch. In 2010, 97 new state laws and regulations for animals were enacted, many of which relate to the way food is produced in the U.S., and many of these promoted by HSUS.
I had the opportunity to interview Adams, and we visited about the priorities of HSUS in South Dakota. Adams stated that she’s “very companion animal focused.” Yet, when asked how much money South Dakota HSUS gives to local animal shelters, she told me, “We have no affiliation with local shelters; we try to complement them, not oversee them. We offer various forms of training, manuals and networking opportunities, and our efforts focus on policy.”
While many local shelters are extremely under-staffed and under-funded, Adams doesn’t think her organization siphons dollars away from these facilities.
“Our members know what we do. I used to work for the Sioux Falls Humane Society, and we were always needing funds. I encourage people to give money to HSUS and their local shelters,” she added.
Adams said as a young child she briefly lived on her dad’s farm located outside of Sioux Falls, SD, and she insists that she understands South Dakota agriculture, despite what HSUS represents.
“I was born and raised in South Dakota; I know the importance of animal agriculture. I get criticized for other things happening in other states. The beauty is, I can focus on what’s important to this state. Right now we are working on the prairie dog issue, HB 1047; horse slaughter is a big concern of ours, too,” Adams says. Her reference to “other things,” however, includes legislation and ballot initiatives that have been passed into law in states such as California’s Proposition 2, Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act (2008). It mandates housing and handling requirements for veal calves, poultry and sows.
When I asked what she would like to see changed in South Dakota’s livestock industry, Adams said nothing needs to be fixed.
“I think we have great farmers and ranchers in this state; we don’t have anything we want to see changed. I don’t get a lot of pressure from national headquarters; our South Dakota members get to set our state priorities. To see our platform on animal issues, you just have to look at the national website.”
Adams’ reassurances, however, do little to ease concerns of the state’s farmers and ranchers. Many producers were at the capital the day of Adams’ event to visit with legislators, as well. Although Adams insisted HSUS wasn’t focused on changing laws for food producers in South Dakota, her volunteers lobbied to state legislators and told many, “Next year, we will introduce a felony animal cruelty bill in this state.”
Obviously, farmers and ranchers will continue to watch the actions of HSUS. It’s important for all of us to be aware of their actions and stay tuned into the issues. Are you paying attention to the politics in your state? If not, now is the time.