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Frequently Asked Questions

A Downer is an animal that is too sick or injured to walk. "Downers" are often treated inhumanely, being prodded or dragged to trucks for the journey to the slaughterhouse and again from the truck to the slaughterhouse floor. "Downers," though often sick and infected animals, are sold for human consumption.

About 98% of the meat, milk and eggs sold in America comes from animals raised on factory farms, also known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Factory farming has been developed over the course of the last half-century to maximize production and profit by crowding the greatest number of animals together into the smallest possible space. Animals on factory farms are treated not as living creatures, but as economic units in a mechanized production system. Illustrating this, one hog industry journal advises, "The breeding sow should be thought of, and treated as, a valuable piece of machinery whose function is to pump out baby pigs like a sausage machine."

Some factory farms are like warehouses with cages stacked several levels high, while others cram animals together by the thousands into a single large area. Without exception, factory farms are designed to limit animals’ movement, both to conserve space and so animals don’t expend calories and lose weight. Severe overcrowding compounded with poor sanitation causes intense stress and spreads disease. The only way to keep animals alive under such filthy and unnatural conditions is to feed them massive amounts of antibiotics. They are also given hormones and genetically bred for rapid growth so that they can be slaughtered at a very young age, living out only a fraction of their natural life spans.

The majority of chickens, pigs, cows and other animals on factory farms don’t have grass to walk on, hay to lie in or even access to the outdoors – ever. Most spend their entire lives confined indoors and only see sunlight when they are driven to a slaughterhouse.

Puppy mills are facilities licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that mass-produce puppies for pet stores throughout the country and emerging foreign markets. Puppies are subjected to horrific conditions from birth and during transportation from breeder, to broker, to pet stores hundreds of miles from where their lives began. The breeding "stock" suffers a constant misery living in small hutch-style cages with wire floors. The dogs’ fecal matter drops to the ground below where waste accumulates, providing a haven for flies and other vermin. The puppies’ soft fur often becomes soiled with fecal matter that stuck to the cage floor.

At eight weeks of age, puppies are "harvested" and cleaned up for the trip to the broker. Some perish during shipping, while others are rejected by the broker and held for breeding stock or sold to research laboratories. The rest are sold in pet stores, through local papers and the Internet.

The puppy mill industry produces dogs for profit while thousands of unwanted animals of all ages and breeds are euthanized in shelters every day. If you want to bring a dog into your life, consider adopting one from an animal shelter or rescue group. Visit Petfinder.com to see a listing of animals available for adoption in your area.

While zoos can help conserve certain endangered species, they are still profit-making enterprises that too often put their own commercial self-interest ahead of animal welfare. A prime example of this is elephants held in captivity and put on exhibit in zoos.

Zoos cannot provide the vast acreage necessary to accommodate elephants’ complex physical, psychological and social needs. As the world’s largest land mammal, elephants are designed for almost constant movement, and wild elephant herds easily travel over thirty miles a day on soft soil and varied terrains. Elephants in zoos, by contrast, spend their entire lives standing on concrete or hard compacted dirt in tiny enclosures. As a result, they suffer extremely painful arthritic and degenerative joint disorders and recurrent foot infections that are often fatal. Zoos typically feed elephants a daily diet of painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications to mask captivity-related ailments that result from their cramped conditions.

Neurotic behaviors are also common consequences of severe confinement, and can take the form of rocking or swaying, head nodding, and other repetitive motions. Sadly, many zoos still rely on force and dominance to manage elephants, such as chaining for prolonged periods and the use of "bullhooks" and electrical hotshots. Elephants’ skin appears tough, but in reality it is sensitive enough to feel the bite from a tiny insect. Handlers often embed the sharp point of the bullhook in the soft tissue behind the ears, inside the ear or mouth, in and around the anus, and in tender spots under the chin and around the feet to "manage" elephants’ behavior.

Captivity also causes the premature shut down of most female elephants’ reproductive systems, leaving them unable to breed. Even when baby elephants are born in captivity, new elephant mothers in zoos are ill equipped to nurture infants, lacking the complex social network that sustains elephants in the wild, causing many of these newborns to die.

With all the stress and illness elephants suffer in zoos, it is no surprise that their average lifespan is only about half that of wild elephants. Elephants in the wild can live to be seventy years or older, whereas elephants in U.S. zoos die on average at thirty-four years old.

Like the animals used in circuses, dolphins, orcas and seal lions in marine parks are forced to perform demeaning and unnatural acts for the entertainment of humans. All captive dolphins are forcibly abducted from their families at sea. The entire pod is pulled up using a giant net, and the animals are dumped onto the ship’s deck. Many are injured or die from shock before being tossed back into the water. When the most attractive specimens are sold to marine parks, the tightly knit social structure of the pod is permanently damaged.

Once in the marine park, dolphins – who in their natural habitat swim about 40 miles a day and can dive to depths of more than a quarter of a mile – spend the rest of their lives in a concrete pool. Trainers get dolphins to perform the abnormal behaviors that are the basis for their tricks by depriving them of food. Dolphins learn that they will only be fed when they do what the trainer wants, even though jumping through hoops and "walking" on their tails is completely unnatural to these animals.

Marine parks masquerade as institutions of learning and conservation, but this is merely a front for their commercial entertainment business. People learn nothing about dolphins, orcas and sea lions from watching them perform ridiculous acts. Marine parks are in fact prisons for these animals who are exploited for profit.

Cockfighting is illegal in all but two states in the U.S., and is punishable as a felony offense in 31 states. Though it is normal for roosters to challenge one another over food, mates or territory, these disputes rarely end in serious injury. Those who train roosters for cockfighting exploit this natural trait by isolating and tormenting individual birds, using terror tactics to turn them into killers. The natural spurs of the roosters are sawed off and replaced by razor sharp steel blades or curved implements called gaffs measuring from one to three inches long. During the fight, from which neither rooster can escape, the birds peck and maim one another with their beaks and weapons. The long, sharp gaffs stab deep into the flesh often requiring handlers to physically pull the animals apart. As a result of competing in this "sport," gamecocks typically suffer from broken bones, ruptured eyes and punctured lungs. Such injuries are most often fatal, and usually one of the birds doesn’t make it out of the ring alive: sometimes even the "winner" dies soon after the fight ends.

Dog fighting is illegal in the U.S. and a felony in almost every state. Dogs used in fights are bred and trained to be violent through torment and regular beatings. Trainers often use stolen animal companions or stray animals as "bait" to train their dogs to be killers. Fights typically take place in a small enclosed area and may last anywhere from minutes to hours. Spectators bet thousands of dollars on the outcome, making these illegal events potentially lucrative for those who raise fighting dogs. Dogs forced to fight one another suffer severe injuries such as wounds from biting and broken bones, and often die when the fight is over or shortly thereafter.

Unfortunately, Humane Education Network is not able to help directly with pet or wild animal emergencies. Our primary focus is providing information to influence legislation that ensures the humane treatment of animals.

Please contact your or animal rescue group.

Humane societies are usually listed in your Yellow Pages telephone directory under Humane Societies or Animal Shelter & Support Services. To use Google to search for humane societies in your area, enter your Zip code and click Search below:


A no kill shelter will not euthanize animals surrendered by their "owners" except when medically necessary to relieve the animal’s suffering. Every effort is made to find a new home for the animal with a family or at an animal sanctuary. Shelters can become no-kill with proper planning. Visit the No Kill Solutions web site for further information.

Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR) is the nonlethal population control plan in which entire colonies of cats are humanely (and painlessly) trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and have one ear notched or tipped by veterinarians. Kittens and cats that are tame enough to be adopted are sterilized, and then placed in good homes. Adult cats are returned to their colony to live out their lives where they are fed and their health monitored by volunteers.

Search Petfinder.com or visit your local .

The tragic result of people buying animals is that, even while dogs and cats are purposely breed for profit, millions of unwanted animals are put to death in our nation’s shelters every year. Every time a "purebred" puppy or kitten is purchased from a breeder or pet store, an animal in a shelter loses a potential home. In many instances, people who purchase a puppy or a kitten no longer want the animal once he or she has grown, so many of these adult dogs and cats also wind up in shelters and are often euthanized for lack of homes. Guardians we suggest should therefore always adopt rescued animals to reduce animal homelessness.

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