By Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services
"Tell the truth and trust the people; they won't let you down," says Robin Ganzert, who last October took over as the new CEO and President of the American Humane Association.
"Wow, I am humbled," says Ganzert. "After all, since 1877 the historic American Humane Association
has been at the forefront of every major advancement in protecting
children, pets and farm animals from cruelty, abuse and neglect. Today,
we're leading the way to better understand human-animal interaction and
its role in society. We do have quite a wonderful legacy."
Ganzert speaks quickly, knowing exactly what she wants to say, "The American Humane Association
supports mainstream values of America, sharing the belief that we all
support humane causes and values of compassion, hope and caring," she
One example is the American Humane Association farm animal
certification program, the largest in the country, designed to protect
farm animals and enhance food safety. There are other farm animal
certification programs being touted to politicians that are not
science-based, and rife with unintended consequences.
Renowned behaviorist Temple Grandin serves on the American Humane Association Farm Animal Scientific Advisory Board.
"Of course, Temple is one of the best advocates we can possibly
have," says Ganzert. "Our standards (for farm animals) are fact-based,
and include 130 million animals in food supply. While our intent is to
have food supply animals treated as humanely as possible, at the same
time our goal is to work with agriculture, educate them as to the best
standards of humane animal welfare -- and not to put them out of
business." For example, due to the many animal care limitations placed
on farmers when Proposition 2 passed in California, many farmers have the state.
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Ganzert says farmers are a part of the American fabric, and the American Humane Association values farmers.
As Ganzert speaks about returning to humane values and a sense of
community, she sounds like a citizen of Mayberry.
In fact, she lives
less than 30 minutes from Mount Airy, NC, the real city after which Andy
Griffith patterned the fictional Mayberry. The same passion rings when
she talks about the American Humane Association Front Porch Project.
"It's really a simple idea -- neighbors helping neighbors,
particularly looking after children," Ganzert says. "The time has come
to lift one another up."
Despite her sweet Southern drawl, this former director of
philanthropic services at the Pew Charitable Trusts, Washington, D.C.,
is clearly not living in the past. "It's no Mayberry picnic today; families are facing challenges
meeting grocery bills and buying shoes for the children, paying the
mortgage -- if the family is lucky enough to be working," she says.
"There's a lot of distress, and this is the time more than ever when
children benefit from pets. The pets care no matter what, and provide
stability. A family is defined by the family (as opposed to government),
and includes pets."
With times being so tough, some animal shelters are seeing an
increase in the number of pets being given up, sometimes just let out on
the streets or into the woods.
"We need to do more to support shelters, and I'm listening to what
they're saying," she says. The American Humane Association will again
sponsor Adopt-A-Cat month in June, and Adopt-A-Dog month in October.
Animals in need of protection aren't always homeless. In 1939, the
movie "Jesse James" caused a public outcry when the media learned that a
horse was forced to jump to its death as a stunt. From that film, the
Los Angeles American Humane Association Film Office was born; standards
were set for producers to follow, and today the American Humane Association
is on the set of over 1,000 movies, TV shows and TV commercials shot
around the world. That's why at the end of movies that feature animals,
you usually see the designation, "No Animals Were Harmed."
Similarly, the American Humane Association Red Star Emergency Services has a
celebrated history -- rescuing Calvary horses in World War II. Today,
the Unit includes an 82-foot rescue rig (which features a veterinary
emergency center) and a fleet of emergency response vehicles customized
to help animals in disasters.
"From Hurricane Katrina to the earthquake in Haiti, we are there as a
FEMA partner," says Ganzert. "We are on call 27/7 to help animals in
"Our goal is continue the long-held American Humane Association
legacy of protecting children and animals, " says Ganzert, who has
three children, two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (Gatsby and Chaz),
two cats (White Kitty and Grey Kitty) and numerous pet hermit crabs.
Ganzert says she's even amazed at the breadth of what the American Humane Association
has historically achieved, "Today, we're at a place in America where I
believe we need to do better; building humane communities."
(Full disclosure: Steve Dale serves on the Board of Directors of the American Humane Association)
©Tribune Media Services, Steve Dale
Tags: adopt a cat month, Adopt A Dog month, American Humane Association, American Humane Association National Humanitarian medal, American Humane Farm Certification Program, Andy Griffith, animal protection, child protection, child welfare, Dr Robyn Barbiers, farm animal welfare, Front Porch Project, Jon Turtelbaub, Mayberry, No Animals Were Harmed, pet welfare, Pew Charitable Trust, protecting children and animals, Red Star Emergency Services, Steve Dale archives, Temple Grandin