Tag Archives: ASPCA

PIJAC President / USARK Partner: the Many Faces of Ed Sayres

OPINION

In the wake of the pet industry hiring of animal rights veteran Ed Sayres, questions have emerged regarding reptile industry ties and allegiance to this firebrand. Where does the US Association of Reptiles Keepers (USARK) stand? It has been over a week since the announcement. The Reptile Nation wants to know, does USARK support Ed Sayres?

ASPCA_EdSayresOn August 22, 2014, PIJAC announced that it had appointed Ed Sayres, a 40-year animal rights veteran with a written track record of opposition to reptile and amphibian ownership, as its president and CEO.  Almost immediately, some, but not all, members of the reptile community renounced PIJAC and withdrew financial support.

For forty years, Sayres was an animal rights activist.  And now he is a lobbyist for the largest puppy broker in the world, the Hunte Corporation who shuttles more than 100,000 puppies per year to pet stores all over the world.

In 2012, Ed Sayres said his aim was to raise awareness about puppy mill cruelty and to reduce the demand for puppies that come from puppy mills by asking consumers to pledge not to purchase anything from pet stores or websites that sell puppies.”  Sayres, E.  (2012, June 1).  ASPCA Pummels Puppy Mills With Pressure from Consumers, Politicians.  The Huffington Post.

In 2014, Sayres did an about-face, stating, “I am especially interested in the
challenge of breeding pure-bred dogs on a large scale with humane care standards that prioritize the care and conditions that matter most to the well being and lifetime care of the dog. . . In the future, we will not be debating adoption vs. purchase
.
”  E. Sayres, An Open  Letter to the Pet Breeding Community, August 22, 2014.

aspca quote on reptilesFor ten years, he spearheaded the ASPCA, which has an expressed policy against all reptile and amphibian ownership, stating that ownership of all reptiles and amphibians, including corn snakes, leopard geckos and dart frogs is, “bad for the animals, bad for us and bad for the environment.

Now he says, I strongly believe that responsible reptile owners, which are the vast majority, should be able to keep their pets and not be punished due to the actions of a few bad keepers.”  See  http://pijac.org/blog/my-stance-reptile-ownership-ed-sayres#sthash.OSinBbkk.dpuf.

The best we can say about the many faces of Ed Sayres is that he enjoys a whimsical decision-making style, flitting from one position to the next like a butterfly in a field of poppies.  However, the more accurate description is probably that Sayres is a seasoned politician, talking out of both sides of his mouth to curry favor with whatever audience stands to profit him best at the moment.

At this moment, Sayres is feathering his nest with a fat salary from the pet industry, including the world’s largest puppy broker, Petland pet stores (the Hunte Corporation’s largest customer) . . . and with money raised in auctions and in micro donations to PIJAC, hard earned dollars from members of the Reptile Nation.

Politics Make Strange Bedfellows.  USARK has chosen to remain silent on its position, posting only a few comments on its Facebook page:

USARK on PIJAC

I am not sure what is meant by, “USARK is USARK and PIJAC is PIJAC.”  However, USARK changed its position on PIJAC rather drastically in 2013 and proclaimed that USARK and PIJAC were partnering.  In January 2013, USARK issued a press release that stated that,

“USARK is committed to working closely with PIJAC (Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council) on the issue of the release/escape of non-native species in the US. This is an extremely important issue for the reptile industry and for USARK stakeholders. PIJAC has a 10 year head start on this issue and USARK needs to partner with them and report back to you, our esteemed membership.”

In March 2013,  USARK announced that:

“USARK has established an open line of communication with PIJAC in 2013. The PIJAC Board of Directors voted unanimously to provide USARK an honorary membership. USARK looks forward to a working relationship with PIJAC, who has been protecting the pet industry over 40 years.”

And USARK reaffirmed its partnership with PIJAC in its 2014 USARK Promotion:

“USARK is committed to a working relationship with PIJAC (Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council) on issues concerning the entire pet community. This is an important connection for the reptile industry and for USARK stakeholders. PIJAC is an established organization dealing with anti -pet legislation and USARK will partner with them and make the entire American pet community stronger. “

While at least one other organization (Pet Industry Distributors Association) has been deleted from the PIJAC list of Association Representatives since Sayres’ appointment, as of today, Phil Goss and USARK remain on PIJAC’s “Association Representatives” list.

It is disappointing that USARK has not spoken out on behalf of its members against the appointment of Sayres as PIJAC’s president, implying that USARK intends to stay in bed with PIJAC, notwithstanding PIJAC’s hiring of Sayres.

photo 1It is disappointing, but perhaps not surprising.  USARK’s Board is heavily stacked with members of the pet industry.  Gary Bagnall, chairman of the USARK board, is also the principal of Zoo Med, a manufacturer of reptile and amphibian pet products that are sold heavily through PETCO and other retail outlets.  Zoo Med is the largest (by far) single contributor to the USARK coffers, giving Bagnall if not exclusive control, disproportionate influence on the direction of the company.

Todd Goodman is the president/CEO of Timberline Live Pet Foods, the photo 2world’s largest supplier of live foods (crickets, meal worms, etc.), also sold heavily through retail outlets.  Although Timberline has made no public statement on their website or their Facebook page, through personal correspondence, Goodman has advised us that, “Tuesday, August 26th, Timberline informed PIJAC that they would no longer sponsor their Top To Top conference nor be a member of PIJAC, specifically because of the Sayres hiring.”  (PIJAC still lists Timberline as a 2015 Top2Top conference sponsor on their web site.) 

Loren Leigh is the founder and owner of LLLReptile & Supply Company, Inc. with four retail pet outlets throughout southern California.  USARK’s president, Phil Goss, was a sales manager for years for Zoo Med before he was promoted to his position at USARK.

The USARK board is the pet industry and the USARK board is beholden to pet industry mega stores, such as PETCO (which has two representatives on the PIJAC board).  Zoo Med cannot bump heads with PETCO without impacting its lifeline business relationship.  We respect and salute Timberline for taking a stand against Sayres, but it makes it even more curious why USARK has not taken a public position.

It is therefore, not shocking news that while most USARK members and donors have expressed outrage at the appointment of a fox in the hen house, USARK has failed to criticize in any way the appointment of Sayres as PIJAC’s leader.

Herp Alliance has supported and endorsed USARK in the past.  We have commended them on the filing of a federal lawsuit challenging the Lacey Act rule making that placed five species of large constrictors on the Injurious Wildlife List.  We have repeatedly asked people to donate to their cause.

USARK-needs-to-clearlyUSARK needs to clearly and unequivocally state its position on Ed Sayres so that the Reptile Nation can decide if it wants to partner with a 40-year  animal rights veteran with a written policy against reptile ownership.

It makes no difference what Sayres is saying today about reptiles because he has demonstrated that he is willing to say whatever he needs to say to ensure that Ed Sayres is as profitable as possible.  His contradictory statements are not credible and the Reptile Nation is not rich with cash to pay his salary while we all wait to see which way the wind will blow Sayres’ opinions next.

Until USARK loudly and firmly denounces PIJAC’s current leadership, Herp Alliance will not support it and will not recommend it.

 

Sleeping With The Enemy: Why is PIJAC in bed with Animal Rights?

pijac-642x336
Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC)

by the US Herpetoculture Alliance

The short answer as to why PIJAC is in bed with animal rights is ‘Puppy Mills’; or maybe more specifically, the money represented by PIJAC’s biggest constituent, the Hunte Corporation (the largest puppy mill broker in US).  But why would the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) hire an Animal Rights  “fat cat” to run the pet industry. In a word? —  SURVIVAL.

In a shocking development, PIJAC announced that it had hired as its President and CEO, Ed Sayres, a man who has made his 40-year career in the animal rights industry, including a decade as the president and CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

ed1
Ed Sayres, former President and CEO of ASPCA, current President and CEO of PIJAC

Ed Sayres is a man with a storied career as a mercenary for the animal rights industry. While others exhibit ideological zeal, Sayres displays the kind of cold calculation attributed to a contract killer. He has left a wake of controversy involving ethical dealings with other organizations, as well as possible financial improprieties. Last year he oversaw the ASPCA’s payment of $9.3 million to settle a RICO lawsuit filed by Ringling Brothers Circus after the judge threw out a frivolous lawsuit discovering that Sayres’ key witness was on the take from the animal rights plaintiffs.

Sayres’ strengths are fundraising and political deal making. Some in the pet industry have suggested that he is an intelligence asset that has been flipped from animal rights advocate to pet advocate like some cloak and dagger spy novel. It is naive to think that after investing his entire 40 year career in animal rights, that he has suddenly had a change of heart.  Sayres appears more like a conquering general sent to administer the occupation of a fallen enemy.

It may seem counter-intuitive on its face that a pet advocate like PIJAC would seek to hire someone with such strong ties to the likes of Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the zealous world of animal rights. Clearly Ed Sayres is a committed animal rights soldier, but PIJAC’s downward slide since the resignation of its founder and CEO, Marshall Myers in 2010 may have left them with few alternatives. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

MCheadshot
Mike Canning, former President and CEO of PIJAC

To fill the vacuum created by the resignation of Myers, PIJAC appointed Mike Canning as President and CEO in September of 2010. Coming from the financial industry, Canning appeared inept in dealing with legislative challenges at the local, state and federal level. Canning’s presidency left a wake of legislative losses across the country, losing on puppy mill legislation at every level of government. Oddly enough, his one victory was in Ohio where state legislators intimated that he traded his support of a draconian anti-reptile/exotic animal bill (SB 310), for consideration on a simultaneous piece of puppy mill legislation.

Through Canning, the North American Reptile Breeders Conference (NARBC) used auction monies to fund a contract lobbyist in Ohio that acquiesced to SB 310.

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Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of HSUS

PIJAC may have been desperate when it decided to join forces with HSUS and the ASPCA on a definition of “puppy mill.” Certainly, PIJAC wanted and needed to slow the legislative march and strong public support of putting puppy mills out of business. In December 2013 HSUS dropped a press release with the headline, Pet Industry and Animal Welfare Organizations Join Forces to Address Puppy Mill Abuse.  In it, Wayne Pacelle of HSUS and Ed Sayres of ASPCA both sang the praises of PIJAC.

“We are pleased that the industry has come together in a meaningful way to acknowledge this abuse, and confront it head on.”  ~ASPCA President & CEO Ed Sayres.

It is likely that in the course of their close work together on puppy mills, the negotiations with Sayres, ASPCA and HSUS for control of the pet industry began, cloaked as “cooperation.”

In spite of, or perhaps because of, the joint venture between PIJAC, ASPCA and HSUS, the legislative pressure to ban puppy mills continued in 2014. More ground was lost by the pet industry. One small victory in Ohio back in 2012 was not likely enough to satisfy PIJAC’s largest constituent, the Hunte Corporation, America’s largest supplier of pet shop puppies, trafficking approximately 90,000 puppies per year (as of 2007) all over the world.

Since the departure of Marshall Myers from PIJAC, the regulatory environment for Hunte to continue to broker mass produced puppies to the nation’s pet stores had been significantly inhibited. PIJAC’s savvy opponents in the animal rights industry were steam rolling Canning, who quietly left PIJAC in early 2014. With continued pressure from Sayres and Pacelle, the Hunte Corporation seems to have become convinced that the best chance for continued profitability from commercially produced puppies was to try to borrow the mantle of humane treatment from an unlikely source:  the animal rights industry itself with Sayres championing Hunte’s cause.

“As animal welfare and pet industry leaders, we have no greater responsibility than to ensure that dogs in our country are treated humanely”  ~Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of HSUS

Likely Sayres will create a set of PIJAC “best management practices” (BMP’s).  Already, he has issued a public statement extolling the virtues of the Hunte Corporation after visiting their headquarters in the puppy mill capitol of Missouri. If PIJAC follows its prior strategies regarding reptile breeders and feeder rodent suppliers, it may create some kind of accreditation process that could be offered to Hunte Corporation puppy suppliers. A move like this would legitimize Hunte suppliers, while leaving other puppy mill interests on the outside looking in. Future legislation could be crafted to exempt PIJAC accredited facilities. This scenario would offer salvation to Hunte, unite the pet and animal rights industries, and give both PIJAC and their new partners  kudos and fundraising opportunities while they claim to have “cleaned up” puppy mills.

Hunte

Make no mistake, this is about money, big money. The pet industry represents approximately $58 billion in annual sales. The Hunte Corporation controls PIJAC and they will do whatever is necessary to keep their puppy mills in operation. If that entails cozying up to former enemies, so be it. PIJAC lost all autonomy with the resignation of Marshall Myers. They have now become a tool of the Hunte Corporation. PIJAC has sold the rest of the pet industry down the river so that Hunte can keep their puppy mills operating. Meanwhile, the animal rights industry has pulled off the biggest coup d’état in the history of the pet industry. As of yet, the repercussions of this upheaval are not quite clear, but this unprecedented development will likely have a negative impact on pets and pet owners for years to come.

Hats off to Ed Sayres for this apparent takeover of PIJAC and the pet industry by the animal rights industry. It was masterful chess move in the fight to decide animal policy in America. Although most animal interests will oppose this unholy marriage, large pet interests will support the move because they want to continue to sell pet food and supplies (and in some cases mass produced puppies). However, trusting people who are against the idea of animals in captivity to preserve the rights of people to keep animals puts the future of owning pets in the United States into question.

Last year the US Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK), the reptile industry trade association, went to great lengths to ‘swear fealty’ and follow the lead of PIJAC. The big question for herpetoculture and the reptile community is whether USARK  will continue to toe the line for PIJAC under the new regime.

Ed Sayers may ultimately be good for the Hunte Corporation, but his long time anti-reptile stance is counter to the interests and the future of herpetoculture and the Reptile Nation. Look for the pet industry to support or turn the other cheek at future bans on reptile shows and internet sales. Further, look for the pet industry to support heavy regulation of feeder animal production. And finally, look for pet industry support on invasive species and dangerous animal legislation that is contrary to herpetoculture. The agenda of animal rights is about to become the agenda of the pet industry. The US Herpetoculture Alliance urges USARK not to compound past mistakes by continuing to support PIJAC.

Say NO to Ed Sayers. Say NO to Hunte Corporation. Say NO to PIJAC. Say NO to the Animal Rights infiltration of the pet industry!

 

 

 

ASPCA Settles Lawsuit with Ringling Brothers for $9.3 Million

By JESSICA GRESKO | Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — An animal rights group will pay Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus $9.3 million to settle a lawsuit the circus filed after courts found that activists paid a former circus worker for his help in claiming the circus abused elephants.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said Friday it was not admitting any wrongdoing in settling the lawsuit. The New York-based animal rights group was one of several involved in a lawsuit filed in 2000 against the circus’ owner, Feld Entertainment Inc., claiming elephants were abused. Courts later found that the animal rights activists had paid a former Ringling barn helper involved in the lawsuit at least $190,000, making him “essentially a paid plaintiff” who lacked credibility.

Two courts agreed the former barn helper, Tom Rider, wasn’t credible and didn’t have a right to sue. As a result, they didn’t address claims the circus violated the federal Endangered Species Act by allegedly chaining the elephants for long periods and allowing trainers to use sharp tools called bullhooks.

The Vienna, Va.-based Feld Entertainment Inc. sued the animal rights groups and Rider in 2007, accusing them of conspiring to harm the company’s business and other illegal acts. The lawsuit claims the groups were working together with the goal of permanently banning Asian elephants from circuses.

Friday’s settlement covers only the ASPCA. Twelve other defendants including The Humane Society of the United States, the Animal Welfare Institute and The Fund for Animals are still involved in the lawsuit.

The ASPCA said in a statement that “this litigation has stopped being about the elephants a long time ago” and that officials decided it was in the group’s best interest to resolve the lawsuit after more than a decade.

The chairman of Feld Entertainment, Kenneth Feld, said in a statement that the settlement was a vindication for the company and its employees.