Animal Rights

Setting a New, Humane Standard for Wildlife Solutions

| by The Humane Society

By Wayne Pacelle

It’s spring, and starlings, sparrows, and other cavity-nesting birds are probing the exhaust vents of homes and other buildings as part of their search for secure nesting sites. Raccoons, squirrels, bats, and other wild creatures are using attics and crawl spaces as safe havens in which to give birth and raise their young.

When these situations develop, most people of conscience, I like to think, would like to resolve the conflicts they cause effectively and humanely. But for years the standard response has been to call a pest control company, and though the final outcome is often not discussed with the homeowner, that usually means death for hundreds of thousands of animals who unwittingly set up homes where they are not wanted.


Humane Wildlife Services
This raccoon family was humanely removed from a chimney flue.

It doesn’t have to be like that. Today, The HSUS has a department devoted to Urban Wildlife issues, and our "Wild Neighbors: The Humane Approach to Living with Wildlife," is the preeminent guide to humane resolution of human-wildlife conflicts. The book explains how to identify wildlife problems; determine the animals involved; assess the damage; devise humane and permanent solutions; and forestall future conflicts.

Moreover, by investing in Humane Wildlife Services (HWS), a full-service wildlife control enterprise in the D.C. metropolitan area, we’ve sought to provide a fee-for-service program that can serve this community and be a model for others. The HWS team has helped hundreds of homeowners and others with a diverse range of wildlife-related issues, involving more than 30 different species (see video). The team has made real inroads with neighborhood associations and planned communities, such as in Greenbelt, Md., where HWS Director John Griffin and field biologist Lori Thiele have been working to address wildlife conflicts in common areas, woodlands, and playgrounds, as well as in a defunct community-wide utility system that had become a means of access to individual homes for raccoons, opossums, and other creatures.

We’ve also begun to address this issue in the public policy sector. Last year, Griffin testified on behalf of the Wildlife Protection Act of 2009, a bill under consideration by the Washington, D.C. City Council. Councilmember Mary Cheh’s proposal is a model for humane wildlife control based on licensure and appropriate methods of trapping, handling, and euthanasia. It also contains provisions for consumer protection, an essential safeguard in an industry where the elderly and other parties are frequently the victims of unscrupulous operators.

All of these activities have solidified The HSUS’s position as a provider of humane planning services and resources for governments, a clearinghouse for innovative methods and concepts pertaining to humane wildlife removal and exclusion, and a booster of active humane design and mitigation strategies in architecture and land use planning. We are at the center of an emerging new policy network composed of municipalities, wildlife rehabilitation centers, housing developments, local humane societies and others interested in better, lasting, and humane outcomes in this area.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, The HSUS issued membership cards carrying the slogan “Every field of humane work—EVERYWHERE.” For a fledgling organization trying to meet its normal burdens, it was more a statement of aspiration than fact. But today, whenever I see my colleagues successfully extending The HSUS’s influence and reach into areas that our predecessors knew about but could barely touch, I feel proud and energized.

That’s how it is for me with HWS, which is having a transformative impact on the wildlife control field, one that results in better outcomes for animals and people alike. We are working to change the approach that society takes with this problem, and we need your help to do it. Please read our tips concerning wildlife conflict issues in your home and community, and guidelines for the selection of a wildlife control operator. It’s really a case in which you can make a humane choice, one that works out right for you, for animals, and for your home.