Anne Sterling with Plum and Elka. Photo by James Kellar


Last July, police broke up a dog-fighting ring in Gary, Indiana, arresting four people and rescuing more than 20 dogs. The bust was the product of solid police work, but care for the freed animals fell to Bloomington resident Anne Sterling, midwest regional director of The Humane Society of the United States.

“We were called in to help set up temporary shelters and care for the animals,” recalls Sterling, 34, who three years ago adopted a dog rescued from a fighting ring in Orange County, a 3-year-old pit bull named Plum. (Sterling and her husband, graphic designer Ryan Irving, are also guardians of Elka, a 4-year-old chow mix rescued in northern Minnesota, as well as three cats.) If not for the work of The Humane Society to outlaw dog fighting, Plum and thousands of dogs like her would still be in chains, or worse.

As midwest regional director, Sterling, who’s held the post since fall 2011, oversees operations in 12 states: Indiana, North and South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Much of her work, she says, involves lobbying state legislators to sponsor animal cruelty bills. For example, Sterling has championed legislation to end the trapping and selling of coyotes and foxes in Indiana.

“Indiana is known as the Colombia [South America] of coyotes,” Sterling says. “People trap and sell coyotes and foxes to enclosures where dog owners release their hounds to chase down and kill the animals. It’s cruel and inhumane.”

Sterling is also working to curb “canned hunting”—raising docile, white-tail deer and large antlered elk as easy trophies for weekend hunters—and to strengthen animal cruelty laws in North Dakota, where abusing animals is currently only a misdemeanor.

For Sterling, working for The Humane Society of the United States is a calling. “I always knew this was what I wanted to do,” she says. “I’ve always chosen jobs that would put me in a position to help animals, and I firmly believe that working on policy and legislation is the best way to do that.”