Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share Facebook Share through Google Plus Share this Page by Email Print this Page
Michael Markarian

Executive Vice President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund
Chief Operating Officer of The Humane Society of the United States

Michael Markarian is Executive Vice President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund and oversees HSLF's lobbying and political activity.

He also serves as Chief Operating Officer of The Humane Society of the United States.

Markarian began working at The Fund for Animals in 1993, and tutored under the group's founder and president, famed author and animal advocate Cleveland Amory.

Markarian became the organization's executive vice president after Amory's death in 1998, and was elected president of the organization in 2002. He helped grow The Fund for Animals' staff to 50 employees, revenues to more than $7 million annually, and assets to $22 million.

The Fund operates the world-famous Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas, which is home to more than 800 animals rescued from abuse or abandonment, as well as a network of wildlife rehabilitation centers and medical clinics.

In 2004, Markarian and Wayne Pacelle (former president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States) helped engineer a corporate combination of The HSUS and The Fund for Animals, creating the nation's largest animal protection organization. The HSUS and its family of organizations now has annual revenues of more than $170 million, and assets of $200 million. The union of two of the movement's leading organizations set the precedent for corporate combinations with other major American animal protection organizations, including the Doris Day Animal League in 2006 and the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (now the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association) in 2008.

The combination of the HSUS and The Fund for Animals allowed the groups to put greater resources into new programs, and enabled the creation of a new Campaigns Department with a group of professional campaigners who focus on major issues for the organization such as animal cruelty and fighting, farm animal protection, and puppy mills. A new Animal Protection Litigation section includes a team of attorneys and law students who advocate for the enforcement of animal protection laws in the courts. The union of The HSUS and The Fund for Animals also launched the Humane Society Legislative Fund, a new lobbying and political affiliate of the organizations.

Since the early 1990s, Pacelle and Markarian directed more than 15 successful statewide ballot measure campaigns. Those successes include initiatives to:

  • Ban the use of bait and dogs in hunting bears, cougars, and bobcats in Colorado (Amendment 10 in 1992), Massachusetts (Question One in 1996), Oregon (Measure 18 in 1994), and Washington (Initiative 655 in 1996)
  • Ban the use of cruel traps in California (Proposition 4 in 1998), Colorado (Amendment 14 in 1996), Massachusetts (Question One in 1996), and Washington (Initiative 713 in 2000)
  • Outlaw cockfighting in Arizona (Proposition 201 in 1998), Missouri (Proposition A in 1998), and Oklahoma (State Question 698 in 2002)
  • Ban mourning dove hunting in Michigan (Proposal 3 in 2006)
  • Outlaw the use of gestation crates for housing breeding sows in Florida (Amendment 10 in 2002), gestation and veal crates in Arizona (Proposition 204 in 2006), and gestation and veal crates as well as battery cages to house egg laying hens in California (Proposition 2 in 2008)
  • Set standards for the care of dogs at large-scale puppy mills in Missouri (Proposition B in 2010)

Markarian has worked for the passage of numerous state laws to protect animals and has helped to enact several federal statutes to protect animals—including laws to:

  • Establish federal standards to include pets in disaster planning and response (2006)
  • Close a tax loophole that allowed trophy hunters to kill rare animals around the world for free (2006)
  • Strengthen the federal penalties for dogfighting and cockfighting activities (2007 and 2008)
  • Require labeling of fur-trimmed apparel and stop animal fur from being falsely sold as "fake" (2010)
  • Strengthen the federal ban on shark finning (2010)
  • Ban the trade in obscene animal "crush" videos (2010)

Markarian's work on animal issues has been featured in newspapers and magazines across the country, and he has appeared on major television networks such as CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, and NBC's "Today Show." In addition, Markarian is an experienced writer with numerous pieces published in a variety of newspapers, journals and magazines, including The Animals' Agenda, Dog's Life, Modern Dog, Bird Talk, VegNews, University of Baltimore Journal of Environmental Law, and Campaigns & Elections.

He has had Op-Ed pieces published in dozens of major dailies, including the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle, Arizona Republic, Seattle Times, Des Moines Register, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and South Florida Sun-Sentinel. In 2007, he began writing the "Animals & Politics" blog for the Humane Society Legislative Fund, which is available online at

Working with HSLF, Markarian has helped to defeat some of the strongest anti-animal welfare politicians in the United States, including Rep. Joe Knollenberg of Michigan (2008) and Rep. Richard Pombo of California (2006). In 2007, he co-founded the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, a trade association providing standards of care and accreditation for animal sanctuaries across the nation and the world. He serves on the board of the federation.

In 2007, Campaigns & Elections magazine named Markarian one of its "Rising Stars in Politics," largely for his work on animal protection legislation and political campaigns. One of the most prestigious honors in politics, the award goes to people 35 or under who have already made a significant mark in political consulting or advocacy. Past Rising Stars have included David Axelrod, Donna Brazile, James Carville, Rahm Emanuel, Paul Begala, Ed Gillespie, Alexis Herman, Karen Hughes, Laura Ingraham, Jim Pinkerton, Ralph Reed, and George Stephanopoulos.

In 2012, Ad Age magazine named Markarian one of its “Media Mavens,” an award that celebrates creative thinking and innovation in advertising, branding, marketing, and communications. The magazine wrote in its profile, “Until relatively recently, the condition of pigs being held in gestation crates was not a major concern at food companies or among the public. That's hardly the case anymore, thanks in part to the Humane Society of the United States and Mr. Markarian, the nonprofit's communications architect. The Humane Society has a minuscule marketing budget, but Mr. Markarian said the organization relies heavily on its YouTube page (where it posts videos of undercover investigations), Twitter, Facebook and PR. In 2012 alone the HSUS announced that more than 25 major food companies have vowed to phase out gestation crates in coming years.”

Markarian has a master's degree in English language and literature from the University of Maryland.

Journalists seeking interviews with HSLF experts, please see our directory of media contacts.