I was thrilled to go on a cruise to Arctic and see polar bears up close. What many people don't know is that polar bears are literally walking on thin ice.

When I went to Canada to witness the birth of baby seals, I saw firsthand how climate change is killing hundreds of baby seals. The ice floes where the seals give birth are melting, causing the cubs to drown.

The same fate awaits the polar bear. They also find themselves in a perilous environment battling oil slicks, pollution and hunters who prize paws and skins as trophies. In the past 10 years, more than 25,000 polar bear specimens were traded internationally. If our government doesn't do something, it could mean extinction for the polar bear.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering whether our government should propose to ban the international commercial trade in polar bear parts through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The Humane Society of the United States wants this on the agenda of the next meeting of CITES and is asking our government to take a leadership role. For additional information on how you can get involved, go to the HSUS website at www.humanesociety.org.

Increasingly, animal protection groups are realizing that they only way to help animals in trouble is to use the legislative system. That's why the HSUS is urging the Obama administration to take a leadership role in protecting imperiled polar bear populations.

I believe strongly that the way we treat our animals reflects on us as a nation. We need to be more forceful with the current administration and cast our vote with the candidate that has demonstrated a concern for animals -- not just dogs and cats, but all animals.

At the moment, I am caught between President Obama, who received a C- from The HSUS on its annual scorecard of the president's performance on animal welfare, and Gov. Mitt Romney, who put his Irish setter on the roof of the car for a family vacation. It doesn't seem like a great choice.

We need to be the voice of defenseless animals. When evaluating a candidate, whether for national or local office, demand to know his or her position on animal welfare. It's the only way to save defenseless creatures, who look to us for their very survival.

Cathy Kangas is a member of the Humane Society of the United States' National Council.

Kangas, owner of PRAI Beauty Inc., started Beauty with a Cause, and commits a percentage of her company's profits to help animal welfare organizations around the world.

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