Wayne Pacelle, one of the world's most influential animal welfare activists, will speak and participate in a Q&A and book signing Sunday, April 17, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Elm Street Books, 151 Main Street.

Wayne is the president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, and he just released his first book, "The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them."

It is my honor to serve on the National Council of HSUS and experience firsthand his dedication to bringing animal protection from the margins of public awareness to the mainstream.

This is an event you should attend with your children and grandchildren because no one is more eloquent about the plight of animals in our world and our obligation to speak out for those who have no voice. He will discuss the themes in the book and issues facing animals from a local, national and international perspective.

Legendary chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall, who has worked extensively on conservation and animal welfare issues over the decades, wrote about Wayne's book: "If the animals knew about this important book, they would, without doubt confer on Wayne their highest honor."

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Wayne has labored for more than a quarter of a century as a leader in the animal welfare movement, most of it as an executive at the HSUS. In a recent phone conversation, I asked him why he decided to write this book now. His answer brought tears to my eyes.

"I have spent my adult life fighting for animals and everywhere I travel I meet people who care about animals, reminding me of the universality of the human-animal bond. I want to harness this energy to roll back our systematic mistreatment of animals. I do believe that how we treat animals is one of the fundamental measures of our humanity."

He also told me what he hopes to achieve through its publication.

"The full expression of the human-animal bond requires moral awareness and commitment. Animals are not just in the backdrop of our own story, but at the center of the whole drama, and how we treat them is one of the great themes of the human story."

This is a riveting book. It begins with an engaging and surprise-filled look at the biological and social underpinnings of the human-animal bond, a bond that Wayne believes has been broken. We are living in a world where animals are abused on a regular basis whether by agribusiness interests, the trophy-hunting lobby or the puppy mill industries.

We revere celebrities who torture animals such as NFL player Michael Vick, who participated in dog fights, and do business with nations such as Canada where the largest marine mammal slaughter occurs. In every case, Wayne and HSUS have been there using every means in their power to right egregious wrongs.

The book concludes with an incisive look at how the status quo can be overcome with the creation of a new humane economy built on the celebration and stewardship of, as well as compassion for, all animals.

I hope to see you at Elm Street Books to hear Wayne discuss the many issues of abuse and neglect facing animals. There is no one else who commands the attention he does when it comes to addressing the many instances where our bond with animals in broken. He needs to be heard and things must change.

New Canaan resident Cathy Kangas is a member of the Humane Society of the United States' National Council. As the owner of PRAI, an international cosmetic corporation, she started Beauty with a Cause, and commits a percentage of her company's profits to help animal welfare organizations around the world.