Monday, November 30, 2009

Crating is wrong

Dedicated to all those who think a dog belongs in a crate, day and night, and being outside the crate is the exception -- this sign on a PETA dog park bulletin board:

No, he doesn't "love" his crate.
He loves YOU. And he will do anything to please you, including
sitting behind bars, waiting patiently for you to free him.

No, a crate is not a "cozy den."
A real den doesn't come with a locked door.
No, a crate is not like a playpen.

A crate is an extremely cramped and impoverished environment.
Sure, it keeps dogs safe.
It also keeps them from living.

How would YOU like being locked inside a small see-through box?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fur free? if only . . .

The day after Thanksgiving used to be called “Black Friday.” It had to do with major holiday shopping and retailers’ hopes to move financially out of the red and into the black.

That day’s also known as “Fur Free Friday” now. Animal activists converge on sites where fur garments and clothes with fur trim are sold to let everyone within earshot know the horrors behind fur: how innocent animals who can’t speak for themselves are brutally murdered so humans can wear fur.

On Friday afternoon, three activist groups met in NYC to protest at Lord & Taylor then at Macy’s. From, here’s the link to a story that was written about the event and its leaders:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

. . . "And that Thanksgiving turkey? Even if it is raised “free range,” it still lives a life of pain and confinement that ends with the butcher’s knife.

“How can intelligent people who purport to be deeply concerned with animal welfare and respectful of life turn a blind eye to such practices? And how can people continue to eat meat when they become aware that nearly 53 billion land animals are slaughtered every year for human consumption? The simple answer is that most people just don’t care about the lives or fortunes of animals. If they did care, they would learn as much as possible about the ways in which our society systematically abuses animals, and they would make what is at once a very simple and a very difficult choice: to forswear the consumption of animal products of all kinds. . . . ”

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Good news, please!

A reader’s comment reacting to a recent post here exclaimed at how welcome the good news (about two former service dogs) was. This also happened a few months ago, when a reader wrote some good animal news – about the resurgence of wild turkeys in the area.

It’s true: most of the posts here are in fact warnings or bad news. In part, I think, that reflects what’s actually happening to animals. I only wish it were like most news in the media -- dealing with the exceptions, not the rules. But I don’t think so.

Even so . . . here’s my invitation to any readers with good news about animals: please tell me about it! Then, if at all possible, I’ll post it.

We’d all like to think life is better for animals than it so often seems. But then, all it takes to suggest the real way of the world is a thought about factory farming or the fur industry or zoos and circuses or even the people who leave dogs tied up outside 24/7. . . or those who think the way to celebrate a holiday is to eat an animal.

Calling all good news!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

So-called "service"

Lottie and Janet, from my last post, would have been considered “service animals” during their time as seeing-eye dogs. They would fall in the same category as the myriad animals drafted for service in wartime (see Veterans Day post).

Service animals have no choice! They are selected and trained to do things for humans, often things that have nothing to do with the lives they’d otherwise lead. They perform involuntarily and typically to their own detriment – static, robotic lives, ill health, death.

Non-human animals do not exist to serve human animals!

On Jan. 4 of this year, the NYTimes magazine ran a long story on the many ways that “service animals” help people. The story blurb read: “It's no longer just guide dogs for blind people. Service animals now include monkeys for quadriplegics, parrots for psychotics and at least one assistance duck. Should the law recognize all of them?” (Note: another service animal mentioned in the story: a guide miniature horse, pictured above. Advantages of the horse, named "Panda," included his mild and trainable nature and the fact that he could outlive five-seven seeing-eye dogs.)

The letters to the editor in response to the story included one from a philosophy prof. His key points follow: “[The author] considers various moral and legal issues related to the use of exotic nonhuman species as guides for disabled humans. Except for one: the interests of the animals themselves. . . . they are persons in their own right, born with a capacity for natural freedom that their ''service'' entirely deprives them of.

“Guide animals are brutally separated from others of their kind, are discouraged from seeking affection from other human beings and are reduced to a life of perpetual bondage to their masters. If there is a meaningful difference between ''service animal'' and ''animal slave,'' I fail to see it.”

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Free at last!"

Lottie is a fit, tail-wagging Golden Retriever, seven-plus years old. Janet is a solidly-built black Lab, also seven-plus. They were both walking with their person through Lawrence’s Community Park when I saw them and couldn’t resist them. They both looked so happy.

Then when I heard their stories, I knew they had reason to be enjoying every moment of life now. Starting with Janet, both dogs had been seeing-eye dogs with a woman in Trenton. When Janet began having seizures, she was retired and replaced with Lottie. Then Lottie was bitten by another dog, and she too was removed from duty.

In short succession, a couple in Ewing adopted both dogs, and the husband was walking them this morning. (His wife works part-time, and she knew of the Trenton woman and the dogs’ problems through her job.)

Anyway, there were Lottie and Janet, free! For them, no more doing only what their human needed them to do -- sitting for hours, sleeping by her bed, leading her on leash. Their confined, constrained lives were over (and Janet has had no more seizures), and as their person said, “Now they sleep on the bed!”

Hope it's a sturdy king-size bed!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Activism ops

I. If you believe “The most responsible way to help outdoor cats is to ensure that no kittens are born,” and that “Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the only effective, humane way to control the outdoor, feral cat population” -- and if you want to help feral cats in your own area -- consider attending the Trap-Neuter-Return Workshop Saturday, November 21, at the Ewing Branch Library (61 Scotch Road, Ewing).

Sponsored by the Animal Protection League of NJ (formerly NJ Animal Rights Alliance), the workshop will run from 1-4 pm. A registration fee of $10 covers bound reference materials and light refreshments.

To reserve ahead as required, phone 732-446-6808 or write to For more information on TNR, visit

II. Think again about getting involved in the anti-fur movement. Think about how fur coats and fur trim and fur boots happen. It’s gruesome and barbaric. And it’s unnecessary – no one in today’s world needs fur to keep warm – except the animals who originally wear it.

The following paragraph comes from a reminder about a demonstration this weekend. Julie, the writer, is a school teacher and mother of twins, besides everything else. Yet for years now, she has also been a prime mover behind this anti-fur effort. You can tell from her message how committed she is.

***** Please join me this Sat. Nov. 14th - I don't cancel for rain. Only check website for cancellation if it is downpouring, which it is not supposed to be. Being out in sometimes lousy weather shows people that we are dedicated to the cause of helping animals. These foxes, mink, and chinchillas are kept outside in wire mesh cages in all weather. It's theleast I can do to bring attention to their suffering for an hour and a half. Please help me speak out for them. – Julie *****

The fur trade is very ugly. Check Julie’s website,, for info on other demonstrations, including the big one in NYC on “Fur-free Friday.”

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Animals in war (cont.)

The photographs in the last post, about Veterans Day, were taken in London a couple years ago. The Animals in War monument was a total surprise, discovered during a walk along Park Lane, overlooking Hyde Park. Exploring it, then trying to capture it in photos while thinking about what animals have endured, was an emotional experience. Countless people contributed to the memorial, recognizing how animals have served, suffered and died for human purposes.

English author Jilly Cooper published a book called Animals in War in the early 1980s, and some sources have it that her book inspired the monument. In any case, she was part of the drive to raise money for its creation.

The wording in one photo is hard to read; here it is:

Animals in War ~ They Had No Choice

This monument is dedicated to all the animals that served and died alongside British and Allied forces in wars and campaigns throughout time.

Many and various animals were employed to support British and Allied forces in wars and campaigns over the centuries and as a result millions died from the pigeon to the elephant they all played a vital role in every region of the world in the cause of human freedom their contributions must never be forgotten

The building of this monument was made possible by generous public donations . . . .

This monument was unveiled on 24 November 2004 by HRH the Princess Royal KG KT Patron the animals in war memorial fund

David Backhouse ~ Designer and Sculptor
Richard Holliday Harry Gray, carvers
Built by Sir Robert McAlpine, LTD

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

R. I. P.

In the post for Oct. 10, “No rest in peace,” I wondered what happens to the bodies of dead animals removed from roads in town. Now I have specific answers from Chris Buck, Lawrence Township’s animal control officer (ACO) for the last 21 years.

For deer, the biggest animal, it depends on what kind of road the body is found on or near – municipal, county or state. A private vendor is authorized to pick up and dispose of the bodies of deer on or near municipal roads. He bills the township for the service. Workers with the Dept. of Transportation pick up deer bodies from county and state roads.

Lawrence’s ACO picks up the bodies of birds, raccoons and other wildlife. The bodies are double-bagged, placed in a dumpster and eventually wind up in a landfill. (Interesting to note that with injured, sick or orphaned birds or wild mammals, the birds are taken to a township resident who handles them; mammals go to the Wildlife Center on Route 29.)

The bodies of dogs, cats and other animals who may belong to someone are checked for ID (collars, tattoos or micro-chips); when there’s ID, Buck contacts the owner. Bodies without ID are each are placed in a bag (with descriptive info on the outside) and stored in a freezer that Lawrence and Hopewell share. Then if people ask about an animal companion, the body can be turned over if desired.

After a fixed time, bodies go to Pet Meadows, Hamilton, for cremation and the township is billed.

Case closed – with thanks to Chris.

(Note: This blog has occasionally mentioned helpful people in the world of animals. There are more to come, starting soon with a sketch of Chris Buck that will include what her job as an Animal Control Officer entails.)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A parallel world

The current national health care bill debate includes story after story of people who can’t afford the medical treatment they need. They have responded to requests to tell their stories, adding weight to the push for health care reform.

But animals – non-human animals, that is – can’t tell their own stories about needed health care that is too expensive for their people to handle. They often miss out on the medical treatments that could make them well because the cost is prohibitive.

Then what? Well, it can go the way of an area artist whose dog was diagnosed with heartworms. The artist could not afford the cost of dealing with the condition, and the dog eventually died.

Or, it can come to the attention of the Animal Protection League of NJ (formerly NJ Animal Rights Alliance) – which gives the animal a fighting chance. APLNJ invites caring people to contribute to its Veterinarian Bill Assistance Program (VBAP) which since 1990 has helped animals who need medical interventions when their families can’t afford to pay for them.

APLNJ’s programs director Janine Motta tells about one such case:

"We just helped a cat named "Brooklyn." I got a call from his "mom" today, telling me that we saved his life. He was in acute kidney failure. Her vet wouldn't allow her to pay over time - even though she has been to him for years.

"I suggested she try another vet, and she did. They were very kind, the bill was much lower than it would have been at the other place and Brooklyn is now home after a 3-day stay at the vet’s and visibly improving.

"These types of calls can be very emotionally draining, long and involved because we don't just give money. We talk to the caller, sometimes offering our own experiences to help them decide what is best for their animal -- are certain diagnostics really necessary, can they do things (such as fluids) at home themselves, etc. We often suggest going to a vet we work with to help reduce the cost. That sometimes gives enough of a financial break that they can then afford the treatment."

To donate to this APLNJ program, go to and put VBAP in the comment section. Or, send a check payable to APLNJ, to PO Box 174, Englishtown, NJ 07726 (put VBAP in the memo). Find out more about the program via

Friday, November 6, 2009

He's back

He’s at it again. “Mr. Outdoors” is once more heralding the wonders of the season by ticking off what animals can be hunted and killed, and exactly when. What a sport – which he must be seen as, since his column runs in the sports section of the Trenton Times. There are sports and sports.

When the headline reads, “Small-game season opens tomorrow,” he’s not talking Monopoly. No, he refers to “the men and women in orange” – as if that phrase were equivalent to “men and women in (some sort of altruistic) uniform” – and how they can enjoy themselves outdoors over the next few months.

His fearless band in orange will be “taking to the fields and thickets” to kill “pheasant, quail, rabbits, squirrels and . . . other small game” in whatever way is legal. He mentions “stocking” at least five times, as in “60,000 pheasants will be stocked on 24 wildlife management areas throughout the state.”

In other words, the pheasants will be brought in so the hunters can do their best to kill them. Does this sound like an adult version of hiding (or stocking?) Easter eggs for kids to find? No one can claim hunters are helping to control overpopulation in this hunt, since the population is expanded for the hunt!

Lucky rabbits! “The cottontail is one of New Jersey’s most popular game species,” Mr. Outdoors reports, mentioning that “use of a beagle or basset hound . . . can increase the likelihood of success and add to the overall enjoyment of the hunt.” Well, maybe not overall enjoyment.

Not to be outdone, those thoughtful gray squirrels “provide exciting opportunities for hunters.” To “the men and women in orange,” animals exist to serve humans in such ways. And what a glorious death: mobbed by happy hunters, shot and killed, then bagged. (“Daily bag limit is 5 per day.”)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

About birds

When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore --
When he beats his bars and he would be free:
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to heaven he flings --
I know why the caged bird sings!

--Paul Laurence Dunbar, the son of 2 runaway slaves

With thanks once more to PETA President Ingrid Newkirk for this poem in her chapter on "Cute 'Pet' or Complex Individual and Friend for Life?" in The PETA Practical Guide to Animal Rights. (2009)

What follows the poem are observations and facts like these:

* "There is no such animal as a 'cage bird.' All caged birds were either captured or captive-bred. No bird was born to be in a cage."

* An estimated 40 million birds are confined to cages in homes across the US.

* "Of all the cruelties of thoughtlessness, including the loss of flight and liberty, depriving them (birds) of companionship may be the most heartless."