Sunday, May 30, 2010

Happy anniversary

AnimalBeat began a year ago today. Now, nearly 170 posts later, I’m hoping it has done some good for animals – and people too. Regarding people, “good” would mean visitors to this blog have learned new things about animals and/or they’ve been prompted to think more positively about animals.

I decided against year-end activities like listing the topics that have been addressed here or summarizing comments. I wish only that readers of this post will go back to last May 30 and work forward, dipping into any posts that appeal. After that -- no surprise! -- I invite comments. It would be great to have a sense of who’s out there reading AnimalBeat, what they think of it and what suggestions they might offer.

Readers have occasionally told me they don’t understand how to post a comment. I tried commenting from another account, and these are the steps I followed. I hope they work for you.

1-- click where it says "0 comments" at the end of the post you want to comment on
2-- type your comment in the box
3-- do the word verification (type the word or letters shown)
4-- under "choose an ID," click on name/URL
5-- then type your first or whole name or pseudonym in the place provided
6-- preview your comment if you’d like
7-- "publish"
8-- at that point, the comment will be sent to me and I decide whether to publish or not. (I’m eager to publish!)
9-- check back later to see your comment. . . !

Thank you. Now on to AnimalBeat, “Volume 2.”

Friday, May 28, 2010

Try an ‘animals au naturel’ program!

It began last spring with elephants, and now includes penguins and sea lions too. The animals do all sorts of endearing, memorable things, like paint on canvas so visitors can take home a memento to hang. Or, they might twirl in water like aquatic dancers, or cuddle in visitors’ arms.

“These are not skills and talents they use in the wild,” understated an “educator” at the place where these things happen -- the Indianapolis Zoo. (The story, “Taking an animalistic view of art,” first appeared in the Washington Post, then in a Trenton Times travel section.)

You read it right. It’s all part of the zoo’s plan to get people interested in and caring about their captive animals – whatever it takes to do so – so those people can then be fed sugar- coated information about what the animals are really like and why they should live.

Cause wild animals to do something they would not ordinarily do . . . so that they can continue to live . . . at such neat places as zoos, where they can keep doing unnatural things? Do I have it straight?

It seems comparable to a circus rep saying, “Let the tigers leap through rings of fire to prove their species is worth saving.” But in both zoo and circus, the animals made to do unnatural or demeaning things are captives – removed from some or all such basics as family, habitat, climate, their real lives and behaviors.

“It’s great enrichment for the animals,” said that same zoo “educator.” As if, deep down, every elephant or penguin aspires to paint; every sea lion, to dance.

Come on, Indianapolis Zoo. You could quit the convoluted reasoning by simply freeing the animals. And don’t worry: they’d know just what to do.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Yes, we'll have no biogas

Cows and computers, or rather, cow manure and fuel for technology: not quite “perfect together” as New Jersey’s old slogan had it, but at least a symbiotic relationship in the making.

A research paper produced by Hewlett-Packard engineers indicates that dairy farmers could rent out land (for computing centers, increasingly built in rural areas) and power (from their cows’ manure) – thereby addressing two problems in the process.

The average cow reportedly “makes enough waste per day to power a 100-watt light bulb,” according to a NYTimes story earlier this month. If that’s the case, then 10,000 cows could fuel a one-megawatt data center – the equivalent of a small computing center used by a bank.

To do this, the manure must first be turned into something called “biogas,” produced by specialized equipment. Already, some dairy farmers are selling their manure to a shared biogas producer. A cow manure cooperative?

Before this whole thing goes much further, a modest proposal: drink less cow milk, eat less cow meat and raise fewer cows. Those three steps would result in healthier humans and happier cows. (Spent milk-giving cows do go to the slaughter house, you know. And their skin turns up in high fashion handbags and shoes. They don’t give milk and make manure indefinitely.)

And if some computer centers must go begging for power, that’s OK too. We can all use more fresh air.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Animal shelters and adoptions

(The following comment in reaction to "All adoptions have perils" [May 12 post] comes from Elda Hubbard, the advisor of JPawS, the J P Stevens High School Animal Welfare Club in Edison, NJ, and a volunteer at two local shelters. She also fosters a young pit bull named "Buttercup," who is shown here. Hubbard's is the voice of experience and expertise.)

Shelter workers can be tempted to find homes for animals in the shelter as soon as possible because it is very sad to see them in a cage 24/7, many times without proper exercise or interaction with people. That is NOT the place for them.

However, as bad as it is for animals to be there, it can be very traumatic and even dangerous to place them in a home that is not the right home for them. It is also traumatic for an animal to think that he/she has a home, then find him/herself back in the cage after a few days because the adoption did not work out. Sometimes, this stresses the animal even more.

Responsible shelters will do their best to ensure that an animal is being placed in the right home. For instance, it is imperative that prospective adopters be properly screened to determine if they are the right family for that particular animal and if the animal is the right animal for them.

Not all animals or families are alike. Dogs have different temperaments and needs, just as families have different lifestyles, energy levels and willingness to commit and dedicate themselves to the needs of animals they are bringing home.

For that reason, prospective adopters should be well aware of all the characteristics of the animal they are adopting, not only the animal's good qualities, but also any behavior problems that he/she may be exhibiting. Adopters should also know that the behavior of an animal may change once he/she is in a different environment and they should be open to working with the animals should he/she develop other behavior problems.

It is also advisable for shelters/rescues to follow up with families immediately after adoption, especially at the beginning, to find out how the adjustment period is going and if they need advice, assistance or recommendation for a dog trainer. Ideally, shelters might have training volunteers available to follow up with the families when needed.

However, the main thing is to disclose all possible information about the animal's history, temperament and behavior so the adopting family is fully aware of what it will take to make this a successful adoption.

Nothing worthwhile is easy in this world and we must work hard for what brings satisfaction to our lives. Adopting an animal is one of those things that takes sacrifice, effort and commitment. The time and effort we put into the process pays off with years of companionship and unconditional love.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Jaguar trails & animal schmoozers

“To help jaguars survive, ease their commute,” the May 11 NYTimes headline read. Intriguing. Their commute from where to where? As spelled out by reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal, these particular jaguars commute from Costa Rica to South American destinations.

The story describes how big cats like jaguars need connecting corridors through human development so they can migrate and mate to intermix gene pools and repopulate areas. Costa Rica has designated “jaguar corridors” so these “stealthy, nocturnal animals” can travel safely, sometimes eating chickens, pigs and cows en route.

Such pathways, which also exist in Africa and Asia, mark a shift in conservation strategy, Rosenthal reports. Isolated sanctuaries have been found to decrease diversity, and they risk “dulling down” a species.

So altogether now: “bon voyage!” to the jaguars.


From the growing field of animal personality research comes an indication that “Even among animals: Leaders, Followers, Schmoozers.” In her usual catchy-informed style, science reporter Natalie Angier reported on this in the April 4 NYTimes.

Scientists have found evidence of distinctive personalities among animals of all sorts, or as Angier wrote: “They have identified hotheads and tiptoers, schmoozers and loners, divas, dullards and fearless explorers, and they have learned that animals, like us, often cling to the same personality for the bulk of their lives. The daredevil chicken of today is the one out crossing the road tomorrow.”

And, other scientists are comparing traits that bridge the gaps between animals and human animals. For instance, Angier reports, “Recent research suggests that highly sensitive, arty-type humans have a lot in common with squealing pigs and twitchy mice, and that to call a hypersensitive person thin-skinned or touchy might hold a grain of physical truth.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Saving an animal isn't all

Following up on her feel-good day last week when she rescued a young pit bull in Trenton (see "2nd save..." May 16), Valerie Noble writes about what happened the next day:

“I went to the shelter yesterday afternoon with a box of dog biscuits and spoke to one of the uniformed guards, introducing myself as the one who had picked up a stray the day before. (A sign on the door said something like "As of today, we are closed to any stray dogs.”) He asked me what breed and where I found her, and he knew exactly the little angel I described. He said the owners had picked her up that morning. Even commented on what a sweet girl she was.

“At that moment, I was quite furious that they had simply given her back to owners who had let their girl get so filthy and hungry and get out of their yard! The guard said she was 7 months old, had roamed from Pearl Street in Trenton and hadn't had any shots or been registered/licensed. He said the owners were given a week or so to get all appropriate documents.

“I thought to myself, ‘then what?’ but I didn't think to ask him about the consequences. He thanked me for taking care of her and I went on my way. I plan to check in with them next week [now this week] to see what they’ll tell me about her status.

“So, while I'm happy she's at least safe (I hope), I am still quite concerned that she's with owners who aren't truly worried about her well-being. I know, unfortunately, that this is all too common and I often look at my two rescue pups at home and just think about what their lives would have been!”

(We hope for good news from Val when she’s next in touch!)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

. . . squirrel specialist in the house?

Gray squirrels, yes. Black squirrels, yes. And lately, even choco-brown squirrels, yes. But: a gray squirrel with a red tail?

Don't say 'no,' because there's one in our neighborhood. S/he has a carroty colored tail and a gray body. Did s/he back into an electrical outlet? get hit by lightning? try peroxide starting at the tail end, then decide against it? experience a severe shock that changed tail color, as some humans claim to have turned gray or white over night?

Or, is this unconventional squirrel a mutant? If so, s/he's a happy-seeming mutant, moving about briskly and doing all the usual squirrelly things. Except being gray, black or brown.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Like mother, like children

News flash from Julie O’Connor, who heads Caring Activists Against Fur (CAAF). This time she writes about the latest triumph of her twins, Johnny and Gwyneth, on Sunday:

“Today was the Veggie Pride parade in NYC! We had beautiful weather and the twins won a costume contest. They were dressed as two pigs, H1 & N1 (swine flu) because it's a parade to raise awareness of the issues surrounding factory farming - i.e. diseases like swine flu. They were the cutest kids dressed as diseases you ever did see. . .”

(note: read their costumes from right to left!)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

2nd save by veteran dog rescuer

Valerie Noble, who saved a dog in Trenton last summer (see post for July 15, 2009), took action again this week, as her narrative here describes.

“I waiting outside my office on S. Clinton when I saw this beautiful yet filthy and boney little pit bull go trotting along and walking up to strangers. In a second I decided that she didn't belong to anyone in the vicinity (no collar) and called her to come.

“She immediately came to me and while it took a few minutes to get her to come inside my building, she eventually did and I got her into a safe room.(Coincidentally, the only available room was our adoption room!) Once I had her safely there, our receptionist called [Trenton] animal control.

“She never once barked, bit or anything! I sat on the floor with her as she jumped all around me, licked my hands and face, and eventually curled up on my lap and gave what I'm sure was a huge sigh of relief. She drank almost two bowls of water as we waited. All in all, she was absolutely the sweetest little thing, although filthy and definitely starved.

“I just gave her lots of love until animal control came. Once again, I gave them my name and number and asked that I be contacted should her cards not line up!

“I'm thinking about visiting her today just to be sure she's been given a bath, because boy was I covered in DIRT after yesterday! But I loved every second of it and I’m glad she is at the very least off the Trenton streets!”

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Give hope a chance

All told, adopting a shelter animal who needs a home is better than not doing so. At least there’s a chance it will work out well.

(Readers' reactions and experiences are welcome!)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

All adoptions have perils

First there was the woman who sent her adopted son back to Russia from the US because it wasn’t working. That caused rage among Russian authorities. Later came coverage of Russian orphanages and the system, along with the problems inherent in both.

Next, at least one newspaper ran stories about others who had adopted children, any children, but ultimately decided it wasn’t working.

Adoption involves so much time, adaptation and (here comes that word again) work on both sides – often more than the people involved expect or are willing to invest. That also seems to be true with adoption of animals.

Raise a kitten or puppy from babyhood: that’s one thing. Adopt a kitten, pup, cat or dog: that’s another situation altogether. Things have already happened in that animal’s life that can affect how he or she might make out in a new home with a new family, no matter how well-meaning they may be.

I’m sure not the only one who has experienced an animal rescue rep or someone from a shelter pushing for adoption and in the process, possibly forgetting to share crucial information or notice drawbacks to the match. These people sometimes seem to be more interested in placing the animal than giving solid thought to the whole situation.

And if a prospective adoptive family is in a rush to do good or to “replace” a companion animal who recently died, they can contribute to the problem. The result: general unhappiness and a possible return of the adopted animal. When that happens, everyone loses, and the animal in particular is even worse off than before.

How do readers suggest avoiding this situation, which we’ve probably all seen, if not also experienced? Please share your thoughts on this issue in a comment!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

An illegitimate position

”They protest everything, including things like fishing, circuses and any other things that involve legitimate use of animals.”

Say what?!

The speaker represents Covance, described in the Times of Trenton earlier this week as “a biopharmaceutical firm in Carnegie Center in West Windsor that primarily performs safety and efficacy tests for new medicines.” Laurene Isip, the spokesperson, dismissed the PETA demonstration that took place outside the annual shareholder’s meeting in Plainsboro.

A PETA rep indicated that the organization had discovered that Covance continues to use “cruel and archaic animal tests” even though “superior, non-animal methods are readily available.” Covance, said Kathy Guillermo, PETA’s VP of laboratory investigations, thus forces “animals to live in perpetual fear, suffer in crude tests and die in pain.”

PETA had bought stock in Covance so it could participate in meetings like this one at the Princeton Marriott at Forrestal.

The biggest surprise in this whole story was Isip’s quote. She seems to think there’s such a thing as “legitimate use of animals” in the drug testing world. Her company was reported as using “ ‘purpose-bred’ animals, creatures bred specifically for lab work” – that is, bred only to suffer and very likely die in the process.

Equally horrific is her apparent unawareness of the animal abuse inherent in fishing and circuses, which she includes in her “legitimate use of animals.”

Isip’s attitude harks back to the notion of “man” (including women and scientists, of course) having dominion over all the world’s creatures – a belief long since discredited as illegitimate.

Friday, May 7, 2010

'This will be a bear-service announcement'

It's heating up on the bear-hunt front. A key date is next Tuesday, May 11, when the official public hearing (to speak out against bear hunting) is scheduled in Trenton. Those who want to help the bears can plan to be at the New Jersey State Museum (205 W. State Street) at 6 pm, with compelling comments in hand. Speaking time will be limited and all good arguments against bear hunts are welcome. So is a show of support for the bears.

With questions, contact Janet Piszar, head of the Bear Group, at

Help save the bears!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ethical Qs that can bug you

There’s a spider in the bathroom, and I know not to flush it or otherwise kill it. But before I can gather it in a tissue and walk it downstairs to the front door for deposit outside in the ivy, Harry the cat walks into the bathroom. Next time I look, no spider. If Harry in fact ate the spider, is that the law of the jungle, what carnivores do?

Last winter, bugs that came with or in the fire wood sometimes, inescapably, came into the house with it. What to do if a bug that wandered away from the wood could be scooped up and put back outside – except that the snow and ice out there would assure a short life span for the bug?

Mosquitoes: biters and itch-inducers as well as carriers of heartworm disease, which both dogs and cats can catch. They are not easily caught in any case, let alone to release outside. Kill them or share the house with them? And what about ticks that, despite all precautions, get inside? There’s a tick merrily climbing a wall – follow all the advice about how to dispose of it? or bundle it up and put it back outside (where it can find a different warm body and possibly cause some real harm)?

For me, these last two hypotheticals are easier to answer than the first two. How about for you?