Monday, February 28, 2011

Advocates can become lobbyists for a day

Writing letters, phoning and demonstrating -- sure. But if you’ve ever wished you could speak directly to legislators in behalf of animals, here’s your chance.

On Monday, March 14, three animal welfare organizations will partner for Humane Lobby Day at the State House in Trenton, NJ. Between 9 am-3 pm, animal advocates who attend will get lobbying tips and an overview of pending legislation having to do with animals. Then they will meet with their state legislators to advocate for animals.

The day's sponsors are the Humane Society of the US (HSUS), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Animal Welfare Institute.

Lobbyists-for-a-day would definitely make a positive difference for animals if they successfully lobby lawmakers to pass these two bills:

· A-2509/S-540 – would authorize courts to include pet protection in domestic violence restraining orders; and
· A-3162/S-539 – would establish racketeering charges for the leaders of dogfighting rings.

Not only would the first bill help protect family pets in households where abuse takes place, but also without animal abuse, or its threat, human victims would find it easier to leave such situations.

Animal fighting alone is horrible enough, but it often involves illegal drugs, gambling and weapons too -- all threats to public safety. The second bill would add teeth to law enforcement efforts against dog fighting.

To lobby for animals on March 14, first register with the HSUS:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Weekend fun in Pennsylvania

Whee! It’s like shooting fish in a barrel or those paid ops for “hunters” to shoot penned animals or be assured of killing a game animal on safari.

In Pennsylvania, the last state to openly and regularly allow it, it’s called “live pigeon shoots.” Here’s how it works: Dazed pigeons are launched at random from boxes so they can be shot at, with the shooters who down the most pigeons in a ring winning prizes and money.

Shooters reportedly flock to these invitation-only wildlife-cruelty events. Wonder if they go home and brag about how many birds they got.

An HSUS flyer urges Pa. residents to contact their state senators and ask their support for Senate Bill (S.B.) 626, which would ban this weekend “sport” of live pigeon shoots.

Here’s the link to get started: . .

And here's a timely thought for the day: Wild animals never kill for sport. Man is the only one to whom the torture and death of his fellow creatures is amusing in itself. -James Anthony Froude, author and editor (1818-1894)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A new look at Easel . . .

“Meanwhile, back in NJ. . . ,” the post for Feb. 14, mentioned new leadership for E.A.S.E.L. Yesterday I talked with Mark Phillips, executive director of what is now known as Easel Animal Rescue League – “an all-volunteer, community-based 501 [c](3) animal care organization.”

With Easel since its 2008 beginning, Phillips conveys “can-do” and comfort about dealing with people who have different opinions. He says the organization has some 50 members, with a core group of 10-12 in that total.

Volunteers and board members meet monthly, and there are also four adoption days each month – at Cutter’s Mill, Princeton; PETCO, Lawrence Township; PetSmart, West Windsor; and Rosedale Mills, Pennington.

Next month’s a special fundraiser at Trenton Country Club “to benefit homeless animals and help build a regional animal shelter in Mercer County”: Casino Night, Saturday, March 26, 6-11 pm; $75 per person. Register at or phone 609-883-0540.

Then on Saturday, April 23, comes a casino bus trip to Resorts “to help support the cats and dogs at the Ewing Animal Shelter.” For info or tickets ($30, before March 30), phone Carol Revilla (609-883-4426) or email

Before all that, there’s next Monday night’s meeting of the Hopewell Township Council at 7 pm. At some point (not now known) during that session, Phillips will “re-make Easel’s case to council members for a regional animal shelter.” Supporters of Easel and the shelter idea are invited to attend.

For details and more information, that website again:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Happy spay day!

Happy Spay Day! Yes, that's an unusual greeting when compared with “Happy Birthday!” and other familiar expressions.

But spaying does contribute to happiness – of the animals who then won't produce litter after litter of kittens and puppies with uncertain futures, at best . . . of people who care about stray and feral cats and dogs, who spend time and money -- and heart – trying to keep up with the unbridled reproduction of animals who are not spayed.

Today is the 17th annual Spay Day sponsored by the Humane Society of the US and Humane Society International, partnering with the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Assn. Celebrated on the last Tuesday in February, and throughout that month, Spay Day is an occasion for events around the world designed to build activity and awareness.

An estimated 3-4 million “cats and dogs, kittens and puppies are put down in the US each year, and millions more suffer in the streets worldwide,” the Humane Society reports. On the other hand, “More than 1 million pets have been spayed or neutered in conjunction with Spay Day since it was founded . . . in 1995.”

For information about Spay Day 2011, including events near you, visit And please think about how you can help your neighborhood's cats and dogs who need spay/neuter.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Broken Tail farewell

As it had surprised me to learn that birds don't know to fly high enough over roads to avoid being hit by vehicles . . . it also surprised me to learn that much bigger and more predatory animals, like tigers, may not know to avoid trains.

Tonight's Nature program on channel 13 memorialized "Broken Tail," a Bengal tiger about 2 1/2 years old. For reasons unknown, he had traveled by himself over 100 miles from the tiger reserve where he was born to a place called Darra, where he was hit and killed by an express train.

Film footage of Broken Tail's cub days with a brother and his mother made up much of the program, coupled with narrative about the state of tigers in India today: "Tigers are absolutely on the edge," numbering about 1,400 altogether. The program also included old films of people shooting tigers in India, exulting over their kills, displaying their trophies.

Broken Tail had left the relative safety of the tiger reserve he grew up in, made it through a "killing zone" outside it and even found water along his route . . . only to die by train. One theory: though the train sound was familiar to him from the park, he simply didn't know to avoid the train.

This was his "last journey," and no one understands why he made it. While retracing Broken Tail's probable route, the photographer-narrator mentioned that tigers protect India's forests. Once tigers disappear, the "political eye" turns away and the forests are allowed to degrade.

Tigers are magnificent creatures. The center of Broken Tail's face was "plain" orange-gold, with white and black around his eyes -- a kind of white mask with black stripes. The outside of each ear was black, with a white circle in the middle. Stripes around his torso seemed to continue on to his legs, while from the back, stripes seemed to radiate out from the tail -- itself ringed with black stripes.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

'To a waterfowl' -- a.k.a. 'Pelican poems'

Just a bit more on pelicans. First, a few 'fast facts' about them from the National Geographic site mentioned yesterday; second, a couple tankas based on admiring observation.

Diet: Carnivore
Average life span in the wild: 10-25 years or more
Size: Body, 5.8 ft (1.8 m); wingspan, 10 ft (3 m)
Weight: 30 lbs (13 kg)

(note: These numbers may apply to larger pelican varieties than the brown ones, which are the only dark pelicans and unlike their kin, not found on inland lakes.)

Tandems and trios
circle over fish-filled bay:
diving pelicans’

jagged silhouettes arrow
suddenly into “bait balls.”

Diving pelicans
knife through water then bob up
to swallow and float

before victory lapping
circles over beach and sea


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Last word on St. T. fauna (maybe)

Pelicans. You may think you know about them till you've had hours to watch them -- in the water, in the air, always in action.

Seeing brown pelicans dive into the water after fish, you may wonder how the species has survived. It can seem as if each bird will break its neck after speeding straight down into what looks like shallow water. But obviously, it's (usually) not too shallow because the diving bird quickly bobs up again.

Straight from the National Geographic website, here's some basic info on pelicans. Those on St. Thomas were brown pelicans, the smallest variety and the only ones that dive. (All the better for St. Thomas visitors!)

. . . . . . . .

“There are more than half a dozen species of pelicans, but all of them have the famous throat pouch for which the birds are best known. These large birds use their elastic pouches to catch fish — though different species use it in different ways.

“Many pelicans fish by swimming in cooperative groups. They may form a line or a "U" shape and drive fish into shallow water by beating their wings on the surface. When fish congregate in the shallows, the pelicans simply scoop them up.

“The brown pelican, on the other hand, dives on fish (usually a type of herring called menhaden) from above and snares them in its bill. Pelicans do not store fish in their pouch, but simply use it to catch them and then tip it back to drain out water and swallow the fish immediately.

“The American white pelican can hold some 3 gallons (11 1/2 liters) of water in its bill. Young pelicans feed by sticking their bills into their parents' throats to retrieve food.

“Pelicans are found on many of the world's coastlines and also along lakes and rivers. They are social birds and typically travel in flocks, often strung out in a line. They also breed in groups called colonies, which typically gather on islands.”


Monday, February 14, 2011

Meanwhile, back in NJ . . . and the 18th century

Technicolorland is wonderful. No arguing that. But focusing back on it can blur another reality: things are happening for animals -- including feral cats and the spay-neuter issue-- right here in New Jersey.

There’s renewed talk of a regional animal shelter. EASEL (Ewing Animal Shelter Extension League), is regularly mentioned in connection with that facility, and the organization has a new leader besides. All this could wind up being very good news.

And, along with daylight savings time (less than a month away), spring, a.k.a. baby season, is coming. So for the Mercer County Wildlife Center and those who help feral cats, and animals in general, that means their “extra busy” season is also on the way.

In short, as Thoreau wrote in his concluding chapter of Walden, “It is not worth the while to go round the world to count the cats in Zanzibar.” And, as someone or other else said, “Think globally, act locally.” There’s plenty to do right here.

True or False:

Animals have these advantages over man: they never hear the clock strike, they die without any idea of death, they have no theologians to instruct them, their last moments are not disturbed by unwelcome and unpleasant ceremonies, their funerals cost them nothing, and no one starts lawsuits over their wills. -Voltaire, philosopher and writer (1694-1778)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

St. Thomas no ‘paradise’ for resident cats

A few closing words on feral cats and spay/neuter on St. Thomas (a.k.a. “America’s paradise”). In a recent note, Dellia indicated the island vets want to raise their prices for this procedure. This pricing situation keeps getting worse.

Even with a spay/neuter van on the island, the process still requires veterinarians’ cooperation. Last fall, a vet from Texas visited, and in two days, more than 100 cats were spayed or neutered in that van. It can be done!

In fact, Dellia points to cat colonies at both the Marriott resort and Magen’s Bay that are 100% “done.” However, that figure holds up only till more people dump their cats at those sites knowing they’ll be fed at the cat cafes. Unless such newcomers have been neutered, the result will be more and more kittens.

Overriding every other problem is that of food. What Dellia says is most needed is a source of wholesale cat food. Right now, she buys it and/or uses whatever is donated – a system that probably can’t go on indefinitely.

All in all, while at first I was delighted to hear about the cat cafes and TNR on St. Thomas, I’ve learned that the picture is not as rosy as I first thought, or wanted to believe. Numerous obstacles exist, including the very people who would be expected to want to save cats’ lives, instead of putting them down.

“America’s paradise” – that may be true for people, but definitely not for cats.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Spay/neuter = population control answer

When her job required that she visit islands all over the Caribbean, Dellia Holodenschi found the one constant everywhere to be stray cats.

Even though many St. Thomas cats (including Radu) have been spayed or neutered, there are countless more cats to go. The island’s resorts, with abundant and surplus food (and rats), attract feral cats, and then the cats reproduce. And reproduce. . . In addition, domestic cats are lost or abandoned, and they do the same.

Dellia says that unlike here in New Jersey where there’s a “kitten season,” cats can have six litters a year in the Caribbean because of the always-warm weather.

“For years I’ve been feeding strays,” she said in a recent phone-talk. “Everyone does it who cares.” But she found that “bringing cats home from dumpsters didn’t make a difference (in the population).” So she looked on line for ideas that would substitute for euthanasia – which is all too common -- as a way of controlling St. Thomas’s feral cat population.

In Costa Rica, she found, there are no shelters. If animals are spayed/neutered, there’s no need for such things. This was the answer Dellia needed, and spay-neuter became the first step in her plan. “The most important thing is that they don’t multiply,” she says.

But that can be easier said than done. Too many people, including at least one island vet, believe feral cats should all be euthanized. When cats are trapped and taken to the Humane Society, there are two options: euthanize or spay/neuter. The second procedure costs much more than the first.

In fact, island vets charge prices for spay/neuter that would amaze people around here; it’s as if they’re trying to make spay/neuter impossible to afford.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Meet 'Radu the cat'

The booklet’s cover art featured a tiny orange cat held by a young woman. It had me at “orange cat” because Harry, our first cat, once was tiny and orange (and now is big and orange!).

It’s the story of Radu, a stray cat the book’s heroine found in her native Romania and took with her in her travels, leading finally to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, where they both live.

Radu needed help beyond being a stray cat. He had a cleft palate, for which he had multiple surgeries, and he was also found to be a Down Syndrome cat.

More important than anything else, though, was that Radu was Dellia Holodenschi’s baby. That meant she would take care of him, just as she has done for countless other feral cats. ( “cat cafĂ©” program on St. Thomas is Dellia’s brainchild. She started it with seed money bequeathed to the island’s Humane Society, and since then, pretty much finances it herself, she says.

Every day, she and volunteers who feel as she does drive all over the island to assure food and fresh water for the countless cats there. These basics are left at decorative cat cafes, colorful wooden feeding huts like the two shown in an earlier post.

Next: more about Dellia and TNR – which she says must be the first step – on St. Thomas.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

2 worthy weekend ops for animal lovers

News about the two Valentine's weekend protests detailed below comes from

What better way to celebrate Valentine's weekend than to show love and compassion for animals by participating in either or both of 2 upcoming events -- 1 this Saturday, the 2nd on Valentine's Day (Monday). We need you there to make an impact. Remind couples you know that showing love to a partner should not involve buying tortured and murdered animals to wear or being pulled around Central Park by a neglected, abused sentient being!

#1 -- Have a Heart Don't Buy Fur -- march & protest
WHEN: Saturday, February 12
TIME: 1-3 pm

(1:30-3: protest at Bergdorf Goodman, 5th Avenue between 57th & 58th Streets)
Gather in front of the Time Warner shopping center stores at Columbus Circle (West 58th & Broadway) from 1-1:15 pm. At 1:15, we'll march down Central Park South, past exclusive hotels and residences, to Bergdorf Goodman, where we'll stage our protest (with widescreen video and sound)! And se'll have buttons and sweatshirts to purchase.

(Note: After the protest, a few people are heading down to a Vegan Bake Sale at MooShoes, 78 Orchard Street, NYC, to benefit the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Please come along.)

Sponsored by: Caring Activists Against Fur - -- or email (The faux raccoon coat shown in the image is being worn by an anti-fur activist.)

#2 -- Protest ABUSE in the Horse-Drawn Carriage Industry in NYC
WHEN: Monday, February 14
TIME: 5:30-7:30 pm
LOCATION: Grand Army Plaza area Central Park South and 5th Avenue (59th St. Northwest corner), NYC

Questions? Edita Birnkrant, NY Director, Friends of Animals; Mobile: 917.940.2725
(The horse and driver shown in the image were both at another demonstration, in Philadelphia.)

Sponsored by: Heart for Animals,
The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages, Friends of Animals,

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Previews of coming (C)ATtractions

These are 2 of the many "cat cafes" on St. Thomas. More info, possibly much more info, to follow. Meanwhile, think TNR!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Woman's best friend

The Hidden Life of Humans: a novel. Hmmmm . . . From whose viewpoint, you may wonder. From the point of view of Murphy the dog, of course.

This “funny coming-of-middle-age book” by Erika Ritter is a winner. And yes, she’s the Canadian novelist-playwright-broadcaster who in 2009 gave us The Dog by the Cradle, the Serpent Beneath: Some Paradoxes of Human-Animal Relationships ( Key Porter Books); see blog post for March 10, 2010.

Published in 1997, The Hidden Life “stars” Dana, a writer who lives alone except when trysting with a line of married lovers. Early on, she agrees to dog sit Murphy, who lives with one of her ex-boyfriends. From that point on, the book is narrated alternately by Dana and Murphy (each signaled by a different type face).

Dana learns about the dog; the dog learns about Dana, and imperceptibly, they bond. At one point, Murphy gets the chance to run for his freedom, but after deliberating, he decides instead to “come” . . . the third time Dana issues the command. Ultimately, Dana has a similar choice, and makes the same decision.

Besides often being funny and perceptive about other humans, parts of the book seem to foreshadow Ritter’s later nonfiction book, as over time, Dana begins to think differently about Murphy and other animals.

At one point, she witnesses “actor” wolves having to be trained to be fierce for their parts in a TV program. When she realizes they’ve been reduced to the domesticated dependence of dogs, the realization tears her up. And rightly so.

(Key Porter Books, Toronto, Canada, 1977)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

St. Thomas to Saks Fifth Avenue

It’s everywhere: animal skin and fur adorning people, used by people, admired by people. And the latest unlucky animal to come to merchandisers’ attention is the stingray. Really.

On display in an upscale St. Thomas shop: a number of unusual-looking purses and even a very pricey black golf bag, partly textured and partly smooth leather. The unusual element: Stingray.

There's no escape, even in the ocean. (But we knew that already: only consider all the fish being “overharvested.”)

So now the stingray’s turn has come -- much to the dismay of stingrays everywhere.

An ad in today’s NYTimes pitches sandals by Yves Saint Laurent: patent leather with spike heels . . . and “stingray platforms.” $995.

Still another example of the humans who believe they have dominion over all other creatures. If they think at all.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A sea lion’s raison d’etre

The last post was not to suggest that St. Thomas is flawless as far as animals are concerned. Far from it, as proven by the text below, taken from a full-page ad for Coral World Ocean Park.

“Remo, Franco, Omar, and Romulo are four amazing South American sea lions who make their home at Coral World Ocean Park on St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.

“As the only marine mammals in the US Virgin Islands, the boys are a prime attraction for the thousands of visitors St. Thomas receives each year. They participate in public presentations every day, showing off their skills and demonstrating their fascinating physical adaptations. By being able to display these incredible animals, Coral World hopes to pass on a message of ocean and animal conservation to its guests.

“The boys also make time in their busy day to meet guests up close and personal, in one of the world’s only swim interaction programs with South American sea lions. No waist deep platforms here, our guests jump right in and swim with the boys! The sea lions are very affectionate, and will swim right up, allowing guests to pet them, snuggle in close, and pose for some unforgettable pictures. The program includes a dry land portion as well, where guests will learn about these amazing animals by spending some quality time with them, playing sea lion games, and getting their very own sea lion hugs and kisses.

“. . . Imagine your new Facebook profile picture – cuddling with 400 pound Franco.”

Friday, February 4, 2011

Animal ‘news’ in St. Thomas

So what’s new for animals in St. Thomas (a.k.a. “Technicolorland”) this year? For iguanas, our all-time island favorite, a couple new signs were small but helpful things we spotted, one at “our” resort.

The first sign may deter tourists from treating the iguanas stupidly; in the past, we saw an iguana with a chunk of watermelon (temporarily) stuck in his/her craw. Needless to say, that fruit was a “gift” from a tourist. When the iguana was later tracked down by a staff member, the watermelon had either been swallowed or spit out.

And there was much good news about/for feral cats on the island. It may well have happened before this year – details will follow in future posts – but a program called “Cat Cafes” that operates out of the Humane Society of St. Thomas is a really good thing for the multitudes of ferals there.

At various places around the island there are decorative little buildings where food and water are provided for ferals. And reportedly, TNR is also practiced, with cats who have been neutered sporting one scalloped ear tip, as usual. (Lawrence and Ewing Townships, NJ, are you reading this?)

Probably best of all, many of those I talked with knew about the Humane Society (UNconnected with the Humane Society of the US) and the Cat Cafes. When people know about such things and speak matter of factly about them, that’s a great sign of acceptance.

Hooray for St. Thomas – savvier and more humane on the feral cat issue than some places in New Jersey!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Billy’s birthday

Billy Summers turns 4 today. We’re happy for him and celebrating him in all the special ways we can think of – as well as congratulating ourselves for wanting Harry to have a buddy for company and then finding Billy.

We were so new to the world of cats when Billy joined our family that we didn’t even know he might be described as a “tuxedo cat.” But descriptions don’t really matter except to say Billy’s a love. He’s a gentle boy, and a curious one – sometimes easily spooked and sometimes just following Harry’s lead.

Billy is a consummate ball player. He invented the fetch game we all play with little foam balls. He’ll bring one to either of us to throw, then he races after it and brings it back for another throw. This can go on for hours.

Billy’s a cuddler, but only in bed and only at the times he wants to be there. Joe calls him “a dear little soul,” and he is that, except for the “little” part!

Love you, Sweet William!