Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Grant funds TNR for Trenton's street cats

The headline included a startling number: “14,000 stray cats.” That’s how many feral, stray, wild and street cats – none of those terms defined, BTW, though they’re seemingly used interchangeably – live in Trenton.

These are the cats without homes, regular meals or veterinary care who still somehow survive in the city.

Now, according to today’s Trenton Times story, an organization trying to control cat colonies and cut down on cat euthanasia as a solution is working with the Trenton Animal Shelter to trap, neuter and release cats.

Thanks to a grant of $10,000 from PetSmart, Trenton Trap, Neuter, Release can offer reduced prices for neutering cats -- $15 for a street cat and $35 for a pet cat. Once neutered, cats are returned to where they had been. Over time, their colonies get smaller as reproduction stops.

The organization is headed by Sandra Obi, a Trenton resident who started TNR on her own block when she moved to town six years ago. She’s also affiliated with Project TNR of the Animal Protection League of NJ (www.APLNJ.org).

The sequence goes like this: Once a week, with some of its 70 volunteers, Trenton TNR rounds up “feral stray and street cats for health screenings and immunizations. The cats are also spayed or neutered.”

Once the cats are returned to their original areas, residents serve as their caregivers. They check for new cats and have newcomers vaccinated and fixed.

“It costs animal control between $100 and $120 per animal to capture and euthanize a cat,” Obi said. So not only is TNR a humane way to deal with this problem that humans have caused, but it’s also cheaper.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Back atcha, Smita, & ACO shooter status

First, thanks to Smita Joshi, of India, who sent a comment on the last blog post, "With friends like this, who needs. . . " Can we hear from you again, Smita? Where are you and what are you doing for animals in India? How did you find AnimalBeat? Tell us about you and your life with animals, please!

Second, the situation of the Princeton animal control officer who shot two beavers on May 13 continues to be unresolved. The Princeton Packet stories printed since then have attracted numerous reader comments, mostly all negative toward the animal control officer. More recently they’ve also grown more critical of the town officials who seem strangely reluctant to take a stand.

The Friday, May 27 story on the issue was comparatively small and ostensibly about another animal issue in town: a fox that reportedly bit a dog. That incident has raised questions about whether the fox is rabid . . . and who should deal with the problem.

The answer: Mark Johnson, the trigger-happy ACO.

Officials indicated he’s been “cleared” to deal with the fox situation. They also said they’ll put together a list of guidelines for correct behavior in various situations involving animals – a “bible” Johnson can refer to.

HUH? Does this mean that till now, after nearly 20 years on the job, Johnson has not known what to do (which the beaver shooting would suggest, although that act seemed more like an ‘I can do what I want’ act than one resulting from ignorance).

And is that the only reaction his superiors will have to Johnson’s behavior?

Hoping there’s more news, and some backbone, in this Tuesday’s Packet.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

With friends like this ACO, who needs . . .?

"Beaver shootings by Princeton animal control officer prompt outrage and alleged cover-ups," read the headline in NewJerseyNewsroom.com today. The story:

The shooter in the May 13 killing in Princeton of two beavers is known. He reportedly told a resident he was going to get rid of them. Then he did – after dark, in a town park, with a .22 rifle.

Mark Johnson, the shooter, is the animal control officer in Princeton borough and Princeton township, which share the health dept. services that include animal control.

Robert Bruschi, Princeton borough administrator, told the Princeton Packet (May 20) Johnson viewed [the beavers] as “a nuisance.” . . .

To read the rest of this story, click below. Then please write a comment after the latest Packet story about the killing of these 2 beavers. If the public doesn't let Princeton officials know how they feel about this ACO's latest bad deed, things will never change.



Monday, May 23, 2011

Not whodunit, but who will act on it?

On May 13, the animal control officer in Princeton (borough and township) shot and killed two beavers in a park there. He had told a resident on her way with her dog to see the beavers to leave the park, saying he was going to get rid of them.

A week later, on May 20, both the Times of Trenton and the Princeton Packet carried stories about his shooting the beavers with a rifle.

Borough and township officials were quoted, saying not much of anything except "investigations will happen," and the ACO was reported to be "on vacation" till this week.

The overtures I made today to Mark Johnson, the ACO, to his health dept. supervisor, David Henry, and Robert Bruschi, borough administrator, went unanswered: no reply to my e-note to Johnson requesting an interview; no return phone calls from Henry, Bruschi or Chad Goerner, township mayor.

I'd like to think they were all huddled together, figuring out what to do next, given the newspaper stories and the revealing comments -- about the ACO's history on the job and his being protected from the start -- that Packet readers took the trouble to write.

In my dreams.

We'll see what happens, and what's printed, tomorrow, then I'll post results here next time.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

'Unsung animal heroes' would choose life

There’s nothing fair or humane about it, but (non-human) animal involvement in human wars is practically a forever thing. The London memorial to Animals in War details and illustrates some of that, but only some.

Behind that monument was a book, Animals in War, by Jilly Cooper (c. 1983, 2000, 2002 [Lyons Press]), a Brit, who went on to help make the monument a reality.

A strange book, it’s not very well-written and its content is of course very painful to get through – even though Cooper reports a few stories that she, at least, finds humorous. (Somehow, the word “hilarious” seems wholly out of place in a book about how animals were widely conscripted and made to serve in the so-called Great War and World War 2, among others.)

The book includes chapters about horses, dogs, camels, mules, elephants, donkeys, mascots and domestic animals. Talk about “cannon fodder.” Cooper’s facts include how hundreds of thousands of animals died – in warfare, in related experiments, in mistakes and in fiendish decisions that were made. As usual, the animals had no say; their service was involuntary.

But, for the person unsure of the extent of animal deaths in war, or wondering about specific animals or specific campaigns, this book is the ticket. I’m glad to have finished with “. . . a book which will touch the heart of any animal lover,” according to one blurb.

To which I reply: A true "animal lover" would not let this happen to animals.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Patrick got lucky; most animals don't

(Here’s the beginning of a column about animals who “have no choice,” prompted by the recent media attention over the dog who took part in the bin Laden raid. It also refers to Patrick, the pit bull who was so badly abused a couple months ago in Newark, NJ.)

Navy SEAL dog, hero dog, canine commando . . . whatever the name, it's a “service dog” -- meaning service to and for humans; meaning that humans' agendas are served; meaning, basically, involuntary servitude by a non-human animal.

From all the excitement over the dog who took part in the bin Laden raid, you would think puppies aspire to join the Navy SEALs (or to become seeing-eye dogs, or take on any of the other “jobs” humans so kindly dream up for them and other animals). When national security and patriotism are also involved, it becomes even easier to go along with using dogs as if they’re inanimate, disposable tools without lives of their own.

The same newspaper story about the SEAL dog also mentioned Labrador Retrievers as a breed increasingly used in war. They’re trained to walk ahead of humans to sniff out explosives. The story didn’t mention what happens to them when they find explosives. Another dog recognized posthumously?

What a dubious distinction for a dog -- risking life and limb doing un-doggy things so humans can wage war more effectively – that is, kill and conquer other humans.

To continue reading, go to:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Solidarity against horse-drawn carriages

Continuing the thread from the last post, about NY State Senator Tony Avella’s bill to prohibit horse-drawn cabs in NYC, the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages announces news of a related event. On Saturday, June 4 – also Horses Without Carriages International Day -- Coalition members and other advocates will hold a press conference.

Scheduled for noon, the event will take place on the north/east side of Central Park South and Fifth Ave. Senator Avella will formally announce the bill, joined by Representative Linda Rosenthal, its sponsor in the State Assembly.

The event is intended to be a time for solidarity, according to the Coalition notice, which encourages everyone against horse-drawn carriages to attend. Legislators need to see there’s strong support for the bill, and they need to hear the same message from their constituents.

Amending the NYC Administrative Code, S5013 is essentially the same as the historic bill that then-Council Member Avella had introduced into the City Council in 2007.

Besides hoping all those committed to this issue will attend the press conference, the Coalition’s also looking for an experienced, reliable person who will donate time to videotape the entire event. If interested, contact Elizabeth at coalition@banhdc.org for details.

June 4 also marks one of two times annually for Coalition members to stand in solidarity for the horses with activists in other countries. Founded in 2008, Horses Without Carriages International is “a global coalition” made up of activists “whose common goal is to expose the injustice, cruelty, and inhumanity in the horse-drawn carriage tourism trade.”

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A bill to end horse-drawn carriages in NYC

A New York State senator has introduced a bill – S5013 – to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City. We can only hope that this bill will result in the elimination of the sight we see, and choke up over, near the Plaza Hotel, of poor, overworked horses (who shouldn’t be “worked” at all) waiting to pull carriages full of tourists.

How medieval, cruel and unnecessary.

According to a press release from Friends of Animals, “More than 200 horses are forced to pull carriages and tourists in New York City, but that could be stopped by a bill introduced by . . . Senator Tony Avella.

"Senator Avella has taken this initiative to the state level," said Edita Birnkrant, New York director of Friends of Animals. "We laud this step to make New York City a travel destination with safety and fairness in mind for all. “Bill S5013 would amend New York City's administrative code to prohibit horse-drawn cabs. It would also prevent current carriage horses from being sold off to killer buyers.

“Last summer, Friends of Animals facilitated the rescue of Bobby, a New York City carriage horse, from a slaughter auction in New Holland, Pennsylvania. "Advocates can't spot and rescue every industry-worn horse," said Birnkrant. "Thank goodness Bobby is safe. But only a ban will end the cycle."

According to the release, “Senator Tony Avella (D), representing the 11th New York State Senate district, served on the New York City Council until 2009, and supported the effort to ban horse-drawn carriages consistently. The senator worked closely with Friends of Animals to create the landmark ban bill introduced into the Council in 2007.

“New Yorkers have seen several horrific accidents involving frightened horses,” the release continued.

“In September 2007 a 12-year old mare named Smoothie, left unattended, bolted; one of her legs became entangled in a carriage wheel as she crashed into a tree, went into shock and died. In 2009, an accident at Central Park ended in hospitalizations of a cab driver and a carriage driver. Motorcyclists and pedestrians have been hit, sustaining bone breaks. Cars have been smashed. Buggies have tumbled. Horses have broken free and run through the streets of Manhattan. From time to time the media announce deaths of horses: Nickels, Spotty, Juliet; the list goes on. A horse called Jackie was shocked to death by an electrical line in the rain.

“Not a single one of these tragedies needed to happen," said Birnkrant. "New York City is a lovely place for walking. For tourists wanting to take a ride, pedicabs offer tours through Central Park."

(Note: although this post deals with a bill in New York, the image shows a carriage horse in Philadelphia.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Horseracing takes terrible toll

The Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont Stakes: Lee Hall began her May 8 column against horse racing with reference to the annual triple crown races here in the US. Then she mentioned two horses who died last month during a British race, and a third who was “too exhausted to be ridden into the winner’s enclosure.”

She noted that “Of those who race, about 420 each year will be run to death, according to Horsedeathwatch.com, which has tracked horse deaths since March 2007. In Australia’s steeplechase events,” she added, “five horses have died this year alone.

“The horses don’t all die in plain sight. Some racers or jumpers die hours or days after an event, victims of leg injuries or bleeding lungs,” Hall added, before moving on to the horrors of American horse racing.

Bolstered with specifics and strong quotes, Hall’s point of view on this subject, as with most, is unequivocal. “The focus should be on stopping the use of horses, whether that involves thoroughbred racing, jumping and showing, fox hunting, barrel racing, tourist carriages or polo.”

The following link takes you to the complete column, which appeared in "one green planet," the "online destination for the ecologically ethical generation." It’s recommended reading.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Oh, NOT to be a service animal!

Navy SEAL dog, hero dog, canine commando. . . whatever you call it, it's a “service dog” -- meaning service to and for humans; meaning that humans' agendas are served; meaning, basically, involuntary servitude by non-human animals.

You would think puppies aspire to join the Navy SEALs (or to become seeing-eye dogs, or take on any of the other “jobs” humans so kindly dream up for them and other animals). Probably, though, when national security and patriotism are also involved, it becomes harder for some people to criticize turning dogs into Navy SEALs.

And by the way, the same NYTimes story that told about the dog who took part in the bin Laden raid also mentioned that Labs are another breed used in war. They’re trained to walk ahead of humans to sniff out explosives. The story didn’t mention what happens to them when they find explosives. Another dog recognized posthumously?

What a dubious distinction for a dog -- risking life and limb doing un-doggy things so humans can wage war more effectively.

All of which – and let’s not forget War Horse, the popular play now in NYC – reminds me of the London monument honoring the innumerable animals who have been (and continue to be!) killed in wars over the centuries. One part reads, “They had no choice.”

(Please see blog posts for Nov. 11, 2009 and Dec. 5, 2010.)

To read the rest of the inscription, to see the bas reliefs of animals large and small who have been conscripted for human wars, involuntarily taking part, inevitably suffering and dying; to see the sculpture of a worn-out horse and mule . . . is to realize the extent to which humans have exercised their arrogant and sick dominion over animals.

Friday, May 6, 2011

On the team that got bin Laden: a dog

This week’s news of Osama bin Laden’s death and the daring Navy SEAL raid that led to it eventually focused on one unique member of the team that invaded bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan: a dog. And not just any dog, but one specially trained to work with (and for) his partner-SEAL and the mission at hand.

We’ll probably never learn many specifics on the dog – gender, breed, age, name, etc., but he or she may eventually receive a medal for valor. The best news about the dog in the raid is that s/he lived through it.

The next post will talk about this dog and other animals who serve humans. For now, here’s the link to a story about the SEAL dog.


Monday, May 2, 2011

How many snakes?


by D.H. Lawrence

A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.

In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before me.

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second-comer, waiting.

He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.

The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.

And voices in me said, if you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.

But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him?
Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him?
Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.

And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid,
But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.

I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste,
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.

And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.

And I thought of the albatross,
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate :
A pettiness.