Tuesday, August 30, 2011

OK, Fido & Fluffy, you're on your own

To my surprise and disappointment, an online notice from Lawrence Township before Hurricane Irene included a paragraph about shelters if they become necessary. The last sentence read, “Pets are prohibited at all shelter locations and pet owners need to make prior arrangements for care.”

In other words, people can be sheltered, but they should make other arrangements for their pets. Really! Like, leave them at home, wish them good luck and head for safety without them?

Wasn’t there one huge lesson learned from Katrina: that some people would not evacuate their homes if they couldn’t take their pets with them? How could officials – township and/or shelter managers – essentially tell people to leave their pets behind? Or, at some cost and inconvenience if possible at all, to board them somewhere during the storm?

Besides pet stores and veterinarians left and right and even pet TV as part of our lives these days, Lawrence Township has pet licenses and pet censuses and pet clinics for shots – yet residents are expected to turn their backs on their pets when a hurricane moves in?

This “policy” is unacceptable. There has to be better emergency management than this.

(The next post will report on what Lawrence’s mayor had to say on this subject during a phone conversation Monday evening, 8-29-11.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricanes, animals & questions

Before hurricane Irene blew through, I thought Harry and Billy seemed a little anxious, seeming to stay closer to us than usual. But I don’t know how indoor cats typically react to big storms – if there’s any “typical” about it.

Outside, though, for a few hours before the heavy rain started, I saw no birds or squirrels, causing me to wonder whether they were somehow, somewhere hunkered down for safety, and to hope that was so.

As for wild animals, all I could do was wonder whether they can tell when a biggie’s coming – and if, so, what they can do about it. For instance, where do deer go in a hurricane?

Evidently, some wild animals didn’t survive the storm: a radio host the morning after mentioned seeing “animal carcasses” on his drive to work. Happier news came in Sunday’s Trenton Times with a reference to Atlantic County residents “with dogs, cats and luggage” heading for shelter at Trenton’s Sun National Bank Center.

Today's paper had “Views from the state,” including a photo of a deer wading through floodwaters and another pix of National Guard members moving cats and dogs to a shelter.

Three other survivors: a creepy-crawly that quickly moved out and away from under the umbrella stand when it was repositioned, and two sizeable centipedes or millipedes – thousand-leggers! – who had taken shelter in the furled up deck umbrella. They too went on their way.

Friday, August 26, 2011

When threatened, more valuable

It’s funny. Till now, the seven-day holding period for animals taken to shelters didn’t seem like such a great thing. Often after that, if not adopted out or found by their owners, they might be euthanized. All the seven days did was assure them that time to be found or adopted.

But threaten to take away even that seven day period – and suddenly it’s worth fighting for.

During the last couple weeks, that’s what happened in New Jersey, as animal activists took steps to convince Governor Christie to conditionally veto S2939, a bill that would allow shelters to euthanize animals without a seven-day hold period because of their age, health or behavior.

Happily, the governor did conditionally veto the bill, calling for removal of the specific part having to do with changing the “impoundment laws” that are currently observed. So the seven-day hold remains as it was.

And suddenly it looks great! Thanks, Guv!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wounds that time can't heal

It was dusk last May 13 when Mark Johnson, Princeton’s animal control officer, walked into a borough park carrying a rifle and shot two beavers. As news of the killings spread, outrage was expressed in letters to the editor and comments on newspaper coverage.

Shooting beavers is illegal in New Jersey. A spokesperson for the state’s DEP said no permit had been issued to trap the beavers, nor had there been beaver activity in the department’s Division of Fish and Wildlife.

The ACO had told a resident he encountered en route that DFW ordered the killing, according to a Princeton Packet story soon afterward.

That was all more than three months ago, yet the official reaction to date has been negligible. DEP issued one summons to the ACO on July 14, although a report about the beaver shooting incident has still not arrived. The court date is not yet known, and its location has changed twice, from local to county to Ewing Township.

Johnson reports to David A. Henry, health officer with the Princeton Regional Health Dept. On August 19, Henry said he’s still waiting for the DEP report, which “may indicate what some of the conversations were between Johnson and DFW.”

Once the court case is complete, he also expects a report from the Dept. of Health and Senior Services, where animal-related laws and the Animal Welfare office reside.

Local police investigated the shootings, but their findings are “personnel matters” that can’t be discussed, Henry said in May. At the same time, he declined to say whose rifle was used to kill the beavers or whether Johnson had his permission to shoot them.

And so the wait continues.

Monday, August 22, 2011

3 days left to assure 7 days in shelter

The bill S2923, already a done deal in the state senate and assembly, awaits Governor Christie’s signature. He must conditionally veto it before this Thursday when otherwise it will become law.

Why? because while much of the bill is well intentioned and good for shelter animals – requiring that those who leave shelters must be spayed or neutered, for instance – one part of it is very bad for them.

It would give shelters three reasons to waive the current 7-day holding period for animals that animal control officers bring there: age, health or behavior – and euthanize them right away. That’s an awful prospect.

Age means different things to different animals; short of terminal illness, health is often misleading and treatable; behavior is a very subjective area that benefits from observation time after an animal new to a shelter has relaxed a bit.

The seven-day holding period also gives animals the chance to be found by their owners or adopted.

If the bill were amended to cut the part about eliminating the seven-day hold, it would be acceptable. Therefore, the immediate need is to ask the governor to conditionally veto S2923.

There are two ways to do that: phone 609-292-6000 and leave a message, or use webmail: http://www.state.nj.us/governor/contact/ and write a comment.

For “topic,” choose “Health and Senior Services” (the department where the Office of Animal Welfare is located). A “sub topic” must also be chosen, and since there’s no option having to do with animals, choose any of them before typing the message in the comment box.

Please don’t delay: ask the governor for a conditional veto!


Thursday, August 18, 2011

‘Today’s word’ is . . .

Vivisection: The act or practice of cutting into or otherwise injuring living animals, especially for the purpose of scientific research. (from Latin for alive and dissection)

“I am not interested to know whether vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn't. The pain which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity toward it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further.”

--Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Stop using chimps as guinea pigs"

In the world of animal experimentation, what could be more welcome than the animal experimenter who changes his mind? Not only that, but is now taking action to stop further “research” like the kind he was once involved with.

In the August 10 NYTimes, columnist Roscoe G. Bartlett writes about how before he was elected to Congress, he was a physiologist at the Navy’s School of Aviation Medicine, where the devices they invented were tested on primates.

First, he says, he thought the research was worth the pain inflicted on animals. Then he became aware of “its effects on primates, as well as alternatives to it.”

Now, “I no longer believe such experiments make sense — scientifically, financially or ethically,” he says.

He mentions a number of research techniques not involving animals that are cheaper faster and more effective, also pointing out that “Ending chimpanzee research and retiring the animals to sanctuaries would save taxpayers about $30 million a year.”

Bartlett cites cases of primates who have made it clear to their handlers/scientists/captors – take your choice of terms – that they don’t like their lives and want out of experimentation. “There is no question that chimpanzees experience pain, stress and social isolation in ways strikingly similar to the way humans do,” he notes.

For these reasons, Representative Bartlett (Republican of Maryland) is co-sponsoring the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act with Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington. The bill would phase out invasive research on great apes and retire the 500 federally owned chimpanzees from laboratories to sanctuaries.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Shelter bill must 1st be fixed

A bill affecting shelter animals that now sits on the governor's desk should be conditionally vetoed. Most of S2923 is OK. It would establish a pilot program for required sterilization of stray and adopted animals and set up a voluntary registry of animal rescue organizations in the state.

The bill also revises various sections of existing law that address care, impoundment and sterilization of stray, adopted and abandoned animals.

But one of those revisions is big trouble, and that's the part that needs to be fixed before the bill becomes law. The proposed law would allow elimination of the seven-day holding period for animals brought to shelters and permit euthanasia for any of three reasons: age, health or behavior.

That change is wholly unacceptable. Shelter animals need more than seven days, not fewer, for a better chance at staying alive. This change is a particular threat to feral cats, undercutting the efforts all over NJ to make Trap-Neuter-Return the humanely death-free way to care for them.

Please click on the link below to learn about S2923, then follow the directions provided for contacting Governor Christie and urging him to conditionally veto this bill.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Rules for carriage horses in NYC

Another long hot summer, another season when their "jobs" must have taken a terrible toll on carriage horses in New York City. A Q & A column in the NYTimes last month spelled out what to do if you witness animal cruelty toward a carriage horse or any animal in NY.

Report it to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Humane Law Enforcement dept. at 212-876-7700, ext. 4450, or humanel@aspca.org. The ASPCA handles these complaints for the city's health dept., whose rules for carriage horses include . . .

1. If the air temp is 90 degrees F or the wet bulb temp ( a humidity indicator) is 85 degrees, drivers must stop working horses and make sure they're cooled off and walked to the stable.

2. In the winter months, they must be covered with blankets while awaiting passengers. (no mention of temperature)

3. Horses must be given at least 15 minutes rest for every two working hours, and cannot be driven faster than at a trot.

4. They must not be worked more than 9 hours in any continuous 24-hour period or during "adverse weather" including snow, ice, heavy rain or other slippery conditions.

5. A veterinarian's exam is required every eight months.

Probably the most laughable rule is the recent City Council requirement at least five weeks' vacation for each horse every 12 months, at a stable allowing access to a paddock or pasture.

Well, all these rules are on the books anyway. And once in a while, one or two of them may even be enforced. Meanwhile, the poor horses plod on.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Comments on cub’s cruel death

The following opinions came from comments on a story about the bear cub in Stokes State Forest who was killed last week.)


Leonardo da Vinci wrote that there would come a time when the murder of animals would be considered the same way as the murder of men. That time is now.

We now know that our bears and other wildlife are our brethren and our support system for life itself. We all need to step up to help our bears, pollinators, bats, and the natural predators, deer, and wildlife being farmed for killing by state agencies.

The NJDEP and NJDFW are mostly hunters setting our beautiful black bears up for another hunt. These "officials" are fear mongers trying to get support for their killing "sport." . . . It's all about instilling fear to justify getting some nice bear rugs and head trophies!

You are on a slippery slope, DFW - and losing your reputation as you slide. . .. data show you have done NOTHING to educate, but everything to kill.

NJ Fish and Wildlife needs total overhaul, along with wildlife bureaus in every state. It is outrageous that a group of good ole boys keeps stocking these agencies with hunters, instead of getting regular people into these jobs.

This most distrusted state agency is permitted to operate by archaic New Jersey statues despite public disapproval of its operations. Why is there no investigation into the allegiance of this partially-taxpayer funded entity to hunting organizations & weapons manufacturers? .

The NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife is out of control. They killed this bear—against huge public sentiment—to instill fear and to promote trophy hunting. They do this because hunting is in decline, and without hunting they'd be out of a job.

. . . to learn how to protect New Jersey's black bears, please visit: www.SaveNJBears.com

Sunday, August 7, 2011

N0 chance for 102-pound “aggressor”

The black bear cub who wandered into a north Jersey campsite on Wednesday -- and did not hurt two young boys, as first claimed -- was caught and killed on Friday. Talk about guilty even if proven innocent. This bear was doomed just by showing up.

The discrepancies in the newspaper stories on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, especially whether the boys were attacked, are far less important than the sentence of death announced in Thursday’s story – regardless of subsequent corrections.

Is it “aggressive” for a young animal to explore a new area, hurt no one and go away? Does that sound like what DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) calls a “Category One Bear,” the most dangerous kind?

Despite their shy and non-aggressive nature, New Jersey’s black bears can’t seem to win once they’re spotted doing anything by DFW and some law enforcement reps, who shoot (with bullets, not tranquilizers) first and make excuses later.

Similarly, DFW seems to take fatal action first, then make up a rationale. In Sunday’s story, after this cub was killed, “officials” said young bears on their own for the first time can be “cantankerous” – now apparently a crime punishable by death.

DFW is the organization that gave us last December’s heinous bear hunt. Now they seem determined to demonstrate the need for another mass murder of black bears this year. All those curious 102-pound bear cubs (possibly orphaned last December) to contend with: scary!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Damned if they do -- or don't

Early last Wednesday -- some eight months after New Jersey’s notorious December 2010 bear hunt -- a young black bear wandered into a campsite in Sussex County’s Stokes State Forest.

Estimated at 150 pounds, the yearling reportedly reached into a tent, grabbed a boy’s foot and tried to pull him out. He then went to a second tent and took a swipe at a second boy before “scampering” away.

The 12- and 11-year olds suffered “superficial wounds,” according to a DEP spokesperson quoted in the Times of Trenton story. When the bear returned, “tearing through the camp,” group leaders followed guidelines including calling for help. In response, a “conservation officer” (you read it right, “conservation”) shot the bear in the neck, wounding it.

The bear ran into the woods, pursued by DEP’s bear response team with their snares and traps – and intentions of shooting the bear, described as aggressive and “a Category One Bear.”

Next day the same newspaper reported errors in the first day’s account: The bear had not injured the boys (their scratches and abrasions were not fresh); furthermore, the two boys had not claimed they were struck by the bear (a case of adult, and/or DEP, overreaction?).

But there was consistency in one part of the story: despite any corrections, including the fact that the bear did not attack humans, wildlife officials still plan to shoot him or her.

Among the many other distasteful things they are, these people are cruelly trigger-happy when it comes to bears. New Jersey (led by the Fish and Wildlife Division of the Dept. of Environmental Protection) offers black bears neither mercy nor justice.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

'What’s in a name?'

Living with animals and observing them over a long, long time, people have come up with words to describe them. Sometimes those words are complimentary, sometimes not. Probably most of the human-coined words for animals are over-generalized, and at least some are inaccurate.

“Bovine” is one example of animal-related words used metaphorically. Its definition is “of or relating to cattle, especially a cow. Dull; sluggish; stupid.” If one person describes another person’s behavior as “bovine,” that’s an insult, going by the dictionary definition of the word.

But we know that “bovine” is not a fair summary of cows, who are in fact capable of strong feelings, for instance.

Other examples of “animetaphores” include “hircine,” or relating to a goat – having a strong odor; lustful, lewd. “Anserine” relates to a goose: stupid; silly. “Pavonine” relates to a peacock: vain and showy, while “porcine” relates to swine – piggish, greedy, sloppy, boorish.

Just looking at the words, then the (alleged) characteristic behaviors that go with them, we can easily see the inaccuracies. First, the animals get a bad rap, and then humans are described with words that link them to inaccurate descriptions of animals.

Wouldn’t it be fun if animals could turn the tables and describe various human types with just one word for each? What would they come up with for (1) a man with a giant beer belly; (2) a vampy femme fatale; (3) a pompous, disdainful man or woman; (4) an artiste; (5) a professional athlete?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ride ’em, sheepboy!

Sick, sick, sick: Little kids riding sheep . . . seeing who can stay on the longest . . . winning medals . . . being lauded for getting back on if they’re jounced off . . .

“Mutton busting” is called a “sport” and often used as a steppingstone to competitive rodeo events.

The July 26 NYTimes carried this sports section story, “Little Lambs, Not the Sheep, Get Early Lessons in the Rodeo Life.” When you think humans have already concocted all the fiendish things possible to do to innocent animals, along comes something new.

Mentioning that make believe rodeo with sheep is an old farm pastime now being mainstreamed, Sarah Maslin Nir details how it works for kids 3-6 years old. Although they wear helmets with face cages and protective vests, they’re still subject to bloody noses and faces full of dirt.

The sheep involved – involuntarily, needless to say – can sustain sprained limbs.

Now on its way to becoming “a codified sport with its own gear and championships,” mutton busting “builds character,” one mother (also a nurse) believes. She mentions that her son is small for his size and says successfully riding sheep “did so much for his little ego.”

Well, that’s just great. What else do sheep exist for but that? (Years ago an acquaintance whose family had moved West wrote back that shooting his first wild animal had helped her son overcome his shyness and gain confidence.)

The story quoted one person who said mutton busting “borders on child abuse.” No one commented on its inherent animal abuse.

Sick, sick, sick.