Sunday, October 30, 2011

"Neither snow nor rain nor . . ."

Yesterday's Ewing community fest -- on Oct. 29, mind you -- was a cold, sloshy, snowy-rainy, muddy mess. And even so, Easel volunteers (that is, all Easel members) were out there, working for adoptions from Ewing's animal shelter. The tally isn't in yet for cats and dogs adopted, but if that effort didn't succeed, what would?

Cats were in a Mercer County van with windows so they had a view of all the crazy humans nearby, mucking around in the weather. And visitors could enter the van to meet them and ask questions of the Easel members on hand.

Dogs were under a roof in the walkway to a parking garage, all wearing orange vests reading "Adopt Me" and all very winsomely wanting to be loved . . . and adopted. The Easel volunteers on the other ends of their leashes were in good spirits late morning when we visited and took pix.

It happened again at the fest as had occurred Friday at the shelter: some of the most unlikely people spoke so softly about wanting to adopt a "lap dog" (that man will return this week for a Jack Russell, he said); wanting to adopt an older cat because they're harder to find homes for; wanting a pal for the cat at home and for himself (and that man went home -- in the awful weather -- to get his cat carrier and come back for the pet-pal he had chosen).

Just when the news of the world could easily turn a thinking person into a misanthrope, along come people like these -- and the woman who fosters Easel cats but didn't bring them out yesterday because the weather was so bad. She was there, though!

If yesterday was any indication of how hard Easel people are working for adoptions of animals at the shelter, there may be no residents left by December, when the move to smaller quarters is tentatively scheduled.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In 2 different ways, animals ready to go home

Save the date -- and save a cat or dog too. This Saturday, October 29, is Ewing Township's "Community Fest 2011" on the campus of the College of New Jersey. One highlight of the event will be the opportunity to adopt a pet from the Ewing Animal Shelter.

The shelter will move from its present site to a new-but-smaller facility some time in December. Not all the animals being taken care of now can be housed at the new shelter, and they must be adopted before the move, or . . .

To facilitate adoptions, members of Easel Animal Rescue League will bring adoptable animals to the Community Fest, where those who are ready to share their homes and hearts with a cat or dog can meet them. All animals are spayed or neutered and have their shots. (

The event runs from 10 am-5 pm.

* * * * * * * * * * *

This just in: Jack the cat has been found! People who may have read about the cat lost at JFK Airport last August probably gave up on him by now. His owner was moving from East to West Coast when Jack vamoosed, escaping from his carrying case. Despite American Airlines’ pledge to find him, reward signs, a Facebook page and a Twitter account, no Jack.

But today’s NYTimes reports that Jack was found close to where he was lost and will eventually be reunited with his owner – after spending some time at a vet’s. Jack’s condition was not detailed, nor was his owner’s reaction to the news. Coming up: happy times in San Jose.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Why shoot to kill, not save?

“Pet – an animal kept for amusement or companionship.” Such as a lion, for instance? How about a Bengal tiger? Or a grizzly bear, mountain lion or baboon?

If these animals seem like strange choices for pets, tell it to the people in Ohio (and other states) who collect them. Invariably, in being removed from their natural habitats and living in someone’s back 40 or basement (yes, it happens) or garage, they’re mistreated, exploited, abused. They’re “exotic” animals – that is, “from another part of the world; foreign.”

Such creatures are not pets, but exotic wild animals who don’t belong in Ohio – or in much or all of the US either.

Years ago, an offbeat garden and gift shop on Olden Ave., Ewing included among the interesting things there an iguana. This unfortunate tropical creature, who had been named, lived in a glass aquarium near a window. The owners claimed he (I think) was kept warm enough and was well fed.

In reality, he was another exotic animal who should not have been there, isolated and solitary, not free, not living at all naturally.

Back to last week’s Ohio horror, wherein nearly 50 exotic animals were shot to death by law enforcement officials. The questions keep coming.

First, why don’t police types carry tranquilizer darts or have them readily at hand, especially when large wild animals are the reason for their being called? (Not long ago in NJ, a bear cub was shot to death and then too the claim was law enforcement reps didn’t have tranquilizer darts. Why not?!)

And next, what other options were considered besides the panicky-sounding result: shoot to kill? In an area where the “owner” of these animals was known to be trouble, why weren’t tranquilizer darts standard equipment?


Friday, October 21, 2011

2nd death, in Ohio

How to react to the “exotic animals” horror story in Ohio? There are so many possible things to say, so many wrongs involved.

First and worst of course: the needless deaths of the nearly 50 wild animals who were killed. Then the fact that they had been “freed” and put in the position to be killed. Then the fact that they had been collected and kept there in Zanesville – a place they never belonged or deserved to be.

So many cruel ironies involved . . . First, this man reportedly “loved” the animals, yet he freed them – to die. He had to know that would happen, but then again, he must have been irrational for a long time.

Imagine being a majestic big cat suddenly out in the open . . . of Ohio, for god’s sake.

Second of many ironies: for these captive animals, freedom (not in their native habitats, but merely from cages) meant fright, disorientation and then death.

It was a tragic end to the diminished lives they had been forced to lead. For them, death in Ohio was really a second death.

Animal-advocacy organizations such as PAWS, the Humane Society of the US and PETA reacted to the events in Ohio, where it quickly became clear that stringent laws (and enforcement) are needed to prevent such things from happening again. The Humane Society, for instance, put up a long report of exotic animal abuses and offenses in Ohio.

Links to all three organizations are on this blog’s home page. Please take a look.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A day for feral cats

Today is national feral cat day, and it would be great to be able to say, “Happy feral cat day!” – except that for many or most ferals, life is uncomfortable, unhealthy and short. Too many people hear “feral cat” and think trouble; too many animal control officers and shelter staff hear “feral” and think euthanasia.

In reality, of course, feral cats are a human creation, and the least humans can do is protect and take care of them.

The word “feral” means (1) existing in a wild or untamed state; (2) having returned to an untamed state from domestication. Feral cats, therefore, were either felines born in the wild to existing ferals or strays, or domestic cats who were abandoned or lost. In both cases, they are now wild animals, living outdoors and fending for themselves.

The best known way to care for ferals is through Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) because without spaying or neutering and basic shots to help them survive in the wild, feral cats are the often-unhealthy-but-fertile parts of an ever-growing problem.

Right now, according to stray and feral cat advocates Alley Cat Allies – the group that started National Feral Cat Day 10 years ago -- “feral cats taken to animal shelters are almost always killed. Being killed in an animal shelter remains the leading documented cause of death for cats. TNR ends the breeding cycle and stabilizes the population, halting further deaths,” according to ACA president Becky Robinson.

Today is dedicated to raising awareness of feral cats and the ways they can be protected. Living outdoors and typically not socialized to humans, many or most adult ferals can’t be adopted – but TNR would allow them to return to their colonies and live out their lives without reproducing.

They deserve at least that much.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Rabies and its test: both fatal

"Rabies": a loaded, inflammatory word and generally for good reason. It's defined as "an acute infectious viral disease of warm-blooded mammals that attacks the central nervous system. It is believed to move from a saliva-infected bite wound through sensory nerves to the brain."

That's bad enough, but it gets worse. There's no treatment or post-exposure vaccination available for (non-human) animals; therefore, rabies is fatal to them.

Humans can survive rabies if treated before the onset of symptoms with post-exposure vaccinations and immunoglobulins.

"Rabies" becomes a big scare word when a human may have contracted it -- which can happen through a bite by a rabid animal. People have usually heard terrible tales about the series of shots they must go through if exposed to rabies.

It's worse of course for rabid animals, who will die. It's equally bad for animals suspected of having rabies who are tested for the disease: they too will die -- a fact that most people don't seem to know.

Rabies can be detected only in an animal's brain. Therefore, to test that animal for rabies, s/he must be killed. Once euthanized, the animal is decapitated, with the head going to a lab for the testing that will prove or disprove rabies was present.

The decapitation step is not necessary only for animals under 2 pounds in weight -- a bat, for instance, or a squirrel.

People who may talk casually about getting this or that animal tested for rabies should know what that entails: it means the animal must die, whether or not s/he then tests positive for rabies.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bon voyage, monarchs!

Who knows what a single monarch butterfly weighs. Who understands how such a creature can migrate thousands of miles – for instance, from Canada and the islands of Maine south and west to a mountainous area near Mexico City?

They “ride winds a thousand feet above the ground, covering 25 miles or more every day,” according to a Washington Post story in today's local paper. That’s almost more unimaginable – though evidently true.

To do it, the story reported, they “need water. They need flowers. They need nectar.” But this year, the monarchs’ route will include “a thousand miles of hell” – a.k.a. Texas – as they head for their Mexican retreat.

Texas is scorched and “nearly waterless, flowerless, nectarless,” right now. No matter how hardy and vigorous the monarchs are, there’s trouble in store for them in Texas. (No, they won’t change their route, which they’ve taken for thousands of years.)

As a result, there are serious questions about how many monarchs will make it to their over-wintering site, where traditionally they arrive “fat and happy, having gorged on nectar for thousands of miles.” That built-up fat helps them get through the winter and back north in the spring.

Usually, the monarchs “converge on a few acres of forest in mountains about 60 miles west of Mexico City. There they’ll roost over the winter, thick as quilts on fir trees.”

This year’s trip south could be another story if these amazing butterflies arrive thin and bedraggled -- and vulnerable.

Friday, October 7, 2011

'Let the punishment match the crime'

Bad enough some people are crazy, cruel and murderous toward one another. Worse when they practice on defenseless animals.

News that a 10-11 foot long whale had been shot somewhere off the East Coast, then died a long, lingering death from starvation, hit hard this week. It surprised even Bob Schoelkopf, founding director of the Brigantine-based Marine Mammal Stranding Center.

He reportedly told the Star-Ledger that this is the first time in his 33-year career that someone has shot a whale.

The short-finned pilot whale beached himself at Allenhurst, a small Monmouth county town north of Asbury Park, on Sept. 24. He weighed more like 700 pounds than the usual 1,000 pounds. Soon after help was summoned, the whale died.

A necropsy performed at the U of P disclosed a gunshot wound near the whale’s blow hole. The bullet, which may have come from a .30-caliber rifle, was recovered from his jaw. Lodged there, it had caused an infection that left the animal unable to eat – for about a month, the time the animal took to lose the weight.

“It was wandering around and slowly starving to death because of the infection,” Schoelkopf said, according to “Who would do that to an innocent animal?”

At least one federal agency will be trying to find out. . . . (please click below to continue)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

You say 'animal research,' I say. . .

“Mistreatment of lab animals alleged at a Princeton lab” -- headline in last Friday’s Times of Trenton. But by definition, don’t the words “lab animals” alone mean mistreatment?

Those animals aren’t in labs, at Princeton or anywhere, for fun and games. They’re likely to be in cages, robbed of their freedom and natural lives, and used in experiments – all against their will. If all that is not mistreatment . . . !

The story reported on what an anonymous whistleblower claims has happened in a lab at Princeton University – where, by the way, they call what they’re doing “animal research” as if that would make it less horrible than the vivisection it is.

In his letter to a rep of the USDA division that handles violations of the Animal Welfare Act at Princeton, the executive director of SAEN (Stop Animal Exploitation Now) details a number of violations the whistleblower alleges occurred at the university.

Because they are spelled out in detail on the SAEN website – – they won’t be listed here. Besides the alleged mistreatment of lab animals, the SAEN leader also alerted the USDA official to a possible, or likely, leak that allows lab staff to know ahead when “unannounced inspections” will take place.

Citing the “carelessness and negligence” at Princeton that leads to the taking of animals’ lives, he invites an investigation, mentioning the need for punishment and fines. (Not known: if or how the USDA official responds to the executive director’s letter.)

Meanwhile, “animal research” continues at Princeton.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

In next twp. evacuation: people -- & pets!

“We’re changing out policies,” said Lawrence Mayor Greg Puliti yesterday, referring to how Lawrence handles pets during emergencies such as Hurricane Irene late last summer.

A township bulletin about storm preparations included this sentence, inflammatory for some residents with pets: “Pets are prohibited at all shelter locations.” This position prompted questions to town management (see blog post for Sept.1); sharing of a Packet group story about the town of Manville, which practiced enlightened, humane care for pets during Irene; and a letter to the editor of the Lawrence Ledger.

Yesterday, Mayor Puliti indicated Lawrence will be getting with the program. He made these points:

1. Lawrence will add a few alternate evacuation locations that can accommodate pets. These will be identified up front (presumably, in any bulletin preceding the next hurricane of disaster of any kind).

2. In checking with the county, he learned it has a mobile trailer that Lawrence can request as needed to accommodate any pet overflow.

3. The township will buy some temporary cages for use with animals housed at Camp Bow-Wow, a Bakers Basin Road boarding facility for pets.

4. It and other places like Pets Plus, near the Brunswick Circle, could become evacuation sites for pets.

5. Lawrence’s animal control officer (ACO) is part of the emergency management team.

Of course, questions remain. How will these changes be communicated to Lawrence residents? Can Lawrence be assured use of the mobile trailer(s)? – or could another Mercer County town get there first? How will pets alone at home be identified and evacuated? (Asked this, the mayor said the municipal clerk may devise some kind of registry, maybe drawing on cat and dog license information.)

It’s a great relief to know Lawrence is moving in the right direction on caring for pets during disasters.