Category Archives: Media

Furballs and bits

How do you get a 9-year old Rot­tweiler and her six pup­pies adopted out?

Easy! You put up the head­line, “63 year old gives birth to sextuplets!”

That’s just one mar­ket­ing nugget shared by Mike Arms of the Helen Wood­ward Ani­mal Cen­ter. Mike is an appar­ent mae­stro at man­ag­ing media and mes­sage in order to find homes for animals.

Get­ting ani­mals out of — or bet­ter yet, never into — shel­ters was a strong theme of the Alley Cat Allies con­fer­ence.  It’s a goal widely shared by com­pan­ion ani­mal advo­cates, and expressed as “no kill,” or more recently, “Save Them All,” coined by Best Friends Ani­mal Soci­ety.

Close to 400 of us, from 37 states, Canada, and Israel gath­ered with ACA to talk strat­egy for sav­ing cats.  (Israel’s gov­ern­ment is join­ing feralstreetcatthe move­ment, with a cash infu­sion to Trap-Neuter-Return 45,000 street cats there.) And when you save cats, you save other com­pan­ion ani­mals, because you free up space in res­cues, shel­ters, and hearts for them to find homes.

Favorite con­fer­ence quote:

The ani­mals have your hearts, but it’s your minds they need.”  Mike Arms

Okay then, let’s play “I Spy:”

When Spar­tan­burg Ani­mal Ser­vices wanted to prove that free-roaming cats pose no dra­matic dan­ger to birds, their FBI National Acad­emy alum, crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tor, used-to-do-narcotics-busts chief, Major Steve Lamb, tar­geted a cat judgecom­mu­nity with a bunch of birds around and then put up sur­veil­lance cam­eras to watch them. No mur­ders were wit­nessed.  Case closed.

Com­mon cents:

Also put your mind around this, Bon­ney Brown of the Humane Net­work reminds us.  When you save a cat, you are hav­ing a pos­i­tive eco­nomic impact on the com­mu­nity, through pur­chases of DOLLARSIGNKITTYfood and other sup­plies the cat will need. So money is being pumped into the econ­omy, as opposed to killing, which costs tax­pay­ers money.

Save sta­tis­tics:

Expenses asso­ci­ated with shel­ter intake, ani­mal care, and euthana­sia all go down when spay/neuter goes up.  There are sta­tis­tics and sto­ries (because every “euthana­sia” is an ani­mal who would like to live) from around the coun­try prov­ing this.  It’s even hap­pen­ing in that hub of hedo­nism, Las Vegas, at the Heaven Can Wait Ani­mal Soci­ety. (Love that name!) And in the areas where it’s hap­pen­ing most dra­mat­i­cally, Trap-Neuter-Return of com­mu­nity cats is one big rea­son why. I’m see­ing this in my own home area; check this out from the Humane Soci­ety of Tampa Bay.

And by the way:

Why are we call­ing them “shel­ters” any­way? Too few ani­mals get out of “shel­ters” alive. We are work­ing to change that, and one way would be to change our shel­ter names to “Pet Adop­tion Cen­ters,” or “Pet Vil­lages” – sev­eral names were thrown out, all of them designed to get adopters in and ani­mals out. (See “Heaven Can Wait,” above, for cre­ative nomenclature!)

The Let’s Go Get It Goal:

Let’s put catch­ing and killing in the his­tory books and file it on the  shelves.”  Becky Robin­son, pres­i­dent of Alley Cat Allies.

Becky, John, Cathy

Becky Robin­son, pres­i­dent Alley Cat Allies, John Ful­ton, host of “Must Love Cats,” (Ani­mal Planet) and Cathy Unruh, Ani­mal Advo­cate, Author of TAMING ME: Mem­oir of a Clever Island Cat

The Future is Now and she’s named Kimberly:

11-year old Kim­berly Her­nan­dez learned about TNR from a neigh­bor, cares for out­door cats, and wants to be a vet.  Here’s an excerpt from what she had to say:

KimberlyI am Kimberly.

I am the future.

I am an ani­mal lover.

I believe that I can reach all my goals because I am me.  I don’t have to change.

I believe that cats are a gift.  To live is to give them some love.

I will do my best and noth­ing less to help cats…my best and noth­ing less.

Side note on con­fer­ence chow:

The all vegan meals served up by the Hilton Crys­tal City   had non-vegans vow­ing to con­vert on the spot.  The food was beyond fantab­u­lous.  Crowd favorite:  Gardein Beef­less Strips served up asbeefless a stir fry/fajita filler.  I saw more than one per­son going back for third and fourth help­ings.  (Another beauty of bal­anced veg­an­ism:  you can do that!)

And a non-conference thank you:

bloglucymiracle

A young Lucy Mir­a­cle and Cathy Unruh

To My Three Mog­gies   for nam­ing Lucy Mir­a­cle their Novem­ber Fur Friend of the month.

Mog­gie” is a col­lo­quial British word for an every­day cat — Lucy loves her friends across the pond.  They are a furry friendly bunch!

This takes balls.

The topic came to mind while I was watch­ing the base­ball playoffs —

or more specif­i­cally, watch­ing the num­ber of times the play­ers were crotchadjustmantshown clutch­ing their crotches, re-positioning their pack­ages, bunk­ing their junk…OK, OK, I know they are (mostly) adjust­ing their pro­tec­tive cups, but still.  Some­day I may count the num­ber of on-camera crotch grabs ver­sus sloppy spits. It should be quite a matchup.

Any­way, this touch­ing dis­play of testos­terone reminded me of some­thing that hit me like a screw­ball to the solar plexus when I first heard about it:  cos­metic tes­tic­u­lar implants for dogs.  Yep, you heard me right:  cos­metic tes­tic­u­lar implants for dogs. The dog­gie doc­tor pitch­ing this pro­ce­dure said things like, “It will restore the animal’s nat­ural look,” and “It can encour­age peo­ple to neuter who oth­er­wise wouldn’t.”  I don’t remem­ber his sell­ing points exactly; I was strug­gling for air.neuticlenatural3

Once I recov­ered, I did some research and sure enough, the “Neu­ti­cles web­site extols the product’s abil­ity to allow “pets to retain their nat­ural look, self esteem (sic) and aids the pet’s owner with the trauma asso­ci­ated with alter­ing.”  The poster pair on the home page is none Kimanddogrockyother than that cul­tural icon of self­less­ness and empa­thy for all crea­tures, Kim Kar­dashian, and her dog Rocky (who received his implants on TV, natch).

Now I’m not sure about Kim, but I’ve known a lot of ani­mals both pre and post-neutering, and if they have suf­fered a drop in self-esteem, I’ve some­how failed to notice it.  Anec­do­tally, dogs may be a tad less manandbabydom­i­neer­ing — or is that more relaxed? — after their testos­terone lev­els drop. Switch­ing species just for a sec­ond, sci­ence sug­gests that men with smaller tes­ti­cles are more likely to take an active, nur­tur­ing role in child rear­ing.  Hmm, is any of this a problem?

But back to just dogs.  Maybe this machismo man­i­fes­ta­tion will catch on (or maybe not; only half a mil­lion have sold in the eigh­teen years since intro­duc­tion).   I’m for almost any­thing that encour­ages peo­ple tosmiling dog humanely reduce the home­less ani­mal pop­u­la­tion and its con­comi­tant killing in shel­ters, so if tes­tic­u­lar implants help do the job, fine.  They may indeed give com­fort to human males who are still squea­mish about the idea of remov­ing part of a dog’s “manhood.”

intact dogThey may also, how­ever, pose a social dilemma for vocal spay/neuter advo­cates.  Let’s say you see an intact dog on the street and your instinct is to ask his human whether he’s for­got­ten to have the dog altered, or whether he’s sport­ing a pair of Neu­ti­cles.  Is the ques­tion more akin to remark­ing, “Excuse me, sir, but I couldn’t help notic­ing that your fly is open,” or ask­ing, “Excuse me, ma’am, but are those real?”

Either way, I have to admit that the entre­pre­neur who con­ceived of falsie canine cajones is just doing some­thing that’s as tra­di­tion­ally Amer­i­can as, well, base­ball.  He fielded an idea, drafted a team, and put a prod­uct in play that takes balls – in this case, sil­i­cone ones. Or per­haps polypropy­lene. Depends how big your sac – oh, excuse me! wal­let – is.

—There are meth­ods which keep canines “intact” while ren­der­ing them infer­tile.  The FDA has approved a drug that works via injec­tion to the testes; Zeuterin’s inven­tors say it’s too soon to know whether it will sup­press mat­ing behav­iors. Vasec­tomy is also an option, but the drive to mate is clearly unchanged.baseballnote

 

 

Be the Way Home”

It’s a sim­ple sen­tence, an imper­a­tive – and in the not-so-simple county of Hills­bor­ough, Florida, it’s now the offi­cially sanc­tioned plea to cit­i­zens: be the way home for shel­ter animals.

In a nation that is increas­ingly con­cerned about its aban­doned com­pan­ion ani­mals, where the terms babyboy“no kill” and “save 90” have become part of the ani­mal wel­fare lex­i­con, Hills­bor­ough lags in find­ing homes for the crea­tures who wind up at its county shel­ter. Fewer than 37 per­cent make it out alive. Dogs are the most for­tu­nate: 56.6% had a “live out­come” in fis­cal year 2012, while only 18.9% of cats did. And yet when Be the Way Home was intro­duced as an effort to up the per­cent­ages, a vir­tual cat­fight ensued. Why? The old tired topic of TNR.

I use the phrase “old tired topic” advis­edly – and per­son­ally. I’m tired of argu­ing about and hav­ing to cathytnr advo­cate for Trap Neuter Return. As a long­time prac­ti­tioner of TNR, I’ve watched it work, believe that it’s the best prac­tice for free-roaming com­mu­nity cats and the humans with whom they co-exist, and just want the free­dom for all TNR’ers to get on with the busi­ness of doing it. This free­dom exists in hun­dreds of com­mu­ni­ties across Amer­ica, where lead­er­ship rec­og­nizes that TNR is the most effec­tive, eco­nomic, and humane way of con­trol­ling and man­ag­ing free-roaming cat pop­u­la­tions. But in too many other com­mu­ni­ties, hard-working big-hearted care­givers to com­mu­nity cats are dri­ven under­ground by ordi­nances against and oppo­si­tion to their efforts. One com­mon ordi­nance bans the out­door feed­ing of “pub­lic nui­sance” ani­mals. Oppo­si­tion says the cats are not indige­nous species, claims they are too great a dan­ger to other wildlife through their hunt­ing behav­iors, and a threat to humans pri­mar­ily through car­ry­ing disease.

Hence when the direc­tor of Hills­bor­ough County Ani­mal Ser­vices included a pilot pro­gram to trap, neuter and release up to 2,000 com­mu­nity cats per year in his over­all Be the Way Home plan to increase live out­comes, the claws came out. A small clutch of vet­eri­nar­i­ans were the most vocif­er­ous oppo­nents of releas­ing healthy, neutered, microchipped and vac­ci­nated cats back into the com­mu­nity (but away from “sen­si­tive areas” such as parks, play­grounds, schools and con­ser­va­tion lands), sec­onded by wildlife pro­po­nents. The vets invoked the wel­fare of chil­dren to try and whip up Catcornerfear of crazed cats pur­su­ing the pop­u­lace, while the wildlife advo­cates focused on allegedly besieged birds. Pro-TNR groups includ­ing Ani­mal Coali­tion of Tampa, Cat Cru­saders and the Humane Soci­ety of Tampa Bay ral­lied the local troops on behalf of their suc­cess­ful Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return endeav­ors and to point out that avail­able sci­ence does not sup­port the anti-TNR alle­ga­tions. National groups like the Humane Soci­ety of the United States, Alley Cat Allies and Best Friends Ani­mal Soci­ety stood with us.

As I com­mented dur­ing the dis­cus­sion, com­mu­nity cat advo­cates are not the nat­ural ene­mies of catsroosterswildlife con­ser­va­tion­ists. Most of us are in favor of all ani­mals being allowed to expe­ri­ence their full, nat­ural lives within an ecosys­tem that does include preda­tory behav­ior – includ­ing by birds that eat small mam­mals (such as cats) and even other birds. We argue that the evi­dence does not sup­port claims that cats are the wildly pro­lific killers that TNR oppo­nents make them out to be. We know from expe­ri­ence that TNR with feed­ing reduces feline hunt­ing behav­ior. I will con­cede here how­ever, that — as with almost any issue — you can bandy both the empir­i­cal and anec­do­tal evi­dence about like balls of yarn. The most beau­ti­fully sim­plis­tic, indis­putable state­ment made in the entire exer­cise is this: the cats are already here. Are any of these dire sce­nar­ios (dis­eased cats on the ram­page, birds falling by the flock) occur­ring now? For­tu­nately for the ani­mals of Hills­bor­ough County, the answer (no) and com­mon sense pre­vailed as com­mis­sion­ers over­whelm­ingly approved Be the Way Home – a com­pre­hen­sive plan of which TNR is just one com­po­nent. Now comes the imple­men­ta­tion on behalf of all affected ani­mals. And as in any locale, Ani­mal Ser­vices can’t do it alone.

No mat­ter where you live, you can help the ani­mals in a myr­iad of ways:

–vol­un­teer with a shel­ter or res­cue group
–donate funds, food, or equip­ment needed
–offer your exper­tise in com­mu­ni­ca­tions, mar­ket­ing or tech­nol­ogy to help edu­cate
–adopt or fos­ter ani­mals wait­ing for homes
–be a respon­si­ble pet owner; spay, neuter and pro­mote it to oth­ers
–prac­tice TNR and care­giv­ing to com­mu­nity cats
–par­tic­i­pate in pet expos and adopt-a-thons
–lobby your law­mak­ers to sup­port ani­mal wel­fare leg­is­la­tion
–write let­ters, send e-mails, post on social media on behalf of animals.

Sav­ing the ani­mals starts with us, the grass roots cit­i­zens. It is not the job of gov­ern­ments alone. Rep­utable shel­ter and res­cue groups are lim­ited by the time, space, and money they have to work with. There’s an ever-growing pub­lic aver­sion to mas­sive euthana­sia rates and an expand­ing energy around edu­ca­tion and adop­tion, along with an increas­ing will­ing­ness to help.

Be the Way Home. It’s a sim­ple sen­tence – an imper­a­tive. It deserves the upper case let­ters. Let’s bethewayhomefamilyhope it’s the start of a beau­ti­ful story in Hills­bor­ough County, Florida – and an inspi­ra­tion to com­pas­sion­ate, con­sci­en­tious com­mu­ni­ties everywhere.

To read the “Be the Way Home” plan click on the image.

KINDNESS WEARS MANY FACES

The stu­dents hurry toward us as soon as they spot Lucy.  “Did they catch the man who wanted to poi­son all the cats?”  “Did Lucy ever find her mother?”

Their ques­tions spring from con­cern over events in the novel that Lucy Mir­a­cle – the cat – nar­rates.  Cathy Unruh at Academy Prep Center TampaThe events are fic­tional, but these stu­dents have rea­son to believe.  They are liv­ing an extra­or­di­nary story them­selves. They are from low-income, fre­quently frac­tured fam­i­lies in an area where fewer than half the adults hold a high school diploma.  They qual­ify for free or reduced price school meals to ensure they are fed.

But these stu­dents’ bod­ies, minds and souls are being fed through the kind­ness of peo­ple many of them will never meet.  They attend Acad­emy Prep Cen­ter of Tampa, on schol­ar­ships fully funded by dona­tions at no cost to the kids or their fam­i­lies. In an area of the city where sim­ple atten­dance is not expected of many school-age kids, let alone grad­u­a­tion, these mid­dle school stu­dents are at the Acad­emy six days a week, for up to eleven hours a day – and after eighth grade, they are going on to pres­ti­gious high schools and col­leges, men­tored all along the way.  They have no trou­ble relat­ing to Lucy’s mir­a­cle story – and some of the verses they write about it reflect that:

Cathy Unruh Lucy Miracle Academy Prep Center Tampa“Hur­ray!  I’m saved by an angel from above.  My crys­talled eyes shine with joy­ful tears.  I’m glad to know I can trust some­one I love.  I felt like life was worth los­ing, but now, it’s reversed.  Now, I’m so happy it hurts.”

“Curi­ous About Every­thing
Agree­ing About What to Do
Tough And Hard Minded”

“Can I have a cat
Cats are really cool they rock
Now we all want cats.”

Earthly angels may not be too far­fetched a term for some other peo­ple who think cats rock – and IMG_5295prove it with their actions. They give up their nights, their week­ends, time with fam­ily and friends to advo­cate for spay­ing and neu­ter­ing pets, trap­ping and neu­ter­ing free-roaming cats, and adopt­ing out every­one they can.Colony Cats and Dogs Ohio

Colony Cats (& dogs) of Colum­bus, Ohio, runs a bustling cat adop­tion cen­ter where the occa­sional dog also comes through to find a home – like the strong, hand­some deaf one who was there the day I vis­ited.  I’m told that his owner was about to put him to sleep – and then Colony Cats stepped in.  It’s an all-volunteer orga­ni­za­tion, 150 peo­ple strong.  Some come by reg­u­larly to scoop lit­ter boxes and clean. Some spend time giv­ing the cats atten­tion and affec­tion.  Some facil­i­tate the adop­tions.  Some fos­ter ani­mals wait­ing for homes.  Some staff the bou­tique at which sales of upscale sec­ond­hand goods help keep the money com­ing in.  Some orga­nize and run the events that do the same.

As for the cats them­selves – aban­doned, stranded, strangers to each other until they are housedIMG_5290 together at the adop­tion cen­ter – they share food, bowls, lit­ter boxes and sleep­ing spaces ungrudg­ingly. They offer affec­tion to each other and to vis­it­ing humans.

Kind­ness wears many faces:  the aban­doned ani­mal still will­ing to trust and love; the vol­un­teer will­ing to get dirty and tired to bet­ter Academy Prep Center Tampa Lucy Miracle Cathy Unruhthe lives of other species; the bene­fac­tors will­ing to fund edu­ca­tions of kids who oth­er­wise might not be in school; the stu­dents who care about a cat they’ve only read about; the cat who’s will­ing to indulge their atten­tions – even if it’s slightly uncomfortable.

Colony Cats and Dogs volunteer

 

Extend­ing our­selves in kind­ness can be uncom­fort­able – but if we’re will­ing to make the reach, we can also dis­cover that it feels pretty darn cozy.

ANIMALS, EMOTIONS, AND THE FISHBOWL

Do ani­mals have emotions?

I’d like to say that is purely a rhetor­i­cal ques­tion, because is the answer not as clear as the snouts on their faces — or am I miss­ing a third eye­lid wink (wink, wink)?

Appar­ently Mr. Peter Ogburn of Media Bistro’s Fish­bowlDC thinks I am miss­ing more than that – a brain, per­haps. In a piece called Dum­b­ass Pitches (yep, that’s really the link), Ogburn basi­cally asserts that I must be a mis­guided moron — or per­haps “some sad per­son who calls their 27 cats their ‘ani­mal chil­dren’ and would breast feed their kit­tens if they could” — to sug­gest that ani­mals expe­ri­ence emotion.

Now I could pause for a sen­tence here to point out such triv­i­al­i­ties as Mr. Ogburn being mis­taken on where the “beau­ti­fully stu­pid” pitch actu­ally orig­i­nated or some of the points it makes, but let’s get straight to some more of his com­men­tary because it is so deeply con­sid­ered: “Animals…shit when they have to.” “Ani­mals live on base instincts.” “The per­ceived LOVE that they are giv­ing you is a way to tell you that they want something…a leg to hump.”

As I was reflect­ing upon how a per­son who says he has pets could so crassly con­clude that they don’t emote, I help­fully received a piece by Gene Wein­garten which describes Mr. Ogburn’s work­site as: [a] “vicious, sleazy, snide, dis­rep­utable, unscrupu­lous, vac­u­ous, wildly imma­ture, gra­tu­itously cruel, mali­cious and mean-spirited media-gossip web­site that spe­cial­izes in innu­endo, reck­less char­ac­ter assas­si­na­tion and uncon­scionable, wan­ton defama­tion.” (Click here to read his full article.)

But hold my horses! Wein­garten goes on to entreat Mr. Ogburn to con­tinue to fea­ture him weekly, as is appar­ently FishbowlDC’s cus­tom, because “I have come to enjoy the abra­sive work…It hurts so good.” If this two-time Pulitzer Prize win­ning jour­nal­ist wants to stay in the Fish­bowl, then please…have me back! Let’s talk animals!

After all, I like to swim with the fishes – that’s me in the scuba suit. The other Bull Run 032 swim­mer is Larry the grouper. When­ever we would descend to his reef in the Bahamas, Larry would fish­tail it over to us to engage in long soul­ful eye­locks, slurp at our reg­u­la­tors and get pet­ted. He would roll from side to side and front to back to make sure we scratched every acces­si­ble scale. Now Mr. Ogburn, I can’t tell you exactly what Larry’s emo­tions were when he saw our air bub­bles head­ing his way, but I imag­ine they were some­thing like, “Hot dig­gity divers! This is gonna feel good!”Bull Run 035

And yes, “Larry” is my own humanly imposed nomen­cla­ture for our grouper groupie. Call that crazy cat/fish/animal lady stuff if you’d like. I don’t mind. And finally, Mr. Fish­bowlDC, if I ever start breast feed­ing kit­tens, I’ll be sure to let you know. That would make a great column.

But excuse me right now, I have to go. Lucy Mir­a­cle is meow­ing against my ankles, which means she’s feel­ing affec­tion­ate and wants a lit­tle together time. I like to respond when the moment is right.

–Read­ers, please tell us what you think. Do ani­mals have emo­tions — or not?