Category Archives: Voice for Animals

The American Stew

“Meat eat­ing in the United States is going out of style.”

That unam­bigu­ous state­ment opened a Wash­ing­ton Post piece one year ago. This new year, there’s even more evi­dence that cutepigani­mals as entrees may be falling out of fashion.

Beef con­sump­tion has dropped to lev­els not seen since back in 1909. Pork as a food pref­er­ence con­tin­ues its steady decline.

mamaandcalfFor those of us who care about the ani­mal and envi­ron­men­tal impacts behind sta­tis­tics like these, there is cause to cel­e­brate in this new year.  And it doesn’t stop with the ani­mals known as “red meats.”

Although a pop­u­lar head­line is that chicken is now a more pop­u­lar choice than red meat, actual per capita con­sump­tion by Amer­i­cans has declined sig­nif­i­cantly since 2006, although the National Chicken Coun­cil projects hope­fully that it will tick upward this year.

And who could won­der if that self-interested pro­jec­tion came true? Chicken “nuggets” are among the first pieces of flesh thatlittlegirlandchick many Amer­i­can chil­dren are fed, and the fried frag­ments soon become a sta­ple, if not an addic­tion — there is even “pop­corn” chicken now for young­sters too small to han­dle “nuggets”; fast food restau­rants fea­tur­ing chick­ens served up in umpteen ways are ubiq­ui­tous; and humon­gous syn­thetic cows beckon from bill­boards telling us to eat more, eat more! (I sup­pose those plas­tic cows are happy this year, too. 2000 Cow CalendarMaybe now that the pres­sure is off a lit­tle they can spend some time learn­ing to spell. )

Chick­ens are also per­ceived as health­ier to con­sume than other ani­mals and therein lies a nugget for future hope:  it looks like more Amer­i­cans are mak­ing more food choices for health rea­sons! The body of evi­dence con­tin­ues to grow that eat­ing meat con­tributes to health prob­lems like obe­sity, can­cer, and heart dis­ease.  Chicken car­ries its own par­tic­u­lar risks, sal­mo­nella per­haps the best known among them.

Cost is one fac­tor in food choices, of course, and chick­ens are cheaper to breed, feed, ware­house and kill than other ani­mals used as food.  Part of the rea­son is the way most of them are “farmed.”  The suf­fer­ing of these sen­si­tive, sen­tient beings rivals image001any agony we’ve been able to inflict on ani­mals through­out his­tory.    Hate to break it to those arti­fi­cial bovine lob­by­ists on bill­board ledges, but the more the word gets out, the more I believe that one con­sid­er­a­tion will increas­ingly drive our con­sumer choices:  compassion.

Com­pas­sion already plays a part in the way many of us shop, cook, eat, and live. The num­ber of con­scious con­sumers is grow­ing.  The ben­e­fits and joys of plant based diets con­tinue to be extolled.

I see and hear it as I move through life.  One night I’ll sit through din­ner heart­sick at who’s on other people’s plates but the next day I’ll hear from yet another per­son who’s going veg­gie, vegan, or just begin­ning the jour­ney of cut­ting back on ani­mal consumption.

tofuThe sin­gle favorite remark I heard this New Year’s Eve was, “My old­est daugh­ter is veg­e­tar­ian, thanks to you.”  It is I who am thank­ful, for peo­ple who are choos­ing to make this a kinder, health­ier planet.  2014 could be a very good year.

 

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!

Moo2Meow

I was at a con­fer­ence when a large ani­mal vet­eri­nar­ian told this true story:

The man­agers of a dairy farm were mys­ti­fied when one of their cows would not give milk.

This was an oper­a­tion where the ani­mals were more for­tu­nate than most, in that they got to go out to pas­ture each day, rather than spend­ing their entire cattle-dairy-02lives locked in an enclo­sure.  As in all dairy oper­a­tions, the cows were repeat­edly impreg­nated so that they would give birth and pro­duce milk.  After each birth, the calves were taken away so that the milk meant for them could instead be pumped for human consumption.

A mama cow who had been through the rou­tine of turn­ing in her babies before duti­fully watched as her lat­est new­born was hauled away.  Yet when the lac­tat­ing mother was hooked up to the milk­ing machine, cattle-dairy-04she was dry.  This went on for days, with no appar­ent expla­na­tion.  But then came the moment when the baf­fled oper­a­tors stum­bled upon their answer.  One spot­ted a move­ment in the woods at the edge of the pas­ture and went to inves­ti­gate.  Mama cow had given birth to twins.  Know­ing what their fate would be, she had taken one for sac­ri­fice and hid­den one to save.

This Sophie’s choice inspires the new title for my blog.  Moo2 is in honor of this cow and her two babies whose sto­ries evoked tears in nearly every­one who sat in the con­fer­ence hall and heard it.

The title also means “moo to meow,” in that we talk about all ani­mals here, from farm to fam­ily room; from the ani­mals we think lit­tle of to the ones we greet joy­fully upon our return home.  (That means the title could also be baa/chirp/oink/woof/snort/cock a doo­dle doo…and could quickly get a lit­tle too long. :-) )

I am grate­ful to each of you who share my com­pas­sion for ani­mals and who read and con­sider these words, wher­ever you are on your own per­sonal jour­ney.  It can be dev­as­tat­ing to face the truths of ani­mal suf­fer­ing yet also joy­ous to help alle­vi­ate it. As Farm Sanc­tu­ary pres­i­dent Gene Baur recently wrote, humans pos­sess a fun­da­men­tal capac­ity to feel empa­thy, yet we some­times turn it down when faced with the pain and suf­fer­ing of oth­ers.  “The good news is that we are capa­ble not only of turn­ing our empa­thy down but also of turn­ing it up…Empathy is like a mus­cle that becomes stronger as we use it.”cat and cow

Here’s to a great work­out.  Get to know a cow.  Hug your cat. A big heart does a body good.

Thank you for vis­it­ing and for the e-mails you reg­u­larly send me.  If you are com­fort­able doing so, please reply here, as it con­tributes to com­mu­nity dis­cus­sion. Most of all, thank you for caring.

Snippets from the Front

Work­ing on behalf of ani­mals can often hurt the heart…

there is so much suf­fer­ing and so far to go.  But every once in a while, a stretch of days comes along that gets the heart pumped up again and prac­ti­cally shouts, “HOPE! PROGRESS! POSSIBILITY!”

That’s been the case in my world the past week or so.

The No More Homeless Pets Conference Best Friends Animal Society 2013

The Best Friends Ani­mal Soci­ety No More Home­less Pets Conference

First, the ral­ly­ing cry of “Save Them All” from the 1,300 peo­ple gath­ered for the No More Home­less Pets con­fer­ence.  “Save Them All” is a pos­i­tive way of say­ing “no kill,” and it reflects the phi­los­o­phy of Best Friends Ani­mal Soci­ety, the con­fer­ence orga­nizer:  be pos­i­tive, because we can do this.  We can stop the mil­lions of deaths in ani­mal shel­ters each year.

Want to help?  Adopt, fos­ter, vol­un­teer, advo­cate for spay/neuter.  All are key to mak­ing it happen.

Francis Battista and Cathy

Cathy and Fran­cis Bat­tista: The Best Friends Ani­mal Soci­ety No More Home­less Pets Conference

For the Best Friends folks, sav­ing the ani­mals is not just a cause, it’s a call­ing — to which they’re devot­ing their lives.  As co-founder Fran­cis Bat­tista — whose sense of pur­pose is matched by his sense of fun — put it, “The spir­i­tual expresses itself as kind­ness and the most basic expres­sion of that is kind­ness to animals.”

Vegfest Florida Voices for AnimalsTampa Bay Veg­fest cel­e­brates kind­ness toward all ani­mals, from farm to fam­ily room.  Spon­sored by Florida Voices for Ani­mals, Veg­fest is a day dur­ing which you can soak up info on why a vegan diet is good for both your health and the envi­ron­ment, along with the ani­mals.  You can learn in the Vegfest  Tampa bay - the day was filled with musicspeak­ers’ hall, via videos, or hand­outs from a plethora of orga­ni­za­tions.  But per­haps the best tes­ta­ment to the joys of veg­an­ism is the boun­ti­ful selec­tion of deli­cious dishes served under a Vegfest Tampa bay offers great food sunny sky in a down­town park. It was one of those autumn days that feel more like August in the sun­shine state but peo­ple lined up to sam­ple and savor the culi­nary cre­ations.  Yum!

Passion for Pets - Humane Society of Tampa Bay

Cathy Unruh and Lucy Mir­a­cle: Pas­sion for Pets — Humane Soci­ety of Tampa Bay

And finally, it’s always a good day when Lucy Mir­a­cle gets to step out as an ambas­sador for com­pan­ion ani­mals.  She did so for the Humane Soci­ety of Tampa Bay, one of our home­town orga­ni­za­tions work­ing to Save Them All.

Together, we can.  I believe that together, we will. And it doesn’t hurt to hear it every once in a while from a few thou­sand of your fel­low believ­ers. Thank you.

Fur? Seriously?

I hope you don’t mind receiv­ing this blog post again. We received such a pos­i­tive response that we are re-posting. Thank you for your support!

That ques­tion fired up my brain when an acquain­tance men­tioned an item in her new “lux­ury” prod­uct line – a sleep­ing bag lined with the coat of a sil­ver fox. I stepped away from the con­ver­sa­tion quickly, before my grief and dis­may could move from my mind and escape my mouth. This was the socially accept­able thing to do at the time, but the sor­row of that moment has refused to leave me. Take a look at just one rea­son why. silver+fox+5

This is a sil­ver fox. He’s beau­ti­ful, isn’t he? And smart.  And con­scious, shar­ing many of the sen­sa­tions we humans expe­ri­ence, includ­ing plea­sure, fear and pain.  And yet the sil­ver fox and dozens of other ani­mals graced with what should be their own per­sonal furry pro­tec­tion are made to suf­fer hor­ren­dous fates in order that we might usurp their skins.

The fur trade is a ghastly, grisly busi­ness.  I will not be too graphic here (the links are more explicit), because if you care one iota about ani­mals, the real­ity of it is ter­ri­bly dif­fi­cult to stom­ach.  But – the weather is turn­ing chilly and we’re reach­ing for warm gar­ments, fash­ion con­tin­ues to include fur, and new “lux­ury” lines are being launched that may increase the num­ber of ani­mals cur­rently being skinned in the name of human indul­gence.  I want you to know about it.  I want you to be able to make a con­scious deci­sion on whether you will participate.

And it is a choice:  we do not need fur.  We are not cave­men headed out with our clubs to try and score a pelt in which to sur­vive the win­ter. We have a plethora of styl­ish syn­thetic fab­rics avail­able to keep us warm – I wear them in win­ter tem­per­a­tures that some­times reach 30 below.  Yet an esti­mated 50 mil­lion ani­mals die each year solely for their skins.  These ani­mals include dogs and cats. Some of them – and this is one of the most hor­ri­ble things to think about — are skinned alive.  Most of them are bred, born, and butchered on fur farms.  The hous­ing here is com­monly a stack of bar­ren wire cages. Clausen8 Their cap­tives may be housed indi­vid­u­ally or crammed together. Con­di­tions can be so hor­ren­dous that many of the ani­mals go insane before they meet their ends.  And their ends are bru­tal — humans don’t want to dam­age their “prod­uct.”  So slaugh­ter meth­ods that leave the ani­mals’ pelts intact are used, such as elec­tro­cu­tion via a rod in the anus, and gas cham­bers.  (And remem­ber, these are the more for­tu­nate ones.  They are dead before their skins are sliced off.) Some­times, if it’s not deemed too costly for the even­tual bot­tom line, lethal injec­tion is used.  The ani­mal may be par­a­lyzed but still con­scious when the skin­ning starts.

Furry ani­mals in the wild don’t fare much bet­ter when it comes to the end of their lives. Traps range from the purely ter­ri­fy­ing to the exquis­itely tor­tur­ous.  lynx in trap You’ve prob­a­bly heard sto­ries about ani­mals who will do almost any­thing to escape, includ­ing chew­ing off their own legs.injuredfox And then there is the annual whole­sale slaugh­ter of baby seals in Canada; this is done pretty much cave­man style.

Heard enough? There is faux or fake fur on the mar­ket, for peo­ple who want to make a more eth­i­cal or even a less expen­sive choice.  But beware:  not all the fur is actu­ally fake.  Some­times the label­ing is sim­ply false. There are ways that you can dis­cern the truth before you decide whether to pur­chase. And if you want to steer com­pletely clear of the issue, you can patron­ize fur-free retail­ers.

We humans enjoy many lux­u­ries.  Among them is the abil­ity to make con­sid­ered, con­sci­en­tious deci­sions about what we will and will not indulge in for the sake of fash­ion (and food, and fun, and so forth).  The ulti­mate lux­ury may be liv­ing in a place and time (Here! Now!) where we are free to make the com­pas­sion­ate choice.  I hope you will.  I hope you do.  Because I promise you:  a clear con­science feels a whole lot bet­ter than fur.

“You can judge the moral­ity of a nation by the way the soci­ety treats its ani­mals” –Mahatma Gandhi

Note:  I appre­ci­ate all of you who e-mail me with your com­ments – but if you are com­fort­able leav­ing a reply here, please do so.  It con­tributes to com­mu­nity dis­cus­sion. Thank you!

Pets before Profits”

Sup­pose Adam, Eve, and a ser­pent were each offer­ing to sell you an iden­ti­cal apple -

same size, same color, same sweet­ness — for the price of four fig leaves. The ser­pent planned to use the fig leaves as cam­ou­flage.  Eve intended to turn the fig leaves into a new skirt. Adam planned to feed his fig leaves to the hun­gry doe who had just given birth to a fawn. Which apple would you buy?

If you chose Adam’s apple, then you just might be the ideal cus­tomer for a new busi­ness – one that, like Adam, promises to use its

Dr. Glenn Buckley

Glenn Buck­ley, DVM

pro­ceeds to help ani­mals.  Except that in this case, the prod­ucts are pet treats, toys and other sup­plies, with the pri­mary empha­sis on pet phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. Glenn Buck­ley, the vet­eri­nar­ian who founded Pet Res­cue Rx along with his brother Scott, got in touch to intro­duce him­self and share their vision:  all net prof­its to ani­mal shel­ters.  “I have reached an age when I can really appre­ci­ate what money can­not buy:  my health, my life partner…time spent walk­ing my dogs and watch­ing them play.  I want to share that appre­ci­a­tion for life by what I can give back through this busi­ness,” says Buck­ley, whose title is CEO.

Scott Buckley,  President and Computer Guru

Scott Buck­ley,  Pres­i­dent and Com­puter Guru

Giv­ing some­thing back is not a new con­cept, thank­fully.  There are any num­ber of com­pa­nies that donate a por­tion of their prof­its to help ani­mals; adoptashelter.com is one of the best known.  1–800-PetMeds, which adver­tises itself as “America’s Largest Pet Phar­macy,” says it donates thou­sands of dol­lars in pet sup­plies and med­ica­tions to shel­ters.  What sets Pet Res­cue Rx apart is the promise to donate all net prof­its.  “I’m run­ning into some skep­ti­cism,” says Buck­ley, with a note of what sounds like res­ig­na­tion in his voice.  “But we’re doing this for the same rea­sons vol­un­teers at shel­ters do:  to get the money where it needs to go.”

Buck­ley says his eyes were opened to the needs of shel­ter ani­mals when he vol­un­teered in one, and started brain­storm­ing a new way of 995834_379259572180130_1319919697_asub­si­diz­ing them.  He likens his busi­ness model to Newman’s Own, which fun­nels all after-tax prof­its to human causes.  Newman’s Own says that’s about $370 mil­lion so far.  How much will Pet Res­cue Rx con­tribute?  It’s far too soon to know, as the com­pany just opened in June.  And when finan­cials are avail­able, they do not have to be dis­closed:  Pet Res­cue Rx is not a 501©3 and is not pub­licly held.  Buck­ley says that he is cur­rently fund­ing the startup via his two ani­mal emer­gency clin­ics in Florida and not tak­ing a salary.  Both of those things will likely change if Pet Res­cue Rx takes off.  But he vows that it will always be, “Pets Before Prof­its,” the company’s motto.

Buck­ley says he’s com­pet­i­tively priced with other online pet phar­ma­cies (and here’s where the anal­ogy comes in) because, “when you’re all sell­ing apples, you have to be.” He’s being choosy about his apples, though, car­ry­ing prod­ucts from other “do good” com­pa­nies “out there to make a dif­fer­ence,” like Halo Pet, John Paul Pet Prod­ucts, and yes: Newman’s Own Organic Pet Treats. “I have been given a gift, as we all have, to cre­ate some­thing which can have a greater impact for good.  We should all look within our­selves to find that and let it grow.”

Pet Rescue RX

Glenn and Scott out­side the phar­macy with Roz and Geri.

Growth going for­ward will be largely up to shop­pers. It’s cer­tainly a con­cept that holds promise, and entic­ing to those who care about the esti­mated 6–8 mil­lion ani­mals who enter U.S. shel­ters each year, half of them only to face a death sen­tence.  They could use the help.  If Pet Res­cue Rx should bear fruit, we can only hope — and per­haps even allow our­selves to trust — that Buck­ley will keep his promise.

Note:  Pet Res­cue Rx hopes to become licensed in all 50 states.  At this writ­ing, it is get­ting close to halfway there.

My Wedding Anniversary…

Warn­ing:

If you are uncom­fort­able learn­ing inti­mate details of a rela­tion­ship, do not read on. If, how­ever, you accept voyeurism as an inalien­able Amer­i­can enjoy­ment, then please: step into my bedroom.

The day begins like nearly every other. Whether our alarm sounds at 5:00 or we sleep in until the sun beck­ons brightly through the win­dow, time for togeth­er­ness is always part of the morn­ing. My hus­band gets up, show­ers, and returns to the bed­room, where the object of his affec­tion lies drift­ing in and out of a lux­u­ri­ous doze, dream­ing in antic­i­pa­tion. As he approaches the bed, smelling of freshly soaped skin, herbal sham­poo, minty tooth­paste, coconut sun­screen — a deli­cious morn­ing mélange — doz­ing morphs into con­scious­ness and a long, lux­u­ri­ous stretch upon the com­forter, still redo­lent with sleep. Antic­i­pa­tion mounts to expec­ta­tion. Expec­ta­tion, built upon the mem­o­ries of so many morn­ings prior to this one, induces an invol­un­tary quiv­er­ing, as though the skin is ris­ing up of its own accord to meet the hands about to descend upon it. And then the caresses begin.

My husband’s pow­er­ful fin­gers set­tle into the back of the head, gen­tly teas­ing the brain into total wake­ful­ness. They travel down the spine, dig­ging deli­ciously into either side of the back until they reach that region that moti­vates the body, mind­lessly giv­ing itself up to sen­sa­tion, to turn over and invite more caresses, offer­ing up its most vul­ner­a­ble areas in com­plete trust, with­out reservation…

It is, I admit, an envi­able way to wel­come the day. I am, I admit, occa­sion­ally envi­ous. Because I am talk­ing, of course, about the dog. Anniver­sary, birth­day, hol­i­day, every day: Wee Willie Winky gets a morn­ing mas­sage before his walk in the park.

It took me years to soften my spouse to the point where he would accept a dog in our house­hold, already pop­u­lated with cats. When I sus­pected that the time was just about right, I called friends at our local shel­ters to let them know what I was look­ing for: a small dog who could travel, wasn’t inclined to be yappy and wouldn’t shed too, too much. The very next day, the call came: an alleged puppy mill run­ner from Alabama had been busted sell­ing six week old dogs out of the back of his pickup truck in the unfor­giv­ing Florida sun. I took this pre­cious, tired Shih Tzu home, cud­dled on my lap.Willie croppeda I walked into my husband’s office and said, “Close your eyes and hold out your hands.” The puppy fit entirely into his palms. Tom looked into his gen­tly Willie 3picblink­ing eyes and instantly named him. That first night, Willie slept for a dozen unin­ter­rupted hours, on his back in his brand new puppy bed with his legs straight up in the air, exhausted.

The love affair between spouse and Shih Tzu took some time to develop. Tom hadn’t lived with a dog before and he was some­what slow to suc­cumb to Willie’s con­sid­er­able charms. But once he opened him­self to the expe­ri­ence and began bond­ing with play time,bathtime snug­gle time, bath time, there was no deny­ing it: my place as most loved mem­ber of his fam­ily was being chal­lenged. And with valid his­tor­i­cal and sci­en­tific reason.

Wolves, from whom dogs descended, are believed to have first turned to humans for food and shel­ter, while humans wel­comed the wolves’ pro­tec­tion, hunt­ing prowess, and even­tu­ally, their warmth, affec­tion, and empa­thy. 24rDogs can “read” their humans in extra­or­di­nary ways: a sim­ple move­ment of the body or even the eyes can speak vol­umes to your canine com­pan­ion about your inten­tions. Your dog very likely can under­stand and even share your emo­tions. Dogs and humans have the same brain struc­ture, includ­ing the amyg­dala, which is linked to emo­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal states. Dogs and humans also share many of the same hor­mones. Fur­ther­more, a recent study sug­gests that sev­eral sets of genes in humans and dogs evolved along the same time­line, likely as a result of liv­ing together.

There are rea­sons other than sci­en­tific for the pro­found love between man and dog too, of course. I, along with most humans, absolutely refuse to run to the door every time my hus­band comes home (whether he’s been gone five days or five min­utes), wig­gling my fanny like a feather in the wind. I decline to lie on the floor at his feet, gaz­ing up at his face with naked love in my eyes. I will not pant in antic­i­pa­tion of a leisurely walk in the evening.

But I will — and do — work on man­ag­ing my envy. After all, I “gave” Willie as a gift and thus am happy to accept the shar­ing of affec­tions. Besides: I am madly in love with Willie too. Happy anniver­sary, sweetie.

11monthswide

Note: actual spousal inter­ac­tions on our anniver­sary have been omit­ted in def­er­ence to tra­di­tional deco­rum – and so that my mother does not expire pre­ma­turely from mortification.

 

Just a Whisker Away

Can you feel it, just a whisker away?

The promise of breezes lift­ing the cur­tains, naps in the after­noon sun, play­times spent wrestling, climb­ing a tree, bat­ting a ball around? Ah, sum­mer. kitty hammockMemo­r­ial week­end approaches, the unof­fi­cial start of the exalted sea­son – and of another, less well known. It’s the height of kit­ten sea­son. Thou­sands of kit­tens born and nur­tured in the spring are now mature enough to find homes.

Can you imag­ine it? Kit­tens inhal­ing the fresh air through the win­dow, nestling in the sun’s rays, play­ing with the zest of a young­ster dis­cov­er­ing new games each day? Might your home have room for more love and an extra dash of joy? As the French writer Jean Cocteau said, “I love cats because I enjoy my home, and lit­tle by lit­tle, they become its vis­i­ble soul.” If you’ve never lived with a cat or kit­ten, this may mys­tify you. Many peo­ple still think of cats as elu­sive, inde­pen­dent crea­tures who turn up their noses at even their clos­est humans except for when it suits them – like meal time. But as Cocteau knew, cats can gladly offer their lively spir­its and ready adopt-a-shelter-cat-monthaffec­tion if we are open to them – and lit­tle by lit­tle, we come to real­ize that home is where the cat is. But far too many cats are left won­der­ing where the home is.

An esti­mated four mil­lion cats wind up in shel­ters across our coun­try each year. They extend their paws through their cages at the work­ers and vis­i­tors pass­ing by: notice me! Notice me! They rub against the wires and purr: pet me! Pet me! They live as fully as pos­si­ble within their con­fines: Catincage1play with the toys, lap up the food and water, use the lit­ter box, snug­gle with their cage mates. I hope they don’t know what lies around the cor­ner or down the hall if they can­not entice an adopter: the euthana­sia room. 70 per­cent of shel­ter cats are car­ried there.

So June is Adopt a Cat Month, also known as Adopt a Shel­ter Cat month, because this is when shel­ters are most crowded with kit­tens and when you catincagehandsbwhave a mar­velous oppor­tu­nity to add to your fam­ily and save a life or more. I always rec­om­mend at least two cats, for mul­ti­ple rea­sons. They will be hap­pier when no humans are at home, because they have each other. You will be more enter­tained, watch­ing the cats play together. And you’ll get more attention!

The extra care and expense of an addi­tional cat are min­i­mal. Although this is con­sid­ered sac­ri­lege in some cor­ners, I find that one lit­ter box can do nicely, if it’s cleaned often. (My three cats have a choice of two lit­ter boxes, one indoors and one on the catio. They stead­fastly ignore the catio box and hap­pily share the indoor one.) More food is required, but cats are not gar­gan­tuan con­sumers. You’ll also need to pro­vide enter­tain­ment, which doesn’t have to mean Fred in a boxexpen­sive toys. Cats are happy to chase the prover­bial yarn, and they love boxes, tis­sue and wrap­ping paper, and any num­ber of nat­ural play­things already in your home. Among those play­things should be sur­faces they are allowed to scratch: wood, car­pet, card­board. These can all be pur­chased or you can make your own cat scratch­ers cheaply and eas­ily. And you’ll want to write an annual vet­eri­nary visit into your bud­get – but that comes later. Shel­ter ani­mals are spayed, neutered, vac­ci­nated, and often microchipped before they are released. At most shel­ters, adop­tion fees are kept as min­i­mal as possible.

And it’s not just kit­tens who are on bor­rowed time at shel­ters, wait­ing for homes. There are cats of all ages avail­able, from high-energy ado­les­cents to stately elders look­ing for a warm hearth and snug­gly lap. Not sure who is right for you? Ask your shelter’s staff. They’ll help you find the match to suit your time, tem­pera­ment, and environment.

May 22 Blog Pic Cathy copy2So go ahead: spice up your sum­mer if you can. Adopt a Cat. Then, when the too-brief sea­son slips away and the chill creeps in, you’ll have your friends to keep you warm.

 

 

 

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.

DEMOCRACY, ADVOCACYAND YOU?

Warn­ing:  I am about to use a word that often car­ries neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions.  A word that makes some peo­ple cringe.  Ready?  Here it is:  lobby.  Not as in the room where you wait, but as in the activ­ity that you do.  As in lobby your leg­is­la­tors.  As in be a lob­by­ist.  These words can con­jure up images of back rooms, money sacks, quiet hand­offs, hand­shakes and secret deals – and evoke aver­sion, even deri­sion.  But I would like you to know that I am a lob­by­ist.  I lobby.  And fur­ther­more, I hope that you do too — or will.

Lob­by­ing is part of our pre­cious demo­c­ra­tic process.  Lob­by­ing can be wholly above board, Gathering en massehon­or­able, out in the open…“in the sun­shine,” as we say here in Florida about our gov­ern­ment and the way we’re sup­posed to run it.  It can be a per­sonal phone call, let­ter or e-mail to your leg­is­la­tor; it can be a peti­tion; it can be an appear­ance en masse with oth­ers on your Capi­tol steps or at your legislator’s door.  It can be on any issue that you care about – you won’t be sur­prised that I am going to address the issue of ani­mal welfare.

Humane Lobby Days are con­ducted around the coun­try under the aus­pices of the Humane Soci­ety Animals don't have a voiceof the United States. It’s a time for those who care about ani­mals to con­verge on their state­houses and give voice to the voice­less.  The other ani­mals don’t get a vote.  It’s up to us humans to find votes for them.

In Tal­la­has­see, where I par­tic­i­pated in Humane Lobby Day, there is a great chance that an ani­mal cru­elty bill will pass both cham­bers this year.  The bill would crack down in sev­eral ways on var­i­ousAnimal Cruelty Bill acts of ani­mal cru­elty and orga­nized crime at staged ani­mal fights. A mea­sure that would require ani­mal shel­ters to put their num­bers out in the sun­shine – how many ani­mals taken in, how many adopted out, how many euth­a­nized – is des­tined for the governor’s desk.  Humane lob­by­ists have sev­eral goals in my state:  end­ing grey­hound rac­ing, endors­ing Trap Neuter Return, pro­tect­ing both dogs and con­sumers from puppy mill sales. And we have rea­son to hope.  We are the peo­ple who col­lected enough sig­na­tures to put ges­ta­tion crates for preg­nant pigs to ref­er­en­dum – and abol­ished them. We showed that when you bring ani­mal cru­elty to light, a major­ity of the cit­i­zenry may choose to end it.

But you need not go out and gather sig­na­tures, travel to the seat of gov­ern­ment, or even leave your seat to help ani­mals.  Click here to learn about pend­ing leg­is­la­tion in your state and here  for bills at the fed­eral level, where many of the issues with the most impact on ani­mals – along with con­sumers and tax­pay­ers – are con­sid­ered. And then there’s your own back­yard, with issues like exotic ani­mals as out­door pets, dog teth­er­ing, free-roaming cats and TNR, back­yard chick­ens:  many ordi­nances affect­ing ani­mals and you are enacted at the local level, in munic­i­pal and county governments.

Won­der­ing whether your voice mat­ters?  It does. Law­mak­ers know that cit­i­zens who care enough to con­tact them are likely cit­i­zens who vote – so they lis­ten. To learn who your rep­re­sen­ta­tives are, visit www.votesmart.org. You can also get on the e-mail lists of ani­mal wel­fare groups who will alert you to Democracy is a privilegeleg­is­la­tion and ask you to con­tact your rep­re­sen­ta­tives. These alerts often make it easy with sum­maries of the issue at hand and sug­gested ver­biage when you write your law­maker.  Your chance to be an advo­cate is just a few clicks away! As a spokesper­son for Grey2K USA — a grey­hound advo­cacy group — reminded us in Tal­la­has­see, “We have the power to do tremen­dous, amaz­ing things.”  We just have to unleash that power.

Democ­racy is a priv­i­lege. Employ­ing its processes is a choice. Using our sys­tem for the bet­ter­ment billboardredo1of oth­ers is what the found­ing fathers intended.  Defin­ing “oth­ers” as all sen­tient crea­tures means embrac­ing a lifestyle of con­scious com­pas­sion. That lifestyle has my vote.