How guilty is my fake fur?

Yes, I bought a fake fur.

I can’t fix all the problems of climate change and extinction. But I can dress for winter. So off to my favorite “gently used” clothing store for some new-to-me sweaters.

Do I really buy all my clothes used, out of a political conviction about consuming raw resources? Or am I just cheap? Luckily, I don’t bother myself about these fine distinctions.

After wearing the fur a couple of times (It’s definitely too much for the pinball bar where I spent New Year’s eve, but not too much for the hipster pizzeria,  strangely enough. Could I wear it to church? If, you know, I were a churchgoer and not an atheist?), I  got to worrying.

Does owning a fake fur sweater make me a piss poor animal lover?

I went, almost mindlessly,  to the PETA site (People for the ethical treatment of animals). I expected a full on sermon on the symbolic evils of fake fur. After all, these are the folks best known for throwing paint on the minks of celebrities.

To my amazement, I found a carefully reasoned policy saying that fake furs are okay.

Fakes, it emerges, are even a little trending.

Of course  I was bred for guilt, so I  couldn’t rest there. It seems there are also some fake furs out there that have a quantum of real fur.

So I used the three tests recommended by the Guardian for determining whether fake fur is really fake.

The skin of the dead is a giveaway

First, the back should look and feel like fabric, not skin. Check. That’s definitely a knit backdrop.

Beyond all that, my fake fur sweater smells like the acrylic content that the label asserts.

(A fellow activist and I once crept into a fur store just for the hell of it. The smell of dead animals was overwhelming.  Apparently,  there aren’t enough odor eaters in the world to cover up that travesty.)

Better to have faith than to burn

The next test is to burn a small amount of fur. Clearly, I had to wait until I got home, rather than setting fire to the ladies’ auxiliary thrift store.

Hell, that was dangerous.

And inconclusive. I was supposed to get sticky plastic balls, if it’s fake, and singed fur, if it’s real. The sample instantly disappeared in the experiment, and then I was figuring out how to keep from burning down the kitchen.

Do NOT test your fur this way, not at home. Not anywhere. I hope the smell dies back before my husband gets home. I’m canceling my subscription to the Guardian.

Blunt or tapered

The third test is to examine the individual hairs to determine whether they are tapered or blunt. If blunt, they are man-made.

Seriously?

They look blunt, but I’m not at all sure I could tell the difference. And I’m still shaking from the fire experiment, so that’s it. I’m going a different direction with this.

The pit bull smell test

As I said, the fur smells fake, which is to say, it doesn’t smell like a murdered mammal.

Nevertheless,  my smell is not my superpower. But I know someone who can smell trace elements of meat and plant food through a brick wall a mile away.

My pit bull, Alice.

She was napping when I began my experiment.

Here is Alice’s level of interest in my fake fur:

This continued for a few minutes.

Here is Alice’s level of interest when her favorite cat entered the room. Trust me, there’s tail wagging here.

Quick kiss, then back to the experiment.

Alice’s level of interest in trace elements of tuna:

So, I’m declaring my fake fur fake. But the great thing about buying from a charity thrift store is that I can always donate it back. What do you think? Should I?

Pet leasing: The latest in predatory lending

Pet leasing appears to be the latest scheme to bilk the unwary of their hard-earned dollars. Unfortunately, this particular scam also involves the welfare of an innocent dog or cat.

Here’s how it works

You watched Game of Thrones (or Balto or White Fang), and now you want a dog who looks like one of those tame wolves owned by the Starks. You go to Pets R Us or a store like it. There you see and instantly fall in love with a Siberian husky puppy.

The sales person apparently wants to help you. She tells you about Wags Lending. This nice company will loan you money so that you can take your puppy home! The loan process is amazingly easy, so easy you should probably be a little suspicious.

But you’re drowning in love hormones (oxytocin) every time the puppy makes eye contact with you. So you sign the loan document over your phone, confident that you can make the monthly payments.

Over the next two years, you, not Wags Lending, will train your small wolf to be a family dog. You will eventually teach him to pee outside and quit jumping on the table and pulling half a bagel off your plate.

You will put up with this, happily, because every time you look into his blue eyes, you see the love and happiness that you have brought to a wonderfully uncomplicated soul.

By now, you are well over any notion that your husky is anything more mystical than a dog.

He pees on the sidewalk and paddles through his own pee. He lives for treats. The two of you sit on the couch watching Game of Thrones together. When one of the tame wolves kills a Stark enemy, you pat your dog on the head and say, “You go, pup.”

Who knows at what point you will learn that you do not legally own your dog? Maybe after you’ve made the final payment, Wags Lending will ping you and offer to sell you the dog at “fair market value.”

Perhaps, earlier on, you were late with a payment, and the seemingly so-friendly company you “borrowed” from is now threatening to repossess your dog.

This happened while we were sleeping

Admittedly, AnimalRightsChannel.com is just now catching up to the sad existence of pet leasing. Luckily, the governments of New York, California, and Nevada have been on top of this long enough to make the practice illegal.

As usual, buyers should beware, especially when it turns out they are not actually buying.

Wags Lending and other similar companies are trafficking in the human longing for non-judgmental companionship. And they didn’t have to do the hard work of inventing a revenue model. It was right there in plain sight: car leases.

They just adapted the model of the car lease and tailored it to dog lovers who want a classier dog than they can actually afford.

This is not where we will debate the merits of buying a thoroughbred against the merits of just going to the pound and saving someone’s life.

I lied. If you don’t have, on hand, the thousands of dollars needed to pay for an expensive designer dog, definitely go down to the pound and save someone’s life for a clean hundred.

Here is a complete list of things you should borrow money for:

  1. a house
  2. a car, but only if you need it to get to work

What you can do

If you have unwittingly leased a dog (and many have; you are not alone), you have a buy out option. Go to the lender’s website and see what that option is. At Wags Lending, the buy out option is described as follows:

“consumers can buy out of their lease at any time and become the outright owners of the property. And, there are no penalties or extra fees if you choose to buyout [sic] early!”

Drilling down a little further, however, brings up this unsavory information:

“The customer can pay their buyout at any time. Assuming they’ve fulfilled monthly payments on time, they are not restricted as to when they can pay this.”

Let’s put that into plain English. If you ever miss a payment or make a payment late, you may have no option but to make all contracted payments before negotiating the purchase of your pet.

If you are fortunate enough to have made all payments on time, this is, according to the Wags Lender website, how you will be charged for the purchase of your pet:

“The buyout payment total, includes what is currently owed plus 15% of the pet’s value. This is also known as a “purchase fee”.”

No further directions are available about how to buy your animal on the Wags Lending website. However, there is a phone number, (844) 761-4950.

Call it and you get an automated message that you have reached “Monterey Financial.” Montery Financial is an unregistered lender with a one star rating from Consumer Affairs customers.

Upon calling this number, I got the usual warning that “this is an attempt to collect on a debt,” not the warm fuzzy greeting I was hoping for, from people who are involved in handing out puppies.

Eventually, I got a human being who sounded very stressed, and she told me that, yes, this is the right number to call if I want to buy an animal I accidentally borrowed.

So, to the best of my knowledge at this point, if you want out of your bad contract with Wags Lending or other predatory lending service, call (844) 761-4950, let the system take you to a human by not entering any numbers or saying anything, and then, with your account number handy, tell them you want to buy your leased pet.

What else you can do

Please sign my petition to end pet leasing at the federal level: https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/620/181/276/

Author Lynn Hamilton writes from Louisville, Kentucky.

Isle of Dogs: Wes Anderson’s best so far

Dogs are not wild animals.

But what if they had to be?

Would they latch onto the first human that came along?

Probably. At least that’s what Wes Anderson hypothesizes in his latest film, Isle of Dogs. In this movie, a province of Japan has deported all its family pets and watchdogs to Trash Island. The cat-loving local Japanese administration claims that the dogs will spread their flu to the human population if not exiled.

Formerly used for manufacture, transportation, and animal experimentation, Trash Island has been devastated by multiple storms which have left it in chemical and architectural ruins.

Only one human attempts to rescue his dog, and that is Atari, a twelve year old boy who steals a prop plane and crash lands on the island in search of his dog, Spots.

Of the five animated dogs who star in Isle of Dogs, four immediately make Atari’s mission their own. And the outlier, Chief, voiced by Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston, never actually walks away from the mission. Instead, he keeps a close eye out on the others from a distance of a few yards.

Eventually, Chief comes to love Atari, saves his life, and pledges his lifetime loyalty to the twelve year old. When it turns out that Spots is Chief’s long lost brother, Chief has one question: “Was, was I the runt?”

“Not any more,” replies Spots as the two of them protect Atari from a raging current.

The movie is partly in untranslated Japanese, about which some reviewers have taken issue. In point of fact, nothing is said in Japanese that cannot easily be understood in context. It’s a bit like harping that you didn’t catch every word of an opera.

And one reviewer, Moeko Fujii , has said that language and the failure of translation is really what the film is all about.

Other critics have accused Anderson of stereotyping because his film traffics in a number of Japanese art forms: sumo wrestling, cherry blossoms, haiku.

We condemn this as cultural appropriation at our own risk, however, as Anderson is so tongue in cheek. In other words, he might be stereotyping, or he might be making fun of the way America stereotypes Japan.

What we do know is that Isle of Dogs is a really loving portrayal of dogs, their attachment to humans, and how little they ask of life. Isle of Dogs has all the heart that is absent from Anderson’s intriguing early work.

Perhaps not every dog is as rational and compassionate as Rex, King, Boss, and Duke, voiced by Edward Norton, Robert Balaban, Bill Murray, and Jeff Goldblum. But we all know dogs who are that gentle, dogs who will put up with the worst travel accommodations just to be near their people, dogs who would do anything for a twelve-year-old boy.

And the trademarks of Anderson’s work–the softly spoken monologues and characters staring straight into the camera–really work in this film. Especially when dogs and boy have their eyes full of tears.

Altogether, Isle of Dogs is Anderson’s most complex, subtle, and clever film so far.

 

 

Five myths about pitbulls

Delta Airlines recently ruled that they will not allow pitbulls on their flights, even as registered and trained service animals.

 

AnimalRightsChannel.com is certainly not the first, nor will it be the last, to point out the abuse inherent in this policy. So it seems like a good time to look at the five top myths about pitbulls.

Myth one: Pitbulls are the worst biters.

Actually, there are two metrics here: the number of bites and the damage typically done by the bite. Luckily, Canine Journal has compiled lists of the top biter in both categories.

At the top of the list of most frequent biters is the adorable chihuahua.

And, surprisingly, the pitbull is ninth on the list of biters who can really do a lot of damage for their size. The doberman, the German shepherd, and the seemingly harmless English mastiff are all more likely to require a hospital visit.

Myth two: Pitbulls were all bred by dog fighters and drug lords to be aggressive.

Unfortunately, there is some of that DNA in the mix of many, though not all, pitbulls. The breed was not originally cultivated for either fighting or guarding, however. The pitbull terrier was designed as a hunting dog. Specifically, hunters needed someone to latch onto their kills and hold them in one place until the hunter could get to the site and bag the prey.

In fact, NO pitbulls were ever bred to be hostile to people. Even a drug lord needs to control his dog, so he needs an obedient dog. We can assume that any drug lord or dog fighter who got bitten immediately discontinued the line of that dog.

Myth three: Any amateur can easily tell whether a dog is a pitbull.

Okay, you might think you know a pitbull when you see one, but, in fact, that dog is more likely to be a mix of different dog breeds. And the only way to really, really know the ancestry of that pooch is with a DNA test.

That’s why cities with anti-pitbull laws are so infuriating. They empower police men, with no veterinary qualifications, to make snap judgments about whether a dog is a pit.

That’s why you read, from time to time, about a registered dog being sent to the gas chamber, even though his owners have blue chip documents to prove that he’s not a pitbull. What the vet or a dog expert says your dog is will not save your dog. An unqualified police officer will decide whether your dog is a pit or another dog.

It is also worth noting that the Staffordshire terrier, a separate breed of dog, according to the American Kennel Club, looks identical to the pitbull.

Myth four: Pitbulls have become cool enough

It’s true that pitbulls have more advocates and saviors than ever before. That said, they are also about the only abandoned dogs that routinely get gassed in animal control facilities. About the only other dogs that still get euthanized, for no good reason, are old, sick, and disabled animals. Pitbulls are still the most unpopular pooch at the prom.

Myth five: Pitbulls don’t have the temperament to be good service dogs.

A quick search for “pitbull service dogs” on Google images yields literally thousands of pictures of pitbulls in service vests.

Pitbulls are particularly good at soothing and providing skilled companionship to disabled veterans and veterans suffering from PTSD.

“Pits for patriots” is but one of the many organizations that matches pitbulls to the veterans who need them. The pitbull is the undisputed champion in this arena of service.

In discriminating against pitbull service dogs, Delta is introducing one more hardship into the lives of veterans.

It is true that service animals are carefully chosen, raised, and screened for service. Only a small percentage of puppies evaluated meet the criteria for service dogs.

Even so, many of those puppies do not pass the rigorous training that requires them to demonstrate, definitively, that they will sacrifice their own lives to save humans.

Many beagles, Labrador retrievers, and poodles will fail to become service dogs. And many pitbulls will fail also. But, at the end of the day, all dogs are individuals. And their individual character, not their breed, predicts whether they have the loyalty and bravery to be service dogs.

Make pet stores sell rescues!

California has already passed a law that prohibits pet stores from selling animals born and raised in mills. And other states are following suit.

Many cities have also enacted laws that protect animals from the cruelties of the pet trade. You can find a list of cities that have implemented laws that force big box pet stores, like Petco and PetSmart, to sell only rescued animals here: Cities that require pet stores to sell rescues.

These laws are important because they will put puppy mills out of business. And puppy mills need to go. Many breeders do not provide adequate care for their animals. And, if an animal doesn’t sell, they dump it on a rescue organization or kill it.

Recently, in the Midwestern United States, a Siberian Husky puppy was surrendered to a rescue because it didn’t have enough blue in its eyes, for example.

Animals taken out of the wild

While putting puppy mills out of business is worthwhile, even more important is cracking down on the trade in wild animals.

Parrots continue to be taken out of their nests as babies and transported to pet stores and other markets.

The United States has many laws that prohibit import of wild animals as pets. But the consumer will never know, exactly, where an animal really came from.

For example, when you buy a snake or turtle at PetSmart, you may hope it came from a responsible breeder.

But turtles, lizards, and snakes are sitting ducks and far too easy simply to trap and sell. Why would a breeder take all the trouble of mating two animals and hoping they make babies when he can simply go into the woods or swamps and pick up some red-eared turtles?

Requiring puppies to be rescues does not go far enough

In crafting legislation to save pets and wild animals from suffering, state and city legislators need to be careful to restrict the sale of ALL live animals.

Making pets of wild animals is morally irresponsible. Reptiles are far too vulnerable to poaching. The sale of reptiles should be stopped altogether.

Parrots seem like wonderful pets, and they do bond with people. But before you buy a parrot, consider that it was probably pulled from its nest as a chick. It has been removed from its habitat, where it would have flown free.

It has been deprived of its family. And it has been deprived of the opportunity to mate and raise babies of its own.

The same thing is true of other tropical birds, snakes, lizards, and turtles.

What you can do

Don’t buy animals that belong in the wild. Cats, dogs, pet rabbits, and guinea pigs are domestic animals that exist in abundance and are often destroyed for lack of a home. Adopt those animals.

If you must have a bird, adopt a muscovy from a rescue organization. Be aware that, if you get a male and female muscovy, you will soon have twenty.

Sign petitions

Please sign this petition asking the US Congress to just make sale of live animals that aren’t rescues illegal at all pet stores:

Stop cruelty in pet stores

And please also sign this petition which specifically asks PetCo and PetSmart to stop selling wild animals:

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/645/429/588/

Support legislation

Ask the mayor or a council member of your town to enact laws that require all pet stores to sell only rescue animals. Or ask your state legislature to enact state laws.

The following states need laws that protect animals from being bred or stolen and sold in pet stores:

Alaska

Alabama

Arizona

Arkansas

Connecticut

Delaware

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Missouri

Montana

North Carolina

Virginia

Wisconsin

 

 

Is Kentucky really worst in animal protections?

When I walk the streets of east Louisville, Kentucky, I see a town that loves its dogs. Dogs and their humans are everywhere: in the Morton Avenue Dog Park, in the dog friendly wine shops, at street festivals, at the patios of bars and restaurants.

On Nextdoor.com, my neighbors religiously track and return lost dogs and cats, sometimes before the owners even post the loss. My neighbors may or may not like me, but this is know: If I lost one of my dogs, they would form a dragnet to find her.

If my dogs were the only consideration, I would choose Louisville over a lot of cities, especially Denver and Miami where anti-pitbull laws are still in place.

 

good shot of alice

Is she or is she not a pitbull? If I lived in Denver, inexpert dog catchers would decide.

So it was something of a shock to learn that Kentucky has been rated dead last in protecting its critters by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).

Rankings are based on laws, not actions

It’s important to note that this poor ranking is not based on the way Kentucky families and farmers actually treat their animals. Kentucky’s poor showing is because of its laws.

When it comes to animals, Kentucky has committed some sins of omission. Sure, we have laws on the books that protect an animal from cruelty and fighting.

But we have no laws that protect animals from abandonment, neglect, and sexual assault.

Should we worry about our laws when, all around us, dogs and cats appear to be cherished?

Yes, we should. Because, at the end of the day, there’s no way to measure the total love for pets or the sum of care for livestock in any state. We are stuck with laws as a metric.

Our vets are gagged

Perhaps even more troubling is a law on Kentucky’s books that prevents veterinarians from reporting cruelty to animals when they see it.

People who are abusing dogs, cats, and bunnies are unlikely to seek veterinary care. The obvious victims of this law are Kentucky’s horses.

Does this gag law exist to protect someone who hurts his own racehorse for the insurance pay off?

We need to get off this list

Even if your heart doesn’t melt every time you see a puppy on Youtube.com, you should care about this issue. A state whose reputation is largely based on horses cannot afford to be the worst state on the AlDF’s list. Kentuckians need to reach across the isle and forge laws that better protect our non-human friends and family members.

Animal abuse in zoos and marine parks | Animal Rights Channel

Are zoos really cruel? Is animal abuse in zoos actually common?

Answer: It completely depends on the zoo. Some zoos have gone to great trouble and expense to recreate habitats for the animals in their care. Most reputable zoos are staffed by people with university degrees in animal science.

As a society, we have come a long way since the days of caged tigers and chimpanzees.

Now zoo animals have constructed habitats that look like the savannas or rock formations in which those animals would exist in the wild. The animals are surrounded by real vegetation that would typically exist in their native habitat.

Zoo animals receive exactly the right foods in the right amount. And, if they are naturally social, they usually get to socialize with others of their kind.

Zoos have three important functions:

  1. To educate the public about animals in various parts of the world. When a zoo is doing its job, it posts a sign in front of the animal exhibit that tells you important information about that animal–where it is from and something about its lifestyle.
  2. To protect endangered animals, implement breeding programs to ensure the survival of the species, and create public awareness of the plight of endangered animals.
  3. Many zoos take in injured animals and save them. If the animal recovers without losing its wildness, it can be re-released to the wild. That was the story of a bald eagle who was dying of lead poisoning until a zoo nursed him back to life.

Zoos prolong life in many animals

Some animals that have made it into reputable zoos have basically drawn the high card. According to a 2016 study, eighty percent of the mammals at the zoo will live longer than they would have in the wild.

Zoos, you see, remove the threat of predation while providing medical care. Instead of dying of a bacterial or fungal infection, a white tail deer in the zoo gets a shot of antibiotics and goes on living.

It is true that zoos severely limit the range of animals that have the instinct to roam. Big cats, wolves, elephants, zebras, and many birds would typically migrate over thousands of miles.

But one might conclude that, for some animals, the benefits of expert medical care and freedom from predators outweigh the benefits of roaming.

Zoos are not right for some species

Does that mean that animal abuse in zoos is a thing of the past? Not really. There are some animals that should never be in a zoo or marine park. Polar bears, for instance, should never be in zoos, except as a last resort to save their lives. It is simply too difficult to recreate the freezing natural habitat of a polar bear. And polar bears will overheat to the point of psychosis in a zoo environment.

Similarly, sea turtles, dolphins and whales do not belong in a zoo or marine park unless they are so badly injured that they cannot survive in the wild. Dolphins and whales have big brains. They understand that they are captive.

While they might take some joy from performing, in general they are miserable. Captive dolphins who swim around their tanks with their eyes squeezed shut are testament to this fact.

We all need to welcome the recent trend of marine parks to quit acquiring new marine mammals.

Beware cruel roadside attractions

Meanwhile, there are a number of small, private animal attractions that need to shut down. These exhibits are sometimes called “roadside zoos.” The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have compiled a list of the worst of these zoos. These roadside attractions, sometimes billed as “adventures,” definitely participate in animal abuse in zoos.

One of these institutions kept a primate in isolation for decades, even though all primates are extremely social animals. Another one pits tiger cubs against chimpanzees for the amusement of visitors.

The downside to zoos is that they encourage people to see animals as entertainment. Animals have rights to live as they were born to do, independent of what they may or may not provide to humans.

What you can do:

If you are concerned about animal abuse in zoos, don’t spend any money at small zoos that are advertised on billboards off the highway. Instead, visit only zoos that have made every effort to create appropriate habitat for animals. Make sure that the zoo you support allows animals of a kind to socialize and does not isolate any social animals.