Cats inside; birds outside

In the war between wildlife experts and feral cat colony managers, we must side with wildlife.

By Joel Worth

I recently read a rather upsetting blog in which the writer says, “Let Cats Eat the Birds.”

Referring to wildlife advocate Jonathan Franzen, she writes, “The fuck??? All Franzen is doing here is saying ‘I like birds more than cats, so we should preserve them, even if it means killing cats.’ That has nothing to do with nature. You just picked the animal you like more.”

Um. Not sure it’s that simple. There’s this thing called “biodiversity” that some of us value, because we don’t want to live in a world with just two species.

Many cats, especially those that have packed on the happy fat from being loved and cared for, are content to sit in the garden, lazing in the sun, and doing no ecological damage.

Sadly, other individuals love to hunt and will kill, repeatedly, just for the pleasure of it. Do, sometime, read about Tibbles, the cat that decimated an entire species.

And there are stories about big cats in Australia that are descended from feral pet cats. Australians who run into them think they are black panthers. Scientists, who know better, say these cats got fat by preying on wildlife. The fact that these cats have supersized is not good news for anybody, not even your chihuahua.

Do cats really need to go outside?

Before you defend the notion that cats must run free, consider that the average life span of an outdoor cat is five years or so, whereas indoor cats can live to be twenty-five. If you are as emotionally dependent on your cats as I am, this is a no brainer.

I don’t care if my indoor only cats can’t fully express themselves as cats. I love them too much, so twenty-five years of being pampered, petted, and having the run of the house will just have to compensate for not going outside and getting fleas.

Outdoor cats are, of course, much more likely to get hit by a car, killed by a dog, or trapped in a crawl space. They are at risk of getting feline AIDS or feline leukemia. The vaccines against these diseases are only about eighty percent effective.

Should we support feral cat colonies?

Many kind-hearted people who love cats cannot resist supporting feral cat colonies with fundraisers and donations.

Unfortunately, these maintained colonies can wreak havoc on birds and other wildlife who have, unarguably, a better right to occupy the forest or plain than a domestic species whose numbers we have failed to control.

Feral cat colonists should be working to find every cat a home or a job, perhaps in a barn or field where the instinct to kill will be an asset.

The trap, neuter, release folks mean well, but they are mistaken in telling us that feral cats would rather live outside without human companionship. These cats were bred as our companions. And they most certainly can learn to love humans. It just takes some extra patience.

In fact, a cat who lives all his life without attaching to a human is not fulfilling his biological destiny.

Should we destroy feral cats?

I’m not going to dodge the above question. Yes, if all else fails, the cat should die (as humanely as possible) to save the birds.

However, there are a lot of things we can do to prevent that worst case scenario:

  • Yes, spay and neuter all outdoor cats. If they’re crossing your yard, you have every right to take them to the vet and have them fixed.
  • Keep your own cats inside, and encourage friends and family to do the same.

What we can do about feral cats

  • If you run a feral cat colony, slowly accustom the cats to your voice and your touch. This can be done by putting the food near you and making them approach you to get it.
  • Work with rescues to place your colony cats in homes of cat whisperers who will consider it a wonderful challenge to rehabilitate a wild cat. Contact farmers and gardeners about hiring feral cats to organically control rats and mice. If the cats are assigned in pairs, they will not be lonely.
  • If you cannot place all your feral cats, use smart collars to discover what they are doing. You might have two that are killing birds while the others have no ambition to do so. You can then prioritize getting the killing cats indoors.
  • See if you can find an indoor space for the cats to live. The basement of someone overrun with mice, for instance. An equipment storage space in a large company.
  • If you are determined to maintain an outdoor feral colony in an area shared by wildlife, please put belled collars on all the cats. This will give the birds a chance to escape. Eventually, the birds will learn to identify the sound of a cat approaching. And the cats will eventually learn that there’s no point in jumping a bird.

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

 

 

Pet rescues drove me to shop for my dog

I’m sixty. But I have a baby. A twelve-week-old Siberian husky named Finn. He’s the last baby I’ll ever have.

“When we’re seventy, we’re going to adopt old dogs,” I told my husband. “The ones that people dump at the pound because they’re too old.”

My vet wants to know where I got Finn. This story always starts with the words, “Don’t judge me.”

That’s because I bought a dog from a family in my neighborhood who bred their pet husky.

Yes, I failed to adopt from a rescue.

Not for lack of trying. I filled out no fewer than five rescue organization applications. And this is what I found: Most rescue organizations are rather poorly run. What follows is the reader’s digest condensed version of my experience.

Pawsibilities–not recommended

I saw a dog on Petfinder.com that looked cute and ticked every box I was looking for: puppy, good with other dogs, good with cats, good temperament. The $850 price tag gave me some sticker shock, but, for a temperament-tested dog, it seemed worth it.

What was never disclosed to me in the application process was that this four-pound dog  would never get any bigger.

On Petfinder, the Pawsibilities pup was represented as an Australian shepherd/poodle mix. Based on this information, I expected a dog in the 25-40 pound range.

Nowhere on Petfinder did it say he was a miniature mini. And this was also not mentioned when I visited with the dog. It was finally revealed at the vet’s office.

Animal Care Society–not recommended

Animal Care Society is nationwide. They have an impossibly long application, and they respond to applications when they damn well please. They accepted twenty-five applications for the puppy I wanted.

Animal Care Society wants your veterinary records from the past ten years. They also want three character references IN ADDITION to your veterinarian’s reference. Animal Care Society’s buzzword is “Thank you for adopting, not shopping.”

But they are driving people to shop.

When I questioned these practices, they threw out my application.

Woodstock Animal Rescue–tentatively recommended

I almost adopted a puppy from Woodstock Animal Rescue. They were fostering a super-cute pointer puppy. But my eight year old dog introduced herself too aggressively. Then a so-called behaviorist on site said it would never work.

Southern Indiana Rescue–not recommended

Southern Indiana Rescue posted a picture and description of a white pit bull named Ace on Petfinder. He was described as good with dogs and good with cats.

Responding to my application, the rescue volunteer emailed that Ace had not been “cat tested” but that they were going to do that.

Then they lost my application.

Several weeks of radio silence later, I made a phone call. SI rescue then said that Ace was not good with other dogs or people.

I expressed interest in another dog fostered by that rescue. When I arrived at PetSmart, my dog barked at the other dogs in the store. Because of that, the SI rescue director told me that I needed to make her an only dog.

But I knew my dog was good with other dogs! I was a puppy foster myself! Here’s a picture of the puppy I fostered in Statesboro, Georgia:

relatestodogs

And to the left is my lab mix who helped me raise this puppy

This was the moment when I gave myself permission to buy a puppy from someone’s back yard.

What you can do: 

If you are adopting a dog, adopt from the ASPCA or your municipal pound or animal shelter. They are arguably more efficient and less subjective than start-up rescues.

Do not trust Petfinder.com about the age or size of the pet or its ability to get along with other animals.

If you run a rescue

Keep Petfinder.com pet profiles accurate and up-to-date. If you don’t know how a dog is with cats, do NOT check that the dog is cat friendly. If a dog is more than four months old, do NOT claim it is a puppy.

If you have already received ten or more applications for a pet, remove the Petfinder profile until you get up to date on responding to applications.

If you run a rescue and you receive twenty-five applications for a single dog, review every application and respond to every application. Don’t just throw the dog or cat at the first applicant in the pile, who has a fence and a veterinarian. This practice is not fair to all the applicants who took forty minutes to an hour to fill our your application. 

If you run a rescue, and you don’t have time to respond to applications or you tend to lose applications, dissolve your rescue and, instead, volunteer at a rescue organization that has its shit together.

Do NOT start a new rescue unless you have approximately thirty hours a week to devote to it, and you have a good record keeping system. Do NOT start a new rescue on the assumption that you are the only good dog owner in the world.

 

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.

Facts about animal abuse and what you can do

When it comes to facts about animals abuse, dogs and cats  get the most attention. According to the ASPCA, shelters euthanize 670,000 dogs every year in the United States. And 860,000 cats meet the same fate.

These facts about animal abuse do not include the number of animals that are beaten to death or starved by their owners or dumped on the highway to die before they can be saved by a rescue group or picked up by animal control.

The good news is that this statistic is going down. Due to the proliferation of rescue groups who pull animals out of pounds and high-kill shelters, the United States is euthanizing fewer dogs than ten years ago.

What you can do: Don’t breed your animals. Spay and neuter your pets. Adopt a dog directly from a high-kill shelter. Volunteer at a no-kill rescue. Start up your own no-kill rescue.

Facts about animals abuse: Corporate chickens

If you pick up a brand-name chicken at the grocery store, chances are it was factory farmed. It might be beautifully packaged and cheap. The chickens, themselves, are paying the balance on that cheap meal.

Factory farming involves placing chickens in cages where they are virtually immobile. They can’t move naturally, as they would do in the wild, and that makes them get fat faster.

Chickens in these conditions sometimes peck each other to death out of frustration and madness. To prevent that, some farm owners chop off their beaks. Factory farmers also dose chickens with growth hormones.

What you can do: Pay the extra bucks for organic eggs and chickens. Look for the terms “organic” or “free-range” on the packaging and buy that instead of Tyson. Better yet, buy your chicken and eggs at the farmer’s market. Get involved with community supported agriculture programs in your community. This involves supporting small local farms by pledging to buy a certain amount of food from them every month. In many cases, the farms will deliver a box of veggies to your door. If your local codes permit it, you can raise your own chickens.

Facts about animals abuse: Extinction

Many animal species are dying out altogether. Sea turtles like the loggerhead, leatherback, and the Kemp’s Ridley are dying out because people and businesses near the ocean don’t turn their lights off at night.

Polar bears, penguins, and snow hares are in danger of extinction due to climate change, especially warmer temperatures in the arctic.

Monarch butterflies are in danger because too many people think that milkweed is a weed and they pull it up and trash it instead of cherishing it. Milkweed is the monarch caterpillar’s only food. Without it, there will be no more monarchs.

Worldwide, trophy hunters, endangered species traders, and ivory merchants are decimating gorillas, elephants, tigers, and rhinos.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of the dangers to animals.

Facts about animal abuse: The myth of human superiority

Anyone who has owned a cat or dog knows that animals feel pain. Animals also feel joy, affection, loyalty, protectiveness, outrage, and loneliness.

To assume that people are more important than animals is egotistical. There’s no science for that assumption. When we “test” animals to see if they are as smart as we are, we skew the results by testing for what we are good at.

In many arenas, animals are superior to humans. Here are just a few examples:

  1. Chameleons can change color. Humans can’t.
  2. Dogs can smell illegal cargo (guns, invasive species, endangered species, bombs). If people could do this, we wouldn’t need cargo sniffing dogs.
  3. Monkeys can grasp a rail and hang from their feet.
  4. Cats not only find their way home if they have been stolen or lost, they can also find their owners at a new and unfamiliar address. This is called psi trailing.