Sunday, January 21, 2018

‘Come fly with me’ & an I.O.U. image

Can true pet lovers regard their pets as “comfort animals”?  I can.  Both Harry and Billy Summers seem to know when I’m down, for instance, and they’re there for me – at night sometimes, they’re both on the bed with me at the same time. That’s uncharacteristic.  And comforting.

They’re also my entrĂ©e to conversations with new people if the subject of pets comes up. Talking about the cats I love makes it easier going after that.  But: would Harry and/or Billy qualify as “official” emotional support animals to accompany me on airplane flights?   

Besides their dogs – much more predictable -- other people have claimed pigs, snakes, gliding possums and turkeys as their “comfort” or “emotional support animals” for purposes of their company on airline flights. And for some time now, airlines have allowed such animals to fly for free – as is also true with trained “service animals” like seeing-eye dogs. (Airline passengers must pay for “pets” to fly in cabins or cargo areas.)

However, more and more “comfort animals” have been claimed (some would say, to the point of the ridiculous).  And the number of negative incidents has grown – from animals urinating or defecating in the aisles to their biting nearby passengers. That plus the ease with which an “emotional support animal” can now be declared and accepted as such – has prompted airlines to reconsider the practice. This week, Delta Air Lines announced new requirements for service and support animals.

Starting March 1, Delta will require passengers to provide documentation for their animals within 48 hours of their flight. The company is thought to be focusing on emotional support animals, who make up more than two-thirds of the nearly 250,000 animals transported annually.       
Are more animal-dependent people flying these days, or are more people gaming the emotional support animal system?  Delta’s count after a year or so under the new regulations may tell the tale.

Meanwhile, here’s a link to a send-up on the subject of comfort animals that I enjoyed years ago and have saved since – for now!  In five separate very funny adventures, the writer tried, successfully, to pass off five different creatures as her emotional support animals, transporting them here and there to a variety of cultural and business sites in New York and Boston. 

She began with a 15-pound, 13-inch long turtle, named “Turtle,” and moved on to “Augustus,” a Mexican milk snake.  Next came a turkey, “Henry,” followed by “Sorpresa,” an alpaca (you read it right), and winding up with “Daphne,” a pig.  Her story even includes an exchange with philosopher-ethicist Peter Singer (Animal Liberation).

It doesn’t get much funnier than this piece of writing by someone I consider my own “emotional support writer.”

And now, the poster

My Jan. 8 post discussed the “Five Freedoms” for animals everywhere as the minimum standards for their quality of life. At the time, I couldn’t include the ASPCA’s excellent poster that I wish could be circulated the world over – starting with every known animal shelter.  Here it is now.  I hope it spurs more thought on how animals live and are treated in shelters – and the reforms that such thinking would require.


If you subscribe to this blog and want to comment, please click here:

Monday, January 15, 2018

Give with one hand, take with the other

I know, I know.  We Americans eat weird things and undermine the planet’s health in our own unique ways.  Other people – and countries – no doubt have reason to look at us askance.

But to me, anyway, some offenses in this world are worse than others.  Like waiting till African elephants closed in on extinction before shutting down ivory-carving facilities and closing wholesale and retail stores to halt China’s ivory trade.  That was all very nice when it finally came, and it may help keep elephants extant, instead of being killed en masse for their tusks – to make trinkets.  

So, thanks, China, for what we can only hope won’t be “too little, too late” (especially with other Asian countries racing right in to the vacuum created by China’s belated reform).

However, as China’s ivory lust subsided, donkeys from Africa and beyond became China’s newest “must-haves” – to the tune of about 1.8 million of them now slaughtered each year. Why?  Because boiled donkey skins yield gelatin that goes into ejiao, a traditional medicine used for a range of ills from delaying aging to treating side effects of chemotherapy.

Then there are Korea’s thousands of dog meat farms, where dogs (and cats too, I’ve read) are raised for market-then-meals in barbaric conditions till their “nasty, brutish and short” lives end in slaughter.

Unthinkable?  To us, maybe, but not to the myriad Korean dog farmers who must be persuaded and supported, step by slow step, to do other things for a living – so dogs might live too.  Think about those dog meat farms during South Korea’s Winter Olympics next month.  All that idealism and sportsmanship – side by side with horrific animal abuse.

Nor are donkeys, dogs and cats the only current victims. Asian tastes for animals or animal parts also encompass:
·       crushed lion bones -- used in tonics like “Tiger wine,” which is seen (with no supporting scientific evidence) as a cure or aphrodisiac.
·       pangolins – now considered “the most trafficked mammal on earth.”  Their scales are believed to have medicinal properties, while and their meat is a delicacy.
·       shark fins – used in soups once they’re obtained in the cruelest imaginable way: cutting off the fins, leaving defenseless sharks to slowly sink and drown.
·       rhino horns and elephant tusks – the former are used in traditional Asian medicine, and we know all about the latter.   

What to say about all this grand-scale animal abuse, except the obvious: “There’s so much more to be done on behalf of animals around the world.”

Bring back Bijou’s Law

Ever stand in the cashier line of a big-box pet store and watch the pet groomers at work?  I have, and it’s an unsettling sight: dogs on platforms tied so they can’t escape what’s going on; silent groomers having their way with the tethered animals; no warmth in evidence. 

Worse by far is when a pet dies or sustains a serious injury as a result of that grooming visit -- as happened at least three times over the Christmas holidays at the same Pet Smart store in Hunterdon County.  A Jan. 14 Times of Trenton editorial says it’s “Time to ask pet groomers to get licenses,” which seems like the least that should be done.

“Bijou’s Law” never made it through the state legislature in 2014.  It would have required groomers to pass an exam and businesses to provide specified grooming conditions, maintain an incident file and report annually to the state.

For the sakes of both the animals being groomed and the owners who trust groomers to “do no harm,” bring back Bijou’s Law – and pass it.


If you subscribe to this blog and want to comment, please click here:

Monday, January 8, 2018

Who left the dogs out (despite new law)?

Years ago, I felt great dislike, and sometimes rage, toward a friend’s husband. Why? Because as unquestioned “ruler of the roost,” he insisted that the “family dog” (a real misnomer) live and stay outdoors. He had provided a small dog house near the home, and “Lily” lived and stayed there.

Some prehistoric family tradition had probably convinced him that dogs belong outside. Period. Well, maybe dogs did once sleep outside the caves where humans lived.  Once.  But this guy’s ideas were archaic as well as cruel for the late 20th century.

Or so I thought -- until hearing from Brian Hackett, who heads up HSUS-NJ, of the horrors  happening to dogs during our recent arctic freeze period. Happening now, in a new century!  “We’re inundated with stories of people leaving their dogs out to freeze to death in this frigid weather,” Hackett wrote, sounding both astonished and furious. As he should.

This behavior toward sentient beings who like us, suffer in such cold, is not only unspeakably thoughtless and cruel, but it’s also illegal in New Jersey, as Hackett pointed out.  

Passed last August, the law about tethering and proper outdoor sheltering was actually the culmination of several bills on those subjects,  he explained. The ASPCA worked on the bill and led legislative efforts, supported by HSUS and other advocates who saw the need for it. One key provision: the law bans leaving an animal outside in this weather for longer than 30 minutes without proper shelter.

“Proper shelter” is spelled out and specific unlawful ways to tether animals outside are described. These include a tether restraining more than one dog or a tether less than 15 feet long. The law also requires access to sanitary, potable drinking water.

The HSUS-NJ Facebook page includes an extensive post about the law, stressing the importance of spreading the word about this crucial protection for animals. Remember: dogs, domestic companion animals or service animals left outdoors in cruelly cold weather must depend on people to look out for them, and in such cases, to rescue them.

Please: If you see something, say something.  You could save a life.

The Five Freedoms, explained

They appear on posters and bulletin boards. They’re often referred to in conversations and in the literature of animal welfare.  But do we consider “The Five Freedoms” for animals in our daily transactions with animals in our care?  (If we did, we would have to adopt all the animals in shelter cages and close down many animal facilities because their conditions are so far removed from the quality of life called for in the Five Freedoms.)

1.    Freedom from hunger and thirst
2.    Freedom from discomfort
3.    Freedom from pain, injury or disease
4.    Freedom to express normal behavior
5.    Freedom from fear and distress

This link takes you to an article about the origin of the Five Freedoms – first, for farm animals in England, then, ultimately, for all animals, everywhere.  

 Finding ‘fire cats’

The California wildfires occurred in October, but one woman and her team are still tracking and trapping “fire cats” -- the “felines that for weeks have remained missing because of stubbornness, trauma, instinct, or a mix of all three.”  As this story was published, they had already recovered more than 70 cats, most then returned to their owners.
Kudos to the cat-catchers!

More on Mobile Vet Services

Please see the excellent comment on this subject after the last post – and add your own.


If you subscribe to this blog and want to comment, please click here:

Monday, January 1, 2018

Starting a new year with fresh resolve 'for the animals'

Ah-h-h-h-h-h! A new year, with all the hopes and opportunities it brings. I could go on about how 2018 could be a far better year than 2017 was, but . . . let’s just see what happens when I, you and the rest of the world take – or make! -- all the positive opportunities possible.

And those opportunities include and affect animals, of course. If animals only knew about humans’ “new year’s resolutions,” they’d want input.  For some of them right now, the sole implicit resolution is to stay alive!  

To facilitate the best for animals, New Jersey “animal people” in two statewide organizations have set goals bound to make a difference in 2018.

Now beginning its 35th year of activism for animals, the Animal Protection League of NJ will focus on legislation that bans traps and promotes bear-smart practices, besides the animal shelter bill.  APL will fight legislation broadening powers of the Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) or harming animals. The organization supports repealing the 150-foot buffer for bow hunters.
Other goals include expanding work for geese and coyotes and continuing the push for non-lethal deer management. TNR (Trap-Neuter-Return) remains a “critical priority,” says Angi Metler, co-founder and executive director. Volunteers are always needed and welcome.  (

Identifying his key priorities for 2018, Brian Hackett, NJ state director of the Humane Society of the US, says puppy mill issues are high on his legislative list, along with the “cockfighting paraphernalia bill.” To lower the cost of animal care, he’s working toward owners posting bond in animal cruelty/hoarding cases.

Hackett wants to help get a ban on baiting black bears – and deer too, ideally – as well as a ban on contest killing/canned contest hunts. 

With A4386, “Nosey’s Law,” banning circuses and traveling shows with live exotic animals,  posted for a full Assembly vote on January 4, Hackett urges bill supporters to phone their Assembly reps, asking them to do the same. He invites questions and suggestions via email (, along with requests to join his monthly newsletter mailing list.

So much for organization goals for animals this year. How about our own? As individuals, what will we do?  Volunteer at an animal shelter? (No better way to see the need for Senator Linda Greenstein’s bill, A3019, to reform NJ shelters – and to help animals housed there. Shelters are particularly ill-suited for cats – make that “life threatening” to cats, few of whom emerge alive.)

Maybe some of us will foster homeless animals -- a major way to help toward eventual adoptions into loving homes without making a long-term commitment.

Donating to or helping with fund-raisers for animals and animal advocacy groups are two more ways to pitch in. Paraphrasing an old slogan, none of us can do everything, but all of us can do something!  

Time for some “cuteness relief” before a closing question.  Kittens are the subject, and the meow sounds they make will charm you. Here’s a very audio video from online Catster magazine – something a hard-copy subscription could never deliver:  

Now to that question: Have you and your pets had any experience with a mobile veterinarian unit?  If so, I’d love to know about it: name, location and contact specs for the service, and your degree of satisfaction with how it worked.  Just comment here, phone or email, please – and thanks.


If you subscribe to this blog and want to comment, please click  

Thursday, December 21, 2017

‘Good will’ to . . . ? Well, it depends

Inhumane – and un-Christian – behavior keeps recycling, no matter the season. Today's trumpeted “good will toward men[sic]” wording is apparently literal, applying only to humans, if they’re lucky. And, as usual, too bad about animals.

Consider “Stormy” the cow a week or so ago, when it was bitter cold outside.  Stormy was part of a live manger scene at a church in Philadelphia. (If you thought that idea had arisen and been shot down years ago, you’re right. But cruel ideas keep coming back – this time, for “Christians” to put into practice again.)

Because Stormy apparently didn't like being an involuntary part of a nativity tableau (or the cold), she “escaped.” Police rounded her up around 2 am on route I-95, and returned her to her command-performance site. (Did any officer mention the, well, inhumanity of a live manger scene?)

But Stormy’s story didn’t end there.  She escaped again, this time to be captured in a parking garage. (Hello, church people! Aren’t you beginning to wonder about the wisdom of your ways?)  Stormy’s acting career ended as she was returned to the farm she had come from. Way to go, girl! 

                                                       Turlakova 2--Shutterstock
Concluding this tale of human callousness, I’d bet the ranch there was no human baby, or human of any age, in that live manger scene at 4th & Race Streets, forced to weather the weather.  So, if a church calling itself  “Christian” is so inhumane (and un-Christian, I also believe) as to leave a live animal outside for display on a bitter cold night, then I (NOT calling myself “Christian”) have no qualms about thoroughly enjoying the image below.  

Holiday kitty care
The images may be cute, but the chances of CATatrosphe are high. Here’s some good advice for keeping cats calm during the holiday season. 

                                                                          Brooke Goldman image

A Prayer to Talk to Animals

by Nikole Brown

Lord, I ain’t asking to be the Beastmaster
gym-ripped in a jungle loincloth
or a Doctor Dolittle or even the expensive vet
down the street, that stethoscoped redhead,
her diamond ring big as a Cracker Jack toy.
All I want is for you to help me flip
off this lightbox and its scroll of dread, to rip
a tiny tear between this world and that, a slit
in the veil, Lord, one of those old-fashioned peeping
keyholes through which I can press my dumb
lips and speak. If you will, Lord, make me the teeth
hot in the mouth of a raccoon scraping
the junk I scraped from last night’s plates,
make me the blue eye of that young crow cocked to
me—too selfish to even look up from the black
of my damn phone. Oh, forgive me, Lord,
how human I’ve become, busy clicking
what I like, busy pushing
my cuticles back and back to expose
all ten pale, useless moons.  Would you let me
tell your creatures how sorry
I am, let them know exactly
what we’ve done? Am I not an animal
too? If so, Lord, make me one again.
Give me back my dirty claws and blood-warm
horns, braid back those long-
frayed endings of every nerve tingling
with all I thought I had to do today.
Fork my tongue, Lord. There is a sorrow on the air
I taste but cannot name. I want to open
my mouth and know the exact
flavor of what’s to come, I want to open
my mouth and sound a language
that calls all language home.


If you subscribe to this blog and want to comment, please click  

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Final protest: just the start of the fight

The slaughter continues.  Not terrible enough to begin with, New Jersey’s black bear hunt has been extended through this Saturday.  That calls for the biggest protest yet – and with advance notice of a couple days, here are the specifics. 

Please attend.  Please protest.  Please join the growing movement against the Division of Fish and Wildlife – otherwise known as “the DFW hunting club masquerading as a state agency.”  

 We will NOT be silent as the Division of Fish and Wildlife extends the bear hunt! (Dec. 13th - 16th)


WE will NOT be silent while DFW allows trophy hunters to slaughter even MORE bears, including mothers and their cubs!

We will NOT be silent as the DFW lies about public safety. This hunt is nothing but a bait and shoot trophy hunt.

Please continue to BE THEIR VOICE and attend our last protest of the year.

Saturday, December 16, 2017: 11 AM - 1 PM

Whittingham Wildlife Management Area, 150 Fredon Springdale Road, Fredon, New Jersey.
MAP  Park in area behind protesters.

Please dress for cold weather. 
For more info: 973-513-3219;;

Thank you to more than 100 protesters who came out on December 9th in the snow and frigid temperature. Thank you our special guests Lynda Smith (former Bear Group director and founder) and Brian Hackett (HSUS state director) who gave inspiring talks to the crowd.

The Bear Group will continue to work toward permanent black bear protection, but a coalition is forming to get rid of the DFW hunting club masquerading as a state agency. They extended the hunt, we expanded our mission.  More to report in 2018.

Bear Education And Resource Group

Animal Protection League of New Jersey


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Need rose-colored glasses to evaluate 2017 for animals?

“Only 17 bears killed Tuesday means hunt could be extended,” read the local headline earlier this week. Was I the only one who found that wording coldly ambiguous?  Not enough dead bears, it seemed to imply, while the reason for killing any bears is questionable at best.

We'll just have to hope our governor-elect presides over much better times for bears, starting next month.

From Africa come two unhappy stories about animals in jeopardy.  First, there’s a column about the continuing plight of elephants, raising the key question, Why can’t we protect elephants? Read it and weep.

The second horror story deals with ape-trafficking, which has “captured or killed tens of thousands of apes” to be sold as “pets” or to “unscrupulous” zoos and collectors, or to be used for mindless “entertainment.”  (Infant orangutans boxing one another: what fun, huh?)

Phew!  I feel like “Ms. Bad News” here, even though, in fact, it has not been an all-bad year for animals. Only remember: this was the year when Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus finally folded. The jubilation following that belated good deed – and the banning by various states and cities of elephants in traveling shows -- helped signal the inevitable end of wild animals in circuses.

There was still more positive action for animals in 2017 on both the national and international fronts. Some retailers and brands – Gucci to Wrangler, Nautica to Burlington – went fur-free. Chimpanzees exiled to Liberia after their use in medical research by the New York Blood Center were assured the decades of care they more than earned. And numerous groups and individuals pitched in to rescue animals caught in this year’s horrific wild fires and hurricanes.  

(The next post will highlight some of this year’s “wins” for animals in New Jersey.  Readers, please  contribute your ideas on achievements-for-animals here!)  

As for good news now in the works, think Senator Linda Greenstein’s bill, S3019, to reform this state’s animal shelters. What a gift that would be to innumerable animals, far into the future. 

To see what the bill is all about, go to, enter the bill number at the top right, then click on that number in red and read on.  Here’s a recent summary from the NJ Animal Observer: “The bill requires shelters take serious steps to save lives, treat animals humanely, be transparent, and be inspected regularly. . . .”

Want to show your support for this bill? Attend tomorrow’s hearing on S3019 by the Senate Economic Growth Committee.  It will be held at 10:30 am in Committee Room 1, on the first floor of the State House Annex, Trenton.
Two additional ways to promote Greenstein’s shelter reform bill are to email and/or phone the committee members – contact info below thanks to the Animal Observer -- to tell them you want the bill to move forward.

·          State Senator Raymond 'Ray' J. Lesniak: (908) 624-0880;
·         State Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez: (856) 541-1251;
·         State Senator Joseph 'Joe' M. Kyrillos Jr.: (732) 671-3206;
·         State Senator Colin Bell: (609) 383-1388;
·         State Senator Steven V. Oroho: (973) 300-0200;

Let’s end with a surprising fact (because I never thought about it) from Modern Cat magazine. Despite the millions of pet cats in American homes today, “Cats are not native to North America.They were imported to the Americas from Europe as pest controllers in the 1750s.”  Think of it as “You’ve come a long way, Kitty!”  


If you subscribe to this blog and want to comment, please click