Saturday, August 26, 2017

Selected short subjects for late summer

Jelly Bean
Your beloved pet has disappeared.  Forget about posting copies of a “LOST PET” sign all over town. Don’t bother wandering around calling her name. Those ways to find lost pets are so yesterday.  Simply “go online,” as a recent newspaper story advises.

It’s this simple: “An animal is lost. A message or picture is broadcast on social media. Hundreds of concerned “friends” . . . will repost on Instagram or retweet a lost pet notice without hesitation.”  The result: “helpful community activity” that often reunites lost pets with their owners.

But despite innumerable “high tech” lost and found pet Facebook groups and even lost and found pet apps, old-fashioned collars and ID tags are reported to still be “the most direct way to get a dog home.”  

(Hey! What about cats?! Especially since we know they’re much less likely to be claimed at shelters and returned home?) 

Only 33 percent of pet owners tag their pets, the story says. That seems like plain negligence to me. Microchips can also be tremendously helpful – if they’re registered, and linked to the right person.   

End macabre discoveries in your pool

Although it’s late in the swimming pool season, it’s never too late to save a life.  Here’s a Dodo article about an invention that allows animals who may get trapped in a pool to get out.  No more sad (and preventable) discoveries in the morning.  

The ASPCA looks at animal shelters

Here’s some compelling summer reading before getting fully back into all the things we do with and for animals the rest of the year. The ASPCA president reports on his organization’s findings – including positive trends -- about animal shelters.

And BTW, if you’re wondering about the status of Senator Linda Greenstein’s bill, S3019, requiring significant improvements in NJ’s animal shelters, we may have to wait till after this fall’s gubernatorial election for it to resurface. And then, prepare for a major campaign that leads (we pray) to victory for the animals.

What, no need for whisker relief?

A while ago, I wrote about cat bowls designed to offer “whisker relief” to cats seeming to be food averse – or bowl averse.  The story was that Dr. Catsby’s stainless steel bowls, very wide and corner-free, would make it easier for sensitive cats to eat because their whiskers wouldn’t be disturbed by high-sided, “cornery” bowls.

I have two of these bowls, practically brand new, for the first two respondents who want to see their cats eat with relish. Anyone out there want to claim one?  Or, if you have two cats with sensitive whiskers, the pair of bowls is yours. Please just let me know in a comment.

The last word on Monarchs

Finally, a P.S. to the Monarch butterfly hoopla in the last post.  I’ve learned there can be obstacles to helping butterflies on their way. Soon after sighting caterpillars on the milkweed plants, I began seeing thick clusters of tiny bright yellow “things” on the branches. I hoped they were Monarch eggs – but guess what: eggs don’t have legs and move around. 

That would be aphids, as I soon found out, and they’re a whole other story I won’t get into now.  Just know that aphids can be combated to maintain milkweed’s viability for Monarchs, and I’ve now done my best for this season.  Bon voyage, kids!  

Vacation time

Much more to follow here ~ after a belated summer break . . . .


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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Life-or-death tests for dogs now being reconsidered

If a rabbit defined intelligence the way man does, then the most intelligent animal would be
a rabbit, followed by the animal most willing to obey the commands of a rabbit.
--Robert Brault (1938- )

A filthy rubber hand on a long pole, waved into a shelter dog’s cage.  If the dog goes for the hand, what does that prove?  Or, on leash, a shelter dog is walked into a “cat room,” where residents are housed in too-small cages, and miserable enough to begin with.  Does the dog snap out and lunge toward them?   

I’ve seen such “tests” used to measure shelter dog aggression, then to determine whether those dogs were fit to be adopted into families . . . or not.  And of course, the “or not” was the worst part.

But now, finally, questions are being raised about the validity of dog-aggression diagnostic tests – tests not thoroughly vetted themselves!  And, at a happy time when reportedly, "efforts to generally improve outcomes for shelter animals are on an upswing," there’s a move away from such tests. 

That means more shelter dogs will live instead of dying because they didn’t “pass” highly questionable tests. Here’s the good-news article, together with a hope that readers will look closely at any diagnostic animal testing they may be involved with.

Personal butterfly festival                

The news is out about Monarch butterfly numbers dropping, with far fewer of them each year reaching Mexico to overwinter. The word “milkweed” invariably comes up in such reports because that plant is Monarchs’ mainstay, the only food caterpillars eat. It’s also where the bright orange, black and white-spotted butterflies lay their eggs.

But threats to Monarchs like habitat loss, pesticides and global warming have caused milkweed to disappear along their route south each year. Aiming to help the Monarchs, numerous campaigns have urged people to plant milkweed for them.

Last fall, I found “swamp milkweed,” the variety recommended for the central NJ area, planted it and protected it over the winter.  My early summer reward: flourishing green-leafed plants (now nearly five feet tall), eventually crowned with pink flowers.

July brought a “did-it-myself” butterfly festival here, as striped caterpillars suddenly appeared, eating their way through the leaves, right down to bare branches. I saw no chrysalises at all, yet soon afterwards, enjoyed a few days of Monarchs swooping around the back yard.  I swear they seemed happy. I was too.
So this year, I did my thrilling bit for Monarchs. It can only get better next summer, when I’ll plant more milkweed and use high tomato cages to help the plants stand tall. And then: let the festival begin.

Animals and the eclipse

It's all around us, impossible to ignore: the Great American Solar Eclipse!  (Sound like something a current high government official might claim as all his doing?  But no, these things have happened for eons, long before any contemporary looney tune came along.)

So. Monday’s total, country-wide eclipse. A human-interest thing.  But since this blog is about non-human animals, a couple questions come to mind. First, how will pets and wild creatures react to the GASE – if they do?  If you know and/or notice animal behavior related to the eclipse, I hope you’ll tell us via a comment here.

And, since we’ve been warned not to look directly at the sun without wearing bona fide eye-protecting glasses, will other animals be injured if they happen to look at the sun at the wrong time?


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Sunday, August 13, 2017

‘Dominionism’ causes worldwide animal suffering & death

How many cows in Macy’s alone?  How many vast acres would those cows fill, grazing contentedly?  How would they spend their days with other cows?

The cows at Macy’s probably outnumber those at Saks Fifth Avenue, where they’re more spread out on display and typically cost more. 

In both stores, the cows come in myriad designs, colors and prices. They may not even be native American cows; some are described as “fine Italian . . .” while others, as “designer . . . ”  

What began as a day trip to NYC for art exhibitions wound up with my wondering about cows. Except that they were described as handbags, backpacks, purses, wallets, pocketbooks . . . .

How many cows does it take to stock Macy’s and Saks, even for a day?  What about a season, or a year?  Multiply that number by all the stores that sell cows (in their many guises) the world over.  An unimaginable, probably incalculable, number.  

And just as slaughterhouses exist to kill animals that people eat, there probably are also “purpose-bred” cattle facilities set up to produce “leather” for people to lug their belongings around in. 
And that’s just carriers of various kinds. There are also cow belts, cow shoes and cow clothes, as well as cow furniture and cow car upholstery. (What am I forgetting?)

All this is a universal case of “Dominionism” -- the worldview or belief held by one species that it has a divine right to use animals and everything else in the living world for its own benefit.

 “ . . .Then they came for the [pigs]”  

You may have thought it couldn’t get worse for pigs – the animals people love to eat. (See
Well, you were wrong.  Dominionism once again rears its ugly head, folks. 

The newest goal for how pigs might serve humans is “donating” their organs for human transplants. It’s been talked about for years, but only now is it becoming a real possibility. Isn’t that great?

“Editing” pigs’ genes may be the step that makes the difference.  If pigs’ genes can be “cleansed” to rid them of retroviruses that could cause disease in humans, a newspaper story reports, “that could be a real game changer,” making it “possible one day to transplant livers, hearts and other organs from pigs into humans.”

Piglets whose genes were edited                                                    NYTimes
Hoopla!  Hey, you lucky pigs: there may be even more you can give your lives for: You could fill the gap between organ supply and demand!  

But, the story mentions, “the prospect also raises thorny questions about animal exploitation and welfare. Already an estimated 100 million pigs are killed in the US each year for food.”  (Animal welfare be damned!)

However, “To some, the idea of growing pigs to create organs is distasteful.” And why is that? Not, alas, because more pigs would then be purpose-bred and killed to serve human needs, but because “Many patients may prefer a human organ.” 

Given the chance, pigs would agree.

Dogs catch a break

A writer recently asked New York Times readers, “Is there nothing nice you can say about the man who, after all, is our president?”  The best response had to be, “He doesn’t have a dog, which is a service to all dogs.”


Thursday, August 17 is Black Cat Appreciation Day. 


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Monday, August 7, 2017

If our pets survive us, then what happens?

Might as well think of such things in the bright light of summer (if this rainy season will ever include such a thing), instead of tackling the subject during dreary winter. OK, here goes: we should assure our pets’ futures in case we check out before they do or in case we become unable to care for them. It’s only right and we should do it. Period.

Here are some thoughts and specifics on this un-fun and painful, but necessary subject. We owe it to our pets to plan for their futures if, as the saying goes, “something happens to us.”  Well, something’s definitely going it happen – the only question is when. And our pets need to be protected.

So if or when we’re not there for them, who will be? Read on for a few possible answers to the question, “If you’re not there, who will care?”

1-- a trusted friend or relative, preferably one who knows the pet(s) and definitely one who understands what we want for them (e.g., a home setting; assured regular vetting).  It’s not enough to say “take care of them” and assume everyone’s on the same page. I once read about a “friend” who took care of them – by having them euthanized!

2 – a provision in a will or a trust for pets. Both options probably require a lawyer’s involvement.

3 –accommodation for the pets at a “sanctuary” or a “pet retirement home” -- a trusted place where, for a fee, the pets will live out their lives in comfort or in some cases, be re-homed. The Guardian Angel program at Tabby’s Place, a cat sanctuary in Ringoes, is one example of such a facility. (

4 – a veterinarian or other “animal practitioner,” preferably one who knows the pet(s) and whose facility includes space where they can live and be cared for. By that, I do not mean cages – pets who have the run of the house with us should never wind up in cages when they’re without us.  This is another occasion when making expectations crystal clear is absolutely vital for our pets’ futures.
Besides books on this subject, there’s also excellent advice online. The Petfinder site incorporates some basics from the Humane Society of the US, while HSUS material includes a printable PDF detailing the whole concept of planning for our pets’ futures.  Here’s a link to Petfinder:

As with preparing a disaster kit for our pets as well as for ourselves (a topic I’ve researched and written about, and teamed up to do), planning for our pets’ futures can seem like an overwhelming job. But if you break it down into steps or sections and schedule time to do it piecemeal, it can be done – and you’ll be a happy pet parent.

For a future-planning finale that’s either macabre or comforting, we may soon have the option of joint interment with our pets -- something that’s now legal in New York State.

Rest in peaceful togetherness.


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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

On tunnel vision, ‘wildlife’ in zoos & recurring Qs

It shouldn’t happen – but it did. Eager to promote the Animal Protection League of New Jersey (APLNJ) in my last post, I neglected to describe it as a grassroots group, one “made in New Jersey” 34 years ago. It deserves admiration and support for that reason alone, besides its initiatives and successes ever since.

Worse yet, I didn’t mention any of the other organizations that also work diligently for animal welfare here, often in tandem with APL.  (It does take a village – or in this case, a statewide coalition of groups with similar goals -- to assure that positive change happens for animals.)

Now, to finish putting my case of tunnel vision to rest: as a Humane Society of the US member, regular donor and freelancer, I want to give a shout-out for HSUS-NJ.  Focused exclusively on animals in New Jersey, this is a group you can’t go far without hearing good things about.

The efforts of Brian R. Hackett, HSUS state director since April ’16, include (“but are not limited to”!) lobbying for better legislation on the local, county and state levels; building the  grassroots supporter and volunteer network; working with various animal-protection organizations to build coalitions supporting key priorities; sharing resources with animal shelters and rescue groups.
As one specific there: HSUS-NJ sponsored Lobby Day in Trenton this past March. If you attended the annual event, you had to appreciate the colossal organizing effort behind it, as well as the noble goal of bringing activists and legislators together.

Unnatural “wild” animals

Those who believe a zoo is the place to see and learn about the world’s wild animals are, for countless reasons, so very wrong. One reason is this startling fact -- “Close to 90 percent of the animals now in large modern zoos are not snatched from their native habitat; they are the offspring of other zoo animals.” – from a recent book review of  THE ZOO: The Wild and Wonderful Tale of the Founding of the London Zoo: 1826-1851, by Isobel Charman.

Think about that: most zoo animals don’t know how to behave naturally as what they are; they’ve never lived where or how others of their kind live. Being a zoo animal is all they know. The review goes on to say what is the bottom-line worst part of animals in zoos: “They get excellent medical care and the right diet, but still what they experience is incarceration.” 

Questions that won’t go away

Why, I often wonder, do some animal advocates try to save the animals they want to help on the backs of other animals? A current for-instance: the NJ veterinarians’ group offering a fund-raising “day of fun” at Monmouth racetrack. They boost horse racing – a “sport” known for doping, soring, needless injuries and deaths, and sending retired racers to auction for eventual slaughter – to raise money for their own cause. What’s wrong with this picture?

Another case: A “service dog” – in this case, a dog serving involuntarily (as always) with the Marines – given recognition and an elaborate funeral after he died.  His human “partner,” who had enlisted voluntarily, cited the dog’s heroism.

Excuse me, but given his druthers, would that dog have volunteered for the Marines? Is that why he existed, to sniff out bombs, and die, for humans? And there are thousands of such dogs “on duty,” with military funerals and platitudes about “partners” at the end.

Dominionism is the worldview or belief held by one species that it has a divine right
to use animals and everything else in the living world for its own benefit. –Jim Mason


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