Friday, September 29, 2017

A case of shoot first, answer questions later?

Tonka looks like a sweetie. The photo shows the young dog near a grinning little boy lying in bed. Light-colored, with oversize puppy ears and chubby legs, Tonka and the boy seem to be good pals.  

The Alaskan Shepherd was a year old when he was killed by a bow-hunter who mistook him for a coyote, an animal registered hunters are allowed to shoot (although the season when they may do so doesn’t start till Sept. 30).

Tonka’s Readington Township family is, reportedly and understandably, “devastated” over his unexpected, needless death. 

The Animal Protection League of NJ (APLNJ) could say, “We told you so,” but that won’t bring Tonka back, or save other family pets, or people, who are also in jeopardy. As long as bow-hunting to within 150 feet of a home’s back door is permissible, this kind of heartbreak could happen over and again.

Or as APL (in the person of Angi Metler, its executive director) does say: “This tragedy demonstrates basically what we’ve been saying all along: “Coming closer to homes, bow hunting will lead to more tragedies, not fewer of them.”

With thanks to Metler for info and links, here’s more context for the story about Tonka, which I saw in the Times of Trenton last Saturday, Sept. 23. 

First of all, in August 2010, the perimeter for bow hunters was cut from 450 feet to 150 feet from a back door (not property line). For schools and playgrounds, the perimeter stayed at 450 feet for bow hunters.

The following link leads to some grisly reading. In sickening detail, it spells out when and in what manner (“call, stalk or stand” . . .) a hunter may try to kill coyotes and foxes.  (Or should I say “harvest” them, using a euphemism often found in writing about hunting. Is anyone fooled?) What kind of mind, what kind of person would pore over these specifics, day-dreaming of dead coyotes and foxes?

And note that the bow-only “season” for coyotes and foxes starts Sept. 30. So did Tonka’s shooter have calendar issues?  Or did his claim that the (thought-to-be) “coyote” was chasing a deer give him the right to shoot in “deer defense”?

What must hunters pay for the right to kill animals? The “resident firearm hunting license” costs $27.50, while that for “bow and arrow hunting” goes for $31.50.  Ah, but the so-called “all around sportsman” license covers the first two here plus fishing, for $72.25.  A real steal.

Finally, how successful are hunters at eradicating New Jersey animals?  Here’s a link to APLNJ’s current report (the newest is due out very soon).

It’s disturbing to know all these things and see the Division of Fish & Wildlife (DFW) laboriously prepared charts, price lists and tips for hunters, who make up such a tiny proportion of the state’s population.  (“Resident hunting licenses” sold in 2016 totaled 32,512 in a population of 8.944 million, or less than ½ of 1%.) 

Here’s a DFW quote (italics added) that should live in infamy: "Small game hunting in New Jersey provides hours of recreation afield every hunting season. From abundant native populations of rabbit and squirrel to elusive ruffed grouse, there are ample opportunities for sportsmen and women to enjoy the pursuit of game.”

Poor dear Tonka, your killer may not have many hunter-peers here, but thanks to DFW, he’s got a wealth of info and support backing him up.

            Coyote image: Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Encore! miscellany of cat briefs continues

 “There are no ordinary cats.” -- Colette
                                                                             Dodo image
Mmm, mmm, good!  It’s hard to imagine craving a nice snack of . . . grass, although it seems that cats do just that. Why?

According to Catster online, it’s a historical habit, even though cats are “obligate carnivores” and could exist on animal protein alone. For felines, the right kind of grass can be a digestive aid, help control hairballs (via vomiting, stimulated by eating grass) and provide nutritional supplements. 

And for cats’ people, that can mean occasional puddles on the rug – a little hair, a little grass, a little clean-up. 

Stop shelter killings!

No matter where you get your facts and figures, animal shelters are no place for cats. For instance, Alley Cat Allies says “More than 70% of all cats entering US shelters are killed.” (Note: not “humanely euthanized,” as it’s sometimes worded, because if healthy cats die in shelters, that’s not humane anything; it's killing.)

Other sources, other numbers, but they all pretty much boil down to “every year, all over the country, our nation’s animal shelters kill millions of healthy cats,” says ACA leader Becky Robinson. Not all those cats who are killed are feral, or community cats, either -- although it’s true that in some places, “feral” equates with automatic killing.  It’s as if Trap-Neuter-Return isn't a perfectly viable alternative.

But, some shelters cry, we are overloaded with cats and have no choice. Wrong!  The live-release rate at Miami Dade County Animal rose from 43% in 2010 to 90% in 2015 – largely because of its “return-to-field” program, through which the shelter “simply stopped accepting and euthanizing stray cats.”  
Instead, those cats are vetted for free and taken back to where they came from. No cats are added to the community, while existing cats are returned vetted, better-behaved and sterile to their outdoor homes. Then, natural attrition gradually occurs.

How old is that cat?        
Those who think cats age seven years for every calendar year have it wrong. Fact is, felines age faster
Billy Summers
during their first two years alive. During her first year, a cat reaches the approximate human age of 15, then “turns” 24 at age 2. After that, it’s four “cat years” for every calendar year – so a 5-year old feline would be about 36 cat years old altogether – 24 for the first two calendar years, then 3 more years x 4 cat years, or 12; and 12 plus 24 = 36.
Cats who live outdoors age much quicker, maybe even twice as fast as indoor cats. (another reason to keep cats indoors!)
Let’s see: Harry Summers is 12 – so at age 2, he was 24 cat years old.  Because he has 10 more years, each one equating to 4 cat years, add 40 years for the original 24. Harry’s now 64 cat years old.  (Yes, I’ll still need you, yes, I’ll still feed you . . .!)

Billy is 10 – so he was 24 cat years old at age 2, then 4 cat years times each of the remaining 8 years, or 32. Billy is 56 cat years old (and I’ll still need and feed you too, Cutie!)

Survival of the polydactyls
From amid the ruination of Hurricane Irma in Key West, Florida, 54 polydactyl cats survived by sheltering in place. So did the staff members who share the one-time home of writer Ernest Hemingway with the felines.
In fact, many of the cats reportedly sought cover inside even before the storm hit, which was seen as a sign of their intelligence.

Known for their six and even seven-toed paws, some of these survivors are descendants of a white polydactyl owned by the Hemingways.  For tourists, the cats can be as much a draw as the home itself.  

Apollo and Zeus, two tigers saved by PAWS


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Saturday, September 16, 2017

A miscellany of info briefs, all about . . . ?!

                                                   Dodo image
Both the subject and the reason for this post come down to one word: ailurophilia.  Relax! – it may sound like a disease, but in fact it’s very healthy, to the point of obsession.  It means “A fondness or love for cats or other felines.” 

(Ailurophilia [ahy-loo r-uh-FIL-ee-uh] combines the Greek aĆ­louro meaning "cat" with philia, meaning “affection, affinity,” while ailurophobia refers to a persistent, irrational fear of cats.)

So many cats, so much to say about them – sometimes serious, sometimes trivial.  For instance on that last one, could what I have read be true: that female cats are “right-pawed,” while male cats are “left-pawed”?  I hope you’ll watch your kitties and see whether that claim is credible. (Which paw does your cat use to swat you with?)

Moving on to serious, let’s look at the plight of tigers in the wild world today, with info here thanks to the Performing Animal Welfare Society, or PAWS (  Both their mission and monthly newsletters are great. 

Endangered species stamp
 *    The largest of the big cats, tigers are on the brink of extinction, with fewer than 4,000 living in less than four percent of their former range.  (Only 100 years ago, 100,000 tigers roamed across Asia.)

*     Reasons for this disastrous decline: Poaching, overhunting by locals, habitat loss and fragmentation, and human-tiger conflicts.

*     5,000-10,000 tigers are held captive in U.S. backyards, petting zoos and even truck stops - more than the number of tigers in the wild!

Animal advocates go up and down when discussing whether it’s better or worse for animals today, compared with earlier times.  Consider this true story from 1938 England: Believing a German aerial bombing campaign was coming, pet owners in London euthanized some 400,000 cats and dogs.
They did this voluntarily, against contrary advice, and prematurely (bombs didn’t fall for seven more months). Besides its built-in huge shock, Hilda Kean’s The Great Cat and Dog Massacre offers a “psychological portrait of a society in wartime,” according to the book review.         
Harry Summers, dining
Which leads to “affection eating.”  Not really, but let’s talk about it anyway, since I often spend feline meal time rooting for Harry and Billy Summers as they eat.  Having noticed as a shelter volunteer that cats there often ignored their food until they’d been talked to and petted, I carried that observation home.  It was clear immediately that our boys stick to their meals if someone’s standing nearby, interested in their progress. 

A useful article on “affection (or attention) eating” in Catster online says “many cats enjoy being stroked or petted while they eat,” and offers reasons why cats may stop eating – and what to do about it.

Black cats: despite lingering (false) ideas about them – bad luck, satanic connections, and so on – they’re “just as cuddly and even just as likely to be adopted as any other cat,” according to Animal Sheltering online from the Humane Society of the US.

In fact, an ASPCA study cited there reports that because there are more black cats than any other-colored felines, it can appear as though they’re being overlooked by adopters (black dogs fall victim to this same misperception).

Get this: 33% of all cats coming into shelters were black cats, with gray cats in second place, at 22%. The good news: 31% of adoptions were black cats and 20% were grays.
Bottom line from HSUS:  “When you’re getting more black cats in, it creates this (false!) perception that black animals aren’t getting adopted as much.”    

   “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.”-- Albert Schweitzer

                                                                                   Animal Sheltering image


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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Harvey exposed continuing gaps in animal protection

                                                          Guardians of Rescue pic
Wearing a red jacket and hood, she stands in the rain, holding her dog in her arms. Her face says it all: “She cannot bring her dog Missy into the shelter for flood evacuees in Houston,” read the AP photo caption on August 28.
Where are they now?  Now that hurricanes seem to surround us – and we’re only halfway through hurricane season. Now, with the Gulf Coast in recovery mode from Hurricane Harvey. Now, after Hurricane Irma has ravaged the Caribbean and Florida comes next. Now, while Hurricanes Jose and Katia wait in line.

This has been a horrible time for humans – and animals. Efforts to rescue people have looked comprehensive, with myriad agencies and volunteers tirelessly pitching in, but there seemed to be much less planning for pets. Despite advance storm warnings and federal legislation prompted by Hurricane Katrina’s horrific aftermath for animals, countless terrified pet dogs and cats hid out as high as they could get, not understanding what was going on or where their people were.

Stories and images of pets evacuated with their people have been too scarce. The few pictures of families on the move with their pets have been rare, but welcome. They included one family of six who took their pet pig and dog, and a woman whose family included her own four dogs plus foster dogs and neighbors’ dogs, totaling 20 canines, all in the rescue boat together.

Naturally, it wasn’t all bad for animals, including pets. Early on, I saw horses being walked to safety through flood waters and read about an organization determined to save as many Texas bats as possible.

For me, these are Harvey-rescue highlights:     

*       The Animal Protection League of NJ (  had worked with Guardians of Rescue ( during Super Storm Sandy, finding them hugely helpful, organized, and dedicated,  says Angi Metler, executive director. So “when APL heard the Guardians were going to Texas, we wanted to support their efforts, and they were thrilled that we sent  them as much as we could on their needs list. APLNJ and League of Humane Voters -NJ members donated almost $2,500 in under one day!”

     For starters, APLNJ shipped a pallet full of dog and cat food, crates, blankets, carriers, grass hay, alfalfa, leads, bowls, litter and litter boxes, as well as sustaining meals for the volunteers. 
       *     The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) focused initially on those left behind –rescuing terrified animals and moving area shelter animals who had been up for adoption to other parts of the country. That made room to house pets left homeless when their families evacuated or were rescued, according to ED Wayne Pacelle’s blog.  
       First responders and citizen rescuers who saved pets did so in part because of disaster response policies HSUS had helped implement after Katrina – chief among them, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006, requiring state and local officials to make evacuation plans and provide shelter for animal companions. 

      *      Numerous other organizations, and even online publications, stepped up to help. 
Finally, this background about the Red Cross, to which I'll never contribute again. After Hurricane Katrina, I completed a number of survivor bios I had volunteered to write for the organization. Then I learned that the Red Cross had not evacuated pets or admitted them into its hurricane shelters – often forcing residents to make the deadly choice between their own rescue or staying with their beloved animals. I quit immediately.  
Later, the Red Cross was deservedly chastised for both its cruelty to animals and its handling of the mega-money it received, earmarked for Katrina aid.  I will not forget or forgive.  
When hurricanes strike, people and animals alike deserve the most extensive protection possible.


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