Tuesday, August 14, 2018

More on ‘local horror house’ shelter . . . & imperiled fish

                                                                      Mancuso image
Area papers recently reported on state health inspectors’ findings at the Hamilton Township animal shelter.  Shameful, cruel, horrific, inhumane -- just some of the words that begin to characterize conditions at that facility.  https://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2018/08/state_investigation_into_animal_shelter_reveals_im.html

Quoted in the stories and dismissive of the failures cited, Mayor Kelly Yaede’s reactions were once again . . . unbelievable, as well as indefensible.  You have to wonder how she treats people if the animal shelter conditions and practices don’t appall her enough to clean up what’s happening there.  If she has animals in her life, would she let them be grossly mistreated or killed, as Hamilton shelter animals have been (and probably still are)?  Does she have any clue about best practices in shelters? 

You could also wonder why the council members who first sounded the alarm are not practically rabid-with-rage now that the damning inspection results have been made public.  What are they waiting for?  Why aren’t they moving to close the place and bring in experts to make it a safe facility for innocent animals?

Can’t any of these people rise above politics to care about animal welfare? 

For a “read it and weep” look at details about this “horror house of a shelter,” whose staff and practices are inexplicably defended by the mayor and the local health officer, read the lengthy  
indictment below in the NJ Animal Observer.   Be careful: it will make your blood boil and prompt you to take serious action on behalf of any animals unlucky enough to be caught in Hamilton Township’s clutches.  

                                                                              ‘Go fish’!

Now back to life in the sea -- a huge part of our world, yet one whose living creatures may be treated with even less respect than terrestrial animals.  Bolstering its “Seakittens” campaign years ago, PETA expounded on the lives of fish.  It wasn’t pretty, but it was convincing. There’s no need to reinvent the arguments so I’m borrowing directly from the PETA mats here.  

Billions of fish are killed each year so people can eat their flesh, while millions more are ripped from their homes for “fun” by anglers. Consider the following:

·         Fish have nervous systems that register and respond to pain. Scientists tell us their brains closely resemble our own and fish are just as able to feel pain as cats or dogs.

·         Fish are intelligent animals who observe, learn, use tools, and form sophisticated social structures. They also have impressive long-term memories.

·         Fish talk to each other with squeaks, squeals, and other low-frequency sounds that humans can hear only with the help of special instruments.

When yanked from the water, fish begin to suffocate.  Their gills often collapse, and their swim bladders can rupture because of the sudden change in pressure. . . . “Sport” fishers are responsible for killing almost 25 percent of overfished saltwater species. . . . Many trout streams are so intensively fished that they require that all fish caught be released.

But “catch and release” doesn’t solve the problem because fish thrown back into the water are not the same fish. They were likely hurt in any of myriad ways, and made newly vulnerable. One study indicates that 43% of released fish die within six days. 

Besides the fish themselves, other victims of fishing include myriad animals (pelicans and other birds to manatees and dolphins). A major cause: discarded  monofilament and other fishing line.

Commercial fishing is cruelty to animals on a colossal scale, killing hundreds of billions of animals worldwide every year—far more than any other industry. 

Don’t ‘go fish’!


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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

‘Promises, promises’ -- this one needs keeping!

Yes, it’s deep summer and people are on vacation, or want to be.  Yes, it’s August, for Pete sake, and the place to be is the beach or the pool or the airport -- not waving signs or chanting about promises. So that settles that.

Or does it?  These facts may spur you to join the Summer Rally for the Bears in Middletown, NJ on Saturday, Aug 11, noon-1:30 pm.

·        Bear hunters represent less than .1 of 1 % of New Jersey’s population, or .08, to be exact.  Those who think hunters represent a huge majority of residents are simply wrong.  Fact is, wildlife watchers outnumber hunters 275:1!

·        During his election campaign, Governor Murphy pledged to end NJ’s bear hunts.  Now, he says it’s harder than he had thought to do so.

·       As one of the most powerful governors in the country, Governor Murphy could employ any of the myriad ways at his disposal to stop NJ’s bear hunt -- if he wanted to.

Now, with autumn (a.k.a. hunting season) approaching, it’s time for Gov. Murphy to deliver on the promise he made.  Come out to the governor’s home town this Saturday to help drive home the message.  

A new billboard (shown above) is slated to be in place, and from noon-1:30 pm, bear advocates will be right there to help remind the governor to keep his commitment to New Jersey’s black bears.  Exact locale: Woodland Drive & Route 35, Middletown, NJ 07748.  (BYO signs)

Besides The BEAR Group, part of the Animal Protection League of NJ (APLNJ), and the NJ Sierra Club, other organizations that share a determination to end the bear hunt will be there too, for a united front.  Guest speakers will include

*   Jeff Tittel, director, New Jersey Sierra Club

*   Dante DiPirro, former senior Deputy Attorney General 

*   Brian Hackett, state director, Humane Society of the United States

*   Melissa Jacobs, state-licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Here we have a new governor, who promised to end the bear hunt.  He can do that, notes Angi Metler, APLNJ’s executive director, “and he should!” 

Come out to remind Governor Murphy that literally, this is a life or death issue for New Jersey’s beloved black bears.  They can’t speak for themselves and they need our help: This Saturday, August 11, Middletown, NJ, Noon-1:30 pm.  

For the bears, please be there!


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Saturday, August 4, 2018

Ahoy! Ships’ cats merit a book on their life afloat

“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by . . .” --John Masefield
“Cats at Sea” would be a shorter, but much less tantalizing book title than “Seafurrers: The Ships’ Cats Who Lapped and Mapped the World; An Incidental History,” the name of a new book I’ve just finished.  It’s fun reading, packed with photos, illustrations and shaded boxes in its 38 “incidents” or short chapters, about cats on ships, where they served as major pest-controllers (anti-rats!), pets and mascots, as well as occasional stowaways.   

Author Philippa Sandall shares the honors with able sea cat “Bart,” whose paw print authenticates the Preface he wrote and who enlisted both Sandall, to serve as the book’s scribe, and Ad Long, to handle its notable illustrations.  Bart must have motivated them well; they did a great job.

Start with the cover, featuring a grizzled seafarer -- cap atilt on his head and pipe in his mouth: a cat!  So make that a grizzled “Seafurrer,” please, while you wonder how long it took for one word to morph into the other.  That, “Whiskerpedia” and other such coined words lighten the text even more.

Stories about ships’ cats really couldn’t fill a book, but the related (well, mostly related) info -- about rats, flying fish, wreck rights, hardtack and designated divers -- rounds out the volume very nicely.  Together with nuggets of cat lore, painless chunks of maritime history are easy to assimilate.  Sandall did her homework, only occasionally including more than a reader could reasonably care to know.  (One example: specs on Churchill and Roosevelt’s 1941 Atlantic Charter)

Every incident tells about a ship’s cat, giving the vessel’s name, date of voyage and ID of any significant (human) crew members.  That’s Sandall’s part, followed each time by an “According to Bart” section, in which the cat may pooh-pooh the story, but always adds info.  Finally, there may be an “Incidentally” box, telling still more -- for instance, about the beginning of picture postcards, one of which featured “Thomas Whiskers, USN,” a hospital ship’s cat. 
Timing for release of “Seafurrers” suggests it’s a beach read, though ideally of course it would be a ship read.  But anywhere you decide to dive in, you’ll like it. 


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Sunday, July 29, 2018

Of woman vs. rabid fox, shelter-kill claims & mother love

Rabid fox
So we’re in what’s known as the dog days of summer -- traditionally a time of energy-sapping hot weather and slow or no news -- but look: there’s (animal) news all over!
First, because it’s such a unique story, as well as one marking a historical 133rd  anniversary, there’s the woman in Pittsgrove Twp. who strangled a rabid fox attacking her. Unable to escape the animal -- by then “gnawing sideways on her [already] wounded leg” -- or reach garden tools usually at hand, she “grabbed its snout with her left hand holding it tightly shut.  With her right hand she grabbed the fox’s neck and squeezed” . . . The animal “soon went limp.”

The July 26 Times of Trenton story about this gutsy woman (treated at a local hospital before starting two weeks of rabies treatment) ended with a count of NJ rabies cases so far this year (72 terrestrial -- 49 raccoons, 13 skunks, 9 cats, 1 groundhog -- and 9 rabid bats) and familiar advice: if you are bitten, seek medical care immediately.  

In July 1885, Louis Pasteur successfully tested his new rabies vaccine on a nine-year old boy who had been bitten by a rabid dog.  Joseph Meister would probably have died without the vaccine, but he recovered and was declared in good health a few months later.

A death row ‘shelter’ for animals?

                                                                                     Michael Mancuso pic
Since earlier this month, heated charges and counter-charges have been exchanged over Hamilton Township’s animal shelter.  The main issue was the “kill rate” for animals at the facility, which with much fanfare was renovated to increase capacity (and budget and staff) in 2015.  Nonetheless, since then, the euthanasia rate has barely dropped.

Why has the kill rate remained high? What euthanasia policies (and practices) are in place? When is euthanasia deemed necessary there -- for feral/community cats? for unclaimed animals? for those needing medical care? for all of the above? 

What do Hamilton taxpaying residents know of what goes on at their shelter?  Are they aware that the facility’s “kill rate” numbers have been higher than at other area shelters (with even more animals impounded) since at least 2014?  And that the facility’s supervisor is reportedly against “Trap-Neuter-Return,” widely regarded as the most humane and cost-effective way to manage cat populations?

Is this brouhaha over animals killed really nothing more than a “political stunt,” as the mayor claims? Has she correctly described shelter employees as “our compassionate animal shelter staff”?  Or are they, as others describe them, “killers of innocent animals”?

We wish we could hear from the animals at Hamilton Township’s shelter, but of course we can’t.  As usually happens in such circumstances, those “innocent animals” are caught in the middle.  We can hope only that the investigation underway is thorough and efficient, with full disclosure of findings.  

Sea-world mother love

Mother elephants come to their babies’ rescue when they’re in danger.  Cat, dog, horse and duck mamas often seek humans’ attention when their babies have fallen down wells or been trapped in myriad other ways. 

The animal world is full of  happy-ending stories, all illustrating the maternal bond of animal moms and their offspring.  In its continuing coverage of animal life, The Dodo (https://www.thedodo.com) often publishes these heartwarmers.    

But there are terribly sad situations out there too.  A current story includes photos of a grieving orca (killer whale) mother who has carried her dead calf on her head for days.  It’s as if she can’t accept the fact that he died shortly after his birth.  So, for longer than such shows of feeling have usually lasted, she has kept her baby with her.

Does it get any sadder than that?  Could there be better proof of animal feelings that are so like our own?


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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Ahem! How about animals who live in water. . . ?!

All the arguments to prove man's superiority cannot shatter this hard fact:
in suffering the animals are our equals. -Peter Singer, philosopher (1946- ) 

                                                                                              NYTimes image
Amazing:  that a blog for and about animals should almost wholly omit references to the watery world that makes up most of our planet -- and its inhabitants.   

Here’s a person who loves water in all its forms, who believes in the ocean’s healing powers and who even writes poetry about swimming.  But does she allocate any blog posts to marine mammals, crustaceans and fish of all kinds?  Not in recent memory. It’s embarrassing.  

But now all that is about to change.

So, water.  Let’s start with two startling facts from Wikipedia:

*  Water is a transparent, tasteless, odorless, and nearly colorless chemical substance that is the main constituent of Earth's streams, lakes, and oceans, and the fluids of most living organisms.

Water covers 71% of the Earth's surface.  It is vital for all known forms of life. On Earth, 96.5% of the planet's crust water is found in seas and oceans. . . .

And this pertinent summary: Water provides habitat for various animals in the form of ponds, rivers, seas. 

As for the animals who live in that habitat, think everything from plankton to whales, with multitudinous creatures in between.  (Just googling for an idea of animals with watery habitats is a huge undertaking.)  And now the big reveal: those watery creatures do not include “sea kittens,” pictured in a couple recent blog posts. 

Thank PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) for inventing the name “sea kittens” to substitute for “fish.” If fish were so named, the thinking went, people would be much less likely to hook them, asphyxiate them or eat them.  The word “kitten” suggests soft vulnerability and helplessness -- most humans wouldn’t harm a kitten.  

At the same time, though, they think nothing of treating fish like prey and potential food without feelings.  And yet, as the “sea kitten” campaign pointed out, “Scientists tell us that fishes’ brains and nervous systems closely resemble our own and that fish are just as able to feel pain as cats or dogs.”

What’s in a name?  Consider “Chicken of the Sea”! 

Summer songs & bug lights

“Songs”?  Well, I think of them as music, anyway. That is, the day or night sounds of crickets, cicadas and katydids that began early this month.  Each year I remind myself that it’s cricket chirps I hear at night, while most cicadas “sing” during the day, depending on species and  weather.  Katydids are night callers. 

Those summer sounds disappear with the first hard frost.

But long before that happens, the blinking firefly lights have already come and gone.  Starting in June, they seem less frequent each year, with environmental changes being blamed -- too much man-made night light and (man-used) insecticides among them. 

‘Tyger tyger burning bright’

Next Sunday is International Tiger Day -- just one day of 365 to raise awareness of tigers’ peril. 

Endangered animal stamp
PAWS (Performing Animals Welfare Society) reminds us of the “great need to conserve these magnificent animals and the habitats on which their lives depend” . . .  and to “examine the exploitation of captive tigers in circuses, roadside zoos, cub petting, and other ‘entertainment.’”

Helpless cubs are forced into operations where people pay to handle them and have pictures taken with them, while other tigers become “exotic pets” or perpetual breeders.  None of this is natural, or right.  Shades of Dominionism.

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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Huge feline rescue revives optimism in general

 (We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog post-programming to bring you this thank-you note.) 

                                                                                                     St. Hubert pix
We’re living in uncertain and often scary times right now. There’s very little we can do to change the way things are going in America except vow to vote in November and work our hardest to win others to our side and assure that they vote too.

With much to feel bummed and angry about, it’s easy to fall into depression or cynicism toward the world at large. But then, at times so low they seem bottomless, something wonderful happens to re-charge us and renew our faith in people (There are humane humans out there!) and the future.

Thank you, St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center, for rescuing more than 175 cats who were living in horrid conditions that could only have grown worse.  Thank you for removing them from the dilapidated Wantage (Sussex County) house lacking both running water and electricity, and from their owner, who had lost control of the situation.

Thanks to St. Hubert’s, the cats moved from sheer squalor (think: grime, filth, foulness, decay, wretchedness . . . ) to safety and normalcy, starting with medical attention -- including, finally, spaying and neutering.

Thanks to St. Hubert’s, the cats now enjoy clean conditions, loving attention, aromatherapy, catnip, classical music and toys (possibly for the first time).

Thanks to St. Hubert’s, the following summary of the cats’ changed lives can now appear on the organization’s website (https://www.sthuberts.org/blog/2018/7/6/st-huberts-responds-to-feline-emergency-during-heat-wave).

The rescued cats are making wonderful progress.  The Noah’s Ark Campus is dedicated to their care and cannot currently welcome visitors.  All pets for adoption are housed at Madison, North Branch and Everyday Adoption Center inside PetSmart Mt. Olive and are available during regular adoption hours.

It’s wonderful to see the kitties from the Sussex location relaxing, seeking human attention and looking happier and healthier with each passing day.  Easy access to good nutritious food and clean housing, not to mention being parasite free and having their medical needs addressed, is allowing them to return to “normal” feline behaviors.  Some are enjoying playing with toys, probably for the first time ever and individual personalities are becoming more evident. 

Spay/neuter has been completed for about a third of the group and surgeries are taking place daily.  Eight of the cats have just been transferred to Madison and are available for adoption.  On Friday, July 13 the first few pairs were delivered to their new farm homes—we’re lucky to have additional homes waiting for some of the others once they are ready.

With details, images and videos, the back story on this huge and hugely marvelous rescue can be savored there too. There are also options to donate to St. Hubert’s. (Please do!)

Thank you, St. Hubert’s, and everyone else who pitched in on this rescue, for acting on behalf of these cats -- and for the welcome spill-over effect on all of us who learned about it and now feel much more optimistic about everything, including our ability to vanquish the evil dragons that threaten.


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Sunday, July 8, 2018

Hard to find, & read -- yet a fascinating book

 "We share the planet with animals. If there’s an animal in need that comes across my radar, I wouldn’t think twice, because there’s no better feeling [than] helping an animal." -Jannet Talbott, of Alberta, Canada, who performed major dental surgery on a local squirrel with her cuticle scissors --The Dodo 

When I learned last spring about the Yale University library’s collection of books about cats, the name “Carl Van Vechten” kept popping up.  It was Van Vechten who created and named that collection for a friend of his who also loved cats, Anna Marble Pollock. 
And it was he who wrote The Tiger in the House (c. 1920), an exhaustive and sometimes exhausting survey of cats in our world, past and (what was for him) present -- 1936. In that year Van Vechten wrote an intro to the third edition of his book, which I’ve finally finished with.  (I can’t honestly say “finished reading” because there are frequent quotes in French I’m not up to; same with gigantic dense paragraphs. But I soldiered on through the whole interlibrary loan copy, and the book is now on its way home.)

In 13 chapters, the author discusses prejudices against cats through the ages; feline traits; cat haters; and “the cat” in such fields as the occult, the law, the theatre, folklore, music, art, fiction and poetry.  Need I mention that Van Vechten was a major ailurophile, and his book is an extended hymn to cats, with no patience for criticism or negative superstition about them?

Among VV’s quotable quotes:
·      *   “A book without animals is seldom a living book.”

·      *   “Naming cats is beyond the power of the literary brain.”

·        *  “Poets are more closely in touch with the spirit of grimalkin*, the soul of a pussy-cat, than either prose writers or painters.”

                           McSnip pic
Toward the book’s end comes this observation: “. . . like all well-bred individualists. . . , the cat seldom interferes with other people’s rights.  His intelligence keeps him from doing many of the fool things that complicate life.  Cats never write operas and they never attend them.  They never sign papers, or pay taxes, or vote for president. . . .”

Nearly a century ago, Van Vetchen depended on the power of the printed word in his own book and his creation of a library of related books to defend and extol cats.  By now, though, cats outnumber dogs as American pets; there are cat shows, movies, books, magazines, specialized veterinarians and the all-pervasive internet -- all focusing on “tigers in the house.”

Talk about dramatic changes. 

Describing how pets are cared for in the US, the newspaper story linked here will probably astonish you, as it did me.  The scope of what’s going on, ostensibly “for” pets (and not for their owners), may even scare you.  Maybe it should.  One example: “Neuticles,” or surgically implanted silicone testicles for sterilized animals. Before you laugh, consider that a half-million animals reportedly have them.

After that, the possibilities are limited only by the imagination. Consider plastic surgery for pets including tummy tucks and eyebrow lifts; French “pawdicures”; psychopharmacology and “life coaches” for frazzled pets; and even gender reassignment.

“You’ve come a long way, kitty!” only begins to say it.

‘Two if by sea’
             PETA pic
2nd alert: The sea kittens are coming!  


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