Friday, October 19, 2018

NAPs turn up everywhere -- at home & in the wild

The couple’s family consists of two cats and four dogs.  Some of these pets began as fosters, who stayed, and some have special needs.  All six are loving and loved. 
When two relatives visited for the first time, Uncle X said, “We’re not animal people, so would you mind putting your pets away?”

What would you say to that? 

No, I don’t know what was said, or done, in response to that request. I was speaking with a new acquaintance who had already wowed me with the story of her family. “Kim” is a health care professional, but much more important, she’s “an animal person.” And like me, she distrusts people who say or behave like not-animal people.  

Talking with Kim caused me to remember the NAPs (not-animal-people) in my life who inevitably disappointed me, or worse.  Compassion, kinship as living beings, appreciation of  beauty, respect for qualities. . .  It’s hard to understand how some human animals can lack such feelings toward (other) animals. They seem somehow incomplete.

Guard against NAPs!

When wrinkles are good

                                   Milinkovitch pic
African elephants of both sexes benefit from their wrinkles! As elephants age, their skin thickens and cracks.  But since they don’t sweat, those skin cracks retain 10 times more moisture than a flat surface, helping elephants to regulate body temperature, deter parasites and retain sun-blocking mud.

This info about keeping cool and staying healthy comes from Michel Milinkovitch, an evolutionary biologist, who used computer modeling and studied elephant skin samples to  reach these conclusions.

. . . and captivity is extra bad

Happy, a 47-year old Asian elephant, has lived alone in the Bronx Zoo for the last 12 years of her 40 year residency there.  Fighting within the captive population had led to their separation, causing Happy’s solitary existence -- painfully far from how wild elephants live.

To date, activists’ efforts have failed to move Happy to an elephant sanctuary where she can make new friends.  That may be so because their campaign has to do with “nonhuman rights” --granting the same legal protections as humans -- a cause that has not yet caught on in the courts.
Could Happy ultimately become happier if advocates simply claimed, and proved, inhumane treatment; if they showed that living alone in a zoo bears no resemblance to how an Asian elephant would live in the wild?  That seems like reason enough to me.

Never forget elephants

Tusk-free female                                       Adoo pic
Elephants worldwide are still in jeopardy.  Their tusks feed the unabated desire for ivory trinkets that are more valued than the lives of these iconic, intelligent, highly social creatures. There could yet come a time when elephants no longer live on this planet; isn’t that a fearful thought, especially if human greed and cruelty make it happen?

But as reported in a captivating story about them, some elephants have evolved into tusk-free animals.  If that were to happen widely and quickly enough, could it be an answer, if not the answer? Such an evolutionary change might save elephants. But should it happen that elephants become creatures without tusks?  

For me, anything Natalie Angier writes about is ultra-readable because of this journalist-artist’s diction and wit.  Here, she writes about elephants without tusks. 

Animal holidays

Sorry not to have run this poster earlier, but it’s never too late to walk your dog or put your chubby pet on a diet or love up black dogs (and cats!) or salute the vet tech(s) in your life.  And please remember Halloween on October 31, another important date for animals: it’s a nasty trick to let them eat any “treats.”


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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Of dogs ancient & modern & a governor who broke his promise

“I knew I needed to help it. . . . I didn’t have anything to cut the line,
            so I used my teeth.” --a mailman who rescued a chipmunk
                                    trapped with wire netting wrapped tightly around his neck **

Today, at least for starters, we’re going to the dogs.  No, we won’t take on PetSmart for the numerous fatalities that have occurred after pets were groomed at various PS stores. That sad story calls for more investigation than I can do, and then, with luck, licensure laws for pet groomers and strict supervision and record-keeping in every store -- as well as caring pet parents who ask questions and make their presence felt.

No, this has to do with what I’ll call “native American dogs,” or canines who long inhabited the US, along with Native Americans.  Estimated to have been here for more than 10,000 years, those early dogs, already domesticated, were thought to have traveled here with people who crossed the Bering land bridge.

Then came the Europeans, bringing their own dogs.  And that was the beginning of the end of native American dogs, who left virtually no genetic trace of their existence in modern-day dogs.

What happened to those ancient canines? Theories vary: eaten by starving colonists, who may also have killed them to keep their dogs’ bloodlines pure, or felled by infectious diseases -- which made big dents in human populations at the same time. 

In short, as a paper published in Science put it, the 15th century arrival of Europeans in the Americas “didn’t just affect the lives of humans already living here, it also took a devastating toll on their pets.”

I won’t excerpt from my second dog story, this one about Juliet, a beloved family dog.  Instead, I’ll just hope you “read it and weep” for all it says about love. 

Murphy’s bear hunt

Despite protests, demonstrations, billboards and aerial messages, phone calls, letters and in-person appeals, Governor Phil Murphy allowed this week’s bear hunt to proceed.  And some hunters no doubt deem it a huge success: they got their trophies, even if those trophies were helpless bear cubs.

You read it right: killing bear cubs is part of New Jersey’s hunt, a shameful-but-legal activity unique only to this state and Alaska. 

“By failing to protect mother bears with cubs, and even permitting the hunting of black bear cubs themselves, the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife [DFW] has created an especially unethical, unsporting, unpopular and controversial policy,” according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

This year’s bear hunt will resume for a week in December.  Thanks, Governor Murphy, for permitting a horrible, inhumane pursuit to continue.  At this point, our phone calls to the governor’s office (609-292-6000) should castigate him for allowing bear slaughter on top of reneging on his pledge to stop it!  And there's one more protest to come. . . . 

Well, it beats a peacock
Earlier this week in Florida, Frontier Airlines authorized police to remove a passenger with an “emotional support squirrel” when she refused to leave the plane. Although the woman had noted her plan to bring an emotional support animal aboard, squirrels and other rodents don’t qualify for the job, according to Frontier.  

Obviously, airline officials are unaware of the myriad Dodo stories about people who bond with squirrels, opening their hearts and homes to them.  And those of us who covertly feed (unsalted!) peanuts in shells to neighborhood squirrels know just where that woman was coming from.    


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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

True ‘entitlement’ = black bears living free from hunts

Talk about “entitlement”!  Currently all over the media, that word describes the attitude of an unmentionable judicial candidate and those like him, who expect certain (good) things to happen for them just because they’re who they are and from wherever they’re from. 


Equally wrong is the “entitled” attitude of some hunters, who apparently believe they have the right to kill wildlife -- specifically, New Jersey’s black bears.

A hunter’s letter in last Friday’s Times of Trenton referred to “a very small minority of people” who pushed the governor to close public lands to bear hunters.  Correction: those who oppose bear hunts are a significant majority of NJ’s residents, while hunters, in fact, make up “a very small minority.” 

The letter writer also used the infamous euphemism “harvest” in referring to bears (including cubs and their mothers) who were slaughtered in the past.  Oh, please.  And she grossly exaggerated the safety “risks” of bears, while giving no credence at all to the potential success of using non-lethal means to manage the bear population.  (I say “potential” only because such tools as bear-proof trash cans have not been put into practice on any widespread basis).

Finally, she urged others like her to help “take back our right to hunt bear(sic) on public land.” 

                                                                            Bill Lea pic
Double Phooey! 

New Jersey's bear hunt has always been a trumped(oops)-up trophy hunt. This year, instead of ending the hunt altogether, as he promised to do during his run for governor, Gov. Murphy banned bear hunting on public land only.  His pandering cop-out was an attempt to satisfy both animal advocates and hunters, but obviously, it didn’t work.  Neither side is satisfied -- least of all, if they could vote, our black bears.

All of which is why the Bear Group (“NJ’s official bear protection organization”) of the Animal Protection League of NJ plans two protests this month:  (1) next Monday, October 8, 11 am-1 pm; and (2) the following Saturday, October 13, 11 am-1 pm at the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area, 150 Fredon Springdale Road, Fredon, New Jersey.
(For more info: 973-513-3219;;

It’s never too late to hope the governor will see the errors of his ways -- they’re all around him --  and extend his bear hunt ban to private land as well as public.  Our black bears deserve our pouring on the contacts and appeals in every way possible.  Please send your messages and come to the protests!

Call the Governor: 609-292-6000; Tweet: @GovMurphy #savenjbears


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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Bear hunt travesty, elephant appreciation & ‘cat days’

                                                                                                     Kehoe pic

Gov. Phil Murphy’s banning of bear hunts on state lands only displeased hunters and animal advocates alike -- the former wanting all possible territory for trophy hunting; the latter wanting no territory used for bear hunts -- but it also seems to have brought out the worst in many people.

First, though, it’s important to realize that Murphy’s halfway action continues to jeopardize New Jersey’s black bears -- possibly even more than before, since historically most bears have been killed on private land.  And get this: some hunters are threatening to drive bears off state property onto private property for the sole purpose of killing them as soon as they get there.
Sweet, isn’t it? 

But it gets worse. Now we’re hearing about farmers selling plots of their (private) land for
hunters to use, and hunters offering to pay land owners who report bears on their property so they might swoop in and shoot them.  Talk about “canned hunts” and must-kill mentalities.

The latest development: three pro-hunting groups may challenge Murphy’s executive order that bars bear hunting on state lands.  One hunter-rep said, “This is both a legal and scientifically sound hunt.”  To which anyone who knows anything about the situation would say “Hogwash.”  At least.

Black bears’ bad rap is essentially undeserved, but numbers of hunters keep earning a bad rap! And that includes their enablers, the state officials who disdain non-lethal means of managing bears.
In fact, “Murphy’s law NJ” -- when things are done halfway, damage is maximized -- pertains here. Former President Barack Obama encouraged our “better angels,” but that concept seems  wasted on our governor: with his half-way, please-no-one ban, Murphy has unleashed the worst impulses of people after trophies and money. 

The first week of the hunt begins October 8, with a second week in December. There’s still time to phone the governor’s office every day (609-292-6000) and urge him to keep his promise to end the hunt -- on all state lands.

Appreciate, and save, elephants 

Last Saturday, September 22, was Elephant Appreciation Day -- the least we can do for these endangered iconic animals who if they’re not being slaughtered for their tusks are being captured and forced into heavy labor, performing or wasting away in zoos.

California’s Performing Animal Welfare Society, or PAWS (, houses both African and Asian elephants saved from circuses and other forms of abuse devised by humans.

A contented PAWS resident for the last 11 years, Asian elephant Gypsy was kidnapped from her wild birthplace and family, and sold into a life of circus captivity, with “near constant chaining, performing at the point of a bullhook and continuous travel” -- for 40 years.

Appreciate?  Well of course, but more important so we never have a world without them, Save the Elephants.  (

A comforting idea

Since (sigh!) we’re barely beyond summer, including the “dog days of summer,” here’s a modest proposal to even things up a bit: the “cat days of winter.”  Why not?

Even though historically, dog days have to do with the dog star Sirius and the sun -- and a period of uncomfortable sultry weather -- there’s no rule against cat days of winter coming into being by decree.

What could be better in cold gray January and February than following the lead of comfort-loving cats?  Seek the cozy and the warm; cuddle in fluffy blankets; keep the fireplace going and glowing.  Do the equivalent of stretching out on radiators at sunny (well-insulated) windows.  

Doze. . .


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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Rally for our bears & laud animal rescuers

             "I see almost all animals are struggling on Earth and I try to do
              something  for them as much as possible.” -- cyclist Ozgur Nevres **

“Rally,” “protest,” whatever you call it, it means a demonstration against New Jersey’s projected October and December bear hunts -- and Governor Phil Murphy’s broken promise to end these barbaric trophy-hunting charades.  

From noon-2 pm this coming Saturday, Sept. 22, is the day to tell governor Murphy that bear hunts must stop -- as candidate Murphy had promised would happen!  The summer demonstration in the governor’s home town of Middletown drew around 200 people to remind him of his promise.

But neither it nor billboards nor beach fly-overs persuaded him to honor his commitment.  So the protests continue, with this weekend’s event organized by the Animal Protection League of NJ (  

The hope is for people to come to Princeton to demonstrate at Drumthwacket, the governor’s official residence. They will rally near the mansion, on Rt. 206 (aka Stockton St.), protesting both bear hunts and Murphy’s unkept promise to end them.   

Activists’ signs and various other messages will aim to remind the governor -- as well as residents, drivers and pedestrians in the area -- of his broken promise, one he could still keep to protect our bears.

Attempting to please both activists and hunters, Governor Murphy’s banning of bear hunts only on state lands in no way suffices to save bears. They can still be baited (a horrible practice, illegal elsewhere), stalked and shot on private, county, municipal and federal land, where most bears have been killed.

And, despite what some of his people claim, the governor can stop them on all New Jersey lands -- if he chooses to.  For specifics, use this link, to APLNJ’s website.

Dogs , Cats & Hurricane Florence

Media stories have abounded about animals rescued from the ravages of Hurricane Florence. Certainly, people are much more into providing for and saving animals, including sheltering them, than was the case during Katrina. That’s good.

To make things even better, though, how about (1) hurricane warnings that automatically include reminders to prepare for animals too; evacuating with pets and assuring shelter for them; (2) moving horses and other livestock out of harm’s way when possible or at least moving them to higher ground, hopefully with shelter included?  

A wonderful photo on the front page of Monday’s Times of Trenton showed a North Carolina man being rescued from floodwaters.  Sitting on his shoulder: a dear little (all-wet) kitten, named “Survivor.”  Tear-inducing.

Guardians of Rescue ( posted images of their work to save animals, appealing for donations to fund continuing rescue work, and The Dodo posted a story about a truck driver who had converted a school bus into a kind of Noah’s Ark.  

                                                                                                                                                                          Tony Alsup pic
Before Hurricane Florence hit the South Carolina coast, Tony Alsup filled his bus-ark with shelter animals and drove them for care, sheltering and eventual adoption to southern Alabama. He’s been doing this since Hurricane Harvey, and plans to continue transporting animals who might otherwise be trapped.  

“I’m like, look, these are lives too. Animals -- especially shelter pets -- they always have to take the back seat of the bus. But I’ll give them their own bus.” --Tony Alsup   

Saluting these and all such heroes for animals!  


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. . .

Sunday, September 9, 2018

A leg up on a catch-up via a roundup

                                                                           APLNJ pic
“Unofficial-autumn” greetings!  (Does anyone else say “autumn” nowadays, instead of “fall”?!) And doesn’t this rainy and cool weather reinforce the “fall” feeling?

So, with the list of summer “to-do”s either satisfied or fudged; with back-to-school prep taken care of; with swimsuits (etc.!) stored away for next summer or a vacation in the sun. . . it’s time for an animal roundup.

We’ll start with New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy. As far as bear hunts are concerned, the man’s a “trimmer” -- an old word that came to mind and still manages to sound critical, which it is!  Pressured to honor his commitment to end bear hunts, the governor apparently tried to please both sides, with the usual result: he pleased no one.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines “trimmer” as "One who trims between opposing parties in politics, etc. hence, one who inclines to each of two opposing sides as interest dictates.”  And Thomas Hardy used the word this way in his Wessex Tales: "One of the trimmers who went to church and chapel both."  (My thanks to a daring and resourceful reference librarian!)

So, Gov. Murphy halted bear hunting on state land only, leaving bears on private land (the greater portion) as prey for trophy hunters. They want all the land to hunt, while animal advocates want all the land off-limits to hunters.
Also on the gubernatorial front, Gov. Murphy is being reminded of his agreement to ban leghold traps, the hideous devices that cause untold suffering for wild animals and pets alike.  Banned in New Jersey since 1984, they were brought back into use last year through a maneuver by Gov. Christie and his hunting cronies. With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Murphy can un-do that cruel and inhumane act.  

Help the animals who could be caught in these traps by (1) phoning the governor’s office (609-292-6000), asking him to sign an executive order invalidating the Fish & Game Council’s regulation allowing their use, and (2) asking your senator and assembly members to support  S179/A3110 (Senator Gopal and Assemblyman Benson) to ban the manufacture, sale, possession or use of body-gripping animal traps.
Wild animals break out

Years ago, people finally realized that if girls didn’t see women as doctors, executives, astronauts or race car drivers, they could assume such positions were closed to them -- and not  aspire to those careers.  Same with wild animals: if children usually saw them behind bars, they could conclude that wild animals belong in zoos.  

So, Nabisco’s recent announcement about re-design of its famous Animal Crackers box came as a happy surprise. Thanks to PETA-led lobbying, the new box shows animals in a savanna setting -- much more appropriate and accurate. Wild animals belong in the wild!

Wild animals finally free! 

Giraffes in jeopardy


With all the activism on behalf of elephants and other animals, who thinks of giraffes?  Humane Society International, that’s who.  And the news is not good: “Giraffes are facing a silent extinction,” the organization says. “New reports show giraffes have suffered a massive 40 percent decline in wild populations since 1985, but still have absolutely no international protections.”


“If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists them as Endangered, it would restrict trade in giraffes coming to the United States as hunting trophies and other products. It's an easy step we can take right now to help protect and restore giraffe populations.”  
Visit to protect giraffes under the Endangered Species Act.

Nuff said
Humans kill approximately 100 million sharks a year, while unprovoked shark attacks killed just five people in 2017.  --from “How to Survive a Shark Attack,” in the NYTimes Magazine, 9-2-18, p. 23.


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Sunday, August 26, 2018

If I were ‘Queen for a Day’ in Hamilton Township

Hoo-boy!  Every animal advocate’s dream: being in charge, even if for only a day, in Hamilton Township.  There, the animal shelter -- significantly and expensively expanded and reportedly greatly improved a couple years ago -- is now the center of a firestorm over how animals  are treated -- or should I say “mistreated”? 

Yes, “mistreated.”  And that’s putting it mildly.  (Just review the deficiencies and malpractices detailed in the state inspectors’ report.)  As queen for a (work)day, with power to say how the shelter will be run, I would convene all shelter employees and volunteers and do the following:  
1 -- acquaint them with the “Five Freedoms”  -- which “speak to the fundamental needs of animals that remain constant regardless of setting,” according to the Assn. of Shelter Veterinarians.  Therefore, animal shelters are one setting where the Five Freedoms should be known and observed.

2 -- acquaint them with the state health department’s annual I & D (Intake and Disposition) survey, with specifics about animals entering a shelter and what happens to each one, provided by shelter reps.

It should be noted that in the 2014 edition of this survey, HTAS reported killing a horrifying number of animals, especially cats.  (While 52 dogs (14%) were killed that year, 302, or 42% of the 716 cats admitted to the shelter were killed during the same period.)  Apparently, today's numbers have not significantly dropped.  

The I & D survey lists all responding shelters by county, so it’s painfully easy to see how Hamilton Twp. figures compared with other county shelters -- and then to wonder how those sickening high numbers were reached.

Buster      (file pic) 
Were strays killed if not claimed and/or killed before the seven-day hold period ended?  Were feral, or community, cats killed because they were feral, or community, cats?  How about animals needing medical attention; were they killed instead? 

These days, more and more animal shelters concentrate on “live releases,” instead of animals euthanized, and subscribe to a no-kill philosophy. Has Hamilton Twp. heard of either concept?  And if Y, why do they seem to have been ignored?  Who took the animal shelter in a different -- cruel and inhumane -- direction? 

3 -- moderate a presentation on Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) by the Animal Protection League of NJ (, the statewide organization that has advocated for animals for 35 years.  Its Project TNR is New Jersey’s central resource for information on community cats and Trap-Neuter-Return.

4 -- acquaint them with the detailed and definitive “Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters” produced in 2010 by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians for both shelter facilities and care of shelter animals.

5 -- plan for the immediate future: (a) assure that anyone in a supervisory position at HTAS has preparatory training for that role; (b) establish dates for training on evaluating staff and volunteer  job performance; (c) list short-  and longer-range changes to be made, with completion dates.  

                                   Catster pic
Everything outlined here so far is a new and apparently needed kind of “brainwashing” at HTAS.  What?  You say all this can’t be done in a day?   You’re right of course.  I can hope only that others, with their own strong commitment to the animals there, will pick up where I leave off after my day as Queen.  

I’ll be back after Labor Day weekend, but meanwhile, readers, please keep up with media coverage of the shelter, write letters to the editor and/or talk up the suggestions here.  Make sure the Hamilton Twp. council members who first voiced concern about the shelter know about these options and resources.


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Sunday, August 19, 2018

Hide & seek governor jeopardizes our black bears

                                                                                                       APLNJ pic
One thing’s sure: Governor Phil Murphy is not out on the hustings, meeting and greeting, at least as far as some people are concerned.  Those people would be the numerous animal activists and organizations after him to keep his campaign pledge to stop New Jersey’s bear hunts.  

But Governor Murphy can’t be pinned down -- he can’t even be seen!  Now that he’s in office, he’s been simply impossible to meet with to talk bear hunts.  On that subject, one advocate said awhile ago, “The silence is deafening.” 

That’s sad.  It raises serious questions about the governor's compassion -- and his credibility.  So on Saturday, Aug. 11, advocates of ending the bear hunts took the issue to Murphy’s home turf: Middletown, NJ.  Nearly 200 people came out to remind the governor of his promise to end the hunt.  They met near a new billboard the governor should see often:  “GOVERNOR MURPHY: PLEASE KEEP YOUR PROMISE -- STOP THE BEAR HUNT.”

                            Kehoe/APLNJ pic
That was the start of a media campaign designed to remind the governor of his promise and urge him to keep it.  “Aerial billboards,” a.k.a. planes with flyers, will repeat the message for three Wednesdays over beaches from Seaside to Cape May:  Gov. Murphy can stop the bear hunt. Call now 609-292-6000!”  (BTW, 3 different staffers in Murphy’s office have commented on the volume of calls.)

Here’s a look at TV coverage of the Middletown demonstration:

There’s no doubt that the governor can end the bear hunt -- just as earlier governors have done. The only question is, will he.  Has he the will to buck NJ’s tiny number of bear hunters and their powerful spokespersons? 

Phone 609-292-6000 every day, to let the governor know we want him to keep his promise. 

Fanfare for the UN-common . . .

The Animal Protection League of NJ (APLNJ -- was one of many organizations  behind the Aug. 11 demonstration.  That’s not surprising. For 35 years, this statewide organization has advocated for animals in myriad positive and successful ways. 

But in marking its 35th anniversary this year, APLNJ has been too reserved, holding back on the fanfare it has earned.  Talk about hiding one’s light under a bushel!

So here’s a reminder that APLNJ is still at it in large and small ways, a strong and consistent voice for New Jersey’s animals, who can’t speak for themselves.  Let’s hear it for APLNJ -- in the form of donations that will help the organization keep fighting the good fight.

And now, those who donate to APLNJ can use the new mailing address and/or phone number:  
PO Box 186, Glen Gardner, NJ 08826; phone: 1-732-446-6808.

Please contribute!    

The sad story ends

Grieving for her baby who died soon after birth, the mother orca carried her for 17 days during what the media called a “grief tour” -- the longest lasting known to date.  One writer described her behavior as emblematic of what’s happening to others in the mother’s pod of about 75 orcas -- critically endangered by loss of their main food, salmon, in the Pacific Northwest.  

                                AP pic
Sympathizers watched as the mother covered an estimated 1,000 miles, balancing her baby on her head.  Then, finally, she was seen without her young one, “frolicking” with other orcas. This was regarded as a good omen because the mourning mother is still young enough to give birth again. 


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