Sunday, January 28, 2018

Never enough blog posts about & for animals

                                                                                               NYTimes image
US presidents are often referred to by numbers – Obama was #44, then came (shudder!) #45.  I’ve decided this blog post – #41-- warrants a note of thanks to those who helped make it happen. Then I’ll get on with the show. 

Now originating at “,” otherwise known as “AnimalBeat II,” my posts also appear under “blog” on the website of the Animal Protection League of NJ ( – where it all began in December 2016.  Then, about a “blogger’s dozen” posts appeared exclusively on the APL site, thanks to incalculable technical assistance from Angi Metler, executive director, whose myriad skills include being an IT whiz.  

(You can access those initial posts by clicking on “our previous blog” at the bottom of the right-side column of any post.)

After that, largely to ease the burden on Metler, I kept going on AnimalBeat II, a continuation of a years-ago blog of mine. “Same content, different station,” I wrote then, although this blog remains on APL’s site too.  With Metler’s continuing assistance, readers’ comments on posts are easily done via a transfer to “1moreonce” for those who subscribe or read the blog on APL’s site.  And she recently made it possible to print out posts too.  

Now, onward, with animal news to share, as well as a stunning poem.   

First of all, close to home, please note the new identifying number for Senator Linda
Greenstein’s animal shelter bill, carried over from the last legislative session: S725.  More on this bill soon.

“Elephants Are Very Scared of Bees. That Could Save Their Lives.” Talk about attention-grabbing headlines. The story here is that bees can be used as buzzing deterrents, to keep African elephants from foraging in farm land and prompting (possibly fatal) retaliation by farmers.  Plus, setting up bee hives is cheaper than electric fences.  

Bad enough to see lobsters in restaurant tanks before being selected for someone’s dinner – it’s worse to imagine their being plunged alive into boiling water. Apparently there’s been doubt that these crustaceans are capable of feeling pain, but the Swiss have considered the issue, decided lobsters do indeed feel pain, and ordered an end to the practice.

Scientists against this decision say lobsters “lack the brain anatomy to feel pain.”  But for now, the Swiss government advocates electrocution as a quicker, more humane means of death.  (Oh, yes, they’ll still eat the lobsters.)  


 by Tony Hoagland

Crossing the porch in the hazy dusk
to worship the moon rising
like a yellow filling-station sign
on the black horizon,

you feel the faint grit
of ants beneath your shoes,
but keep on walking
because in this world

you have to decide what
you’re willing to kill.
Saving your marriage might mean
dinner for two

by candlelight on steak
raised on pasture
chopped out of rain forest
whose absence might mean

an atmospheric thinness
fifty years from now
above the vulnerable head
of your bald grandson on vacation

as the cells of his scalp
sautéed by solar radiation
break down like suspects
under questioning.

Still you slice
the sirloin into pieces
and feed each other
on silver forks

under the approving gaze
of a waiter
whose purchased attention
and French name

are a kind of candlelight themselves,
while in the background
the fingertips of the pianist
float over the tusks

of the slaughtered elephant
without a care,
as if the elephant
had granted its permission.

(from Donkey Gospel,© Graywolf Press, 1998)


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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 entrée 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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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