Posts Tagged ‘Companion Animals’

Cats in Virginia

November 9th, 2015 No comments

I’m working on an assignment with Alley Cat Allies, the U.S.-based organisation dedicated to advocating for cats, and working closely with Becky Robinson, the president and founder. I helped to produce recently Becky’s book, The Evolution of the Cat Revolution: Celebrating 25 Years of Saving Cats, which gives a behind-the-scenes look at their achievements in their first quarter of a century advocating for cats.

Becky Robinson speaking with the Hampton Roads Community Cat Caretakers.

Becky Robinson speaking with the Hampton Roads Community Cat Caretakers.

Currently, I’m in Bethesda, MD where Alley Cat Allies is based. This past weekend I accompanied Becky on a three-day trip to Norfolk, VA and Chincoteague Island, VA  to learn more about her work for cats in the community. In Norfolk, we met with Rob Blizard, Norfolk SPCA’s Executive Director, who kindly showed us around their facility, and was introduced to his enthusiastic and helpful staff. They showed us their cats and dogs in the shelter and talked about the wide range of services they provide to their human and nonhuman clients. Norfolk SPCA is a very impressive operation and, like many others, achieves a great deal for the animals in their care with minimal resources. Becky later made a presentation to the Hampton Roads Community Cat Caretakers, who can be found on Facebook. Some 30-40 of their members listened attentively to Becky as she described the history and development of trap-neuter-return and Alley Cat Allies.

The spay-a-thon was held in a school gymnasium. The floor was covered in large sheets of plastic. Cats arrived in different types of carriers. Sheets and towels were laid over the cages to help keep the cats calm.

The spay-a-thon was held in a school gymnasium. The floor was covered in large sheets of plastic. Cats arrived in different types of carriers. Sheets and towels were laid over the cages to help keep the cats calm.

We then made our way back up the Eastern Shore to Chincoteague Island, VA  where Caring Hands Animal Support and Education (CHASE) organised a two-day spay-a-thon for 200 kittens and cats. Of course, it took more than two days to do because the research, preparation, organisation, and clean-up to such a worthwhile endeavour took up many additional days. I have read about and heard described temporary clinics where large numbers of cats are spayed or neutered but I have never had the opportunity to witness one until now. It was an amazing operation in many ways — no pun intended!

In describing the experience here, I may get wrong some of the details and happy to be corrected if you would like to get in touch.

The Recovery Line--the last stage in the spay-a-thon.

The Recovery Line–the last stage in the spay-a-thon.

A team of four veterinarians and their trained assistants and some 10-20 volunteers were led by Jeffrey Newman, DVM, President of CHASE and implemented a strategy in which each kitten and cat was processed through a number of stages. These mass spay/neuter cat clinics were developed by Alley Cat Allies. It was a very impressive operation put together temporarily in a local school gymnasium. The surgeries were undertaken in the Reiss Mobile Vet vehicle, parked in the adjoining lot, which belonged to Jonathan Reiss, DVM. The kittens and cats were a mixture of those who were people’s companions or were outdoor or community cats. The services provided were free and everyone donated their time and expertise.

I volunteered by making sure every cat had a dish of cat food on the top of their cage waiting for them as they came out from the medication.

I volunteered by making sure every cat had a dish of cat food on the top of their cage waiting for them as they came out from the medication.

I found it to be a remarkable experience. The atmosphere was palpable in that the carefully organised operation hummed along with a wonderful sense of community, giving, sharing, cooperation, and fulfilment. The only ones who did not share these powerful feelings were the beneficiaries who wanted to be anywhere else other than in a cage! Even a local artist had brought in a cat to be attended to, made some characterful sketches and left them on display to raise funds. I heard stories about how local people and businesses supported the endeavour by, for example, donating supplies and food. Most of the cats were brought in and later picked up by residents.

The stages that each feline client went through were a medical pre-screening; the necessary paper work that kept track of who they were and where they came from and in which container; and then pre-op preparation, the operation itself, a post-op careful monitoring and, finally, an area where they were left quietly to sleep off the medication.

This was a great weekend in which I learnt much from some wonderful people about the how-to of trap-neuter-return and companion animal advocacy generally.

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Alley Cat Allies

October 28th, 2015 No comments

The Evolution of the Cat RevolutionThe U.S.-based advocacy organisation, Alley Cat Allies, celebrates this year a quarter century of saving cats. Alley Cat Allies is the first organization to introduce and advocate for humane methods of feral cat care, particularly Trap-Neuter-Return, in the American animal protection community. By establishing and promoting standards of care, Alley Cat Allies brought the humane treatment of cats into the national spotlight.

Becky Robinson, Alley Cat Allies’s president and founder, engaged me this summer to produce a book celebrating their first 25 years. Writing in The Evolution of the Cat Revolution, Becky gives a behind-the-scenes look at the trials and triumphs of Alley Cat Allies. There’s a Timeline, 25 Accomplishments, and a Conversation between Becky and Donna Wilcox, Vice President and Chair of the Board of Directors, in which they look back on how a band of cat carers grew to be one of the most innovative, gutsy, and effective animal advocacy organizations in the world.

It was a great honour to work this summer with Becky and her colleagues at Alley Cat Allies on The Evolution of the Cat Revolution. I’m pleased to say my involvement with them as an independent consultant continues. My focus is on their strategic plan and building the organisation to implement it.

I look forward to working with Alley Cat Allies and dividing my time in the coming months between their headquarters in Bethesda, MD and my home in England.

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Bleating Hearts by Mark Hawthorne

March 20th, 2014 No comments
Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering by Mark Hawthorne

Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering by Mark Hawthorne

Mark Hawthorne wrote Bleating Hearts because he wanted to ‘examine animal exploitation that does not get enough (or any) attention.’ (4) As you might expect, this is a book that is a catalog of our inhumanity to animals. It’s not an easy read but each chapter concludes with a ‘What You Can Do’ section. The best way to read it is to take chapters in turn depending upon your interest or need to know. Hawthorne is a writer of integrity. If he says it, you can trust it. I recognised Bleating Hearts as one of my Best Animal Rights Books in 2013. Indeed, Bleating Hearts is so important that not only does it deserve a place on everyone’s bookshelf but also it warrants further examination here.

Take, for example, Chapter 6 ‘The Age of Aquariums: Animals in Entertainment.’ Sixty pages devoted to indefensible activities such as imprisoning dolphins, orcas, and killer whales and conditioning them to perform silly tricks to entertain people. As with other marine mammal displays, roadside attractions, and zoos, there’s no real educational benefit. Studies show that visitors don’t necessarily learn anything about the trapped animals other than perhaps recalling the thrill of being splashed with water. Wild animals are no less wild just because they’re wild-caught or bred (in-bred more like). Most likely from boredom, frustration, and anger, they attack and kill people when they’re provoked or have the opportunity to do so. Hawthorne explains how parks get their orcas.

The orca slave trade took off in 1965 when Ted Griffin, then owner of the Seattle Public Aquarium, captured a young whale, harpooning and killing her mother in the process. The calf, the first in a long line of orcas to be given the name Shamu, was sold to San Diego’s newly built Sea World for what would be half a million US dollars today. Suddenly, marine parks everywhere were eager to shell out big money for these animals, and there were people willing to do anything for a piece of it. (305-6)

Then, there’s artificial insemination. Hawthorne describes how male orcas are taught to allow trainers to masturbate them and collect their semen. Female orcas are also trained to accept trainers insert an endoscope into their uterus to deliver the sperm. Next up are dolphins, who are caught, trained, and conditioned to swim with people for profit and supposedly for therapy assistance.

The rest of the chapter describes the injustices inflicted upon animals in circuses, zoos, in film and on TV, fighting (dogs, horses, bears), kickboxing (orangutans), wrestling (camels, alligators, crocodiles, pigs), and, perhaps the most ‘celebrated’ of all animals in entertainment, bullfighting.

But there’s much that can be done by everyone to dump so-called ‘animal entertainments’ into the trashcan of history.

The first and most important step you can take to help animals exploited for entertainment is not to support the enterprises and institutions that profit from animal abuse. (355)

Bleating Hearts is among the most important books anyone who cares deeply about animals would want to have on their bookshelf. The hidden world of animal suffering is that much more known thanks to Mark Hawthorne, whose writing is clear and compelling, and research impeccable and trustworthy. If ever there is a must-have book that’s well-read, this is it.

Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering by Mark Hawthorne (2013: Changemakers Books)

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Patrick from Newark

May 3rd, 2011 No comments

Photo credit: Jennifer Brown/The Star-Ledger

Out of all the heartbreaking stories of animal abuse which happen by their thousands every day … every now and then one stands out and becomes a symbol for them all.

This is one and it’s about Patrick, a one-year-old pit bull in Newark, NJ, who was starved and thrown down a trash chute of a high-rise apartment. He was found alive by a maintenance worker who saw the trash bag he’d been dumped in suddenly move.

Cory Booker, Newark’s mayor and a vegetarian, was moved by Patrick’s story. He announced in a video that his birthday wish was to honour Patrick with a new state of the art animal shelter in Newark. The campaign has raised more than $30,000. Of course, much more is needed. It’s clear from Cory’s video he understand a concern for animals is not only about our treatment of them but of our selves.

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Liverpool’s New Dog Policy

April 30th, 2011 No comments

On her blog Louise Baldock, Labour Councillor for Kensington and Fairfield Ward in Liverpool, wrote about a new council initiative which is a new dedicated phone line for reporting dog related problems, including fouling, nuisance barking, running stray and so on. She writes that

Staff answering these calls will have extra information on how to tackle these problems so that the council’s response will be ‘smarter’. We’ll also be able to collect better intelligence about where there are particular hotspots that need extra attention.

My local Labour-led council, Hastings, recently produced these posters and displayed them around town. Sadly, it’s still a problem.

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Animal Welfare and Natural Disaster in Japan

March 16th, 2011 No comments

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt

Comments posted below this video on YouTube say that the two dogs are rescued. Nevertheless, heart breaking footage.

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More on Barking Island Short Film

December 14th, 2010 No comments

CounterPunch, the political newsletter published in the US, recently included an article (November 16-30, 2010; couldn’t find the article online at time of posting this) by Larry Portis about the short film, “Barking Island.” Portis describes how the film contrasts “aesthetic beauty” and the “horror it recounts.” The animated images produced by filmmaker Serge Avedikian, according to Portis, reveal “luminous depth of the colours, the invocations of oriental Constantinople and the ferocity of figures [are] sublimely, compellingly cruel.”

When I first watched Barking Island I was completely taken in by the world Avedikian creates; however, as the true story unfolds the ultimate horror of its outcome is only revealed with further understanding of why the film was made.

Portis explains,

At some point, it was suggested that the animals be simply rounded up and transported to a desert island in the Bosporus. It would be an open-air dog pound where, eventually, about 30,000 offending creatures were concentrated. And there the extermination proceeded. The fact that no vegetation or other edible substance existed on the island en- sured a definitive resolution to the nuisance they represented. The island was too far from land to allow the creatures to swim back, although many tried. The only disagreeable aspect of the plan, once put into operation, were winds that conveyed the sounds of screams and howls to Constantinople. But this annoyance ceased after a few weeks.

I could not believe that this was a true story that happened in 1910. But it is. Then, I discover the deliberate abandonment of some 30,000 dogs on an island, which is not only unforgivable in of itself, that their murder was an instrument to facilitate the method to slaughter an even larger number of people.

“The plan to kill upward of one and a half million Armenians between 1915 and 1918,” Portis writes, “requred careful planning and rational experimentation. This is where the dogs came in. Cleansing Constantinople of the thousands of dogs roaming free there provided a fine opportunity to test methods used later on the Armenians.”

Kill tends of thousands of dogs to not only rid them from the streets of Constantinople but also use the experience to learn how to more effectively kill as many as 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1918.

“The massacre of the Armenians followed much the same pattern,” writes Portis. “Although gassing, burning, drowning, the injection of typhus bacilli in children, and other imaginable methods were employed, in the end most of the victims were forcibly displaced and died from exhaustion and starvation.”

He goes on to quote Avedikian who said,

The condition of dogs in Muslim countries is very particular. On the one hand, dogs are not generally allowed inside human dwellings. They are considered to be impure. But, on the other hand, they are recognized as having a social function and have the right to live. In fact, dogs are accepted and protected in these countries as nowhere else. In 1910, there were many examples of people interfering with the collection and deportation of the dogs. But the film is really concerned with more than just the events of 1910. Let me put it this way: modernization, especially urbanization, and now globalization, means the death of the free dogs. The dogs were scapegoats then, and now there is no room for free agents any- where. Whoever is on the margins, who is nonconventional, who refuses being controlled and forced into the national-state mold, will be an object of such repression. How many errant dogs or errant people will be allowed to exist? That is the question.

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Barking Island Short Film

December 8th, 2010 No comments

Monbiot on Badgers and Hattersley on Dogs in The Guardian

November 16th, 2010 No comments

Further to my post about the proposed badger cull in England by the ConDem government and in Wales by the Welsh Assembly, George Monbiot writes in today’s Guardian, and concludes

So why commission £49m of research then shred it? Because the National Farmers’ Union wants to see blood, and it is neither prepared to wait nor to accept measures as tough as Bourne proposes. Up and down the country it is whipping up farmers to demand that badgers are killed. Yesterday I spoke to a tenant farmer who had just attended an NFU meeting that unanimously supported the cull. A question revealed that not one of the farmers in the room had read the consultation document: they simply accepted the NFU’s word that the killing had to happen. Under this government, the NFU rules. According to the small farmers I know, it tends to be dominated by the biggest and most arrogant landowners – rather like the Tory party. Last week the government quietly abandoned its commitment to stop the de-beaking of chickens and to stop game birds from being kept in cages. The badgers are just another lump of meat to be thrown to the beast. The cull might help to destroy the industry these bloody-minded dolts claim to defend. But they don’t seem to care, just as long as something is done other than imposing rigorous controls on their business. Killing wildlife will do just fine.

Roy Hattersley, a Labour Party elder and prolific author including books about dogs, wrote yesterday in The Guardian about public policy on dogs.

Of course, the call for regulation will be greeted by cries of anguish from the vested interests. There will be particular opposition from the pedigree lobby, which makes its money out of pure-breed dogs – many of which have been inbred to the point of physical deformity in order to emphasise their exclusive features. They are right to worry about how a law requiring the proper care of dogs will affect them. Breeding dogs with genetic defects is another form of cruelty – made worse by the suffering being a callously premeditated way to charge exclusive prices. In this country we talk of dogs with a sentimentality that is not always matched by the sense and sympathy with which we treat them. Some are abused. Some are neglected. Some are damaged by misplaced indulgence. The best way to avoid all those tragedies is the regulation of dog ownership through a contract that sets out a duty of care. Real dog-lovers will not object.

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Dogs Killed in Afghanistan

November 15th, 2010 No comments

There’s animal cruelty and exploitation and then there’s animal cruelty and exploitation which I find particularly egregious and unacceptable. One example is using animals in war. A lot of patriotic nonsense is written about dogs in war. But here’s the reality, as reported recently in The Guardian. I added emphasis in order to make the point that my position is I prefer neither soldiers nor dogs to be killed. The dogs in this combat situation are blatantly expendable.

UK special forces in Afghanistan are parachuting German shepherd dogs with video cameras into Taliban strongholds to search buildings for insurgents, with at least eight animals killed during operations. The dogs are strapped to the chest of their handlers for the drops, and cameras are attached to their heads to feed back images of buildings and surrounding areas. The tactics have been adapted from US special forces, but the Ministry of Defence said it would not comment on a report on operations by SAS troops. The dogs are reportedly trained to attack armed people, and eight of them have died in action so far. “But that would be eight SAS men,” a source told the Times.

Go here for more and a photo of soldier and dog parachuting to earth.

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