Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chester Enjoys the Mud

Chester is Smiling
This is Chester, a pig who lives at the sanctuary. He turns four this year. He looks a little wild in this photo, having come from his Chester-made and Chester Approved pig spa. In an amazing move, he kept his pink nose clean, which *this* photographer approves.

Chester is a Yorkshire and would have been raised for his flesh. Production pigs are slaughtered when they are a mere 6-mos-old - 100-110 million annually. They have been bred to convert food quickly into muscle and fat. Chester currently weighs about 800 lbs. Like most adult production pigs, he has problems with arthritis. While a smaller, heritage breed of pig might live 12-15 years, Chester and his kind are lucky to live eight years. His mom lived in a cage where she could not turn around and he was taken from her when he was 3 weeks old. Normal weaning is 3-5 months of age.

Most people are impressed with the size of the pigs at the sanctuary. They are even more impressed when I tell them they all know their names. Sometimes, I prove this by individually calling a pig amongst a group and watch everyone's eyes light up when that particular pig comes forward. Of course, like with dogs, the pigs don't always want to come and just stare at me when called - "as if, lady."

There is one pig, Susie, who I tell people will roll on her side on command. This is untrue, although she could be taught. Pigs are very tactile and will almost always stop and roll over on their side if you start rubbing their belly. Susie is extra sensitive. You can touch her with one finger along her side and she will plop over. If I stand behind her, people cannot see me touch her, just hear me say "roll over" and bam! pig on the ground, belly up for a rubbing.

You have now learned my secret. Do not share with those who visit the sanctuary.

As a warning, a pig's penis will be mentioned below. Don't read if that might offend you.

Chester does not roll over on command and it takes a vigorous belly rubbing to get him to lie down. Also, he will sometimes become a little too enamored and his cork-screw shaped penis emerges. This will be disturbing for everyone involved, except Chester. He is not embarrassed by anything. I do not know why nature designed a cork-screw penis for male pigs or a matching shaped cervix for the females. Also, another fun pig sex fact: When trying out sex for the first time, males always try to mount the female's head. Farmers try to pair experienced sows with newbies, because experienced sows do not give head. This is perhaps more than you cared to know about porcine copulatory behavior. I suppose I can blame Retrieverman for posting a video of the Malaysian Tapir, a species whose males have an even more disturbing penis.

Chester looking wild!

Hey handsome!

Utah Legislation: Gas Chambers for Animals

In its original form, HB 185 would have required all shelters in Utah to euthanize animals via lethal injection, with some exceptions. But testimony heard at the committee hearing changed that. Now the bill states that shelters may use carbon monoxide, with some stipulations.

Some of my comments...
according to those who testified at Friday's hearing, the procedure is both humane and endorsed by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
The AVMA considers carbon dioxide gassing acceptable for zoo animals, swine, rodents, rabbits, fur-bearing mammals, fish, dogs, cats, birds and amphibians. Carbon dioxide gassing always causes stress and aversive behaviors. Even according to vivisectionists who use it to kill research animals, there is no "ideal" way to kill an animal with carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a known aversive gas that stimulates the respiratory pathways, irritates ocular and nasal mucous linings and can cause profound suffering. Yet it is an approved AVMA method for killing almost all considered species.

It is also conditionally acceptable to decapitate rabbits, decapitate poultry, macerate chicks and poults and anally electrocute fur-bearing mammals.

On the flip side, argon, is considered only conditionally acceptable in some cases, even though it most likely cause less distress than carbon dioxide (which is generally always acceptable). When used in conjunction with CO2, argon and nitrogen gases can actually reduce the pre-anesthetic discomfort and aversive behaviors.

End point: The AVMA may not necessarily be providing us with the most humane methods of euthanization and may be considering more humane methods, like argon, as "conditionally acceptable".
Other animal control professionals told the committee that outlawing carbon monoxide for pet euthanasia would be too expensive and would cause more "compassion fatigue" for personnel.
Question: Do you know of any study documenting gas chambers increase compassion fatigue in animal shelter personnel more so than injection?

I ask, because I do not. Killing healthy, adoptable animals induces compassion fatigue, no matter what method you use. Killing animals, in general, increases compassion fatigue. But should we be using how humans feel as a barometer for what is most humane for the nonhuman being killed? I do not think so. If the most humane method of killing an animal is more gruesome for the human doing the killing, then measures should be taken to provide proper counseling and therapy to the human. Granted, I do not believe the most humane methods of killing nonhumans are generally gruesome.

Now, I do not necessarily think carbon monoxide, argon, or nitrogen gas chambers are less humane than injecting euthanasia solution. I think, when in good operating order and when one animal is killed at a time, they can be as humane as euthanasia solution. I also think an alternative would be inhalant anesthetics, which are arguably more humane than gas chambers.

If, all things being equal (i.e. the suffering of the animal is the same), it is true that using a CO gas chamber reduced compassion fatigue, sure, it should be standard operating procedure. But I do not believe this is the case.

Like I said above, I think killing animals increases compassion fatigue, regardless of how the animals are killed. 

*Carbon dioxide eventually induces hypoxia and anoxia (no oxygen), but it's effects tend to be different than the other gases mentioned.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Police shoot dog in his own backyard

Minneapolis police are defending shooting a neighbor's dog during an arrest at another home. The dog was in his backyard when police were attempting to arrest someone next door.

Witnesses say the dog didn't do anything.

Police say the dog barked aggressively.

And so they shot him.

Since when is barking aggressively when chaos is coming close to your home-front a shoot-worthy sin?

Dog Parks

I was reading this story about a 110-lb dog who killed a 10-lb dog as the smaller dog was leaving the park.

According to Tampa Bay Online, the dog was a 110-lb Mastiff Mix.

But according to the St. Petersburg Times, the dog was a Rhodesian Ridgeback.

Both reports are posted on the same day.

A 110-lb Ridgeback, while not impossible, is large (unless the dog was fat). A 110-lb Mastiff is more likely. Without pedigree, we don't know. Without pictures, we can't really guess much. But we are label freaks, so we have to call this dog something, right?

The owners of the smaller dog don't want to see the larger dog killed. They would like to see new rules in place. The dog park is new and it allows large and small dogs to intermingle. This is a recipe for disaster, even by accident (a large dog "playing"with a small dog could result in harm).

I have mixed feelings on dog parks. When used properly and when large enough, they can be great for many dogs. Small parks with too many dogs are a disaster (there is one at the 400-acre park I take my dogs to; it's like an 1/8 of an acre, and every time I walk by there's a skirmish or all out fight). Dogs need to be run off leash, I feel this is very important to being a Dog, and I think it can enhance their dogginess and our relationship with them.

But really, I want to see more off-leash hiking areas where people can exercise with their dogs. Dogs are less likely to be neurotic when they can't see fences and can really escape, run, play, sniff and explore. This is hard in urban areas, but I think it would be good for both people and dogs.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Home Owners Insurance Woes

I just bought a house. For reals, first time home buyer here! I'm both giddy and overwhelmed by the entire process. It's taken less than a month to find the home and, today, sign all the escrow documents to close.

Before the loan could be approved, I needed a quote from a homeowner's insurance agency.

I first called State Farm. I use them for my rental insurance, and they do not discriminate based on the type of dog you own. The quote seemed expensive. The loan agent suggest I call AAA. I use them for my car insurance and you can generally get a good discount for having multiple policies with the same company.

When I asked about their dog policy, the agent (a really nice person, by the way) said: "No Pit Bulls, Dobermans, Rottweilers, German Shepherds or Chow Chows".

Oh, I said. Well, I have a Pit Bull.

Is she purebred, he asked?

Well, I don't know. She's from a shelter. I have no clue who her parents were or what is in her lineage. But, I don't think I could get away with calling her anything else.

He paused and then proceeded to try and find a way for me to get this insurance. By fudging the truth and saying Mina's a mixed breed. And if she was on site when the inspector came - hide her. He's made this suggestion many times to people as a way to bypass what many agents feel is an unfair and discriminatory law.

The kicker was that the insurance was nearly $400 cheaper a year than State Farm. It was tempting.

But the reality is that I'll always have Pit Bulls in my life. I will never willingly bring into my home a dog who goes about eating people. Perhaps the only accident I could see happening is a dog-dog encounter on the front lawn or, perhaps, a dog-cat encounter in my backyard. Accidents happen, of course, but like I have managed Mina's leash reactivity, I would go about managing any aggressive dog's behavior (assuming I'm not on the receiving end of repeated attacks, of course).

I might want a Doberman in my life. Or maybe a Rottie mix. Or a German Shepherd (Celeste is my German Monkey, but her lineage remains a mystery). And it might be that the dog is not a *want* but a *need* - that is, a dog who has nowhere else to go or who bonds with me and I with them. I don't want to be concerned that, should the unthinkable happen and my dog does harm someone or another animal, my insurance agency is going to drop me and deny a claim because of my dog's breed.

So, I decided to pick up State Farm's car insurance and homeowner's insurance. I get a multi-policy discount and, yeah, still pay more than $200 a year than AAA.

But I'm okay with that.

I like that the only questions State Farm asks is: Have your dogs bitten anyone? and Are you dogs trained to attack? I told them Mina is trained to snuggle. This is perfectly insurable behavior.

While I appreciate AAA attempting to bypass the internal regulation, I could not bring myself to do it. I wouldn't besmirch anyone who chose differently - for some, $200 a year means much, much, much more than to me (it means something, but not as much as it might if I had, say, two kids and was a single mom). It is just sad anyone would have to be put in that position over dogs who have done nothing to earn such an unfair label of "not insurable."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

How Many Firefighters Does it Take to Rescue a Teapot Puppy?

Four! Not only that, but the four firefighters rushed to the scene to free this puppy from the clutches of an evil teapot! Actually, they thought a person had gotten trapped in a teapot, which would have been impressive.

This is a cute story, but I wonder why they called emergency officials. A gentle tapping of a hammer would have sufficed. That is besides the point (geez Rinalia, way to ruin the moment)- that puppy is adorable and was clearly in love with the coconut chai tea in that teapot.

However, that is not a Bull Mastiff puppy*. Under New Zealand law, technically that puppy should be muzzled at all times, since American Pit Bull Terriers and their mixes are all labeled menacing dogs, along with three breeds that probably do not exist frequently in New Zealand.

The muzzle is to prevent them from eviscerating antique teapots.

*According to this article, the dog is a Bull Mastiff Pit Bull cross.

My Constituent Told Me To Do It!

I love this excuse. It is made by legislators all the time when they propose stupid legislation. Sometimes it is true, but mostly it's an inept excuse.

Illinois Senator Bill Brady used this excuse when he came under fire for proposing a law that would allow animal shelters to stuff as many animals as possible into a gas chamber. Currently, one animal at a time may be placed in a gas chamber and, according to McLean County Health Department spokesperson, Erin Tolle, the animal just falls asleep all happy and cozy as a bug in a rug!

But then the HSUS was all, um, for reals? and Senator Brady was all OMG A CONSTITUENT MADE ME DO IT, U R MEANZ!

I think gassing can be "humane" when it is used to euthanize irremediably unhealthy animals. Just like I think euthanasia solution can be "humane" when it is used to euthanize irremediably unhealthy animals.  Can be, being the operative phrase.

There is nothing humane about killing healthy animals.

As far as welfare is concerned, there are pros and cons to each form of death. Gassing requires a good system. It works best when only one animal is in the chamber. A geriatric animal will react differently than a neonate than a juvenile. A stressed animal will react differently than a calm one. Placing multiple animals into a gas chamber ignores this fact and results in some animals being rendered unconscious, not dead. The machine has to be in good working order and supplying the right concentration of gas to induce unconsciousness, then death, and avoid anxiety and avoidance behaviors.

Euthanasia solution works best when the animal is calm or tranquilized. If the sedation occurs in the kennel, that eliminates the stress of moving the animal. If not, movement of animal can be as stressful as the actual injection. It requires more skill in finding a vein for adult animals, which also requires physical restraint, a stressful process (you can go IM, but it takes longer and isn't really rec'd, IP is rec'd for poultry and neonates). It is more expensive. It can be more or less gentle than gassing.

For an animal who wants to live, neither are very appealing.

And therein lies the problem

""You can't put yourself in the water unless you trust them and they trust you," Brancheau said."

These are the tragic words of a SeaWorld trainer killed by a killer whale.

I work with farmed animals. They are domestic species, of course. There are seven cattle, eleven production pigs, eight sheep and eleven goats. These are medium to large animals, the largest weighs 2,200 lbs. I trust them to be animals, themselves. I do not trust them to avoid harming me when afraid or upset. I do not trust that they are as body aware as I am (pigs are very body aware, cattle are not). Of course, we do not expect the animals to perform stupid tricks or live in entirely unnatural settings.

An orca is not a domestic animal. S/he never will be. The only trust I have with wild animals is that they are predictably unpredictable, even more so when put - no matter how long - in an unnatural setting.

I am sorry this woman died. I have no doubt she loved this whale and her job. Love and trust do not stop wild animals from doing wild things, including killing people (intentionally or otherwise).

But Mina Remains Emo Queen

Pit Bull sad eyes

She can be very serious too.
Pit Bull sleepy eyes

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Celeste Transforms Into Mina

I did not think it was possible for Celeste to encapsulate the woe that Mina is so talented at emoting.

It turns out Celeste is just a Mina-Emo-Dog in training.

Emo kid Celeste

Celeste has a shiny nose

California Legislation

Last Friday marked the last day for legislators in California to introduce bills for the second of a 2-year session.

There are 2,760 assembly bills and 1,476 senate bills. Some have already failed or passed, while others are active. I can see why people get tired of government, though, 4,000 pieces of legislation is a lot! And that does not even include the special budget bills!

Here's a list of bills affecting animals and their guardians/owners. I think SB 1277 will be the big animal bill of the year (in terms of controversy).

AB 233 - Assemblymember Smyth - Tax deduction for adoption
People who adopt animals would be able to deduct costs associated with that adoption, up to $100. It is a carryover bill, so it may be a couple of months before it's heard by the appropriations committee. I think it's a nice, small incentive to adopt animals.

AB 1980 - Assemblymember Hayashi - Animal control agents and first aid
Animal control officers would be able to provide first aid to animals, provided they receive appropriate training. I look forward to the analysis to see why this is even being proposed.

AB 2000 - Assemblymember Hagman - Rabies vaccine exemption
State law requires all dogs older than four months of age to receive a rabies vaccine at minimum, once a year. This law would add a clause exempting dogs who a veterinarian determines would have a lethal reaction to the vaccine. Guardians/owners would have to renew the exemption annually, so in areas where people can get a 3-yr license, those exempted would have to get a 1-yr license. I fully support this legislation, unless convinced otherwise.

AB 2411 - Assemblymember Jones - Regulation of pet insurance industry
This is the state's attempt to regulate the pet insurance industry by adding it to the state's Insurance Code. It would prohibit pet insurance agencies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions for a period of six months following the effective date. A pre-existing condition clause could apply to conditions that were diagnosed by a veterinarian during the six months prior to the effective date of coverage. Those insurance companies that do not have a pre-existing condition clause must limit their waiting/affiliation period to 30 days before coverage begins. I'll save my opinion until I see the first committee analysis.

AB 2716 - Assemblymember Mendoza - Licensing reduction for puppies
This bill would reduce the fee for the licensing of puppies under the age of 8 months by half. I am curious about the rationale for this bill in a state with severely underfunded animal control agencies. Granted, licensing rates in the US are offensively low*, around 10% in many regions of California. Does the author think this will increase the rate of licensing because more people will license their animals if the fee is cheaper? I am not sure. I will also wait for the analysis before formulating a firm opinion on this one.

SB 1185 - Senator Maldonado - Tax deduction for adopted animals
People who adopt animals would be able to deduct up to $250 in food and supplies associated with the cost of that animal. It would be applicable for the taxable year in which a person adopted an animal.

SB 1277 - Senator Florez - Animal abuser internet registry
This bill has already created a lot of buzz in the animal welfare community. Senatore Florez is not shy when it comes to controversy or trying to help animals. Last year, he successfully lobbied the passage of a bill to ban tail-docking of cattle in the state, introduced legislation to try and regulate antibiotics fed to livestock (it failed), and perhaps most notoriously, revived the mandatory spay/neuter debate with SB 250 (which is in the Assembly for a vote, at some point). SB 1277 would create an internet registry of convicted animal abusers (felons, specifically). It would require the person's photo, physical address, name, identifying features. They would have to register annually and failure to do so would be a misdemeanor. Creatively, Florez includes a way to pay for the proposal through a surcharge on pet food (that is, consumers pay slightly more for their animals' feed).  Here's my take on the bill. I look forward to the analysis on this one. I think this will be the most controversial animal bill of the session.

These are not all the bills affecting animals. There are several hunting/wildlife bills. No farmed animal bills. I figured most of you are interested in companion animals.

*As an aside, in New Zealand, all the councils complain about their licensing rates too. Perhaps Americans could commiserate. Alas, New Zealand has a 90% compliance rate, so even with a strong licensing rate, government officials still complain!

Jackson City Fails at Logic

Jackson, Mississippi is looking at banning Pit Bulls. A Pit Bull is an American Pit Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier. Just so you know.

Let me describe how you go about banning Pit Bulls:

1) Become fearful because a chained resident Pit Bull kills a child in another city.
2) Talk about how there have been 8 dog attacks since December, five on humans.
3) Mention that two have been from mixed breeds, but call them Pit Bull mixes.
4) Ban Pit Bulls (Jackson has not gotten to this step, but they're close).
5) And by Pit Bulls, include American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and American Bulldog. Neglect to mention only two of those breeds are Pit Bulls. Fact is not necessary to ban dogs.
6) See how safe the community feels. Ignore increased dog bites and litigation fees.

This is irrational behavior. It is also illogical. I will hope Jackson chooses an approach that addresses the problem, not the symptoms.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

HSUS and Olivera Farms

In 2008, I accompanied an HSUS lawyer to Olivera Farms in Lathrop, CA.

Olivera Farms is a California egg producer. They used to run three facilities but now only have one with 750,000 hens. They are considered a "family farm".

I have been to two of Olivera's egg farms. The first was in 2004 where I helped legally pull 2,000 hens from wire cages (the farm had 160,000 hens). That farm is shuttered and dead.

The second is the one you see on your left. I did not go in the farm. We visited those small buildings you see on the right - homes.

That black thing? That's a 16.5 acre cesspool, i.e. a large open pit of chicken shit.

Have you ever smelled open, raw sewage? Maybe an outhouse at some fair or event that has completely filled up. The smell of an open manure pit is 1,000 times worse. Neighbors cannot drink their water. They cannot sit outside because of the flies and smell. On a windy day, you can smell the farm a 1/2-1 mile away.

Birds are fed antibiotic-laced feed. You cannot get away with housing 5-8 birds in a cage, 80-100,000 per building and expect healthy animals. Feeding antibiotics to livestock increase the risk of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Antibiotic resistant bacteria can be transmitted via flies, the wind, and of course, through groundwater. Which is why it's smart those neighbors stay inside and don't drink the water.

Asthma is a problem. Lung and ocular irritation is a problem.

And you know what, no one gives a damn. Consumers want cheap eggs. To get cheap eggs, you have to maximize profits. This means sticking a lot of animals into an enclosed space, animal welfare and neighbors be damned.

Now, open manure pits are not common in the egg industry. It requires trucking in a lot of water to flush out the shit into the pit. The manure sits there and is sometimes spread onto crops. Salmonella? That's how it gets onto your vegetables.

Olivera Farms has a pipe from their manure pit that runs into a major waterway. Dumping untreated sewage into this waterway is illegal. I will assume Olivera never used that pipe, until proven otherwise.

Neighbors have tried for years to get help. They have filed complaints with the county - nothing. Environmental groups have come out before and promised litigation - nothing.

You can thank HSUS for Olivera Farms facing six violations and a lawsuit on behalf of 10 neighbors.

I met those neighbors. While I ached the most for the birds, whose lives are day after day of suffering, I ached for those people too. For their asthma and sickness. For their inability to ever sell their homes. For their marginalization. Their suffering is the result of people's desire for a cheap food source.

No matter how you feel about HSUS, they are doing something good for these people - giving them a voice when everyone else demanded their silence. No more.

California - Internet Animal Abuse Registry

Senator Dean Florez has introduced a piece of legislation (SB 1277) in California that would create an internet registry of felony-level animal abusers. It would be funded by a tax/surcharge on the sale of pet food (California's fiscal crisis requires legislators to get creative about how their proposed programs will be funded). You can read the bill's language here.

There are some discussions on this subject over at KC Dog Blog and Animal Rights and AntiOppression, which I think both offer various opinions on the subject.

I can think of only one system in place that is perhaps comparable - the sexual offenders database. It is federal law, all states must have it (which has brought up state v. federal issues).

Do these databases reduce the risk of recidivism?

Generally speaking, no. A 2006 report found no statistical difference in recidivism based on community awareness. That is, even with a high level of community awareness, convicted offenders were no more or less likely to recommit. A 2009 analysis of data showed that the internet registry used did not predict recidivism. The Justice Policy Institute believes these registries fail our youth. Other studies show sex offenders do not have significantly lower rates of recidivism in regards to sex offenses, even though every single state must provide public access to where sex offenders reside.

So far, and this is with little data since it's relatively new, using GPS on the most dangerous offenders has helped reduce the risk of recidivism (since the tracker can place you at the scene and time of a crime, yo).

Canada approaches this issue differently and their recidivism rates are much lower. This is because they treat sex offenders as opposed to further criminalizing them after they are released. A 2009 study shows that the national program, Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) has helped to significantly reduce the recidivism rate and has done so for the past 15 years.

Will the same thing happen with a database of animal abusers?

I don't know, but I tend to think so.

The questions to ask: Will this deter others from abusing animals? Will this reduce repetitive animal abuse (i.e. recidivism)?

This type of program, in my view, only has merit if it deters others from abusing animals and reduces the likelihood of repeat offenses. That is, I will toss aside privacy issues if the results improve animal welfare and reduce repeat offenses. This has not proven to be true in the case of sexual offenders, even with community awareness.

I like creative programs. I think it is good to be provocative and think of different ways to tackle problems. At the same time, it is important to be cognizant that creative does not translate into effective or right. Since there is no proof that comparable programs do not reduce crime or improve safety, but there is proof that an alternative program does reduce repeat offenses....well, why go with the broken system? Why not look north to Canada and consider a comparable program for animal abusers? A program that does not further criminalize and disenfranchise but offers an opportunity for real change?

Certainly, I am missing other arguments against and in favor of this program. I don't think people will like to pay more for pet food to fund this program, though I applaud Florez's team for coming up with a built-in payment solution. There are other ethical and legal issues too. But in the end, for me, I just don't think this will truly help either nonhumans or humans.

But I welcome dissenting opinions. You may sway me to your side!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ibizan Hounds

I would like to share this secret with you all: I love Ibizan Hounds. When my finances are more secure and I can afford a third dog, I want that dog to be an Ibizan Hound.

This is a want, not a need. I have met a grand total of one Ibizan Hound and, like the first Pit Bull I met, I fell in love. He had a pink-nose, a patchy eye, and a gentle, if not sometimes excitable, temperament. He hated cats with a passion but loved dogs of all sizes. He ran like the wind, beauty and elegance wrapped into one lithe, muscular package. And I wanted to steal him. He was the perfect size, not too small, not too large, and he exemplified fragile sturdiness.

The only other Ibizan I have seen was one running a lure course, and I saw firsthand joy embodied.

I have met Greyhounds, Pharaoh Hounds, Salukis, Wolfhounds, Deerhounds, Afghans and Borzois and none have ever struck a chord in my heart like those two Ibizans (one of whom I never actually met!)

I will not buy a dog. I just cannot bring myself to. So, I will have to rely on the universe's assistance in aligning the stars in such a way that at the right moment in my life and in some needy Ibizan Hound's life, we will meet and I will snorgle an Ibizan of my very own. If it happens while Mina is still alive, I eagerly await people thinking they are related. I can call Mina an Ibizabull Terrier or the Ibizan a Pit Bullizan. Good times will be had. Celeste will call the dog a stupid head and learn to cohabitate with another pink-nosed canine. Life will be good.

Pit Bull Attack Has Owner, Humane Society At Odds

A man believes a dog he has never seen is guilty of attacking his dog. 

He claims to have filed an animal control report, while the shelter claims they have not received such a report. By law, unless a report is filed, random people off the street cannot just waltz into the shelter, point at a dog, and accuse her of biting another dog. He is annoyed the law is not shaped to suit his wants. The law works in mysterious ways, I know (sarcasm).

The best part are the comments.

Even though no one knows that the dog at the shelter is the aggressor or not, everyone is getting their undies in a twist, demanding the dog be killed and that they will never adopt from this shelter ever in a million years. People hear "Pit Bull" and they become irrational idiots.

Everyone is, in fact, an expert about this dog. They go so far as to claim that she must be dog aggressive and thus human aggressive and thus she should be killed.

Nevermind that there is no evidence she bit any dog. Evidence? That is crazy talk.

Maryland Senate Bill 505

I think this is an interesting approach to tackling the "puppy mill" problem.

A Maryland Senate Bill would ban the retail sale of dogs less than nine months old. It would not apply to breeders that do not sell through retail pet stores or shelters.

No large-scale breeder selling to pet stores will spend the money necessary to raise puppies until they are 9-mos-old. That's not cost-effective. The profit is in not having to feed and really spend money on puppies who can be sold at 5-9 weeks of age - mom does the hard work, and the breeder need only feed her.

So, this in effect, would put any puppy mills wishing to sell in retail stores out of business. If there are pet stores whose primary profits are from the sale of puppies, they will either go out of business or re-evaluate their "products".

Certainly large-scale breeders could sell animals through the internet or other non retail store venues, but I think this is a pretty creative approach to a very real ethical problem.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Kramer's neck feathers

This is one of my new favorite photos. The lighting is divine and egad, Kramer's feathers are so perfect and beautiful. He's one of about a dozen roosters at the santuary. He looks amazingly like his father (Kramer is from an accidental clutch!). Arturo, his father, recently died of Marek's disease, which has been negatively affecting the flock, including previously vaccinated birds ever since we did a rescue from a cockfighting operation. Arturo was a gentlemanly rooster, one of about three of the roosters. Kramer is a stereotypical juvenile male and is more interested in sex than courtship. But, he sure does have lovely neck feathers.
Kramer's neck feathers

3 Dead From Dog Attacks This Weekend

In the grand scheme of things, three people being killed in a weekend by dogs is hardly statistically significant. But the idea of our dogs killing us hits a nerve, wounds us deeply and thus it is News.

Marion County, Florida - A 3-yr-old girl became entangled in the chain of the family's resident dog. For whatever reason, the commotion attracted the attention of the chained dog and ended in the child's death. There were three other dogs nearby, all with apparent access to the child, and none of them attacked. The dog was an American Bulldog. The first reports called the dogs Pit Bulls (American Bulldogs are not, under any circumstance, to be confused with American Pit Bull Terriers) and blamed all four dogs for the attack. Recent reports have corrected the breed and indicated that 1/4 of the dogs engaged in the actual attack. When the news articles mention breed in the title, it is only to mention Pit Bull. All the news articles with the correct breed do not mention that breed in the title. About 60% of the news articles call the dogs Pit Bulls.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: An adult woman who was arguing with her mother fell backwards and, while she was falling, physically grabbed her mother. At that point, one of the mother's dogs grabbed the woman by the throat. There were five dogs in the house and none of the other dogs engaged in the attack. The Philadelphia Inquirer chooses to refer to a as their source of information on Pit Bulls. Anyone who claims Pit Bull type dogs comprise five percent of the dog population is a little on the silly side. Pit Bulls are hugely popular dogs and, in many urban shelters, make up 30-40% of the shelter population. They definitely make up more than 5% of the total dog population - that's simply logical. The woman was possibly high and acting abnormally - the dog reacted appropriately, for a dog, and inappropriately for a human. Of course, *our* reaction is entirely situational - and this is where I think we fail our dogs - had this woman been trying to kill or illegally invade the woman's home, this dog would be a hero. We hold dogs to human standards or morality and this is incredibly unfair and dangerous to ourselves and dogs.

Independence, Minnesota- An 10-11-day old baby was bitten in the head and killed by the family's Husky. The child was in a car seat on the bed. The dog got on the bed and, at some point, bit the child in the head, possibly numerous times. The child was alone with the dog at the time. The dog does not have a history of any type of human aggression, but I wager no one bothered to prepare the dog for a tiny infant, either.

Now, I'm of the mindset that dog bite fatalities are incredibly rare, considering how many of us have dogs and how many dogs there are in this country. They are sad and tragic.

More than that, I think people feel a greater sense of betrayal. We have stopped treating dogs like dogs and started to treat them as if they have the capacity for moral and immoral behavior. Or, more specifically, as if they have the cognitive abilities to know when and when not to bite a human being. They don't, they never will. Their world is far different than our own, and to ignore their canine nature is to ask for a bite or worse.

As I will always maintain, it's amazing more of us aren't killed or severely wounded by dogs. We do a lot of stupid and mean (intentionally or otherwise) things to dogs and yet they show incredible restraint. We tether them and yet most chained dogs don't bite people, even though we have created incredibly frustrated, bored dogs. We leave dogs alone with annoying infants and children, setting both up for failure, yet millions of us can recall happy stories of our nanny dog NOT eating us. We keep dogs in homes and apartments, with little room to truly run free, and fight in front of them, get the energy all convoluted...yet, most of us can recall a heated debate or perhaps even a physical altercation in which our dogs did nothing. We do so much to and around our dogs that wouldn't fly in a group of dogs.

So while these are tragic occurrences, they are rare. They are not normal. And, for all the horror they embody, for all the supposed betrayal they reflect, dogs have remained constant companions who have, for thousands of years, endured much from humans without batting an eyelash.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Humane Society of San Bernardino

I wrote about how the Humane Society of San Bernardino Valley has been killing thousands of animals each year without public knowledge.

There's a new blog collecting information about the shelter. You can find the other blog in the comments at my previous entry. I am not affiliated with this blog. People with information regarding HSSBV call Press-Enterprise reporter Mark Muckenfuss at 951-368-9595 or email him at

I still want to know which rescues and shelter sent their animals to HSSBV for killing. I find that just as offensive as the secretive killing HSSBV performed.

ETA: Hey adults, let's play nice.

Goat and Sheep: Play Fighting, Interesting Behavior

If you have an interest in inter-species play/fight behavior, then watch this video I took yesterday. Otherwise, it might be rather boring. You have been warned.

Animal Place is home to 11 goats and 8 sheep. The sheep have learned goats are more aggressive than they and many have horns. Every now and then, a younger sheep will show an interest in interacting with one of the goats.

Lenny, a 2-yr-old Merino wether (neutered) and Annie, a middle-aged Boer doe, began the dance of play. Some may argue they are displaying signs of dominance, but Lenny’s lack of intense aggression leads me to believe they are more play than actual fight. Further, Annie shows incredible restraint when she head-butts Lenny.

Sheep and goats are different in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. Goats are browsers while sheep are grazers – both are ruminants, with a four-chambered stomach. The horns on goats and sheep differ. When approached by potential predators, sheep form a tight flock and tend to run away. Goats tend to form a tight herd, turn to face the predator in a straight line, and only back down if forced to (I’ve seen foolish dogs head-butted and tossed by goats). There is one sheep at Animal Place who acts like a goat when faced with a dog, and he once “saved” the sheep flock from a roaming Border Collie by charging down the hill and chasing the dog off. (He came up to me quite pleased with himself). So, of course, there are individual variances and personalities.

When fighting, sheep back up and charge; goats circle around, move a few feet away, rear up at an angle, and then land hard for the head-butt. The fighting “head-butt” behavior is also a form of play and a way to interact socially with conspecifics and, dangerously, sometimes with humans as well.

The Video
Annie exhibits classic goat head-butting behavior. Lenny does not exhibit classic sheep head-butting behavior and tries, in his own small way, to emulate Annie. He does not have the behavioral inclination to rear up or angle himself, but you can see him try a couple of times to hop a little before butting heads.

You can also see how restrained Annie is in her rearing and butting behavior. Instead of ramming full-force, she slows slightly before making contact with Lenny. I think this shows Annie’s ability to modify her behavior to accommodate Lenny. She does not do this with goats.

You’ll see a white sheep, Simon, come in for a closer inspection and back away quite quickly when he realizes there’s a goat involved. I am certain he thinks Lenny is nuts.

Lenny is naturally polled – he was born without horns. As you can plainly see, Annie has horns.The only time Lenny becomes uncomfortable is when Annie's horns encounter his unnatural wool and snag.

After a bit, Lenny becomes clearly uncomfortable. He pulls back and starts to grind his teeth (it looks like he is chewing his cud). But Annie’s not giving up and they smash heads again. About 30 seconds later (not in video), Laura comes over and intervenes. You can see and hear the distinct difference between two horned goats head-butting and what you’ve been seeing between Annie and Lenny. It’s not just the sound, either, it’s the force. Annie has really been restraining herself with Lenny but does not do so w/ Laura.

I love the moment after. Laura standing proud in the middle, a referee. Annie is annoyed off to the side and Lenny isn’t sure what to do. But I think he’s probably relieved.

And just for sake of comparison, I kept in when Annie and Laura continue their “fight”. You can see the difference in force. Laura does not rear up a lot because she was dragged around by a broken front leg before arriving at the sanctuary. It healed but not completely.

I like what this video conveys: Nonhuman animals can adjust their behavior to accommodate others. Individuals can show curiosity and avoidance or show curiosity and interference. Sheep are not all “sheep” – Simon would not do what Lenny did. Goats are not all “goats” – one of the other goats would have hurt Lenny, but Annie adjusted to his behavior.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Bantam hen with big grape

Black hen and grapeYes, that hen really is that small. She's a bantam mixed breed with a love of all things grape. She is about half the size of the big, black hen in the background (a black orpington) and the gold-laced orpington on the far right. Because she splits the grape up to eat, she always picks them up and runs away to enjoy her treat.

Oh, You Climate Change Deniers, You!

They should have stuck with "climate change", not "global warming".

FauxNews, bringing back the logic fail! Thankfully, we have The Daily Show

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Vicious Dog Attacks Rare

I give a big fat A for effort to the Wausau Daily Herald and their article about Pit Bulls and dog attacks being a rare occurrence in the area.

A quibble:

In both recent Wausau incidents, the dogs involved were pit bull mixes

One dog was a Labrador-Pit Bull mix. Why not call him a Lab mix? Or, better yet, why not call them both "mixed breeds"? Their breed is far less salient than their behavior.

Language is important and how we choose to label a person, place or thing can affect our initial perception of that person, place or thing.

The Lab-Pit Bull mix might have elicited more of a public outcry if he had been labeled Lab mix. The dog's bite did not break the skin and it appears he may have been trying to erroneously protect his owner during a dispute. That he mis-aimed and nipped a police officer ended poorly after the officer shot him (he survived). Add Pit Bull, though, and well, it's just more fodder for the anti-dog zealots. It's expected, almost, that a Pit Bull would bite someone and so the officer was more than justified in shooting a dog for nipping.

Still, like I said, A for effort and for not going along with the media status quo when it comes to Pit Bulls.

You can thank the author with an email or write a letter to the editor. Comments are allowed at the story's site.

Journalists are much more likely to cover positive stories when they are praised. Positive reinforcement works with humans too!

Also, that dog pictured in the article? She's totally available for adoption. Her name is Prima. She has a pink-nose. You may be surprised to learn I feel pink-nosed Pit Bulls are the absolute best. Talk about judging a dog by their physical appearance, right? I am not ashamed.

Rally in Brampton, Ontario for Rambo and Brittany

A rally will be held on behalf of a 75-yr-old woman and her two Boxer mixes confiscated illegally and cruelly under Ontario's Dog Owner's Liability Act (which essentially bans all Pit Bulls born after a certain date). See below for more information.

From KC Dog Blog:

The two dogs in Brampton, Ontario that are being held under DOLA still need your help. They're not 'pit bulls'. Even if they were, the law wouldn't be just. And the city's decision to not let the owners see the animals for over a month while in the shelter is just spiteful, regardless of the city's plea that they're really compassionate.
Date: Saturday, Feb 20
Time: 12pm - 3pm
Location: Brampton City Hall - 2 Wellington Street, Brampton, ON
If you live in or near Brampton, please show up and show your support.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Spring Brings Out the Compliments

Yesterday was 72 F, t-shirt weather. It was also dog-walking weather.

The ladies and I discovered spring-like weather in February brings out the compliments from random strangers. It only lasts one day, so you have to time it perfectly.

The first person we walked past smiled, said hi and then said "pretty dogs". Yeah. We cool.

Next came the leather-wearing motorcyclist who mauled Mina with attention.

You know, I've learned people feel bad for Celeste. Mina is pretty. She is petite. People who hate Pit Bulls like Mina. She's just that kind of dog. Celeste is sort of, you know, blah. Her one saving grace are here blue eyes (one and a half, to be exact). So when the next man saw Mina, he started to say, "You have a pretty dog...s there" adding the "s", so as not to insult me or Celeste. Then he specified Mina's prettiness.

Walk, I said to myself, walk. I mean, I don't take the dogs for a walk just to chit-chat with strangers. It's serious business. The dogs feel it too, Mina especially. She strains to the end of her leash and stares intently, ignoring any and all attention. Walk!

Mid-walk, we got the "The larger one is older, right?" Everyone does this. They assume Mina is a puppy and Celeste is an old lady. No, I tell him, Mina's eleven. No! For real? It's like I told them their mother had an affair with the mail-man. Or woman, whomever. I mean, they get shocked and nearly offended about Mina's age. I don't blame them. Mina really needs to regress in age so as to live a lot longer.

Two hundred feet later, we encounter a woman who tells me, without explanation, "I bet you call her 50:50." I nod and smile, because hey! keep the natives happy, right? It's about a 1/4 mile later that I realize she meant Celeste and her blue eyes. I want to run back and tell her I got what she meant and that, really, she should be called 75:25 because one eye is half brown. I don't.

The walk was nearing its inevitable end and I was feeling pretty good.

Then we were surrounded by THREE DOGS. Just kidding. They were all on leash - two Weimies and an American Bulldog. They were all well-behaved. I hid Mina behind a car and pretended mine were also well-behaved. I waved and smiled and acted like hiding behind cars was normal for my walk. And sometimes, it is. Mina was suspicious and knew I was trying to hide dogs from her b/c she heard their dog tags. She glared at me, huffed at the car, and nose-bopped my leg.

And that was that.

So, dog lovers, walk your dogs the very first second it's like spring and the trees think it's time to flower. You'll be bestowed with compliments galore. It is a one-day only sort of affair. Today, no compliments, even though the weather's just as nice. The natives are fickle with their kind words.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mina Goes to the Vet

The Drive
It's President's Day in the US today - it's also my normal weekend (Sun/Mon). I really should have thought it through when I decided to take Mina to the vet today.

Right about when I was heading out to Davis from Vacaville, several drivers asked themselves, "How can I make life difficult for first responders while also making it more convenient?" So, ten drivers decided to pile drive each other on both sides of the highway, about a mile apart from each other, making it really easy for the fire department to access each crash site.

What normally takes me 30 minutes, took 50.

I called the vet and let them know I would be late. Which turned out didn't matter (learn more below).

Late and annoyed with all other drivers, even myself, Mina and I arrived ready to get this appointment done and over with.

As I opened the door to the vet, I noticed a large German Shepherd lying down while his owner/guardian was paying the final bill. I'm used to Mina's leash reactivity and am also used to the embarrassing whine-fest that ensues when she sees another dog. I manage it and smile at everyone and all is well.

Except I didn't even get to enter the vet's office. For a brief second, I chuckled as the dog heaved himself up, it was so comical. That is, until he screamed out a battle cry, and began charging us. Just as I was about ready to slam the door, the woman notices her dog's imminent attack and presses the button to stop the flexi-lead.

That's right folks, this woman had a dog-aggressive (or perhaps just Mina-aggressive), 90lb dog on a flexi-lead at a vet hospital. By pure luck, she was able to stop her dog.

We waited outside until that particular bill was paid and the dog left (yelling at Mina the whole time, even though we hid behind a column).

The Wait
So, we get in, watch two dogs leave with lamp shades and wait for a room. Mina gets her weight on (40lbs on the dot) and then we get our wait on. Tick-tock goes the clock. Mina paces and sniffs and whines and sniffs and hopes that maybe the dog outside will come in for a) play or b) a scrap. We wait ten minutes for a tech to show up and violate Mina's rectum (I should add, Mina kisses the tech and wags her tail the whole time, so it is really only me who feels Mina's violation). And then we wait for the vet.

We wait 30 minutes before the vet finally comes in....because on President's Day, the Animal Wellness Center double and triple books their vets. For reals, that's crazy.

The Exam
Mina likes Dr. Dailey. Like a lot. She's all wagging tail and tongue-in-mouth kissing the vet. It's embarrassing and endearing all at the same time.

I show her the hair loss and COMMENTING PEOPLE, you were right - she immediately thinks endocrine and thyroid. One T4 blood test coming up.

She does notice that Mina has a weird lump and two benign tumors along with a hemangio blister (sunscreen on belly forever and ever to try and avoid adding a sarcoma to that).

Vet also says Mina's super sexy cute and at a perfectly awesome weight. She doesn't say sexy.

My favorite part: After the physical exam, as the vet is writing up her thoughts and observations, Mina's staring intently at her. She lets out a big, heaving, snorty-sigh that Pit Bull guardians always love and appreciate. Dr. Daly looks down. Mina looks up. I feel there should be a buzzing sound to accompany Mina's stare. Ah, the vet says, the cookie look. Two cookies later and Mina forgives the oversight.

The Blood Test
Tech comes back in to take Mina to the back for a blood test. I always tell them Mina's dog reactive and it never ceases to amaze them that I would tell them that. They practically give me hugs for letting them know.

But I know nothing happens b/c Mina is all quiet and all I hear are the techs cooing over her. Mina endures torture with great aplomb.

Famous last words: The tech says the test will take ten minutes.

I bust out the book in my purse and begin to read. It's good stuff. I get lost. And realize 40 minutes have passed. Enough is enough, I say to myself. Mina is all, enough was about 35 minutes ago, idiot human.

I pay my bill and ask them to have the vet call me....which she does when I'm in the parking lot, putting Mina in her seat belt.

The Diagnosis
Thyroid very low, double dose, re-check in a month.

When Mina and I got home, I let Celeste out of the crate. She was all OH MY GODS, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN DEAR SISTER OF MINE, YOU STINK! and Mina was all, Sniff my ear one more time and I will eat your nose. I was nomming on vegetarian Chinese food I picked up.

So that is that. Mina went to the vet. She got cookies. I got a headache but scored on Chinese food.

Family Alert - Oh,

In-depth journalism at its finest over at the Seattle Family and Parenting section of

Part I: Family alert:How well do you know your pit bull? Rachael Ray's pit involved in attack (Part 1)

Family alert! I'd love to see one of these suckers on a highway sign - Family alert! How well do YOU know your pit bull? flashing neon while I'm cruising up Hwy 80. I'd gaze over at Mina, nestled in her seatbelt, snoring contentedly, pretending we were not in a car driving. She'd crack open an eye and BAM...she'd close it. And then I'd have to really analyze how well I know Mina - was that the look of death? Was that eye-close a portend for things to come? SHOULD I PULL OVER NOW AND FLING HER INTO TRAFFIC?

Anyways, so we have a Family Alert over in Seattle. This is especially important for other pit bull owners because Rachael Ray's pit was involved in an attack. And well, if Rachael Ray's Pit Bull can "attack", ANY PIT BULL CAN!
Most pit bull owners believe their dog would never attack a pet or human, but Rachael Ray...
How do you go from "most x-lovers believe their x would never attack a pet or human, but FAMOUS PERSON's x did, so neener-neener"? Millions of Pit Bull owners/guardians have to be concerned about their dog's behavior because some wealthy television personality cannot control her dog? I once saw a red SUV (driven by someone famous, I'm sure) swerve into oncoming traffic. I am now concerned about all of us who drive red SUV's - we could swerve into incoming traffic at any moment, now that someone famous got the ball rolling. (Probably because I let my dog drive.)

Then the author brings us a quote from grandmother Karen M., who has a grandchild named Olivia and a Pit Bull. This grandma is unconcerned because the dog tolerates a lot from the kid (and her, since she sometimes sticks her hand in the dog's mouth). I think she does trust her dog, perhaps a bit too much. My concerns are, of course, that she is setting her child and dog up for possible failure...but not because the dog is a Pit Bull or her child the spawn of satan. But because dogs do not communicate like people and children are annoying(ly wonderful?).

Isabelle Zehnder, the writer of this piece, later offers up this insight: "Sadly, this kind of trust for a pit bull, or any other dog, for that matter, is what has led to the dismemberment, disfiguration, and lives of children."

Perhaps it is low of me, but I have to ask what she means by that last statement. Something's missing. We have dismemberment and disfiguration (I assume she meant "dismembered children" and "disfigured children") and then tacked on as an afterthought, "and lives of children." Spelling errors happen, and I know there is not a high degree of editing over at, but this is something that should have been caught in a simple proof-read.

But hey, thanks for throwing in "or any other dog", the now obligatory catch-phrase that further emphasizes the otherness of Pit Bulls.

My favorite part is NOW:
Ironically, in December 2009, a grandmother was charged when her 9-month old granddaughter, also named Olivia, was severely bitten by the grandmother's dog. The infant suffered serious injuries which left her hospitalized for nine days with facial wounds and a skull fracture.
Zehnder thinks the fact that 9-mos-old Olivia shares the same name as grand-child of misguided Karen M is ironic. Someone is unfamiliar with irony. Since 2002, Olivia has ranked as the 5-7th most popular girl's name. That two toddlers, born after 2002, would happen to share the name Olivia is hardly shocking and it certainly is NOT ironic.

More interesting are the circumstances surrounding the attack on Olivia Dezearn and how much they differ with anything Karen M offered in her statement.

1) The dog had bitten Olivia D the day before - Karen's Olivia has yet to even be bitten by her family's dog!
2) The dog and child were NOT left alone, the bites occurred in full view of other people - Karen's Olivia has been left alone with her family's dog, it's apparently a miracle she's alive!
3) There are discrepancies about the severity of the attack and I have no clue who to believe: Here's the source Zehnder used and here's the actual news report (with the strange title starting - "DO NOT PUBLISH-BAD...") which indicates the injuries may not have been as serious as implied earlier.

So really, the circumstances aren't similar. And, again, it's not irony.

Alright, folks, we are almost to the end of Part 1. I'm sure you are eagerly awaiting Part 2 - I know I am!
One issue with pit-bull type dogs is they often exhibit "bite, hold, and shake" behavior and refuse to release when biting, (1, 2) so some pit bull rescue organizations and advocacy groups recommend owners of pit bull-type dogs carry a "break stick" to lever their dog's jaws open if it bites a person or animal. (3, 4).
STRAIGHT FROM WIKIPEDIA! (You PC users, Ctrl F that sucker and search "bite, hold" and bam! there's your straight-up source for the quote above. Except Zehnder tries to add "foot-notes", but really, she nearly copied verbatim from the wikipedia article on Pit Bulls, then used THEIR supposed "sources" for all that misinformation.

First off, lots of dogs "bite, hold, and shake" and refuse to release when biting. It's like mandatory behavior for a predator. We've certainly devised training techniques and shaped some genetics to create dogs who might have a softer mouth or a restrained bite, but "bite, hold, and shake" is a normal sequence of canine predatory behavior, yo. It ain't a particularly special Pit Bull behavior.

And then the break stick! Oh, how I feel Pit Bull advocates have dug themselves a hole here. The real world applications of a break stick are few. They don't work on most dogs. Their efficacy in real-world situations with your average Pit Bull has not been tested. I can only say I've met a lot of Pit Bulls (most in the high-stress world of a hi-kill shelter) and seen a lot of fights and not once was a break stick a) needed or b) would have been effective. This is not to dismiss break sticks as valuable tools in the rare situations they are required (and hell yes, I'd probably be kicking myself silly if I was in that situation and didn't have one), but I think their promotion as a vital and necessary tool if you want to walk a Pit Bull down the street has been both detrimental and misleading.

That is almost literally how the article ends with a teaser for Part II - A listing of high profile Pit Bull attacks! I know I can't wait. Except I will. You can read Part II for yourself - you can see irresponsible dog ownership, mis-identified breeds and a significant lack of anything resembling reporting (it's literally just a recap of "pit bull" attacks). Dear readers, don't read Part II. It's so cliche and THERE IS ALSO NO IRONY!

The end.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


These are many of the chickens who live at the sanctuary where I work. Some are from the egg industry, the meat industry and others are from cruelty cases, neglect cases and folks who can no longer care for their chickens. And eight of them are from hard-core hens who snuck away and nested without us knowing!

You'll see a lot of mixed breed birds and some identifiable breeds.

The first group you'll see are the "broilers"- we call them "peepers" because they all arrived as babies and cheeped, peeped their way into our hearts. These are the chickens people eat - 8.9-9.3 billion are slaughtered every year when they are 39-41 days old. You can see they are large and in charge! Most do not live long, suffering the side effects of breeding for obese birds. All of the ones you see are hens, female chickens. There is one rooster, Matt, who is kept separate b/c he can actually gouge out the sides of the hens when mounting them, he's so large. These are The Friendliest Chickens on Earth. If you ever want true companion chickens, these are the type to adopt - most people don't want them b/c a) they don't produce a lot of eggs and b) they don't live long. But they live their short lives to the fullest at the sanctuary!

They are separate as they are on a special diet.

Then you'll meet the rest of the crew. The smallísh white birds are White Leghorns, the most common breed used in the egg industry. All came from battery cage farms where they had less space to move than a standard piece of paper. If you look close enough, you'll see they have been beak trimmed which makes it harder to eat and preen (it's why many of them are a little dirtier than the others). It also hurts - there is a blood supply and nerves that run nearly to the tip of the beak.

The rest? Have fun guessing! You'll see a few buff Orpingtons, a bedraggled barred Plymouth, a couple speckled Sussex, a ridiculous Silkie rooster, some bantam game hens, a couple Ameraucana, a black Orpington mix, a white-crested Polish hen, and a whole host of other mixies. Bonus turkeys - one bourbon red and a royal palm. There are actually seven turkeys, but only two felt like hanging out in front of the camera.

We do have a dozen roosters and they mostly get along just fine. The small scuffle you see in the video is between Newman and Kramer, both brothers (both born here, on accident).

(And just as a warning, the final message is "go vegan" - so BE PREPARED, muhaha!)EDIT: Sorry for any confusion, it literally says "Be kind - go vegan" - nothing graphic!

They Do That To Bait Dogs

“From her injuries, it’s obvious she was chained up and backed into a corner, because the wounds are only the front of her. They do that to bait dogs — board them up in a pit hold in the ring so the fighting dogs can come at their faces.” Source
Where do they get this stuff? A "pit hold"? Backing dogs into corners?

This dog is scarred because she fought like a normal dog - with her mouth and teeth pointed directly at the face, neck, legs and chest of the dog in front of her. Generally speaking, dogs do not aim for the butt when they fight. The vital spots are up front and it's best to keep your teeth where a) it will do the most damage and b) it will protect you from the most damage. That's, of course, if you are really fighting for your life.

Yes, it's possible this dog was a "bait dog", but I think it's more likely she was either used for fighting or was a scrappy terrier. She's still a victim of human negligence (possible cruelty), no matter how you look at it.

Also, just because a dog fights or was fought does not mean they are irremediably damaged. The former is perfectly normal behavior, the latter is a gross exaggeration of that normal behavior. It does not in any manner, shape or form indicate a dog is unsound, unstable or unadoptable.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sheep - Wool and Hair, Identification Errors

This is Sophie. She was a bummer lamb, abandoned by her mom. On large range-operations, there are high mortality rates for lambs (pneumonia, hypothermia, predators, abandonment). Sophie and two other lambs were rescued by a neighbor who knew the three would die. 

Sophie will be turning seven this year.
Sophie is pretty

Sophie was about a year old when I started working at the sanctuary. I thought she was gorgeous and was curious about her breed or mix. I asked the other staff.

They said, a Barbados. But I had met Barbados and, well, Sophie is not one. These are Barbados Blackbelly sheep.

Some key differences between Sophie and Barbados sheep:

Sophie has wool. It's perhaps a little known fact that wool, at least the continuously growing kind, is the by-product of artificial selection and domestication - it's a pretty unnatural process (no self-respecting sheep would thrive happily with 100lbs of wool weighing them down). Wild sheep have hair or light, shedding wool. Some breeds of sheep still have hair - the Barbados is one of them. The texture and make-up of hair is very different than that of wool. While some Barbados may have a light wool, it generally sheds.

Sophie had horns. Barbados sheep are naturally polled, that is they don't have horns. Sophie was de-horned by the sanctuary (a practice we thankfully do not inflict upon any incoming goats and sheep anymore). Sophie was lucky to have been dehorned with anesthesia and post-op pain relief; normally, sheep have either their horns or the forming buds gouged/scooped or burned out of their heads. Ouch!

There are probably other differences I'm missing. Sophie is smaller than most Barbados and she doesn't have their sloping topline. She does have a romanesque nose, but a lot of sheep do. She does have the facial markings but doesn't have the same coloration (her belly isn't black, either).

Now, if you want to make a wild guess about Sophie, do it! I have no clue. She does not have ultra-fine wool but it's not coarse, either. The other lambs rescued from the same flock were both white-faced sheep with white wool and their ears are not as parallel to the ground as Sophie's. (Here's a pic of Simon). They don't produce a lot of wool. Maybe they have Barbados or American Blackbelly in their lineage - crosses aren't uncommon but mostly are used in trophy hunting.

Obviously it's not important to the work we do, but it is sorta fun trying to figure out the less obvious breeds of the animals who come here. :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mina and The Hair Loss

I consider myself to be somewhere left of neurotic when it comes to Mina...probably a smidgen closer to neurotic if I give it any amount of thought (I don't). She's 11. She's hypothyroid and incontinent. She has a strange intermittent limping problem with her left shoulder that remains a mystery to the three vets who've seen her. She goes to the vet multiple times a year for blood work and urinalysis and fecal exams and sometimes just because I want to apparently torture her.

And now she will be making a trip to the vet Monday because of The Hair Loss.

I'm not sure when it started. I noticed it a couple weeks ago and thought it was a trick of light. Then last week, I thought someone had taken a tweezer and plucked out the hair, in equal proportion, on both sides of her pelvic bone (or hip bones? or are they the same? whatever). A crop circle on my dog's butt. Trying to get a closer look was dangerous, as Mina's white-tipped tail prefers to lash back and forth in doggy happiness whenever she is touched by Those She Loves.

So now I am Concerned. This is not concern or CONCERN, but it still deserves at least one capitalized letter and why not make it be a proper sort of deal?

I think she is drinking more water, but this could also be my imagination. Until Monday, I will be closely monitoring her intake and shaking my fist at Celeste if she dares drink from the official MINA WATER INTAKE BOWL. Maybe I'll put a sticker on it.

Any thoughts? My panicked thought was Cushing's - the hair loss is similar to my last dog who had the adrenal gland problem (she also baffled the vets by living another eight years). But Mina is also hypothyroid and has been on the lowest dose for years, perhaps her thyroid is in need of another pick-me-up. The area isn't irritated, so I know she isn't biting it. It's very localized just on those two spots near her rear end.

I have many fears about losing Mina. Sometimes I have to squish them down deep out of another fear that even THINKING about those fears will somehow make them a reality for Mina. Silly. I don't do this with Celeste, which is probably good for Celeste. But Mina? There has never been a dog I have loved so profoundly. It's a painful love and sometimes, like now, I hate it. Never Mina, of course. She I could love for a kajillion years and more.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How Can We Insert Pit Bull Into This Article

The title: "Dogs Attack Several People..."

The URL:,0,5545275.story?page=1

The Dogs:

This one is Rocky and is only referred to as "the brown dog":
and this one is referred to as "small, white dog" and a "true pit bull":

The Story:
Two dogs being walked by their owners. Somehow, the dogs break free and, according to the news story, go on a two-county rampage...all the while dragging their leashes, wearing collars and tags.

First, they encounter a Good Samaritan who did not want to run the dogs over. As she returned to her car to call the number on the collar, the brown dog attacked her coat. When she turned around, he bit her once on the face. The white dog? Just stood there.

Second, they encounter a woman shoveling snow. They approach and the brown dog bites the woman's arm. The white dog? Just stood there. The brown dog needed to be wrestled to the ground, biting the rescuer in the process. The white dog? Someone just picked up his/her leash because, s/he was, you know, just standing there.

So why the "two dogs go on a two-county rampage"? Only one dog bit anybody. One. And it was the aptly described "brown dog". The "true pit bull" didn't anything of great importance, but please put "pitbull" in the URL and insert "pit bull" into the article somehow, some way. Gotta get those ratings up, yo.

I really hope the white dog - who looks like a muttskie - goes back to his/her owner. The dog has not shown any signs of aggression at the shelter and didn't bite anybody. S/he has a collar and tag on and should be reunited with his/her owner asap. The brown dog? Passive-aggressive fear biting dog either needs to be returned to his owner with strict training requirements or needs to find a new home who can work with his behavior (if reasonable efforts at modifying his behavior and re-homing are made and fail, then yes, I think he should be killed).

Houston, We Has a Problem

The Houston, Alaska animal shelter that shot to death four dogs and four cats because they had apparently overstayed their welcome has been shut down.

Two animal control officers have been fired and one police officer is under scrutiny.

But really, who's at fault here?

The shelter stopped receiving funding, courtesy of Wasilla, in 2009. Then they lost a grant. And then they stopped being able to subsidize the cost of animal control. Why they didn't seek help from the state, another non-profit, another grant agency (there *is* more than one grant-maker) or the public is beyond me. Maybe they did and it wasn't reported.

After the budget cut, the animal control officer in charge had a harsh pay and hour cut - 40 to 20 hours. A technician would come in 10-2 pm to clean. Meeting with the public and adopting animals out became difficult.

And then the mayor stopped by and he said it was too crowded and something "needed to be done" about those dogs and cats who had been there the longest. And by "long", I mean three months. But the animal control officer in charge was never trained on proper euthanasia so, even though he didn't have permission, he did have pressure to "do something". He did. Soon thereafter, he shot and killed eight animals, which in its own sad way, brought to light the tragedy of what happens when there's a fault line in the system.

The shelter is shut down. For now. All animals are going to a boarding facility where, I can only hope, they will be given a chance at adoption with regular business hours. And that they won't be shot. No animal should be killed for not having enough food at the shelter. No healthy animal should be taken out back and shot. It's wrong.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rendering: It's what happens to dead dogs and cats

The Humane Society of San Bernardino Valley (who I blogged about yesterday) is concerned about what happens to the remains of all those dogs and cats they euthanize both on behalf of citizens and on behalf of other animal rescue agencies (who may or may not be reporting the off-site removal of their animals).
"As a Humane Society, we would never consent to allowing the bodies of these precious animals (to be) used in research or any medical uses and research, or certainly not to be re-used in a form of food for any purpose," said Carin Orange, a development coordinator with the local Humane Society who said she was under the impression the remains were cremated. 
I mean, for reals? (Rendering aside, why on earth is there any problem with a shelter sending dead bodies to schools or universities for educational purposes? The animals don't care. They're dead. And if people care, then it's their responsibility to request cremation/burial and pay extra.)

Here's a 2008 LA County letter to the Board of Supervisors regarding the disposal company in question - D&D Disposal.

Practically EVERYBODY in Southern California uses them. The counties of: Kern, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Ventura. The cities include: Long Beach, Los Angeles and Santa Monica.

When LA County requested bid submissions to deal with the 100,000 dead bodies piling up in their shelters - guess who was the only one to respond? West Coast Rendering, an affiliate of D&D Disposal. Rendering, people. Look it up, this isn't freaking rocket science. West Coast Rendering is the affiliate every freaking public shelter in Southern California uses.

Look at page 3 of that pdf LA County document and see just how long these shelters have used this service. You'll notice that none of them have used D&D less than 10 years - they are practically the go-to company when you want to "dispose" of those pesky dead bodies.

So puh-leaze, people! Don't act like you don't know what D&D is or what they do. Don't act shocked that dogs and cats are rendered and, hey, you may be washing your face with them! I don't mean you, dear reader. But I do mean any shelter that contracts with D&D and then acts all offended about where the dead bodies of once living animals should go.

Cremation is expensive. It's not all that environmentally friendly, either. Rendering is cheaper and less toxic to the eco-system. It's still totally gross and stinks to high-heaven.

I'm not sure what the big deal is - if it's good enough for the billions of dead farmed animals, all of whom have the same ability to be loved and to enjoy life, then it's damn well good enough for all those dead dogs and cats. If you, as a pet guardian/owner, want to fork out extra dough to cover the costs of cremation or burial, do it. If you don't and you want to drop your animal off at a shelter to get killed, then expect that dead animal's body to end up in your soap. And shelter personnel, please, please, please look at the name of your disposal company before acting offended*. If you are not sure what rendering entails, look that up too (I don't mean that negatively, not everyone is familiar with rendering and it's once again your due diligence to look it up).

Better yet, stop unnecessarily killing animals!

*I'm not sure that the Humane Society of San Bernardino Valley uses D&D Disposal, but I can only assume they do since their representative was interviewed about it...

Monday, February 8, 2010

On Autism and Ostracization: Gomey's Plight

If you have an illness outside the typical scope of understanding, you are marginalized, disenfranchised. As a teenager, I knew I was different from my smiling, happy friends. Inside, I felt dead and unfeeling, tired and lonely. Outside, I made sure to act like everyone else - not fitting in was not an option. I was diagnosed with "clinical depression" which, even in 1997, was not just a diagnosis, it was a life sentence of sorts. While I have hopes things have improved, people with depression (major, clinical, situational, whatever reason) are still misunderstood and shunned from the mainstream. Because I didn't feel like hiding a part of my existence - that I had an actual biochemical imbalance, I decided to share my experience with classmates during prayer. No, I wasn't religious, but I went to a parochial high school and in each semester's required religion class (which included world religion, ethics, etc), each student did a prayer.

It did not need to be religious. It could be about a pertinent issue, or an excerpt from the bible, or a made-up offering of kind thoughts and feelings. I made mine about depression. Every student received a sticker with different colors. I had every student stand up. Then I asked all the students with, let's say, red stickers to sit down. These were the folks who did not have the diagnosis of "depression" (I included major depression, clinical depression and "bi-polar"). The students with the blue stickers were undiagnosed depressives. The students with the yellow were the young people who attempted suicide and those with the orange stickers succeeded. I can't remember the percentages but they were ridiculously high and tragic. I shared my experience with depression and, well, for that entire period we talked about mental illnesses and suicide and the tragedy of NOT speaking up. Several students admitted their own troubles with the illness, while a couple others recognized the symptoms in themselves. I felt so empowered and, well, I didn't feel so alone.

My depression lasted through college. And then, it lifted. When I get depressed now, I know it is what most people experience. It's not an abnormal response to hormones or an "imbalance in the brain"; it's not the natural response to a tragedy or incredible stressor. It just is. I am not ashamed to talk about it, but I am ashamed of our society's ignorance and ignoring of it. Progress has been made, for sure, depression is not as stigmatized as it used to be but still it's not like you can comfortably open a conversation with "Hey, I'm clinically depressed and I like Beethoven." And goodness help you if you try to get your own health insurance because, well, you won't be able to. Just try it (I did - no longer depressed, totally healthy, and I was told time and time again that health insurance coverage wasn't possible because of "pre-existing"conditions....which also included allergies,by the way).

Even without depression, we have other people to shun with other disorders we don't understand. I was reading on A Midwest Activist about a 19-yr-old young man in Canada who has, for some unknown reason, been sent to the formerly infamous psychiatric facility, Hôpital Rivière-des-Prairies. You can read the entire saga at Action for Autism.

Basically, a social worker is accused of undermining the years of care and positive assessments previously given by other social workers and decided that this 19-yr-old young man, Gomey, is suicidal and a danger to himself and others. His crime appears to be autism. Because this is a one-sided portrayal, I cannot say with any amount of certainty if the accusations are true...but my own opinion is that they have no reason to lie (whether they have a reason to omit some information or exaggerate is up in the air, of course). After reading This Much I Know is True by Wally Lamb, a fictionalized novel that offers insight into how a person might end up in a psychiatric hospital and the sadness therein, I'm inclined to believe the concerned family, friends and supporters of Gomey. There's my bias. If I'm wrong, I'm okay erring on the side of Gomey and his family.

People with autism are socially ostracized, much like people with depression were and, to some extent, still are disenfranchised. Clinically depressed people can hide their "illness"in much the same way that some with autism can fictionalize how they relate to others (that is, they can act well). And just like the person with major depression truly cannot function without assistance there are those with autism who cannot function without assistance. It's a scale, a spectrum and it's not black and white in either case. But we don't want to talk about the elephant in the room, yet we're happy to malign, mock, isolate these people. Sometimes they need help (don't we all!) and many times they don't - they just need support and understanding and a little bit of respect. We don't understand everything there is to understand about autism and we're learning more stuff each year.

I think Wired Magazine did a great piece on this in 2008, The Truth About Autism: Scientists Reconsider What they Think They Know, by David Wolman. It's a good, easily understandable read about a seemingly complex medical and societal issue.

Back to Gomey. He's been at this psychiatric hospital since January 27th. In fact, he was carted to this facility by 6 police officers. As is standard at many psychiatric hospitals, he was denied contact with his family until the Monday of the following week, that is five days after he was confined to the facility. He has not seen his family very often and has not, to my knowledge, consented to this confinement (and according to Action for Autism, the on-site doctor has stated Gomey is not in any danger of self-mutilation or harm to others...not actual documentation yet on that). For a person with autism such that they have a hard time relating to others and they have only been capable of interacting in a "socially acceptable" way with family, it must be nightmarish to be in a place where you don't speak the language (literally, he's a primarily english speaking person in a primarily french speaking hospital), don't know the people and perhaps only partially understand why you are there. Everything you have known for the past nineteen years is gone. So, no matter what the truth is, my heart and sympathy lies with Gomey and his predicament.

I'm hoping that the family will do their due diligence and get media attention, besides blogs, twitter and facebook. I'm unfamiliar with the newspapers of Montreal, but a cursory glance shows at least one major one and some smaller ones. If Gomey is being considered nonviolent by doctors and staff and is therefore being held against his will or without consent, then that needs to be rectified post-haste. A little media scrutiny couldn't hurt. Best of luck to them.