Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Copper-Salmon Wilderness, Oregon
Yesterday Barack Obama signed into law the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009, which will extend permanent protection for 2 million acres of wilderness land while extending further protections to 26 million acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) territories that will be part of a new National Landscape Conservation System.
Said Obama at the signing of the legislation yesterday:
"This legislation guarantees that we will not take our forests, rivers, oceans, national parks, monuments and wilderness areas for granted, but rather we will set them aside and guard their sanctity for everyone to share. That's something all Americans can support."
Wilderness lands now offered permanent protection include Oregon's Mount Hood and part of Virginia's Jefferson National Forest, along with sites in California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, New Mexico, Utah and West Virginia.
The new National Landscape Conservation System includes areas of archaeological and cultural significance including Canyons of Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado, and Agua Fria National Monument in Arizona, Nevada's Black Rock Desert National Conservation Area and California's King Range National Conservation Area.
The Landscape Conservation System will protect critical habitat for fish and wildlife and provides access to world-class hunting and fishing, while offering recreational opporunities for self-guided adventurers.
The legislation signed into law yesterday also authorizes additional funding to protect ecologically valuable coastal areas and estuaries.
To learn more about the new The National Landscape Conservation System, click here.
To see a map of the areas covered, click here (really big PDF).
The Jefferson National Forest, Virginia.
Over the course of the last 20 years, Africa's lion population has crashed from 200,000 to 30,000, and the numbers continue to drop fast.
One of the big reasons is that an American company -- FMC -- has sold a highly toxic, tasteless pesticide to African countries where herders are using it to indiscriminately wipe out all predators -- lions, cheetahas, leopards, hyenhas, etc.
Though FMC says it no longer sells Furadan (carbofuran) in Kenya, and is now trying to buy up stock that may still be on shelves, FMC has not said it will stop selling the drug in neighboring African countries or around the world.
To be clear, Furadan is such a horrible chemical that in July 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency initiated action to ban the chemical's use in the U.S. as it presented unacceptable dietary risks, especially to children, from consuming food or water with carbofuran residue in it or on it.
Want to help take action?
Send an email to Jim Fitzwater, FMC's corporate flak at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him directly at 215.299.6633.
Your message does not have to be long, and it does not help to be rude. It is enough to simply say that you want FMC to stop making this toxic poison, and that you are passing on this notice to 20 of your friends.
Make some heat, and maybe FMC will yet see the light!
I noted then that the companies that had been pushing for Social Security privatization -- Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs -- were now insolvent and headed to the knackers knife.
How ironic was that?
What I didn't know was that while no one was looking, the right-wing ideologues had moved off of Social Security privatization in order to quietly privatize the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC).
What's the PBGC?
The PBGC is the agency that was created in 1974 to make good on defined benefit pension plan committments when companies go broke.
The PBGC is funded by insurance premiums paid for by defined benefit pension plan sponsors, by the assets of pension plans that have been taken over, and by investment income; no money comes from general tax revenue.
Only one thing: the PBGC does not actually pay out all of the money the bankrupted companies once promised. Instead, the PBGC pays out 60 cents on the dollar. To put it another way, if your company goes broke, and your pension is taken over by the PBGC, you are going to live on quite a lot less than you had planned in retirement.
In the past, the PBGC's investment income has been pretty rock-solid, largely due to the fact that PBGC money put its money into bonds.
The lunatics running the show in the last days of the Bush Administration, however, decided to move much of the PBGC's asset base into the stock market. The stock market, of course, promptly crashed, wiping out scores of billions of PBGC revenue.
How much did the Bush ideologues cost the PBGC? The PBGC will not say, other than to note that they lost 23% of their stock portfolio by September 30th -- well before the stock market began an even deeper and faster rush to the bottom.
Zvi Bodie, a Boston University finance professor who is an expert on the PBGC, says PBGC stock losses may ultimately cost U.S. taxpayers several hundred billion dollars.
He likens the PBGC's investment strategy to that of a company that insures against hurricane damage taking their portfolio and investing in beachfront property.
And what genius thought this was a good idea?
None other than Charles Millard, a former executive of Lehman Brothers who was appointed by George W. Bush. Millard's former company, of course, is now insolvent, defunct, and out of business.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Adult Americans spend an average of more than eight hours a day in front of screens -- televisions, computer monitors, cellphones or other devices, according to a new study.
People aged 45 to 54 averaged the most daily screen time at just over nine-and-a-half hours. The study did not include anyone under the age of 18.
For the record, nearly 90% of the injuries were dog-related, and females were more than twice as likely as males to be injured.
The most common injuries and the highest injury rates were for fractures and contusions/abrasions, and the highest fracture rates occurred among persons aged 75 and older. Twenty-six percent of falls involving dogs occurred while persons were walking them, and the most frequent circumstances were falling or tripping over a dog (31.3%) and being pushed or pulled by a dog (21.2%). Falling over a pet item (e.g., a toy or food bowl) accounted for 8.8% of fall injuries. Approximately 38.7% involved other or unknown circumstances.
Not said: How many people died from tripping over a dog or a dog toy.
My bet is that more people are killed by tripping over a dog than are actually killed by dog bites.
From The Arizona Republic:
COTTONWOOD - A bobcat walked into a roadside bar in Cottonwood.
What happened next was not a joke but "pandemonium": two or three minutes of chivalry, cellphone cameras and people jumping on top of pool tables to get out of the way.
When it was over, two people were scratched and bleeding, and the bobcat was gunned down by police in a parking lot on Main Street.
All that's left now is a barroom story that is sure to become legend.
And a series of rabies-vaccine shots.
"This was a rabid animal," said Zen Mocarski of the Arizona Game and Fish office in Kingman. "You've seen the cartoon Tasmanian Devil? That's a bobcat with rabies."
.... At about 11:40, three people walked out of the Chaparral, a neighborhood bar with signs for Schlitz, Budweiser and Coors over the entrance. Tuesday is free-pool night.
"I said goodnight," said bartender Scott Hughes, 41. "Next thing I know, they are running back in, followed by the bobcat.
"One jumped on the pool table, and two more jumped onto the bar."
The bar's video camera recorded what happened next.
The bobcat chased two people around a pool table.
Then, the animal stopped.
That's when people took out their cellphone cameras to get a picture.
Hughes told Kyle Hicks that he should not get too close to the bobcat.
"A bartender is supposed to command authority," Hughes said. "But he didn't listen to me."
In the video, Hughes can be seen reaching down to move Hicks.
That's when the cat jumped on Hicks' face, scratching him under his left eye and behind his right ear.
"Yeah, it didn't feel too good," Hicks said.
Hicks then knocked the animal to the ground.
"Look up 'pandemonium' in the dictionary," Hughes said. "That's what this bar was."
The 20 or so patrons started scrambling toward the back door. But so did the bobcat, which was now looking for a way out.
That's when Derek Oliver showed you can find a good man late at night in a Cottonwood bar.
"He was coming right towards two women," Oliver said. "So, I pushed them out of the way. That's when he got me. It wrapped itself around my leg."
Worse yet, the bobcat was moving up Oliver's leg.
"I punched it in the face real good," Oliver said.
The animal laid still for a moment, then it ran back out the front door.
By this time, police had arrived and found the animal in the parking lot.
"It started walking towards one of my officers," said Sgt. Gary Eisenga of the Cottonwood Police Department.
The officer shot the animal, killing it.
Witnesses said they heard three shots.
"We've had calls to that bar before, but never for a bobcat," Eisenga said.
By Thursday afternoon, Hicks had received his first of five rabies shots.
"In the arm," Hicks said. "They don't do it in the abdomen anymore. Thank God."
To which I can add: Only in America.
Of couse, these things happen. Rabid bobcat attacks make the news again and again. Ditto rabid coyotes, rabid fox, and rabid raccoons.
Me? I have no fear of rabid animals. The trick is to stay out of the bars.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
The dogs are everything, and they want to hunt, too. Bird dogs plead with you to imagine the great things you could be doing together. Their delight is a lesson in the bliss of living. As Bob Dylan says, “You’ve got to serve somebody.” I serve my dogs and in return, they glom the sofa.Read the whole thing.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Some promotional video is up right now, however. Check it out.
The owner of this establishment is correct, in that he is running a state-of-the-art commercial dog breeding facility with a high-tech waste management system.
This is what a pretty good commercial dog breeding facility looks like: Small dogs (toy breeds and terriers) raised like chickens in battery cages.
And, for the record, this is what the AKC wants more of ... provided they are all AKC registered puppies, of course.
And why does the AKC want more commercial facilities breeding AKC dogs?
Simple: it needs more commercial kennel registrations in order to subsidize dog shows, which are not paying their way.
In the minutes of the September, 2006 AKC Board meeting (link to PDF file), Ron Menaker notes that the AKC has been registering puppy mill dogs "for the past 122 years" and "we have collected millions of dollars" as a result.
In short: Get over it!
And why does the AKC snuggle up to the puppy mill industry?
The Board of the AKC is rather blunt about the problem: though the AKC made a profit of several million dollars last year, it is not enough, as registration numbers are trending sharply downward and "events" are costing millions more than they are bringing in.
"Events," of course, is a euphemism for dog shows.
In short, because rosette-chasing is a money-losing proposition for the American Kennel Club, they need more puppy mill registrations in order to subsidize dog shows.
As recently as September of 2008, AKC President Ron Menaker wrote:
Today, there are at least 30 All-Breed registries in addition to the AKC, whose combined registration numbers exceed that of the AKC. If this trend is allowed to continue, if we do not stop the hemorrhaging of declining registrations, we will no longer be the premier registry in the world, let alone in our country.
Management has been directed by the Board to aggressively pursue all dogs eligible for AKC registration....
.... AKC used to dominate the marketplace. Even places like Macy’s and Gimbels sold AKC puppies. Many pet owners who bought these puppies, and I was one of them, tried their hand at showing and breeding. These owners who purchased their first purebred from a retail outlet, not only added to AKC’s registrations, but those who wanted to advance in the sport, then sought out fanciers to continue their
....Last year less than one half of our revenues came from registrations. Dog registrations peaked at 1.5 million in 1992. By the end of 2008 it is projected we will register only 725,000 dogs. This is a staggering 53% decline....
.... If the current trend continues and dog registrations decline to 250,000 over the next several years, AKC will face an annual revenue shortfall of $40 million. To put this in perspective, if this scenario occurred, and we relied solely on raising the event service fees to make up for this revenue shortfall, the fee would be a staggering $20 per entry.
I booted on my computer this morning find the above email from Amazon. I do not think I have bought anything through Amazon that would suggest my political inclinations at the moment (in politics there are no permanent friends or enemies), but there it is nonetheless.
The text reads:
In many ways, senator Barack Obama is the closest thing to a superhero, someone who has literally inspired millions of people simultaneously to step past fear, to be brave enough to hope, and to go past cynicism and imagine... Read more
You do not have to be a genius to imagine that in the near future there will entire web sites featuring this little fellow in compromising positions with Barbie, Ken and My Little Pony. Let the games begin!
Friday, March 27, 2009
When Rev. Thomas Malthus wrote "An Essay on the Principle of Population as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society" in 1798, the population of Britain was about 11 million.
At the time Malthus thought Britain was pretty close to its agricultural production threshold and that a doubling of Great Britain's population to 22 million was "probably a greater increase than could with reason be expected."
To suppose that Britain could feed a population double this size again (or 44 million people), would be "impossible to suppose," said Malthus, and this impossibility "must be evident to those who have the slightest acquaintance with agricultural subjects".
Of course, Malthus was wrong about agriculture.
Rev. Malthus failed to anticipate the degree to which outputs could be increased in Great Britain -- and all over the world -- thanks to machinery, fertilizer, modern farming practices, genetic improvements, and irrigation.
Today Great Britain has a population of over 60 million people and they are not starving. In fact, all over the world food production has risen faster than population growth, and this has been true for most of the last 200 years.
While increased agricultural outputs have been good for humans (less starvation) and generally good for wildlife (less wild lands put under the plow), there are increasing signs that not all is well.
Across the world many species of once-common wild birds are in decline. This is true not only in North America but in Europe as well.
The British are certainly taking a hard look at the situation. The British government monitors wild bird populations as a key measure of environmental health and they have noted fairly precipitous declines in their field and forest birds.
Now comes the latest news: reports from across Europe that populations of common house sparrows are in rapid decline. In fact, the decline in the house sparrow population has been so steep that it has now been put on the "red list" in the U.K.
No one is quite sure why house sparrows are in decline.
An observed decline in the number of eggs in house sparrow nests is an important clue. The size of the clutches of songbirds (passerines) and most raptors rises and falls in direct relationship to how much food is available (yes, birds understood and believed Malthus long before we did). A small clutch of eggs is typically a sign of a decline in one or more critical food components. One theory of house sparrow decline is that the phenomenon is linked to loss of critical insectivorous habitat. Insects are a critical component of house sparrow diets immediately after hatching.
Why are the insects disappearing?
One factor may be the rapid decline in British hedgerows. During a single 10-year period (1984-1993), more than one-third of all of the hedgerows in the United Kingdom were lost -- a whopping 121,875 miles of destruction. At least another 96,000 miles of hedgerow were lost in England from 1945 to 1984.
British hedgerows are fabulously vibrant ecosystems supporting myriad plant and insect species in dense thickets. An analysis of hedgerows has found a close correlation between the age of a hedgerow and its plant diversity, with some British hedgerows estimated to be as much as 1,000 years old. As hedgerows have vanished, so too have seeds and insects that once sprang from these hedgerows.
Why are the hedgerows disappearing so rapidly?
Much of the blame lies with agricultural policy and the desire to boost agricultural outputs by plowing edge-to-edge with ever-larger farm machinery. In addition, as more and more people have moved into the countryside to live on mini-estates, hedgerows have fallen to new housing developments and road widening.
Though a 1997 law was enacted in the U.K. to try to slow hedgerow destruction, the bulldozers continue to do their work. The decline in hedgerows across much of Europe may, in fact, prove to be a critical factor pushing the house sparrow over the edge.
The good news is that the population growth in Europe which first spurred the push to boost agricultural productivity, is finally slowing. The U.K., with a population of 60 million today, is expected to effectively achieve zero population growth around 2025. Much of the rest of Europe is headed the same way.
The bad news is that human population growth has pushed a great deal of the natural landscape of Europe right to the edge and changing land use patterns may be pushing it past the tipping point in some areas.
As more and more people move out of urban cores and into far off suburbs and once-rural areas, less and less land is available for agricultural production. In order to keep food production up, the land must be farmed more and more intensively in order to wrestle the same outputs from a declining number of acres.
The result, as we see in both the U.K, and the U.S., is the loss of hedgerows and shelter belt forests, increased incursions into the few large blocks of forest that remain, and a steady decline in forest and field bird species across much of the temperate-zone regions of the world.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Jemima Harrison has sent me a link to something that is completely new to me, which is the use of stem cells to cure some serious canine problems, especially hip dysplasia in aged dogs.
This appears to be pretty miraculous stuff, and as Martin Bashir at ABC News notes (video link and a lot more information here), this is no longer experimental therapy: It's available right now.
It's not cheap -- about $2,500 -- but a heck of lot cheaper than operating on two hips, or even one hip.
And if we can do this with dogs now, what will we be able to do with humans into the future if we allow science to continue apace?
Thank God Barack Obama has greenlighted stem cell research to continue apace.
Want to get your own copy of ABC Nightline's segement on how the American Kennel Club's standards and breeding practices are screwing up dogs?
You can order your very own CD -- just click here. And no, I don't know if it will run on European video machines which are (somehow) different.
Here’s a hypothetical. You have to give up your beloved family pet, a pit bull terrier, and you have the choice of entrusting it to Ingrid Newkirk, president and founder of PETA, or Michael Vick, trusting that whoever you pick will find the dog a good home. Who do you choose?
.... Humans are not necessarily born with an innate emotional bond to dogs, and it is not a sign of abnormal pathology when some individual lacks that bond and the compassion that it implies. It still leaves Vick as a bad guy, but a different level of bad guy — one who can conceivably reform.
In the meantime we have PETA, protector of animal rights and their leader, Ingrid Newkirk, a strange bird to say the least. Newkirk got her start in the animal rights business while working at a shelter in DC. Revolted by the living conditions of the animals there, she decided to do something about it. That something was euthanizing them. When she couldn’t get the administrators of the shelter to go along with her plans, she just took matters into her own hands: “In the end, I would go to work early, before anyone got there, and I would just kill the animals myself. Because I couldn’t stand to let them go through that. I must have killed a thousand of them, sometimes dozens every day.”
This (killing as a means of rescue) continues as a common theme of PETA today. I have trouble sorting out exactly what it is that PETA and Newkirk regard as animal rights. I am clear that they don’t want animals used in any way that might be useful to humans, such as for food or research. Newkirk again:
“Even if animal research resulted in a cure for AIDS, we’d be against it.”
But the right to life does not seem to be an animal right that they put a lot of stock in. PETA as an organization euthanizes a higher percentage of the animals entrusted to them than just about any other animal “rescue” organization. As high as 90 percent in some years. Some breeds go higher than that.
Newkirk seems to have a particular problem with pit bulls, and recommends that all breeding of them should stop and that pit bulls be euthanized as a matter of course. She says this is because they are more likely to be abused than other breeds, but it is noteworthy that she has been attacked by a pit bull in the past.
... As to my hypothetical question? If I delivered my pit bull to Newkirk, I would at least know his fate — he’d be headed out the back door in a plastic bag by the time I drove back home. I couldn’t be completely sure about Vick, but I think I’d have to take my chances with him.
This morning comes word that in 2008 PETA killed 95.8 percent of the dogs, cats and other pets put into its care last year.
In fact, during all of 2008, PETA found adoptive homes for just seven pets out of 2,216 animals taken in.
PETA has a long track record of killing healthy animals (see pictures here), and almost no discernible track record that I can find of placing dogs and cats in loving homes.
As Dana Cheek, the former director of the Norfolk SPCA wrote:
I often receive phone calls from frantic people who have surrendered their pets to PETA with the understanding that PETA will "find them a good home." Many of them are led to believe that the animals will be taken to a nearby shelter. Little do they know that the pets are killed in the PETA van before they even pull away from the pet owner's home … PETA refuses to surrender animals they obtain to area shelters for rehoming. If only the celebrity 'deep-pocket' donors on the west coast knew that their donations were going to kill adoptable cats and dogs here in Norfolk.
You will not find PETA's shelter in Norfolk, Virginia on Pet Finder, nor are there any visiting hours. Posters are not placed on coffee shop bulletin boards, nor do they work with PetSmart or anyone else to find homes for the dogs and cats relinquished to them.
Instead, PETA injects killing solutions into almost all the animals handed over to the them, and then it contracts with a waste disposal company to have several tons of animals a month trucked away, out of sight and out of mind.
Why? Simple: they believe a dog in a shelter is better dead than kenneled for even a few days or a few weeks, and they oppose pet ownership entirely. PETA's Norfolk staff cannot be bothered to take time away from media-whoring in order to do the tough work involved in actually rehoming animals. They leave that to real shelters.
PETA, of course, tries to hide all of this, but the state of Virginia is not having any part of it.
Virginia has a legal requirement that all shelters report out how many dogs, cats and other animals are surrendered, how many are placed, and how many are rehomed.
PETA refuses to fill out the forms as asked by the state of Virginia, however, and every year a little charade occurs. This charade appears to be designed to slow down the posting of PETA's kill information to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website. PETA, it seems, is embarrassed by their own numbers. Not embarrassed enough to change what they do, mind you, but just embarrassed enough to try to keep comparative data away from the public's prying eyes.
And so, instead of reporting the data in the form requested, PETA mixes in unrelated spay and neuter data. They have done this for several years running now, and apparently they are doing it again this year, as the numbers are still not up on the Virginia state web site. PETA will eventually cough up the forms properly filled out, of course, but by then several months will have gone by. Heck, several months have already gone by.
To be clear, no other shelter in Virginia does this or even tries to do this. And you know why? Because the other shelters are not afraid of telling you what they are doing because most of them are at least trying to get dogs and cats adopted out.
PETA, on the other hand, seems to do virtually nothing to try to get animals placed. That's too much like work and there's no "look-at-me" publicity in it. The blue solution of death is so much easier. And so PETA injects, dumps, and runs off to do another titty-show protest somewhere. Yippee! Look at me. I am nekkid!
So how do we know what PETA's numbers are for 2008?
Simple: Just because PETA intentionally mangles the paperwork so that the data does not show up up on time on the Virginia state web site does not mean that they do not file something as a place holder. That paperwork does exist, and you can read it yourself right here and tease out the kill data, just as I have.
You can also compare it to the track record of other Virginia animal shelter facilities right here, and you can also compare it to past years of comparable PETA data by looking at the table below:
To cut to the chase, here's how the data breaks down for dogs and cats put in PETA's care in 2008:
- Of 584 dogs surrendered to PETA's "shelter" last year, 555 were killed by PETA and only 4 were adopted out. Another 21 dogs were transferred to the Virginia Beach SPCA, and 15 dogs were still "on hand" with PETA as of December 31, 2008.
- Of 1,589 cats surrendered to PETA's "shelter" last year, 1,569 were killed by PETA and only 3 were adopted out. Another 13 cats were transferred to the Virginia Beach SPCA, and 2 cats were still "on hand" with PETA as of December 31, 2009
Now here's the important part: PETA is very clearly in violation of Virginia state law.
Last year on this blog, I noted that PETA is licensed under Virginia law to run an animal shelter or humane society. But PETA does not run an animal shelter.
But don't take my word for it. Here what PETA's Daphna Nachminovitch said in court:
"PETA does not maintain an animal shelter. PETA has a couple -- we call them 'quarantine rooms' -- which are used to house animals that are held for one reason or another. And animals who are, who have a chance for adoption, are usually fostered in private homes. We do not have a public facility that's open to the public where people can stroll through and pick an animal. That's not a service that we are able to provide. We're an office building."
Right. You are an office building. Not a shelter.
But PETA's license to handle powerful killing chemicals did not say it was running an office building, but that it was running an animal shelter or humane society.
Under Virginia law, an animal shelter means "a facility, other than a private residential dwelling and its surrounding grounds, that is used to house or contain animals and that is owned, operated, or maintained by a nongovernmental entity including, but not limited to, a humane society, animal welfare organization, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, or any other organization operating for the purpose of finding permanent adoptive homes for animals."
Under Virginia law, a humane society means "any incorporated, nonprofit organization that is organized for the purposes of preventing cruelty to animals and promoting humane care and treatment or adoptions of animals."
Under Virginia law, adoption means "the transfer of ownership of a dog or a cat, or any other companion animal, from a releasing agency to an individual."
In short, PETA is not running a legal shelter or humane society (as Ms. Nachminovitch conceded in court), and therefore their licensed access to killing chemicals should be revoked by the state.
PETA can then re-apply with the Virginia Department of Agriculture to run a slaughter house if they so choose.
And no, the slaughter house designation is not hyperbole.
In 2008, PETA's shelter in Norfolk, Virginia took possession of 2,216 dogs, cats, and other “companion animals” and killed all but 7 of them -- a 95.8 percent kill rate once the transfers are accounted for.
What's that look like? Well, if the average dog/cat weighs 30 pounds, that works out to be about 30 TONS of dead animals coming out of PETA's shelter every year.
Graphically, it look a bit like this, with the white-on-black animals being those that PETA killed, and the black-on-white animals being the ones they actually found homes for and did not kill.
Want to do something positive about all this? Here's my suggestion: Send a letter to all the candidates hoping to be Virginia's next Attorney General.
Ask each of the candidates to make a pledge to investigate, prosecute and/or close PETA's Norfolk animal shelter, which is being run as an unlicensed slaughter house, not as a true animal shelter seeking to find homes for adoptable animals. Send them a link to this blog for the statistics and the law.
How to contact the candidates:
- Steve Shannon - Democratic candidate for Virginia Attorney General. Contact here (web form) or call (best): 703-218-3501
- Ken Cuccinelli - Republican candidate for Virginia Attorney General. Contact here (web form) or call (best): 703-766-0635
- John Brownlee - Republican candidate for Virginia Attorney General. Contact here (web form) or call (best): 1-888-523-6724
- Dave Foster - Republican candidate for Virginia Attorney General. Contact here (direct email) or call (best): 703-349-2820
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Along the way, and without interruption, the talk was of dogs as well as other breeds of animals, including humans.
One of the more interesting notes is a letter from W.D. Fox to Charles Darwin about the effects of inbreeding in blood hounds owned by Howard Galton, who was Sir Francis Galton's uncle.
W.D. Fox quotes Howard Galton as saying:
"I have found from breeding in & in that there is considerable difficulty in keeping up the breed. Many of the females have never exhibited any sexual appetite & those which do so at all, very rarely.
The Knot in the tail appeared by accident in one of the finest Dog puppies I had, so fine that I kept it, notwithstanding this imperfection, and all his descendants had it until at last I got a cross with one of Lord Aylesfords' Bloodhounds, since which time it has disappeared.
The knot was always in the same part of the tail. Another consequence of breeding in and in is that the animals become prematurely old."
The deleterious effects of inbreeding have been known for as long as man has been alive, which is why there is a ban on it in all religions (one of the very few commonalities across the religious spectrum).
What is only notable here is the provenance of the observation: Darwin's inquiry into the effects of inbreeding in Howard Galton's blood hound pack dates back to 1838, more than 20 years before the first formal dog show in the U.K., and 35 years before the start of the Kennel Club.
A musical lesson in one take. This little number was part of the 1948 movie A Song Is Born, featuring Danny Kaye (announcing) the Golden Gate Quartet (singing), and Virginia Mayo (dubbed) and, of course, Louis Armstrong (singing and trumpet). Also appearing are Lionel Hampton (vibraphone), Benny Goodman (clarinet), Tommy Dorsey (trombone), and Charlie Barnet (sax). The plot revolved around the writing of an audio musical encyclopedia, and the movie was directed by Howard Hawks.
The movie is about the introduction of massive Nile Perch to Lake Victoria. The introduction of these fish into Africa's largest lake, around 1900, not only wrecked the natural ecology of the Lake, but perverted and twisted the economy as well.
Director Hubert Sauper writes:
Some time in the 1960's, in the heart of Africa, a new animal was introduced into Lake Victoria as a little scientific experiment. The Nile Perch, a voracious predator, extinguished almost the entire stock of the native fish species. However, the new fish multiplied so fast, that its white fillets are today exported all around the world
Huge hulking ex-Soviet cargo planes come daily to collect the latest catch in exchange for their southbound cargo… Kalashnikovs and ammunitions for the uncounted wars in the dark center of the continent.
This booming multinational industry of fish and weapons has created an ungodly globalized alliance on the shores of the world’s biggest tropical lake: an army of local fishermen, World bank agents, homeless children, African ministers, EU-commissioners, Tanzanian prostitutes and Russian pilots
The idea of this film was born during my research on another documentary, Kisangani Dairy that follows Rwandese refugees in the midst of the Congolese rebellion. In 1997, I witnessed for the first time the bizarre juxtaposition of two gigantic airplanes, both bursting with food. The first cargo jet brought 45 tons of yellow peas from America to feed the refugees in the nearby UN camps. The second plane took off for the European Union, weight with 50 tons of fresh fish.
Wow. This was bizarre. And what a story!
But what about the title? Hubert Sauper explains:
In DARWIN’S NIGHTMARE I tried to transform the bizarre success story of a fish and the ephemeral boom around this "fittest" animal into an ironic, frightening allegory for what is called the New World Order. I could make the same kind of movie in Sierra Leone, only the fish would be diamonds, in Honduras, bananas, and in Libya, Nigeria or Angola, crude oil. Most of us I guess, know about the destructive mechanisms of our time, but we cannot fully picture them. We are unable to "get it", unable to actually believe what we know.
It is, for example, incredible that wherever prime raw material is discovered, the locals die in misery, their sons become soldiers, and their daughters are turned into servants and whores.... It seems that the individual participants within a deadly system don't have ugly faces, and for the most part, no bad intentions. These people include you and me.
That's such a deep thought, the movie so interesting sounding, and the whole thing such an odd accidental find that it makes it to the blog. Big hat tip to HT Trainer for finding this! As for the movie itself, it's available on Amazon. Just click here.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Yesterday was a good day in the field.
For one thing, I did not get up in the dark and rush down the highway to a freezing dawn. Daylight savings has started, which means it was just starting to get light when I swung my legs out of bed and, to tell the truth, I did not break any land speed records getting up and out. It was 10 am when I got to the farms, and it felt like I had been lounging around for hours.
The weather was perfect -- cool and sunny, with the ground springy under my feet from just the right amount of moisture. Perfect.
Spring is just about here. The buds are not yet on the trees, but the grass seemed a little greener, and so did the honeysuckle in the hedge.
The dogs pinged on a lot of holes, but the groundhog dens are still plugged up with loose dirt and leaves, and with the ground this soft, I was pretty sure that if the dogs could not get in right away, the groundhogs would probably dig away. Why break my back this early in the season on a futile dirt-chase, when there was still so much hole scouting to do?
The dogs marked a half a dozen holes, but could not get in past the backfill and leaves, and so I whistled them on, and we all had a grand time walking through field and forest.
I came down the edge of one long field, and realized I was near a large den Mountain had pulled a large possum out of several years ago. I had always thought this was an old fox den, but it had never held anything except that one time. In addition, while it was a very "foxy" looking sette up near the field, it was very much a groundhog pipe father inside the wood line, complete with smooth mounded entrance. No doubt it was an old sette, used by many creature over time. Still, it had held for me only that once.
As I approached the den, I remembered that the last time I had swung by I had noticed that a large tree had crashed down over the den. The downed tree was still there, of course, and as I got closer I could hear Mountain opening up to a short bay, underground, and back inside the broken limbs that lay shattered on the ground. Excellent!
Pearl was ahead of me, and she slid into the hole nearest the field just as I got there. Two dogs underground at once is not a good idea, but there was nothing to be done about it now, and it was a large sette. My dogs know each very other very well, and they will not push each other into quarry. Besides, I was not even sure these two holes linked up -- Mountain had pulled her possum from this sette without any digging at all, and it was a pretty long way from one hole to the other.
I stopped next to the hole where Pearl had slid in, and waited. An odd coughing sound came out of the pipe. Hmmm. Well, it wasn't an empty sette. And it didn't quite sound like a groundhog, did it?
I pulled out the Deben locator box and marked Pearl at five feet, and then she stopped baying and began moving. Just then Mountain began baying at the other end of the sette, and I climbed over a small bit of the downed tree and noticed an odd slash in the earth right between the two dogs. Apparently a new opening had popped into this sette. Had that occurred with the tree falling? Hard to say, but the hole did not look like it has been dug but ripped.
I was boxing the dogs for location right next to that hole, when a red fox sprang out of the gash in the earth and bounced off the fallen tree trunk right above me, before launching itself another three feet in the air to bounce off another fallen branch.
Yow! Wow! That was quite an explosion -- and right at my feet too.
It was not a big fox, but very dark red, the color of Georgia clay, and it was coiled up as tight as a watch spring as it ran. That was one booking animal!
It was probably a vixen, I thought.
And then, before another idea could flicker across my racing mind, this fox gave out a very loud sound halfway between a bark and a yelp.
Sound! You do not get that too often from a fleeing fox! How odd.
I squatted next to the hole, waiting to see what would happened next. Would another fox flush? But no, it was Mountain, coming out of the same ragged slit in the ground from which the fox had bounded. I grabbed her up, slipped a lead over her head, and staked her back from the hole.
Now what? I had just settled back next to the hole, waiting, when an enormous red dog fox bounded into the scene from stage right, at the edge of where the forest met the field.
This fox clearly had no idea I was there, and he was coming in pretty fast. He bounded on top of a log about 15 feet away from me, and at eye-level with my head. His neck ruffle was fully flared, and he was loaded for bear and facing me. At first, because I did not move and the wind was not to his favor, he did not see or smell me.
I slowly slid my hand back to see if I could pry the camera loose from the case at my waist. That was all the movement the fox needed, and now he saw me and was visibly surprised and confused that I was there. He was a magnificent fox, and though he probably froze on that log for only a second or two before bounding away, it was as picture-perfect a view of wildlife as I have ever seen. A real National Geographic moment. This was a very large dog fox with a deep red coat, and at the top of his game. A magnificent animal. I have seen a lot of fox over the years, but this one was very large - the largest I have seen in person -- and with a much richer color than any of the others. It was double the size of the little vixen that I had bolted, that was for sure.
And then, quicker than I can say it, the fox was gone.
I was still pumped up and in glory from the sight of this fox when Pearl came out of the same gash in the earth that the little vixen had bolted from. I grabbed her up, slipped a leash over head head, and moved both dogs farther away from the sette.
What had gone on back there?
The second fox was not the first fox, I was certain of that. The size differential was very real, and so too was the fact that this dog fox had clearly been clueless as to what was at the hole. He had only come in fast because the cavalry has been called for. That's what that Vixen's call had been all about.
I was not sure if fox pups were inside this den or not. There was not a scrap of feather, hide or bone at the entrance, but perhaps the vixen had just given birth or was about to. If the kits were still on milk, there would be no fox-toys about.
Or perhaps this was not a natal den at all. No matter -- my dogs will not harm very small fox kits (most terriers will ignore them) and no harm was done here, other than a small fright to the Vixen. If the fox did have kits in there, there would be no shortage of dens for them to move on to if they really wante to move. But the den had not been dug on at all. I suspected they would simple calm down and stay; the den was very far back on the farm, and it was unlikely there would be another disturbance of any kind. Not from me, that's for certain!
But wow, what a fox that was! It really was a magnificent animal.
I kept the dogs on leash for half a field, but they both knew the game was over, and when they got off lead, they hunted forward, checking more settes and pinging on a few more that were partially filled in with dirt. The good news was that this farm did not appear to be blank! When the weather warmed up, in about a month, there would still be very good groundhog hunting here.
We were almost to the truck when Mountain slid into another sette, and opened up to a nice bay. Excellent! Perhaps we would get in a dig after all. I downed tools and leashed up Pearl, clipping her to a piece of old hog wire fencing, well back from the hole.
Mountain was quite a bit farther up inside this den pipe than I would have imagined, but I located her perfectly and she was not deep at all. A very quick pop in, and I found the source of her blockage -- a thick root which I sawed away. Mountain moved forward another 15 feet and stopped cold. I popped in another quick hole, but there was nothing at the end of this pipe but the dog. Where had the groundhog gone?
I poked around with a Yoho trowel, and so did Mountain, but neither of us could find where the groundhog had gotten to. The ground was quite solid.
I pulled Mountain after 15 minutes of probing and looking, and unclipped Pearl, but she too was stymied. I barred around the stop end, but could not find the pipe. Oh well. Some get away, especially in this kind of soft soil.
I pulled Pearl, unclipped both dogs from their leads, and let them noodle around on top while I broke up branches and repaired the two den pop holes that I had dug.
I was just about finished repairing the den and re-landscaping the top, when Mountain began attacking the base of a nearby tree, pulling off a big slab of bark.
Eh? I was pretty sure she was after a chipmunk which I had seen scampering off in the wood pile, so I did not pay her too much attention.
Then Mountain really began digging away at the base of the tree, and in only a few minutes she had made quite a decent hole in the dirt.
Now I was interested. Let's see what happened here.
Pearl laid down next to the hole, her entire body on its side. She was clearly listening for something. Mountain, for her part, kept digging, and I pulled her just once to clear the loose dirt from the hole, and then let her go back to digging. Was she after a mouse?
Then Pearl was on her feet. She walked two feet forward, and began digging furiously at another spot in the dirt on top of the ground. Bang -- she was on it! Pearl had found the groundhog!
After a little victory ragging of the carcass by the dogs, this groundhog was placed on the edge of the hedgerow on a path next to the corn field which, from the look of the fox scat, was clearly part of the local fox patrol.
This was going to be Mr. and Mrs. Fox's dinner for the next day or two, courtesy of the Mountain and Pearl. A small peace offering for accidentally disturbing them earlier in the day. Mea culpa, apologia, Mr. and Mrs. Reynard, and bon appetite!
A German doctor at the same bar says: "We did that with a heart, and in 4 weeks the patient was looking for work."
A British doctor chimes in: "That's nothing, we transplanted an a$$hole from Scotland into 10 Downing Street, and now the whole damn country is looking for work!!!"
Monday, March 23, 2009
From The Wall Street Journal:
The Texas Board of Education will vote this week on a new science curriculum designed to challenge the guiding principle of evolution, a step that could influence what is taught in biology classes across the nation.
The proposed curriculum change would prompt teachers to raise doubts that all life on Earth is descended from common ancestry. Texas is such a huge textbook market that many publishers write to the state's standards, then market those books nationwide.
"This is the most specific assault I've seen against evolution and modern science," said Steven Newton, a project director at the National Center for Science Education, which promotes teaching of evolution.
Texas school board chairman Don McLeroy also sees the curriculum as a landmark -- but a positive one.
Dr. McLeroy believes that God created the earth less than 10,000 years ago. If the new curriculum passes, he says he will insist that high-school biology textbooks point out specific aspects of the fossil record that, in his view, undermine the theory that all life on Earth is descended from primitive scraps of genetic material that first emerged in the primordial muck about 3.9 billion years ago.
He also wants the texts to make the case that individual cells are far too complex to have evolved by chance mutation and natural selection, an argument popular with those who believe an intelligent designer created the universe.
In Japan and China, they are cheering this on, as the rejection of Darwin will set back American schools 100 years, and guarantee that Asia will dominate the global economy for the next 100 years, the Golden Age of Biotechnology.
In Iran and Iraq and Afghanistan, they are cheering this on as well, but for a different reason.
Could the religious zealots of the Taliban variety gain a foothold in the U.S.? It appears they are well on their way to do so. And all you have to do to help is remain silent...
A recycled post from October 2007
A friend of mine who used to be a shelter worker explained it to me. "PETA would never show up at a kill shelter," she explained, "because if they did, the workers there would bring out all the dogs and and cats, turn over the leashes and say, 'Here, they're all yours now.'"
It's an amusing picture, but it's not quite true. You see, PETA does not protest at kill shelters because it supports the killing of dogs and cats in shelters, and it does almost nothing to try to get dogs and cats adopted out.
In fact, in 2005, PETA killed 90 percent of the animals turned over to it despite an organizational budget of $25 million a year.
If that shocks you, then consider this: most "Humane Society" shelters kill 50-80 percent of all the dogs and cats turned over to them. So too do most SPCA shelters contracted by local municipalities. And they kill even when they have empty cages and kennels, and even when they have lots of money in the bank.
In fact, shelter killing is the leading cause of death for healthy dogs and cats in the United States.
All in all, some five million dogs and cats are killed in our nation’s shelters every year by the "humane" industry.
To put it another way, the "humane" industry, which vociferously opposes hunting of deer for meat, actually kills more dogs and cats than hunters shoot deer.
How could this be occurring, even as Americans are buying large numbers of cats and dogs?
How could this be occurring at a time when more dogs and cats than ever are being spayed and neutered?
And how is it that the "humane" industry is doing all the killing?
These are the questions asked -- and answered -- in Nathan J. Winograd's new book, entitled Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America.
This is an important book. In fact, this book is so important --- and so few people are likely to read it -- that I am going to provide a long summary. Suffice it so say that I think this book is very deserving of your dollars and reading time.
Buy the book!
The Lost Cause Meets the Blue Solution
The American "humane" movement began with the gadfly Henry Bergh, who was radicalized on a trip to Russia when he successfully stepped into the street to stop a man from beating his horse.
Emboldened and amazed at the power of moral suasion (backed up, it should be said by his 6'2" frame), Bergh decided he liked this feeling very much, and on a trip to London, he got an instruction sheet on how to do more of it from the newly-minted Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Upon arriving back in New York City, Bergh created an SPCA to parallel the work of the organization in London, and he personally patrolled the streets of New York and lit in to every horse-beating hack and street hawker he could find.
Bergh was a force of nature; he got New York to pass anti animal-cruelty laws, and he closed down the rat pits to be found at Kit Burns' Sportsman's Hall. He got horse drinking troughs installed all over the city, and he berated the New York City practice of paying people to round up (and even steal) dogs and cats in order to drown them in a huge old iron cage dunked off the end of the wharf. What harm were the cats and dogs doing, Bergh asked? Not much, but never mind; they were an inconvenience, and smacked of disorder in a city trying to enter the modern era. Stray dogs and cats had to go.
Bergh generally made such a nuisance of himself that exasperated New York City officials offered to turn over the keys of the City Pound if he would run it. In fact, they said they would pay him to do the business of rounding up and drowning all the stray dogs and cats.
Bergh would have none of it. He did not seek a job killing animals; he wanted to end needless animal suffering, and that included ending the needless destruction (as he saw it) of stray dogs and cats.
Bergh was a gadfly, but he was a principled and effective one. Without a doubt, he made life better for horses and other beasts of burden in New York City.
Soon other cities were copying the Bergh model, and setting up their own SPCAs. As a direct consequence, life got a little better for urban horses and mules all across the United States.
When Henry Bergh died, the folks that sought to fill his shoes were less principled and more oriented towards financial stability. And so, when New York City officials once again offered to turn the keys of the City Dog Pound over to the SPCA -- and even pay the SPCA to run it -- these new leaders leaped at the chance for a steady income. And what harm did it do, they argued. If the SPCA did not do the killing, then it would simply fall on someone else's shoulders.
And so, with the passing of a key and a check, the humane movement was in the mass killing business. With Henry Bergh dead, no one saw the slightest moral problem.
The SPCA was to remain in the killing business for the next 100 years, doing little more than replacing iron drowning cages with gas chambers, and gas chambers with injections of sodium pentobarbital.
For thirty years, pentobarbital has been the humane movement's "Blue Solution" to the "pet overpopulation" problem.
To this day, most SPCAs are little more than government-hired killing machines for dogs and cats. Though they never mention it on the Animal Planet television show, the New York City ASPCA, according to Winograd, kills nearly 70 percent of the dogs and cats turned over to it
Across the U.S., the typical "Humane Society" or SPCA building remains an ugly wreck located in a depressing and trash-strewn part of town. The employees there are so over-worked and underfunded, that it's all they can do to keep the killing machine going full-bore.
But they manage.
Poor infrastructure and poverty-level funding are a commonality to animal shelters across the country. This is what you get when you make a pact with City Government to become a municipality's dog-and cat-killing machine.
Municipalities know that after years of dependency on government funds, most SPCA and Humane Society shelters are in no position to turn down low-ball contract offers.
And since the shelters are located in out-of-the-way locations and have no constituency (because most do very little outreach to the community), they are in no position to bargain or raise a stink.
This is the death business, not the adoption or pet-placement business.
Out of sight is out of mind. The goal of these shelters is simple cost-effective efficiency.
And nothing is as cost-effective or as efficient as disposing of an animal in a gas chamber or with a killing overdose of drugs.
Dog catcher, Seattle,1921
Followship Rather than Leadership
When push comes to shove, nothing much has changed in the humane movement for the last 100 years. For over 100 years, the metric has been a simple one: How many dogs and cats can the local shelter "handle" for the race-to-the-basement sums being offered up by the city contracting for this "service."
A "good" shelter is not one that adopts out most of its cats and dogs; it's one that keeps a large number of cages empty and clean, and that consistently makes its annual budget numbers while doing so with as little negative publicity as possible.
And, oddly enough, this is still the metric being used by most of the "humane" organizations, even when those organization have millions of dollars in their bank account as PETA and some of the larger Humane Societies around the United States do.
What is going on?
The short answer, according to Nathan Winograd, is followship.
Followship is the opposite of leadership. Leadership is what happens when you break away from the herd and proceed in a new direction. Followship is what happens when organizations tell us each other that they must all pack up together and do the exact same thing.
Why do these organizations want to pack up? Simple. There is safety in numbers.
And why do these shelters crave safety? What do they fear? Simple: They fear anyone questioning their "killing for convenience" paradigm -- a paradigm that began more than 100 years ago when the SPCA abandoned the principles of Henry Bergh and took over the first municipal City Pound contract.
If everyone does the same thing, the killing for convenience solution will be easier for the public to swallow. Everyone else is doing it, so there must be no other way.
Winograd notes that followship in the humane movement has been routinely solidified by a series of conferences in which all of "the principles" in the dog-catching and dog-killing business have gotten together under the mantra of forming a "consensus" about what to do about "pet overpopulation."
And who is in the room when that consensus is sought? Not only representatives of individual SPCAs and Humane Society shelters, but also the leaders of the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States (neither of which financially support local shelters), along with the national trade association of dog catchers (the National Animal Control Association), folks from the American Veterinary Medical Association, and people from the American Kennel Club.
In order to get consensus, all parties have to give up ground, which is a nice way of saying the "solutions" that are embraced at these consensus conferences have been as tepid as old bathwater.
Never mind if good ideas that could reduce the number of dogs and cats going into shelters are rejected; the organizational business interests of each group are more important than the dogs. After all, where would these dogs and cats be without the "humane" movement?
And so, there has been a general agreement among consensus conference participants to oppose subsidized low-fee high-volume pet sterilization clinics since veterinarians feared that would take away a portion of their business. Subsidize pet sterilizations? My God man, that's socialized medicine!
And, of course, there should be no criticism of the American Kennel Club's requirement that only intact dogs be eligible for showing. Nor should their be any criticism of the Kennel Club's long-standing promotion that pure-bred dogs are the "best dogs," never mind the huge number of genetic defects to be found in AKC dogs.
Instead, the parties have repeatedly agreed on a plan based on "Legislation, Education and Sterilization," or LES.
By "Legislation," the parties meant imposing more punishments on the dog-owning public.
Dog and cat licenses will be required, or the animals will be rounded up and killed.
Vaccines will be required, or the animals will be rounded up and killed.
Of course everyone should voluntarily spay and neuter their pet, but if they don't, there should be mandatory spay and neuter laws, with big fines and licensing fees. And if that does not work, then we will push to have unlicensed and unspayed dogs and cats seized and summarily killed.
By "Education" the humane movement means taking a few pound puppies to schools and lecturing kids about how horrible it is to be cruel to animals.
What will not be mentioned at these sessions is the fact that 75 percent of the healthy dogs and cats given to the pounds are killed, and that a state or city contract to kills dogs is what funds the shelter to begin with.
There will be no mention that most dogs and cats are killed after only just a few days wait, and that this killing goes on even when cages are empty.
There will be no discussion of how the humane movement has consistently opposed city- and state-subsidized spay-neuter initiatives.
There will be no mention of how most shelters discourage fostering of their overflow and consider volunteers "too much work." Nor will there be a discussion of how little community outreach is done to place or showcase dogs placed at the shelter.
Instead, the message told to the kids -- and the public in general -- will be a simple one: People are irresponsible and they are to blame for so many cats and dogs going to the gas chamber.
And as for "Sterilization," the humane movement means only "free market" sterilization at the local for-profit veterinary clinic. Whatever price they set is fine. Can't afford it? Then you are really too poor to own a cat or dog at all. Never mind that you are old and on a fixed income. Never mind that you earn only $7 an hour at WalMart. Only people with credit cards and significant home equity should own cats and dogs.
Of course, the LES paradigm has been a complete and utter failure. As Nathan Winograd notes,
“Whenever a shelter kills a homeless animal entrusted to its care, it has profoundly failed. And animal shelters fail, as general rule, 50 to 80 percent of the time. Put it another way, animal sheltering is an industry whose leadership mostly fails.”
The "humane" movement has made peace with its history of failure. In fact, the web sites of most of these organizations actually argue that killing dogs and cats is the "best outcome" for shelter dogs and cats and is much preferred to having animals held for a few weeks in a kennel situation.
This message is repeated so often that through sheer repetition it starts to sound like truth.
But what does this mean? Does this mean that the dogs in your kennel runs are better dead than being owned by you? Yes, according to most humane organizations. Does this mean that animals at the zoo are better dead than kept in cages? Yes, according to most humane organizations.
The Blue Solution is the only solution they know. Never mind if the animals they want to administer this solution to seem quite fine and happy. The humane movement knows best. Just ask them, and they will tell you.
Part of the Legislate-Educate-Sterilize paradigm is unity. Unity is important because it is only by "singing out of the same hymnal" that mass absolution for killing 5 million cats and dogs a year can be achieved.
And so, if one small group or another breaks rank, that group is denounced, ignored, marginalized, or pushed back into into the fold.
The result has been a nearly complete suppression of innovation. If a City like Los Angeles or San Francisco shows that subsidized high-volume spay-neuter clinics can work to reduce the number of unwanted pets, then those results are ignored, and efforts are made to get the program killed or repealed as quickly as possible.
If a no-kill shelter pops up, the humane organizations move to demonize it by saying that such programs "only push the killing on to the backs of other shelters."
If the No-Kill shelter actually takes ALL admissions, as does the Tomkins County shelter in New York, then that fact is simply ignored. The consensus mantra is simply repeated: "There are no such things as No-Kill shelters in this country. Shelters that claim they are 'No-Kill' are simply selecting out the easy to adopt dogs, and deflecting all the others to shelters that have to do the dirty work."
Never mind if that's not true.
Ignore the experience of San Francisco and Charlotesville, Virginia which have shown that it's possible to have open admissions and still adopt out 90 percent of all the dogs, cats, kittens and puppies.
The bizarre thing here is that the humane organizations seem completely dense. Even as they threaten to kill even more dogs and cats, they seem confused as to why the public is not eager to rush down to "the killing rooms" in order to pick out one lucky survivor from the pile.
Surely the average American is eager to drag his or kids down to the bad part of town in order to enter a kill shelter reeking of urine and feces?
Doesn't everyone want to answer their children's questions about what happens to all the other dogs and cats that are not picked?
And who could not be charmed by the indifferent (and often quite rude) staff and the short hours that the shelter is actually open?
Why would anyone prefer to simply get a dog out of the paper, or from a professional breeder, or from a puppy store?
A complete mystery.
The Needle and the Damage Done
A Better Way of Doing Business
It is possible to run a No-kill shelter? The short answer is a definitive YES.
It's been done in urban San Francisco, where for many years the SPCA took all the dogs and cats the city would relinquish to it.
It's been done in rural Tompkins County, New York where the local SPCA shelter is a pure open-admission no kill shelter.
It's been done in Charlottesville, Virginia where 92 percent of the dogs are now adopted out.
It been done in Richmond, Virginia where the SPCA says it is "proud to report that no healthy, homeless animal died in the City of Richmond in 2006."
It's getting done by the Philadelphia Animal Care and Control Association which has gone from an 80 percent kill rate to a 50 percent placement rate in just 7 months time, with the numbers continuing to fall.
So what has been the response of the Old Guard in the "humane" movement? Surely they are thrilled that someone has found a way to keep more dogs and cats alive?
Instead of celebrating, the quick-to-kill folks have denied that open-admission No-Kill shelters even exist. They have failed to report about the success of No-Kill shelters in their publications and on their web sites, and they have tried to explain away every success as being a unique situation that could never be replicated anywhere else.
San Francisco? Yes, it worked there, but only because that city has a lot of rich gays (according to ASPCA president Roger Caras). Plus, it's an urban area; it would never work in a rural area.
Tomkins County, New York? Yes, it worked there, but that's only because its a rural area. And it's a Northern part of the country too. A No-Kill shelter would never work in an urban area, or in the South where the rednecks don't give a damn about dogs.
Charlottesville, Virginia? Well, yes it worked there, but that's only because it's a moderate-sized city with a University. That's different.
Richmond, Virginia? Ugh ... Well, yes. I'm not sure what's unique there, but give us an hour or two and we'll figure out some way to marginalize that success too.
So how are all these No-Kill Shelters doing it?
It's not rocket science, but it does take dedicated management and a commitment to new way of doing business.
The new paradigm is not always easy for folks to get used to. If you have spent years rationalizing "killing for convenience," you are not likely to embrace a new way of doing business that involves more work.
It is a simple truth that empty cages are easier to manage than full ones. Visitors to a shelter means more paperwork and more accountability.
Not surprisingly, some shelter workers buck. Nathan Winograd says that when he first came to Tomkins County to transform their 80-percent kill shelter into a No-Kill model, he had to confront the staff and explain the world of budgets as he saw it.
The issue came to a point over a basket of puppies that were dropped off at the shelter on his first day. As he told the staff:
"Volunteers who work with animals do so out of sheer love. They don’t bring home a paycheck. So if a volunteer says 'I can’t do it,' I can accept that from her. But staff members are paid to save lives. If a paid member of staff throws up her hands and says, 'There’s nothing that can be done,' I may as well eliminate her position and use the money that goes for her salary in a more constructive manner. So what are we going to do with the puppies that doesn’t involve killing?"
One can only imagine the reaction!
In fact, Winograd found about half of his existing shelter staff could not make the transition. Most were simply too lazy. Trained that killing was the only way, they could not assimilate a new order that involved actually using all of the shelter's kennel capacity, fostering out puppies and sick dogs to volunteers, and actively partnering with the community to increase the adoption rate.
Yet, these techniques worked. Today the Tomkins County shelter is a No-Kill Open-Admissions SPCA shelter with a better than 93 percent adoption-placement rate.
None of Winograd's techniques or ideas were entirely new, but no one had tried to use them all at once.
And using them all at once is what made the difference.
In the end, Winograd and others in the No-Kill movement have come up with a 10-point plan for success.
By definition, a 10-point plan is more complicated than a one-point plan. The one point plan -- the Blue Solution -- promises only death. The 10-point plan, however, results not only in a dramatic increase in adoptions of dogs and cats, but also results in more income to the shelter as the relationship between the shelter and the community begins to change.
It turns out that people who will not give money or support to a shelter that kills 80 percent of the dogs and cats that pass through its doors, are more than willing to give money and time to a shelter that actually saves lives.
OK, enough wind-up. What are the 10 elements of success as outlined by Nathan Winograd?
- Hire a compassionate director who is dedicated to measuring success by lives saved. Winograd make a convincing argument that municipalities need to look for new shelter managers outside of the current humane movement. What is needed for success, he says, is not a 10-year track record ofkilling animals, but a demonstrated ability in basic management, coupled with good people skills, enthusiasm, creativity, and a commitment to the cause of quickly and sharply reducing the needless killing of healthy dogs and cats in a shelter.
- A high-volume, low-cost spay-neuter program designed to get more people to voluntarily spay and neuter their pets. The biggest obstacle to spay-neuter at the individual level is not lack of willingness on the part of pet owners, but lack of money to get the surgery done. Even though research has shown that most intact animals are owned by the poor, and that spay-neuter subsidies are cost-effective ($1 invested is a $10 savings in animal control costs), the humane movement has repeatedly testified against them in order to maintain their "consesus compact" with the veterinary community.
- A feral cat program focused on trapping, neutering and returning wildcats to the wild. Wingograd argues that cats do fine as feral animals (they are little more than African Wildcats to begin with) and that there is no need to kill them. Simply trap, spay, innoculate, and release them. As to the notion that they might harm bird populations, Winograd dismisses these claims, correctly noting that most birds experts point to other causes of bird decline, including forest fragmentation and chemicals in the environment as more important causal agents.
- Use breed rescue groups. This not only frees up needed space in a shelter, but it also reduces food and upkeep costs, and improves the chance that a dog will be adopted by someone specifically looking for that type of dog. Despite the fact that pure breed rescue groups exist across the country, local shelters have often rejected overtures from these groups, claiming that making contact and setting up appointments is "too much work."
- Use foster care volunteers. While traditional shelters generally reject volunteers as "too much work," Winograd argues that not only are foster care volunteers the perfect answer for what to do with puppies and kittens too young to adopt out, but they are also good for sick animals that need several weeks in order to recover and look presentable. Foster volunteers not only adopt many of their charges themselves, they also serve as ready and willing outreach ambassadors to the community.
- Change the sales presentation. Studies show that people get their dogs from the local pound only 15 percent of the time, and that cats are even less likely to be acquired at a shelter. The trick to changing these numbers, says Winograd, is to present dogs and cats in better surroundings, to extend shelter hours, to hire friendly and committed staff, and to take animals out to where people can see them and consider them for adoption. A shelter should not be a gloomy place with the air of inevitable death about it, but a place where a father or mother will feel fine taking their kids to pick out a dog or cat that simply needs a home and a chance. People want pets. They pay large sums of money for them, and they travel to get them. A lot of people can be convinced to get an older dog or a dog that is not purebred ("It's the only one of its kind"). What people object to is not the animals in the shelter, but the shelter's look and smell and the business of killing itself.
- A pet retention program to work with owners who need a little bit of help in order to keep the pets they already have. Often this is simply a matter of a little problem-solving as it relates to "accidents" (don't leave a water bowl down 24-hours a day), barking, or finding a landlord that will accept a tenant with a dog or cat.
- Focus on medical and behavior rehabilitation. This means finding volunteers, veterinarians, and even local businesses willing to work with problem animals. Winograd suggests partnering with a veterinary college, but other good ideas include working with businesses and others who might be willing to support a fund to deal with certain conditions, such as respiratory infections or behavior problems.
- Public Relations means reaching out to the public and treating them as a potential solution rather than as the source of the problem. It means advertising, creating attractive web sites, networking with rescue groups, meeting with editorial boards and small business owners, and going out to places where people can get the message, see the product, and hear the pitch.
- Recruit and work with volunteeers. Volunteers can take pictures of dogs and cats for the web site, write up web descriptions, feed and water animals, walk animals, clean cages, put up flyers, and take animals out into the community for basic socialization. The more volunteers, the more hands, and the more hands the more positive energy will flow into the shelter -- and the more dogs and cats will flow out.
So why aren't more local SPCAs and humane societies around the country doing all of this?
The answer is that many of them are starting to. A movement is growing, and it is moving in the right direction.
That said, change is a proceess not an event. Moving from a 75% kill shelter to a 93% placement shelter requires careful staging. Do it wrong, and you will have full cages, but you will not yet have developed the capacity to cut down on admissions (thanks to cheap spay-neuter, and successful pet-retention programs) or foster out dogs, or move dogs to breed rescues, or find homes in the community thanks to a well-oiled up-and-running community outreach effort.
So the good news is that good things are happening in some locations.
|Numbers That CountNathan Winograd argues that the terms "adoptable" and "unadoptable" are too easy to manipulate and subject to wide interpretation. He notes, for example, that a lot of the "temperament testing" that goes on at shelters is complete bunk practiced by ignorants and amateurs, while some shelters simply strike off as "unadoptable" all very young puppies and kittens, any older dogs or cats. Animals with even mild illnesses (such as sinus infection or kennel cough) are similarly tossed into the weste busket for killing. So what defines success? Winograd suggests that success is achieved when a shelter achieved an adoption rate 90 percent or better for total open admissions of ALL dogs and cats (including the sick, the injured, the young, the old, and those with serious behavior problems). By putting the big number in the denominator, shelters are not able to lie with statistics and "select the best and dump the rest." Is the better-than-ninety-percent goal achievable? Yes -- it's already being achieved in shelters around the country.|
Another contributing factor is that municipal officials and some animal control board members are often risk-averse.
The city knows they can kill 80 percent of the dogs and cats entering their shelter without so much as a ripple in the local news media, but suppose they start doing "something different" down there at the Pound? Suppose everything is not 100-percent smooth sailing right from Day One? Or worse, suppose the folks that run the shelter want more money to do No-Kill work?
As for the board of the local shelter, they often feel captive to city and county contracts. How are they going to rationalize turning down guaranteed money? Without municipal money, how will the shelter pay for salaries, dog food, gasoline, water and electricty?
And so lack of inertia and plain-old financial fear keep the old killing-for-convenience paradigm going.
In the background, cheering on the old, failed LES strategy are folks like Ed Sayres, President of the ASPCA, who was quoted in the August 13, 2007 issue of USA Today as saying “There is no room for No-Kill as morally superior” to kill shelters.
There isn't? Not even even as a goal?
The ASPCA, it seems still prefers the Blue Solution.
So too does the Humane Society of the United States which refuses to even acknowledge that open admissions No-Kill shelters even exit.
The good news is that at the local level these national organizations do not really control too much.
The ASPCA does not actually run shelters at all -- all the local SPCAs are separate free-standing organizations. What this means is that if you have been giving money to the ASPCA for years, you have not been giving money to your local shelter. There is no pass-through money. The big boys in the ASPCA have simply pocketed your money, and used it to produce more direct mail to send to more suckers like you. Sorry.
Ditto for the Humane Socety of the United States, which also does not give a dime to support local Humane Society shelters. If you are giving money to the Humane Society of the United States, you are simply funding more direct mail asking little old ladies to give their "most generous contribution at this critical time." Silly you.
True leadership in the world of animal sheltering is not coming from the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States or PETA. It's coming from folks like Nathan Winograd and Richard Avanzino, who first turned the San Francisco SPCA into an open admission No Kill shelter back in 1976, and who ran it that way until 1998.
Avazino is now head of the $250 million Maddie's Fund (funded by PeopleSoft Founder Dave Duffield and his wife Cheryl) which gives out money, funds projects, creates shelter medicine programs, and acts as an information clearinghouse for what works in the No-Kill movement.
No-Kill is gaining traction.
And that's a problem for the ASPCA, PETA and the Humane Society of the U.S. After all, who wants to fund failure when success is an option?
And so the ASPCA, HSUS and PETA have embarked on a two-pronged strategy of: 1) denying that No-Kill works, even as they; 2) Claim they are leading the movement themselves.
The results of this communication stratgy are truely bizarre.
Consider this: Even as ASPCA President Ed Sayres holds a press conference in New York City with Mayor Bloomberg in order to "welcome" a $15.5 million Maddie's Fund grant to help that city transition to No-Kill (see ASPCA press release) Sayres and others are attacking No-Kill as being a complete fraud, denying its existence, and accusing it of actually doing nothing more than warehousing animals for months or even years. Truly this is Through the Looking Glass!
In fact, No-Kill shelters are as open (or more so) than other shelters, and Maddie's Fund has pioneered this type of openness. Have a few shelters transitioned too rapidly? Yes, but Richard Avanzino of Maddie's Fund and Nathan Winograd are convinced that every shelter can be No-Kill, and more and more cities are proving their thesis every day.
In fact, it is the success of the No-Kill movement that is causing paroxisms at the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the U.S., and PETA.
The success of No-Kill movement means that these organizations have been killing for years, not because the job of saving the lives of dogs and cats could not be done, but because they did not even realize that that was the job!
Here's a hint: It's called a SHELTER.
That just might mean saving lives, not snuffing them out.
It might even mean coming up with a better idea than the infamous "Blue Solution."
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Order a copy of Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America. I guarantee this is a book that will open your eyes.
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- To link to this post: >> http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2007/10/beyond-blue-solution.html
Do you really want to explain this sign to your six-year-old daughter on the day she gets her first dog? Me either.