Obituaries [May 2009]

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2009:
Victoria Wellens, 58, died of cancer on
March 28, 2009. Executive director of the
Wisconsin Humane Society since 1994, Wellens
arrived with no background in animal work, but
had worked in child welfare. She inherited
dilapidated premises, a factionalized and
demoralized staff, a high rate of shelter
killing, animal control contracts with 19
cities, and adversarial relationships with other
humane organizations and local media. Her first
action was to make the Wisconsin Humane premises
child-friendly. Eliminating sharp-edged
furniture, harsh language, and any activity or
posters that would easily upset a child tended to
produce a more comfortable environment for staff
and volunteers. Dropping the animal control
contracts, which Wellens saw as the source of
most of the stress within Wisconsin Humane,
Wellens helped the cities to form the Milwaukee
Area Domestic Animal Control Commission.

Both MADACC and Wisconsin Humane built new shelters,
opened in 1999. Designed to resemble a shopping
mall, the new Wisconsin Humane shelter sparked a
revolution in shelter design, with influence
evident from Portland, Oregon, to Richmond,
Virginia. Wellens meanwhile stepped up the
Wisconsin Humane sterilization program, and
began helping feral cat rescuers. This helped to
cut the numbers of animals killed in greater
Milwaukee area shelters from 20.0 per 1,000 human
residents in 1995 to 10.5 in 1999, and only 4.1
a year later, in the initial year of a five-year
contract that gave Wisconsin Humane the first
right of refusal on any animal deemed adoptable
by the MADACC staff. During the five-year
contract, Wisconsin Humane accepted about half
of the animals offered by MADACC, keeping the
Milwaukee area rate of shelter killing between
4.7 in 2001 and the low of 4.1, reached again in
2003. However, after Wellens briefly
experimented with adopting out pit bull terriers
and Rottweilers who passed behavioral screening,
dangerous incidents involving some of the dogs
persuaded her to suspend pit bull and Rottweiler
adoptions. Because 74% of the dogs coming to
MADACC in recent years are pit bulls and
Rottweilers, MADACC executive director Len
Selkurt chose not to renew the exclusive
agreement in 2005. The shelter killing rate rose
to a six-year high of 4.8 per 1,000 humans. The
Wisconsin Humane wildlife rehabilitation program,
begun in 1983 by Wellens’ predecessor Leon
Nelson, under Wellens became one of the largest
in the U.S., handling almost as many animals as
the dog and cat facilities. Rehabilitating the
most birds of any Wisconsin agency gave Wellens
unique authority in speaking against a proposal
to allow hunters to shoot feral cats, ratified
in April 2005 by the annual state-wide caucuses
of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress. Governor
Jim Doyle responded by stating that he would veto
any bill to authorize cat hunting. Elected
founding president of the National Federation of
Humane Societies in 2006, Wellens later in 2006
received the American Humane Lifetime Achievement
Award.

Kullan, 55, a tribal wildlife watcher
employed by the Forest Department of Kerala
state, India, was trampled by an elephant on
April 20, 2009 at Anappanthi, near his home in
Bhoodanam.
Simon Chaitowitz, 56, died of leukemia
on April 19, 2009 in Washington D.C., 11 days
after posting to her blog that she might have
pneumonia. “It’s a long story but the leukemia
originated with my breast cancer treatment in
’03,” she added. A longtime activist in
various causes, Chaitowitz spent much of her
life in Seattle. As an account executive for the
public relations firm McKnight & Co., Chaitowitz
first became visibly involved in animal issues
circa 1986 as spokesperson for the Alaska Factory
Trawlers Association, but changed direction
following her 1987 marriage to John Thomas.
“Years ago I worked with her on a member
initiative for Puget Consumer’s Co-op to petition
the board to remove all animal tested products,”
recalled longtime friend Diane Venberg of
Seattle. “Then Simon started Citizens for
Cruelty Free Entertainment with Claudine
Erlandson and I joined them to help make Seattle
animal circus-free. We were not successful,
but certainly enlightened many people.”
Co-authoring op-ed columns with Physicians
Committee for Responsible Medicine founder Neal
Barnard, M.D. beginning in 1998, Chaitowitz
eventually relocated with Thomas to serve for a
decade as a PCRM spokesperson and prolific
promoter of veganism. Blogging throughout her
terminal illness, Chaitowitz on March 4, 2009
contributed to the Huffington Post a last essay
entitled “Why I Take Animal-Tested Drugs.” Wrote
Chaitowitz, “Throughout the past six years, I
have felt terribly guilty about the drugs and
procedures I’ve undergone because I know that so
many animals have suffered in their
developmentŠBut as someone who recently signed up
for hospice, I have another major problem with
animal research. I wonder if science would have
found a cure for my leukemia by now if they
weren’t sidetracked by misleading animal tests.
I wonder if the chemo that I took for breast
cancer would have been safer it hadn’t been
tested in species that are so unlike our ownŠ If
the chemo drugs I’m trying now don’t work, I do
have one last option,” she concluded. “I could
try a Phase One trial. That’s when a drug looks
promising in animals and is first tested in
humans. My doctor started to tell me why so many
participants die in Phase One trials–but it
turned out I already knew the answer. Drugs that
work in animals, he explained, usually don’t
work in humans.”

Guman Mal Lodha, 83, chair of the
Animal Welfare Board of India 1998-2004, died on
March 22, 2009 in Ahmedabad, India, after a
five-year struggle with cancer. Involved as a
teenager in the Indian independence movement,
Lodha was imprisoned in 1942. He served for five
years in the Rajasthan legislature, 1972-1977,
spent 10 years as a Rajasthan High Court judge,
and was for one year chief justice of the
Guwahati High Court, before serving three terms
in the Lok Sabha, the Indian parliament.
Chiefly associated with the Hindu nationalist
Bharatijya Janata Party, Lodha emphasized cow
protection during his AWBI tenure, often
clashing with People for Animals founder Maneka
Gandhi, minister of state for animal welfare
1998-2002, whose first priority was establishing
the national Animal Birth Control program.
Ernst Paul Eckhoff, 72, a cofounder of
the Best Friends Animal Society, was killed in a
single-car accident on the morning of March 24,
2009. Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Cameron Roden
told Mark Havnes of the Salt Lake Tribune that
Eckhoff’s Land Rover apparently drifted off the
left side of the two-lane road and Eckhoff
overcorrected, causing the vehicle to roll. “It
is quite possible that Paul swerved to avoid an
animal,” cofounder Gregory Castle told ANIMAL
PEOPLE. “A dog was seen later straying near the
scene of the accident. The dog, a young
neutered English pointer, was somewhat shy, but
was picked up and is now at the sanctuary.”
Wrote longtime Best Friends reception center
director Anne Mejia, “Paul will be remembered by
those who knew him for his gentle and generous
manner, his humor and his British wit. His
lasting legacy to the animals will be the central
role that he played in creating the Best Friends
Animal Sanctuary. As the architect of all the
existing animal care facilities at the sanctuary,
his building designs set a new standard in animal
welfare. The designs have been shared, free of
charge, with hundreds of individuals and
organizations all over the world.” Recalled
Michael Mountain, another cofounder, “Paul
would always be on the site [of a building job] with the volunteers, simply sweeping up and
tidying up to make sure they had a clean and
comfortable work place. He was honest and
plain-spoken, and loved Bassets. When he
couldn’t do much else, in recent years, he
would host Basset tea parties at his home for
staff people and other locals who had Bassets.”

Jayme Harrison, 14, a cat rescuer in
Graham, Washington, was shot by her father
James Harrison, 34, on the night of April 3,
2009, along with her siblings Maxine, 16;
Samantha, 12; Heather, 8; and brother James
Jr., 7. Harrison killed the children after his
wife Angela, 30, left him and refused to
return. He then shot himself.
Dewa Gede Sigit Purnomo, 24, was killed
on March 29, 2009, 18 days before his 25th
birthday, when he fell off his motorcycle in
front of his home in Denpasar, Bali. A two-year
employee of the Bali Animal Welfare Association,
Sigit came to BAWA from the Yudisthira
Foundation. “We called Sigit our ‘dog
whisperer’,” as he alone had the ability to
hypnotize the most frightened or sick animal into
a lovely calm state. We were planning to send
him to Australia for an internship,” BAWA
founder Janice Girardi told ANIMAL PEOPLE.

Judith Price, DVM, 63, died on July
16, 2008 in Spokane from complications of lung
cancer. Becoming a veterinarian at age 36,
after her eight children were in school, Price
“traveled weekends providing low cost
vaccinations and medical assistance around the
Northwest,” recalled Companion Animal Aid &
Placement Society/SPCA president Yvonne Herman.
Price was the CAAPS/SPCA medical advisor and a
board member. “It was inspirational to witness
her determination in treating life-threatening
diseases,” recalled Herman. “Dr. Price had a
clinic full of diabetic cats, medically
compromised dogs, and blind and deaf animals
whom she selflessly took on as her own.” Agreed
Spokane animal rescuer Carmel Travis, “She was
a kind woman with a compassionate heart.”

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