LETTERS [May 1996]
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 1996:
Working in China
I was interested in the letter
from David Usher about animal
fighting for entertainment at
Wonderland of Southwest China,
published in the April edition of
ANIMAL PEOPLE. As the Far
East Representative of the Born Free
Foundation (which includes
ZooCheck) this kind of problem is
very much in my remit. It is a vast
problem quite beyond our tiny
resources, but we do what we can.
We have several thrusts to
1. We collect information,
which is stored at the BFF headquarters
in the United Kingdom. I do a
lot of travelling in China and
Southeast Asia, and have personally
visited many of the zoos, circuses,
safari parks, theme parks, etc. In
addition, many kind people write to
us with examples of problems they
2. We try to forge relationships
with the Chinese authorities.
In this we have found our
cooperation with the International
Fund for Animal Welfare invaluable.
I see a lot of criticism of IFAW in
your paper but certainly as far as
China is concerned they are doing a
magnificent job. For Earth Day, on
April 20th, IFAW, BFF and
EarthCare are giving a joint presentation
3. We believe the real
answer is basic education and we are
encouraging local Chinese groups to
set up Humane Education Centres.
EarthCare is a Hong Kong registered
charity set up with this purpose. If
anyone is interested in any of this,
please contact me.
I should be very grateful if
you would publish this. I am a regular
and avid reader of ANIMAL
8 Vivian Court
20 Mount Kellett Road
The Peak, Hong Kong
Working with animal shelters
for over 30 years, I have determined
one very important thing: the
most dedicated help you will ever
find are people who would be doing
the work anyway. Large humane
organizations should keep this in
mind when they are deciding who
shall be hired.
Inherit The Earth
I notice that you are a frequent
user of the Freedom of
Information Act. Our Cincinnati
activist group got its start 15 years
ago when a member, John
Rockwell, discovered through the
Freedom of Information Act that a
veterinarian was experimenting on
beagles for Procter & Gamble in a
lab behind his animal hospital. For
several months our small group
picketed and generated publicity.
July 4, 1996 marks the
30th anniversary of the signing of
the Freedom of Information Act. I
recommend that the law and its
author be honored with public
Because of incorrect information
received from the Chicago Tribune, ANIMAL
PEOPLE reported in April that Illinois is “without
an otter restoration program.”
Responded Elaine Hopkins of the
Peoria Journal-Star, “That just proves the
Tribune doesn’t cover all news. We’ve done a
couple of stories on it. The next otter releases
will be done on April 20. I’ll cover it, at
Bloomington’s Lake Evergreen.”
In fact, Illinois has released 131 otters
at six locations since 1994.
Because the information was received
from In Defense of Animals, ANIMAL PEOP
L E in April misattributed to IDA the Freedom
Ride for the Animals bus convoy, actually organized
by Last Chance for Animals, which will be
protesting its way across the U.S. to the June 23
March for the Animals in Washington D.C. For
details, call LCA at 310-271-6096.
Reporting on recent staff changes at the
American SPCA, we confused Cindy Adams in
publications with Cindy Francicelli in humane
education. Cindy Adams is still there; Cindy
Francicelli departed to become a nurse.
In response to Nancy Draper’s letter about
burnout, relationships, and coping with animal suffering,
if she has been in animal rights for 12 years she
has undoubtedly done so m e t h i n g of value. Hey
Nancy, pat yourself on the back and feel good about
all the good you do! As long as there are ignorant,
careless, and heartless people in the world, senseless
animal suffering will continue. You can’t save all the
animals right this minute, but you can make a difference
just by doing whatever you can and not giving up.
As for stressing out personal relationships
with people who are not as involved with animals,
when I started picking up strays off the street years
ago, my husband would flip out. Now he helps out. I
think we all inspire and encourage others by the examples
I don’t preach or judge anyone too harshly
for not agreeing with me. Words may come back to
that person years later, when he or she is ready to
change, and if you come across as a kind, generous,
open, compassionate person, chances are your message
may be remembered as valuable.
I’ve met lots of odd people in the animal
rights movement who are more comfortable in the
company of animals than in the company of people,
because they cannot express themselves fully or cope
with their rage at the world. Some of them care deeply
about animals because when they were growing up,
the only spirit that cared about them was animal,
rather than human. Some of them have such low selfesteem
that they don’t think any person would find
them worthy, whereas an animal responds to love
I know that bringing joy into this world by
saving animal lives is worth the effort. I feel great
about myself every time I do. I don’t worry about the
people who burn out. I hope others will come forward
to take their place. We expect a lifetime commitment
of anyone who adopts a rescued cat or dog from us. I
have made the same lifetime commitment to reach out
and change people’s consciousness about animals.
Of course I have to pace myself and take a
break from it at times, but no athlete can run a
marathon every day.
The Hudson County Animal League
Jersey City, New Jersey
Your stories of co-option and even fraud by
supposed animal rights groups are valuable. However,
aren’t you guilty of some co-option yourself? I’m not
talking about greed-directed co-option, but sociopolitical
co-option. The women’s lib propaganda takes
up way too much room. That movement is thoroughly
humanistic, and hypocritical at that.
––Mrs. B.A. Fusaro
Great issue for March on cats. Here are
some further thoughts:
Population Control Euthanasia (PCE) at
shelters is a polite but not very accurate way of
describing the killing of pets by humane means
because homes cannot be found for them.
I am not sure that “going where the homeless
cats are to do neutering” is either necessary or
sufficient to end PCE. For example, we just ran
“double subsidy month” for our low-cost spay program
in Butte County. We did 95 cat spays in
February. If we add to these the cat spays we did in
1995 and assume we will keep neutering at the same
rate, we predict we will do 341 cat spays this year.
These cats belong to low income people
who would not otherwise have their cats spayed,
whose cats are therefore at high risk of breeding. We
estimate saving two litters of 4.5 kittens each for
each spay done. That would mean 3,069 less births
of catchable cats, since the cats we are dealing with
were not trapped. Indeed, most of the 5,500 cats
brought to our local shelters last year were not
trapped. Animal control picked up about half the cat
input; the other half were brought in by owners. We
will do enough spaying this year to eliminate killing
those cats who do not need to be trapped, i.e. tame
cats, many of them kittens.
Should we now make a distinction between
homeless tame and homeless feral cats? Does it
make sense to save the homeless tame, but not the
homeless feral? Are not homeless feral cats by definition
overpopulation–-the ideal population being
zero? Is the goal zero population of homeless feral
cats? Are not all feral cats homeless? Do we get to
zero population by ending births as a better option to
killing? Better in what way? Your data shows some
28% of homeless cats die humanely while the other
72% die horrible deaths. After release, do the
altered have more gentle endings?
And how do you define a goal for your
humane program that has accountability as a bottom
line? Here accountability means some numerical
measure of how close to the goal is actually reached.
Are we trying to minimize suffering of the feline
species? Or the tame part of the feline species? How
do you factor longevity, presumably a plus, against
the suffering at the end, definitely a minus? Is
money spent on neuter/release so spent at cost of
supplying veterinary care and rehabilitation, that
could bring overall improvement in feline welfare?
Obviously it is easier to raise questions
than to find satisfactory answers. Sorry about that.
––L. Robert Plumb
Promotion of Animal Welfare Society
Does your favorite animal
shelter deserve your donation? Ask
before sending in your money if every
animal is altered before release to the
new owner. If not, your shelter is
perpetuating and adding to the number
of unwanted animals in excess of
A contract and a small discount
coupon are no guarantee that
altering will be done. The grim reality
is that a high proportion of these
adopted animals will not be altered
before they have at least one litter.
Many shelters realize this and are
changing their policies so that every
animal they adopt is altered before
release, even six-to-eight-week-old
puppies and kittens, in a procedure
which the American Veterinary
Medical Association has endorsed and
which has been very successful.
These shelters are recording fewer
animals being turned in and lower
If the goal of a shelter is to
end overpopulation, this is the most
important step to take. Make your
shelter implement mandatory neutering
prior to release of any animal.
They need your support; let them
prove they are doing a good job by
Kantanen arranged low-cost
neutering for Chicago residents for
years before it was offered by major
shelters serving the area.
Not my problem
After nearly 20 years of
dealing with feral cats, it has really
been hitting home of late that this is
not my problem. For years I have
thought that I or my organization must
raise more money for the cats, that I
or my organization must rescue more
animals, that I or my organization
must foster, adopt out, and so forth,
more and more ferals. Without giving
it much thought, I internalized society’s
problem and made it my own,
simply because I cared. Obviously
many others have shared my perspective.
But of late, I keep thinking that
the feral cat problem is certainly not
of my doing, wondering how I can
throw it back at society and demand
societal participation in curing this ill.
Applying general fund
money to subsidize low-cost neutering,
as many communities have
begun to do in hopes of realizing
greater savings in animal control, is a
marvelous thought. It can be very difficult,
as you well know, to get people
responsible for thoughtless breeding
or abandonment to recognize and
rectify their mistakes. However, the
application of even small amounts of
general fund money toward preventing
homeless animal births constitutes
recognition that these animals are a
public problem and that society does
have an obligation to humanely
N.J. Pet Overpopulation Solutions
Howell, New Jersey
Cats kill untold numbers
I read with great interest your coverage of homeless
cats. Trying to reduce stray cat numbers and euthanasias is an
Neutering stray cats is a fantastic idea; releasing
them is not. I work in a wildlife rehabilitation center. Every
year we receive hundreds of injured birds and small mammals.
Some of their injuries are caused by cars and other factors, but
the majority, particularly to birds, are caused by roaming cats.
Most of the injured animals die from their injuries, or from the
stress of their experience. Most of the deaths could be prevented.
Most of the cat attacks are by owned cats; the owners
bring in the victims. The owners should recognize their
responsibility to keep their cats indoors. Cats kill untold numbers
of songbirds, snakes, and small mammals, including
bunnies and baby squirrels, every day. These deaths dent the
populations of whole species, particularly songbirds. If a cat
being fed by an owner hunts and kills animals, imagine what a
homeless, hungry cat kills just to survive.
I believe releasing a cat is never a viable alternative.
Emphasis must be placed on taking cats to shelters and promoting
adoptions. Cats who are not adopted will have to be
euthanized. As depressing as this is, it is preferable to endangering
more wildlife. Wildlife have enough stresses already,
without introducing another predator into their midst.
I am a big cat lover. I have a pet cat at home, whom
I rescued from a dumpster. I would like to see all cats happy
and healthy, but I also want to keep wildlife healthy, without
unnecessary maimings and deaths.
Virginia Living Museum Rehabilitation Center
Newport News, Virginia
The editor replies:
Behavioral studies indicate the typical free-roaming
cat kills an average of one smaller animal per day, enough to
meet the cat’s metabolic needs. Feral cats and roving owned
cats kill about the same number of animals apiece, but while
ferals behave like other predators, killing food, conserving
energy by rarely killing what they won’t eat, roving owned
cats kill for sport, kill everything that moves, and are corre –
spondingly much more deadly relative to time spent at large.
Of the 63 million owned cats in the U.S., about a
third wander, according to Karen Johnson’s studies for the
National Pet Alliance. Add about 35 million homeless cats,
on year-round average, fluctuating between roughly 26 mil –
lion in winter, 40 million in summer. Thus 56 million cats like –
ly kill 20.5 billion wild animals per year.
While the carnage is clearly astronomical, it is
much less clear that cats “dent the populations of whole
species, particularly songbirds.” This is often alleged, but
the cat/bird relationship, like most predator/prey relation –
ships, is much more complex than the evidence of killed and
maimed carcasses tends to suggest, and warrants more care –
ful study than it has yet received. Undoubtedly, cats damage
the populations of some endangered songbirds––and compete
with hawks and owls for rodents. Yet the usual response of a
prey population to heavy predation is to breed more young.
Thus it is possible that feline predation stimulates the repro –
duction of some birds, as well as mice, rabbits, and squirrels.
It is also likely that the fecundity of cats, unique among preda –
tors, reflects their own role as prey for larger predators, for
example coyotes (and perhaps, their history as frequent vic –
tims of human-waged extermination efforts.)
Further, the presence of cats does keep some poten –
tially more dangerous predators away. For example, we
brought all the cats in our personal neuter/release project
indoors after two years, to halt the killing of chipmunks. One
year later, we had abundant chipmunks. But perhaps because
the cats were gone, ermine moved into the stone wall where
the chipmunks lived. Ermine go right down into dens–– and
now we seem to have a spring without any chipmunks.
Neuter/release is not a perfect solution, but does
paradoxically seem to be the fastest way to eliminate homeless
cats––and not only because of the rapid attrition of most
released colonies. Homeless cat population dynamics are
closely related to the activity of cat-feeders, who differ from
rescuers in their emphasis on feeding rather than capture, and
are typically middle-aged to elderly, socially isolated (often by
bereavement), and are frequently not allowed to keep pets
wherever they live. If catch-and-kill is the order of the day,
feeders typically form an underground to protect “their” cats
from extermination. Organizing them to do neuter/release, on
the other hand, gives them much-needed human contact;
brings their work under supervision; and wins their trust.
When cat-feeders trust humane workers, they are far more
likely to help remove adoptable cats, as well as sick or injured
cats, and to share the eventual goal of zero homeless cats.
The letters from the
Bennett County High School students
in your April issue were deplorable.
Obviously they were using the arguments
of their parents in defense of
rodeo, eating meat, and hunting.
These young people should
learn some facts. A calf roped and
busted suffers medical trauma. Two
of the Bennett County students admit
that the animals get hurt, but not
“that much.” I should like to know
these young people’s idea of “much.”
Rodeo animals often get their necks,
backs, and legs broken, and have to
As for eating meat, the
taste is not the point. Informed people
know that meat can be the cause
of death from various diseases, not
to mention heart attacks.
Two other Bennett County
students must have had a personal
message from God, to claim that
beef cattle were put on the earth for
our use. In early Biblical times,
humans were vegetarians.
Eliminating meat and using the grain
to feed people in Third World countries
would save millions of lives.
Another Bennett County
student argues that hunting is safe. If
hunting is so safe, why are we
always reading about hunters and
others being accidentally shot by
hunters? And it certainly isn’t safe
for the animals.
Finally, these young people
should read more carefully.
ANIMAL PEOPLE obviously does
not support trapping and dam-dynamiting!
P.S.––In response to the
“Premarin problem” letter, from registered
nurse David Knowles, one
alternative to Premarin, Estrace, is
cheaper here than Premarin, so cost
does not have to be a problem. Also,
my doctor recommends a vaginal
cream that he researched and found
to be a synthetic: Ortho-Dienestrol.
Other synthetics and non-Premarin
generics should be available before
long, enabling him to satisfy the
interests of his patients and his conscience
St. Petersburg, Florida