LETTERS [Sep. 1999]

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1999:

Raccoon rabies
After the July 14 discovery
of the first Canadian case of the
mid-Atlantic raccoon rabies strain in
Nepean, Ontario, the Ontario
Ministry of Natural Resources killed
all raccoons and skunks found within
five kilometres of any animal
found to have rabies. Ten kilometres
past this zone, all raccoons and
skunks are to be vaccinated and
released. A friend who lives within
the killing zone was horrified when
an MNR representative arrived on
her doorstop and told her that he
intended to kill all the animals on
her property. When my friend
objected to the killing and wanted
only the vaccinations, major problems
developed.


The MNR told me that the
killing must be done within the fivekilometer
zone because five kilometres
is the range of a raccoon, and if
the raccoon has rabies, he or she
probably has infected other animals.
The vaccinations don’t work on animals
who already have rabies.
However, there seems to
be an assumption that each rabid
raccoon found is in the middle of his
or her territory. What do you think?
––Marg Buckholtz
Kingston, Ontario

The Editor responds:
By July 29, according to
Health Canada, 14 MNR trappers
had already killed 523 raccoons, 84
skunks, and a fisher, but had
released all but two of the estimated
100 cats they caught––apparently
without vaccination or neutering.
All of the animals who were killed
tested negative for rabies.
“It is unlikely that any of
the wild animal submissions will
yield positive confirmations, as the
animals had to be sufficiently
healthy to be attracted to a sardine
bait,” Health Canada spokesperson
Chan Yow Cheong told the ProMED
zoonotic disease alert serice. “The
action was taken,” Chan Yow
Cheong said, “to eliminate a sus –
ceptible reservoir, as well as ani –
mals possibly incubating the virus
prior to exhibiting symptoms.”
Ontario MNR rabies
research coordinator Charlie
MacInnes indicated that the MNR
intends to continue to deploy both
the injected Imrab vaccine and the
Raboral oral vaccine, as it already
has for several years, as its first
lines of anti-rabies defense.
MacInnes explained that an ongoing
shortage of the Raboral vaccine has
obliged the MNR to rely more heavi –
ly on live-trapping and hand-innoc –
ulating raccoons than he would
have preferred.
Chan Yow Cheong and
MacInnes seem sincere in stating
intent to minimize the lethal
response, and to eradicate the
rabies outbreak as humanely as pos –
sible. However, the 23-year history
of the mid-Atlantic raccoon rabies
pandemic in the U.S. suggests that
the cats were the animals most likely
to transmit rabies from raccoons to
pets, who might then transmit it to
humans. Thus if rabies control was
the sole object of the exercise, the
cats too should have been killed.
We have had enough expe –
rience with Canadian federal and
provincial agencies manipulating
science to defend sealing and the fur
trade to consider the possibility that
higher-ups with one branch of gov –
ernment or another seized upon the
Nepean rabies outbreak to under –
take a public relations exercise on
behalf of fur trappers, and might
have ordered that any cats not
showing rabies symptoms be
released because the public might
respond badly to any death of a pet.

Gidget
I read every word, several
times, of your obituary for Gidget
in your June edition. What a beautiful
“Devil of the Boss Cats!” I am
so sorry for your loss.
––Dru Shipman
Chicago, Illinois

San Francisco
I must comment on your
mention of the San Francisco
Department of Animal Care and
Control and San Francisco SPCA
“success for the fifth year” of the
Adoption Pact in your July/August
issue. In a city the size of San
Francisco, with more than 729,000
people, it is definitely newsworthy
and admirable that the two animal
care agencies had a total intake of
only 12,118 animals. This seemingly
is a result of the low-cost/no-cost
spay/neuter programs the city shelter
and SF/SPCA have implemented.
I do not, however, find it
admirable that almost one third of
the animals were killed. With a
budget of over $20 million for the
SF/SPCA alone, I would expect a
much higher adoption rate.
––Laura Stuart
Granite Bay, California

The Editor responds:
If a community could
reduce pet overpopulation and pets
running-at-large to zero, and keep
all pets in their homes with effective
behavioral training, the local shel –
ters would receive only incurable
injury and disease cases, and would
have a euthanasia rate of 100%.
Conversely, a shelter might have a
100% adoption rate and still be
doing a terrible job if it left ill and
injured pets unaided, paid no atten –
tion to quality of placement, and did
not neuter every animal it placed.
We look at rates of intake,
adoption, and killing per 1,000
human residents. Per 1,000, it
appears that intake of 12-15 dogs
and cats, placement or return home
of two-thirds, and euthanasia of one
third is just about the best the shel –
ters of any big city can accomplish.
That’s where San Francisco is now,
with the highest adoption rate per
1,000 residents of any major U.S.
city we’re aware of. Several other
cities are close, but so far none
have managed to reduce the intakes
and killing to a greater degree.

 

Hobgoblins
It was Ralph Waldo
Emerson, not Oscar Wilde as your
July/August editorial stated, who
wrote that, “A foolish consistency
is the hobgoblin of little minds,
adored by little statesmen and
philosophers and divines.”
––Bina Robinson
The Civil Abolitionist
POB 26
Swain, NY 14884

 

Politics
Your powerful editorial
“Cruelty cannot be stopped by oneparty
politics” is a must for all of us
who for the past 20, 30, 40 years
have fought with words and money
to save animals from cruelty.
Depression increases as we see the
results of our longtime struggles to
preserve whales, seals, elephants,
dolphins, etc. What has gone
wrong? The need for compromise at
times, but not compromise of essential
goals, makes sense.
––Violet Soo-Hoo
San Francisco, California

 

Pony Boy
After unfavorably reviewing
two of GaWaNi Pony Boy’s
books for ANIMAL PEOPLE, I
attended one of his demonstrations
of horse training technique on May
29 at the Table Mountain Ranch in
Golden, Colorado.
I expected Pony Boy to
gallop into the arena on his horse in
full Native American dress. Instead
he quietly walked in, wearing jeans
and a cowboy dress shirt, and said
that his name is GaWaNi Pony Boy,
in a tone hinting of his having been
asked if it is at least a million times.
He got right down to business
and talked about the relevance
of understanding equine nature. He
had much say about abusive treatment,
abusive trainers, and abusive
equipment. He named names.
He did some ground
demonstrations on a horse (not his
own) and said that he won’t use his
own horse for such demos because
doing so would be “cheating.”
Another pleasant surprise
for me was learning that most of his
training mentors are women, like
Linda Tellington-Jones, Lynn Palm
and Jane Savoie. (All of the “cowboy”
trainers I admire have no
female mentors in training. Instead,
they all seem to admire each other!)
The final surprise was that
he answered questions for about an
hour afterward, until he had to leave
to catch a plane.
This doesn’t change my
opinion of his books. Either someone
close to him has told him to “get
real,” or maybe he just has to have
the Native American gimmick in
order to sell books. But I do give
his presentation high marks.
In my opinion, he made a
few mistakes when handling the
horse, but they were minor and forgivable.
He is definitely the
youngest horse trainer I know of
who has hit celebrity status. I think
he is about 27 or 28. If he stays on
track with his presentations, in few
years he’ll be awesome.
––Robin Duxbury
Project Equus
POB 18030
Boulder, CO 80308

 

Istanbul
The article on the Baja
Animal Sanctuary in your June edition
attracted my attention, as a person
who experiences the same hardships
and pleasure in trying to help
helpless animals as a volunteer. I
congratulate those kind-hearted people.
With the power of love and
faith everything can be realized
sooner or later.
We also have a no-kill dog
shelter, where we try to give them
food and love. Of course they are
dewormed, vaccinated, and sent to
clinics to be neutered. Because of
very little help and almost no
money, we are having a hell of a
time. The shelter needs repair, it’s
not clean enough, but at least our
dogs are safe and healthy.
Lately we had to sell our
car, which we used for transportation
of sick animals and food,
because it didn’t work. Now we are
trying to raise money to buy a better
second-hand vehicle. Meanwhile
we have to hire pickups.
Four hundred dogs in
Samandra Shelter send their love to
everyone who tries to help animals.
––Suna Develioglu
Istanbul Hayvan Sevenier Dernegi
Altiyol, Osmancik Sok. 3/1
81300 Kadikoy TR
Turkey

 

Incentive vs. compulsion

An attempt is currently
being made here in South Africa to
seek legislation that would penalise,
through higher licensing fees, people
who keep unsterilized cats or
dogs. Should the license not be produced
on demand, an animal could
be taken to a pound and would,
most likely, be destroyed.
Our reservations concerning
this proposed legislation follow:
1) South Africa is,
increasingly, a Third World country
with a depressed economy. Most of
the population lives below the bread
line and could not afford either the
sterilization fees or the annual
licensing––not even the reduced
fees for sterilized cats or dogs.
2) The proposed law
would militate against animals and
harden attitudes against animals in a
country not known for benevolence
toward other creatures. Animals
would be seen as a liability, resulting
in more abandonment or
killing––or the withholding of help
for a stray or injured animal because
the person who might help would
fear the possible economic burden.
3) Multi-cat households
would be especially adversely
affected, as would be caretakers of
difficult-to-catch feral cats.
4) Female cats’ sterilisation
scars often become invisible
with time, even to vets. This would
necessitate the cat being surgically
opened up again to prove her infertility
if her sterilisation certificate
could not be produced on demand.
5) Certain humane societies
have worked long and hard to
engender trust in low-income areas,
where residents now bring their animals
to mobile clinics for free sterilisation
(instead of shooting the
inspectors, as sometimes happened
before). Should the humane societies
resort to the big-stick
approach, by checking on licensing
and confiscating animals, like an
Animal Police, all trust would be
lost and the animals would be concealed
or abandoned.
6) Taking animals to be
sterilized would require people
without vehicles, meaning most
South Africans, to undertake extensive
travel, to get to veterinarians
who are often many miles from the
lower-income communities which
have the most unsterilized animals.
But public transport generally does
not allow travel with animals.
7) Contained in the proposal
is the statement that only
female dogs should get “fixed,” as
the public has ingrained prejudices
regarding the altering of male dogs
and needs them to be ferocious as
guard dogs. This would enshrine
the prejudice. Fixed dogs can also
be good guards.
We believe that sterilization
campaigns should focus on
achieving cheap and accessible sterilising,
in conjunction with proactive
encouragement, rather than
the big-stick approach, which
would instill fear and antagonism.
Veterinary cooperation must be
sought with the support of a media
campaign. Municipal, state, or
central government support for animal
sterilisation in this country,
where hospitals are being closed
because of budget cuts and the
requirements of more voter-oriented
services, is out of the question.
––Joan Norman
Friends of the Cat
POB 3407
Parklands 2121
Johannesburg, Gauteng
South Africa

 

The Editor responds:
ANIMAL PEOPLE h a s
seen no credible evidence that any
legislative approach to pet overpop –
ulation reduces the problem, if it
does not 1) provide low-cost neuter –
ing, 2) provide physical access to
the low-cost neutering program,
and 3) avoid creating disincentives.
The cost of licensing a
neutered animal must be low
enough that licensing is seen as a
service, not a tax. The best incen –
tive to pet owners to buy a license is
a program that returns licensed ani –
mals to their homes free of charge.
The cost of licensing a
non-neutered animal must not be so
high that it encourages disregard of
the law. Usually, this means that
the cost of licensing a non-neutered
animal is not more than twice the
cost of licensing a neutered animal.
Licensing must not be
used to generate revenue. Realistically,
licensing will pay for itself.
That’s all. Charging higher fees
only creates more noncompliance––
already running at two-thirds-plus
in almost every city and state where
anyone has researched it.
Despite frequent failures
of legislation to deliver the expected
results, legislative approaches little
different from the one proposed in
South Africa remain paradoxically
popular. Some are currently pro –
posed in Los Angeles and several
cities in British Columbia. They
may persist because they promise to
raise revenues for animal control
and avoid conflict with veterinari –
ans over low-cost neutering––and
because there is a pervasive faith
among politicians and activists that
laws effect change. But history
clearly shows that no law ever suc –
ceeds until the public is predis –
posed to comply with it.

 

 

 

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