Letters [June 2005]

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2005:


Wow! Your May editorial “Lessons from
finding the ivory-billed woodpecker” is
When someone sent me the news about the
‘rediscovered’ bird, I responded with the
following rant:
“Conservationists” who endorsed the
poisoning of Anacapa, accepting as collateral
damage the loss of rare species such as the
burrowing owl and the Anacapa deer mouse, may
also have wiped out an unrediscovered “extinct”
We have proof that the National Park
Service poisoned a species of bird they didn’t
even know was on the island. They also did not
do a DNA test on the poor Anacapa Island rat, a
uniquely adapted population, genetically
isolated for two centuries.

If these bio-crats would simply let
compassion for every individual creature be their
guide, as opposed to academic interest in the
statistically rare ones, we wouldn’t have such
destructive (in addition to obscenely cruel)
Your indepth analysis of the news took
the lessons to a very sophisticated level. I
remain in awe of your ability to digest and
synthesize information.
I forwarded “LessonsÅ ” to Travis
Armstrong, editor of the Santa Barbara
News-Press. He is a very courageous and
determined defender of the island animals.
Thanks again.
–Scarlet Newton
Channel Islands Protection Assn.
P.O. Box 60132
Santa Barbara, CA 93160
Phone: 805-882-2008


The cases for and against cat licensing

In some 50 years of volunteer work in
animal rescue in Vermont, Massachusetts,
Kentucky, California, and now Indiana, I have
consistently heard from animal control
authorities that they are hopelessly
understaffed, funded mainly by fees from dog
licensing, and dealing with equally as many cats
as dogs.
If cat licenses were necessary, the
income of tax-supported civic shelters and
programs would become equal to their
responsibilities. Why then are cat owners not
subject equally to licensing laws?
–Elisabeth Arvin
Jasper, Indiana

The Editor responds:

Even 50 years ago, when the Walt Disney
animated film Lady & The Tramp offered possibly
the first realistic screen depiction of a dog
pound, and promoted licensing as the then best
hope for preventing shelter killing, Illinois
governor Adlai Stephenson had already reviewed
and in 1949 vetoed a legislative proposal for cat
licensing. Licensing requirements for dogs had
already been in effect in parts of the U.S. for
even longer than the U.S. had existed, but
compliance has rarely exceeded 25%.
Imposing fines for non-compliance has
historically depressed reclaims of lost dogs from
pounds, rather than encouraging more licensing.
Doing door-to-door canvassing to increase
license sales typically costs more in staff time
than is recovered in revenue. Relatively few
animal control departments even handled cats
until recent decades, yet the cost of handling
dogs alone usually so far exceeds the income
potential from dog license sales that most humane
societies bidding on animal control contracts
learned long since to ask for guaranteed revenue,
with licensing revenue at most a secondary source
of funding.
ANIMAL PEOPLE in a comparison of data
from eight representative U.S. cities, published
in March 2002, found that there is a
demonstrable relationship between licensing
compliance and the cost of a license, but no
demonstrable relationship between the rates of
licensing compliance and the community rates of
dog and cat killing per 1,000 human residents.
In fact, the highest rate of shelter killing
came in the city with the highest rate of
licensing compliance.
ANIMAL PEOPLE has reviewed data from many
cities whose animal control directors believe
their licensing programs are successful, but has
found that the claim really seemed to be
sustained by the evidence only in Calgary,
Alberta, Canada.
The Calgary secret of success is that the
licensing program is heavily promoted as a
low-cost lost pet identification system, not as
a revenue generator. (ANIMAL PEOPLE profiled the
Calgary animal control department in October

National character & compassion

Your April 2005 editorial feature
“National character & the quality of compassion”
gave a very good overview of the kinds of animal
cruelty that exist in both Eastern and Western
cultures. Just as informative–but a lot more
encouraging–was Animal People’s report of the
results of the MORI polls commissioned by
Compassion In World Farming and the International
Fund for Animal Welfare, with help from One
Voice of France and the Royal SPCA of Great
It came as a welcome surprise to learn
that although people in some developing countries
have had the benefit of humane education for only
a relatively short period of time, a large
majority believes that humans have a moral duty
to minimize animal suffering.
As usual, Animal People has provided
information that is not easily available to the
general reader. Thanks for your ongoing coverage
of important animal rights issues.
–J.R. Hyland
Humane Religion
P.O. Box 25354
Sarasota, FL 32477
Phone: 941-924-8887
Fax: 941-925-9636

Gretchen Wyler on zoo elephants

Your May 2005 cover feature “Weaning zoos
from elephants” was brilliantly written, and I
set the time aside to read it in its entirety.
How nice to read dates and places and statistics
and know that they are all facts. Wonderfully
researched, and I will appreciate it if you will
send me 25 copies. It must be shared with
all those people who have been so involved in my
elephant story here in Los Angeles–a
two-and-a-half-year effort focusing on an L.A.
Zoo elephant named Ruby and her trials.
I became an activist one snowy day in
December 1966. Many people ask me how I’m still
fighting, and I say, “My outrage drives me.”
Now my passion for captive elephants fuels me. I
do believe I will live another 20 years, and I
do believe that before I die, there will be no
more circus elephants, and that U.S. zoo
elephants will have died out.
The time I have spent on captive
elephants is almost matched by my caring about
the government’s horrific handling of wild horses.
It has been a disappointing and
frustrating nearly 40 years, and I can well
imagine how you and Kim feel, since you are
covering nearly every issue on the globe
concerning animals. Bravo! For continuing to
care so much, and for presenting such a complete
picture of man’s inhumanity, I thank you.
–Gretchen Wyler
Humane Society of the U.S.
Hollywood Office
5551 Balboa Blvd.
Encino, CA 91316
Phone: 818-501-2275
Fax: 818-501-2226

Editor’s note:

Transferred to the Knoxville Zoo in May
2003, against strong activist opposition led by
Wyler, Ruby was returned to the Los Angeles Zoo
in November 2004, after failing to integrate
into the Knoxville Zoo herd–as Wyler and others
predicted. Both the Elephant Sanctuary at
Hohenwald, Tennessee, and the Performing Animal
Welfare Society’s Ark 2000 sanctuary in
Calaveras, California, have offered Ruby a home.
The likelihood that Ruby will eventually
be retired to a sanctuary may have increased with
the May 17, 2005 election of new Los Angeles
mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “I have believed for
some time that a zoo is not an appropriate place
for an animal as large as an elephant,”
Villaraigosa reportedly told NBC news during the
campaign. “I think we need to move the elephants
I personally would argue that the
“complete picture of man’s inhumanity” that Wyler
credits ANIMAL PEOPLE with portraying is the
perspective from only one side of the window.
From the other, each scrap of information we
receive, each remedial action undertaken, and
each reader we attract provides testimony that
far more people oppose cruelty than are knowingly
engaged in it. All of history has documented
inhumanity. ANIMAL PEOPLE chronicles the humane
The American Zoo Association answered
“Weaning zoos from elephants” with a fax stating
that, “According to opinion poll results, 95%
of U.S. adults agree that seeing elephants and
rhinos helps people appreciate them more and
encourages people to learn more about them. 93%
agree that it is important that a marine life
park, aquarium, or zoo be accredited by a
national association. 86% of respondents agree
that visiting zoos and aquariums encourages
people to donate money or time to animal
conservation efforts. 96% of respondents agree
that it is important that people work to conserve
animals such as those found in aquariums and
zoos. 95% of respondents agree that many of the
successes to save endangered or declining species
are at least in part a result of work done in
zoos and aquariums.”
While all of this may be true, without
in any way denying the positive contributions of
zoos, there is still room to question whether
zoos as they presently exist are the best way to
do their work. Zoos have evolved from
entertainment facilities to educational
institutions and conservatories, but have
resisted accepting a humane mission, which would
require them to operate more like sanctuaries.
That may nonetheless become their most viable
role, as it is by now clear that even the
best-managed zoo-based species survival programs
have only a minor part in achieving the survival
of endangered animals, and rarely can substitute
for protected wild habitat.

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