Letters [March 2013]

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  March 2013:


Animal rights law pioneer Larry Weiss checks in

Here’s what’s happened since I retired in 2003,   after 18 years of practicing animal law in California.  I remain involved in mentoring young attorneys and giving occasional presentations at law schools and vegan gatherings. I am struck by the number and quality of attorneys coming out of law school who choose to be involved in animal issues.  I find they don’t need my input on animal law as their professors take care of that impressively.  What they do need is some guidance on how to make a living practicing animal law, e.g. what crossover fields (domestic,  property, criminal) will earn enough income to support an animal law practice. The time has arrived to take our ideas mainstream in the form of education and legislation.  Many of us from the first generation of animal rights activism are still around and able to be of help in such practical matters. So let’s stay involved and be available to these young, bright, dedicated attorneys and activists. ––Larry Weiss Denver,  Colorado <animatty@aol.com>

Peter Marsh elaborates on book topics

Many thanks for taking the time to read my books Getting to Zero:  A Roadmap to Ending Animal Shelter Overpopulation in the United States and Replacing Myth With Math:  Using Evidence-Based Programs to Eradicate Shelter Overpopulation,  write the reviews published in the January/February 2013 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE,  and send copies of the reviews my way.

You make a good point about the cost-effectiveness of pet behavior counseling and surrender prevention programs.  In a promising development,  Ian Hallett,  the new director of Hillsborough County Animal Services in Tampa,  Florida,  is starting an intake-prevention program there modeled on the Positive Alternatives to Shelter Surrender program that seems to have worked well in Austin,  Texas.

Your point about the difficulties that result when people try to implement a New Hampshire-type publicly funded spay/neuter program on a larger scale was right on the money,  too.  We found that out in Massachusetts.  It turned out to be pretty easy to set up similar programs in Vermont,  half the size of New Hampshire,  and in Maine, which is about the same size.  Massachusetts shares many of the same demographics that you mentioned,  including relative affluence,  a generally well-educated population and strong humane history,  but it took us ten years to get even a modestly funded program set up there because of the scale.  New York State was even tougher. ––Peter Marsh Concord,  New Hampshire <pmarshlaw@hotmail.com>

St. Petersburg “bird market” sells sick animals

I am writing from St. Petersburg,  the cultural capital of Russia.  Two weeks ago we bought a little kitty at the “bird market” in central St. Petersburg,  the traditional place where pets are sold.  The kitty,  as we later learned, was very ill.  Soon she died.  I went to the Internet and discovered many similar stories about this horrible place.

I write to you because the Russian legal system is 100% corrupt,  and asking the law to help in this case is absolutely useless. The law will do nothing.

The owners of this horrible place get big money from people who sell sick animals.  Money in Russia is all.  Either human or animal life counts for nothing. Please help to close this place. ––Yaroslav Shaposhnikov St. Petersburg,  Russia <ysshaposhnikov@gmail.com>

Editor’s note:

The situation described in St. Petersburg is common all over the world,  wherever people are allowed to breed and sell puppies and kittens as commodities.  In the U.S. and the European Union,  there is legislation to require that large commercial breeders must sell only healthy animals,  but enforcement is often weak.  Some U.S. states and some municipalities have additional legislation that requires the sellers of unhealthy animals to refund the purchase price to the buyers,  but while this legislation to some extent protects customers,  it does not actually protect the animals.

The trend in the U.S.,  for many years,  was to try to enforce the applicable legislation at the point of sale. More recently,  there has been much effort put into trying to strengthen and better enforce legislation pertaining to the conditions where dogs and cats are bred,  as the most serious problems tend to arise with the breeders.

Samantha Mullen and Nathan Winograd

I only wish I could knock on Samantha Mullen’s door and enjoy reading the ANIMAL PEOPLE obituary “Samantha Mullen fought animal hoarding done in the name of no-kill sheltering” to her as a most fitting accolade.  She would have been so proud of this portrayal.

You really have a finger on the pulse of her underlying philosophies and her missions,  which earned for her the burning hatred of No Kill Advocacy Center founder Nathan Winograd.  He blamed her in a blog posting called “Unobvious Choices: The Animal Protection Movement’s Fourteenth Floor” for being a prime reason for the failure of a “Companion Animal Access & Rescue Act” that he has had introduced in New York several times and touts across the country.  This bill means well,  but if passed would result in more hoarding and less oversight of so-called “no kill” shelters––an idea,  though wonderful,  whose time has not yet come as a viable solution for all homeless animals. When we are down to euthanizing 200,000 animals per year rather than 2-3 million,  then we can talk “no-kill.”

I hope you had a chance to experience Samantha’s wonderful humor.  She could appear a bit strait-laced and formal,  with her wonderful language and writing skills,  but she had a huge appreciation of the ridiculous and of human foibles.  I miss her laugh.

I miss her very much and consider her a primary mentor in my own activist career,  exemplifying courtesy and restraint,  coupled with a dogged and stubborn determination. ––Holly Cheever,  DVM Albany,  New York

Editor’s note:

The “Companion Animal Access & Rescue Act” is modeled on the 1998 California legislation called the Hayden Act,  never fully funded or implemented and now suspended,  which required California animal control shelters to make healthy animals available to rescue groups,  regardless of whether the animals are deemed  adoptable.

Samantha Mullen,  representing the New York State Humane Association,  an umbrella representing animal shelters in New York state,  opposed the “Companion Animal Access & Rescue Act” because she believed that it included insufficient mechanisms to ensure that animals would not be transferred from state-inspected public shelters to nonprofit shelters and rescues which in New York state operate with no supervision at all.

Much of Mullen’s career,  as her ANIMAL PEOPLE obituary recounted,  was spent in exposing and closing some of the most abominable hoarding situations that ever masqueraded as “animal shelters.”  Typically many years of investigation and repeated prosecutions were necessary before the courts imposed penalties sufficient to shut these operations down,  or force a transition to new management.   Meanwhile,  hundreds of animals died from neglect.

Winograd credits the Hayden Act with a substantial role in reducing shelter killing in California from 588,000 in 1997 to 455,000 in 2010.  This may be true,  although––as ANIMAL PEOPLE spotlighted in April 1993––California animal control shelters had already been partnering with nonprofit agencies to rehome animals in rapidly increasing numbers for at least 10 years before the passage of the Hayden Act.

Meanwhile,  the operators of three California “no-kill” rescue networks were convicted of running dogfighting rings soon after the Hayden Act passed.  At least 14 nonprofit “no kill” animal shelters and rescues in California have been successfully prosecuted for mass neglect in the past five years alone. Thus,  while the net effect of the Hayden Act may have been positive,  sufficient safeguards have not been in place in California to prevent the abuses that Mullen anticipated.

Mullen sought for at least 25 years to introduce mandatory shelter standards and inspection to New York state. This would have precluded the need to prosecute hoarders who pass themselves off as operators of shelters and “rescues,”  after large numbers of animals suffer in their custody.

While ANIMAL PEOPLE cannot posthumously speak for Mullen,  we believe,  based on long acquaintance,  that Mullen might have favored a version of the “Companion Animal Access & Rescue Act” that compelled nonprofit shelters and rescues to meet reasonable animal care standards and pass annual or semi-annual inspections.

Proposed new Thai humane law exempts wildlife

Following years of campaigning,  Thailand might finally gain an animal welfare law,  prohibiting cruelty to animals,  but unfortunately not all animals.  A parliamentary sub-committee drafting this long overdue law has opted to exclude all wild animals from coverage,  so that exploitation of wildlife can continue.

After the Animal Activist Alliance of Thailand in early April 2012 led a protest by 30 animal groups in front of parliament,  a parliamentary sub-committee was set up to draft a national “law against torture of animals.”  The initial plan was to have a wide selection of activists and people from several animal welfare and wildlife conservation charities to be represented,  plus legal experts and parliamentarians from several political parties.

Unfortunately the committee of 30 was quickly filled by parliamentarians and lawyers,  leaving just over a dozen seats to animal advocates.  Then one non-governmental organization was given 10 seats,  leaving little room for different views.

Most domestic animal use within Thailand is monitored by the Livestock Department.  But anything having to do with wildlife falls under jurisdiction of the Department of National Parks.  Enforcing an animal welfare law that covers wildlife would mean extra work for the Department of National Parks.  And the department would have to improve their own 14 wildlife breeding centers,  where tens of thousands of animals are kept under sometimes horrific conditions.   The department also may not wish to confront the very powerful zoo community.   Thai zoos found to have illegally obtained wildlife have never been charged in court.

Strong opposition to excluding wild animals from the animal welfare law was voiced by Roger Lohanan of the Thai Animal Guardians Association and Ke Cholada of Facebook Animal Lovers,  but the Thai SPCA sided with the Department of National Parks. ––Edwin Wiek Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand 108,  Moo 6 Tambon Thamairuak Amphoe Thayang 76130 Petchaburi,  Thailand <edwin.wiek@wfft.org> <www.wfft.org>

Humane leadership

Thank you,  ANIMAL PEOPLE,  for all you do for animals and for your January/February 2013 editorial “Pi,  Dorothy, and the qualities of humane leadership.”

I am interested in advocating for the rights of all animals in the way that various oppressed groups have galvanized their energies to achieve rights. ––Risa M. Mandell Philadelphia,  Pennsylvania

Praises editorials about cats & pit bulls

I am writing to praise the ANIMAL PEOPLE November/December 2012 and January/February 2013 editorials––they resound large with me!  I very much appreciated all of the excellent,  informed,  and compassionate thoughts about the cats we care so deeply about and for.

I am heartened to read your informed and intelligent thoughts regarding pit bulls,  rare in this politically correct climate,  but I wish more widely read and accepted.   I have some empathy for these unfortunate creatures,  whom I believe should be spayed/neutered to zero population,  for everyone’s good.  It is incomprehensible that cats are getting a completely unfounded and unsubstantiated bad rap as superpredators,   yet pit bulls,  unpredictable and violent in all too many cases,  have television series,  cadres of rabid advocates,  and entire animal advocacy organizations promoting them as such “sweet,  misunderstood dogs.”

Thanks also for posting to your website the item in Arabic and English on Islam and neuter/return.  I appreciate this very much,  and hope it will be of value to many:  feline,  dog,  and human. ––Jamaka Petzak Glendale,  Calif. <jmuhjacat@att.net>

Discount drugs

Costco now sells about 100 of the most prescribed drugs for dogs and cats at substantial discounts.  One does not need to be a Costco member to buy prescription drugs from their stores.  However,  a local humane society volunteer told me that she has received complaints that some veterinarians refuse to write prescriptions for medications to be purchased elsewhere at a lesser price than they charge in their own clinics.  The California state veterinary association informed me that this is breaking the law,  and should be documented and made the subject of a formal complaint. ––Hazel Mortensen Solvang,  California

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